Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Real 'Puter Daddy?

I have finally put together a computer just for Dada. She had started using our laptops to practice spelling words and it seemed like she was ready to learn how to use a mouse. I had given her an old dead laptop to play with but she was disappointed that it was only a pretend 'puter. When I started putting the real one together she was very earnestly confirming that "it's a real 'puter, Daddy? A real 'puter?"

As it happened I was able to take home an old desktop PC from work last week (we were moving our offices to new space and cleaning out all the old, dead, redundant, and obsolete hardware lying about). It wouldn't turn on but I was able to restore it to operation by scavenging parts from another old desktop I had lying about.

I set it up with the open-source Edubuntu operating system, which is a distribution of Linux specifically configured for educational use. It comes with a number of educational games and applications appropriate for very young children, including a paint program that Dada can also use to practice spelling words.

It was incredibly easy to set up--once I got the hardware working, I just downloaded the Edubuntu playable CD image, burned it to a disk, and booted from it. From there I chose the "install" option and it installed itself with minimal input from me. Everything just worked (which used to be a big problem with Linux).

Dada really enjoys it, and while she's still not completely able to control the mouse (one of my colleagues suggested getting a track ball) she's getting better every day. She spends a lot of time "drawing" with the paint program and typing letters. There's also a little keyboard trainer where letters fall down the screen and you have to type them before they hit the bottom--she seems to like that one too.

As you can see I've set it up in the livingroom so we can monitor her usage and help her as needed. The only real problem is that the fans on the computer make a lot of noise but I'm too cheap to actually spend the money needed to build a quiet PC.

The machine is connected to the network but we don't think Dada's quite yet ready for her own email address, but it won't be long now, I shouldn't think.


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