Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Pleasant Surprise

I am determined that my children learn the benefits of choice. Especially computing choices. Already at school kids are learning to use computers and more often than not, the computers are MSWindows PCs. If you think MSWindow's dominance in the business world is strong, is even more in the education sector. While Apple is still there and a good choice for the classroom, Apple are pricing themselves out of the classrooms. Apple computers are easy to use and don't exhibit the problems with the interface like MSWindows computers do. When it came to Apple Macs, you just used them. Instead of struggling with the MSWindows GUI and praying it doesn't hang. I have taught kids and I have taught people how to use computers. It is hard enough with adults having to deal with hung PCs while teaching. Add to that the cries for help of helpless children that only distracts them from the lesson being taught. Compounding that is the other childern who are distracted by the cries. Headache Central.

So I decided that since I am using Linux at home, the children will do too. The first main obstacle is quality educational software for kids on Linux. With due respect to all the efforts on the Internet, the quality is not even close to that of software written 5 years ago. Like it or not, I had to run MSWindows program on Linux. The problem was that the majority of the software I looked at were developed using Shockwave or Director. I have yet to find a native solution although everything from Wine, CrossOver Office, VmWare to Bochs has crossed my mind.

So I've settled on Web based educational sites that are normally running Flash. I created an account for each of them and put their faces as the KDM icon. Next, I created shortcuts on the desktop for Mozilla that opens each of the sites. The sites I find that attracts my kids attention the most are PBSKids, Sesame Street and Playhouse Disney Channel. Ok, so my kids are not that old yet. The more the reason to get them to know Linux. Now, I had to repeat this for the younger sibling on his Desktop.

(Which brought me thinking that this type of setting up user enviroments in Linux is not explored throughroughly yet. Think of Novell's ZenWorks for Desktop for Linux or ZenWorks for Linux Desktop.)

Next problem was that I had set the screen resolution to be 1024x768. Not this is ok for me but the sites above came up quite small. And when the Flash activities came on, it became even smaller. My mind was racing at the thought of setting up individual X config files for each of them. I haven't tweaked X config files in ages. Being the lazy type, I began mucking around and lo behold, you could setup individual screen resolutions in GNOME 2.4. What a pleasant surprise! I thought I had gone over GNOME setups over and over again. And yet I never found this. So like my kids, I was learning something new every day. Maybe I should rename this blog into 'The Linux Adventure'.

I don't know why that config option affected me so much. One one level, I felt that someone had read my mind and made that feature. On another level, I felt beholden to the person who decided to put in that feature. I felt so grateful to the people who put their own time an effort into making Linux and free software great. I guess I can honor them by making sure the next generation starts using Linux and making choices.

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