I built a new computer for the kids yesterday.

Their old one, from perhaps a year ago, was a pretty pathetic old Pentium 150 or something. It ran Windows 98, because nothing more recent (from Microsoft) would run on it, and in the end it had so many issues that it simply wasn’t worth using. I figured the kids would be better off without a computer than struggling through various Windows crashes and failed software installations.

But they’ve been getting training in school, and playing on Laralee’s laptop a bit, so I figured I should set up something a little nicer for them. I cobbled together some nicer components I had laying around, and came up with a pretty nice P3-600 system that was actually faster than our laptops anyway.

After a brief debate with myself, I decided to completely forego Windows and head straight for Linux. The stuff they’re doing is pretty much web surfing and playing MP3 tunes, so there’s no reason I should worry about all the goofball kids’ software that only runs on Windows 98 or ME or whatever. I broke out my Jinux installation CD’s and set up KDE for them.

However, my usual mode of logging in– typing a username and password at the command prompt, and then running X manually– was obviously a bit more convoluted than a five-year-old might be expected to handle. So I messed around with the KDE login screen and managed to come up with a beautiful, easy to use, highly customizable login page. They can click the “kids” icon, then click “Go!” and they’re in. But even better, I made the system auto-login for them so it just pops right up into KDE and they can click the little desktop icons (one is the Lego logo, and the other is the Barbie logo) to launch the Konqueror web browser and play their little Flash games.

Adding a couple more desktop icons for MP3 playlists gives them the ability to click on, say, Mickey Mouse and get a bunch of Disney music playing in XMMS (the open-source alternative to Winamp). A big red “power” button lets them shut everything down with a click. Pepper it with some fun cartoonish icons, and they have a fun system that’s easy to use.

Ahh, ain’t Linux grand?