Ultimate Productivity Desktop

The machine I’m writing this on will be five years old by the end of the summer. I bought it as a treat when I got hired by my last regular employer. It’s spent the last three years as a file server. Most of that time it was turned off; for the most part I only powered it up to do backups.

It’s pretty underpowered by today’s standards, but in its prime it was a beast: an AMD Athlon processor running at 1 GHz, 512 MB of RAM, and two 40 GB drives (one of which has subsequently been replaced by a 120 GB drive). It’s been running Linux since I put it together, starting with Red Hat 7.0, iirc, and now Fedora Core 5.

I still have my laptop, but since graduating I’ve been using this machine to do most of my work. My work, of course, is getting a job, or, as we say, finding a call. Some church somewhere is going to call me as their pastor. My work, as long as it takes, is figuring out where they are, and letting them know about me so they can do their part.

This task requires me to:

  1. look at the PC(USA) web site that lists opportunities
  2. investigate these on the web (consulting the sites for the church and its presbytery, if they exist, as well as things like Google Maps and City-Data).
  3. hand-craft a letter to the PNC explaining what it is about a particular church I find attractive, and highlighting some reasons why I think I might be suited to be its pastor.
  4. email that to the PNC
  5. attach to the email an official form, called a PIF.

    The PIF is a sort of ugly resume designed by a committee. It is maintained in a database by the PC(USA) but it can’t be viewed by anybody but me and the computer program that (allegedly) matches candidates to opportunities. So I can’t just send the PNC a pointer to my PIF. Instead I have to send them a copy of it. I call up my PIF in a web browser and “print” a copy to PDF.

    The PDF is what I attach to my email “cover letter.”

  6. If the church is interested in me, they usually ask for a sample tape of one of my sermons. I send them a DVD made in-house by my many-talented wife on our eMac using iMovie and iDVD. In the package I include a hardcopy cover letter explaining why they just received this disc, viz., it is in response to their request. I’m able to write these letters in AbiWord and print to PDF (or save as RTF) and print them on the eMac, to which the printer is attached.
  7. I also have to keep track of what I’ve sent to whom and why.

And the surprising thing is that I’m doing this all on my old Linux PC. It’s office work, and because I’m (essentially) marketing myself to strangers, there’s an emphasis not only on content but form as well. But between the web browser, AbiWord, and ubiquitous PDF-generation capability — and virtual desktops — I’m finding that my 5 year-old Linux machine is, pretty much, the ultimate productivity desktop.

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