Linux In Genealogy

I’ve been using the Linux operating system on my desktop pcs and laptops since about 2002. I used to administer Linux systems and a network as well as building computers and teaching computing using the Linux operating system. Now I’m more of an ‘end user’.  There are many flavours of Linux operating system.  I’m currently using the Debian Linux distribution but will soon be changing to Linux Mint.  There are several benefits to using Linux on your computers but the main ones I like are that it is Free and Open Source Software, people don’t tend to write viruses or spyware for it, and it works well on older hardware.  I don’t have to keep updating my hardware to work with the latest operating system version which means less E-waste going into landfill.

I haven’t heard much about genealogists using Linux lately so I did some searching this morning to see what people are saying about it and how popular it is these days.  At first what I found was mostly outdated but with a few changes of search terms I got better results.  The bulk of what I found was about genealogy software programs and no real discussion on the benefits of using Linux or Free and Open Source software in genealogy.

I found this article from May this year Six of the Best Free Linux Family History Software Programs which provides a good review of the genealogy software programs available.


I’ve tried using the GRAMPS program recommended in the article above and I find it difficult and non-intuitive to use for data entry.  I do like some of the reports and search functionality in it so I do use it sometimes.  I use to create my family tree and collaborate with my sister and I upload the GEDCOM to PHPGedView on my own website so that more people can find it.  Naturally there is a lot of focus on genealogy software for Linux, Windows and Mac and other software programs aren’t discussed as much.  I wrote this blog post in 2012 Software I Use For Genealogy and the only things which have changed since then are that I rarely use Picasa now and I use the Chrome for Linux web browser.

Would you consider changing your computer operating system?  Are you dependant on one particular operating system to run your gadgets and computing peripherals?  What do you think of the almost monopoly that Microsoft has in the computer operating system department?  I am interested to hear people’s responses and start some conversation on using a different computer operating system.



I was looking for a copy of the Craftifesto and came across Barbara Smith’s article Hack/er/ed/ing on The Journal of Modern Craft website.




Barbara says, “At the American Craft Council Conference Creating a New Craft Culture, keynote speaker Richard Sennett spoke briefly about the distressing doctrine of user friendly and intuitive products which, he believes, perpetuate laziness and the disinterested use of a “thing.” I began to wonder if “the hack” of material goods, or what I then understood to be “hacking,” was an individual’s direct reaction to this need for involvement in the goods we consume; goods which we supposedly desire to be unable to fix.”

I’m definitely not the norm then because I’ve always wondered how things work and what’s inside something. I love being able to repair things or make my own, to make do and use what’s around me.

Barbara expresses some of the things I’ve been thinking about lately and puts them much more eloquently than I could.

“While “hacking” has always existed in some form, for our purposes, the clearest foundation of the Maker/Hacker movement is found in the tinkering of ham radio operators and the modding of cars in the 1920’s. In 1969, the earliest incarnation of the internet appeared. The 1970’s saw major universities utilizing email applications to connect individuals. This development later gave birth to a community of computer and software hackers who operated under the philosophy of hacker ethics; a ideology which included collaborative working methods, open exchange of information, and challenging bureaucracies who sought to limit this free exchange of information. In 1991, The World Wide Web first appeared, making our current social condition of connectivity a little less than 20 years old (Chandler). This period also produced the new media boom, or the creation of self-authoring software, which allowed individuals to edit their own photographs and videos, blog, and create web pages. These advances in technology resulted in a lasting cultural and structural impact. Society embraced the heightened sense of interactivity and self-authorship desktop computing allowed. By 1999, new media, the dot-com boom, open source technologies like the Linux operating system, and hacker ethics officially reached the mainstream.”

It was in 2000 that I first became interested in the Linux operating system and 2003 before I started using it full time.

I agree with Barbara that without an audience and the ability to share things so easily a lot of the current maker/hacker movement wouldn’t have happened. I use Instructables, Facebook, my local Hackerspace and here on my blog to publicise and share some of the things I make. Only one of those four is a face to face meet up.

You can read the rest of Barbara’s article here.  It is well worth the read.