PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

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PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

Postby Isthmus on Sun May 15, 2011 2:18 pm

H everyone.

First let me start by saying that I tried posting this in the "Other Editions" and "Community Projects" sections, but both seem to be closed to new topics (though not new posts). Mods, please feel free to move this anywhere you feel is more appropriate.

I have a 3.5 year old daughter who is obviouly interested in computers. She navigates quite easily through IOS and Android devices and is constantly asking to play with one of our "real" computers (OSX, Linux (several) and Windows (Xp and 7). I don't really feel comfortable letting her play with the big computers. not only is the software a little too flexible for her, but the computers are a bit too breakable for her.

I want to build her a netbook with no moving parts other than the keyboard, running a customized UI specifically geared toward kids her age, that can grow with her as she ages.

Thus far the best projects I've seen are Qimo4Kids and DoudouLinux, which are two distros designed specifically for young children. Qimo is Xubuntu based (Ubuntu 10.4 and Xfce 4.6). It strips most functionality out of Xubuntu, by removing most of the non-child specific software and limits software choices to several pretty comprehensive children's learning suites. The set up basically modifies the xubuntu bottom panel to look like a dock and puts launchers to the game suites there. Here is what the Qimo UI looks like:

Image

DoudouLinux is essentially the same idea, but is instead of using a Xubuntu it uses a custom UI over Debian stable. The UI is a little more child friendly and prettier, but not nearly as flexible from a management POV, which means that it won't grow with the child as well. Here is what the Doudoulinux UI looks like:

Image

Honestly, I think that my preference is for something like the Qimo set up as it is simple, but it also introduces the child to something more like a UI that she will grow up using in various different OSs. I don't like everything that Quimo has done (or the fact that it has been in development hell for about a year), so I was thinking of using the latest version of Linux Mint Xfce (LMDX) and modifying it to create a better spin. Basically it would be the same idea as Quimo, but piggy backing on all the ready to go work built into LMDX. I would include some of the same software used by Qimo, DouDou, Edubuntu and probably some others (like planetarium software). It would also have more polish, such as using a simple but animated dock (a modified version of docky); mint menu; friendlier colors; some transparencies; and original artwork. I was thinking that parental controls over her browser, and putting everything under a user account that restricts the child's ability to make any changes to the system (leaving the parent as the admin) might be the way to go. I would also add entertainment software for her movies and her music as well, which is something neither of the distros linked above do.

The benefit to LMDX is being able to use much of the existing features and polish built in by the mint team, better maintenance controls, a better repository interface, and the long term stability of debian. Since it is a rolling distribution, it would not have to be upgraded every six months or subject to ubuntu's whims. Admins would just have to keep an eye on it to make sure that any customizations don't break during and update. The big plus is that doing it that way, It would allow parents to make slight periodic alterations to the system so that it grows with the child (adding and removing software and altering the look and function of the UI). Since, LMDX is light, fast and requires relatively few it should be able to run perfectly on a netbook with a solid state hard drive (meaning no moving parts).

What do you think guys? Like the idea?

I'd be interested on input regarding things to look out for while creating the spin, as well as package and design ideas. If anyone wants to help, feel free to PM me.
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Re: PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

Postby DrHu on Sun May 15, 2011 2:47 pm

What do you think guys? Like the idea?

I think there is a market for those types of products, obviously for younger kids, say 5 years or under.

I think that after a certain age, such as 7-7, kids are more independent and able to handle most things, either due to their own curiosity or simply their interest in the product.
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Re: PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

Postby Isthmus on Sun May 15, 2011 3:12 pm

DrHu wrote:
What do you think guys? Like the idea?

I think there is a market for those types of products, obviously for younger kids, say 5 years or under.

I think that after a certain age, such as 7-7, kids are more independent and able to handle most things, either due to their own curiosity or simply their interest in the product.

