Secure Family Computers with Kiosk Mode

Like most families out there, you’re likely working within either a Windows or OS X world. And why not? Much of what both platforms offer can be incredibly cool. But more often than not, families overdo things with the latest and greatest, which oftentimes translates into young and old alike installing malware without even being aware of it. You would be amazed at how often users are running as administrators, foolishly trusting that some security suite is going to keep them safe.

Sometimes setting up a kiosk just makes sense. There’s just too little value in trying to salvage a dying horse. The really good news is that you don’t have to fork over some insane cost to do this, either. Thanks to the different Linux options out there, a usable kiosk solution can be set up for free.

Family Computers In Kiosk Mode
CC licensed Flickr photo shared by Kai Hendry

Webconverger

While certainly a bit overkill in many circumstances, if there is one main PC in the house used for the Internet only, then going with a kiosk solution from Webconverger makes a whole lot of sense. Designed to be more browser than OS, Webconverger provides a very solid solution for those who honestly just use the computer to handle email and Web stuff like Facebook and Twitter. That said, it may be too limited for most people.

This brings us to our next solution. Being less heavy handed and sometimes simply opting for a locked down system approach can do wonders. In short, take an existing OS and make it a limited-user, account-only type of deal. Clearly, you as the admin will be the one to allow them to install vetted software and games. But this, alone, will cut down on the level of stupid which which you were previously being confronted.

Limited user account Windows 7

In my opinion, if users would simply use Limited User accounts for daily Web based stuff, like on Windows, life would be a whole lot simpler. The best part is setting this up is brain dead simple.

While logged in as the admin, do the following:

  1. Click on the Windows “Start” icon.

  2. Click on Control panel.
  3. Add or remove user accounts under “User Accounts and Family Safety.”
  4. Create the new account, give it a name and select standard user.
  5. Click on the Create Account button. You’re all done.

Either of the options above will work. The first solution is best suited for the small business environment when offering users free access to the Web and so on. The second is likely to be the best option for the home user. In both cases, no one is running wild with admin privileges.

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  • Stepher

    Why didi’t you mention how to set up a standard user account in OS X?

  • Stepher

    Why didi’t you mention how to set up a standard user account in OS X?

  • Jacob Burrell

    I have the Acer chromebook and I agree that they are too expensive.

  • Jacob Burrell

    I have the Acer chromebook and I agree that they are too expensive.

  • Anonymous

    I agree, there is NO way these things are going to take off. I had a regular Toshiba Satellite that was 499 as well, and it was a full featured laptop that anyone could just install Chrome on…

    These things need to be closer to the $99 range to be worth anything, when you can buy a netbook for $199 and still get more out of it than just web browsing.

  • Anonymous

    I agree, there is NO way these things are going to take off. I had a regular Toshiba Satellite that was 499 as well, and it was a full featured laptop that anyone could just install Chrome on…

    These things need to be closer to the $99 range to be worth anything, when you can buy a netbook for $199 and still get more out of it than just web browsing.

  • Kyle Polansky

    Chromebooks really do a great job with their software. The power of web applications, and lack of anti-virus and worrying about updates is worth a lot. I believe Google is creating a great OS, and is trying hard to make it better, but not enough people look at it that way. Comparing to a Windows computer, you pretty much sign in with your Google account, and everything is set up for you. With Windows, so much crap is installed to begin with, I usually have to go out and buy a new install disk just to start over from scratch. I then have to start transferring all of my files and re-installing programs. Once the programs are installed, I have to configure the settings of each one to how it was before. With Chrome OS, you know that you will always have access to the entire OS for free, and many applications like office, have free alternatives (Google Docs) on Chrome OS, which in most cases are a lot easier to manage. Sure they can’t do everything, but for most use cases, they will work fine. If you need advanced software, it most likely won’t be running on a low-end computer anyway.

  • Kyle Polansky

    Chromebooks really do a great job with their software. The power of web applications, and lack of anti-virus and worrying about updates is worth a lot. I believe Google is creating a great OS, and is trying hard to make it better, but not enough people look at it that way. Comparing to a Windows computer, you pretty much sign in with your Google account, and everything is set up for you. With Windows, so much crap is installed to begin with, I usually have to go out and buy a new install disk just to start over from scratch. I then have to start transferring all of my files and re-installing programs. Once the programs are installed, I have to configure the settings of each one to how it was before. With Chrome OS, you know that you will always have access to the entire OS for free, and many applications like office, have free alternatives (Google Docs) on Chrome OS, which in most cases are a lot easier to manage. Sure they can’t do everything, but for most use cases, they will work fine. If you need advanced software, it most likely won’t be running on a low-end computer anyway.

