Chromeboxes and Chromebooks are perfect computers for the public computer environment.
- The use of Chrome OS eliminates the need for disk protection (such as deep freeze), and virus protection.
- You will not have to purchase updates, as they are automatically installed.
- You will never have to worry about updating to a new version such as going from Windows XP to Windows 7.
Our LibData software integrates perfectly with Chrome OS
Installation is quick and simply requires you to add the LibData App to your Chrome devices through the Google Chrome Management Console for all you Chromeboxes or Chromebooks. You can also integrate the Chrome computers with PCs and Macs and control them all from a single Staff PC.
Asus Chromeboxes are currently selling for $159 and the power usage is approximately 20% of a standard desktop. At this cost you can increase the number of computers available to your patrons.
With LibData’s software along with the Chrome Device Manager software you will be able to authenticate your patrons and control how long and how often they are on the computers.
LibData’s ChromeOS print management allows your patrons to print to a managed print queue on a staff computer for staff release or print to a LibData Release station with an attached vending system where they can release their own print jobs. The print manager will work with your existing printer.
LibData Cloud Printing is also available and works in conjunction with the Chrome print manager to allow your patrons to print from anywhere – even from their home – and have the printjob sent to the LibData staff release printqueue or release station.
The control software also works with PCs and Macs. You can have any combination of PCs, Macs, and Chrome OS devices all running at the same time and with the same control software.
Yes, Google’s Chrome Device Manager is required to be able to protect the extensions LibData uses to control the time management. It also allows LibData’s software to be automatically added to the Chrome devices – eliminating the need for you to perform updates.
No, the only requirement is a staff PC running Windows 7 or 8 for the management software.
Additional Info About Chrome OS & Libdata
A large percentage of a public library’s daily patron traffic is the use of public access computers. Librarians have adapted to the expectation of an available, useful, computer that provides many of the capabilities typically found on a home computer (i.e. fast internet, document/spreadsheet/presentation editing, social networking, music and video playing, etc.).
It has proven to be an enormous amount of overhead, both financially and time to support public computers. To mitigate these costs, library directors and staff have had to become proficient at maintaining the software and hardware themselves, but most don’t have the background or the time.
The only other alternative is to provide the funds to hire an IT professional, which is not a viable alternative for most libraries. It has become a huge burden on smaller libraries to come up with the financial resources to properly provide public computers, and they end up running a system that seems to always have issues and proves to be troublesome.
There is also a need to have staff available to manage the use of the public computers and assist patrons. In the past libraries depended on a pad of paper and a pen to keep up with how long a patron was on a computer and in which order to allow patrons to use available computers.
But today, several companies offer public computer time/print management software, and it is hard to find a library that does not have some type of software to provide these services. These software tools have greatly reduced the burden on library staff to manage an ever increasing number of computers and users.
Also many tools are needed to help maintain the computer operating system, such as disk protection ( i.e. Deep Freeze), and virus protection (i.e. Norton). The cost of these tools, as well as the cost of the expertise to install and maintain these tools, along with the cost and time needed to update the operating system, are steep.
Most library directors will readily admit that the support of a public computer lab is by far the most burdensome part of their job and they are always on the lookout for a way to reduce this overhead. They enjoy being able to provide this service and very much understand the benefit to the community, but they are frustrated with the constant problems coming from their public computer lab.
ChromeOS devices, along with Libdata’s Time/Print management software, have proven to solve many of these issues and massively reduce the hardware/software cost and the need for IT support in a Public Library computer lab.
All of the following items are needed to provide a useable public computer in a Library environment:
- Computer Hardware: The vast majority of public computers found in libraries are desktop PCs running Windows operating system.There is a small number of Apple/Macintosh desktop computers, and a minuscule, almost non-existent number of Linux desktop computers. ChromeOS devices are now beginning to be placed in a few libraries across the country.
The relative cost and IT personnel’s familiarity with the operating system and hardware have dictated the type of computers found in libraries. Windows based PCs can be purchased for a cost between $500 and $1000 each including operating system and some software. Macintosh computers cost between $1000 and $1500 each including some software. Linux desktops are on the order of $300 to $600 each. ChromeOS devices are typically $160 to $320 each. Thin-clients are available for $300 to $500 each, but you most add a large cost for a large server and a license for the OS software is charged per device.
- IT support for different operating systems: IT support varies quite a bit across different libraries and typically depends on the budget and proximity or relationship with other entities such as a local city or county IT department. Generally, larger libraries will have a staff IT person, while smaller or medium sized libraries will have to contract its IT support or depend on an affiliated agency. Historically, Window’s based PCs were the computer of choice mainly due to the availability, cost, and available support. In the past, most patrons were familiar with Window’s operating system and felt comfortable using its interface. While Mac computers have now virtually erased the personal ownership gap with Windows, they have only made modest inroads in municipal offices and, thus, have few municipal IT personnel familiar with how to maintain these computers. So, most libraries justify purchasing Windows based PCs due to the fact that they are familiar with them and their IT personnel are Microsoft certified and are experienced in Windows OS maintenance. The reason Linux computers are found rarely in libraries is there is very little familiarity among IT personnel. A few libraries have been bitten by relying on a local IT person who is familiar with Linux and, while trying to save some money, are convinced to purchase and setup a Linux computer lab only to have the IT person leave a year later and they are no longer able to find support (few IT personnel are familiar with Linux). Linux is a support-intensive operating system and can be a time sink.
