Hey Fediverse, especially the Venn overlap of librarians, retro computing enthusiasts and FOSS folks - at the libraries in Pittsburgh there are kiosks with vetted, locked-down, kid-safe edutainment programs from the late 90's and early 2000's. They're all branded with AWE Learning. There's a graphical frontend that lets the kid select and launch from a list of games.

Can I take an old laptop and turn it into something similar to those AWE Learning terminals, but with FOSS?

Boosts appreciated

· SubwayTooter · 6 · 44 · 18

@ifixcoinops i've never liked AWE much, and afaik they don't even make their software available separately. libraries pay $$$ for the convenience but i'm sure if librarians were given time/resources/institutional support we could come up with something better

are you looking to do this as a gaming/arcade setup or are you interested more in the idea of a diy educational machine? there are ways to launch immediately into a specific program, some are less locked down than others

@ebeth Software-wise I'm interested in the "edutainment" concept, more akin to the AWE machines. Hardware-wise I was initially thinking of just bunging something on an old laptop for my own kid, but TBH the more I think of it the more I'm thinking this could be a useful thing for schools and libraries in general.

@ebeth On the more generalized side of things I'm leaning towards two extremes - on one side a Raspberry Pi in a nice purple wooden box integrated with the monitor and power supply, on the other extreme just whatever the library's got kicking around or can get from donations. I'm thinking fairly simple software that'll pretty much run on a toaster - people really overestimate how much 3-9-year-olds care about graphics quality. :P

@ifixcoinops this might be a bit of a cynical take but my experience in public libraries is that they prefer to have something ready-made built by someone else even if it costs more. i had a lot of trouble pitching DIY/in-house projects. the dismissiveness always seemed really antithetical to the values of librarianship to me and it was a huge source of frustration professionally :-/ even for simple projects like catalog computers, which. idk it was always baffling to me

@ifixcoinops i was! i have a MLIS and worked in public and government libraries, dabbled a tiny bit in academic libraries. i actually quit my job pre-pandemic to figure out a next step for me - i was *very* burned out by then and had chronic health issues i needed to deal with. considering going back into librarianship with a more digital/academic focus (that's actually more what i started in) or possibly going back to school and doing something else.


@ifixcoinops a thing that has occurred to me is that a lot of these projects may have been better received if i had were a man, because everyone knows men do tech projects

like i don't want to assume bad faith but i had a lot of experience being talked over on various tech committees, or being passed over for projects for male coworkers who then had to ask me for help. libraries (especially older management) are still shockingly conservative in some ways


@ebeth That sucks, I'm sorry to hear it. :-/

@ifixcoinops @ebeth it definitely would! Our AWE machines cost upwards of $3-5k each & I think that’s the discounted rate. As for hardware, if you’re planning on putting a DIY machine into the library/school, a thing to keep in mind is a touch screen for the younger kids and finding keyboards/mice that are sized to fit small hands for the older ones. But I don’t think that would cost TOO much?

@tozka @ebeth So you're a librarian, right? Can you tell me more about the AWE machines? Is it a buy-it-once-and-you're-done type deal, or more like a subscription thing?

I got interested in this 'cause with the lockdown and all my littleun is missing playing on the library computer, and even at the time I was thinking it'd be really nice to have that software and interface on an old laptop or something at home.

@tozka @ebeth But if there's five grand of library funds per machine at stake, and I could probably knock a kiosk together for a couple hundred bucks, that'd be a big saving!

@ifixcoinops it’s a single purchase with everything: machine, peripherals, software. They’re built sturdy so they last years— we’ve had some AWE machines for almost 10 years at this point. I don’t know how often the software gets updated (different department) but the hardware never gets updated outside of just buying a new one

@tozka This appeals to me, as a fixer of old, old things that still work just fine. I like the idea of building a computer-type machine that just sits and does its job and a decade goes past.

@ifixcoinops @ebeth honestly the games are fun but the “landing page” is a little tricky for kids and parents to navigate. The games are sorted according to type/age but actually finding that menu is tough for some people

@tozka @ebeth There really does need to be a big red "back to the menu" button

@jvalleroy I came across that in a depressing article from 2017 about how kids' Linux distros were pretty much dead. :P

(having said that, their criteria for "Dead" seems to be "Hasn't had updates in a while." Which is daft because if it works and it does the job, then it doesn't need updates, especially if it's not going on the internet)

@ifixcoinops Took me awhile to remember it, but GCompris may be pretty close. Educational stuffs w/ a kiosk mode according to the manual

@weemadhamish ouf actually no this is very not good :P I mean it's the right sort of thing, as in a whole bunch of educational minigames connected together with an overarching interface, but the actual games themselves are super-janky.

Hmm. Guess if I want it to be better I should make it better huh

@ifixcoinops Yeah, when I started poking into the manual after letting you know, the jank became apparent.
There might be a scavengable framework in there, if you have a handy codemonkey.

@weemadhamish Aye I downloaded the Android version to test it out and in the Play store it was called "Children educational game full" and it's, like, game-writing-tutorial-level basic. Fertile ground for improvement.

@ifixcoinops I think there are some educational-oriented GNU/Linux distros out there. Edubuntu? Is that still a thing?

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