What is the Active Earth Monitor (AEM)?

The IRIS AEM is a simple-to-implement, inexpensive way to provide real-time seismology and other Earth science information to a wide audience. The AEM is not a piece of software per se; instead it is a set of content pages that run entirely from within a standard web browser.  The browser's home page is set to be your AEM web address, so that when the browser comes up in full screen mode, the user sees what looks like specialized software and cannot necessarily tell that he or she is using a browser.  The web pages can be viewed interactively, such as with a touch screen or mouse, or as an automatically cycling non-interactive display.

How do I acquire my own AEM Website?

Sign up here: http://www.iris.edu/aed2/apply/index.phtml

Can I view a sample AEM before designing my own?

Yes, the following AEM contains all IRIS-developed links and has been configured to be interactive:  http://www.iris.edu/aed2/index.phtml?code=IRIS

How much does it cost?

It is free to create and access your own AED Website; however, you will need an Internet connection, PC with Windows XP Pro or Home Edition, and monitor with a native resolution of 1280 x 1024.

Is the AEM customizable?

Yes, any link (local or remote) can be inserted into the display easily.  Each AEM Website host has the option to configure their site as they see fit either by using all or some of the IRIS-developed content pages or a mixture of IRIS pages and non-IRIS pages that they or someone else have created.  For a detailed view and explanation of the AEM configure control screen, click here: http://www.iris.edu/hq/programs/education_and_outreach/museum_displays/active_earth/aed_setup_3/.  When the AEM launches it connects to IRIS and retrieves the list of content links you have configured for your particular AEM Website. It then cycles the content according to either user button presses (interactive mode) or idle timeouts (non-interactive).

How do I add my own content?

The AED configuration screen (see http://www.iris.edu/hq/programs/education_and_outreach/museum_displays/active_earth/aed_setup_3/ for more information) is used to configure and modify each display.  Up to 25 links can be specified. They are either of type “IRIS” (for IRIS-developed content pages) or “other”. They are inserted by checking the INSERT checkbox at the screen bottom and pressing SAVE.  They can also be disabled temporarily with the ENABLED checkbox on the extreme right of the configure control screen.  In addition, their order can be changed with the link number popup on the extreme left of the screen.

Does the AEM have to be interactive such that a user is required to advance the pages either via a touch screen or mouse?

No.  The display can be set up to be non-interactive such that it automatically moves forward from page to page or skips to a page of your choice at a time interval of your choosing between 30 and 900 seconds. The General Seismicity pages are the only pages that are designed to function as non-interactive pages. All other content set pages have interactive elements (questions, pop up boxes and touchable Flash rollovers).

Can I keep a user from exiting the AEM and surfing the Internet without my approval?

  • Yes.  First and foremost you scrutinize any content that you are adding other than what IRIS provides for links which take the viewer away from that page. Any links at all, hidden or visible, are dangerous, since the user can get out of your intended display that way.
  • Secondly, we suggest running your AEM in full screen mode, so that the browser completely fills the screen and no toolbars are visible to the user. 
  • Finally, we have created a script that can be used to invoke the browser repeatedly so that if the PC or browser should crash, it will prevent someone from getting access to the computer’s Desktop.  The script puts up a DOS window that says,  “Press any key to begin”. When you press a key it launches your AEM within the browser. If you quit the browser, or it should somehow be terminated, you will again see the DOS script window. If you do not act within a few short seconds, the script relaunches the browser and you are back in the AEM.  Instructions for downloading the script, and more information on setting up the display and the computer on which it will be used, can be found here: http://www.iris.edu/hq/programs/education_and_outreach/museum_displays/active_earth/aed_setup_1/.

Do I need to purchase a standalone kiosk for the AEM?

No.  The AEM is well suited to a standalone kiosk display but it is not necessary.  All that is needed is a PC running Windows XP or higher or a Mac running OSX with Internet access and a monitor with a native resolution of 1280 x 1024.  For more information on hardware requirements, click here: http://www.iris.edu/hq/programs/education_and_outreach/museum_displays/active_earth/requirements

What browser should I use?

We recommend running the AED in Internet Explorer 7 because it offers options such as built-in full-screen lockout mode, ClearType fonts, and filters and content transitions that can make the AED more aesthetically pleasing.  (For example, the “Did you know?” lightbulbs use a filter to “slide in and out” of view in a nice way).  However, Firefox (2.0+) may be used if desired, though you must obtain your own full-screen extension.  For more information on software requirements, click here: http://www.iris.edu/hq/programs/education_and_outreach/museum_displays/active_earth/requirements

Where can I purchase a standalone kiosk and how much do they typically cost?

A Goggle search for kiosks will reveal many options for manufacturers and styles.  Depending on the number of monitors and other options, a kiosk will cost approximately $4000-5000.

How will I know if there are going to be IRIS server outages that will affect my usage?

We will make every effort to alert you via email to planned servicing that may affect the access and use of your Active Earth Display.

Is there a minimum bandwidth I need for the Internet connection?

A cable or decent DSL connection (i.e. not sharing the bandwidth with a lot of other processes/users) is the effective minimum.  You need at least a low-end DSL (512 kbps). Most cable and DSL nowadays is fine for the AED.

Can I use a wireless Internet connection?

  • Yes, but not if the wireless is shared with lots of other users/PCs such as in a library or cafe setting.
  • If you are a cable or DSL connection you should be fine. Wireless (at between 5 and 50 Mbps / second) is usually faster than your Internet connection (around .5 to 10 Mbps ).
  • If you have T2 or better than wireless could slow you down unless both ends use 802.11g or faster.
  • To compare speeds see http://www.pixelbeat.org/speeds.html
  • Ask your IT-savvy computer person about your Internet speeds and your wireless connection cards (802.11a,b,g etc)
  • You can measure your effective total throughput at a candidate location here http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/

Can I use a Mac instead of a PC?

It could be that a Mac or Linux box will work fine, but our priority for now is the PC platform.  Any PC with a recent copy of Windows should work.

But why PC/Windows?

  • There are more touch screens whose drivers work with PCs and more kiosk manufacturers who use them. 
  • Seismic instrumentation in general, such as digital analog converters, are much more available for the PC platform.
  • There are some interesting applications, such as Seismic Eruption or AmaSeis by Alan Jones, that run only on PCs and can make a nice "second screen" for a display. 

Can I run the AEM on Vista instead of Windows?

The AEM should run fine on Vista, but we have not tested it at this time.