SOLVED: Mint in an internet cafe setting? Here are some tips

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SOLVED: Mint in an internet cafe setting? Here are some tips

Postby .William. on Thu Mar 03, 2011 10:42 pm

Hi there,

I am a part-time volunteer in a community center and also a happy Linux Mint user at home.
Next to that I do open source software programming and translations but thats not the topic here.
In the community center bar, or better, we call it a café, we also have two (rather old) computers that visitors mainly use to surf the web
and check online e-mails (mostly GMAIL). Currently they are running on Windows XP and they are just so extremely slow that they are
slowly becoming useless as the modern day web content becomes more and more heavy.
Sites like Youtube use a lot of resources.
So I decided that I am going to try to find some company that may want to donate their old computers to replace our old computers in the café.
Still with me ? :roll:
And on these replacement I like to see a Linux taking over from Windows, but I'll need to find the right way to do it and I will need to convince some people
that didn't even know about the existence of Linux before I told them about it.
So I need to find the right Linux for an internet café kind of setting I guess.

Nice side effect of my project would be that this way I would introduce a lot of mostly younger people with little money to the colorful world of Linux.

I looked at the Netbook Ubuntu of which I like the interface, but that wasn't designed for usage in a desktop setting. I understand it was optimized for the typical netbook hardware.
So is there perhaps some distro out there that was designed for this ?
Should I start thinking Google Chrome OS ? Or assemble my own openSUSE ?
Internet-surfing, Online-mail, Clean, fast, simple and pretty are my key words.
it will need to appeal to the age-group of 16 - 24 years as well.

I'd really appreciate any help I can get with this. :D
Last edited by .William. on Tue May 31, 2011 5:15 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Mint in an internet cafe setting?: Need advice

Postby Aging Technogeek on Thu Mar 03, 2011 10:59 pm

Mint LXDE may work for you. You can remove any apps you feel are not needed in your setup and just leave Firefox or Google Chrome as web browsers. LXDE out of the box is fast and clean and can be made pretty without much effort.

If you were to decide on LXDE, the Mint 9 version is a long term release so it will be supported until May of 2013. This might be a big factor in a public setting; not changing the OS as often to keep up with releases.

The Mint Main Edition would work well as long as the machines meet the minimum install requirements (see the main page for release notes). You can strip out most of the installed apps and the Gnome desktop is easier to pimp out than LXDE and has more eye candy available.
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Re: Mint in an internet cafe setting?: Need advice

Postby .William. on Fri Mar 04, 2011 12:09 am

Thanks for your reply, A.T.
Do you know if I were to opt for that (tempting since it are Mint options) solution, are there applications available so that after the
installation, and after stripping 'undesired' applications from it, I could just 'lock it down' so users can't 'do any harm' on it, like installing
new applications ?
I really like the Unity desktop, for it's simplicity and pleasant look, is that (or similar) available on Mint too ?
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Re: Mint in an internet cafe setting?: Need advice

Postby masqueofaghost on Fri Mar 04, 2011 4:31 am

Set it up with a user account which doesn't have sudo privilege. On Ubuntu based systems you can just remove the user name from /etc/sudoers.
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Re: Mint in an internet cafe setting?: Need advice

Postby Aging Technogeek on Fri Mar 04, 2011 6:36 am

You do not need to set up a non-sudoer account, just do not let anyone know your password. You can set up the OS to boot without asking for a password so you do not need to be the one to turn on the system every day, but your password will still be required to add or remove programs ,or even something as simple as setting the time.

Any change to the OS requires a password entry, so if you are the only one with the password, you are the only one (in theory) who can change anything. Of course it will be possible for a sufficiently knowledgeable user to crack your password, given physical access, any computer can be hacked, but Linux is as secure if you do not advertise your password as it can be in any circumstance.
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Re: Mint in an internet cafe setting?: Need advice

Postby lucas-azazer on Fri Mar 04, 2011 8:06 am

If your still waiting for a desktop version of unity, you can wait for the end of march. The software will be ready on the... 28th if I'm not wrong, and so far it is looking just great!
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Re: Mint in an internet cafe setting?: Need advice

Postby Pilosopong Tasyo on Fri Mar 04, 2011 12:34 pm

Hello .William.,

I run an internet café, and here's how I had set up my terminals. I hope these suggestions would be of help. BTW, I use the Main Edition (DVD version) of Mint 9.

o GDM LOGIN

Use auto-login. Since these are public terminals there's no need for separate accounts. Just create one account and set up the system to skip the GDM Login screen and directly boot to the desktop. It shaves off a few seconds from the boot-up sequence. That's the trade-off.

o KIOSK MODE

Probably one of the more important things you'll want to consider first is preventing the user from casually messing up the interface. By this I mean the wallpaper, the main menu and other panel items. Definitely you will want to lock them down.

