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.