My thoughts exactly, which is why I preferred something like LMDX. Since it is Debian based it can continue to stay up to date and as the child grows it can be slowly modified to reflect their growing knowledge or interest. At least until they are ready to play on a more adult system. The point being that it would NOT have to be locked to a 3-5 year old age range in the way that Qimo and Doudou are. That plus since LMDX is a more up-to-date distro, it can be spinned with much more polish built in than what is currently available in the others.
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Re: PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

Postby vrkalak on Sun May 15, 2011 3:28 pm

Personally, I like DouDouLinux. This distro was made specifically for younger kids, and it is based on top of Debians 'stable' branch. Doesn't get any better than that.

There are a few Linux distros made for younger children > http://www.brighthub.com/computing/linu ... 43224.aspx

This is, also, Debian Jr. > http://www.debian.org/devel/debian-jr/

I have two young nieces (ages 5 and 6) both can easily navigate through Mint-9 Xfce better than the adults. (I put LM-9 LTS on my sisters PC last year)

Their father uses a Mac PC, laptop and iPad ... they have no trouble with OSX.

My point is, that kids are smarter than we give them credit for ... we don't have to 'down-grade' anything for them.

As Paul Barry puts wonderfully in his Linux for Kids Experiment article in Linux Journal, there is no point in asking “is Linux ready for kids”; instead the question is “why not use Linux for kids.” I completely agree with his point, and say Linux is the system to go for the children. There are distributions and programs for every age and parents should not have any problems managing their kids’ computing experience.

I suggest all parents introduce their children to the Linux operating system; not because it is my personal operating system, but rather to introduce their young, unspoiled brains to freedom, openness and the ability to explore found in open source.
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Re: PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

Postby Isthmus on Sun May 15, 2011 4:08 pm

vrkalak wrote:My point is, that kids are smarter than we give them credit for ... we don't have to 'down-grade' anything for them.


Why is it that every time someone suggests the idea of writing a spin, someone always has to chime saying that they should use something that alredy exists? I don't think I was discussing whether kids were smart or not. The idea is for the spin to grow with the kids and be mint based (as in having something in common with the community here).
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Re: PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

Postby passstab on Sun May 15, 2011 9:26 pm

Isthmus wrote:Why is it that every time someone suggests the idea of writing a spin, someone always has to chime saying that they should use something that alredy exists?


because distrowatch lists 3 mythtv distros and 5 tetephony ones
point being there is two mutch redundancy in the linux world
so the rationalization of yet another distro must be thorgh
(yes i know not mutch energy is lossed from you makeing a personal distro but i beleave that answers your question)

regarding the intelect of children
you ARE saying 7yos are to dumb for the real thing if thay need there own distro
Last edited by passstab on Mon May 16, 2011 12:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

Postby Isthmus on Sun May 15, 2011 9:48 pm

Jesus christ. This is for a three year old. You know what I didn't post to ask for the idea to be knocked down. If you aren't interested just pass. It is funny how people are always asked to contribute and show interest in the community, but when someone does, these so called high and mighty experts drive them away. I'm sorry if I thought any of you might be interested. Forget I said anything, I'll just do it on my own as I planned to originally.
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Re: PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

Postby wangsuda on Sun May 15, 2011 11:45 pm

^ even though I know nothing about spinning or creating distros, I'll put my two satang in. As the father of small children, I would love a "grow as you grow" distro. My five year old uses my computer, and while he does have a basic understanding of it, the multitude of menu items he sees can lead to some interesting click and plays! LOL Yes, I could set up a different account, but why? Why take away when you can start with something designed for children and add to it? Personally, I think it's a great idea!
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Re: PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

Postby passstab on Mon May 16, 2011 12:21 pm

ok i'm sorry
i was just trying to clarify vrkalak's comment
but i recognize the second part was rude
(i'm new to this forum thing)
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Re: PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

Postby proxima_centauri on Mon May 16, 2011 12:50 pm

Isthmus wrote:First let me start by saying that I tried posting this in the "Other Editions" and "Community Projects" sections, but both seem to be closed to new topics (though not new posts). Mods, please feel free to move this anywhere you feel is more appropriate.

