Technical Documentation

Pirtle’s Ice Cream

Computer Lab Manual(.doc)

LIS 451 | Fall 2010

Key Information

Pirtle’s Admin Account Password: _________________

Wireless Internet Password: ______________________

Computer Lab

Your lab is made up of four nearly-identical Dell computers. You also have an office machine behind the front counter, and the printer and scanner are connected to it.  Each machine has Microsoft Windows XP, Service Pack 3 as the operating system.

Machines


Your machines are Dells that look a lot like this picture. They were donated by businesses and individuals and refurbished by our LIS451 class at the University of Illinois. They are generally 4-5 years old, but still perfectly good for the kinds of things you’ll generally be using them for in this lab. They have a CD drive at the top, a floppy disc drive in the middle, and you can open the light-grey panel that makes up most of the bottom half to access a USB port and a headphone jack. The power button is front and center. There are more USB ports on the back of the machine, but those are about the only things you should need to access back there unless something goes wrong.

Network

Your machines are tied to one another and eventually to the internet by a local network we have built within the store.  The network is laid out like this:

The network is made up of several parts: the Ethernet cables (which look like slightly larger versions of phone cords) running between the machines, and a switch,

which is located on the bench where the four lab machines  are, and which ties the lab machines together and connects them to the line that runs through the ceiling from front counter.

This line connects to your AT&T-provided wired / wireless combo Gateway / Router:

As the complicated name suggests, this device does a lot of different things.  First, it directs traffic on the local network and between the local network and the outside world (routing). It can provide wireless access for laptops and other devices (all of your current machines are hard-wired, so this isn’t currently enabled, but could be in the future if you want to do so), and it also provides security which shields your machines from some of the dangers of the public internet.  Finally, it acts as a DSL modem (the gateway part of the name) which is what ultimately provides access to the outside internet for all of the machines on your local network.

Starting Up and Shutting Down

User Accounts

When you start up a machine by pressing the power button as pictured in the example above, you’ll be presented with this screen:


It lets you choose between the three user accounts we have set up for each machine. The account setup should be identical for all of them.

  • GSLIS Admin – This account is reserved for our use when we visit to do maintenance on the machines. It is passworded, and we keep the password to ourselves to ensure that there is always one account on the machine that hasn’t been altered and can serve as a clean base from which to fix any problems with the other accounts.
  • Pirtle’s Admin – This is the account you should use if you wish to install new software (either from the internet or from a disc) or make major changes to the computer’s settings through the Control Panel or other management utilities. You should also be logged into this account the first time you connect any new hardware or peripherals other than minor things like USB sticks and headphones. We recommend that you set a password on this account, and only give it out to employees, regular volunteers who help maintain the lab, and other very strongly trusted users.
  • Pirtle’s User – This is the account you should be logged into as much as possible for the everyday use of the machines. It has important restrictions which help prevent the machine from getting cluttered up with unused software or catching viruses. When logged in to the user account, you can run existing programs, save files, and do most or all of what you’ll want to do in a normal computer session. The main things it prevents you from doing are installing new software and changing important system settings. By using this account, you ensure that the only major changes to the software will be ones that you intended to make. We recommend that you leave this account without a password, so that you have to do something special and intentional to avoid logging into it at startup.

Shutdown

It is important to turn off the computers properly to prevent damage to MS Windows that can corrupt the files on the disk and even disable the machine entirely. To shut down the computer properly, click on the “Start” button at lower left, and then the “Turn Off Computer” button in the menu that pops up.

When you do this, the following menu will pop up.

And you can choose whichever option you want. “Stand by” will put the computer to sleep, which saves power but preserves your currently open programs and files. You can get out of Standby mode by moving the mouse or typing on the keyboard, which will wake up the computer and put you back at the user account screen from the beginning of this section. If you choose the account you were logged into when the computer went to sleep, you should get back everything you were working on before just as it was.

You can choose “Restart” if the computer has been acting up and you want to try re-starting to see if that will fix it, or if a software update or something else has happened that says it requires a system restart. Finally, “Turn Off” will power down the computer (this might take awhile as Windows shuts down all of the programs you have running, and if one of them is having problems, it might also ask you to force it to quit, which is fine to approve), and you will lose your current work if you haven’t saved it to the disk.

Printer
Your printer is a Lexmark Z816 Color Inkjet Printer. It is connected to the machine behind the counter, but as long as that machine is on and connected to the network, you can also print from all of the other machines in the lab. The printer takes both a color and a black and white replacement cartridge, and we have provided one of each in addition to those already installed.
Scanner
Your scanner is a Canon CanoScan 8400F. It can scan both images and documents, and both in color and black and white. You can use the buttons on the scanner for very basic jobs, or the scanner software to have more control over the outcome.

