Linux

10 reasons why your kids should be using Linux

Providing tech support for your children can be even more challenging than your IT day job. Jack Wallen explains why he thinks Linux is better suited for those young users.

Here on TechRepublic (and many IT-related forums), we speak mostly of the professional aspects of our IT jobs. The problem is, we go home and, in many cases, our IT work continues. Part of it involves keeping our children's computers running and running well. Sometimes, that job can be a bigger challenge than the task of keeping the adults in our business up and running.

But why put yourself through this when you can install Linux on a machine for your child/teen and avoid the headaches? In this article, I will give you 10 good reasons why you should do just this. In the end, you can decide for yourself whether they're reason enough to migrate those young users away from other operating systems.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Viruses/malware

This reason is always at the top of my list. We all know kids are prone to opening and installing things they shouldn't. Because you can't watch your children 100 percent of the time, you can't know where they're getting those applications or attachments from. You can make sure those machines have antivirus and anti-spyware, but why even take the chance? When your kids are using the Linux operating system, this concern becomes moot.

2: Security

This can be summed up easily. If you don't give your children the root password, they can't run with root privileges. Of course, you hit a little snag when using a distribution like Ubuntu. For any sudo-based operating system, you will need to edit the /etc/sudoers file to give your young users the privileges they need.

3: Cost effectiveness

Let's say you have a younger user who is getting a hand-me-down machine that needs an OS reinstall. If you don't have that copy of Windows around, you're stuck purchasing a new copy. This can also be applied to any number of applications you might have to pay for. Avoid these costs altogether by handing that child the same machine running Linux. You won't have pay for the OS license or any application that child might need or want. On top of that, they'll have the Add/Remove Software tool ,where they can hunt around and find just about anything they would need... all on their own! You can also run a modern distribution on much less hardware than you will need for Vista or Windows 7.

4: Age-specific tools

Did you know there are distributions/software groups designed specifically for young adults and children? There is Sugar, geared for K-6, Edubuntu, for ages 3-18, LinuxKidX, for ages 2-15, Foresight Kids, for ages 3-12, and many others. These age-specific tools are well suited for the group they target with graphics and language tuned for the age range. And some of the distributions geared specifically for younger kids lock the operating system down tightly so that only certain tasks can be run.

5: Netbooks

Little kids make great netbook users. They have smaller hands and fingers that can handle a cramped keyboard, and they can easily sit with a small machine in their lap. And the Linux operating system is ideally suited to run on netbooks. You can install either a full-blown OS or a netbook-specific OS, along with whatever software you need on the netbook, making it an excellent choice for the younger audiences.

6: Agile learners

If you put a Linux-based machine in front of a young user, you won't hear complaints like, "Why can't it run Quicken!" or "I need my custom payroll app to run on this!" Most kids will master the Linux operating system quickly (and adroitly), with a minimal learning curve. Young minds adapt so well, your kids won't have any trouble adjusting to any differences. You could probably sit a child down with a Gentoo box running CDE or AfterStep and he or she would have it figured out in less time than it took you to explain what Linux means.

7: Staying in step

I know this one will bring out the ire in many readers. I'm not saying any operating system is used more than any other. But Linux is used worldwide. Many countries as a whole have adopted Linux. The future of Linux is very bright -- and it seems to be getting brighter. So why not give your children a head start on what could possibly be the future of the PC? This also applies for those fledgling IT pros out there. If Windows is so user friendly, kids spending most of their time on Linux should have no problem grasping Windows. In fact, I would argue that it will enhance the child's ability to fully grasp the operating system and how the PC really works.

8: Learning opportunities

Open source emboldens education. It practically screams, "Open me up and learn!" What better way to help youngsters learn than by giving them the ability to do just that? With really curious children, the desire to learn is extraordinary -- so why lock them down with closed source software? When a child is exposed to open source software and an open source operating system, the educational opportunities are limitless.

9: A lesson in community

This one might seem a bit of a stretch... but I am an idealist, so I hope you'll go with it. Teaching children the value of open source software helps them understand community. Although your young users aren't likely to open up the source code of the applications they're using, in today's constantly evolving, community-driven world, they need every advantage they can get as they grow up. Having a sound understanding of open source will help them to understand, at an early age, what it means to really work with and for a team. Using Linux at such an early age also indirectly teaches children the benefit of volunteering -- something many of us need to learn more about.

