The HeliOS Project is now.....

The HeliOS Project is now.....
Same mission, same folks...just a different name

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Tykes Need Linux Too

In our efforts to get GNU/Linux-based computers into the hands of students, we find that the majority of our machines are going to kids from ages 10-16. That's an accurate age demographic for those who receive what we give. In most cases, the child has already been exposed to a Windows machine but oddly enough, bears almost none of the hesitancy to learn a new system.

Much unlike their parents. ("Can't you just make it LOOK like Windows?")

Yes I can.

No I won't.

Lately we've received a larger number of requests where the children in the family are younger than the usual requester. Our first install this Saturday morning was no exception to that influx.

Florence Texas is a small town. We've donated computers to families there before. It's not a wealthy town by anyone's stretch of the imagination. Many of the families that live in Florence proper are hardworking folks that live paycheck to paycheck and don't have much extra left over for anything.

Like a computer for their kids.

Of course, that's where we come in. Amie Cervantes and her husband live in a modest one story home right on the highway that cuts the town in half. 18 wheelers rumble by, shaking the windows all hours of the day. Some locals have told me that if hwy 195 did not run through the town, it probably would not exist. About half way between Killeen (Ft. Hood) and Georgetown, Amie Cervantes makes a home for her family.

The kids in the family are a bit younger than the ones that we normally install for. At ages 8, 6 and 5, Manuel, Emily and Ciarra have not had access to a computer yet. That changed at 10 am today. Knowing the kids were younger, we installed a distribution that has recently found its way on Distrowatch called Qimo.

Qimo is for kids, period. Sure, an adult can dig around and fine some stuff useful for them but from the ground up, Qimo was, to my eye, created to introduce kids to the computer. What a wonderful way to do it.

A GNU/Linux computer thank you.

I didn't specifically write this to sing the praises of Qimo, although it does deserve substantial mention. I wanted to spotlight the Cervantes family as a model for our growth as a viable desktop alternative.

We've often said that the key to the proliferation of the GNU/Linux Desktop turns in two directions:

1. Letting the consumer know they have a choice in the way they operate their system and explain why Linux is the best way to do so.

2. Get as many GNU/Linux-based computers into the hands of kids as possible. Break the stranglehold that MS obviously has on the computing least in the US where we seem to fall way behind the rest of the world in Desktop Linux adaptation.

We can't do much about number one in the Enterprise OR in the Linux community seems in much of a hurry to do so, But we can do something about number two.

Ages 4-7 are the formative years for the hard development of motor skills. Making that development enjoyable is key to insuring the child develops those skills to their ultimate level...not necessarily at that particular time. However an early positive experience increases the chances that further development later in life isn't looked upon as a negative experience.

We believe that doing this on a GNU/Linux computer will set a behavior pattern that is conducive to future Linux growth.

We're getting as many Linux computers into the hands of kids as we are able. What is encouraging is that this model is being practiced in other parts of the country.

Their effort grew without any knowledge of just happened and the parallels are amazing. Now yes, we have helped others around the US start their own versions of The HeliOS Project but what we find most satisfying is that most of them do it on their own...they have no idea that we exist. The model just seems to grow out of good people's hearts.

And that's the way it should be. Our successes have been accomplished on our work and dedication. Efforts such as Reprise/TrailBrain have been on theirs. Regardless, GNU/Linux computers are getting into the hands of disadvantaged kids all over the US due to these efforts. Ours is only a small piece of this magnificent effort. While I cannot say much about it now, a project growing and being planned this moment may have much larger ramifications than any of us thought possible. We'll get to that when we are allowed to do so.

And so it goes with the Family Cervantes...just one more household with a Linux Computer in their home...something the kids can enjoy and learn upon.

And that, after all, is what it's all about.

All-Righty Then


Anonymous said...

Bravo Ken. This is the work that needs to be done and I want to personally thank you and your Directors for doing it.

Beware though, there will be those that say this is totally fabricated and the picture posted is computer generated.

Sad. Keep doing what you do Ken. You are inspiring many.

Anonymous said...


I watched your presentation for the City Counsel's Technology Commission a couple weeks ago on television. You did a great job in presenting free software and the GNU/Linux operating system to the public awareness. Is that segment available to the public? I would like it to post on my website.

Jamal Avery - Austin

Anonymous said...

I would be curious to know if you do any follow-ups with these families and offer them any training on the systems you install. Also, are there "windows relapses" any time after you offer them Linux based computers?

Anonymous said...

Beware though, there will be those that say this is totally fabricated and the picture posted is computer generated.

Um no, the picture is irrelevant. I'm sure Ken did not post it here as proof, its merely as a documentation marker. The kids are cute though :)

Sad. Keep doing what you do Ken. You are inspiring many.

Nice strawman. Nobody is against him giving computers to kids. Also nobody is going to claim the picture is fake, that's ridiculous.

The general reason why people dislike linux zealots like Ken is not because they oversell linux, thats OK. Its mainly because they have _NO CLUE_ about OS design or kernel design or security design or anything at all. Unless they have published any papers or maybe has read relevant books, taken college cources, maybe taken programming lessons or even peeked at 20% of the code, the zealots simply cannot have an informed opinion on the subject. They end up saying something clueless like "X is better" or "Y has better security". Excuse me? Better tell the world you have no clue about what you're talking about. These are complex topics that require serious discussion.

