New Projects - Fresh from the Labs
People interested in sharpening their mental faculties in an environment that is genuinely challenging would do well to give this a go. According to gbrainy's Web site:
gbrainy is a brain-teaser game and trainer to have fun and to keep your brain trained. It provides the following types of games:
Logic puzzles: games designed to challenge your reasoning and thinking skills.
Mental calculation: games based on arithmetical operations designed to prove your mental calculation skills.
Memory trainers: games designed to challenge your short-term memory.
Verbal analogies: games that challenge your verbal aptitude.
gbrainy provides different difficulty levels, making gbrainy enjoyable for kids, adults or senior citizens. It also features player's game history, player's personal records, tips for the player, or fullscreen mode. gbrainy also can be extended easily with new games developed by third parties.
For those chasing binaries, packages are available for Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, SUSE, Mandriva, One Laptop Per Child and NetBSD. Also available is the obligatory source tarball, and for those who want to run the bleeding-edge version, you can grab it using git. I won't be covering how to run git here, but nevertheless, I will incorporate git users into a line of my instructions. As usual, I'm going with the source tarball.
Here are the library requirements, according to the gbrainy Web site:
intltool 0.35 or higher.
Mono 1.1.7 or higher.
GTK and GTK Sharp 2.8 or higher.
librsvg 2.2 or higher.
Cairo 1.2 or higher.
Mono.Addins 0.3 or higher.
And, also according to the Web site, for a standard Ubuntu installation, the packages required for compiling gbrainy are intltool, mono-gmcs, mono-devel, libmono-dev, libgnome2-dev, libgnomeui-dev and libmono-cairo2.0-cil.
Download the latest tarball, extract it, and open a terminal in the new folder. If you've downloaded the development git version, before carrying on, enter:
For everyone else, simply enter:
If your distro uses sudo:
$ sudo make install
If your distro doesn't use sudo:
$ su # make install
Note that compilation doesn't seem to require the use of make. Once the installation is finished, run the program with the command:
Once you're inside, using gbrainy is pretty straightforward. The GUI layout and design are excellent, along with many other functions, such as text input, difficulty settings and so on. gbrainy even has a special setting to adjust for the color blind. Starting out in gbrainy is obvious. There are buttons for testing the following subjects: Logic, Calculation, Memory, Verbal or All (for taking every subject at once).
As each test starts, bear in mind that most questions aren't in the realm of “mildly taxing”. Even on the default medium setting, most of these questions are quite tricky. It quickly will become apparent which subjects you have a knack for and which you'll struggle with.
Logic uses puzzles, such as number and block sequences, grid layouts and so on, generally for guessing the next number or arrangement in a sequence.
Calculation typically has you guessing for the closest number to something, using very thought-intensive divisions, multiplications, averages and so on, that seem to move beyond basic arithmetic skills.
Memory introduces a time factor, so pay close attention. Things such as a series of directions, a grid containing different objects or words spelling out colors that are actually colored with something different (such as the word yellow colored blue) are shown on-screen for a very short amount of time, and you'll be asked about an individual element that's usually pretty hard to recall.
And finally, there's Verbal, which plays games like finding the odd word out, identifying the word most suitable for a given situation, choosing what word can be used in relation to a certain word pairing and so on.
Thankfully, the text input is very dynamic in that the developers have thought ahead about what possible combinations people may enter, so chances are if you enter something in a different case or some other kind of textual variation, the input accepts it or instructs you as to how to answer the question.
All in all, this is a very challenging package. I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes a mainstay of educational distros, but hopefully, it catches on in standard distributions as well.
John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.