10: Content filtering

Linux has numerous ways to handle content filtering for your young users. From DansGuardian to SquidGuard to the manual editing of the /etc/hosts file, you can filter content in Linux far more granularly than you can in Windows -- and just as easily. Add to this the ability to lock down what your young user can and can't do (without having to add third-party software), and Linux quickly becomes a safe computing environment for your child.

Your take

Would you trust your kids with Linux? Do you think Linux could help -- or hinder -- their education on a PC? Which operating system do you think is the best choice for children? Linux? Windows? OS X? Join the discussion and share your thoughts.


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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

76 comments
doudoulinux
doudoulinux

We have launched a new kid's Linux this summer. Its name is DoudouLinux ( http://www.doudoulinux.org/ ) and its main goals are the following: * be as easy to use as a gaming console * provide as much kid oriented apps as possible (currently around 50) * drive small children into mastering computer use from age 2 * be natively in kids language, we currently support 8 languages and provide 7 additional demo languages * be simple for Dad and Mum too (no administration, no updates ? it's read-only system, no naughty web sites ? thanks to web content filtering, etc.) Well we propose you to give it a try and let us know ;). Thank you in advance.

radams36
radams36

I blame a lot of this awful article on the editor. I've enjoyed a lot of Jack's articles, but this one is DREADFUL, filled with rationalizations and illogical BS. The editor should have never let this one pass. Reason #1 I'll buy. Reason #2 is a bit of a stretch, but I'll give it a pass. Reason #3 and we're already beginning to reach. Most of the older computers being referenced would have come with Windows already, so it would be the rare case where Windows needed to be repurchased. The fact that Linux is free is a plus in a more generalized sense (I'd love to see it get more market penetration to counteract the hidden Windows cost in most PC's), but it has NOTHING to do with kid-specific points at all. And being 'able' to hunt around for apps is not really a 'plus', as it could easily be restated as being 'forced' to hunt them down. Add to this the fact that much freeware is also available on Windows (OpenOffice, anyone?), and this is even more bogus. Reason #5 is in no way an advantage of Linux for kids, it's absurd to even try to shoehorn this into the article. If the form factor is ideal for kids, great, but that has NOTHING to do with whether or not it has Linux on it. No excuse for this one. Reason #6 is maddeningly illogical. The notion that kids learn well means, at best, that they might be better suited to learn Linux than adults. It in no way means that Linux is ideal for kids. And the statement, "Most kids will master the Linux operating system quickly," seems more wishful thinking than anything else. Any facts or statistics to back this up? Didn't think so. Reason #7 is more of a reason to favor Windows than Linux - Windows has much more market penetration and is likely to maintain its market share for the foreseeable future. Additionally ,whole countries have not adopted Linux, that's a ridiculous contention. Maybe their GOVERNMENTS have, but the government is not the country, not anywhere. I don't know if Linux will ever be more than a marginalized OS in terms of market share, but every year for at least the last five has been declared by the community to be 'the year of the Linux desktop'. I'd like it to be true, but I'd also like it to be true that I'm a lottery winner. Wanting it doesn't make it real. Reason #8 is so ill explained and vague as to be incomprehensible. Statements like, "Open Source emboldens education," are meaningless without some kind of facts to back them up. Reason #9 is quite a stretch, but at least in this case, it was admitted to be the case up front. Reason #10 is not Linux specific, so it has no business on the list. So, maybe this should be rewritten as "Three tenuous reasons Linux might be a good choice for kids, in some cases." It's a stretch to say there are even three good points supporting this article's point. I'm sorry, but this is NOT up to TR's standards AT ALL. I was very disappointed to read an article with so many inaccuracies and fantastically illogical contentions. Bad job all the way around.

bvidolov
bvidolov

Just teach the kids to write drivers ..... and rebuid the core...

jason2x
jason2x

I used to have a Linux setup for my kids, but about a month about I downloaded Kiddix during their pay anything you want promotion for their OS. After a few weeks of using it, my kids absolutely love the OS and it took less than a half hour to install and setup. The parental controls seem to be well thought out and were far easier than the hacks I used to run. All I can say is that we haven't had any problems yet, and I can keep a good eye on what my youngsters are doing on the machine. Kiddix is not for older kids, but if you have a kid in elementary school it seems at just the right age. I think you can still purchase on their website for $10 and they have a 2.0 version coming out at some point.

