Conference Schedule - BSDCan 2023

BSD for Researching, Writing, and Teaching in the Liberal Arts

Date: 2023-05-20
Time: 11:30–12:15
Room: DMS 1110
Level: Beginner

Lifelong computer geek and professional theologian Dr. Corey Stephan has found that the members of the BSD family satisfy everything that he desires in a desktop operating system for his historical research and writing, as well as teaching theology, ancient Greek, and the traditional liberal arts. As Stephan suggests in his recent FreeBSD Journal article “FreeBSD for the Writing Scholar” and FreeBSD Friday lecture “The Writing Scholar’s Guide to FreeBSD,” a liberal arts scholar’s software needs coalesce around three themes at which BSD excels: documentation, stability, and security.

In this talk, Stephan answers the question with which that article and lecture are likely to leave his colleagues – namely, ‘We see that *BSD has what it takes to ground our own research and writing workflows, but what is the payoff for learning to use one or more of these descendants of primordial Unix for our broader work as teacher-scholars?’

From building a portable set of dotfiles with long hours of study and ancient language legibility in mind to working with little-known but powerful command-line interface tools, Stephan cheekily explains (almost) everything that he has found to work best in the BSD operating systems for writing and teaching in the liberal arts. Examples include LibreOffice paired with ancient language extensions and the Zotero citation management tool, Markdown Presentation (mdp), Yet Another Dotfiles Manager (yadm), and the variants on pkg and pkg_add that make installing and configuring such applications that are boons for academic work simpler in BSD than anywhere else.

Stephan hopes to inspire other academics to become Unix geeks while showing more typical BSD project contributors that their labors yield fruits beyond the enterprise usage scenarios that tend to dominate BSD discussion zones. A well-documented, stable, and secure blank slate atop which it is downright intuitive to build a productive computer space for writing and teaching – what else could a scholar in the liberal arts seek in a desktop operating system?

Newcomers to BSD who might like to learn about using it as a desktop operating system, Unix graybeards who hope to learn about tiling window managers and other advanced desktop writing workflow configurations for the first time, and BSD kernel developers who would not mind receiving a metaphorical pat on the back for their hard work all should appreciate what Stephan has to say.


Corey Stephan