Child's play

Is getting people to convert to GNU/Linux like feeding your kids veges? I'm used to the feeling of smug satisfaction when I've slipped a couple of extra vegetables in a meal and the children haven't noticed.

Mmmm, this is delicious Mum. I love Spaghetti Bolognaise.

Little do they know they're actually eating mushrooms, peppers, garlic, onion and probably carrot (all of which they claim they dont like). Blend it all in with the tomatoes and the mince beef; voila....sneaky vegetables (hee, hee). We've now had Ubuntu on the kids laptop for months and the kids haven't even noticed. They're happily playing away on their usual Cbeebies website and haven't noticed a change other than discovering there are more games on the puter than before.

This has made me contemplate how many people can I sneak this on to... successfully? The parents have to be next. My parents are from an era of getting married and having children young and so are still relatively young themselves. Old enough to be fairly stuck in their ways, but young enough that their fine motor skills and hand eye co-ordination are are at 90% peak. I'm sure I could get them to make the change.

Although I haven't quite worked out the full extent of the rules in YU-GI-OH, I believe that 'Free Software Top Trumps' would work fantastically in upping the general knowledge of kids and their respective parents across the UK

I've noticed that there's a fair amount of parent/child competitive behaviour that takes place in families. The free software community should take advantage of these feelings to gain the market lead in the home operating system. You can guarantee if the kids get into something, the parents will become involved as well. We may hate to admit it, but those of us with children end up knowing as well as any child information from what colour power ranger is the coolest, the names of the Teletubbies and the turtles, to who lives in what colour house on Balamory. Although I haven't quite worked out the full extent of the rules in YU-GI-OH, I believe that 'Free Software Top Trumps' would work fantastically in upping the general knowledge of kids and their respective parents across the UK. Categories and ratings of ease of installation, size of installation, configurability, default look, ease of use for GUI, range of packages, security, cool film exposure etc...and of course there would also have to be a Japanese style cartoon to back this up, maybe with a guest appearance from Stallman ;-) This could be the next school kid craze! (remember – you read it here first, folks)

There are loads of great resources and suggestions at With so many fantastic educational packages available, it beggars belief that our local 'cash strapped' comprehensive school spent a small fortune on kitting out a new IT lab in Microsoft products from head to toe. I now have a favourite question that I ask any person/business I come across who uses a computer. “What operating system do you use? and why did you choose it?”. So I thought I'd put this question forward to our local school to see what kind of response I'd get. I wasn't quite as impressed with the answer as I'd hoped.

“We use Windows. Uh Dunno why, seems to be the standard really. We've got 180 computers, and Microsoft is what we know.”

I won't name and shame our local school and the unenthusiastic teacher for fear of it being taken out on the children of friends and family who attend! This is a school just like thousands of others across the UK that are run on extremely tight budgets where you can guarantee you'll find flaky paint, antiquated heating systems, collapsed ceilings and appalling school dinners. But don't worry, because they've got a great Microsoft IT lab!... let's just hope it's not the room with the leaky collapsed ceiling!

We should take a leaf out of this school's book. Parkhill Junior School in Essex have built a most fantastic internet resource facility. The school has been using a bank of recycled computers running free software applications since July 2005. The computers, which are five year old Pentium II Viglen PCs are more than adequate for what they are being used for and the whole suite was fitted for less than £1K including fixtures and fittings. This is a school who also has to work within a tight budget... but they are being very sensible about what and where they spend the school's money. If this isn't a reason to get yourself along to your child's school PTA meeting, I don't know what is... and if you haven't got children, then I guess you can either just sit back and relax or adopt one and join in the grumble!


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