Who Am I Really
Who Am I Really

I would try Linux but I don't have the resources or time to DL & burn the multiple bazillion different versions: at least with Win2k & XP boxes it's only 1 choice per version: for P2 - P3 systems including the early P4 systems: Win2K-Pro or for later P4 & up systems WinXP-Pro - Pro only as Home is a security neutered waste of resources I didn't mention vi$ta & 7 in the windows choices, as vi$ta & 7 are not an option here. edit for formatting and clarity

metasansana
metasansana

You forgot one thing about the kids; They love their games and I think they won't be too happy that the graphic output doesn't look like a windows box.

cdouglas10683
cdouglas10683

I'm kind of on the fence about having kids use linux at a young age at home will it hurt no will it help them in the long run? That is the question I can't answer. I think I see linux being used in schools before kids start using linux at home. I work for a school district that is getting hurt with budget cuts. This past year we had to cut over $600,000 and looks like that will have to happen next year and maybe the year after. You can only let so many people go before you have to start looking at other things to cut. I'm sure that with the more "user friendly" linux os's out there like Ubuntu might get IT admins looking at cutting Microsoft licence fees and moving to free linux software to save money. Just ssems like we can't be the only school disrict feeling the hurt.

MrKP
MrKP

Very well written. Though I don't have a kid myself, yet anyway, it would be great to see another thread about how to do so. I know I can just google away, but it's just not the same as to learn from here

cesar87
cesar87

Totally agree with this article.

andrejakostic
andrejakostic

Nice article! I don't have any children of my own, but that's no reason not to experiment on other's children! So here's my story: My younger brother got his first computer back when he was 7 years old. It was an Asus bare-bone computer which had problems with ACPI and Windows XP. In the end after about a month of trying I gave up on installing Windows on his computer (it came with Xandros preinstalled) and I installed Fedora 2. The experience was mostly positive. He liked the centralized package management and localization (which was then almost non-existent for my language for windows and windows programs) made everything much easier for him. Also almost all windows programs he wanted to use worked with wine. In the meantime he switched over several computers, but all of them had some GNU/Linux distribution installed on them. The result is that nowadays he's very comfortable with GNU/Linux and OpenOffice, so I believe I can say that the experiment was a success.

djohnston
djohnston

I totally agree. I gave my 8 year old niece a pink laptop running Linux and have not had any problems at all. Can't say that about the rest of my older relatives who always need my help!

unixos
unixos

But ...you gotta learn (the basics of) Linux before you teach your Kid :)

mcalpine3
mcalpine3

Thank you for the article. I'll be trying out some kid-friendly distros on the boys.

danny
danny

Good points except for "third world" countries like "Birmingham Alabama" (see www.al.com post on XO laptops.)

toyoko
toyoko

I've been a big fan of Linux for a while now. I am currently running Ubuntu 10.04 LTS on a 3 year old laptop and it screams. Amazingly it boots up in under 30 seconds. The same laptop when it was running Vista took 4 minutes to boot up. Admittedly, a lot of that boot up time was related to OM software that came with the laptop as well as the installed AV but I think my point is salient. I use Microsoft software only when I am forced to such as when clients demand it but even this is becoming increasingly less and less as they become more educated about the value of open source software. So yes, I think turning kids on to Linux is a wonderful idea. It's economical, safer, and it teaches them that Windows isn't the only path to computing.

Justin James
Justin James

Some of these are decent. A lot of them make no sense. I am not saying that Windows is necessarily better per se. But seriously, Linux is hardly a panacea for the world's woes, and the last thing I need is to inflict Linux on my child, unless it is Android (kids "get" phones and they "just work" for the most part). #4: Age-specific tools: Linux still hasn't made itself usable for *adults*. Do you really think they've figured out how to make something usable for a *child*? #6: You obviously do not have children. Yes, children are naturally curious and are quick learners. At the same time, when my kid wants to watch something online, just like an adult he doesn't want to be frustrated because the content is encoded with a codec that the distro folks dislike due to the patent scenario... he wants to just watch the video! #7: Over 1 billion people on the planet speak Chinese. More than a billion speak Hindu or its close sibling Urdu. Yet, despite the increased adoption of non-English languages around the world, we still speak English in my household. For some reason, unless my kid is planning to move to Asia when he grows up, I think I am doing him a favor. #8: Virtually no one (as a percentage of users) look at the Linux source. I don't think age makes a difference. In case you haven't noticed, it's mostly C and C++. Highly trained adults have a hard time reading and writing C/C++, let along kids with zero knowledge or experience. #9: Ah, so you want to teach my child to tell me to "RTFM" when I ask him if he did his homework? Or if I tell him that the lawn mower stopped working after he used it, he can tell me, "works for me, you must be the problem"? Because that's what an awful lot of the Linux community is like. #10: Can be done in Windows, too. Including editing the hosts file (C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc\hosts) J.Ja

fulton.dr
fulton.dr

Now if we can only get the latest and greatest game to load onto Tux we will have all those little people converted from a small age