An even more problematic approach is to use “thin clients” such as N-computing. On paper this approach looks very promising, but has been tried many times and, to our knowledge, has never made it more than one year before being replaced by another system after the library lost a large amount of money and time. The issues have included getting 3rd party software to work properly, finding adequate IT support, and the speed never lives up to what was promised.
IT support will always be a problem, even in the larger systems, as long as Windows-based systems are in use. Full-time IT personnel, in a larger library, generally add a series of Windows based servers for user profile administration and controlling print jobs (print server). Some even go as far as adding their own Mail, DHCP, and DNS servers. These servers will help the backend of computer and application management, but have little real effect on the patron’s experience. Typically cost vs. benefit analysis will show it is not an efficient approach. These servers need constant attention and cause IT personnel to spend a disproportionate amount of time updating and tuning the server performance while not really affecting the patron experience.
Smaller libraries must depend on local contractors who are expensive and normally not inclined to reduce the amount of support needed. Or they are dependent on a City/County IT employee who normally, and rightfully so, put a much higher priority on police/fire and city administrator’s computer issues before the library’s.
Ideally, you would want to reduce the amount of IT support needed!
- Disk Protection: Disk protection is a software tool that allows the hard drive to be locked down at a particular point in time, typically right after a new software package is installed. It works by maintaining an image of the drive and reinstating this image each time the computer is rebooted. So, a user can download and save items on the hard drive that will be removed upon the subsequent reboot. This allows patrons some freedom to temporarily download songs, files, videos, and locally work on presentations or documents. Allowing patrons the freedom to use the local file system is a good thing, for Windows and Macs, and enhances the patron’s experience.
While this software is a necessity in a public environment, and programs such as “Deep Freeze” work very well, it does have its drawbacks – most notably the time it requires to perform updates or some other type of maintenance. The computers must first be “unfrozen”, rebooted, then updated, then refrozen and then rebooted. The cost is normally around $30/computer.
- Computer virus protection: Virus protection software is also a necessity for all Windows and Mac based computers. These operating systems are constantly under attack by computer viruses entering the computer via the network, USB drives, or emails. The virus protection software must be constantly updated as new viruses and malwares are introduced almost daily and spread very quickly. It is an endless race between people writing the viruses and the virus protection software companies trying to stop the new infections.
You might wonder why virus protection is needed if you have disk protection. The problem is your patron’s USB drives can be infected during their session without real time protection.
While virus protection software has proven to be quite effective, it can significantly slow down your computer and has been known to completely bring a system to a halt.
The cost can be very high as much as $25 to $50 per computer and has to be constantly updated.
- Operating system (OS) updates: Windows and Mac based computer operating systems are constantly updating and this requires a significant amount of time, and with Windows a significant cost. Each time the operating system is updated many of your 3rd party software packages must also be updated (at a cost), as well as most hardware drivers. This is why operating system updates are typically put off until they are required by new software or no longer supported by the company. Putting off the OS updates can be dangerous as many virus vulnerabilities are found in older OS versions as virus protection software vendors typically build new versions for the latest operating systems.
- Computer setup: After the operating system and other productivity software are installed, the computer should be setup to give it the look and feel you want for the public environment. This setup includes determining which folders are accessible, the applications patrons are allowed to execute, whether the USB drive is available, printer setup and which items are available on the desktop. You will also have to setup the networking environment, wireless or wired, dynamic or static IP, browsers and whether applications are available locally or through the network.
- Content Filtering: In order to prevent public computers from displaying objectionable or illegal material many libraries add content filtering to their network. This generally involves adding a proxy server that uses a combination of methods including investigating websites for certain keywords or images and using known blacklist to deny access to listed websites. Another much less costly method is to use a service such as OpenDNS to work as a proxy using it’s blacklist in combination with your list of sites to deny. This hardware proxy server can be quite expensive and usually requires a recurring fee to have access to the constantly updated blacklist. OpenDNS is a free service for non-profit organizations.
- Productivity Software: productivity software such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel are required to provide patrons with the capability to generate documents, letters, resumes, presentations, budgets, and many other productive items. While most of the patrons in a public library computer lab are surfing the web, performing research, and posting/viewing social media, there is a significant number of patrons who require the above mentioned productivity tools. The Microsoft Office suite can be very expensive $80 – $100 per computer and requires constant updating. Other productivity software providers such as OpenOffice and Google Apps are free to use and are compatible with Microsoft Office tools.