  • Diljit Babbra

    In essence, isn’t Chromebook just like a Kindle for the internet, simply a dedicated internet ‘reader’ with a built-in keyboard? No doubt, listening to the recent Google IO, the Chrome browser experience would be slick. A better alternative, Asus Eeepad Transformer, seems to be comparable in price yet its a full-function tablet that can be detached from the keyboard – it offers the best of both worlds. Currently, I’d choose Asus Transformer over CB, unless the 250 or much less price kicks in. I don’t own an Asus product nor have any connections with the company.

  • Diljit Babbra

    In essence, isn’t Chromebook just a ‘dumb’ internet reader with a built-in keyboard? Asus Eeepad Transformer seems to be comparable in price yet the tablet can be detached from the keyboard – it offers the best of both worlds. Its also an atrractive design compared to CB’s ‘corporate’ matt black finish. Currently, I’d choose Asus Transformer over CB, unless the 250 price kicks in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/theradcoder Kerwin Roslie

    @ $350 – $500 you can forget about me buying one… I was excited with the initial talks of sub $250 but the current price point is higher than you can get a more capable full computer for.

  • http://www.facebook.com/theradcoder Kerwin Roslie

    @ $350 – $500 you can forget about me buying one… I was excited with the initial talks of sub $250 but the current price point is higher than you can get a more capable full computer for.

  • Dick Eastman

    I have the Samsung Chromebook and use it occasionally. HOWEVER, the Chromebooks were never designed for technically-competent people, such as the readers of Lockergnome. The target audience includes students, truck drivers, housewives, retirees, and lots of other non-techies. Jason Perlow wrote in ZDnet: “Chromebooks: The choice of the AARP generation?” See http://www.zdnet.com/blog/perlow/chromebooks-the-choice-of-the-aarp-generation/17592
    I’d say he was right on.

    Don’t compare the Chromebook to other laptops with all sorts of elegant features. If you do, you will miss the point. Hand a Chromebook to your mother and ask her to use it. That will give you far better picture of how well it works.

  • Anonymous

    i have this Compaq 511, which has a 2Gb RAM, and its really hard to find the difference.
    UNTIL my ram went 97% because of Google chrome. with 97% ram usage the machine usually slows down (like you experience a few freeze when doing some task) but with Readyboost, that problem almost doesn’t Happen.

    and since my HDD is just beneath my palm (due to the hardware architecture of my laptop) I can feel that its more Hot without Readyboost than when there is; this happens especially when playing graphics-intensive games.

  • Anonymous

    I thought Engadget or Tomshardware did a major testing and there were only like a half dozen specific thumb drives that actually worked and sped things up? So you were forced to buy one of those drives if you wanted Readyboost to function correctly as Microsoft intended. All I remember now is that it required specific read and write times which were only produced by the half drives. All other drives were too slow.

  • http://twitter.com/presbyter180641 Gerry Mueller

    With Windows 7 x64, a fast multi-core processor, and enough memory, there is really no advantage to ready-boost, and there may be disadvantages. If you are trying to run on a marginal machine, your milage may improve slightly.
    In my case, and it may be machine-specific (Core i7 860 processor @2.8 GHz, 16 GB RAM), what little improvement I noticed weith a very few applications by using a 16 GB thumb-drive for ready-boost was totally negated by the machine hanging early on in the boot-up sequence for both re-starts and cold starts. Some experimenting and turning on verbose boot-up mode in my BIOS showed that the boot sequence hung on identifying the USB port into which the ready-boost drive was plugged. Pulling that drive removed the problem.
    Given that noticing the hang, powering down, waiting for drives to spin-down, powering back up hoping that the next boot would work took several minutes per cycle, it was obivious that any few seconds here or there saved by ready-boost were more than lost by the increased boot-up times, even if I only re-booted every few days.
    Unless you are trying to squeeze a marginal improvement in performance out of a marginal machine, forget about it.