WTRTHS
WTRTHS

It's a well known fact that if parents want content filtering on their (windows) machine, they ask their kids to install it because they have no clue how. I can't see why that would any different with any other platform, the average kid will always be more proficient than the average adult. Let alone "For any sudo-based operating system, you will need to edit the /etc/sudoers file to give your young users the privileges they need" ... try explaining that to your average parent. Oh, and don't forget you'll probably have to buy cedega too, which, after two or three years, costs probably about as much as an OEM Windows installation.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

"Daddy, why am I using Ubuntu instead of Windows?" "Because Windows costs too much." "How much is too much, Daddy?" "I had to choose between buying Windows or feeding you. Should I have bought Windows?" :D

pagewrite
pagewrite

I like the idea - I really do. But can you imagine the compaints that their machine can't do what their friend's machine does? Or how, at school, we did such-and-such. In today's society, it wouldn't surprise me if parents got had up for child abuse if we enforced Linux onto them! Oh.. happy days.

urbia
urbia

At 12 years of age, kids should be playing outside, learning how to interact with others in person, no wasting time and childhood on a computer. I was pretty much completely computer illiterate until I was 15, my sisters would open Wheel Of Fortune for me in DOS because I had no clue how. Then after I deleted the OS after starting a computer applications class I dived into programming through Basic (that's what the PC XT would boot into with no OS) and within a couple of months was getting into assembler and writing binary machine code snippets in QBasic. Kids don't need to waste their childhood on the computer to become computer literate adults.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The post header states clearly: [i]Providing tech support for your children can be even more challenging than your IT day job. Jack Wallen explains why he thinks Linux is better suited for those young users.[/i] That you disagree with Jack is not a surprise, many do. Your reasons for disagreement are your own.

mcalpine3
mcalpine3

I predate the point and click days, so commandline doesn't scare me, in fact I use it everyday; just can't convince my boss to leave Windows....yet.

Jaqui
Jaqui

a Java environment isn't GNU/Linux you know. :D Google's Android OS for phones is a java environment on top of GNU/Linux, and is completely different than a GNU/Linux system.

CareyM
CareyM

The article should have been entitled: "10 Ways Linux Enthusiasts Imagine Things Work For Ordinary People". I've been installing Linux on machines my kids use for years, hoping with each release that the day has arrived that I can turn on the machine and say, "Hey kids, look at how fast and cool this new operating system is!" I even have their systems dual-booting right now using the latest LTS versions of Ubuntu and Linux Mint. But here is the reality of this mis-guided idea that just tossing kids into Linux-land will turn out rosy: 1. Just because kids are young and learn more naturally than adults does not make them good candidates for sink-or-swim experiences with new operating systems. Can you picture me saying, "Oh, you can't print from Ubuntu? Just go online and find a solution then tell me when you need me to enter credentials for an elevated user account so you can make the changes to the config file using vi, okay honey?" Can you picture me hearing, "Okay, Daddy!"? Not. Not even my tech-eager 15-year-old could do this. 2. Kids who have been using a collection of Windows-based tools and programs (yes, my kids play plenty of disc-based games in addition to online OS-agnostic ones - think Roller Coaster Tycoon) will NOT find Linux a breeze. Do you think you'd hear this in our household, "You want to build a roller coaster, sweetie? Okay, just use WINE, put in the disc, and I'm sure you'll be just fine!" Not! If I think my technical support duties in our household are high now with several computers running multiple operating systems (WinXP Home, WinXP Pro, Vista) with a single networked printer is onerous now, it would only be multiplied if I had to figure out how to make that happen with Linux AND retrain my family to use all new keyboard shortcuts, right-click options, and configuration systems, using programs that mostly (inexplicably) start with the letter "K" or "G", depending on the distro. 3. Technology as Life Lesson - I would be happy to introduce my kids to community-based principles, but one step at at time, making sure the impression is POSITIVE. Tossing them into Linux right now? NOT positive. I think doing so would cure them of ever wanting to use an open-source thing again. My strategy: let them use Open Office, Firefox, Freemind, PDF Creator, and a collection of open-source educational tools. I let them know that these are free because people work together to build them rather than form a company and sell the software. Here's a realistic strategy for computing for kids: 1. Let them use Windows computers that are 3 or so years behind the current cutting edge. They don't need screaming speed, and used computers can be picked up on Craigslist. My kids use older ones that that. Set it up so each family member has his/her own username and make no kids Administrators. 2. Install Microsoft Security Essentials - free to non-pirated Windows users, and darn good security for the money! Set it to do a full scan daily, just to be on the safe side. 3. Install Safe Eyes parental control software ($50/year for 3 computers). You can fine-tune it per-user and it memorizes passwords. You can pick your web filtering categories and rest easy -- it just works! But it doesn't work with Linux. I haven't been able to find a non-guru solution for Linux parental control, no matter what wishful thinking authors say. 4. Install MS Office Home and Student if you can afford it ($150 for 3 computers) -- they will use this at work some day, so why not give them a head start? If you can't afford it, install Open Office 3 and log in with each user to configure the Save settings to ALWAYS convert and save to MS Office formats. Most people freeze up if you email an ODF or similar document. 5. Install Firefox and make it the default browser for all users. Some open source projects really are the best of breed. But also update IE to the latest version because some web sites just don't work right in Firefox. 6. If you have a tech-leaning kid, install Ubuntu in a dual-boot configuration (defaulting to Windows, if you can figure out how to do that, since no distro makes doing so very simple) and let him/her in on "the secret". My bet: your kid will abandon it after a very short foray -- too unfamiliar, no added value. That is the bottom line: why toss your kids into an unfamiliar environment that adds no real value (other than philosophical OSS stuff) to their lives?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

