domingo, 27 de enero de 2013

My Encounter with PicarOS, a Great Linux Distro for Children

My 2 year old daughter is very fond of computers.  Therefore,  I have been searching for options to make her desktop environment more appealing for her.  After all, anyone can use Linux these days.  And there are options for children, too.

I tried Qimo and Doudou.  Unfortunately, despite their beauty and functionality, they are not what I was looking for.  I wanted a OS that supports Spanish flawlessly.

Anyway, I saw a video about KidBox, a full-screen Urugayan browser that supposedly takes children to a safe environment online, where they can play and learn.  The idea sounded interesting, so I visited their website only to be slapped on the face with this discouraging message:

We are working on a version of Kidbox for your platform.
We will inform you when it becomes available!
* Currently available for Microsoft Windows"

Well, so much for KidBox...

Then, my brother Megatotoro called me in a frenzy, urging me to watch a video in YouTube about a Linux distro that he desperately wanted and could not download, so he wanted me to get it for him.  Without understandig his sense of urgency, I looked for the video.

That's when my jaw dropped.

It was PicarOS 2012, a spin of GALPon MiniNo especially tweaked to produce a child-friendly OS.  As I saw the video, I got more and more impressed by the interface and the software collection.  This is the video about PicarOS, uploaded by Introlinux:

However, I could not download the .ISO, either.  Apparently, the torrent and the magnet were not working.  But Introlinux was very kind and provided a direct link.  When the download finished, I burned the DVD and, literally drooling, tried PicarOS.

Everything I saw in the video was there but, more than that, absolutely everything was working out of the box!

The following day, I gave a copy of the DVD to my brother (read his review here) and my mother called me, asking me for another one.

"My daughter will appreciate this OS," I thought.  Therefore, I decided to install it to her desktop computer, which runs Mageia 2.

Installation of Picaros as a dual-boot with Mageia 2

Introlinux also gave me the installation instructions, so the process was not difficult.  What was painful was the discovery that Mageia could see PicarOS at boot.

So, it took me a day of trial-and-error frustration to configure the Mageia grub correctly, but I eventually achieved it.  Basically, one has to go to /boot/grub with Dolphin and, once there, open a Konsole.  Then you have to type
SU (and your superuser password when the system requires it)
export $(dbus-launch)

When the GUI of Kwrite appears, you use its menu to open the file menu.lst and add the following:

title PicarOS (GALPon MiniNo)
root (hd0,0)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-3.2.0-3-686-pae root=/dev/sda1 ro  splash quiet
initrd /boot/initrd.img-3.2.0-3-686-pae

That's because I had PicarOS installed on the first partition (sda1).  You must edit the GRUB entry depending on the partition that you installed the system to.  For example, I installed it in a partition sda13 on my laptop.  The entry was like this:

title PicarOS (GALPon MiniNo)
root (hd0,12)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-3.2.0-3-686-pae root=/dev/sda13 ro  splash quiet
initrd /boot/initrd.img-3.2.0-3-686-pae

Then you save it and close everything.  When you reboot, you see that the new entry is in GRUB.

I booted PicarOS and, sure enough, got everything in place.
Default desktop in PicarOS 2012 (GALPon MiniNo)
I then added some things to make the browser look as the one my daughter is accostumed to seeing:

Firefox running the Scribblies Brite 6 theme
 After this, I installed PicarOS to the laptop that my daughter Eimi received from her grandmother for Christmas.  It is a Lenovo 3000 N100.  I chose the "basic-automatic" installation and the process was absolutely painless: PicarOS picked up the Wifi and configured everything without any input of mine.  It can even display the VGA video to a TV screen.

These days, in which companies see our children as marketing targets for consumerism, it is refreshing to see how Linux gives us options for our children to learn in a free environment.  And PicarOS is certainly a great choice for people in Spanish speaking countries.

I just want to see Eimi using her new computers...

The name of the OS is a pun (The Spanish word "pícaros" means, in a positive sense, "rogues").
Despite being targeted to children, as Introlinux accurately asserts, "because of its packages, PicarOS can perfectly be the desktop of choice of any home user".  To illustrate, I was surprised to see the GIMP and LibreOffice in the software collection...and then I saw Blender.  I hope my daughter can teach me how to use that program one day ;-)
The desktop environment of Picaros is LXDE, which makes the OS lighter than other distros for children.
Finally, I posted this from PicarOS and, while I worked, I did not experience any crash or performance problem.  It can actually be the desktop of choice of a home user! 

5 comentarios:

  1. You bet an adult can use PicarOS as a production system! It is Debian-based and it comes with a great variety of software preinstalled. I also used it to write my blog entry!

  2. Good to know you could solve that problem. I didn't have it because GRUB2 takes care of it...of course, the customization GUI is a GREAT help!

  3. Can not find a download link, any pointers?

    1. This is the direct download link that introlinux posted in YouTube: