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Re: Debian for kids


On Wed, 9 Feb 2000, Doug Loss wrote:
> Hi, all.  I'm the leader of SEUL/edu.  We've just become aware of the
> discussion about Debian for kids through a heads-up message from one of
> our subscribers, and I wanted to throw a few ideas out for
> consideration.  I hope I'm not intruding on your discussions since I'm
> not a member of debian-devel.

Not at all.  In fact, contacting SEUL/edu is on my short list of things to
do in setting up this group.  I hope our work will be complementary to
yours.  As yet, debian-kids is still in the planning phase, so I was
hoping to get something up on the web before contacting you, but the
grapevine is much quicker than I can keep up with. :) 

> There's also a
> mailing list called kidsgames <http://www.smluc.org/SIA/kidsgames/>.

Good site!  Hey, they even reference the Debian Project.  Small world.
I'm beginning to look over the archives of the list.  I have a lot of
reading to do this weekend now.

> allowance/banking program (the Bank of Daddy), and the beginnings of The
> Penguin Machine (inspired by The Incredible Machine from Sierra).

I took a peek at The Penguin Machine, which I discovered from browsing
thru the SEUL/edu archives today, and am delighted with the concept.  I do
have concerns, however, regarding the US patent referred to at the bottom
of the page at tpm.seul.org.  Even though TPM was developed in Australia,
would distribution of this program in the US (or export of the program
from within the US) put Debian at risk of legal action by the patent
holders?  Debian does have a non-US archive, but none of that stuff goes
on our official CD.  I join the author in voicing my disgust with US
software patents in general.  Not to slight the US in general (I am born
American) but it makes me glad I live in Canada. 

> These
> programs are probably listed on Linux for Kids too.  Chris is pretty
> good about keeping that up to date.  I know all of these folks would
> welcome your thoughts and assistance in polishing their programs and in
> creating others.

I'm certainly overwhelmed, even after only taking a casual glance at the
URLs you posted, at the volume of material that is out there for kids on
Linux already, and look forward to seeing as much of this as possible make
its way into the Debian distribution. 

> There's a good bit of cross-fertilization that goes on between these
> groups, too.  Chris Ellec and I are on both the seul-edu and kidsgames
> mailing lists, as are a number of others.  You're all invited to join in
> our discussions as much as you'd like.  Just go to the websites and sign
> up.

I have just joined the SEUL/edu list and will shortly join the Kids
Games list.  Once I get oriented, I'll make an introductory post on each

> You can see the discussion and work on this at the
> documentation task group mailing list archive
> <http://www.seul.org/archives/seul/edu/docutg/>.

I haven't had an in-depth look yet.  Looks like there are some goals
in common with Debian's own documentation project, and at least a general
consensus that SGML is the format of choice:


> About a kid's UI.  We've talked about this on and off, too.  My personal
> preference is a locked-down Windowmaker.  The icons on the dock are big
> enough to be easily selectable, and as the kids get older it's easy to
> gradually enable more features till they're running a standard
> Windowmaker.

I'm impressed with WindowMaker as well and is what I use for my kids,
though some aspects of it are still confusing for them.  It would be nice
to see wmaker-kids package that saves each new parent/sys-admin from
having to re-invent the wheel or perform tedious by-hand tweaks on each
child's account.  If you've discussed this already, perhaps we can glean
enough information from your mailing list archives to put together a
package right now ... something to get started with, at least, even if it
is not perfect.

> We've talked a bit about things like kid's word processors
> versus a restricted version of a standard word processor.  I tend to the
> side of limited versions of standard programs that can be gradually
> unrestricted as the kid's abilities increase.

So far, I have only tried simple, non-GUI text editors with them.
Gnome-notepad looks promising, but the version I have is a bit flakey, and
I'd like to see something solid that they can use (I'm sure they'd rather
have stability than GUI eye-candy any day ... there's nothing as
disheartening as losing an hour of work due to a program crash).

> Anyway, I hope that you'll follow any interests you may have in these
> topics and contribute to making Linux not just acceptable but desirable
> for kids!

Thanks!  I look forward to working with you further towards this goal.

    nSLUG       http://www.nslug.ns.ca      synrg@sanctuary.nslug.ns.ca
    Debian      http://www.debian.org       synrg@debian.org
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