Scanner Software

To open the scanner software, click the “CanoScan Toolbox” shortcut on your desktop, or if that isn’t there, click “Start” –> “All Programs” –> “Canon” –> CanoScan Toolbox 4.9 –> CanoScan Toolbox 4.9. The toolbar at top right of the screenshot will appear when you click.

The CanoScan Toolbox offers several options for scanning documents and images. We didn’t try “Copy,” but it likely sends your scan directly to the printer with no intermediate steps. “Print” sends it to the printer, but lets you specify some settings first. Mail would send the results of the scan your email program, though if you use an online email service like Yahoo or Google this likely won’t work.

“OCR” is for scanning text that you want to be able to edit or change once you have it on the computer.  We are unsure what “Save” does. “PDF” creates an exact copy of a document for easy printing, but you won’t be able to edit it. Scan-1 and Scan-2 are for images, and create full-color image files that you can edit in MS Paint or another image editor, or upload to the internet. . The “Scan” box in the botton 2/3 of the screenshot at right shows what you get when you click on “Scan-1.” Those default settings are good, though you might want to change “File Name” to suit your needs, and “Save Scanned Image To” to a folder where you’ll be able to find the resulting file easily, like the Desktop or “My Documents.”

We looked into easy solutions for scanning a document directly into Microsoft Word for easy editing, but with your scanner and its software, there does not seem to be one. The simplest way to get it done is probably to use the “Scan-1” button and save the file as JPEG/Exif as in the graphic above, then open Mozilla Firefox and go to http://www.onlinedocumentconversion.com. Follow the instructions there and upload your scanned image to convert it to a MS Word document. Once you’ve downloaded and saved your newly-converted file, you can then edit it in Word like you would any other document.

Software

We’ve provided a full inventory of what is installed on each machine at the end of this manual, but here we’ll cover a few key highlights and also some info on how to use them. To get a list of shortcuts to all the programs on your computer, click on the “Start” button at lower-left, and then click on “All Programs.” This should pop up a menu with a list similar to the one pictured at right.

Firefox

The most important piece of software on these machines, or at least the one you’ll likely be spending the most time with, is your web browser. This is the program you use to access the internet and browse web pages. We have decided to go with Mozilla Firefox as the primary browser on these machines, for a couple of reasons. First, it’s more secure and much less vulnerable to viruses and spyware popup windows and other similar problems.

Secondly, it is easy to customize in a lot of interesting ways, and we’ve taken full advantage of this for your lab. For example, it allows you very good control over security and privacy settings, and we’ve taken full advantage of that, the details of which we’ll get into in the section on those topics.

We’ve also added lots of custom bookmarks to Firefox, which link to small business and entrepreneurship resources, computer tutorials for the other software installed on these machines and for popular online services like Gmail and Google Docs, and human services and educational resources likely to be of interest to the residents of the nearby transitional housing facility.

Finally, at the top right of the Firefox window there is a customizable search box that you can use to easily search a variety of different resources. Just click on the icon at the left of the search box to choose which source to search, then type things in the box and hit “enter” to do your search.

Internet Explorer is still available via the Start Menu for web surfing if you prefer it and for the occasional website that doesn’t work correctly in Firefox. If you’re using a site and having difficulties in Firefox, it’s worth trying it in IE to see if that fixes them. The same is also true for the reverse case.

Microsoft Office and related

All five machines have Microsoft Office 2003 Standard, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, but unfortunately, not Publisher.  Scribus is a decent free alternative to Publisher, and is available on all machines as well.

The machines also have something called Open Office. Open Office has all of the equivalent functions and programs of MS Office, and can work fine with most files made in MS Office as well. It’s not always ideal, but it will do in a pinch, and it’s useful to learn both so you can work in environments where MS Office isn’t provided. You can find some tutorials for it (and for Microsoft Office programs as well) in the Firefox bookmarks.

Business Software

Business management and accounting software that is both a) free and b) relatively straightforward and simple to use proved rather difficult to find. We settled on GnuCash, which is a free and open source accounting and bookkeeping suite, similar to Quicken or Quickbooks. We’ve also provided a sample file for users to experiment with and learn both the software and the accounting principles it executes.

Educational Games for Children

In the absence of many good choices for the small business audience, we concentrated on children likely to be staying in the nearby transitional housing facility. We found and installed a variety of educational games for young children, which should both be entertaining and help inculcate key literacies in basic reading and math.

