I have been running OS X 10.5, better known as Leopard for about two hours now. My first impression – awesome. I opted for an upgrade install rather than a clean install or install/archive. My first impression is that this os X rocks. The installation was painless, took around one hour. Once installed, Spotlight took a further thirty minutes or so to index my data. I am discovering new features all the time. But what stands out so far is a feature I didn’t actually think would be that impressive. I was wrong. The ‘cover flow’ in the finder is fantastic. I can now look browse through mini documents across my harddrive. Clearly this came across from iTunes . Very impressive. Secondly, Front Row has had a major makeover. It is now basically an Apple TV! Yes that’s right. I can stream content from across my network through to it. A major step. Think of the possibilities……A server or even a NAT could be installed on the network. It would only have media on it. I could then call it up on any Mac running 10.5…… All this so far….I’ve not even begun with Time Machine yet 🙂
Now everyone knows I am an Apple fanboy. I admit it. However, I must confess that the iPhone falls far too short for my requirements. The cost, lack of 3G and the endless struggle for third party apps means it fails to scratch my itch. Perhaps most significantly the lack of IM and VOIP makes it a non starter for me.
Now, I did consider the Nokia E90 communicator as the holy grail. An all in one device that pretty much covers all the requirements. However, it has limitations. A screen that, whilst big, falls short when trying to render the latest 2.0 sites, along with other sites.
Well it looks like my wait is over. Nokia have released the latest in their line up of Linux based Internet tablets. The N810 covers all my requirements (bar mobile telephony). Quite simply, the spec is awesome. Go check it out here . I want one.
So the hot news from Apple is that OS X 10.5 is due for release on Friday 26 October. It promises to be a significant OS with over 300 new features. Perhaps some of the most noteworthy include ‘Time Machine’ an innovative approach to back up for the typical user. Other call features include a radically enhanced iChat, cover flow view on all files and a cleaver way to remotely connect to your Mac via .mac.
I know I’ll be grabbing my copy from Regent Street next week. I can’t wait.
So the guys at Ubuntu have released 7.10 earlier this week. From all accounts it seems like a pretty awesome update. The FT give it a glowing review. Perhaps a sign of just how far Linux has come these last few years…..Now I just need a laptop to run it on 🙂
Welcome to my new blog
So now the interesting work begins. To recap briefly. All
three computers are now fired up and connected via the
ADSL Gateway/router to the internet. The basics are there.
Now the task in hand is three-fold.
Firstly, to run all the necessary Windows patches on each
machine. (And as you know Microsoft do tend to release a lot
of these). This was a pain free process, if somewhat time
consuming – due to the 512k link.
Secondly, to install all the relevant applications on the
machines. Specifically, to decide the appropriate software on
the client machines. The one golden rule I applied to this
project was that I did not want your average cyber cafe
customer to install / or tamper with software on the
machines. It would be very difficult to manage and open up
all sorts of vulnerabilities.
Assuming some of the key user requirements for the client
computers I installed the following applications :
1 • Open Office (of course)
2 • MSN Messenger
3 • Yahoo Messenger
4 • Skype
5 • Internet Explorer 7 (I did review Firefox – but felt IE7
was surprisingly good – and users would be familiar
6 • Antivirus software
So in addition to the standard applications on a vanilla
Windows XP box I installed the above applications on all
three computers. Again, a relatively standard procedure – but
it required a bit of manual labour, toggling between the three
machines. Bandwidth limitation, proving, the main constraint.
But I’m not complaining – 512k is fit for purpose for a small
cyber cafe with just two primary client computers.
Finally, I made sure that the firewalls were up and running on
all three computers. Then the next step.
Phase three – cyber cafe management of software
Thirdly, I begun a short one day review of appropriate cyber
cafe management software. It is day two now. I am getting to
the crucial part of the project. The computers are now ready
for the next major step. If the project was to succeed this
was to be the key.