- Time/Print Management Software: Time/Print management software is needed in order to provide a fair and orderly use of public computers. This software will allow the monitoring and controlling of the time a patron is allowed to use a computer. It will allow a patron to authenticate using their patron ID or a temporary ID given to them by the staff. The software will monitor the patron’s session time and shutoff their access after the session time has ended. It will also monitor the amount of time a patron has used the computer and not allow an additional login if their daily limit is reached. The software often includes many other features such as sending notes to patrons, automatically shutting down computers at a predefined time, keeping computer use statistics, allowing a patron to extend their time if computers are available. This allows staff to spend their time helping computer users instead of babysitting them. It also makes sure the patrons are treated fairly and all patrons are assured they get their full time and are allowed access to the computers in the order they arrived. This reduces confrontations and makes sure the patrons and staff have a positive experience.
Print management ensures the patrons print out only the pages they wanted to print. It also makes sure all pages are paid for and keeps statistics for the number of print jobs.
It is hard to imagine running a public computer lab without this type of software. Library directors understand that this software is a definite requirement and will not allow their staff to be put in a position of having to confront patrons to tell them that their time is up or that they were not the next person in line. Most directors are aware that print management alone pays for itself in about a year, massively reducing wasted printed pages.
The cost for Time/Print management varies widely among vendors, it can range from $100 – $200 per computer for each time and print management module.
ChromeOS devices running a public session along with Libdata’s time/print management software!
- Content filtering: The admin console allows you to setup SafeSearch to block
objectionable content with no additional cost.
- Operating system updates: Performed automatically in the background. You will not even be aware you have been updated unless you look for the version number. Drivers and other software products are automatically updated without user intervention or cost.
- Computer disk protection software: None needed – there is no hard drive to protect – the software and apps are run on the cloud (i.e. out in the internet –not locally on the computer). Any local software is natively locked and cannot be altered.
- Computer Hardware: Cost $160 (Chromeboxes) to $320 (ChromeBases and laptops) – no servers needed. No operating system to purchase, ever!
- IT Support: Once the computers are installed and setup – there is minimal IT support needed as software and hardware updates are not required. The setup is intuitive and being a Google product software support will always be readily available.
- Computer virus protection software: None needed – the software is run through the cloud – the local software is locked and cannot be altered.
- Computer setup: The computers are setup through the Admin Console ($30 per computer). The admin console controls all user settings from the cloud – no need for a server or onsite IT. Your IT professional can make changes from anywhere. You will also quickly find that the settings are very intuitive and your library staff can make the majority of changes if needed.
- Productively software: Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets are free and are compatible with Microsoft Office. As an alternative you can purchase Microsoft 365 – which is a cloud based version of Microsoft Office products.
- Time/Print management: LibData has partnered with Google to provide Time/Print management software for all Chrome devices using the public session. ChromeOS’s “Public Session” is a highly protected method for running a ChromeOS session on a Chrome Device. It locks down the session so all browsing history, files downloaded, and all other activity are erased after the completion of a patron’s session. There are only a few extensions or Apps allowed to run in the public session – this allows users to use the cloud without identifying themselves and leaving data on the local computer. It also allows the library to control the Apps and user interface.
LibData has provided Time/Print management to work along with the Public Session to allow a patron to authenticate using their Library card number or guest number provided by the library staff (this number is never made available nor is the patron ever identified to any machine outside of the local network). LibData’s software allows the library to control the amount of time a patron is allowed on the computer and when they are allowed to login. It also allows the staff to send messages to the patron’s computer. It requires the public session to end after the session time has expired, thus removing all data from the local computer.
Print management is provided to control the print jobs by collecting them in a queue available to the staff (where the staff can collect the money and print the job) or at a print release station for patron release at a vending system.All standard time/print management features are available with the ChromeOS devices. See the following screen shots.
(View of the staff computer showing the control center where the computers are shown along with who is on it and how much time they have left ).
(View of the timer used to inform the patron of how much time they have left in their session ).
- Time manager: LibData’s time manager uses an App available for download, from the Chrome App store that provides a local proxy on each of the chrome devices. This proxy allows the user to access the Internet during their session. It also provides a login screen to accept the user’s ID that is then sent to the control center for authentication using the library’s SIP2 or API interface to their ILS database. The App is automatically updated without any staff or user intervention. The App also syncs the clock on the chrome device desktop to the clock in the control center window. The App allows communication between the Chrome Device and the Control Center for message and alerts concerning print jobs (i.e. let’s the patron know how many pages they are about to print and how much it will cost – giving them an opportunity to allow or deny the print job). When the patron’s session time has expired the App causes the public session to be restarted, thus erasing all user data.
- Print manager: The print manager alerts the user that they are about to print a certain amount of pages at such a cost, and allows them to permit or deny the print job. Once the print job is approved, it is sent to the control center for staff release or it is sent to the release station for the patron to pay and release it. The print manager uses Google cloud printing and will allow Black & White and Color printing, even from a single printer. It can provide different pricing for each type of printout. It works with any printer, (i.e. does not have to be a cloud printer). The print manager is integrated with the time manager and they work together with the Control Center to give staff complete control of the user’s session.