Gcompris is a suite of free educational software for children aged 2 to 10. The games and activities teach basic computer literacy, numeracy, science, geography, mathematics, and reading. It also has versions of common games like Chess, Checkers, Sudoku, Memory, and Connect 4.

Nessy Tales is a series of animated stories that teach reading skills, designed for children ages 5-12.

Tux of Math Command emulates the popular classic arcade game Missile Command, but adds the element of solving basic math problems to the gameplay. It is one of multiple free Tux educational games we have installed, all of which are educationally-adapted versions of various classic computer, arcade, and board games.

Safety and Security

Viruses, malware, and privacy are always a concern in a public computer lab environment, but we think we have taken good precautions that should prevent the vast majority of problems in these areas.

1.     The first line of defense is the user account system, as discussed above. Running the machines as “Pirtle’s User” as much as possible will keep a whole lot of potential problems from ever having a chance to happen.

2.     Another big thing is to keep Windows and all of your other software as up-to-date as possible. We’ve scheduled automatic updates for almost everything, and if software asks if you will allow it to update, please say yes as a general rule. Software updates mostly exist to fix the bugs and vulnerabilities that hackers exploit to make viruses and malware, and so the more up to date you are, the fewer weak spots you are going to have that are vulnerable to attack.

3.     The next line of defense is trying to use Firefox as the web browser of choice as much as possible. It’s much less vulnerable than Internet Explorer by design, and we’ve also added some protection in the form of something called Adblock, which should take care of most advertisements and popups while you surf in Firefox.

4. Finally, we’ve installed three varieties of antivirus or anti-malware software. PandaCloud Antivirus is free, doesn’t require updates since it’s constantly connected to an antivirus database online, and provides active protection against viruses (meaning it should catch them as they try to infect you and actively prevent it from happening, instead of waiting for a scan to find and get rid of them.) It’s still a good idea to run a scan once in awhile though, just in case something has slipped through that it didn’t recognize at the time. Panda also comes with an addon called Panda Immunize, which scans any USB stick or thumb-drives that are plugged into the system, and keeps them from giving you a virus, since that has become a common route for infection over the past few years.

Ad-Aware SE is also included to try to keep a handle on popup ads and other spyware, adware, and malware, that is, things that may not technically be viruses or even all that dangerous, but that are still very annoying and undesirable to have on your machine.

Privacy

With lots of different people using the machines, there are bound to be worries about people potentially entering personal information while surfing the web that the next person to use the computer could then see and take advantage of. We’ve taken precautions against this by setting the web browsers to not save any personal data, including browsing history, search history, passwords, form data, basically anything you might type while browsing the web.

Once you close your browser window or log off of your account, everything you’ve just done disappears without a trace. The one exception to this is the ability to save files. So, for example, if someone does a job application in MS Word or something like that and saves it to the Desktop or My Documents, it will still be there for the next person to look at. You may want to make signs to the effect that any file that people intentionally save to the computer (as opposed to their USB drive or online email account or what have you) is likely to be seen by others.

Other Things to be Aware of


First up, the thing with the clock and the tiny icons at the extreme lower-right of the screen is called the System Tray, and that’s where updates and alerts often appear. From R to L, you’ve got the clock, the icon for Panda Immunize, the icon for PandaCloud Antivirus, the icon for ejecting USB drives(of which, more below), the volume control, the network connection indicator, and the icon for Ad-Aware. If any of the various antivirus / anti-malware programs ever finds anything bad, an alert will likely pop up there at bottom-right. Windows updates also show up there, usually in the form of a yellow exclamation-point thing. If that keeps popping up, you may have to click it to finish out an update.

Also note the Recycle Bin, which you should probably empty anytime that you notice that something is in there, just to avoid buildup over time and protect privacy.

Proper Handling of USB Drives

In a public computer lab, it’s likely that many people will end up using inexpensive USB thumbdrives to save their work and take it with them.  We’ve included some instructions for properly ejecting those before you unplug them. If you fail to do this, you can sometimes lose the files you have just saved.

When you plug in a USB drive, a green-colored icon should appear in the taskbar at lower right, like this:

When you’re ready to unplug the drive, right-click on that icon and select “Safely Remove Hardware”, as in the graphic below:

Choose your drive, and click ok. You should then get an indication that it’s now safe to unplug.

Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting is far too vast a topic to really cover in the space we have here, but what we will do is cover a couple of special cases that would make it difficult or impossible for you to make use of the resources we have provided in the Firefox bookmarks or elsewhere online.

The first such case is obviously the loss of your internet connection.

Internet Connection Troubleshooting

If the internet isn’t working on the machine you are on here are some things you can try to get it back up and running.

