Any PC (Windows) should work and is what we recommend at this time, primarily because there are more touch screens whose drivers work with PCs and more kiosk manufacturers who use them. (Also, there are some ready-made applications such as Seismic Eruption by Alan Jones or AmaSeis that run on PCs and can make a nice "second screen" for a display.)
It could be that for your application a Mac or Linux box will work fine, but our priority for now is the PC platform.
Select a PC that will fit inside whatever enclosure you may envision using (also see Kiosk below). We have been using Shuttle PCs, but any small form factor PC would be a fine choice, and indeed it need not be small to work. Ideally the PC will have:
- a recent model CPU such as Pentium or Celeron, say 2Ghz or faster
- 2GB RAM (1GB is OK but why take a chance)
- Windows XP (Pro or Home) Vista has not yet been tested but should be fine
- CDROM drive (DVD nice but no real need yet)
- DVI video adapter with at least 32MB RAM and supports 1280x1024 resolution, (VGA OK) - consider ordering a second display adapter if you may be running two screens off of this PC
The monitor must have a native resolution of 1280 x 1024 (SXGA). AED is designed for this resolution only.
"Native" means that at that resolution images fill the entire screen and look the sharpest and best that the monitor can display. Alternate, non-native resolutions either will be stretched slightly resulting in a blurred look, or have unused black strips on the sides or top of the display.
For touch screen monitors we have had great results with Elo Touch monitors, in particular the 1928L. They use SAW touch technology which is the more long-lived (compared to resistive), and also they seem to keep their calibration quite well, unlike some we tried. The company is knowledgeable and helpful as well. For embedding in a built-up display they have various models which have no stands and are ready to be encased in your own enclosure. We had a bad experience with Planar quality and calibration characteristics, and did not find 3M touch drivers to be of sufficient quality.
If you choose a touch screen monitor other than the Elo Touch monitors recommended above, be sure to read several reviews for your particular choice of monitor. Accuracy of touch and long term alignment vary widely among touch screen manufacturers and within price ranges. If you still need help choosing a monitor you can contact our software engineer Russ Welti at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For non-touchable installations just about any monitor will do. Naturally, flat panel LCDs with good contrast ratios and a trusted name are better choices.
We don't currently support other display resolutions, which includes most all of the recent crop of inexpensive large screen HDTV-like monitors on the market. There are a number of reasons but one good one is that we want to allow for an interactive experience, and the large screens are generally for multiple people to view from a distance, not for touching. Also, the aspect ratio of these screens tends to be wide, not squarish, so our content would not make effective use of the screen's real estate without redesigning the content (which we are looking into).
Good: T1, T3; wired cable; wired DSL; uncongested, strong wireless
So-So: congested or weak wireless; satellite; ISDN
Not Okay: dial-up connections, non 24-7 connections
Much of the content in the AED can and will be cached by your web browser, however certain items (mainly the seismicity maps) change often and therefore cannot be cached. The seismicity maps are currently about 250-300Kb in size. For this reason, we have had poor results in our tests using modems or congested wireless networks, such as at conferences, hotels or exhibition halls.
The AED frameword does support using content local to a given machine, so in the unusual case where all the content for a display were on its hard disk, a modem or slow Internet connection could be acceptable. We are, in fact, exploring a version of AED whose content would mostly come on a DVD and which would fetch seismicity maps in the background to the hard disk as a separate task from the display.
Connection types described here.
Test your connection speed here.
There are many companies which supply ready-made enclosures with many styles, heights, materials, custom artwork, dual screens, etc.
Some have wheels on the back bottom so they can be easily moved. Others can be disassembled and placed into a custom travel case for easier shipping. Some are wall-mounted.
Here is a picture of our prototype kiosk running an early version of AED:
Windows XP Pro or Home Edition. (Vista probably works but haven't tested that yet. Mac or Linux may be OK but we cannot provide much support.)
This is a very important concern. There will be those who will try to gain access to the PC, perhaps by finding a way to crash the AED software and get to the Desktop. (The topic of "PC lockdown" can be Googled for in-depth information.)
Here are six security measures that can be taken:
Minimal, Non-Administrator account
Don't run AED in a public setting from an account which has Administrator priveleges. Create a separate, "limited" account for use with AED. On this account, remove all items you can live without from the Programs menu by either deleting the program's alias from the menu, or even better by uninstalling it with Add and Remove Programs. Good things to uninstall include Word, Excel, Outlook, Messenger and Powerpoint.
