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Looking for WinXP software for a stand-alone PC - to lock it down

snozboz
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Registered: ‎27-07-2007

Looking for WinXP software for a stand-alone PC - to lock it down

Hi there.
I've recently had to spend a lot of time with a 5-year old WinXP machine, going through installing all the updates etc and fixing a few basic problems - all time consuming but not technically difficult.  This was because the computer does not have one regular user; instead it is used by several different people on-and-off all of whom are computer novices and don't do anything to maintain it. 
I wondered if there was a (relatively cheap, compared to replacing the computer) software solution that would protect these users from making mistakes that would let malware in, still allow them to do whatever they wanted (so no "permission denied" errors), reduce the need for me (or another admin) to spend time every so often installing updates to everything (not just Windows), and roll it back each shutdown to a reliable "default" blank slate.
Does anyone know of a program that matches the following requirements?  Alternatively, where might I start looking?

  • works on Windows XP Home

  • works for a stand-alone PC (no server etc - just one five-year old basic-spec'd computer in an office with broadband)

  • on turn-on, the software would need to let the user get to the desktop and use the computer without delay - and without any limit to what they can do (except... see below)

  • on shutdown, the software would remove all changes any user had made to Windows or any program's settings, rolling-back to a "default" state.  After this, the software would automatically install (without user intervention) all Windows updates and all updates for all other programs

  • The software would have a mechanism for me (or another admin) to set-up and alter the "default" state - to make changes to this state that would last beyond each shutdown (e.g. install a new printer, permanently change a setting etc).

  • As the PC is old and has a basic spec, the software couldn't use a lot of system resources.


Thanks.
10 REPLIES
Community Veteran
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Registered: ‎11-08-2007

Re: Looking for WinXP software for a stand-alone PC - to lock it down

I had exactly this situation with the PC that my children use, the answer was simple I gave them a machine running Ubuntu.
It runs at least as good as a fresh install of XP on an old machine, and is much more difficult to break than XP.
I was a little concerned that my children wouldn't take to it, so they have both an XP machine and a the Ubuntu machine (of similar hardware specs) and from the day they got Ubuntu they have NEVER chosen to use XP for ANYTHING.
snozboz
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Registered: ‎27-07-2007

Re: Looking for WinXP software for a stand-alone PC - to lock it down

Ubuntu has occurred to me, but the novice users are familiar with Microsoft Word (and they aren't children and don't adapt and learn new things all that well).  As far as I know, LibreOffice (Ubuntu's office suite) doesn't make it easy (compared to MS Word) to open a new document, search for and then insert some clipart, add some text and print - for quick posters and leaflets.  This is a major use-case.  If a Linux distro can do this, then I'd consider it.
The main feature I'm after is for the program, on shutdown, to roll all changes back to a "default" state (which is only changed by admins).  The secondary feature is for it to auto-install all updates (including third party software updates for things like Flash Player, Java, AVG-Free, and Firefox).
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Re: Looking for WinXP software for a stand-alone PC - to lock it down

My son uses LibreOffice in exactly the way you describe to do nearly all his homework.  I do recall at some point going into a menu to add a library of clipart, as the default installation of LibreOffice gives you the commonly used components but you simply install any additional or more advanced features to suit your requirements.  If anything we have found LibreOffice and OpenOffice better than Word because it can read and write more file formats, and LibreOffice is continually being improved - so you always have a recent version unlike Word that has built in obsolescence until you are forced to buy a new copy.
Ubuntu can be set to background install all security updates without confirmation.
The roll back to a default state is not really an issue as you can't really install anything dodgy or muck up the system settings without the administrator allowing it.
snozboz
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Re: Looking for WinXP software for a stand-alone PC - to lock it down

In general, I agree about the benefits of Linux and LibreOffice.  However I have not found a way to make LibreOffice's "Gallery" work in the way that users want - there's no way to search for clipart - you have to scroll through a list of "Themes", then scroll through a page of thumbnails: no tags, cross-references, labels, access to the image meta-data etc.  And you have to have manually found a load of clipart images yourself, imported them into LibreOffice and put them into appropriately named "Themes" (which are basically like folders).  There are only a few full Extensions that do this for you, which collectively don't amount to a usefully broad clipart collection.
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Re: Looking for WinXP software for a stand-alone PC - to lock it down

When you tried LibreOffice, did you try installing the relevant components of "openclipart" ?
snozboz
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Re: Looking for WinXP software for a stand-alone PC - to lock it down

I think I must be missing something - I've been aware of, and have used, Open ClipArt.  But as far as I know, there's no direct way to use it from within LibreOffice - and certainly no way to search for clipart from within LibreOffice.
Open ClipArt images are in SVG format, which LibreOffice can't use.  The PNG versions on Open ClipArt are really only for previewing - so their resolution isn't very big, and they're bitmaps so don't take well to resizing.  The package downloads from Open ClipArt give you all the images on your computer, but you then have to drag them into LibreOffice's "Gallery" and sort them manually into "Themes".  And then, they are still not searchable - no tags etc.
But if you know any better, please point me in the right direction. :-)
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Re: Looking for WinXP software for a stand-alone PC - to lock it down

OK I can't prove it definitively at this precise moment as the only machine in the house with LibreOffice is currently being used for a large video conversion.
However the machine I am working on is using OpenOffice which is essentially the same code as LibreOffice and the clip art is displaying OK in gallery view.
If I look in the Synaptic Package Manager it shows -

so I have the openclipart plugin for OpenOffice and the openclipart .png library currently installed.  I have no reason to doubt that LibreOffice would be any different.
Having said that I have never used the gallery feature, so I don't know whether it does what you want with the plugin installed.
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Registered: ‎11-08-2007

Re: Looking for WinXP software for a stand-alone PC - to lock it down

Just got on the other PC with LibreOffice.  By default there was no real clipart installed in the LibreOffice gallery.
Went to Synaptic Package Manager and found 'openclipart-libreoffice' -
- and installed it along with it's dependencies which included 'openclipart-png'.
Went back to LibreOffice gallery, and it is now full of clipart in seemingly sensible theme categories which are easy to browse.
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Re: Looking for WinXP software for a stand-alone PC - to lock it down

There's an article in the Feb 2012 issue of LINUX Magazine about getting MSOffice 2007 running on Wine under Ubuntu (They also have a Mint 12 distro disk in the mag).
Now Zen, but a +Net residue.
snozboz
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Re: Looking for WinXP software for a stand-alone PC - to lock it down

Quote from: purleigh
it is now full of clipart in seemingly sensible theme categories which are easy to browse.

Is it searchable?  The users concerned are used to being able to type a phrase in to a search box, get a wide selection of thumbnails of images that match that search phrase, and click on the one they want.  My experience of LibreOffice's "Gallery" is that, once you've populated it with lots of clipart in Themes, you have to scroll through all the "Theme" categories/folders/things to guess which one you want to look in, then scroll through all the thumbnails within that Theme, hoping you spot the one you want.
Back to my original question(s), in my own searching I've found Windows SteadyState which is no longer offered or supported by Microsoft but was designed for WinXP and then Vista (and Wioski which does the same sort of thing but for Windows 7 - not for earlier OSes like WinXP which I'm looking for).  Does any one have any first hand experience of Windows SteadyState?  What's it like?  Would it meet my requirements (in my original post and follow up)?  It does seem like it might.