Tip of the Trade: LiveKiosk

Tuesday Oct 10th 2006 by Carla Schroder

Need to provide safe and instant Internet access for random users? Replacing a hard drive with a Linux-on-bootable-CD is one way to go.

Providing Internet access for customers or visitors is always a bit scary. You don't know what weird things users are going to do or what kind of Internet cooties they're going to bring home. A great way to reduce administrative hassles and security concerns to near nil is to use LiveKiosk.

LiveKiosk is an ingenious Linux-on-bootable-CD that eliminates the need for a hard drive. It runs on any Pentium-II system or better — just boot it up, and away you go. Because it's on a read-only disc and running Firefox on Linux, LiveKiosk cannot be altered or compromised. This makes LiveKiosk perfect for a secure, low-maintenance public Internet kiosk, anywhere — be it a waiting room, conference room, reception area, employee lounge or trade shows. Users can check e-mail, surf the Web, log in to their home computers, or whatever else they want to do — with minimal risks to the host system.

LiveKiosk is available in a free-of-cost download version, a $49 download, on a $99 Disk-on-Module (it plugs directly into an IDE slot for an instant LiveKiosk), or installed on a PC with keyboard and mouse (no monitor) for $349. The free-of-cost version does not come with the Adobe Flash player, which requires a paid license to distribute, and you're stuck with the default LiveKiosk home page. Remaster the .iso (which really isn't that hard; it's a modified Knoppix, and Knoppix.net has all kinds of howtos) to change it.

The paid version includes the EZWebPC administration interface, which simplifies administration chores like configuring printing, locking down the Web browser and customizing the home page.

The folks at LinuxKiosk also sponsor Public Web Stations.com, a site devoted to setting up free public access Internet stations. Take a look at the Press & Web Coverage stories to get an idea of the possibilities when you have a Free operating system running on old hardware without licensing hassles. Using Linux and the Firefox Web browser, volunteers were able to quickly set up Internet access for hurricane Katrina victims.

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