Sunday, July 23, 2006

Wizard's Kid-Safe PCLinuxOS - Alvis Recommended!

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, Alvis and I had been trying to find a newer version of Linux to fit her needs.

The version of MEPIS I was using was old, and doing a full system update on-line was too challenging for my patience at this point.

First, I dropped by FrozenTech's Live CD List to look at some possibilities.


SLAX is always highly ranked. It is a small Linux distribution that can be quickly expanded with additional applications. The interface is clean and pretty simple. Seemed like a winner.

The iso download took only a few minutes and soon I had burned a copy to cd and Alvis and I were trying it out. Alvis liked the interface, but the live distro is pretty stripped down. In order to get more programs, we have to either install them individually or download "modules" from SLAX. Not at all a deal-breaker, but a bit more work that we were looking for initially. I plan on setting up a version of this and working with the modules in a virtual machine environment to really give it a fair shake. The modules are really well packed with applications so I can understand the popularity. SLAX 5.1.7 RC1 Screenshots


Next we moved on to MEPIS. Alvis has been running an earlier version of this distro installed to her hard-drive. I didn't have many changes to make from the original package. I just added the latest version of Firefox and we changed to a custom desktop. That's been it and she has been very happy overall with it. It is jam-packed with application content and highly polished.

I saw that MEPIS now is releasing v 6.0 which is based on Ubuntu. I began that download. It took quite a while to pull that iso down. It booted fine on Alvis's pc but it just seemed to have a different feel than before. It looks pretty much the same, it acts pretty much the same. Maybe it was one of those "New Coke vs. Classic Coke" formulations. I'm not sure. Alvis wasn't very impressed. It could have also had something to do with the fact it picked up the monitor resolution at 800x600 instead of being at 1024x798. (Yes, I know that can be changed....) Regardless, Alvis bailed on me quickly so I took that as a bad sign. SimplyMEPIS 6.0 Beta 5 Screenshots

Wizard's Kid-Safe LiveCD (customized PCLinuxOS .93 MiniMe)

Somehow while clicking around the Linux OS sites while waiting for the MEPIS download I had come across mention of "Wizards Kid-Safe LiveCD based on PCLinuxOS".

I found an intriguing online review of it with screenshots. I had heard of PCLinuxOS before, but never downloaded a copy to play with. This new "Kid-Safe" build sounded intriguing.

It is based on the PCLinuxOS .93 MiniME version. Then the developer jam-packed the base version with tons of board, arcade, strategy games, science and language applications, some graphics toys--all kinds of kid-useful applications. Also, it boots to a HTML page with kid-friendly websites just a click away. Finally, the distro has been configured to auto-run Dan's Guardian and squid which are safe-web content filtering apps. Several attempts by Alvis to browse some ads looking for turtles rendered page-load rejections.

And it has an independent kitty (neco) icon that runs around on the desktop acting silly. Alvis was sold. So was I as it picked up all the hardware on Alvis's pc and set the monitor to 1024x798.

In addition to the default "kidsafe" user account, the system also comes with a root and guest account as well. These boot the system into the normal PCLinuxOS environment, but with access to all the games and such and without the content/proxy filtering.

We had a winner. Wizard's Kid-Safe LiveCD.

Next task...installing to the hard-drive.

Because this distro is based on PCLinuxOS, it comes with a great install to hard-drive utility. I had to get into the root account to access it. That took a bit of frustrating work.

Normally, most distros have the root password account set to "root" which the user then is able to change to a more secure password of their choice. Unfortunately, that password didn't work with Kid-Safe. I spent about 30 minutes Googling and retesting with no luck. Finally, I paid attention to the command messages during the lilo boot load and found the root password for Wizard's Kid-Safe clearly listed there and it wasn't "root". Hmmm. I wrote it down and tried it and it worked.

PCLinuxOS utilizes a really nice hard-drive installation wizard. Their New User Guide documentation on using the distro is also top-notch. Because this hard-drive was already partitioned for Linux under MEPIS, I could skip that part. The rest of the parts such as assigning the partitions and swap device section, adding a home device, and setting up the bootloader were not a big deal to me, but newer users will find the guide a useful read before embarking. When done, the system prompts to set up additional accounts and make account password changes.

The installation of the system to the hard-drive took one hour. That seems long to me, but as it is an old system I can't complain too much. And it worked with no issues at all. I like that! The only thing I still need to do is download and install gtkpod so Alvis can play her iPod Shuffle.

In the end, we set Alvis up under a more full-featured "Guest" account instead of the "Kid-Safe" one. This utilizes the full PCLinuxOS MiniME desktop environment. We monitor her pc usage pretty much and she has gotten sophisticated enough that the web-filter/proxy was too frustrating for her to use, and I didn't feel like modifying the program. I also want her to have access to the full system so she can experiment and play with it so she will be familiar with Linux at an early age. If it breaks too bad, we will just reload the system again.

And the result? Alvis hasn't been on Lavie's laptop or our desktop system all weekend long. She loves it.

Wizard's Kid-Safe CD Mainpage
Kid-Safe PCLinuxOS Screenshots (v.10b)
PCLinuxOS 0.93 MiniME Screenshots

Wizard's Kid-Safe LiveCD (PCLinuxOS .93 MiniME) -- Valca Recommended!

If you have small/mid-tower children (of your own or relatives) who love to play on the pc, but you worry about them harming your installed system, I strongly recommend trying out this LiveCD. It should run on most systems with no issues. When the kiddo's come to visit or want to play on grandmom's/granddad's pc, just pop the cd in, log into the kidsafe desktop and let them have free reign. The LiveCD prevents hard-disk writing, protects them during web-surfing, and gives them a wide range of educational and game applications to entertain them with.

See you in the skies,

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