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How to set up a Puppy Linux Cybercafe
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ecomoney


Joined: 25 Nov 2005
Posts: 2183
Location: Lincolnshire, England

PostPosted: Wed 04 Mar 2009, 18:47    Post_subject:  How to set up a Puppy Linux Cybercafe
Sub_title: Technical notes, struggles and guidence for a netboot cybercafe
 

Imagine your thousands of miles from home, alone, and its the middle of the night. Somehow you've got stranded in a foreign country, with little knowledge of its language and only a pocketful of coins. You could have been the victim of fraud, mugging, or human trafficking, and you need to contact your country's embassy, find information and get help, or contact your relatives back home to assure them your safe.

Your in luck...one of the buildings away from the docks is a Seamans Mission, a type charitable organization that has for hundreds of years offered guidance and practical help to travellers. You hear they have a cybercafe with internet access and decide to go and investigate.

You walk to the building and go inside. Its 2am and no one is about. There is a row of computers behind glass screens, and you tentitively go up and put one of your last remaining coins in the slot, slowly the screen comes to life as the computer boots. You think of everything you need to do to get yourself out of this situation, who you need to contact, what information you need, how to find accommodation for the night. After what seems like an excruciating five minues, the screen changes......

Scroll Down >>>



































Please excuse my artistic licience in introducing this post, but this Im told happens...frequently.

I was recently invited to the Hull Seafarers Centre to view their cybercafe arrangement, and to see how open source software might save them time and money while providing a better more reliable and secure service to their needy clients. The trip was arranged by Humberside Co-Operative Development agency, who are promoting the use of open source software in the community and voluntary sectors in the area.

I was shown around the centre and given a look around the facilities, and managed to take some shots while I was there, although our time was quite limited. The centre consists of a main room with private offices and interview rooms off it, with facilities for travelers. The computers are in three separate rooms, several being in the main room,and two smaller rooms arranged "kiosk" style with the screens behind glass panels. A coin operated system activates the computers in these rooms. One of them (the main entrance foyer) is open 24/7/265 and provides an out of hours service for needy travelers who arrive who need to use the web or telephone.



Here, we found recent evidence of proprietary operating systems. They had obviously done their "work" and left. Shocked



Inside the main room we found more a traditional computer setup, along with pool and leisure facilities, and a few stands of clothes that they sell. The area is equipped with a wireless network which is currently accessible free, although they would like to charge the generally better off clients who have their own laptops to cover their running expenses.



The people there had been informed by the Humberside CDA about the benefits of open source software generally, so I added my part about Puppy Linux in general. I explained how it would triple the useable life of a computer compared to Microsoft products. I also explained how it was possible to boot puppy Linux over a network, meaning they would never have to do a four hour re-install of a virus-ridden p.c. ever again. I also explained that they could remove the hard disks from their P.C.'s as they wouldn't need them anymore with a netboot method. This would make sure that no-ones personal information or browsing history would be left on any of the machines, and that because linux was invulnerable to viruses, they wouldn't have problems with keyloggers and people having their accounts emptied while far from home. I also explained how the software was free of any licience cost or restrictions and that it was easily customizable to suit their needs. It even came with all of the software pre-installed to open common windows file formats, without the need to by M$ office packages.

I could see by the look on their faces they were somewhat dubious that this were possible...so a I thought a quick demonstration was in order. Luckily I had burned off a whole load of Puppy Linux 4.2 Beta 3 boot cd's before I had set off. I put the cd into one of the computers, switched it on and within a minute I had a full puppy linux desktop. The computer it turned out was quite a fast one (Compaq Evo 2.8mhz/1gb/80gb) and ran a super-speed. A couple of clicks through the connection setup wizard had us connected to their dhcp network and online with seamonkey, playing a video of the cybercafe I had previously ran in Scunthorpe.



Thanks to Ttuxxx, Zigberts and Aragons hard work, even at the beta stage the desktop looked smooth, modern and slick compared to the traditional windoze XP they were used to. I am sure had I not used the beta version instead of a previous standard puppy they would not have been so impressed.