Linux users are known to send angry or rude letters whenever their little os doesn't get the best possible coverage. Ask any magazine editor who has _EVER_ written an article on linux. Unless the article basically says "MS is the devil, you should go get linux" , you can rest assured that they will received some kind of "feedback"; of the rude kind.

Does this refresh your memory? Linux users harassed this person because she seemingly blamed ubuntu for her misfortunes.

Anonymous said...


It's unfortunate that you're wrong that there are people who would say that everyone is for what Ken does. I've met a few bigots who are dead set against giving minorities and the poor access to technology.

There are also still a few out there who would deny that linux is where it is. People who are content with windows often don't realize that linux exists (used to be the same with macs ~6 yrs ago) and won't accept it for some reason (it's probably that if someone doesn't want to believe it, they won't). I myself didn't know that linux was around until about 2 years ago, and have only used ubuntu for a year.


Anonymous said...

"Unless they have published any papers or maybe has read relevant books, taken college cources, maybe taken programming lessons or even peeked at 20% of the code, the zealots simply cannot have an informed opinion on the subject. They end up saying something clueless like "X is better" or "Y has better security". Excuse me? Better tell the world you have no clue about what you're talking about. These are complex topics that require serious discussion."

I more or less did ;-). But no one should care. It is the arguments and references that count, not "authority" (so I do not even bother to prove it).

However, I do want to point out a few obvious things:

1 Statistics:
Open Source software is less often compromised than Microsoft software using any metric. Even when the Open Source is a market leader like Apache. All of MS' excuses are simply that, excuses that would not be accepted in any (other) walk of life, like primary school.

2 People who do not acknowledge their errors are not to be trusted. MS never really have acknowledged any of their design errors, not even their most disastrous ones. (FOSS projects only rarely, if ever, would deny an error)

3 Anyone who in the face of a century of cryptographic and security research claims "security by obscurity" is better than openness is either delusional or a fraud. Therefor I conclude that MS security spokespersons are frauds. Their security policy is too.


Anonymous said...

I think Chel's point was that of simple sarcasm...with the horrible and sometimes threatening comments left in his last blog, I can see her point.

Ken though, is not your typical "zealot". He has actually went beyond talking and actually doing something, he took up python coding so "professionals" would talk to him. Want to talk about sad? When it gets to the point where "professionals" won't even take someone serious until they know how to open Eric? Do you have any idea the physical and emotional levels he operates on? Carrying hundreds of pounds of equipment a day, transporting it and setting it up? He opens himself up emotionally as well by actually getting involved in the lives of the people he helps?

He's constantly networking with businesses and individuals to gain the stuff he needs to do what he thinks he needs to do. After all of that he drives a vehicle that runs on prayer and daily maintenance and lives in a garage apartment. He obviously profits not from what he does.

My name is Andrew Magnus, not Anonymous. I believe the person who is "ridiculous" is named Michelle Minkin. I personally believe the world needs more zealots like Ken. I've had the distinct pleasure of being a volunteer for his organization.

Serious discussion is important. Seriously getting involved like Ken and his Directors have is critical. There comes a time when all the talking is done and doing is the next critical step. I personally would like to see from the community more of the latter.

FelixTheCat said...

PP, is that you?

Seriously, badly flawed logic and common sense. What you are suggesting is that everyone and their dog MUST re-prove EVERYTHING, don't take anyone's word for it. There is a reason we have scientists - they do research in areas not everyone else is going to look in. There is a reason we have astronauts and astronomers, to explore space where the rest of us don't have to. There is a reason we have folks that look over the kernel and other FOSS apps, testing them incessantly to see if they are secure, so not every single person has to do so. Catch my drift?

Also, and this may shake up your world a bit, there is a HUGE difference between having a clue and having absolute, total knowledge. A driver can know if a car handles well by driving it and listening to others talk about it without having to know the engineering inside and out! Wow! Go figure!


As far as the angry feedbacks go, it happens on both sides of the fence (or all three sides if you include Mac, mac). You appear to conveniently ignore other respondents that "have no clue", as you so glibly put it. This is the age of the anonymous bully, and you will see this no matter what the subject. Some folks seem to simply get off on making life a living heck for others with no semblance or attempt at logic or reason. Even your own comment smacks of zealotry in a fashion. Ironic, isn't it?

You'll find plenty of emotion in this blog, yep, you will, mister. You'll also find plenty of good opinion backed up by some fact and a good smattering of anecdote. Haven't seen anything yet that is an outright fabrication, though.

Ah, once again, I feed the troll.

Chad said...

Thank you sir, for being an inspiration. I'm already thinking of another project that I'd like to do. If it goes through, I'll blog it for sure. Oh, and KIDS RULE!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ken,

This is a great story and I couldn't agree more. My son is 5 and has been using linux since he was 2. Yes, really using. I mean browsing file systems and pressing enter to launch cartoons initially, but he's already more than comfortable hunting entering his username and password, going through menus to find the application he wants.

Strange thing is he's not once asked me to make it easier to use or more like windows. ;)



Grant Johnson said...

I have also found that families with computers can benefit from Linux for the kids. I have placed a few because the kids kept messing up their parent's computer, and the parents cannot afford a second machine. The good thing is that they can do no damage outside their home directory.

R-Whited said...

Keep up the good work!