Lubuntu and the little ones

I started my eldest off with Ubuntu last year, as I revived my old laptop with it. She got to grips with it quickly, but to be honest it was still pretty demanding of resources and also buggy at 18.04 for us. Thankfully, 20.04 was so much better on that device and now that she has a pretty robust desktop, Ubuntu is playing really nicely for her.

Unfortunately, she is a big Roblox player at the moment, so she still needs Windows 10 to play this, it doesn’t run in Wine and the developers aren’t keen on porting. It’s a shame in this day and age that they couldn’t just push their player code out to the community as open source, it’s promising that Steam have some level of support for Linux at least.

Testing Origins with Wine has been pretty problematic, I have one device that can run everything and even then it was a nightmare to get any of my games downloaded to test. I did manage to get Fi running briefly, but can’t recreate the settings to get it going again. It was buggy but there seems to be plenty of people who have got PC games from Steam / Lutris / Origins running well enough on Ubuntu, I just need to find the time and patience to dig deeper on that point.

Back to the point, my eldest (8 Yrs) is now a regular user of Ubuntu, but she is dual booting with Windows 10 to get her games running; with the exception of MineTest, which she occasionally plays with her eldest brother (6) and myself or her friends. It’s pretty cool see her setting up others so they can connect to her server, we sometimes even open up the router to let her friends in from elsewhere. The greatest thing about MineTest I think is that it is cross-platform and they can be up and running quickly, but can’t wait until we start really exploring developing with it; this will probably be a way down the line as we’re exploring Roblox for games dev at the moment.

She is mainly using Ubuntu for creative purposes, so we have a port of Gacha Studio running through Wine, but she then outputs PNGs and creates animations with them in Kdenlive. Aside from this she is regularly using Krita to edit Roblox Shirts and T-Shirts to create her own stuff on there.

Beyond this she uses Firefox pretty regularly to sneak past the rules I have setup for all her other devices; I kind of let this fly as her history is easily read and I like that she has a safe-ish space to explore her own little version of ‘hacking’ – hopefully one day she will progress into more complex computer science. She is already surprising me on a daily basis with the things she is learning via YouTube. Next port of call is Blender, which she is really keen to learn and get making models in, for you guessed it, Roblox.

Even the youngest (2 1/2) is now regularly using Lubuntu, he loves playing on Gamine and some of the games on ChildsPlay; although the latter appears to only be draft. To be honest he uses it most for Firefox and watching Bluey on Disney+, on an ancient Dell D430 that is a bit like Trigger’s Broom, not sure which bits are original now after repairing it. But anyway its good to start ’em young.

The eldest boy loves using Lubuntu too and he’s really getting to grips with it, mainly for playing MineTest and ChildsPlay. We’ve also explored OpenTTD, but this really is a complex game for a 6 year old, so best left until he’s a fair bit older. In terms of creativity though he loves playing around with LeoCad, which is a brilliant way to introduce 3D modelling to kids and you can get thousands of open source lego pieces to build with. I think for younger players there’s potential there for creating meshes to export into Roblox too. Coincidentally, we have had Roblox Studio running in Wine, but it is a bit buggy, so still sticking with Windows on that one for now. He also regularly opens up Dino, which is a very basic application, but for dinosaur lovers it is great, he just flicks through looking at the many species and learning about them – getting even better now that his reading is improving.

Beyond the applications mentioned I would recommend the following for young children too.

Inkscape for creating vector graphics, its really comprehensive, but at the same time quite easy to learn the basics.

GCompris and the KDE Education Suite are pretty good for children to learn and play with, but they need to run on reliable hardware as my older laptops couldn’t really cope with it.

TuxPaint is pretty fun for younger users, but the interface for this is far from intutitive with an adult on hand, it can be fun. I’d love to help out with this one as its a really much needed program for introducing children to Linux, but I need to get to grips with developing for Linux first.

Pingus and SuperTuxKart are great games for all ages and you’ll certain recognise the similarities to the games they aim to emulate; LeoLibre is a Worms copy so more for kids a little bit older given the cartoon style violence involved.

I’ll keep adding to this list as I find more programmes, to build a repository.