Qimo does it right

With everyone and their grandmother trying out Qimo, I suppose my assessment isn’t novel, or really even necessary. I can only say I had the ISO downloaded about a week ago, but finally gave it a turn a day or two ago.

Nicely done, and that’s really all that can be said. If you want a replete, smooth, good-looking desktop prearranged with small people in mind, I can think of no better option. Low maintenance, high usability and visually attractive. I’m probably a little outside the target demographic, but if I was still in the single-digit age bracket, I’d probably think it was a winner.

Qimo does a couple of things right from my perspective though, that probably wouldn’t be immediately evident to the average 5-year-old. For one thing, using Ubuntu is a no-brainer. It’s so complete and so zero-effort that anything else (outside of another heavyweight distro) would be counterintuitive.

And by extension, using Xubuntu as the background system does (I will admit) reduce the overall system demands slightly, meaning that old 1.4Ghz Pentium III you have in the closet can handle it without sweating … too much. The picture you see there is the Inspiron running Qimo at 1Ghz, and performance is acceptable.

I also like that there are actually two accounts installed when you start it, one for “Qimo,” and one for an administrator. Qimo (the user) has access to most all the software installed in a generic Xubuntu system (that I can tell), but has almost no privileges beyond that. Games and accessories? Yes. System management and sudo? No.

On the other hand, there’s an “administrator” account built into the system that gets a default-ish Xubuntu desktop on login. So you’re not so much installing Qimo as a complete and new system, as installing Xubuntu with the added pleasure of Qimo for the little people.

And this is probably the wisest way to do it. Set up the machine with one master account to serve as “administrator,” give it a standard Ubuntu deviant as the desktop, and keep the standard “Qimo” account for people who are new to the planet. It might seem obvious, but at the same time, it’s smart.

About the only difficulty I have with Qimo is something I’ve mentioned already — it’s based on Xubuntu. That in itself is not a bad thing, but what it means is that your initial impulse to dash down to the cellar, drag up the old Pentium II and holler at the kids, “I’ve got one for you!” … well, it’s not misguided, but it might be premature.

I’ve detailed my disappointments with Xubuntu elsewhere, and I stand by those assessments. I haven’t actually put Qimo on a Pentium II, but I expect performance would be sub-par. I think I would have been happier if Qimo had been based purely on XFCE, with a few added packages to round out the administrator’s desktop. It would open up and entirely different bracket of hardware to Qimo.

As it is though, I get the feeling that something slower than the 1Ghz machine I playtested this on … would end up suffering. “Suffering” is a relative term that is best determined by you, but from my angle, there is a lot more potential with something lighter than Xubuntu.

The only other thing I would criticise is the use of Ubiquity cued from the boot menu as a method for installing: It hinges too heavily on Ubuntu’s success in establishing a graphical environment to put Qimo on the drive. I’ve found myself in a nifty Catch 22 in past days trying to put Qimo on the K6-2, because of the fact that Ubuntu goes two different directions simultaneously — 24-bit depth but incomplete framebuffer support — and ends up scuttling my small sliver of the technological spectrum.

That’s not really Qimo’s fault though; that issue lies with Ubuntu. I will combine both of those points and say that a text-based installer and a lighter framework would keep me happier. But my allegiance lies with antique hardware, and that’s not necessarily what Qimo is intended to satisfy.

For now I give a wholehearted, giant, cartoon-sized thumbs-up to Qimo, for keeping very small computer users happy, and keeping some otherwise outdated machines in circulation. And for giving me an idea or two of what to do with this K6-2. 😉


13 thoughts on “Qimo does it right

  1. stlouisubntu

    When I installed qimo to the hard drive of an old 500 Mhz
    Pentium III, it booted into the user account set up during
    installation which I guess is the administrator account you mentioned. It booted to a typical default Xubuntu desktop (no qimo wallpaper no dock.) I had no way to know about the qimo user
    account. Is there any password for the qimo account. How does this work? It was disappointing not to see the same setup following the hard drive install as I saw in the live CD.


    1. K.Mandla Post author

      As far as I can tell, and I’ve installed it two or three times now, Qimo (the user) gets no password, and has no privileges aside from games and some standard desktop groups (like networks and applications). You could change that with the sudo passwd qimo, if you wanted.

      If you enabled the autostart option at installation, it probably drops you into the standard user account and not the Qimo user account on boot. If you log out of the standard user and log back in as Qimo, then shut down the machine, the next boot will go directly to the Qimo user account. I think. 😉

  2. fstephens

    How does it run on the 500Mhz? How much memory do you have? I want to install it on an 500Mhz K6-2 for my nieces daughter and I am wondering if that is enough machine for it.

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      I haven’t been able to install it on anything but the 1Ghz machine, because of the video card inconsistencies I mentioned. Try it and tell us how it goes.

      1. Peebs

        There are other distros that are more old-computer friendly.

        Google Freeduc, EduPuppy, or even FUZOMA.

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  6. Taila

    When you install Qimo you need to make sure that your account does not auto log in then Qimo will log-in automatically and you will see the cold boy (as my daughter calls him) as you had seen him on cd testing. The only problem I found was that my account does cannot access the network. Not a problem much as I use a different Ubuntu desktop as main desktop, but would love to update Qimo system from time to time.

  7. Thomas

    I’ve installed it on a Sony 366 mhz. laptop. for my daughter. So far seems to run fine. n’ she’s been playing with it for a while. The laptop does have the memory maxed out.

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  9. Mister Shiney

    Ok so I’m evaluating Qimo as a good Linux distro for my kid so this is a helpful article. One concern I have is ease of maintenance: In an OS for my kid I want something that is set it and forget it — it should maintain itself, updating and installing important updates and any other regular maintenance with regular ease. Also, I should be able to remotely maintain it — ideally via a web interface. Finally, I should have audit/logging capability so that I can be sure that my kid isn’t getting into trouble. Your thoughts on how Qimo addresses these concerns would be appreciated — I probably only have time to install one distro so I want to get it right the first time.

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      Qimo is good stuff. As far as remote administration, I believe you have options in ssh and X forwarding. Self-updating would be even easier, with cron as an option. Look into those two for ideas on how to start.


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