After this, the people at the centre told me they run two cybercafe's, the other being in Immingham across the river. Hull Docks is an immense place as it is, but Immingham is the largest sea port in Britain. Apparently there is another cybercafe there. Immingham is only about 20 miles from Scunthorpe where I am currently based, but Hull is a good fifty miles away, with the heavily tolled Humber Bridge in between. It was agreed I should "Puppy" the cybercafe there while I got things straightened out, and then implement the same solution at the Hull Seafarers Mission.

While I was there and had their attention, the last thing I had chance to explain in our alloted time was a little bit about the puppy development process. I explained that puppy linux was programmed by volunteers, and that one of the reasons it is so good was the fact that anyone using it could give feedback to the developers about what needed fixing, and how to make it more useable. It was on this latter point that I explained to them how they had the perfect facilities to help in the development of Puppy Linux. They have people coming in from all over the world into a single location, who have probably never used puppy or any other linux before. It was a perfect place from which to gather useability information and suggestions, and trial those features on an unending supply of "puppy newbs" to see how they get on. I explained that the aims of the project was to help recycle computer waste, and provide access to the information on the internet to those who would otherwise be unable to afford it. I also explained that in my opinion, the only thing holding puppy linux back was the lack of reliable useability feedback into the development process.

Proposed implementation
-------------------------------

At the cafe, the way I think would be sensible to do it would be to employ the services of a smoothwall server between the main router and the main modem. This would have the tftp mod installed which would serve out the puppy files to the client machines. These would be set to netboot via pxe in the bios. This would eliminate the need for hard disks in the machines, or for any kind of re-installation work.

I understand its possible to log into the smoothwall server from any location on the web (via ssh?) and update the boot image files used by the tftp mod remotely. This would save me from having to travel to the site and keep maintenance costs to the organisation to an absolute minimum (their budgets are being stretched considerably given the influx of political and economic refugee's from other countries, and the ongoing depression).

Conclusion
-------------

This is going to be a big Puppy Linux implementation, but has the potential to not only help the Seamans Mission and the needy people that go there, but also hopefully the puppy linux development process. The people there are very willing to help and provide information. Hull and Immingham are massive worldwide seaports, and the people that go there will no doubt be able to bring the news of Puppy Linux's awesomeness back with them to the four corners of the globe.

On the other hand its going to be a massive technical implementation. As anyone who is familiar with my posts will be aware, I am no technical guru. The Seafarers Cybercafe is going to need a lot of technical support via the forums if it is going to implement a Puppy Linux based solution, I just don't have the technical knowledge to do it on my own.

The Mission and the people that need the Cybercafe will need the help of the Puppy Linux Developers and technically minded people. I trust they will step up be there when the problems come in. Were in a position to really help the people that find themselves in the position described above.....worldwide Wink

Woof Woof!!!

Note, this cybercafe is now currently just on the point of being finall installed, after much head scratching and help from the puppy community!!! A great many thanks for all the assistance that has been given by so many talented, knowledgeable and genuinely altruistic people.

This is where the real work begins. The cybercafe is to be used as a "laboratory" for research into how to make puppy better meet its mission objectives. See the thread here


http://www.murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=41363

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brymway

Joined: 08 Dec 2007
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PostPosted: Wed 04 Mar 2009, 19:13    Post_subject:  

What a fantastic opportunity to spread the truth about PuppyLinux. Kudos to you for making a great presentation. Puppy will be the talk of the town. Well done.
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ecomoney


Joined: 25 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Wed 04 Mar 2009, 19:53    Post_subject:  

Quote:
Puppy will be the talk of the town.


Hopefully a few towns Wink

Thank you brymway

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raffy

Joined: 25 May 2005
Posts: 4779
Location: Manila

PostPosted: Wed 04 Mar 2009, 21:51    Post_subject: only one gray area  

A good opportunity there, congratulations! This can be a good launch of Puppy-type services, with coops as partners.

