Deskside Project: Public Library Computers

April 19, 2010

Over the weekend, I worked on two computers from my local public library. These computers are used for the Children’s Library area and offer educational games for children of all ages. The computers are somewhat old (2002) and slow, but run these simple little games just fine. The project included: cleaning the inside of the computers, reinstalling Windows XP Home, installing a virtual CD application, installing educational software, installing Windows SteadyState.

What we learned on this project:

  • Windows XP takes HOURS to install. I probably should have found a source installation that had everything up to Service Pack 3. Meh. I forgot all about that.
  • Virtual CD drives are terrific. There are several applications out there, but I like PowerISO. This allows me to create a virtual jukebox of all the games without requiring the CD to be inserted.
  • Windows SteadyState is pretty nice. It locks down the computer so that designated users cannot make any changes. There are many options to customize for this purpose. Perfect for kids… and libraries! The worst part is that it’s only compatible with XP and Vista. Microsoft dumped it with Windows 7 and removed a comparable “Guest Mode” from their retail product when it was launched. I hope it reappears in a service pack.
  • Storing your computer on the floor is a BAD idea, particularly on carpeting. There was so much dust inside the computers! Everything had a blanket on it. I was surprised nothing burned out. Very surprised.

Previously, these computers were attached to network storage that allowed the games to be accessed across a network. While this worked well, it required two extra pieces of hardware that were eliminated by the virtual CD application — less power consumption, and less chance of something going wrong. As it turns out, the file server deleted its contents, for an unknown reason, and that’s why I was called in to begin with. It was fun consolidating everything and creating a more effective environment for the Children’s Library. Not only was my solution virtually maintenance-free, but it’s more green, too! 🙂