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Why should I try DoudouLinux?

April 2011 — last update June 2013

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You might be interested in trying DoudouLinux because it allows your children to use the computer with total serenity, but perhaps you are not convinced? Let’s discover why you might prefer to have your children on DoudouLinux rather than on a gaming console or in front of the TV. This is a sensitive subject, but consider the DoudouLinux point of view. Our objective is not just to stick kids on the computer but instead to help them feel at ease with it in order to lead them to master this fantastic tool. Let’s see how and why.

NB: We also invite you to read The DoudouLinux manifesto to learn more about all the objectives of our project.

Your Concerns

I don’t want them addicted to computers!

And neither do we! We did not create DoudouLinux to replace parents in the education of their children by putting them before a computer all day with the attendant physiological and psychological consequences. Parents still need to set limits in the use of computers even if they are crazy about DoudouLinux! Specialists recommend not letting children use or watch either TV, game console, or computer for more than one hour per week per year of age. For example, a 5 year old should view no more than 5 hours of TV+console+computer per week; a 7 year old, no more than 7 hours per week. DoudouLinux plans to include tools that will allow concerned parents to set time limits for the use of the computer with DoudouLinux; however, it will be good to talk with the children about these limits before activating it.

Won’t computers isolate them?

Yes, but you could say the same about reading or crossword puzzles! Again, this is the role of parents to encourage their children to broaden their environment without obsession.

Aren’t computers for older children?

This is true in the case of normal computers sold in shops without DoudouLinux. Normal computers are not fit for kids! But remember that gaming consoles are computers too, just miniaturized to be easier for kids. This shows that once adapted to its audience, computers are also fit for kids, even small kids. Computers can thus become a fantastic creative tool for children. This is the reasoning that brought DoudouLinux to life. We think computers have the potential to develop user skills much better than gaming consoles and TVs.

This is already complicated enough for me!

The goal of DoudouLinux is to approach the ease of use of a gaming console. Applications have been carefully chosen for their purpose. Many are being used in elementary schools around the world, such as Africa, USA, Cook Islands, Australia, England, Peru, Venezuela, China, Spain, India, Finland, Austria and others, just to name a few. DoudouLinux itself is being used in nursery schools, which shows that we succeeded in making it simple enough. The environment has been designed to remove everything not strictly required. DoudouLinux does not ask questions. We guarantee that this is really simpler to use than a standard computer system. Some children aged 3½ can already navigate effortlessly in the most advanced activities. If it is simple for them, it is even more simple for you. Try it yourself before giving it to your kids. It is free of charge, therefore, you don’t have to buy before you can try!

TV, game machine, computers –all the same?

We think not. One common feature of gaming consoles and TV is passivity. The player of a console is the actor of the game but he usually can not change anything. His role is to consume games just like TV puts the watcher in the role of consuming programs and advertisement. But, even if computer users may be consuming installed software, the computer can become a creation tool which gives an active role to the user; such as, drawing, creating music, writing prose, poetry, or even pure computer creation [1]. The user role then, is totally different -–he is a producer. DoudouLinux aims to stimulate the spirit of discovery, initiative, curiousness and entrepreneurship!

Won’t video games make them stupid?

We have not seen any study saying such things yet, but it is a question to ask when we give them a game console or leave them in front of the TV. Studies in the USA have shown that the most addicted ones also have the lower marks in school. We think the content proposed to children plays a role in the effect observed. DoudouLinux tries to select non violent games that require thinking or developing strategy. We expect DoudouLinux to have an inverse effect as long as it is taken in moderation!

How can I be sure that they will not alter my data?

DoudouLinux can function even if you completely remove the hard disk from your computer along with your data and operating system. Try it! It just does not need it at all [2], your data is under cover. DoudouLinux is not fragile and it cannot be altered by children [3]. DoudouLinux is openly published on the Internet, anyone with the skills can verify that this is so.

I am concerned about what they see on the Internet.

The only reliable solution is to remove the network cable; otherwise, know that DoudouLinux ships with built-in parental controls tuned with the strictest rules. It systematically filters the actual contents of websites using a keyword-based evaluation system [4]. Thus even the result of a search engine like Google can be rejected if its content is leading to sites inappropriate for children. This does not exempt you from assisting them a bit on the Internet, it is likely better to accompany them in the beginning and explain that DoudouLinux will lead them to appropriate material.

