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October 10, 2007

Baby Ubuntu: Geek Dad-To-Be Needs An OS For The Kid

Hahay! So BoingBoing, &c's Cory Doctorow and his girlfriend are expecting a girl in late January! Congratulations, good luck. As dt Jay pointed out, Cory announced the big news just as any other guy would: in his weekly podcast.

And just like any other dad, Cory is already worrying about what operating system to run on the kid's first computer. Which is how his lazyweb suggestion for an infant-friendly flavor of the Linux distribution Ubuntu came about.

Cory's looking for a stable, full-featured Baby Ubuntu distro by the time the kid's 1-1.5yo, which is Jan-Jun 2009. I searched around, and unless there's a secred Ubuntuweb somewhere, I can't find anyone working on the project. So here's what you geek parents need to do [of course, your own suggestions are welcome]:

  • replace the UI with croquet or something
  • built-in Babysmash functionality
  • parental control video player
  • light-weight, stripped down Firefox
  • "very audio feedback-y kind of thing"
  • "totally hot"

    As Cory says, "Make it so." [craphound.com, about 5:00 in.]

    Previously: Dad builds pbskids.org touchscreen kiosk for kids
    Infant software (and hardware)
    advice for kids on laptops

    posted October 10, 2007 11:27 AM | add to del.icio.us | digg this

  • comments


    Cheap, cool, you're also buying one for a kid in the third world, and there should be plenty of great software for it by 2009.5.

    [we are so all over this thing when it comes out. I am stoked. -ed.]

    posted by: AgnesDad at October 10, 2007 1:18 PM

    I have a 4.5 month old who has started to get an interest the keyboard when he's being held in our laps while typing. Unfortunately the "babysmasher" entertainment apps appear to be quite lacking on linux. I'm working a python based program that will make use of this keyboard topper, but it'll be a few more weeks before I have anything to release.

    As I was hunting around for Linux for kids, I did find Kiddix Computing which appears to be modified KDE desktop for kids, but unlike most linux distros, getting the actual software seems a bit expensive, So I haven't tried it out yet.

    posted by: Jay at October 10, 2007 1:26 PM

    Oh, you just got Geek Dad over here VERY EXCITED. Boing Boing and Baby?! It's a great day! thanks

    posted by: Alex at October 10, 2007 5:43 PM

    Keep the child away from a laptop at all costs. My kid has destroyed 4 harddrives in 18 months. I've never seen HDD failures like this in 22 years. But when they hit the keyboard they're hitting your drive too and even a Macbook's motion sensor cant compensate. Babies and computers don't mix.

    posted by: Mark 2000 at October 10, 2007 11:34 PM

    Edubuntu is one of the best kid's OSs out there, www.edubuntu.org The top two suites of games are GCompris and ChildsPlay. All free. The Edubuntu community is still being built out but since there is a fairly strong community behind it, there's a chance it will be the best distro at the time you're building your child's first box.

    I did a bit of focus group testing when I built out the KidBox for my company and found that kids have best ease of use when you:

    * place all the icons on the desktop that you want her to use (all the ones you don't want her to use can stay "hidden" in the menus)

    * fill up the screen with 20 of her favorite games

    * place her favorite, easiest games top left on the desktop to begin training her eyes to start at the top left of the page (early left to right practice as a prevention for dyslexia, also early automation of that reflex can aid in ease of reading as she grows)

    We also got some big cooshy headphones from a teacher supply store so that the little one could experience the repetition she needed and enjoyed. Those headphones were a sanity-saver. It also helped her develop the ability to focus since all background noise was blocked. She got accustomed to really focusing on what she was doing.

    Since you're having a girl, you might want to know about the Little LinuxChick T-shirts. My wife was the one who got them in production. I think she's doing another print run of smaller sizes too.

    [looks sweet, thanks for the links -ed.]

    posted by: Earl Malmrose at October 10, 2007 11:36 PM

    I still have my old Commodore 64 from when I was a kid. I was thinking it could make for a pretty good kid computer. There's a Commodore user group here in Toronto where I could get some kids' games. No internet, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

    posted by: John Bowman at October 11, 2007 11:59 AM

    What about alphababy on OS X? My now 4 yo loved it, and my 1 week old will surely use it later.



    posted by: Sean at October 14, 2007 9:12 AM

    There are a bunch of baby keyboard masher apps for OS X, but Cory has committed to not using operating systems that are laden with DRM. Edubuntu is probably his best bet until babybuntu is created at his request.

    Oh, and when the kids can use a mouse, get Tuxpaint. They make it for Linux, Mac, or Windows and the kids love it! It's a lot like KidPix. It has stamps and a really easy interface and you can lock it down so they can't screw stuff up.

    posted by: John M. at October 19, 2007 7:27 PM
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