FYI, you can make new posts in these sections. You need to be aware that the first page you see when you click on these sections is the aggregated feed of all the sub-sections. For instance, in Community Projects, you must actually go to Idea's and Thoughts, Remastersys, or mintCast before you can actually post. The main page of Community Projects shows the active posts of all three of those subforums, so you cannot post directly.

* Moved to Community Projects -> Ideas & Thoughts subforum as intended by OP
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Re: PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

Postby Isthmus on Mon May 16, 2011 1:18 pm

proxima_centauri wrote:
Isthmus wrote:First let me start by saying that I tried posting this in the "Other Editions" and "Community Projects" sections, but both seem to be closed to new topics (though not new posts). Mods, please feel free to move this anywhere you feel is more appropriate.

FYI, you can make new posts in these sections. You need to be aware that the first page you see when you click on these sections is the aggregated feed of all the sub-sections. For instance, in Community Projects, you must actually go to Idea's and Thoughts, Remastersys, or mintCast before you can actually post. The main page of Community Projects shows the active posts of all three of those subforums, so you cannot post directly.

* Moved to Community Projects -> Ideas & Thoughts subforum as intended by OP

Excellent. Thanks for the tip. I was not aware of that and had always wondered how new threads popped up in those sections.
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Re: PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

Postby vrkalak on Mon May 16, 2011 3:39 pm

Don't get me wrong, I think a Linux OS geared specifically for the younger kids is a good idea.
But, as I look through the Google Search Engine, I see that there are several already, and most developed on top of Debian or Ubuntu, same as LinuxMint.
Wouldn't it be better to help one of the existing distros? Contribute to them and make them better?

Secondly, developing and maintaining a OS-distro is a 'full-time job'
When 'we' look at a distro, we don't always see the behind the scenes aspects of developing and maintaining.
On DistroWatch.com there are some 650 distros listed. The Top 100 are highlighted on the side-bar. What about the others? Many are inactive or not updated in quite some time. Others just seem to have died from lack of interest.

There is more to making and keeping a good OS-distro 'alive' than meets the eye.
Besides, the people involved in the Development and Testing Process; there are the Release Maintainers. A OS-distro must be maintained often. Each kernel, application and package is maintained.

A big distro like Debian and Ubuntu have hundreds of developers and maintainers. LinuxMint is small, with only one Full-Time Employee. The other Devs and Maintainers for Mint are volunteers.

If you want to develop 'another' off-shoot of LinuxMint ... more power to you.
While everything in LinuxMint is Free and Open Source ... the name is not. You can base a distro on LinuxMint but you can't use the name without permission.

You must work with Clem (founder and lead-developer/maintainer) Send Clem an email/PM and bring this idea up to him. Clem, also, navigates through the Forum and IRC channels often.
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Re: PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

Postby Isthmus on Mon May 16, 2011 5:39 pm

No worries. There won't be any using of the mint name without Clem's permission. As I said above, I'm doing this for my 3 year old after not seeing any other distros that I was quite satisfied with. I'm only asking in case anyone is interested. The idea is for the spin to be able to grow with the child and for software to be replaceable as the child ages. Below is a rough idea of how I envision it. keep in ind that this are just ideas at tis point and are from the point of view of introducing this to a 3 year old. Obviously older kids would use other apps. I have not yet decided whether to include those apps preinstalled (just not in the dock), or whether to provide a guide for parents to install apps as they see fit. Anyhow, here is the first rough draft:

---------------------------------------------------------

BASE

Linux Mint Debian (Xfce 4.8 ) or Xubuntu 11.4

- Pros: LMDX is clean, preconfigured, easy to maintain and has mint tools preinstalled. Xubuntu already has most drivers working out of the box (especially wireless ones).
- Cons: LMDX might require some propritary drivers. Xubuntu is not a rolling distribution.

Colors should be bright and friendly with larger fonts, light transparencies, and a fun and colorful wallpaper. Arrangement should be panel on top and dock at the bottom.

DOCK

- Docky – Preconfigured to launch specific aps. Dock setting anchor replaced with folder for movie and music (right click to enable dock settings). Programs for running videos and music to be preloaded but not in the dock. let the child click on the media itself while learning (the programs can always be brought out later). the dock should be animated and in 3-d mode, with large but not huge icons.

