Ubuntu: Rite of Passage

My son was annoyed that his school-provided laptop includes NetNanny configured in such a way to keep him out of game sites like PopTropica. Now, I understand the desire to censor our children’s forays onto the Internet. There is a ton of stuff out there that is a lot easier to get to than when I was a kid. And, often, as adults our first instinct is to protect them from where we know their curiosity will lead them. But blocking game sites? Now you’ve gone too far! Since I like to pretend I’m somewhat subversive, I was completely ready to let him install Ubuntu on the laptop. It plays into one of my goals for 2009: teaching my kids to program. I mean, sure, you can do it under Windows, but I’m just so much more comfortable with Linux. There was one snafu: I neglected to backup and defragment the disk before starting, so we lost some files. But, once his sisters saw the wobbly windows they just had to have it installed on their laptops, too. So now every laptop in the house runs Ubuntu. My daughter summed it up nicely: “I just feel so grown up now that I’m using Ubuntu like Mom and Dad!” As if to make sure I wouldn’t become too proud, she did add that she became acutely aware that I wasn’t quite the Super Geek she imagined me to be when I managed to lose her weather charting homework. Win some, lose some, I guess. But I count this as mostly a win.

3 thoughts on “Ubuntu: Rite of Passage”

      1. Re: Little brother

        From the book:

        I got back to class and sat down again, Ms Galvez warmly welcoming me back. I unpacked the school’s standard-issue machine and got back into classroom mode. The SchoolBooks were the snitchiest technology of them all, logging every keystroke, watching all the network traffic for suspicious keywords, counting every click, keeping track of every fleeting thought you put out over the net. We’d gotten them in my junior year, and it only took a couple months for the shininess to wear off. Once people figured out that these “free” laptops worked for the man — and showed a never-ending parade of obnoxious ads to boot — they suddenly started to feel very heavy and burdensome.

        Cracking my SchoolBook had been easy. The crack was online within a month of the machine showing up, and there was nothing to it — just download a DVD image, burn it, stick it in the SchoolBook, and boot it while holding down a bunch of different keys at the same time. The DVD did the rest, installing a whole bunch of hidden programs on the machine, programs that would stay hidden even when the Board of Ed did its daily remote integrity checks of the machines. Every now and again I had to get an update for the software to get around the Board’s latest tests, but it was a small price to pay to get a little control over the box.

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