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Reviews - Community Kids

Community Kids
December 2007

Bill Kendrick, lead developer of Tux Paint, was interviewed in the December 2007 issue of Community Kids, a locally owned monthly parenting journal in Vacaville, California.

Tux Paint

Great Fun for Your Kids... If They Can Get You Off the Program!

By Michelle Trippi

Is your 7-year-old boy writing code for video games? Mine certainly wasn't at that age, but then again, I have a daughter who was too busy playing with Barbie while all dressed up as Cinderella and imagining she was a princess. Maybe it is just a boy thing, but no one I know has one of those computer code-writing boys hanging around their house. That is exactly what Bill Kendrick, now a father and resident of Davis, was doing when he was 7. Do you remember Atari and Commodore 64? That was Bill's inspiration for his new children's paint program called Tux Paint.

When Bill first contacted us to tell us about Tux Paint, I was on deadline and had to stick with my schedule so I could have the weekend off with my family. I thought I would just take a look-see at his website quickly and then answer the email in a few days. Well, sorry family, I had every great intention of not working this Saturday; but I downloaded Tux Paint and played with it for a few hours. Those who know me know I am weak in the knees when it comes to any fun and artistic computer program and Tux Paint is a blast!

Tux Paint is a free fun computer drawing program for children ages 3 and up and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux platforms. With the help of volunteer developers from around the world, it has become a labor of love. It has been translated, at least partially, in 75 different languages. It is different from other paint programs such as Windows Paint because it was designed with kids in mind. Sporting big and easy to click buttons and silly sound effects when you paint, Tux Paint tries to keep things simple. It also includes a tool for parents and teachers that allows them to configure Tux Paint to be more suitable for different age groups (for example, computer lab versus home desktop).

Bill is a very busy guy indeed. In 1999 he co-founded the Linux Users Group of Davis and in 2002 [it] was one of the members who mentioned that there were no paint programs for Linux that were easy enough for his, then 4 and 7 years old, boys. "I decided to take a crack at it," says Bill. With his Atari and Commodore 64 inspiration and the simplicity of the Palm PDA and TiVo in mind, Tux Paint was born. In the meantime, Bill works for LimeLife and commutes by train to Menlo Park from Davis. LimeLife creates cell phone games, whose applications and content are geared towards women. He works on the games and applications himself and also states some of the "underlying glue." I did not ask for elaboration on what the "underlying glue" was. Anything that hides behind the user side is completely out of my comfort zone and I start to get hives when they try to explain. So you can ask Bill yourself if you are curious.

Married to Melissa, they are the proud parents of William; and they will be celebrating William's 1st birthday in December and mom Melissa's birthday, too, as William was born on his mom's birthday. Bill and Melissa lived in Davis for 5-1/2 years while Melissa was finishing her degree at UC Davis. They moved to the Bay Area, and when William was a few months old, they moved back to Davis. "We've been back in Davis since spring, and I still commute by train part time; but we can't imagine ever wanting to move back," Bill explains. "Davis is such a wonderful place for families."

When we asked Bill if he had any tips for parents trying to market and start their own program, he told us that since Tux Paint is free, he is not trying to make a living off it; so it is fairly low stress. "However, it takes a very long time to get things going. You have to be patient, especially when volunteers are involved. I also learned this from the Linux group." Where is Tux Paint going in the future? Bill recently got a hold of a drawing tablet made especially for kids. Since it is USB he says it will work fine on Linux and Mac, but the software that comes with it is only for Windows. He says the tablet would be perfect for drawing in Tux Paint so he is "slowly" looking into how to make that happen.

Bill tells us that others are working to get Tux Paint on the One Laptop Per Child project's XO Laptop, previously known as the $100 laptop, though it's not quite that inexpensive yet. He also tells us that he is eager to make the documentation easier to read and more professional looking. For other future Tux Paint ideas, Bill says, "We're always happy to accept new artwork and translations from the community!"

You can download a free version of Tux Paint at www.tuxpaint.org and there is also a link at www.communitykids.com on our Fun Stuff Page. For information on One Laptop Per Child visit www.laptop.org. To reach Bill Kendrick you can email him at bill@newbreedsoftware.com.

Did you know? Tux Paint is named after Tux the penguin, the mascot of the Linux operating system. "Tux" is short for tuxedo.