My little one means Qimo Linux with the children's theme and age appropriate games.

mcswan454
mcswan454

Now come on... It's summer, and stories are weak. So are ideas for them. I haven't stopped laughing since I read this. Because you're right! Turning your children onto Linux? at age 2 yet? Light that sucker and puff, puff, pass 'cause I need some of that!!! And the reality check you gave here? If you weren't an IT Pro, someone might think you were being reasonable. ;-)

magic8ball
magic8ball

For the readers of this site installing something along the lines of Untangle to filter and protect the whole network isn't out of line nor a difficult task. My network is filtered and my kids know it because I showed them and explained what it does.

adakar_sg
adakar_sg

Thats why we steal windows :) And MS is ok with it because when your kids grow up and start working they only know windows so their company will have to use it and then pay licenses :)

cbiggs99
cbiggs99

All three grandsons that live with us have seen me using Linux and Vista on the same computer, (Vista and the latest release of Mandriva) They all want their computers set up as dual boot machines. They prefer Open Office to Microsoft Office. Next payday, I'm buying 3 500GB hard drives, and making their computers dual boot. It's not something I've forced on them or even encouraged; today's youth are technologically advanced compared to earlier generations.

Slayer_
Slayer_

While I was learning computers, the other kids were playing sports. Now I flew through college and got a great job immediately, while they are [b]still[/b] bagging my groceries. After only 6 years, many of them are now fat, dead, or both. And in case you haven't noticed, Facebook and twitter seems to be the new way kids communicate (god help us)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Learning from a young age tends to result in a much better understanding of the topic. But, everything in moderation including computer time and time outside.

Justin James
Justin James

... I said "Linux" and not "GNU/Linux". Then again, leaving out the "GNU" part of that combination goes an awfully long way towards usability. Too bad Richard Stallman isn't as... zealous... about usability or consistency (can we at least get some agreement on which switches do what?) as he is about copyright issues. ;) J.Ja