BROWSER

- Firefox 4 – All tool bars turned off, except for bookmark toolbar. Bookmark toolbar populated with specific chosen links such as Kdsui, PBS kids, Disney, etc. the idea is for the 3 year old to only visit the chosen bookmarks until they learn more about the internet and how to navigate. suggestions for appropriate sites would be appreciated.

EDUCATIONAL APS AND GAMES

The following is a list of possible choices. It is under review so nothing is written in stone:

- gamine
- pysycache
- gcompris
- childsplay
- tuxpaint
- tuxmath
- tuxtyping
- Kletters
- khangman
- Blinken
- little wizard
- Tux of math command
- supertux
- Laby
- Google Earth
- Stellarium

ADDITIONAL

Either preloaded or as a recommendation, information on other games and educational suites for older children, along with instructions on how to download them from the software center and how to add/remove them from the dock. If preloaded, the package list would include educational games and materials for odler kids in the mint menu, but not on the dock. parents would then be able to simply replace the items in the dock as the child grows and his interests and abilities change. If I go with the latter choice, the obviously the list of aps above would be larger.

Comments and suggestions on this post would be appreciated.
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Re: PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

Postby Isthmus on Sun May 22, 2011 11:31 pm

Ok here is a very early set of screenshots showing what I'm trying to do. This build is a separate user session on top of Linux Mint 10.10 main edition. The idea for doing it on the main edition, instead of LMDX is just to test and make sure that I have everything I'm looking for, in terms of look and feel. Docky is not yet configured (It will have better and probably larger icons, and the settings anchor will be removed). Also I'm trying to figure out how to create randomly switching wallpapers, so that she will see the different preeschool wallpapers that she likes. As it is right now the basic desktop looks like this:

Image

Note that the top panel is hidden, not removed, the dock contains mainly educational applications for little kids and is set to intelihide. When the panel comes down, it is set to 85% transparent and has been cleared of most applets. The mint menu has been reduced to just the icon so that she is not tempted to touch it. If she does she will get the favorites slab which contains many of the same things found in the dock, as well as a few other apps I didn't want to put there (mainly science ones). Here it is with the panel engaged:

Image

Then there is the browser. I'm using firefox as the default for her, mainly because It allows me to turn off toolbars and configure the buttons in such a way that she is not tempted to do other things. I really wish I could remove that top bar from it so that it looks like the windows version. Chrome gives you more screen space, but there is no way to turn off the searchbar. the way it is set up all she can do is navigate to the bookmark buttons placed on the bar, while I am able to access all controls via the firefox menu.

Image

So what do you think about the way it is headed? once I get the right mix, I plan on duplicating everything in LMDX and loading it to a netbook with an SSD for her. I also plan on making her movies available on the dock, which I have not yet done.

I'd love your input on this.
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Re: PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

Postby Isthmus on Mon May 23, 2011 11:43 am

Just got a couple of suggestion on the browser. Apparently the forward and backward buttons can be moved just to the left of the tabs, so I'll be doing that. I turned the home button to google and added a refresh button next to the home button. Lastly, I'll be changing the google background to something appropriately kid-like so that she doesn't get a jarring white screen.

On the dock, it was suggested that I not use such a dark background, so that has been changed to something a little lighter, which looks much better. I'm not sure yet, but I might change the default theme to the dark one from LM9, which might make things flow a little nicer in this set up. I will keep transparencies on that.

