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CODE4LIB  January 2009

CODE4LIB January 2009

Subject:

Linux Public Computers / wish list

From:

Darrell Eifert <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Code for Libraries <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 6 Jan 2009 10:28:58 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (110 lines)

Hi Steve --

Thanks for the thoughtful and comprehensive reply.  I agree that 
'restriction' is usually not in the vocabulary of those who contribute 
their time and effort to providing open source solutions.  As someone
who provides computer services to the public however, my focus is on 
giving fair use of a limited number of workstations to a large number of 
people in accordance with usage polices set in place by our
Trustees.  Some type of ticket / reservation / security system is a 
necessity.

I'm very intrigued by the process you mention as your third point.  My 
wish list for the finished application would include:

1) a browser-based administration module that a) lists each available 
computer with status (in use / available), time remaining, and way to 
increase that time or send a log-off command or message, b) assigns the 
total number of computers to user-selected groups or pools -- for 
example, we provide 20-minute computers for visitors, 60-minute 
computers for patrons, and a 3 hour computer for genealogists in our
Local History room, c) a screen from which to generate passwords and 
print matching login tickets for each pool -- we print them on different 
colored paper --, d) full usage statistics for each computer by date 
range, e) an optional  printer-release module that will trap the print 
output from each workstation, give a page count to the administrator, 
and release the print job upon appropriate payment, and f) the ability 
to grab a screen shot from any computer in use in case the user is 
reported as in violation of our Internet usage policies.

The system would automatically delete passwords from the list as soon as 
that particular log-in session is completed.

2) a client module that a) allows us to list our computer / internet 
usage policies on the log-in screen, with an "I agree" button next to 
the field where a patron enters their password to begin a session, b) an 
on-screen timer with a 'logoff' button that counts down the remaining 
time, and c) security provisions that prevent users from changing the 
wallpaper, deleting screen icons, or adding / deleting programs.

I'd like the system to be flexible enough to work either in a 
thin-client environment, or with each computer running as full Linux 
workstation.  Although Debian / Ubuntu / Gnome is my current choice, 
the  system should ideally work under any distro and window manager.

Kyle Hall from the Crawford County Federated Library system has written 
a kiosk management system in php that covers many of these bases.  I'm 
currently in a discussion with him about how his system can be expanded 
to cover more of the things on my wish list --

http://kylehall.info/index.php/about/

Thanks as well to everyone on this list who has taken an interest in 
this discussion

Cheers,
-- Darrell


[log in to unmask] wrote:
> hi Darrell,
>
> thanks for your intriguing post.
>
> a few observations; 1) this is one instance of the use of
> a GNU/Linux system which may seem to be at odds with the
> very premise of free (in the GNU sense) software, and that
> is; to NOT limit the ability of users to do things. so your
> use cases may seem odd at first, but you have a valid and
> important case.
>
> 2) many open source programmers may not be familiar with
> commercial software products (and may not want to be), so
> you might have a better chance of getting an answer if you
> do the groundwork of listing the features you are in search
> of yourself, rather than asking the list to go learn them.
>
> 3) it seems that a good desktop linux distro would allow
> an administrator or programmer to create a system (based on
> the existing pieces you mention) that might consist of a
> some shell scripts, perhaps a "lite" database, a web server,
> and client- and server-side scripts to accomplish the
> features that you list, and then provide hooks for that
> system to be made into a distributable package (e.g. Ubuntu).
>
> i wouldn't be surprised if your listing the desired features
> explicitly might seed some capable programmer's mind to suggest
> (or even spend some time coding something up) which may help
> you right away. or, it may just prompt someone to remember
> that something _does_ already exist that answers your needs.
> (i think Francis' LibPrint suggestion seems very helpful)
>
> just keep in mind that the very nature of the linux system
> is organic, and the workforce is distributed and lasseiz-faire.
> it doesn't seem to be very agile in responding to monolithic
> deficiencies (just look at how we ended up with the linux
> kernel vs. hurd :).
>
>
> [log in to unmask]
>
>

-- 
-------------------------------------
Darrell Eifert
Head of Adult Services
Lane Memorial Library, Hampton NH

"Beware the man of only one book"
Old Latin proverb

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