~doolittle~
~doolittle~

as someone who uses linux on my back-end home network here are some suggestions: >"1. you can't print from Ubuntu" you can put in network credentials into gnome/kde so it automatically recognizes your network shares/printers - too convenient. >"2. Kids who have been using a collection of Windows-based tools and programs" ...should continue to use windows for windows apps. My kids recognize the differences between a Wii and an Xbox 360 and don't try to put an xbox disk into a wii, just like they know what apps/games are commonly installed on my linux desktops. Although, if you do try and run a Win32 exe under linux it will run it through Wine for you. It could be you may be complaining about wine in general, yes you are correct it is not a windows replacement and it is far from perfect. >"several computers running multiple operating systems (WinXP Home, WinXP Pro, Vista" That would be "mutiple versions of windows" :) My linux file/print server does not have a problem with sharing with Windows, Mac or Linux OS. >"3. Technology as Life Lesson" If your kids know the differences between windows / Mac / Linux / Wii / PS2 / Xbox / Cell phone / TV DVR and some basic operation skills, I don't see a problem. I have not seen use of one of the above over the other as detrimental in any way, I doubt any problems they have in any OS are going to affect their perception (they don't understand the politics behind open / close source arguments aside from one costs money :) Here's a realistic strategy for computing for kids: >"1. Let them use..." ...whatever appliance is needed for the task at hand, and know the difference between appliances. They don't complain the Verizon DVR (windows based) is not like our neighbor's cable DVR. >"2./3. Install..." ... some type of security, from AV / firewall to Tripwire, on your client / server computers. This is going to vary between OS in use. My favorite is OpenDNS' FamilyShield, it installs on the router and protects the entire network (and every device attached). Unless you want to manage it on a client-by-client basis, that's your choice. My favorite windows-based filtering is "Bluecoat K9 Web Protection" it uses community based submissions for it's filter database and it is free. >"4. Install MS Office they will use this at work some day, so why not give them a head start?" If they can use open office and save to windows formats for compatibility, learning MS office is going to be a breeze once they get used to the ribbon interface. >"5. Install Firefox and make it the default browser..." I prefer Chrome, now that it has a plethora of extensions. But that really is a user preference :) >"6. If you have a tech-leaning kid..." Have him build a PC from scratch with you, and explain the differences between Windows and Linux OS - for some reason, they understand it better. >"That is the bottom line: why toss your kids into an unfamiliar environment that adds no real value (other than philosophical OSS stuff) to their lives? " Why does it have to be unfamiliar? Kids are really apt these days with so many appliance devices. My son asked me recently about our router and how everything works together - I was so proud despite seeming bored as I explained it all. It sounds like you are imposing your bad linux experience to your siblings - don't make it so negative :) Take a step back and see it from a larger perspective. After all, it's just another OS. cheers

dawgit
dawgit

and knows how to be a Linux user... He's the littlest one, his older brother use computers all the time, and yup, Linux, Their Daddy taught them. When I was young I helped my father build Ham Radios. (ok, watched for a while, then helped, when I didn't have to stand on a stool) He is now a retired Electronic Design Engineer. It's a family tradition. It happens.

j.walker
j.walker

I have been running it for over a year and had no problems.

cbiggs99
cbiggs99

This last school year, my youngest grandson wanted me and his mom to come to his class for their book reports. I video taped two hours of 8-9 year olds giving book reports using POWERPOINT. He's nearly to the point of being rightfully called an expert. They also use Word and Excel. He has a good Windows computer, soon, he'll have an Apple laptop. Then whatever is used in his classroom, he'll be familiar with it. (Last year they had XP-Pro; this year was apple.)

xuniL_z
xuniL_z

"Learning from a young age tends to result in a much better understanding of the topic" I find this interesting, what are your sources for this information, or is it only anecdotal? And this blog presumes all kids will be computer scientists or have a need to understand something lower level than an application, such as the OS itself. I don't have any source to quote, but I would bet the number of kids who are interested in learning the OS would make that reasoning fall completely apart. My 6, soon to be 7, year old has demonstrated no interest in figuring out what makes the OS tick, but rather learning from great apps. They can be found for any OS but the most well supported and rated of those are for the Mac and PC hands down. I work in IT and use tools like Filezilla, MagicDisc, Firefox and other open source apps constantly but many, take filezilla for example, still have UIs that remind me of the 90s, but then I'm sure kids would want to understand the ftp commands scrolling by and next thing you know, they aer writing their own ftp server...not. Windows 7 is really the fave of my Son, super easy and fun to use and Homegroups make is so super easy to share data and it has real honest to goodness parental controls that really work extremely well. The stability of windows 7 is astonishing compared to XP and even 2001 vintage Linux and Mac OS for that matter, considering that is what 85% of the world users, 2001 technology. Sure today's linux is better, but not better than today's windows. And no security problems with Linux? My Son plays Mario Karts on Wii and since it's built on a Linux OS, the wii world is hacked to pieces. He can't play on-line without facing gobs of hacks and cheaters every single time he goes on WFC. It's like a corrupt and dirty world that kids are being exposed to....Nintendo needs to tighten down allowable names, but I'm sure there is a way around that as well.

tbmay
tbmay

...know what they say about opinions don't you. ;) vi is still found on most unix systems...linux, bsd, solaris, proprietary unix....nano is an add-on for many, if not most. Maybe that will change but it hasn't yet. In any event, I get around much faster in vi. I can't get comforable with nano. But that's just me.