Being the open source geek I am, I begun the application
review of a piece of opensource cyber cafe management
software called, Cybera . This initially seemed like a sound
piece of software. It was relatively straightforward to install,
but alas a documented bug revealed its ugly head during
testing. It was proving tricky to find a work around, and I was
not impressed with some of the functionality. The
customization was quite good, but I felt it was clumsy and far
from intuitive. Failed. The search continued…..
Having tested a further two further applications (they were
too poor to mention) I opted for a proprietary application
called, CafeZee . This programme simply stood out amongst
all the others. It is based around a standard client / server
relationship. Having installed the server element on the
managers PC, I then installed the client element of the
software on the client computers. A no brainer so far.
I must confess I did struggle to get the three computers seeing
each other. Then I realized the firewalls were all running. I
disabled them all temporarily and bingo, all three could see
The user-interface (GUI) was very easy to use and it
immediately became obvious how the software worked. I
won’t go into all the features – far too many to name – but
essentially, the server controls all aspects of the clients.
Everything from simultaneous reboots through to
simultaneous shutdowns were all possible via the server.
One of the features that sold this killer application for me –
was the ability to apply lock-downs on the clients. Via the
server I was able to apply two preset security settings on the
clients. Given the nature of a cyber cafe I wanted security to
be high. I restricted everything from rebooting, software
installs, downloads and visibility of the desktop. Additionally,
I set the cache, history and cookies of IE7 to reset after each
client session – just be be sure. So each computer would
revert to its standard settings after each session.
Given the dual purpose of the computers, I set a low-level
security preset for when the computers were being used for
computer training classes. As with the whole design of the
setup, I trained the cyber cafe manager on how to make the
Client session based approach
Cafezee proved outstanding on managing the sessions for
each client. Essentially, the software generates codes and the
user, once paid, can input the code to gain access to the
computer. The pre-pay code based service, offered a
minimum of one hour per session. I also enabled a post-pay
minimum session of 30mins. The server side did all the work
– and it really impressed me. The codes could be printed out
for the customer, invoices could be prepared and sessions
could easily be extended or terminated if necessary. A
Other functionality included the client computers being able
to order additional services from the cyber cafe, such as
drinks, media and other services. This was simple to set up –
but the project executive decided not to use this functionality,
but the project executive decided not to use this functionality,
at this stage.
With the hardware and software all configured, running and
tested I begun the most important part of the project –
training. This could make or break the success of the cyber
The senior user, was a friend of the project executive – an IT
teacher in a local school. Whist she would not be able to
work daily in the cyber cafe, she would be running the IT
training classes. Furthermore, after I trained her, she would
then, in turn, train the project executive and Rene family in
running the cyber cafe.
I ran through the design, specifications and importantly,
Cafezee with the IT teacher. Clearly, she knew her stuff – and
having tested her – she was quickly able to pick up even the
most advanced features in Cafezee. I must add at this stage,
that she does have a background in IT, so it made this
potentially difficult stage very easy.
With everything running and the IT teacher up to speed, I ran
through Cafezee and the computers with the project executive
and family. Again, they quickly grasped the basics. Further
training would be had via the IT trainer.
So, by roughly day 6 the work was done. Project complete
and accepted by the customer. I am sure the cyber cafe will
be a success – and I wish them well.
This was a first for me. I had a theoretical understanding of
how I might set a cyber cafe up, but had never actually put it
into practice. I don’t pretend to claim this is the best setup –
far from it. There are open-source alternatives out there,
which may be superior. In particularly I know a thin-client
terminal server setup is often used in this type of
environment. However, I opted for a compromise solution
that everyone would be familiar with. I will state , for the
record, that Windows is far from perfect. However, in this
instance it proved the idea OS for a simple, hopefully,
sustainable cyber cafe.
I will return back to the cyber cafe in December. I’ll post a
post-project review in January next year.
The purpose of my visit to Mauritius last week was to set up
a cyber cafe in the small village of Trou Deau Douce on the
east coast of the island. It was an interesting job and
presented a number of challenges which I will identify later.