1.     The first step would be to try another machine, to see if the problem is isolated to just the first machine or if it’s with the whole network.

2.     If the internet works on the other machines, the first and easiest thing to do is probably to restart the non-working machine and see if that fixes it.

3.     If that doesn’t work, then right-click on the network indicator icon in the System Tray at the lower right part of the screen.

Choosing “status” will give you some information about your connection, and choosing “repair” will make your machine drop its current connection and attempt to acquire a new one. Going through this process and/or a reboot will probably fix 75% of connectivity problems that are isolated to just one machine.

4.     If those steps don’t work, then the next thing to try is to check to make sure the Ethernet cable (which looks like a slightly larger version of a phone cable, and in your lab is probably a bright color like orange, red, or blue) both at the back of the computer and at the switch or router is properly plugged in. Unplug and reseat the cable at both ends of the connection, check to make sure the corresponding lamps are lit on the switch and the Ethernet adapter you have just plugged into, and then run through the reboot and repair processes above again.

5.     If it still isn’t fixed after that, it’s probably time to call in professional help.

Network Troubleshooting

If, on the other hand, your connectivity problems extend to multiple machines and a simple reboot or connection repair doesn’t restore the internet, then that calls for some troubleshooting at the network level.

1.     Both pieces of network hardware you have (switch, AT&T router/DSL gateway) are like small specialized computers, and they can crash or freeze up just like regular computers, so the first and best bet is to shut them all down and restart them.

2.     This is usually accomplished by simply unplugging them from the wall (or unplugging the AC adapter from the back of the box), waiting a few seconds, and then plugging back in.

3.     If you’re unplugging and re-plugging everything, make sure to power the AT&T router / gateway  back up first, as you have to re-establish a connection with the outside internet first before any of the rest of the network can really do anything about distributing it to the other machines.

4.     If rebooting or powering down and then powering back up the networking hardware doesn’t fix your problems, the only really viable next step is to check to make sure everything is plugged in snugly, as above. Every port should have a corresponding light on the device, and that light should be green if something is plugged into it and everything is working properly.  In general, green blinking or solid-color lights = good, and no lights or red lights are bad. If you’re getting red or no lights on the AT&T router/gateway (which is your lifeline to the internet) even after restarting it, it’s time to call AT&T, as the problem is likely on their end.

Safe Mode, Scandisk, and System Restore

Finally, here is are some things  to try if the computer hangs or freezes while booting up or you otherwise can’t get Windows to load even though the computer appears to be powering on fine. You can also try this stuff to fix persistent slowness or crashes, provided that the problem is still fairly new.  Problems like this can happen after a failed software update, a power outage, an improper shutdown of the machine, or sometimes just randomly. Luckily, Windows offers some fairly simple solutions to these sorts of issues in the form of Safe Mode, Scandisk, and System Restore.

Starting the Computer in Safe Mode

To start the computer in Safe Mode, press and hold the “F8” key when you turn on the machine. Doing that should eventually give you a screen like this:

Choose “safe mode”, and let the machine finish booting up. Safe Mode loads a stripped-down version of Windows, which will hopefully get around the problems you are having enough to let you try one of the two following solutions.

Scandisk

If your computer has not been shut down properly, or you’ve had a power outage or power surge or some other similar problem, files that are vital to your system can be corrupted and  prevent Windows from starting up or cause Windows to crash or slow down to a crawl. One way to try to repair this is to run Scandisk.

To get to Scandisk, open “My Computer,” and then right-click on your hard drive Local Drive(C:) and choose “properties.”

That will cause the following menu to pop up:

Pick the “Tools” tab, which will give you the three options shown. The “error checking” option is the one you want, and it will pop up the box in the foreground of the screenshot above. Check both boxes as shown and click “Start.” The machine will tell you that it has to restart to do the scan. Agree to this, and let it run through the entire process until it has rebooted back to the Login screen again. If the problem was something that Scandisk can fix, this will have fixed it.

If it wasn’t and the machine is still misbehaving, it’s time to try a System Restore. To do this, start up in Safe Mode as before, and then follow the instructions below (which we have copied from a Microsoft Tutorial.)

Using System Restore

System Restore is a feature of Microsoft Windows XP that automatically saves a copy of important system settings and files so that you can easily restore those settings if something goes wrong. System Restore creates a backup copy every day and every time you install new hardware or software.

Note: System Restore returns system settings and system files to the state they were in on an earlier date. System Restore doesn’t recover personal files or e-mail messages. This is a good thing if you only want to roll back your computer settings and not all the work you did since you made the hardware or software change. However, if you want to be sure you can recover personal files in the event of a catastrophic system failure, be sure to back up your files.

