Linux – Your child will surprise you!

Like many IT folks with children, I grew tired of re-building a computer I had for my daughter every time Windows XP or Windows 7 threw its back out.  About a year ago, I put Linux Mint 11 on my daughter’s computer.  Actually, dual boot with Windows 7.  She started to like it quite a bit.  She has done all of her homework on it and has adapted quite well.  As the months went by, she became more and more independent with her “assistance needs” using Linux.

My daughter is 12.  Since she has been using Linux, she’s never had to reboot due to memory issues, she’s never had any issues with any apps, she’s been able to use LibreOffice for all of her homework, and she’s adapted well to using Linux as opposed to Windows.

Yesterday, I burned a live DVD yesterday of Linux Mint 12 and Solus OS RC3.  After my daughter finished her homework, she revved up both and was quite delighted.  I told her to spend a week evaluating each and let me know which one she wanted installed.  Now, I normally don’t like to install/use an RC of anything.  But, Solus OS is looking quite attractive and it’s a true Debian distro.

So, we’ll see how it goes and what she chooses.

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Linux Distro Review – Qimo 4 Kids

This is a first for me.  I don’t often “endorse” much of anything.  I am of the opinion that there are many tools for most any job.  Whatever computer or operating system you choose, you must select the right tool for you to do the intended job.  However, this is an exception for me.

My daughter attends a small private school.  Funding technology is often a challenge for small schools; this is true even if they are public schools in rural districts.  Resources available as grants are fewer than for a public school due to the nature of a parochial school (or more aptly termed “non-secular”).  Funding technology in a non-secular school can be very challenging.  So, finding anything useful as well as “free” from a monetary standpoint is always a blessing.

Last year, I started out by trying to make a bootable LiveCD of a linux distro that would allow my daughter’s school to use existing licensed (Windows) software while providing a set of useful open source applications such as Open Office.  These were intended to be used in the school’s computer lab.  I quickly ran into hurdles with wine and some of the Windows based applications that were networked.  At the time of my research and testing, I became impressed with two applications:  TuxMath and TuxTyping.

My daughter immediately took to these two applications and needed no encouragement to explore and play with these as well as other linux based games.  Also during this time, I saw the full effects of the school’s current program for reading.  Although there is a sense of competition among all the students for reading and passing comprehension tests for points, it is amazing to see them compete against themselves and taking on the challenges of reading books above their current enrolled class level.

This led me to take on the task of looking for an existing linux distro we could use at home.  I have enough on my hands as it is, I just don’t have time to take on another project.  And, to be bluntly honest, another linux distro might add to the collection of choices but all the world needs is another linux distro (if you get my drift).

I stumbled on Qimo 4 Kids (pronounced “kim-oh”).  Booting is similar to most linux LiveCD’s; unless you have a barnstorming PC, you are going to have to be patient!  The X Windows interface (KDE) is quite friendly.  My 9 year old daughter needed no assistance.  The custom XFCE interface was very intuitive for her and she quickly was off and working on her own with out a bunch of “Daddy how do I …?” or “Daddy, where is …?” or “Daddy, can you help me …?”

For testing, I used my local installation of VMWare running on my laptop with AMD Turion(tm) 64 X2 CPU.  The virtual was configured with 1 – 1.948 GHz CPU, 1GB RAM, sound, no hard drive, no network, no floppy. It boots directly to the Qimo ISO without any problems and the sound works beautifully.

I was happy to see both TuxMath and TuxTyping on Qimo as well as Abiword, EToys, TuxPaint, GCompris, and ChildsPlay.  Although I’m a big fan of Open Office, Abiword is perfect for my daugter as it is a simple word processor.

For younger children, this is fantastic and [currently] fits with my daughter’s age level just fine.  There’s enough variety to keep her busy and it’s all educational.  The XFCE interface keeps the most used programs easily accessible.  The distro isn’t cluttered with a lot of unnecessary items which I like since I’m of the K.I.S.S. frame of mind.

Older students, may not take to the distro. Some of the games and the interface are more visually appealing to those 10 and under in my opinion (especially if you are familiar with GCompris, EToys, and ChildsPlay .  However, TuxMath and TuxTyping can be quite useful for students of any age who need constant drilling in those subjects.  The big plus is the XFCE interface because it keeps it simple.

Qimo has my thumbs up as I think this is ideal for younger students.  The link to Qimo is here:  http://www.qimo4kids.com/default.aspx