BTW, can anyone point me to a "How-To" for creating a continuously changing wallpaper? Mint already includes one such wallpaper as an option (the space ones). I want to do the same thing but with my own chosen wallpapers. Thanks in advance for the help.
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Re: PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

Postby passstab on Mon May 23, 2011 8:38 pm

i haven't tryed it but this looks like it might work
viewtopic.php?f=90&t=43861&start=0
(this is how i found it http://lmgtfy.com/?q=how+to+wallpaper+slideshow+mint :mrgreen: )

also if you are planing to redistribute it you might not want to use tinkerbell
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Re: PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

Postby birdog on Wed May 25, 2011 8:42 pm

I haven't read though all the reply's, but did a search for Sugar on a Stick and saw no mention of it so please don't flame if this has been mentioned. I am looking to make a computer for my Niece so am thinking along the same lines as you so surprised you didn't mention or try it. You can install it on a hard drive but is designed to be put in a USB drive, hence the "on a Stick". It is the OS for the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project and it designed not just to familiarities kids with computers but teaches critical thinking so the games are not just games but teaching tools. Their website http://www.sugarlabs.org says it is an award wining learning platform.

Installation instructions are here http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Sugar_on_a_Stick/Installation

I appreciate the info on the 2 child OS's you listed though. I am going to install this on a USB and test it so will try and get back soon with my impressions if you are interested. - I am just going to install it on a USB and test.

BTW to install it on a USB from windows you can go to http://www.pendrivelinux.com/universal-usb-installer-easy-as-1-2-3 and download that 1 MB exe and it will actually download the OS (just check the download option) and install it on the selected USB drive for you so all you have to do is reboot and viola you in using Sugar. I have used that USB installer to test many versions of linux and has Persistent available on may Linux distro which means it remember settings changes and can update it on the usb drive unlike live cd.
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Re: PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

Postby birdog on Wed May 25, 2011 9:11 pm

Forgot to mention it is based of of Fedora and is well maintained and updated. looks like it is a well thought out program for kids and not just a Linux OS re-released for kids. The current release is v3, think there was Blueberry and Strawberry and are now on Mirabelle. Found some screen shots for the latest release here http://www.sugarlabs.org/index.php?template=gallery&page=galler It does include a browser and chat but looks like the chant is for more of a classroom but maybe can find other Sugar users on the internet? Will let you know once i find out more but i have to warn you it will probably be a week or so before i have the time to get to it.

Looks like i was wrong there is a v4, code-named Mango Lassi release in Nov but the screens should be similar. I did find a video for sugar here http://www.sugarlabs.org/assets/sugar_demo.ogg
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Re: PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

Postby Isthmus on Wed May 25, 2011 9:17 pm

thanks birdog. yes I did check out Sugar and didn't really care for it. it was purely educational and lacked a bit of the polish and "wow" factor that little ones find so appealing, so I passed on it. I found it to be more of a program for use in a classroom setting that something a small child would explore on their own.

That said I did a little field testing with the little one and discovered a few new things:

1. until they learn how to control the mouse or the touchpad, slow the cursor down to a crawl;
2. Make the cursor big; and
3. the auto hiding panel is not a good idea - she liked that she could make it drop and kept wanting to play with it.

So basically I have to hide the panel permanently and trigger it's dropping with a key, or remove it and trigger mint menu with a key.

I also found that curiously at 3 years old, they track pad is much more user friendly than the mouse.

I also configured firefox further to include a background picture she likes on google (disney princesses - yes I know those images are copyrighted); installed the kidzui browser add-on to firefox and placed it on the shortcut bar; and moved the navigation bar between the firefox menu and the first tab.
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Re: PROJECT IDEA - "MINTY" (Mint 4 Kids)...

Postby birdog on Wed May 25, 2011 10:04 pm

Thanks for the quick reply and it looks like i may go the same route as you too but i still want to play with it.

BTW did want to mention that to block access to risque sites I will probably use opendns (not open source btw) as i have Tomato USB http://tomatousb.org (will also work with DD-WRT) so if they get to curious they cant bypass it. Proxies and other such tricks cannot bypass it, the only way to defeat it and get to undesirable websites is to log into the router and turn it off. Still looking into that also though - they have a free service and a pay service and not sure yet the advantages of paying for it. I do know even if you plug in google dns or any other dns the router will override it and use the opendns filtering too. Not sure about if they try and clone a mac ID because it does offer "Block Page Bypass" so i can go wherever I want to when i want to - I doubt they can/will figure that out any time soon though.

Still looking for an open source alternative to OpenDNS though
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