I spent way too much time trying to jury-rig the Xubuntu-based Qimo to run on the leftover Sotec machine I keep on hand for experimentation. The double-whammy of a live-CD only installation combined with Ubuntu’s failure to start a graphical environment without simultaneously losing the framebuffer … well, that was enough to turn me sour on the idea.
On the other hand, Qimo itself — which is to say, the idea of Qimo as a collection of software aimed at kids — isn’t hard to duplicate. And that fact, combined with my desire to take the Debian 5-LXDE CD for a spin, convinced me to come up with my own rendition of the Desktop for Kids.
First thing I should say is that I really like the combination of Debian and LXDE. Thus far it has managed to leapfrog beyond the difficulties I was having with Ubuntu (which is to say, Qimo) at most instances. For example, it found and configured the graphical aspect of the machine … albeit at the wrong screen dimensions. I have spent enough time working on that machine with Crux that I know how to manhandle the xorg.conf file, and get the entire 1024x768x16 environment.
After that, LXDE is easy to customize and put into place. It looks good, it moves fast, and there’s no limitations imposed upon you for style, speed, usability or anything else. Openbox works seamlessly with it, and I find it easy enough to manage that there’s little time lost customizing it to look the way I want. So in general, a big thumbs up to the LXDE team.
Debian’s version strikes me as a little odd, in that there seem to be some rather heavyweight additions to the default arrangment. OpenOffice.org is in there, which I suppose is out of deference to the need for a full-featured, complete office suite. But so are Iceweasel and the Gimp, two programs I would have thought had enough alternatives to round out a proper lightweight desktop. And that behemoth GDM is running the show, instead of something like SLiM, or even Qingy.
But all of those are meager side notes in what is otherwise an excellent experience. Installation at 450Mhz took a couple of hours, but aside from the aforementioned slight discrepancies with the screen dimensions, not a single thing on the computer failed to be detected and configured. Network, sound and even the keyboard are all 100 percent correct, no exceptions, and no disappointments.
And of course, since Qimo is built on Ubuntu and Ubuntu is built on Debian, I was only a hop, skip and a jump away from adding the smattering of kids’ games that appear in Qimo. And LXDE was kind enough to automatically add them to the desktop menu, and I put a few quickstart buttons on there for my own enjoyment.
If I spruce it up a little bit, add some fatter buttons and maybe some fun wallpaper, I might come up with a system that’s worth duplicating in the future for a giveaway machine. This one, as it is, isn’t really functional enough to pawn off on someone (some of the keys are tetchy), but I could see rebuilding this on a more trustworthy box. It certainly didn’t take much time or effort.