I thought it would be interesting to run through this small
project and how I went about setting it up.
The mandate for the cyber cafe came from the owner of the
existing cafe. The request was straight forward, to create a
cyber cafe. The location of the cafe would be a small room
off the existing cafe. It was decided that three computers
would be used for the project.
The primary business driver for the cyber cafe was to add an
additional service to the existing cafe. The cafe, is off the
main road in the village. As such, it was struggling to attract a
wide range of customers. It was felt that introducing a cyber
cafe would attract new customers and therefore a new
The Cyber Cafe Project
In addition to charging customers for computer access. The
mandate also required that the computers could be used for
IT training in the evening. Office services, such as
photocopying, faxing and printing were additional
Given the small scale of the project, I felt the mandate was all
that was required to successfully deliver the project. It would
serve as both business case and project initiation document.
With the mandate agreed I quickly ran through the
organization of the project board. I identified the following:
So with the project board in place, I took to organising the
procurement of the hardware. I purchased an intel celeron
windows XP box in London, along with a 14inch LCD panel
monitor. Having decided on specifications and price I then
preordered two: ASUS Intel Celeron 2.8 GHZ Windows XP
boxes and two Viewsonic 15 LCD monitors. These were
ordered locally in Mauritius.
I took the computer and monitor purchased from the UK with
me. I then arranged for the other computers to be delivered to
the cyber cafe the day I arrived there.
Prior to my arrival I recommended that we use Mauritius
Telecom’s 512k ADSL service as the internet backbone for
the computers. I gave advance notice of this and the line was
enabled ready for use when I got there.
The desks, chairs and other furniture were also in place, ready
for the arrival of the computers.
I arrived at the cafe in time for the delivery of the two
computers. The supplier set up the computers and showed me
they were in full working order.
Shortly after this, I then setup the computer purchased in the
UK. The two computers purchased locally would serve as the
the computers for customers, the UK computer would be used
for the administration of the cyber cafe, the latter was located
on the cyber cafe managers desk.
Now that all three computers were in full working order – it
was time to set up the ADSL and networking.
That morning we purchased a wired ADSL Gateway /router
from Mauritius Telecom. This was the key component in the
setup. As an ADSL modem it provided the internet
connection to the network. As a router, with four ethernet
ports, it provided the networking for all the computers. The
forth ethernet port was used as the gateway to a small,
wireless FON router I put in. I do not expect the cyber cafe to
be inundated with customers wanting to connect wirelessly
with their laptops – but you never know. Besides, it is
officially the first FON social router in Mauritius!
I begun by physically connecting the three computers to the
Gateway/router. I had purchased five ethernet cables on EbaY
and brought them with me. Each computer was now
connected via ethernet cabling to the Gateway/router.
Configuring the ADSL Gateway/router
Using the managers computer, I begun setting up the ADSL
Gateway/router, specifically, setting up the ADSL connection.
Gateway/router, specifically, setting up the ADSL connection.
The router configuration was fairly standard. it was web
based, using the routers IP address as the entry point in.
The only complication I had was a ‘mistranslation’ from
customer support at Mauritian Telecom. The had incorrectly
told me that one of the letters of the ADSL username was G,
when actually it was J . A common mistake when translating
French to English. It was eventually resolved after I got them
to spell out the username to me again.
I enabled the ADSL connection and, eureka, internet – on all
three computers! Well after a small glitch. One of the ASUS
computers did not want to connect to the network. After
calling the supplier, it turned out that whilst he was building
the computer he had connected it to a proxy server in the
workshop. It was still trying to connect to that proxy server. I
simply tweaked the network card settings to auto connect –
and it worked. I then turned on the router’s built in firewall
and moved on to phase two…
Stay tuned for Part two – in the next phase I will describe
the software I put on the machines, how I prepared ghost
images of the computers and the cyber cafe management
software I selected….
Well what do you think so far? Feel free to comment below.