Don’t viruses come from downloading things?

Yes, you are right: in the Windows® world the threat in this area is great (100,000 new malware per day as of start 2012) and the proposed defenses are of doubtful efficiency. DoudouLinux does not use Windows® at all, even if already installed on your computer. DoudouLinux is running Linux for which, as far as we know, there are currently no circulating virus [5] because Linux is designed differently. DoudouLinux natively runs in a mode, the LiveCD, where even if some malware knew how to attack it, it could not get into DoudouLinux. Finally, remember that DoudouLinux does not spontaneously access your computer’s data.

To prepare for their future, shouldn’t children use Windows®?

No, although Windows® is a dominant operating system on personal computers; millions of others use Linux, Unix, and MacOS. Many use Linux on their modern desktops, and not many tablets and smartphones are using Windows®. Consider the following facts:

As this information shows, on the contrary, Linux is synonymous with innovation and the future. Initiating your children to Linux is not a mistake but an investment in their future. Even if Linux was marginal, the important thing is that they will become able to master other computer tools, regardless of their form and not feel destabilized by seeing a new or different system or application. We wish to teach them the potential of computers instead of a particular software.

Isn’t it old-fashioned; nowadays, software is online?

It is true that since the beginning of the 2000’s, the editorial trend is to switch to online applications, in a Google fashion. Children’s applications are also following this trend; nevertheless, do not be mistaken, that under cover of doing you a favor, this might be a trap as well… Indeed the lure of these solutions is to solve the problems that personal computers pose in their usual presentation: they do not provide the software we need, when one is being installed, this may “break” something and when your friends have a new version, they cannot share with you anymore.

Being online, the software you use is not natively installed, but is totally controlled by them; this can be the same for the content you are using or browsing. This is also a good way to justify the need to be always connected to Internet, in order to get information about you behind your back, flood your computer with advertisement and adapt the content you are shown in order to change or control your minds. As a result some providers are even now becoming able to dictate to you what to buy and what to think. These practices of information gathering are very spread on the web and similar to what malwares called Trojan horses are doing, although this is supposed to be legal in the first case.

Moreover if you remove all the software from your computer to only use online versions, then your computer is of no use if you cannot access online services anymore [6]. And it is becoming quite frequent that your data are not even on your own computer. In short, you are putting yourself in a situation where the providers of your software have total control over what you can do and have done on your computer. Even if you perform frequent backups of your online data on your hard disk (can you always do this?), you are not sure to be able to use your backup elsewhere and thus, not to depend of a unique provider. Note that this unique provider is often a commercial company whose goals do not necessarily match people wishes because it is quite out of any democratic control.

We believe that this is not a desirable situation since it is totally lopsided against the user and it poses a threat to our liberty of choice and thinking. On the contrary Linux is natively providing a very large number of applications, these applications are put together in order to pose no problem either while installing or un-installing. They are designed to use standard file formats and to be easy to exchange. They can also be freely used so that displaying advertisement is not required to pay indirectly to use them. Therefore it seems to us that DoudouLinux is not old-fashioned at all but rather a more desirable future! Concentration of power always tends to lead to abuses.

The philosophy of free software

Buying or pirating are not the unique alternatives

Unlike what some powerful, politically influential industries would like us to believe, there is a third alternative to buying or pirating: sharing. How to teach children to live together in harmony if we do not teach them to share? And how to build a thriving society if its individuals do not wish to share? This is one of the foundations of the free software movement (free software means freedom software, not software free of charge such as freeware or shareware). Instead of preventing users from doing what they want with software that they are offered (for free or not), they are allowed to share them totally. Later you may have the opportunity to explain to children that the development of DoudouLinux is based on the values of sharing, since DoudouLinux is a 100% free software project.

Knowledge sharing: the engine of progress

Similarly to the scientific community which is regularly and openly sharing its work, free software is sharing the fruits of its labor with all computer specialists of the world. Moreover, one of the vectors which facilitated the emergence of a given civilization at a given time, is communication and knowledge sharing. To the contrary, powerful people have often taken actions all through history to make knowledge stay in the hands of a minority of people in order to preserve their power. Free software offers a vision in which computer science enriches the experience and is benefiting to everyone instead of only benefiting the minority who created and control them; thus, power is returning into the user’s hands.