Enter: kiosk mode. To achieve this, you'll have to customize the default panel. Keep it simple -- you don't need two panels. One will suffice. Move it to the top of the screen instead of its default position at the bottom. Why at the top? Simple reason: less mouse movement between the window list and application menus & window buttons. YMMV, of course. If you want to keep it at the bottom, that's your preference.

Next, remove panel applets that your users shouldn't see or normally shouldn't have a reason to access. You will definitely have to remove the Mint Menu. It's so configurable that it's quite easy for a casual user to mess up the entries. So, in lieu of the Mint Menu, put launchers on the panel instead. Or, if you don't want too many launchers cluttering the panel, use the Drawer panel applet to hold these launchers. Never put launchers on the desktop. It's easy to move them around, re-arrange and remove. It's better to have them affixed on the panel or inside the Drawer.

And then there's pessulus -- the Gnome Lockdown Editor. I mainly use this tool (it's in the repos btw) to lock down the panels. That way, a casual user can't do a right-click on a panel and start adding/moving/changing/deleting items at their whim.

o FIREFOX KIOSK MODE

There are two main reasons why I'd rather stick with Firefox (for now) despite claims that browser X is faster or browser Y is feature-packed as compared to Firefox: (1) Public Fox and (2) Hide GUI Bars. Both are add-ons and both are fantastic in putting Firefox in kiosk mode, especially Public Fox.

It might be unnecessary for the user to gain access to Firefox's menus and start messing around with the settings. Hide GUI Bars will do the hiding nicely. Public Fox is quite useful if you want to restrict access to certain features. I will not discuss what those features are in this thread. Doing so is already beyond the scope of this post. Some external reading is recommended.

o CLEANUP SHELL SCRIPT

You mentioned in your original post that you also do programming on the side. You might want to peruse at the following script to give you an idea how to restore certain desktop settings.

restorehome.sh
directory.structure
original.xdg
original.bookmarks

o CREATE A REMASTER OF YOUR CUSTOMIZATIONS

Once you're done customizing your ideal system, do a remaster. Remastersys is pretty good. I was able to cut down setup time for 6 other terminals to less than an hour once the ideal system was set up. Some external reading is recommended.

Hope this helps and good luck!

EDIT: BTW here's a screenshot of one of the public terminals. As you will notice, the panel's at the top, only the essential applets are on the panel, and in lieu of the Mint Menu, I used the Drawer applet to show the only applications I want the user to see. I also used conky to display some stats and a short notice for the user. For Firefox, I employed the HideGUIBars and PublicFox add-ons to lock it down.

atom7-screenshot.png
atom7-screenshot.png (426.11 KiB) Viewed 5988 times
Last edited by Pilosopong Tasyo on Sat Mar 05, 2011 12:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mint in an internet cafe setting?: Need advice

Postby DrHu on Fri Mar 04, 2011 3:02 pm

If it is mainly Internet web surfing or web based email services, then it almost doesn't matter
--except to keep it lightweight desktop

Any Linux distribution that appears easy enough to use, should suffice

I don't think any convincing is needed, you just have to say we use Firefox here not Internet explorer
--that will eliminate 90% of the problems

If you had the time, you could even go the thin client mode (like KDE kiosk, Gnome has something somewhat similar)

Thin client computing..
There are commercial products; special purpose built computers that operate as thin clients
--often with no fans, and low power requirements, although they can be more expensive than a regular PC (also operated as a thin client computer)

--you need to have one extra machine as a server, but this is in fact an advantage, as..
  • Server based system enables you to better manage/control users and their data
    --you can quickly reset or repair an user corruption of the client (thin client) system)
  • If you use web cache such as squid, you can improve te browsing experience (speed) for clients..
http://www.linux.com/archive/feature/116354
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Re: Mint in an internet cafe setting?: Need advice

Postby .William. on Sun Mar 20, 2011 1:17 pm

This is all very helpful information, and I will certainly use it to my advantage !
Pilosopong Tasyo; thanks for your extensive help and tips. DSrHu, you also many thanks for your input.
The internet café is for a community center and the new computers will come from some office donating them to us.
So we cant expect miracles just decent working desktops that (still) are an improvement to the current situation.

