Building a computer

So now, I have inflicted linux on the kids. They seem to be adjusting well enough.

Their old computer, a PPC mac mini from before Ben was born, started having issues. The most frustrating one was shutting down when flash was playing on several Very Important Websites (like lego.com), but in general, it was just acting like an old creaky machine. It was set up with the parental controls on safari and mail, and a limited set of applications that they could access, just so that things didn’t get too messed up. I would have liked to replace that machine with an imac, so that it was all in one, less cables to muck with, and generally just fewer pieces. Or a mini, and they could have had the same interface again. But those were all 600$ or more solutions.

So, the lowball approach. One barebones atom MB + case, a stick of memory, usb wifi dongle, and a dvd drive from newegg. Add a drive from my extensive collection of small to med sized hard drives, Monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers from the old computer, and suddenly, there’s a linux box. I was planning on using the netbook remix from ununtu 10.04 for the interface, but I wanted the wifi to work and some of the more modern stuff from edubuntu on there, so I’m on 11.10. The atom isn’t the most powerful machine, but it’s roughly the equivalent of a decent computer from 4 or 5 years back, and it was only $150.

Which is a little unfortunate. 10.04 was stable, and solid, but the interface there is a dead end and not going to be supported. The netbook remix launcher is gone from any later version, and the whole gnome2 interface is gone as of 11.10. Growing pains it has. It’s mostly ok, just a little confusing. I think the kids might be better at adapting to different interfaces than I am. I’m hoping that the unity interface stabilizes a bit, I’ve seen my share of bugs — layering issues, unity not working for one user anymore, crashes, 600 copies of gnome-screenshot attempting to run at once.

Web filtering is running through a combination of privoxy’s trusted whitelisting and iptables rules to redirect any untrusted user connection on ports 80 or 443 to the privoxy proxy. Firefox is also configured to use the proxy, just to make the connections cleaner on SSL, but it’s not strictly necessary. (github) Mail filtering is going to be whitelisted on the server with procmail or something similar.

I’ve also patched out the unity dash listing of applications for download when searching for an application to run on the machine. They can’t install apps, so there’s no reason to show options to install. Also, there’s no reason that this can’t be a preference somewhere, except that it seems to conflict with the goals of Canonical.

VLC plays movies ripped for the iPad just fine. (At least on the trusted user accounts. Other accounts don’t have access to the movies) Firefox hosts flash just fine, no shutdowns or other issues. Scratch runs well enough that it’s fun to play with. TuxPaint is just like it was on the mac.

No comments

No comments yet. Be the first.

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.