Net-booting in fire-and-forget mode (does not require continuous connection with server) is one of the magic tricks of Puppy that is difficult to duplicate. The only gray area that am aware of is the opening of MS Office 2007 files/attachments. If only OpenOffice 3 is adequate for this, then a server/Samba setup could be needed. Anyone has done this in net-booted Puppy?

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ecomoney


Joined: 25 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Thu 05 Mar 2009, 11:17    Post_subject:  

Trust me they were impressed that puppy could even open M$ Word documents out of the box. Having to transfer full openoffice down a wire into the computers memory would bump up the memory requirements, and the boot time considerably.

From what was described to me of the type of people that use the cybercafe, Word documents (all too often emailed and posted on the web) would be the only microsoft document format required. Excel documents (.xls) are already opened by Gnumeric with puppy, but I doubt that would be used much. Powerpoint and dbase files really only needed by the "corporate executive" types, and they tend to have their own yaughts or private jets, and wouldnt be seen dead in a Seamans Mission.

Ive done a little research into netbooting, and I have some experience with Smoothwall. One of the problems they have is people using P2P and hoggin the bandwidth available to the rest of the cafe. The bandwidth is quite limited at around 6mb per second. This is the maximum available by Kingston Communications, who are Hulls only broadband and phone supplier. Since p2p is a big part of the web, perhaps it would be possible to still a allow limited facility (I would need to check). Smoothwall can do "load balancing", meaning that it would be possible to ration out the available bandwidth between the computers to make sure everyone there has the speediest response times possible.

Does anyone know who has experience in netbooting puppy? It would be good to liase with them about this.

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raffy

Joined: 25 May 2005
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Location: Manila

PostPosted: Thu 05 Mar 2009, 12:52    Post_subject: pxe example  

It should be possible to build a net-booting Puppy 4.2 since the 4.1.2 unleashed was already updated/tested for this.

The pxe example is at http://minipc.org/pxe/ - this uses the Breeezy build (2.13 with Softmaker for opening XLS and DOC files).

Using the instructions in http://murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=23615, even a Windows machine (say, the one used at the front desk) can be used for serving the files. It just needs a fast ethernet card (gigabit type).

To handle the exception of docx files having to be opened (without burdening Puppy with the OpenOffice3 suite), perhaps create a script and server backend somewhere? Say, drop the docx and it is returned as plain doc file.

Or has someone come up with a browser extension to perform that conversion from docx to other document formats?

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ecomoney


Joined: 25 Nov 2005
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Location: Lincolnshire, England

PostPosted: Thu 05 Mar 2009, 23:14    Post_subject:  

Thank you Raffy for the instructions of how to prepare a netboot image. They are the key to getting this working.

Practically though, I wouldnt want to make the cybercafe reliant on a singe Windows computer for booting all of the other p.c.'s with Puppy Linux, it would introduce a single point of failure.....a very big and likely failure from my long experience with Windows. Rolling Eyes See above.

Perhaps Raffy you would be able to explain the same process using Smoothwall server, and its tftp mod here

On this thread on the smoothwall forum, it mentions putting the initrd.gz an vmlinux in a folder on the smoothwall machine.

Quote:
(you can download more custom-made UdpCast images here).

Arrow Place whatever additional boot images you need in /home/tftpboot but remember to run:
Code:
chown nobody.nobody -R /home/tftpboot
afterwards. For example, to start a RedHat 9 install from the network, these files would be initrd.img and vmlinuz extracted from the first ISO. This link http://www.stanford.edu/~alfw/PXE-Kicks ... .html#toc6 might be of some use, as well as this one http://syslinux.zytor.com for the PXE part.


Are the initrd and the vmlinuz files from the netboot process (the ones in the tutorial you posted a link to Raffy) the same ones?

We ran the smoothwall system for two years, and only had to reinstall once (due to a failed hard disk), and reboot a couple of times. It also provides extensive usage data. As we have a budget slightly over £30 this time ( Shocked ) then we are thinking this should be some kind of rack mount server (probably second hand) with a new SSD hard disk. would anyone have one of these we could buy?