Jaqui
Jaqui

and look at the mess he made of it. :p

Jaqui
Jaqui

the default text editor for cli use on more distros all the time. the newbs to using the os have never had to spend 6 months learning the idiocy of vi(m)'s moded operation. Nor have they any interest in using a nuke to change one word in a text based configuration file. on my own systems, typing vi gets you: nano you idiot, vi and emacs are way to ancient in design to be usable, not worth installing. a simple bit of c to get rid of the idiocy if both Vi(m) and emacs. both extremely powerful tools, both with massive learning curves, and both the worst thing to have as a default text editor.

tbmay
tbmay

Never tried emacs and if I'm working with a distro that defaults to nano (debian) I change it. vi is much like typing itself. If you grew up with it, it's the only thing that feels right. I suppose if you're new to unix systems or you didn't start using it, it would seem like kludge.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Then he made it free. Having used vi, emacs, and edlin–the MS line editor, I have to say that none of them are intuitive, none of them make sense, and any choice of which one is best is subjective and purely personal.

Jaqui
Jaqui

nano the gnu clone of pico. across the bottom of the terminal is a permanent list of every command the app contains. [ room for many more before it's cluttered. ;) ] dead simple to work with, unlike BOTH emacs and vi. and really? 1976? I would have guessed more like 1956 ;) moded operation and buffered operation, so outdated it isn't funny.

Justin James
Justin James

Yeah, emacs is RMS' big victory. It's so... 1976. :) I've tried using emacs. I learned just enough to save and close it. Opening files is CLI only for me. I'm slightly more advanced with vi. I know how to save, save & quit, and delete and entire line. If that was enough for me to write COBOL programs that were a few thousand lines long in high school, it's enough to get me through config file editing today... J.Ja

Jaqui
Jaqui

RMS wrote gnu emacs by himself. it was after it was a working tool others got involved. and if you have ever worked with emacs, you know how screwy it's workings are. ;) a warped mind to have come up with that design. :D

xuniL_z
xuniL_z

I'm not going to enter a security debate because there is far too much at play to make comparisons, analyze data and make any real conclusive comments on the matter. That's my opinion anyway. It would require so many variables, from the original goal of the MS/Clone partnerships to the rise of the internet to comparing today's offerings, and then retroactively comparing the state of linux in the early 90s, functionality vs. security and on and on. Luckily this seems to be a far cry from zdnet.com and others where most have decided Windows is useless in any form, version etc. and that open source is the only ethical way for computer manufacturers and software vendors to go. I have an only child and he is definately a sponge. He has been tested and selected for the gifted program starting in second grade this coming year. I'm not sure his mind is concerned with the platform level and like most people is only interested in finding applications he finds useful. That's it, there is no more to for him in terms of technology. Maybe later in life he'll want to dig deeper, but I think for most mortals you could present even a closed source system and they would find a full career in just understanding and learning the minutiae of the system, it's apps, programming environments, all of it's programming APIs, frameworks and foundations to the level of being a master of it all. Few people, for example could be a master SQL admin, programmer, framework programmer and be able to apply it all to dozens of server and client systems and applications. I'm not sold on early learning. While I tend to think it helps, there is also the idea of genetics and capacity of any given individual. You could put off many things a child is usually taught early to an older age and they will still be entirely proficient when they do learn and I'm not sure this doesn't extend into this example of technology and early exposure. I think any child born with the talent will not lag behind other children who started earlier for their lifetime. I'm not sure there is evidence of that in any case. I used to play baseball at a semi professional level, so to speak. It was a league of 19 years and up made up of many players who'd been in single and double AA ball but either decided they would not go further or didn't really love it as much as they thought as a career so they played in this league. I have known many players that never played ball until 18 and turned out being superior to many. I think learning is like that and can be compared to the skills of a sport.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The pop-up balloon that says "If you wish to connect to an FTP server, cnter a valid user name, password, and ftp server address, then click this button."