I will try to create one setup and then duplicate it for the other computers. And if I could pre-make an installation at home on my PC using virtualisation that would safe me a lot of time. :mrgreen:
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Re: Mint in an internet cafe setting?: Need advice

Postby Pilosopong Tasyo on Mon Mar 21, 2011 12:09 am

You're welcome!

By the way, I almost forgot. There are two more tools you might want to read about:

1. lethe
2. ofris

They are similar to Windows' SteadyState and the commercial product DeepFreeze. Basically what they do is protect the partition such that any changes made while the computer is being used will be removed on the next reboot. I haven't tried them though, so I cannot attest how effective they are. But from the looks of the reviews I've read they look promising.

If you're interested in other tools I used for the café, don't hesitate to post back in this thread. :D

HTH, good luck, and keep us posted of your progress!
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Re: Mint in an internet cafe setting?: Need advice

Postby Robin on Mon Mar 21, 2011 7:47 am

I kept an old hand-me-down Dell at the dance studio for kids to use between classes. They did homework and saved it to thumb drives. They did Facebook and web-mail, even edited music to write their own dance routines. Most of them had no idea they were using Linux! Occasionally when someone remarked about how very fast that old dinosaur was (still is - I left it at the dance studio), and how simple and easy to use, I'd offer them a LiveCD!

At first I used minimal Ubuntu with LXDE. Super-simple, blazing fast, and fixed up with pretty wallpaper and stuff. When I left, I had loaded a minimal Xubuntu-like custom mixture which was equally fast, simple, and pretty. And LTS so they wouldn't have to mess with anything.

Kids love it! One of my favorite fellow dancers even wrote this article about how she ended up an enthusiastic Linux user at home because of her experience with it on a borrowed laptop and at the studio.

I second the LXDE motion (too "Win 98-ish" for my taste though), and also recommend Mint 9 Xfce if the 'puter has 512 RAM or better.

And by the way, it's a way cool thing you're doing! On behalf of the future users and "converts" to Linux, thank you!

On the road with Papa,
Home-Schooling in a big rig,
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Re: SOLVED: Mint in an internet cafe setting? Here are some

Postby jessie1238 on Mon Mar 26, 2012 3:14 pm

hi,

im a newbie on linux. if you will be using any linux distro for internet cafe as the OS, are there any licensing fee? or all the distro free to be used but not the server version.

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Re: SOLVED: Mint in an internet cafe setting? Here are some

Postby Pilosopong Tasyo on Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:40 pm

jessie1238 wrote:if you will be using any linux distro for internet cafe as the OS, are there any licensing fee? or all the distro free to be used but not the server version.jessie

Hello jessie1238 and welcome to the forum. I received your message a while ago and I hope you won't mind if I answer your queries through the forum instead of private message.

AFAIK regarding licensing, [most] Linux software fall under the GNU GPL. Simply put, the GPL grants you the freedom to use, change and [re]distribute the software. Unlike Microsoft software, there are no expensive+prohibitive licensing and yearly rental rights agreement fees. Usually, you will find the GNU GPL legalese when you click Help > About > License in the application. You can also find the GPL legalese via search engine. So, if by chance PAPT/OMB/NBI conduct their raid in your province and your café, you can show them the license.

If you don't mind me asking, what province you're putting up your café?

If you have other questions, feel free to post them in the forum. :)
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Re: SOLVED: Mint in an internet cafe setting? Here are some

Postby xenopeek on Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:04 am

Hi Jessie, as you can read here http://www.linuxmint.com/about.php, Linux Mint is free of cost :wink: You can install it as many times as you want, on desktops, laptops or servers.

