About two years ago I searched for some educational software for Linux or MacOS X and failed. Jan Materne once pointed me to Gcompris but I forgot about it. This afternoon I spent a few hours installing it and it is great, really.

This software comes packed with more than forty "activities" ranging from wiping semi-transparent fog from images to learn how to move the mouse (which Sarah - four years - enjoyed a lot) to learning games that go well beyond Florian's (eight years) current knowledge. It took some authority to pull the kids from the keyboard.

The website says Gcompris was translated into more than 40 languages and so far I haven't found a flaw in the German translation.

Installing Gcompris on Fedora Core 3 wasn't easy but doable. There are no RPMs so you have to compile from source and it requires sqlite and pysqlite which are not part of stock FC3 and I had to be compiled from sources as well since an rpmfind search came empty.

Installing it on my Mac is going to become a bit more difficult, darminports has been pulling down half the open source universe and compiling it for hours now just to prepare the Gnome environment that is needed. Did I say it is a five your old G3 iBook?

Gcompris' listing at Ofset also points to Childsplay which takes a very similar approach as Gcompris but uses Python and pygame. It was straight forward to install on my Mac but so far refuses to speak any language other than English.

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I knew this would happen sooner or later, it seems a Windows installation at home is becoming unavoidable.

Our son, Florian, wants to use the computer for something more than just paint stuff with xpaint or attaching earrings to a Potato. Not a bad idea, but there doesn't seem to be too much on the market for my home setup. I own an Intel (actually AMD) based desktop currently running Linux and an iBook running MacOS X. I could be talked into installing additional OSes, but would like to avoid Windows or MacOS 9.

I've googled a little and came across the Open Source Education Foundation, Tux4Kids (currently down) and The KDE Edutainment Project among some other interesting things like Tux Paint. But nothing I've found there really fits what I'm looking for.

Florian is six, he's a first grader, which means he's just started to learn reading and writing and his maths skills for this term are bounded by the number 20. This is where all the open source efforts I've found are lacking, they target a much older audience.

What do I need

  1. Software that is localized - he doesn't speak any language other than German yet.
  2. Software that is easy to use.
  3. Software that is fun to use.
  4. You should be able to learn something by using it.

Certainly I could write something myself but would fail badly with all but the first point in my list above. I'm neither a teacher nor a GUI wizard (quite the opposite).

All commercial software I've found requires Windows or with very much luck MacOS 9. My current plan is to try to get one of those commercial packages to run with Wine and if that fails to give in and install Windows ME in a VMWare sandbox, but maybe there are alternatives? I'm willing to pay, both money or with my time.

I've also started to ask for non-Windows versions with some of the major German educational software companies, but don't expect too many responses.

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