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Paging Professor Internet: What OSes and/or distros good for a youngun? - A Suburbs Boy Living a Country Life [Pete and Pam's pages (photos and some commentary)] [Pam's journal] [Our company] [My Flickr Photos] [Arisia]
September 1st, 2008
12:13 am

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Paging Professor Internet: What OSes and/or distros good for a youngun?
I'm going to slick my old work Windows laptop and give it to my son, as it is definitely more powerful and capable than the wheezing desktop that he had been using.

I've seen endless debates on the various Linux "distros," and a few zealots for other free operating systems [a hat-tip to RS and other FreeBSD users, as well as to the OpenSolaris crowd] but they are usually geared to the needs of adult users, and have to do with interoperability, capability to meet business or personal needs, and the like. My question--posed particularly to parents, educators, or others with direct practical experience: what is the best OS and "distro" for the needs of a bright, inquisitive 8 1/2-year-old child?

Though I can't make anything as specific as a requirements statement, I'm interested in your collective thoughts on how well a candidate system supports installed software or web-based sources of:
  • Reading, writing keyboarding, and arithmetic,
  • [And perhaps advanced topics in the same including but not limited to: criticism, composition, and calculus1 mathematics]
  • Music theory & practice,
  • Web research,
  • [and eventually E-mail, IM, blogging, and the like]
The trick is that all of this should be wrapped up in a way that a computer-savvy eight-year-old can "get" in a reasonable amount of time without reaching the point of frustration so often that they give up on the thing as a Bad DealTM.

I'm listening. Go!


1 Let's not get ahead of ourselves, now. Q isn't owenthomas, after all.

Current Mood: curiouscurious

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From:owenthomas
Date:September 1st, 2008 05:34 am (UTC)
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Uncle Greg and I are going to send the boy a proper Mac laptop as soon as we can to save him from the horror!
From:(Anonymous)
Date:September 1st, 2008 09:54 am (UTC)
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Owen's got the right idea. A MacBook would be primo (typing on one right now myself... be sure to give him enough memory; 4 gigs is under $100 - it doesn't make sense to go with less).

As for Pete's FreeBSD comment, I've never advocated using FreeBSD as a laptop OS - rolling your own desktop environment is a poor use of time and besides, pcmcia and wireless card support has historically been behind the curve. Great for running mail/web/dns servers though, and embedded "NanoBSD" FreeBSD builds are part of a custom gateway I've set up and FreeBSD can also be found inside pfSense, the first GUI-configured firewall that I've not hated with a white-hot passion. Generally my rules are Mac on the desktop, FreeBSD or Solaris in the datacenter. The non-productivity laptop (dubbed the "Workless Diskstation" by a guy I met at the Smart dealership) dual-boots XP and Ubuntu to support ham radio applications.

-RS


From:mtn_hermit
Date:September 1st, 2008 06:38 am (UTC)
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Perhaps use what's being put on the XO Laptops for the One-Laptop-Per-Child project?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugar_(GUI)

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From:happypete
Date:September 1st, 2008 12:04 pm (UTC)

That's a good thought...

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simplicity...what a concept.
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From:songwind
Date:September 1st, 2008 06:52 am (UTC)
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EduBuntu is pretty good stuff.
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From:happypete
Date:September 1st, 2008 12:06 pm (UTC)

Another poster proposed Sugar...

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...presumably on top of Ubuntu. How is EduBuntu different?
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From:songwind
Date:September 1st, 2008 03:43 pm (UTC)

Re: Another poster proposed Sugar...

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Basically, it comes with all the educational software installed. There are other options that make it very useful for schools (term/server setups, etc) that won't come into it in a single-machine environment.
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From:davidkevin
Date:September 1st, 2008 09:19 am (UTC)

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I can't advise you but Brad Rodriguez is who I'd ask.

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From:happypete
Date:September 1st, 2008 12:05 pm (UTC)

Okay...

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I'll ping him.
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From:happypete
Date:September 1st, 2008 12:17 pm (UTC)

His site linked to the Linux Distribution Chooser...

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...but it was hard to answer the quiz from the split perspective of a power-user "installer" and a child user...that said, here's what it gave me:

We found the following perfect match(es):

Kubuntu Homepage: http://www.kubuntu.org/
Screenshots: The Coding Studio
Kubuntu is a user friendly operating system based on KDE, the K Desktop Environment. With a predictable 6 month release cycle and part of the Ubuntu project, Kubuntu is the GNU/Linux distribution for everyone.

(This distribution also has a "Live CD" you can use to test the distribution before you install it)

Fedora Homepage: http://fedora.redhat.com/
Screenshots: The Coding Studio
The goal of The Fedora Project is to work with the Linux community to build a complete, general purpose operating system exclusively from open source software. Fedora Core is built to provide choice. It includes the latest versions of many software packages, including both GNOME and KDE desktop environments. Fedora Extras, a repository built entirely by volunteers, provides thousands more packages, and is enabled for use by default.

(This distribution also has a "Live CD" you can use to test the distribution before you install it)

Mandriva Homepage: http://www.mandrivalinux.org/
Screenshots: The Coding Studio
Mandriva Linux (formerly known as Mandrake Linux) was created in 1998 with the goal of making Linux easier to use for everyone. Mandriva offers all the power and stability of Linux to both individuals and professional users in an easy-to-use and pleasant environment.

(This distribution also has a "Live CD" you can use to test the distribution before you install it)

OpenSuSE Homepage: http://www.opensuse.org/
Screenshots: The Coding Studio
The openSUSE project is a community program sponsored by Novell. Promoting the use of Linux everywhere, this program provides free, easy access to the world's most usable Linux distribution, SUSE Linux. OpenSUSE delivers everything that Linux developers and enthusiasts need to get started with Linux. Hosted at opensuse.org, the project features easy access to builds and releases. It also offers extensive community development programs for open access to the development process used to create SUSE Linux.

(This distribution also has a "Live CD" you can use to test the distribution before you install it)

Debian Homepage: http://www.debian.org/
Screenshots: The Coding Studio
Debian is a free operating system (OS) for your computer. An operating system is the set of basic programs and utilities that make your computer run. Debian GNU/Linux provides more than a pure OS: it comes with over 15490 packages, precompiled software bundled up in a nice format for easy installation on your machine.

Ubuntu Homepage: http://www.ubuntulinux.org/
Screenshots: The Coding Studio
Ubuntu is a free, open source operating system that starts with the breadth of Debian and adds regular releases (every six months), a clear focus on the user and usability (it should "Just Work", TM) and a commitment to security updates with 18 months of support for every release. Ubuntu ships with the latest Gnome release as well as a selection of server and desktop software that makes for a comfortable desktop experience off a single installation CD.

(This distribution also has a "Live CD" you can use to test the distribution before you install it)
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From:chaos_wrangler
Date:September 1st, 2008 04:45 pm (UTC)

calculus

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My dad said something recently about one of my nephews exploring limits, and I replied that he's rather young for starting calculus, so perhaps Quinn... *g*
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From:gonzy317
Date:September 2nd, 2008 05:10 pm (UTC)
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Justin has a windows xp desktop and has done very well - just fixed his sound card by reinstalling the drivers the other day, and he hasn't gotten TOO frustrated with it. I'm not as geeky as some, by why do you want to install a different OS for him to learn to use? Likely he'll be using either PC or Mac in school... *curious*
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