Slayer_
Slayer_

I think Filezilla's interface is a breeze. You need to know very nothing about FTP other than a site, login and password. Perhaps it needs gigantic buttons with sentence long descriptions that take up most of your screen to explain the meaning of "Connect".

JuliaX111
JuliaX111

As a parent and somebody with a (limited) education background I agree. I see kids as a blank slate. They are preloaded with a desire to learn. They do this through a certain amount of copying and a certain amount of discovery. Children learn a large proportion of their skills and their personalities from copying their parents, and through their peer groups the prejudices and behaviour of other childrens parents. This is observable and can very probably be measured if adults would put aside the "father knows best" nonsense and somebody was to do a truly objective study. 2 notable areas are (off topic slightly but in the interests of a discussion) racism and religion. Young children have no care that a child with a different coloured skin is in any way inherently different or in any way inferior. They get this form of prejudice from their parents and from what they hear coming from the mouths of other children who have got those ideas from their parents and families. Religion is another place where it is indoctrinated by parents from a young age the idea "we are superior to xxxx because only we know what is right, everybody who believes something different is wrong and therefore inferior" Then I see how good microsoft have been in forcing their agenda into schools. I see all the time young people straight from college with "IT" qualifications which in reality mean nothing more than "Knowledge of some microsoft applications and which gui buttons to click" As this is all they have ever been exposed to in the home also due to the forced retailing of only microsoft software running hardware and by the almost universal encouragement towards playing games instead of doing stuff (hahaha) they are pretty much useless to anybody who may employ them for anything other than clicking those same buttons. This is a deliberate policy adopted by microsoft (and to a similar extent apple) to create a world populated only by users of their proprietary software (like religion again.. squeeze out the different with prejudice.. how microsoft/apple apologists and trolls are there pushing a similar agenda?) to ensure a totally proprietary and controlled future. The losers in this scenario are our children. They are deprived of a valuable opportunity to see that there IS another way to achieve their ends. How many open source using parents have been pressured by schools who get a microsoft kickback, through their children, to run a computer with said proprietary software installed so the kids can "complete their school assignments"? It is exactly the same idea as saying "your child cannot come to this school unless you accept forced indoctrination in a certain religion and will studiously apply it yourself, even if you do not believe it, in every aspect of your daily home life as well" .. As adults our role should not be one of "teaching" but should be one of open guidance and allowing natural development with choices, only correcting when something is clearly learned from others which is unacceptable. In that way we empower our children with real decision making and choice taking skills, and as a by-product a love for learning and an interest in discovery as a process and not a chore to be completed to tick our false boxes. Our goal should be to produce well rounded and inquiring young adult minds empowered with useful skills, not clones of ourselves with all our prejudices and misguided achievement targets. PPW .. product of a very liberal and open childhood learning experience.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It's a good chance that a higher percentage of the readers are from a technology background resulting in children with access to technology even if they don't grow up to be in the field themselves. I don't think it suggests that kids are going to have to grow up and understand anything below the UI and application layer. One of the points says kids *can* explore OSS based platforms more deeply but not that they *must* do so. Regarding filezilla, you can always choose something with a more preferable interface. There are also benefits to seeing the commands and results. Sure, it's not going to automatically result in them growing up to write an FTP server or client but it's far less frustration than some criptic error message and no further indication of what's happening. "sure today's linux is better, but not better than today's windows" That depends on the task. I like win7 also but it doesn't replace what I do with non-windows platforms. "And no security problems with Linux? My Son plays Mario Karts on Wii and since it's built on a Linux OS, the wii world is hacked to pieces." You can't blame all distributions that happen to use the Linux kernel for the failings of Nintendo's custom Linux based distribution or it's management of it's servers. We'd need to know exactly how wii world was broken into. Was it configuration issues, mismanagement in general, vulnerabilities in the binaries? "no security problems" is a stretch as all software has security issues. Shall we compare numbers of successful exploitations and turn around times for patching those upon discovery? But.. your original question was about children learning things from a young age. Having kids of your own, you haven't noticed that there brains are sponges for learning? Sure, the focus is lacking but the ability to learn is well into high gear even prior to birth. With age, we loose the ability to learn new concepts to such a depth. An introduction to languages may not result in the child speaking them but it will result in learning them far quicker should they choose at a later age. Music and other topics are no different. A kid that starts riding a bike at age three is probably going to be far better than a kid that starts riding at age twelve. Sure, not 100% true for every child but true for children in general. In the end, I still opt for a multi-OS household. Why limit the child by exposing them to only one?

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