Entertaining the Kids for Free – With Linux

School will soon be out for the summer. There are a slew of Linux programs for kids — including Tux Paint, Celestia and Edubuntu — that parents can use to entertain the little ones.

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Well it’s the last week of May, and millions of schoolchildren across the country and around the world are counting down their last days of captivity.

Ah, summer. It’s a time of freedom for kids and a time of dread and downright terror for parents — at least for some.

How to keep the kids entertained? Never fear — Linux is always on duty.


Linux Programs for Kids

First, the sharp team over at Fanatic Attack has put together an excellent list of the best Linux programs for kids, which was noted by Scott Ruecker on LXer.

Tux Paint, Celestia and Edubuntu are among the open source programs the article recommends, giving kids plenty of opportunities for fun without the expense and hassle of using more mainstream applications.

It’s never too early to begin instilling those open source values!

Best Free Linux Games

Then there’s the list of “42 of the Best Free Linux Games,” noted by sde on LXer.

The linked article on LinuxLinks.com lists a variety of free Linux games to keep kids busy for hours, including first-person shooters (FPS), massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG), arcade games, board/puzzle games and more.

At this rate, it’ll be August before you know it!

‘Ready for the Desktop’?

So now you’re ready for summer. However, what about Linux — is it ready for the desktop??

Quite a lively debate was sparked last week by an editorial over at Linux.com questioning the usefulness of the term “ready for the desktop” for discussing Linux — or any operating system.

“The truth is that no OS is ready for the desktop, and never will be,” writes Jeremy LaCroix, author of the article. “An OS that was ready for the desktop would put people like me out of business, because it would be theoretically perfect.

“Since each person uses his computer in different ways, it’s impossible for one OS to cater to everyone,” LaCroix continues. “Therefore, you shouldn’t ask if an OS is ready for the desktop; rather, is the OS ready for your desktop?”

10 Years of Readiness

Indeed, “I have never liked the whole ‘ready for the desktop’ thing,” Gerhard Mack, a Montreal-based consultant and Slashdot blogger, told LinuxInsider.

“It’s all about whose desktop it is ready for,” he said. “I’ve had my desktop as exclusively Linux for the past 10 years and I enjoy it that way.”

Ten years ago, one could use Linux on the desktop “with no problem, provided someone technical set it up for you and you didn’t need standard office apps,” Mack noted. “Now things have gotten easier to install and more office apps are available for Linux.”

The type of desktop needs to be qualified, he concluded. “For instance, I’d say it was great for office work but not good for CAD or graphics design.”

Focus on Developers

The topic had spurred close to 600 comments on Slashdot by Friday, and was also nicely complemented by a post from Thomas Teisberg on the Linux Loop, which points out that the desktop experience is only part of the story.

“The average user’s experience is not all that matters,” Teisberg noted. “Developers must also be attracted to Linux before it will become commonplace on the desktop.”

The ‘Gamazon’ Factor

Over at Linux Today, meanwhile, Mark Hinkle argued that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) (“Gamazon”) are the best hope for Linux on the desktop.

“If you are no longer dependent on your desktop operating system for tight application integration, you have a lot more freedom in your desktop platform,” Hinkle asserted. “That opens the door for Linux.”

This is not the first time cloud computing and virtual appliances have been mentioned as a big opportunity for desktop Linux, Jay Lyman, an analyst with The 451 Group, told LinuxInsider.

The subnotebook category of PCs is another area widely considered to have the potential to give desktop Linux a boost, he added.

Opportunities for All

“The basic reason is that you don’t have the same Windows dominance,” Lyman explained. “I agree — getting the operating system and applications from something like an Amazon cloud makes sense.”

rPath is one of the first companies to take the idea and “run with it,” Lyman added.

That, in turn, shows that “vendors see the opportunity too,” he concluded. “It’s further evidence that it’s a good opportunity for vendors as well as for Linux.”