You should note however that depending on your country, as a company, you may want to run the CD version of Linux Mint instead of the DVD version. See here http://www.linuxmint.com/download.php; "For magazines, companies and distributors in the USA, Japan and countries where the legislation allows patents to apply to software and distribution of restricted technologies may require the acquisition of 3rd party licenses."
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Re: SOLVED: Mint in an internet cafe setting? Here are some

Postby jessie1238 on Tue Mar 27, 2012 4:31 pm

thanks a lot guys for the info. i've been playing around with the desktop distro for my home desktop. Pilosopong Tasyo sa Marinduque ko balak, para makatulong sa brother ko at ermats. im here in vancouver and just trying to help them. at the same time i really want to learn about linux. thanks again.
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Re: SOLVED: Mint in an internet cafe setting? Here are some

Postby jessie1238 on Wed Apr 04, 2012 1:50 pm

hi guys, i would like to ask for some guides on setting-up a system for the small cafe with about 10 units using linux as the OS. is having a server recommended on this kind of system, would i use LTSP on this? will mint 9 or 10 be used on the server okay? im a just starting to learn linux and a little confused. P. Tasyo, i would appreciate if you could give me simple type of setup that you use. the users on this would also like gaming and internet most of the time. thanks in advance.
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Re: SOLVED: Mint in an internet cafe setting? Here are some

Postby Pilosopong Tasyo on Thu Apr 05, 2012 1:30 am

jessie1238 wrote:is having a server recommended on this kind of system, would i use LTSP on this?

It depends on your target market and your requirements. Are you going to offer other services (printing, encoding, editing, etc.) apart from the basic internet access to your community? Are you planning on automating the timekeeping chores or is timekeeping done manually? Thin or fat clients? Diskless or Multi-PC setup? pfSense+Lusca cache? Each have their own pros and cons (and a lot of research/reading, and the dreaded T&E).

The most basic and simplest setup (read: least headache) is you don't need a server and all terminals are fat clients. However, if you want to automate timekeeping, and/or offer other services as well, and/or use LTSP/thin clients/diskless/multi-pc setup, then you definitely need a server.

jessie1238 wrote:will mint 9 or 10 be used on the server okay?

I tend to go from one LTS to the next, both server and clients. Since stability is more important rather than cutting-edge releases and applications (at least to me), LTS versions are a logical choice. Mint 9 was the last LTS and will be supported until midyear 2013. The next LTS (Mint 13) will be due within the next few months, and since it is based on Ubuntu LTS, will be supported for 5 years.

jessie1238 wrote:i would appreciate if you could give me simple type of setup that you use.

Well, my setup is really simple. Since I don't cater to gamers (read: Windows gamers), I didn't need high-end machines. All terminals are Intel Atom-based fat clients. No diskless, no multi-pc, no LTSP -- less headache. :lol: The whole network is on wireless LAN (I didn't like unsightly ethernet cables running all over the place), so, there's no need for a separate switch. And it's easier to relocate the terminals. I also have a server, used to handle all other work (printing, encoding, timekeeping, etc.). The server is on wireless as well.

jessie1238 wrote:the users on this would also like gaming and internet most of the time.

What kind of games? If it's browser or native Linux games, then that's fine. But, seeing that Pinoys are more keen on playing [MMORPG] games based on the Windows platform, you will have to look into the WINE project for more information.

HTH.
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Re: SOLVED: Mint in an internet cafe setting? Here are some

Postby jessie1238 on Thu Apr 05, 2012 5:07 pm

wow! that's a lot of info. thank's very much. i think im just gonna go with the less headache setup. thanks again. have a great day.
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Re: SOLVED: Mint in an internet cafe setting? Here are some

Postby .William. on Sat May 26, 2012 11:50 am

jessie1238 wrote: i think im just gonna go with the less headache setup. thanks again. have a great day.


To run an Internet café completely without any headache would be impossible imo (since you'll work with youths), but that's off-topic. :lol:

Good luck and don't hesitate to share your experiences with Linux Mint in an Internet café setting with us, so the developers may learn from it. :)
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Re: SOLVED: Mint in an internet cafe setting? Here are some

Postby ericjo357 on Mon Sep 02, 2013 1:33 am

hi jess1238, im from that province and i have further knowledge in setting up a cafe using linux mint, i am very much willing to help... please feel free to email me.... -eric from Santa Cruz...
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