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  1. #1
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    TOP STORY

    Microsoft decision puts public libraries at risk


    By Yardena Arar

    Millions of Americans depend on libraries, Internet cafes, and other public locations for their connection to the Internet, and keeping these access points safe from hackers is especially difficult.

    Recently, however, Microsoft has made that challenge even more difficult for many public libraries.

    The full text of this column is posted at WindowsSecrets.com/2010/04/08/01 (opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.


    Last edited by revia; 2011-01-20 at 15:51.

  2. #2
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    I'm the IT Consultant for a public library in New Jersey. Although it's disappointing to see Microsoft SteadyState, which I use on all of our Windows XP public workstations, not being upgraded I'd like to laud Microsoft for all they do for libraries (and non-profit organizations). Through their partnership with www.TechSoup.org libraries are able to get their software at 95% off retail or more. Windows 7 Enterprise Upgrade for a $9 admin fee or Office 2007 Professional for a $20 admin fee keeps the libraries humming along. These same savings go for server software, development software, etc.

  3. #3
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    If it is really getting so risky to continue to use Microsoft products, then perhaps the time has come to consider alternatives?
    The public library at my home town, for instance, uses Ubuntu nowadays--but I'm sure that other, equally valid, alternatives are available.

  4. #4
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    One option to replace Steady State is VHD boot (unfortunately only available for Win 7 Ultimate). But then you can use differential disks, that will be resetteable.

    Also virtualisation will be an option to solve this issue - but this isn't free of charge.

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    In the public library of Gent, Vlaanderen, the computer restarts every time another person tries to log in. The only safe way. Steady State still alows for skunks to put in anything and the next user doesn't know he's vulnerable if he doesn't restart!

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    Comodo Time Machine is a free solution to completely resetting the system at the end of each session. Quoting from their feature list: "Libraries, Internet cafes and other publicly shared networks can schedule a total system restore at the end of each session".

  7. #7
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    Oh skunks, I am getting too old for this stuff...

    What was the name of that FREE little Linux based puppy of a gem that I did test about four years ago?
    Once installed from the live CD it was a complete kiosk solution, rebooting at every log-on (or log-off?) without the CD!

    With Google docs one wouldn't even need a flash drive.

    In a public library in this country I would not fret about key loggers because that admin would be up for jail time, right?

    If I only could remember the name... Ohh, but Google IS my friend. I believe it was called LiveKiosk.

    I am almost certain that further digging will turn up other solutions as well.
    Eike J Heinze
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  8. #8
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    Good

    M$ greed will finally allow linux to be the public os.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by keithquokka View Post
    Good

    M$ greed will finally allow linux to be the public os.
    Exactly what "greed" are we talking about? Microsoft gives away SteadyState for free and offers public libraries software for free with a small administrative fee from TechSoup. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been a huge financial supporter of the public libraries as well. Boy, I really wish people would get some facts before posting.

    Also, I find the headline extremely misleading and sensationalistic. Microsoft is not putting libraries at risk. If the public library is using Windows XP or Vista they're fine. If they upgrade to Windows 7 without a lockdown solution that's the fault of the library; not Microsoft. Library patrons like consistency. They are there to surf the Internet, check E-mail, or use Microsoft Office for the most part along with printing. If Windows 7 was suddenly introduced to the environment our staff, which is quite lean to begin with, doesn't have the time for the flurry of questions that would ensue.

    Our library has a Linux server with some Debian Linux thin clients. I'm migrating them to Windows. Whenever a user comes in with a Microsoft Office 2007 document and attempts to use it on OpenOffice the support goes up because there are formatting differences in conversion.

    The link below shows that libraries have much more important things to worry about right now then moving from Windows XP to Windows 7 and not having a lockdown solution. They're more concerned with actually existing at the moment.

    http://www.savemynjlibrary.org/

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    Bob, Thank you for being the voice of reason as well as giving great info. Maybe you should be writing articles.

    Also, would SandboxIE work in this situation? It's free. I use it for my everyday internet use. I have a purchased copy, it wasn't very expensive. Steve Gibson, of Security Now recommended it also.

  11. #11
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    As a former director of IT for a Library District I have found the products at Centurion Technologies (http://www.centuriontech.com/) to be very useful. I even recommend them for business users who have a second hard disk on which to keep all their data.

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    Some already eluded to it, but Microsoft already has several good virtualization products that will do the same and more. Utilizing their virtual desktop solution would be cost effective, easier to manage, and cheaper to maintain. With the right scripts and setup, one server could serve a number of desktops that reset immediately. If the library wanted, they could even create a base image and stream a differential setup allowing users to see the exact same desktop including anything they saved (though the storeage costs would likely prove prohibitive in many cases, even with quotas used). Moreover, using this method would, or at least could (depending on implimentation method), make upgrades painless by upgrading the base image once and that automatically would propogate to all desktops. Likewise, backups would be a breeze and any computer hardware issues would be completely isolated and no data would be lost. Killing SteadyState is not a bad idea, it just forces administrators to consider alternatives that are at least as effective.

    And if costs are the only reason you care, then why are you using other Microsoft systems that you must buy? Linux systems have been free for decades now. Wouldn't that be "cheaper"? The costs for the virtualization is likely already included in the cost of the server software, but if not, would, or at least should, pay for itself in the lower administrative costs.

  13. #13
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    A totally non issue imo,
    Libraries will adapt with other up in coming freeware choices. It's not like they're gonna drop XP for 7 anytime soon.
    DRIVE IMAGING
    Invest a little time and energy in a well thought out BACKUP regimen and you will have minimal down time, and headache.

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    One of our engineers provided me with the following contradictory information:

    Steady State is not gone. This is just DeepFreez propaganda. It's now built into Windows 7 and has been re-branded PC-Safeguard a feature that can be easily implemented through Group Policy in key areas.


    Features of Windows 7 PC Safeguard

    1. Prevents system setting changes
    2. Prevents the installation of applications and other software
    3. Prevents the user from writing to the disk outside of their user profile
    4. Data saved inside of the user profile is deleted when the user logs off

    http://www.blogsdna.com/2558/how-to-...-safeguard.htm

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Linhart View Post
    One of our engineers provided me with the following contradictory information:

    Steady State is not gone. This is just DeepFreez propaganda. It's now built into Windows 7 and has been re-branded PC-Safeguard ...
    Your engineer is behind the curve. PC Safeguard was dropped from Windows 7 before release. Check it: http://www.google.com/search?q=Windows+7+PC+Safeguard

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