First thoughts on @TeamKano Christmas Special

I took the plunge and purchased the “Holiday Special” version of the @TeamKano package, designed for those who already own a Raspberry Pi.

For $33 you get the Kano OS on a shiny SD card and two nice looking booklets – Level 1 – Make a computer and Level 2-6 – Make games, music, and more.

Following the booklets, the instructions are nice and clear – accompanied by the cute Kano icons and character graphics. The first problem is encountered within the setup. The instructions assume no knowledge of what a computer does, or how it operates, but still expects the reader to know which cable is required to “connect a screen” – no mention of HDMI and the image shows a monitor, and then “even play on the internet” doesn’t mention Ethernet, and where the resultant end should go … photo 1

On boot, the OS asks for your name which is a nice touch, but then heads into a bizarre text-based version of Animal/Vegetable/Mineral to identify a rabbit – I’m not sure what this stage is for, as it did have me baffled.

The OS boots in around 56 seconds, which I presume may be quickened by the later versions of the Raspberry Pi – I’m using one of the original B’s. The desktop starts, and looks great – 7 big icons, easily identifiable and accessible. Unfortunately the ancestry of the OS shows through as the taskbar still remains at the bottom, and the obligatory CPU meter is also included, though why this is I don’t know know – the Pi always maxes out at 100% whatever its doing! What a shame all of the desktop feel couldn’t have been hidden away and the OS made to work like a simple iOS/Metro-esque environment. No taskbar, no start menu, menus, awkward CPU meters; something similar to the operating systems that we will all be using now and in the future. Anyway, the OS is still in alpha, so there’s time yet …

I worked through the first game project, Snake – which is dreadful and requires internet access (why?) – and then tried Pong which is very, very slow. I’ll continue to work through the projects given enough time, but Kano will seriously miss a trick here if the operating system and accompanying software isn’t strong. The shiny keyboard and Pi starter kit that the Kickstarter is based upon will look lovely sat in many cupboards across the road if the software is sub-standard. As with any device, its strength is in its software. How many times do reviewers look at phones, say the hardware is great but then lament the software that makes it unusable. The cutesy characters, clear instructions and OS have huge potential – lets hope that with continuing feedback from the community it may just evolve into something that lifts the Pi onto the next level of engagement.

I was planning on giving the books to my (soon to be) 8 yo daughter for xmas – but I really don’t think she’ll be inspired by them. The music and Minecraft projects may have some interest, but a VERY slow and ASCII-driven snake and pong, won’t hold her attention and it’ll be back to the iPad.






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