With regard docx files? I have yet to encounter one in my work, but I am sure they will rear their ugly head. Would this suffice.

It is an extra 5meg (nearly the size of abiword itself). I havnt seen a puppy version as yet.

Smoothwall also has an internal ftp server, would it be possible to create a script to download this program from the smoothwall ftp server when it was needed (i.e. a docx were clicked on) convert it, and automatically open the converted .odt file into abiword? That would I wrote a script for ecopup for when out users downloaded windows .exe that when clicked, opened a message and told them about WINE, and also gave them the url of a list of file format equivelents somewhere on the web. Im sorry to say, this is probably the limit of bash scripting experience I have Embarassed Shocked Many ecopup users reported back to me however saying it had been informative.

Would be great if Puppy Linux had an unknown mime-type handler, that offered advice on how to open or convert a particular file format, or installed the correct programs to do it for you. That would be "Just works...no hassles" Pfileopen anyone?

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ttuuxxx


Joined: 05 May 2007
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Location: Ontario Canada,Sydney Australia

PostPosted: Thu 05 Mar 2009, 23:51    Post_subject:  

ecomoney wrote:


Would be great if Puppy Linux had an unknown mime-type handler, that offered advice on how to open or convert a particular file format, or installed the correct programs to do it for you. That would be "Just works...no hassles" Pfileopen anyone?

url]


Well I compiled rox the other day, and lets just say where puppy puts its default mime types isn't the normal location by default and we don't use all the mime types supplied by rox, Basically I have all the caution triangles all over my desktop and folders, and lost the rox right clicks that Hairrywill made for rox, plus some of the functioning aspects weren't compatible, Why does puppy have to move directory's like for Rox around in the first place, it just complicates a simple update. I'm just wondering if it was properly setup and followed the mime types in the .desktop files that come with programs, would that set it up properly? I didn't test that, maybe I should of.
ttuuxxx[[/url]

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muggins

Joined: 20 Jan 2006
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Mar 2009, 00:19    Post_subject:  

It's a pity that firefox add-on Nodobe viewer doesn't work with files on your local drive, otherwise it states:

Quote:
Nodobe can view 38 different document and image file types including Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF), Microsoft Word (DOC/DOCX), Microsoft Powerpoint (PPT/PPTX), Microsoft Excel (XLS/XSLX), JPEG Images (JPG), TIFF Images (TIF), and many more.
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raffy

Joined: 25 May 2005
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Location: Manila

PostPosted: Fri 06 Mar 2009, 05:44    Post_subject: tftp and converters  

@ Robert: Yes, vmlinuz and initrd.gz are the two images needed by the TFTP server. The pxe site that I linked to has these two files (you can rename the two to sync the names with those in smoothwall - note the chmod command, ie, don't forget it, it is perhaps unique to smoothwall).

Or you can setup TFTP in Puppy, see this:
http://murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=37608

Re the XML translator you mentioned, am sure ttuuxxx and muggins can help compile it for Puppy.* Then a shell script can be composed to handle docx, and it can be set in Rox as the default program for handling docx. Thanks in advance for your help, guys.

Or the script can be activated through the browser (example, via mozplugger in Firefox) when docx is downloaded.

If the translator is not made part of Puppy, then a script could open a web page guiding the user about what to do, as you described.

Re server hardware, a lighter alternative to smoothwall could be FreeNAS, but am not so sure about its TFTP capability. Just don't forget to look for the gigabit (fast ethernet) feature of the serving machine.

@muggins - nice find. It looks like a server with the XML translator can do a similar service.
-------------------------------
* EDIT: It looks like the translator (OdfConverter) is already a binary file.

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Colonel Panic


Joined: 16 Sep 2006
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Mar 2009, 07:49    Post_subject:  

Fantastic! I wish I knew more so I could offer technical advice here.
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ecomoney


Joined: 25 Nov 2005
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Location: Lincolnshire, England

PostPosted: Fri 06 Mar 2009, 10:43    Post_subject:  

From freeNAS homepage...right at the top

Quote:
FreeNAS 0.69 (Kwisatz Haderach)

Majors changes:

* Add TFTP service. It is accessible via 'Services|TFTP' in the WebGUI.

