Library Kiosk Computers

The idea behind a kiosk computer is a computer that simply does one task – in most cases serve a web page or pages, but is otherwise locked down so that the user cannot surf away from those pages or make other changes to the machine.  You’ve probably seen kiosk computers in museums, airports, and other places.  They may appear to be a single function computer but the dirty little secret is that underneath, many of them are running Windows.  The program you see is simply a special kiosk program designed to lock the machine down to one task.

If you think you have no need for a kiosk computer, think about how many times you’ve walked up and found that your library catalog computers are not ready for use because someone has closed the web browser or otherwise tampered with the machines.  Kiosk software prevents at least some casual tampering.

We’re fortunate to live in the age of community open-source software, where many people collaborate for the greater good.  If you’re in need of a kiosk solution, I recommend that you check out Open Kiosk

The way to use Open Kiosk is this:

  1. Take a low-end computer (one that is too old for most tasks)
  2. Ideally, reformat the hard drive and re-install Windows (make sure you have the Windows CD or another recovery method first!)
  3. Install Windows updates but no other software.
  4. Install Open Kiosk
  5. Drop a shortcut to Open Kiosk into the Startup folder on your All Programs or All Apps menu.

On first boot, Open Kiosk will let you set an Administrator password and drop you in to the admin console.  From there, simply set your homepage, and define other properties of Open Kiosk, like whether the kiosk should re-set to the homepage after a certain time period, and whether or not Open Kiosk displays the URL address bar.   Set your preferences, quit the program and re-start it and you are ready to go.  Tip: from now on, to get to the admin password prompt, press SHIFT+F1 at any time while the kiosk is running.

For more security, you may need to disable CTRL+ALT+DEL and some other functions via Group Policy in Windows, however we’re not going to cover that here.  In most cases, the casual user lock down security that Open Kiosk provides will be exactly what the doctor ordered.