Examine the Task Bar closely and consider removing any extraneous items, many of which are accessible from the Programs menu anyway.
We have installed Norton Anti-Virus software and find it to be OK, though purchasing and keeping it licensed and up-to-date via their website is difficult and annoying. A free package that seems to work fine and may be adequate for many users is called ClamWin Free AntiVirus for Windows. When installing and configuring, we generally use the defaults, except we try to avoid settings that will "notify" with popups, as they come up during AED use. Unfortunately it has been impossible to avoid some level of messages coming up from the Task Bar such as "Windows updates" and so on, but generally these dialogs only have one button "OK" or "close" so are not a danger.
AED loop-forever script
During installation you will install a simple DOS script, which is simply a forever-looping invocation of the AED software. If AED crashes (rare but possible) control returns to the script which simply invokes it again after a user-adjustable delay, during which you can press control-C to stop the script. With the delay set to zero, the AED browser comes up again so quickly after a crash that there is no opportunity to see or access anything else. It's very simple. (An administrator must use the keyboard and issue the control-alt-delete to get to the Taskbar and end the looping script or simply reboot the machine. )
PC lockdown software
Microsoft makes a free package that will convert a Windows acccount to have very few privileges and "locks down" the machine when that user is logged in. It is called Microsoft Shared Computer Toolkit. We have not used this because of the time and energy needed to install and maintain it, and a lack of information relating to the value and reliability of it. It is for libraries and Internet cafes. It looks promising but a tad complex.
Another example might be SentryPC, which can do things like hide the Desktop and Task Bar from a user for about $50.The installation instructions contain a lot of tips for making the AED account as little of a security liablilty as possible, and if the display will be in an area where staff are able to loosely monitor it then PC lockdown software may be overkill.
If you are in doubt please get additional advice on locking down your PC and/or installing the Toolkit above. IRIS cannot be responsible for the lockdown of AED PCs. We welcome advice on what might be the best solution or product to recommend.
NO LINKS in content (that you create and add to your display)
All content in your display should be devoid of links that go outside of the content. Scrutinize it carefully for any sort of link. If you include content with links, even "mailto:" for example, someone will be able to hijack the browser and from there anything is possible.
You can still have links in your content, just link to your own content.
It is best to author content explicitly for use with the display if you can.
If you link to someone else's content (aside from the content we provide of course), even if there are no linkss in the content now, they may insert them at some later time.
Hide the keyboard.
The lack of a keyboard or any way to enter text for the AED is a major limiter to how much damage unauthorized access can cause. Your keyboard should be kept locked in the display cabinet or somewhere near, but not with, the display. The AED does not use the keyboard for normal use.
At this time we are evaluating whether we want to endorse Internet Explorer or Firefox as our recommended browser. Most of our development and testing was done with Internet Explorer, because until recently, it was the browser with the best full screen support.
These instructions assume you will use IE, but if you have the expertise and want to use Firefox that's fine.
Benefits of Internet Explorer 7
Tooltips presented by such things as seismicity mouseovers can easily be made nice and large:
Filters and transitions
Some AED content uses filters or transitions which do look nice in IE. For example the first three pages of content "blend" from one to the next as you arrow, and the "did you know" lightbulb popups use a filter to "slide" in and out of view in a nice way. Full screen can be controlled by a command line parameter "-k" for kiosk. Firefox full screen mode at startup is a preference that must be turned on and off manually. ClearType really does make smoother, less pixelated text.
Necessary Plug-ins for Either Browser
The "engine" that drives the display and communicates with the IRIS server uses Flash. For convenience we would like all the displays to run the same Flash version, the latest version, version 9.
Currently required only for a couple of the pages, the "draggable globes".
We have converted most movies into Flash-encoded video, but the draggable globes are QTVR, which is an interactive form of QuickTime that has no easy conversion, so far. If you don't want QuickTime then don't install it and just don't use the two draggable globes pages.
Necessary Add-On for FireFox (2.0+) Users
- If using Firefox (2.0+) we commend the addon called "Full Fullscreen" 1.5 or higher. During installation you would also need to edit the looping script run_aed.bat to invoke FF, and make sure fullscreen is set to be on "at startup" of browser. You'd want to edit the userContent.css file. Some minor content appearance differences may exist.