As a result of building software, testing, working with PC manufacturing partners, and owning personal computers, I have no fewer than 19 laptops, desktops, and netbooks in my home. Which prompts a number of problems … not least of which is “Daddy, can I have one?”
So a couple of weeks ago I took two netbooks that I received from Disney when working on the Disney Netpal project and slapped Ubuntu Linux, netbook edition, on them. And gave them to my daughter (14) and older son (10) … and sat back and watched.
The results have been unbelievable.
Sure, they’ve found and used the games. But they’ve also discovered how to install new software via Ubuntu’s Software Center. And the results are amazing. My daughter has downloaded the GIMP, and is playing with making, mixing, and editing images. My son is downloading games and other applications. They’re changing the desktop images, customizing their machines, and having a lot of fun.
The most fascinating thing for me, however, and the key to their whole computing experience is in how iPad-like Ubuntu can be. Think of iPad. Simple, tap, download, use, right? How could it get easier? That is almost exactly how my kids are using Ubuntu.
Of course, Ubuntu is a full all-purpose operating system with a user-accessible filesystem and all the grotty power of Linux, if you choose to go there. But on the surface, using it like a waterstrider bug walking on water … these kids are installing applications, creating documents, customizing their computers, and more. And if you ever tried to install the GIMP 5-6 years ago, that’s quite an accomplishment.
The OOBE (out of the box experience) of Ubuntu is impressive. Right from the desktop, it’s completely usable. With zero instruction, my kids were able to find games, open folders, use all their programs, and get new ones. That’s all enabled by a shell that basically displays all the computer’s functionality in an easily explorable way.
Here are my kids’ desktops:
I’m pretty impressed with Ubuntu … even for kids.