Securing Public Access Computers: Some Alternatives to Windows SteadyState

After I wrote about Windows 7 and SteadyState last week, Sarah Washburn asked me a question that led me to look up some of the alternatives to Windows SteadyState that might help libraries secure and manage their public access computers if they’re really anxious to leave behind XP and/or Vista for Windows 7.

Windows 7 and Shared Computers

Microsoft released a new version of Windows last fall, a recurring event that always results in new decisions and new questions for libraries, especially those that provide shared, public access computers.  Perhaps the most pressing question for small and budget-strapped libraries is, “Is Windows 7 compatible with Windows SteadyState?"

Notes from the back room of a small rural library: this I believe

I was driving to work one day, down the miles of dirt road, listening to an audio book version of the This I Believe. This I Believe is a radio program of the personal philosophies of folks the what they believe to be true. (Hmm.., you say, I thought this was a tech blog. I'll get there..never fear, but I warn you this will be a looooong train.)

What is your public computer's DNA?

Everything we do at MaintainIT is based on the experiences we gather from librarians and staff about maintaining public computers. We interview libraries each week, but another way we hear from libraries is through a link on our web site where we invite folks to share their experiences with us.

Just yesterday, we heard from Christopher Davis at the Uintah County Library in Vernal, Utah. Christopher described how his library's public computers are set up, using the analogy of DNA.

Is SteadyState 2.5 Worth an Upgrade?

A few years ago I worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s U.S. Library Program help desk, where I fielded thousands of calls about the peculiar difficulties of making a computer available for public use. Later when Microsoft released Windows SteadyState 2.0 (formerly known as the Shared Computer Toolkit), a free program that protects public computers and makes them easier to manage, I wrote some articles on how to install it and configure it.

Locking it down: a comprehensive look at SteadyState

Many of the libraries that contributed to the Cookbook extol virtues on software that "locks down" or "wipes clean" their public computers. As any librarian will tell you, much of the maintainance of computers is derived from reversing what patrons left behind. Faye Hover from Smith-Welch Memorial Library may have said it best, "because I'm sick to death of coming in in the morning and having everything changed--the background, they would change the wallpaper. I needed something that can prevent them from doing all of this."