Childrens Charitable Foundation
PO Box 4481, Kumasi, Ashanti Region, Ghana
tel: 00233268330902 email:
The general concept of sugar (see sugarlabs ) as I understand it is that the traditional desktop with bottom panel and start button, to launch the menu is too complicated for young children aged around 4-6 years of age.
Therefore the writers of sugar created a desktop just consisting of a circle of icons with a match stick man like figure at the centre of the circle. While surveying available children's software and Linux operating systems in Ghana, I first played around with Panasonic Toughbooks (CF-27) these have a Intel Pentium II processor of 300mhz and only 256 ram. Eventually I succeeded with installing antix ,and also Simply Mepis, and also managed to install sugar as an option at boot up.
After letting our daughter who was 4 yrs and a bit in 2010 play with both the sugar desktop, and the more traditional bottom panel and " start button " I came to the conclusion there was a flaw in the thinking of the writers of sugar. We observed that when our daughter and older peers played games on a computer using a traditional start button and panel set up, it didn't take her long to find her way around the system. We observed she applied a principle of "where there is a will there is a way." Thus I think sugar writers have under estimated the abilities of children.
The second flaw in their thinking is this- I played with several of sugar applications and actually found them quite complicated; so if a child can work out how to play a fairly complicated game, how come they can not work their way around the launch menu?
The third flaw is that as children grow and mature where does it lead them ? Meaning the sugar interface has the icons and that it, how do the children then make the step to a real world desktop? Every other Windows or Linux OS generally has a panel and start button launch system.
Thus I came to the conclusion that it would be better to have a stable Linux distro,which had a desktop GUI having a traditional menu start button ,be lean enough to be installed on to Pentium IV ,that wouldn't start demanding a multitude of updates as soon as you got an Internet connection (eg ubuntu) , and not be too cutting edge so that you could reasonably understand the operating system. When I was satisfied with a Linux distribution I would then simply install educational software onto that Linux Distro of choice. Icons as application launchers , could then be placed on the desktop for younger children;you would then have the best of both worlds.
After trying many Linux Distros including Mint, xubuntu, simply mepis, antix, puppy and slits I moved on in 2011 to Slackware 13.37 and Salixos 13.37. Slackware is the oldest running Linux distro, and has a good user base & forum support. The distro does not keep requesting updates like Ubuntu, and has more sedate new release cycle so there is plenty of time to get to know the distro.Salixos is extremely light , is backwards compatible with Slackware and very useful for older machines.
The XFCE desktop option allows Slackware to be run on a Pentium IV with just 500MB of RAM, while still allowing other KDE based educational software that comes with the full install such as Kalzium to be used. gCompris is one package I looked at its a suite of educational games for children from 2 years of age upwards; I built the package for gCompris and its gnet dependency getting the compressed source and slackbuild from slackbuilds.org - See right for links to web site and also how to get the packages on gcompris, and how to install. Using gCompris , and also the educational software that comes as standard with the full install of slackware I think you have a system comparable to sugar ,and at least as useful.
Screen shot of gCompris main menu , gCompris being run on slackware13.37
The advantage of this set up is that for young children you have a few icons to launch the educational game suites and then ,after they mature they can start learning use of the menu. They then have a set of programs that can take them from around 4 years of age to 16 plus, with applications at their disposal such as open office suite, web editors like GIMP, web editors like bluefish and then web servers like apache-tomcat , and tools such as phpMyAdmin via xampp.
Regarding sugar and sugarlabs it has to be said that some great minds are working on sugar and some of the applications are not available in other programs. One particular interesting development is sugar on a stick , where the underlying Linux core and sugar interface can be installed onto a pen drive see: sugar install