Keeping young children occupied these days is quite a challenge. Quite naturally they see computers as a source of entertainment and want to enjoy them along with the rest of us. Herein lies the next challenge in that some areas of the internet are not suitable at all for child viewing and can potentially present real life dangers.
DoudouLinux aims to achieve an optimum balance by providing an environment aimed at kids 2-12 which is fun, educational and safe to use. This is good thinking because it removes the need to let your kids loose with your own operating system and also prevents the possibility of them bypassing whatever security software you have installed on it. Never underestimate the ability of little minds to work these things out. Instructions for bypassing parental filters can easily be found via Google or on social networking sites.
The easiest way to run DoudouLinux is from a downloaded CD image. Once you've burned the image to a disk, there is nothing to install, update or configure. Running it from a live CD also means you wont interfere with your normal Windows installation. To run Windows again just pull out the live CD and reboot.
An alternative using a USB key is also provided but this is a lot more complicated and not supported by all systems. The download link and instructions for both options are here.
Although DoudouLinux is designed primarily to run as a live CD, if you like what you see and have a spare computer, it is possible to make a full install.
The system comes complete with a range of programs which are both fun and educational. Content filtering is included by default so you have no worries about your charges accessing inappropriate material when connected to the internet. Most of the programs don't even require a knowledge of files, folders or menus and can be operated without the ability to read.
The latest release, 2.1 (December 2013) contains quite a lot of new features.
Some users may even find DoudouLinux suitable for older people with learning difficulties or other disabilities.
There's no doubt that older kids will soon outgrow this and want the “real thing”, but for younger children, DoudouLinux is an ideal introduction to the world of computing.
Qimo is another option which although aimed at kids from 3 and up, is much more sophisticated in what can be accomplished with it. Based on Ubuntu and using the Xfce desktop, Qimo can be used as either a live CD, or fully installed as a complete system. To use the live CD, just boot from it, select the language to use and then choose “try Qimo without any changes to your computer”.
As expected for an Ubuntu based distro, Qimo recognized my network and I was able to connect straight away. You can also assign custom DNS servers thus adding a range of default online protection safeguards depending on the service chosen (see the DNS related section in this article for more information). Firefox is the default browser so familiar territory for many there.
Qimo comes pre-installed with a range of educational games some of which, and a basic text editor, are already configured as desktop icons. Everything else is available from a standard drop down menu.
Although Qimo is more than usable for very young kids, it's better suited to the older age groups that will be more capable of getting the most out of it. This might be especially important for “transitional” types who don't want to feel they are being obliged to use a kids system.
Another option aimed at young children is the Fedora based Sugar on a Stick (SoaS) featuring the award winning Sugar Learning Platform. (My appreciation to fellow editor Panzer for informing me about this one). SoaS is available in 25 languages and comes as a x32 or x64 bit live CD image which can also be installed if users so wish. According to the stats, Sugar is used every day by over one and a half million students in classrooms throughout the world.
A final option is Edubuntu which focuses mainly on the older age groups. This is also available as a live CD or can be installed as a complete system. Additionally, Edubuntu can be previewed as a two hour live web session on a range of platforms or downloaded as a series of application bundles. The latter comes in four groups from aged 5 and under up to university level, but requires an existing Ubuntu installation.
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Kids, operating system for kids, free operating system.