Larry the Free Software Guy, cashing in another grammatical chip in order to refer to himself in the third person, has a choice: He can wallow in self-pity for not being at OSCON this week (it’s not the same without May Munji there at the helm, anyway) or he can talk about one of the best contests of the year, assuming you’re a kid (or you have one) and you want to win an OLPC or other cool prizes.
We’ll definitely go with the latter today.
Wordlabel.com is sponsoring the Tux Paint Kids Summer Drawing Contest, which is open to all children from ages 3 to 12 who live anywhere on the planet Earth.
The contest allows kids a chance to show off their talent “using a great drawing program made especially for kids,” according to the Wordlabel.com site — an understatement if there was one. Over the years, I’ve raved about what a great program Tux Paint is, and my daughter Mimi was essentially raised on it; arguably the artistic talent she now possesses as a teenager was honed using Tux Paint in her younger years.
But officially and for promotional purposes, Tux Paint is an award-winning drawing program that was recently awarded SourceForge.net Project of the Month. It runs on all versions of Linux, Windows (including Tablet PC), Mac OS X 10.4 and up, FreeBSD and NetBSD.
And, of course, it’s free.
Here’s what you get, kids: Prizes will be given to 10 winners, with first prize being an OLPC notepad computer, Sugar-on-a-stick loaded with Tux Paint, a Tux Paint T-shirt and button. Second and third prize winners get an OLPC computer, Sugar-on-a-stick and a T-shirt. The remaining seven that round out the top 10 will receive a Sugar-on-a-stick and a Tux Paint t-shirt.
So how do you, as a 3- to 12-year-old, enter?
Here’s how you do it, kids:
All artwork must be the contestant’s original work created on Tux Paint, and only one entry per child. Entries must be received by midnight USA Eastern time on 12 September 2011 to be eligible (that’s 0500 GMT 13 September 2011, for those of you keeping score at home).
As I’ve said ad nauseum over the years, Tux Paint has been one of my all-time favorite programs. I’ve used it at home, and Mimi and I have had years of fun with it while she was growing up. I’ve used it in a classroom environment as well. Bill Kendrick and the team that produced this program are nothing short of wizards, and my hat has always been off to them. It’s good to see they’re getting some wider recognition through this contest.
And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t end this blog about Tux Paint without saying, “Nah-nuh-NAAAAA!”
This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.
More times than not, Ken Starks — who pens the Blog of Helios — nails it, and his most recent item is quite possibly Exhibit A to that rule. In his latest submission, Ken responds adequately to a critic who “said that [the HeliOS Project] had wasted a computer on kids that were far too young to either appreciate the technology or use it efficiently.”
Ken’s blog takes the argument and slices and dices it in such a way that, if it were a Ronco product, you’d find it being advertised on late-night television.
But wait, there’s more. I’ll let Ken tell the story, from his blog. Ken writes:
“Skip Guenter and I do week-long computer labs during summer vacation. The kids range from 4th to 6th grade. When I first intro the class. I walk among the seated children and then I point to one of them and I say:
” ‘You are going to be the first person to walk on Mars.’
“I point to another and state:
” ‘You are going to discover an herbal compound that cures diabetes.’
“And to a third child I point and say:
” ‘You are going to invent the nano technology that reverses blindness.’
“Then I make sure that they understand one thing. Unless they embrace and learn about the machines in front of them, none of that is likely to happen.”
Amen to that, Ken.
Also, on the issue of age, there is my own experience. I started with GNU/Linux and FOSS very late — 48 to be exact, five years ago, and I’ve told that story here ad nauseum. However, thanks to the miracle of being my offspring (it’s a miracle to me, anyway, that she’s my girl), my daughter Mimi has grown up with FOSS for pretty much her entire life.
Her introduction to computers and their use, then, has always involved a high degree of FOSS exposure, and with this exposure comes a better understanding of how software works and a clearer knowledge of how software should be available to the public. It has been interesting to watch her grow along with the Free Software and Open Source philosophies; not to mention the snapshots along the way, like learning about how to install Debian at 8 under her Dad’s watchful eye, or her enthusiasm today for GIMP and other programs that allow her to develop and expand her passion for drawing.
With her understanding of how the digital world works and inheriting her Dad’s affinity for implementing Free Software and the Open Source paradigm, Mimi can usually be found with me at various Linux expos and shows. Not only this, she can also be found with her friends — Malakai and Saskia Wade — giving talks at expos like SCALE and the Utah Open Source Conference about “Girls in FOSS.”
[As an aside: Mimi is now an Ubuntu user, in what her Fedora-using Dad hopes will be just a passing rebellious phase. Or not. But rather than rend my garment and wail skyward, "I have no daughter!" I would prefer to be proud of her beyond words for trying a variety of distros and settling on one that works for her. That's my girl.]
Back to the art, though: Mimi has developed an artesian depth of artistic talent, and my eternal gratitude goes to Bill Kendrick and the developers of Tux Paint for planting the seed of artistic abilities with that consistently outstanding program. Tux Paint and this household, digitally speaking, go way back, and Kendrick’s and his team’s efforts on all the software they write make a huge impact on the lives of those who use it.
This same “huge impact” can be claimed by a wide range of FOSS programs as well — substitute $FOSS_PROGRAM for “Tux Paint” and there are a wide variety of FOSS programs that have made their mark on the computer-using world, all for the better.
Which brings us back to Ken and Skip and the summer computer labs: One kid in that room may be the one who first steps on Mars. One may be the one who develops the technology to allow the blind to see. But also, they may not be the ones accomplishing those feats, and that’s OK. At the very least — at the absolute least — kids learning about and using FOSS will grow up to be average adults with a better understanding of how hardware and software work and a clearer picture of how hardware and software should be made available to the public.