* Add Samba patch CVE-2008-4314.
* Upgrade nano to 2.0.9, PHP to 5.2.8, ATAidle to 2.4, transmission to 1.42, rsync to 3.0.5, cdialog to 1.1.20080316, msmtp to 1.4.17.


Seems like they have only just added tftp support!

This is good to know about....we could install a freeNAS box at our workshops to boot p.c.s for recycling from the net, after using gparted, we could then use the fileserver function to copy puppy files onto the hard disk, very quickly. It would eliminate puppy boot CD's also, because they are such a pain when they get scratched.

Overall, though...Im thinking more in the way of adding the tftpfunctionality to smoothwall, as I am already fairly familiar with it. FreeNAS is based on the BSD kernel...and Im finding linux hard enough! I believe that smoothwall also has a ftp server function. The cafe does have a lot of regular visitors and if it could be set to have a samba share fo each user, regular visitors could use this (with a login) to be able to save files on a central server!

The other option would be to have a freeNAS box and a smoothwall server, but that would introduce to points of (albeit linux) failure...still much more reliable than the windows method.

Im am going to write this up as a piece on the web for other cybercafe's....just add one smoothwall box, and puppy power your cybercafe! I think this would keep things simpler, and also smoothwall will operate on lower spec machines than puppy will (for web-browsing at least because of that pesky flashplayer). FreeNAS seems to have even lower specs needed than both (486's, which are really hard to find nowadays).

@ Muggins NoDobe sounds a very useful extention, thanks for bringing it to my attention. It requires JAVA however, which I dont want to include in this setup as it is too big, and would increase boot times significantly. It may be useful for the lated edition of ecopup...when I get round to fixing the bugs on it that is!

@ Ttuxxx thanks for your input.. I consider it would be very useful "catch all" mime filetype manager for ROXXX that will open when a non "supported out of the box" type of file were clicked and give advice, and install additional programs to handle those filetypes. It could even be as opening seamonkey with a wiki page explaining what software (and where to find it) could be added to puppy to handle that filetype. This could mean that the wiki page could be kept up to date. Puppy is a cut down distro (and had to be) and as a result cant include all of the programs to open every filetype.

For example...user clicks on .ppt file...puppy associates with a script called "PFileHandler-ppt.sh" which displays the message>

Quote:
"Puppy Linux needs extra programs to open Microsoft Powerpoint files. There are several (free) programs that can do this for you, that you can download and install to do this. Do you want to see a web page where you can find out more, and add the software puppy needs to open this file?

[Yes] [No]"


Even if this only worked for the most common filetypes puppy cant currently support out of the box (docx, ppt, .pub etc), it would add a lot of useability and "just works" to the whole puppy newb experience.

Perhaps when your done with the 4.2 Deepthought development, you may put this on your job list Ttuxxx.

Next step is to find somewhere to build a small network, and test the tftp functions of smoothwall and puppy. Any help preparing the netboot files (initrd.gz and vmlinuz) for netboot puppy 4.2 would be much appreciated.

[/code]

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sunburnt


Joined: 08 Jun 2005
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Location: Arizona, U.S.A.

PostPosted: Fri 06 Mar 2009, 11:55    Post_subject:  

ecomoney; I haven't followed this thread but I assume ecopup boots from a local drive?
I wonder because of your post refering to freeNAS, or will it PXE boot?
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ecomoney


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PostPosted: Fri 06 Mar 2009, 15:35    Post_subject:  

all the machines will pxe boot via the ethernet, the pxe boot server will be on smoothwall

...I think Laughing

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aarf

Joined: 30 Aug 2007
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Mar 2009, 15:55    Post_subject:  

er ..ah, what far flung corner of the globe uses coins of british pound denomination?
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