Economy Size Geek - A Desktop for Our Little Penguin
I already had the Sugar thumbdrive, so I moved on to getting the other two installed. My goal was to have a run-off. I would install all three and play with them. Once I got comfortable, I would unleash Max on each and see which one was the winner.
I installed Jaunty (9.04) onto the computer. I also partitioned the drive into three different parts. That way, I could install each OS on its own partition. Once the install was complete, Ubuntu reminded me that Karmic (9.10) had been released. I decided to upgrade to Karmic, as the Edubuntu site said it supported it. After a long wait, everything was installed. Then, I added on the Edubuntu package:
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-edu-preschool
It installed without any problems. The only issue was it did not change anything about the look and feel of the system. Max does well, but I think it will be a little while before I have him navigate to different menus to find Tux Paint.
Undeterred, I went through the install process for Qimo. Again, things were very straightforward, but I made two mistakes in this portion. I did not install a bootloader. I figured I'd let the GRUB2 installed in Karmic handle the booting. (It turns out I should have installed it just to have easy GRUB menu files to crib from.) Second, I filled out the information about an account on the system. I clicked Auto login, because I assumed it was silly to make Max log in. That turned out to be a mistake. Because the system was set to log in as me, it would not log in as the qimo user.
Now I had all three ready for testing. As they say in the UK, things went pear-shaped. I have only two USB ports on the workstation, and they are used up by the keyboard and mouse. That left me nowhere to plug in the Sugar thumbdrive. I booted up Karmic, and in the process of trying to add Qimo as a boot option, I went down the path of upgrading to GRUB2. In the process, I blew up my ability to boot anything.
That basically wasted an entire afternoon. This was all meant to be a project to introduce my son to the wonderful world of Linux—not an exercise in hair pulling. I took a step back and looked at the Sugar Web site to see if there was another way to run it. Then, everything clicked into place. Sure, these are different “products”, but they still are open-source software. Everything I was working on was a package at some point. So, rather than thinking of it as “here are three choices, pick one”, I decided to install Qimo as the base, and then put Edubuntu and Sugar on top. That meant I could play with all of it.
I installed Qimo again. This time, I had it take over the entire drive. I also left the Auto login box unchecked. As I started poking around, I found that Qimo actually is based on Intrepid (8.10). I decided to use the onboard Ubuntu tools to upgrade it to Jaunty, so that it would be easier to bring in Edubuntu and Sugar, which was a very straightforward process. The only issue I ran into was with the custom GDM configuration file. I ended up hand-merging the original version from Qimo with the new one.
Once it was up and running, I added the Edubuntu package. Because it is available as a single package, it didn't take very long. So, that just left Sugar.
There are some known issues with Sugar and Jaunty. The Sugar Wiki pointed me to a PPA (personal package archive). I added https://launchpad.net/~alsroot/+archive/ppa to my sources.list. Then, I authorized the archive by adding its signing key:
sudo apt-key adv --keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com ↪--recv-keys F265806A9BFFF0F4
I had to remove a package that caused a conflict and then was able to install Sugar:
apt-get remove etoys-doc apt-get install sugar-platform
To run Sugar, you run sugar-emulator. I played with it briefly. There were two problems. One, the version I installed seemed to need other things installed to get it to do anything. The second issue was even bigger than the first. The Sugar environment expects to be the desktop. That means it would like to take over the mouse and the display. It seems like it has potential, but it adds too much complexity for what I was trying to do for Max.
Next up, I added an MP3 player (Max loves to play music) and the Flash plugin. It turns out every kid Web site I could find requires Flash to see or do anything. I added links to his favorite Web sites to the desktop. I modified the display a little. I doubled the size of the mouse cursor and expanded the space between launchers on the main panel. Just to make things a little more solid, I zip-tied the mouse and keyboard so they can move, but not be removed. I contemplated setting up an auto off/on using Wake on LAN, but decided Max needs some more time before he can use his workstation unsupervised.
Once all that was done, I turned it over to Max. He played with Tux Paint for a little while. I turned on Proton Radio in the background for him, which he really likes. After a short time of moving the mouse, he anchored himself to the keyboard. Much like his father, he seems to prefer the keyboard as his input device of choice.