How to restore system settings to an earlier date

You should use System Restore only after you have tried other troubleshooting techniques to fix the problem you may be having with a hardware or software program. System Restore simply returns your system to the way it was before you installed the hardware or software—it doesn’t fix your hardware or software problem. Once you’ve restored your system, you’ll have to start the troubleshooting process again with the new software or hardware

To use System Restore

1. Click Start, point to Accessories, point to System Tools, and then click System Restore.

2. . The System Restore Wizard opens. On the Welcome to System Restore page, make sure Restore my computer to an earlier time is selected, and then click Next.

3. . On the Select a Restore Point page, click the date on the calendar that you want to restore your computer to. Choose the last date when everything was working properly—before you made configuration changes, installed new software, or added new hardware.

Then, click Next

4. . On the Confirm Restore Point Selection page, click Next


5. The System Restore Wizard shuts down Windows XP and restores your settings. Then, it restarts Windows XP and displays the Restoration Complete message. Click OK. the Restoration Complete message. Click OK.

Now that you have restored your system settings to an earlier state, test your computer to determine whether the problem was resolved. If your system is working fine now, you’re done.

Inventory

Computers

1. Pirtle’s Lab 1

P4, 3.2GHz, 1GB RAM, 40GB HD, XP SP3, Office 2003 Standard Ed.

Software: Open Office, Scribus(MS Publisher equivalent), Gnucash(+ sample profile), Turbocash, Ad Aware, Panda Cloud, Panda Security, Firefox(+ custom profile with bookmarks and search engines), Pidgin, Peazip, Putty, WinSCP, Quicktime, Real Player, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash/Shockwave, VLC Media Player, Google Earth, Tux Typing, Tux Math Command, Tux Scrabble, Tux Wordsmith, Childsplay, Gcompris, NessyTales, Math Ninja

2. Pirtle’s Lab 2

P4, 3.2GHz, 1GB RAM, 40GB HD, XP SP3, Office 2003 Standard Ed.

Software: Open Office, Scribus(MS Publisher equivalent), Gnucash(+ sample profile), Turbocash, Ad Aware, Panda Cloud, Panda Security, Firefox(+ custom profile with bookmarks and search engines), Pidgin, Peazip, Putty, WinSCP, Quicktime, Real Player, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash/Shockwave, VLC Media Player, Google Earth, Tux Typing, Tux Math Command, Tux Scrabble, Tux Wordsmith, Childsplay, Gcompris, NessyTales, Math Ninja

3. Pirtle’s Lab 3

P4, 2.66GHz, 1GB RAM, 40GB HD, XP SP3, Office 2003, Standard Ed.

Software: Open Office, Scribus(MS Publisher equivalent), Gnucash(+ sample profile), Turbocash, Ad Aware, Panda Cloud, Panda Security, Firefox(+ custom profile with bookmarks and search engines), Pidgin, Peazip, Putty, WinSCP, Quicktime, Real Player, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash/Shockwave, VLC Media Player, Google Earth, Tux Typing, Tux Math Command, Tux Scrabble, Tux Wordsmith, Childsplay, Gcompris, NessyTales, Math Ninja

4. Pirtle’s Lab 4

P4, 3.2GHz, 1GB RAM, 40GB HD, XP SP3, Office 2003, Standard Ed.

Software: Open Office, Scribus(MS Publisher equivalent), Gnucash(+ sample profile), Turbocash, Ad Aware, Panda Cloud, Panda Security, Firefox(+ custom profile with bookmarks and search engines), Pidgin, Peazip, Putty, WinSCP, Quicktime, Real Player, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash/Shockwave, VLC Media Player, Google Earth, Tux Typing, Tux Math Command, Tux Scrabble, Tux Wordsmith, Childsplay, Gcompris, NessyTales, Math Ninja

5. Front Counter Machine

Dell P4, 3.2GHz, 1GB RAM, 40GB HD, Lexmark Printer, CanoScan Scanner, XP SP3, , Office 2003, Standard Ed.

Software: Open Office, Ad Aware, Panda Cloud, Panda Security, Firefox, Peazip, Putty, WinSCP, Quicktime, Real Player, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash/Shockwave, Pidgin, GnuCash (free small business and personal accounting software), Gimp(a free Photoshop alternative), Scribus (free MS Publisher alternative) Lexmark Printer Software, Canon Scanner Software.

Network

Switch

NetGear FS105 5 Port 10/100 Fast Ethernet Switch

Wired / Wireless Router and DSL Gateway

AT&T-provided 2Wire Z701HG-B Gateway

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