Building together instead of one against another

Free software is usually organized into communities of contributors from all over the world, who improve or evolve software together. There may exist competing free software projects, but because the projects are generally transparent and governed by free software licenses, these projects are not trying to prevent users from migrating their tools to other projects or uses –but rather to promote the re-use of software tools. In the traditional software world, the editors are generally doing everything possible to prevent users from easily changing to a competing program. For example, user’s data are recorded in a secret format, difficult to read for competing products; or the software will only function with products of the same brand, or will even contain patents that legally limit the potential and use of competitor’s products. A part of the editor activity is then dedicated to preventing others from doing given things.

Computers in our society

Computers: the inescapable tool

Nowadays, everything seems to be run by computers. It is almost impossible to not use a computer during one’s daily life. Older generations are still managing to avoid computers, the younger generations face computers beginning in their home and school. Young people are moreover very fond of services offered on the Internet and make computers a communication tool. Furthermore, with no doubt they will very likely use computers in their professional activities. Needless to say, those who are really at ease with computers have a competitive advantage over those who are not. And more and more will be the advantage –this is what the business world is showing us every day.

Computers control our modern society

Just like water and electricity, the modern society cannot function without computers. Moreover, computers control information exchange all over the world; indeed, they control our whole society. Thus people who are controlling user’s software can define what users are able to do or not with their tool and at what price. Some editors have even given themselves the ability to remotely control the software they have sold and also your data! (via the update process for example or thanks to the need of a permanent Internet connection) This is, of course, worse when you are only using an online service, and when your data are even not on your own computer.

Furthermore, the people controlling the Internet –and many people are fighting to take this control– are controlling what people are able to see or not to see, to know or not to know, to buy or not to buy. This Internet control can be achieved at the source by website hosting providers, during data transmission via access providers, or finally at home via the editors of your software. Here are some examples of the power that computers have gained:

  • the music that you are buying online can only be listened to on the products of a given brand; this was unthinkable in the old days of audio cassettes
  • updating a software or your system is installing software that you have never requested, like a search bar or a web navigator – what about software that are also installed, but are invisible (stealth)?
  • you can only install on your mobile phone, software or music distributed on the manufacturer’s website
  • Cubans cannot communicate using MSN anymore because the editor has cut off access to it for the whole country
  • Hospital emergency rooms encountered 1 hour of freeze in Estonia after a general computer attack against the country

Undoubtedly, if we only teach our children to passively use computers, they will not be able to protect themselves against this kind of consequence. This is a strategical issue that is concerning nations, as shown above. Computers have been designed to serve users but not to enslave them. Do not forget that our children are our future.

Read or watch more on this topic:

Schools are not really teaching computing.

NB: please adapt to your country!

Despite the fine words and speeches about computer use at schools, the American/British training is not teaching children how to run computers but just it’s basic use. Young people are taught to click on nice translucent buttons but they are rarely taught how to create with computers. They are not taught how they function nor especially, how it can be modified; they are not taught how Internet and websites work either; therefore, our young people will be able to download software and eventually to buy them, but they will not be able to make computers do exactly what they want. Of course not all of them have to become computer scientists, but we need to attract some of them because of the reasons described above. And especially, all of them should become critical enough regarding to technological tools from the family of computers.

Showing that computers are versatile and programmable

Starting DoudouLinux on a computer containing another system demonstrates that very different things can be executed by the same computer –it is only a matter of programming [7]. Thus, around the adolescence age, children may have the curiosity to search and understand how all of this is possible. And with DoudouLinux everything can be analyzed and modified, provided that you can read English sufficiently. DoudouLinux is then more inclined to teach our children what computers actually are by allowing them to do any experimentation they want. DoudouLinux wants children to master their future.

Footnotes

[1] Such as system modifying or application programming.

[2] The only case where it would be needed is if you activated data persistence on the internal hard disk, you will not have access to your previously saved data.

[3] Its physical support, the CD or the USB key, can be on the other hand.

[4] The parental control has a list of keywords and their associated “harmfulness”. This list is used to evaluate the appropriateness of the requested page to the filter strictness level. Keywords are translated into several languages.

[5] There are viruses but they are using Linux functionalities that have been corrected long ago. The engineers working on this system have fixed what was wrong.

[6] Because your provider has a technical issue, because he has closed shop and abandoned his service or because the service now has a monthly charge and has become too expensive!

[7] Consequently, if computers do not do what the user is expecting, this may be because the manufacturer decided that users should not be able to do that!


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