Flowers in Zee Garden – 2018


  • Kenn Ranous



Linux for Kids – Create a lo-buck open source PC for children

Recently I was asked to configure a Linux Distribution suitable for a 4 year old already comfortable with an iPad. We needed a current distro with a clean desktop that would run on modest hardware. And of course there needs to be an assortment of cool activities that are fun and educational.

The distros I’ve seen didn’t quite fill the bill, so I decided to roll my own. I’m starting with a clean install of Linux Mint 18.3 with the Mate desktop on a modest dual-core PC. I applied all system updates, set a good admin password and enabled the firewall. In Firefox I added the uBlock Origin, https everywhere and privacy badger plugins.

Fortunately, there’s a variety of good games & activities available via the Synaptic Package Manager or Software Manager. Both are safe sources. Here’s a few I think are pretty cool, focusing on the under 10 group.

  • Extreme Tux Racer – Belly slide your penguin down a ski run while eating the fish. Cuz that’s what penguins do.
  • Frozen Bubbles – Pop the bubbles to groovy music, just lots of fun!
  • Gcompris – A suite of activities for pre-grade schoolers.
  • Kanagram – Word puzzle spelling game.
  • Pingus – Like Lemmings but with … you guessed it! Penguins!
  • TuxMath – a really fun math game with levels to cover a range of ages.
  • Tux Paint – A simple drawing program with sound FX.
  • Tux Typing – A typing game, great for building keyboard skills.
  • Super Tux – A bit like mario brothers but with a penguin of course.
  • Super Tux Kart – A fun driving game. (I got a message about open-gl being out of date, but appears to play OK)

Once installed, it’s just a matter of arranging the desktop as desired. I bumped up the font size a bit as well. If desired, you could create a user account with limited privileges although keeping the admin password should keep the lil ones out of trouble. If you’re interested in controlling what sort of Internet resources children can access, take a look at Cisco’s OpenDNS project. For the younger children, you could remove the short-cuts for web applications altogether and still access them via the command prompt later if desired.


DIY Linux Desktop for Kids


* Caution! Frozen Bubbles game is addictive even for big kids!

– Kenn Ranous

Vintage Moog ‘The Source’ Analog Synthesizer Model 341a

Update: I’ve decided to put the Moog Source up for sale. It makes a lot of interesting sounds, great for doing bass lines. I’m just not using it much. It’s fully operational and will be setup to play. Note this will be a face-to-face cash-only deal. For local pickup only in Fountain Hills 85268. $1750 obo. Please use ‘Contact’ on sidebar if interested.





  • Kenn Ranous



Microscope, Open Source Style!

Just a quick experiment with a Celestron USB Microscope in Linux Mint 18.3. Images were taken using the Cheese webcam application. As with any scene, lighting makes a big difference. Having the ‘scope near a window provides natural light at a low angle to show texture.



– Ken Ranous


#RedForEd: Support the future of society by supporting education now.

First off, I’m not suggesting that we pay teachers so much that the wrong people become educators just for the money. Hah! Currently, nothing could be farther from the truth. An individual attending college can easily accrue five figures of debt just to get a BS for an entry level position. To really get into education requires an MS or PhD, and that can saddle you with up to six figures of you-aint-gettin-outta-this debt. When educators barely make enough to live, servicing that debt can mean having to make a choice between a personal necessity or making a loan payment. This creates a lot of not-so-subtle incentives to use that degree in another line of work. That means schools lose (or never get) good people, and that cheats the students and ultimately our society of it’s future.


Also of great importance is continued teacher education, because what teachers learned in school yesterday isn’t enough for tomorrow. In fact, being a teacher also means being a lifelong student. This needs to be funded by the system, not the individual. Yes, in some cases teachers are expected to fund their own, even if that means accumulating more student loan debt. How ridiculous is that? Think of it this way: if you owned a company that made widgets and you purchased a new widget maker, would you expect your workers to pay for a class to learn how to use it?

As a Father and a Grand Father, I think about how difficult it can be to manage one child, never mind dozens of other people’s children. Now pile on larger classroom sizes, problems with facilities and having to purchase classroom supplies out of there own pocket. Only the truly dedicated enter this profession! I want current and future generations to get a solid K-12 education by qualified people that aren’t stressed out about student loans, job security and how to make basic ends meet without needing to get a second job. Teachers are people too, performing a noble task. Let’s respect and support that!


What do you mean I have to buy classroom supplies out of my own meager salary!?!

Supporting education is also about providing safe buildings and materials needed to teach. Those are large unavoidable costs but I want to focus a bit on technology. Books are still relevant of course, but often the latest information is only available in digital format. Even entry-level jobs require interaction with technology and those unfamiliar (and therefore intimidated by it) will not perform as well as their International counterparts. Technology needs to be IN the classroom where ALL can access it! It’s not enough to just read about it in a book. Actual engagement and repetition solidifies the concepts and makes it much easier to learn and adapt to new tech in the future.


It’s never too early to start education in technology.

When we fail to have an educated population, society overall loses. When business cannot find qualified staff they cannot compete, and there will always be someone somewhere else that will be more than happy to take the business. Looking at it strictly from an accounting perspective, yes, education is a cost but it’s also an investment in the future with a payout so huge it’s hard to calculate.

There’s one final point I’d like to make, and it’s far larger and more ominous than any monetary factors:

When the masses are uneducated in matters of interpersonal communications, history and critical thinking we become vulnerable to repeating the same mistakes our ancestors made and easy targets for manipulation and control.


The lady on TV told me I need to wear this so I just do.

Go Red. Go Ed.

-Kenn Ranous

Mesa Arts Center – Arizona

The RTL-SDR for Linux Quick Start Guide – Second Edition v2.18

Greetings radio fans! I’m pleased to release an update to the guide. I’ve confirmed the installation process is the same in Linux Mint 18.3 as it was in 17.x. Most applications still work and have continued to evolve nicely. As any radio is only as good as it’s antenna system, I elaborated a bit more. An experiment in lightning detection was added as well as additional resources. And I geeked in Gimp for a fresh cover page. 🙂

Speaking of antennas, many radio enthusiasts in urban environments find RFI noise and restrictions on antennas to really hamper their hobby. If that’s your situation, time to think outside the box! Take an SDR and a laptop into the great outdoors. I recently took one camping on a mountain and strung up about 200′ of wire zig-zagging through the trees. The results were just phenomenal. In town I have good antennas at my QTH, but my spectrum has a lot of spikes and over-load from nearby pagers and FM-BC. Out there, there were even more spikes but most of them actual stations with good copy.

As always, feel free to distribute the info as you see fit. The direct link to the PDF is below and on the sidebar.