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From: Andrew Sackville-West <andrew <at> farwestbilliards.com>
Subject: Re: What I need for my kids
Newsgroups: gmane.linux.debian.devel.jr
Date: Friday 10th November 2006 17:26:56 UTC (over 10 years ago)
On Fri, Nov 10, 2006 at 08:16:43AM -0400, Ben Armstrong wrote:
> Milan,
> Nice to hear from you.  This is exactly the kind of input I'd like to
hear more of from users.
> On Fri, 10 Nov 2006 11:26:11 +0100
> Milan Zamazal  wrote:
> > Well, to revive the list a bit. :-)
> > 
> > I was looking for an environment usable by children at the age 1-3
> > years.  The primary requirements were: 1. To be very robust (a typical
> > computer "use" at this age is random hitting keys and moving and
> > clicking a mouse, possibly observing what happens); 2. to provide means
> > for viewing photos; 3. and being partially manageable by so small
> > children.
> I agree age 1-3 is a harder age range.  That's why I have been working
more on 4-12 (my own youngest is now 5, and the others are 8, 12, 15 and
16).  But what you're describing is really a whole different desktop
environment, and not one that is only of interest to kids.  Our focus has
been mostly on apps so far, making sure the apps are there for kids in
Debian and are kept in good shape.  This is a simpler, less time-consuming
problem than providing a complete integrated desktop environment.

That age is definitely difficult. My desire would be to see, not
necessarily a different DE, but perhaps an appropriate theme. For
example, a very simplified desktop using large, fun icons and
stripping out some of the things that are more complicated for little
kids: right clicks, middle clicks, nested menus and so forth. The
right combination of look and feel could be built pretty easily (he
says without any thought...) by theming one of the existing DE's or
WM's. Populated with the right packages under a meta-package and it
should be pretty straightforward. 

1. A big, fun simple interface
2. Simplified mouse interaction (something most WM's can handle, I
3. A set of basic apps - paint, draw, type, simple games.
4. maybe eliminate key-bindings.
5. passwordless login for kids accounts
6. maybe a seperate set of post-install scripts for setting things up
in a kid friendly way.

that's just some of my thoughts. My kids are currently 5,7,9 and are
already pretty comfortable with winXP (wifey's box :( ) but I know
they would be willing testers for something like this.

> > Unfortunately debian-jr appeared to be of no use for me.  I could
> > find only metapackages to install certain sets of applications.  What I
> > actually needed and expected was an environment described above.
> I see.  Well, given how little there is available in terms of apps
> for ages 1-3, I'm not really surprised you found Debian
> Jr. disappointing.  Still, we are interested in making Debian better
> for *all* kids "from ages 0 to 99" so addressing your needs is
> definitely within our mandate.

I don't think there's necessarily a dearth of apps for kids that age,
its more of an interface problem. Really small children do what the OP
mentioned above -- bash the keyboard and sometimes watch what
happens. Maybe some kind of kiosk setup would be in order? Have the
thing boot up running a paint program on the root window (is that
possible? maybe) and then overlay some icons on top of it for
launching other stuff like some games. That way, the kids can get
immediate results by just clicking and dragging on the desktop -- look
I can draw! and then when they inadvertently click on one of the icons
they get something else. 

> > Finally I've found Freevo (http://freevo.sf.net) that fulfills my
> > requirements quite well and has been serving well enough so far.  There
> > are still some problems with it: 1. It is not in Debian and at the time
> > I checked there was no ITP for it; 2. it depends on software not being
> > present in Debian; 3. and finally it contains significant amount of
> > bugs.

how are you using freevo in this context?


> But even my 5-year-old is quite capable now of managing her own GNOME
panels and enjoys "breaking" them and rearranging them to suit her tastes. 
So she spends far more time playing with & using her GNOME desktop than
launching things via mythtv.  I have always not worried much about making
the desktop "kid-proof" put more effort into just giving kids free reign
over their accounts and making sure that I can fix things that they break
(backups!) because kids learn by breaking things.

I think for the 1-3 crowd this might not be true -- when it breaks its
broken and they throw it away or cry about it... your experience may
vary :) but definitely by 5 this is true. by 9 they are ready to fix
what they've broken and maybe fix what others have broken.

> But that's just me.  That's a difference of philosophy, I guess.  I'd
love to have the time and resources to help support users who are taking a
different approach with their kids, like you.
> [1]
> http://syn.theti.ca/articles/2006/11/05/mythgame-player-to-run-native-linux-games

nice bit.

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