Museum Internet Kiosk Tips

After gathering and refining Internet kiosking info internally, and with consultation from fellow museum workers, especially Paul Beck from Pacific Science Center, moose@pacsci.org, and Bob Raiselis from Montshire Museum of Science, Bob.Raiselis@valley.net, I thought the following notes might be helpful.

Here at LICM we run protected Internet stations that visitors access with both a trackball and a keyboard. (We want visitors to be able to type in a URL. It makes life more difficult, but that's the way our stations are configured.

-- Paul Orselli
orselli@usa.net


PLEASE NOTE: This is not a technical support document, this is just a set of tested solutions to common problems, and is provided "as is." Please don't e-mail us with all of your museum's computer questions!

 

General cross-platform suggestions

 

Wintel PC kiosk suggestions

There's a wonderful software program by Hyper Technologies called WinSelect that totally controls your browser and Windows OS. If you run Windows machines on your exhibit floor, you should really check out their website: http://www.hypertec.com/index.htm

From Barbara Wetherington:

I thought I'd let you know about two other kiosk browser programs, both of which are used here at the Museum of Science.

One is SiteKiosk (http://www.sitekiosk.com) . It requires Windows and Internet Explorer but is very secure, very easy to set up, and comes with some nice features. It's also reasonably priced, especially if you buy in bulk. Although the company is in Germany, they're very responsive and easy to deal with. It's held up very well.

Another kiosk browser I'm aware of because it's being used a vendor in our lobby. I've downloaded the trial version but haven't had a chance to do anything with it. It also requires Windows and Internet Explorer (I guess this combo is the easiest to hack). It's called NetKey (http://www.lexitech.com/).

 

Mac kiosk suggestions

Go to a site like Version Tracker ( http://www.versiontracker.com) to check out the latest freeware, shareware, and commercial software products for the Mac OS.

Some essentials in your Mac toolkit include:

 

Extra bonus notes for Mac-heads

Note 1: Netscape Kiosk with AppleScript

You can write an AppleScript script that starts up Netscape, puts it into kiosk mode, and (optionally) sets the window size to whatever you want it to be. You write the script using the script editor, which is in the Apple Extras folder (unless you've moved it). This works with Netscape Navigator 4.01, but I haven't tested it with later versions. It doesn't work with Netscape 3.x. The script can look something like this:

-- Netscape kiosk start script

	tell application "Netscape Navigator"
		activate
		set kiosk mode to 1
		set bounds of window 1 to {10, 50, 780, 580}
	end tell
	
-- end of script

In the line

set bounds of window 1 to {10,50,780,580}

the first two numbers represent the window corner location in the upper left part of the screen; the last two numbers represent the window corner location in the lower right part of the screen. These numbers would be appropriate for a screen whose resolution is set to 800 x 600. Replace them with numbers appropriate for your screen resolution.

Save a version of this script as a run-only application (that's in the File menu). Name it something like "Click Here" (if you're using AtEase -- that way it'll show up as a button on the desktop labeled "Click Here"). Check the box that says "Never show startup screen." Don't check the box that says "Stay Open." Save the script. Make an alias of the script, and call it "Kiosk Start Script." Put this alias in the Startup Items folder in the System folder.

Note 2: A few ResEdit tricks

From Paul Beck:

I just finished setting up a few new Netscape Kiosks here at PSC, and I've learned some new and good things.

First off, I changed the window style in my Netscape Kiosk application (a copy of Netscape; always work on copies with ResEdit). Use ResEdit to open the application, then open up the WIND resource picker. Inside that, open up the resource labeled "New Browser Window." You'll get a little chart of window icons to choose from.

One of these,the second in the list, has a title bar but no zoom or grow boxes. Additionally, and most importantly, there's a little box that you can un-check marked "close box." When un-checked, the window will have no close box. If there's a keyboard, visitors can still close the window with the command and W keys. [Paul Orselli says: unless you use 'Keys Off' -- see above.]

The only window problem I'm still having is a little System 8 feature: the collapse box in the upper right-hand corner of every window. If someone collapses the window, a user who doesn't know what's going on won't be able to un-collapse it. Also, unfortunately, there is no AppleScript command for doing this. I tried going into the Appearance control panel and un-checking the box marked "System-Wide Platinum Appearance." This gets rid of the collapse box but has the unfortunate side-effect of making Bartender crash the system on restart. Aiee!

Note 3: Regarding "Back" Buttons

From Bob Raiselis:

Kiosk mode means that visitors will not have access to the toolbar, where the all-important "back" button lives. For our Internet kiosk, we decided that it was more important to have the ability of users to click "home" and "back" than to hide the other visual noise on the toolbar. It's best to try it out with your visitors and staff to see what works best.

From Paul Beck:

We've been using hardware buttons to provide "back" and "home" functions without giving visitors access to the toolbar. We do this by wiring Happ Controls videogame-type buttons into a Kensington four-button TurboMouse.

The mouse gives you five possible button assignments (including a "chord" of two buttons pressed simultaneously), so that means with some finagling you can assign scripts or keystrokes to Happ buttons right on your exhibit. I should add that some squirreliness with At Ease means we have to use QuickKeys as well. If you want the sordid details I can provide them. This may no longer be possible with USB Macs; we haven't experimented with USB TurboMice. (TurboMouses? See Words and Rules, by Stephen Pinker, for a discussion of the morphology of the plural of "mouse" when applied to computer input devices. If you're interested in that kind of thing.)

This said, we give visitors in our caf&eaccute; a machine with more or less full Netscape access, and we don't seem to have much trouble.

Note 4: Those d**m frames!

From Paul Beck:

Another big pain: there are many web sites out there with poor use of frames that can cause Netscape to open additional browser windows, as well as (even worse) sites like GeoCities that open up an obnoxious "visit our sponsor" window. The moment Netscape opens a second window in kiosk mode, all of a sudden you've got the navigation toolbar back, and there's no getting rid of it without quitting the application entirely.

Although I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Netscape fan, I'm wondering if Internet Explorer lets you customize the tool bar, as do other Microsoft applications. If so, you might be able to create a custom bar with all and only the tools you want. I don't know whether IE has a kiosk mode or can be dumbed down in any way, such as removing menu items with ResEdit.

I'm waiting for the Macintosh port of Opera, which is supposed to be a nice, configurable, simple browser. It's currently only available for Windows. Check http://www.opera.com for info. It's made in Norway, and it has the minor disadvantage of costing $35 instead of being free.


Happy Surfing and Happy Y2K!

Paul Orselli
Director of Exhibits

Long Island Children's Museum
550 Stewart Avenue
Garden City, NY 11530

(516) 222-0218 Voice
(516) 222-0225 Fax
www.licm.org