David Szpunar: Lead Engineer, PC Help Services

David's Church Information Technology

August 15th, 2007 at 1:08 pm Print This Post Print This Post

Firefox Updates and Windows SteadyState

Firefox Upgrades Interfere with Kiosks

I ran into a small issue with the SteadyState/Firefox setup that was a relatively easy fix: Firefox tried to update itself and the theme when new versions came out. Why it does this as a limited user when it can’t run the upgrade (for the program itself; the theme should work if it weren’t locked down) is beyond me, maybe I’ll file a bug report or something. Anyway, to get rid of the upgrade reminder, I logged in as Administrator and installed the Firefox program upgrade. Then I unlocked the profile and disabled Disk Protection, logged in as the locked down user, not not locked down, and upgraded the theme. Then I changed the Options (Tools->Options->Advanced->Update) and unchecked all of the automatic update options. Now updates won’t automatically (try to) apply, and I don’t even have to worry about security holes much because of the Disk Protection feature. I also took the opportunity to install the Auto Reset Browser extension and disable the old auto-restart mechanism (see below for the reasons).

Accessing Firefox Settings

To get to the Firefox settings, because of the R-Kiosk extension disabling menu access, I had to use the Firefox (safe mode) option from the Start menu, tell the statup box to disable add-ons and restart, and then it came up with no theme and no extensions active. I made my settings changes, installed the Auto Reset Browser extension, re-enabled the theme and the R-Kiosk extension, and restarted. Back to normal, with all changes made!

Firefox Auto-Restart Method

Paul Marc left a comment on my original post asking about how I made Firefox auto-restart if closed and on idle. I was using a batch file called start.bat that I found online, but I can’t seem to locate it again with Google (I recall it took some searching to find originally as well). I’ll have to grab the bookmark off of one of the computers I set it up on when I am able.

It seemed like it was a great solution when I set it up. However, I had several issues crop up in actual use. Sometimes it would get “stuck” in a loop of starting unending new Firefox windows as fast as the computer would open them. The only solution was to log off or restart (or kill the script, but the Task Manager won’t open under lockdown!). This only happens sometimes, and I’m not exactly sure why, but it makes the system unusable when it does happen.

I have made the above changes on three of the four computers (the last one isn’t switched yet because I ran out of time), setting them to not use the start.bat file, and instead installing the Auto Reset Browser extension in Firefox. It restarts the browser after every five minutes idle. The downside is, if a user closes the browser manually, it doesn’t reopen automatically. There is one icon on the desktop though, to open Firefox, so I don’t think this will be an issue, although it’s not as nice as the original solution when it worked correctly. And either way, closing manually or on idle, Firefox still runs the Clear Private Data option I had set up (per my original post) to get rid of the prior user’s cookies or other saved information.

Network Connection Details

In my original post, I neglected to include details of the network connections for the locked down systems. It’s pretty simple: stick the computers on the same VLAN (wired) as the free Wi-Fi internet access. I added each system’s MAC address into the Nomadix gateway so it doesn’t ask for a username or password, and I can control bandwidth on a per-computer basis (they don’t have much). The free Wi-Fi is firewalled so only OpenDNS can be contacted over the DNS ports, so they are subject to the OpenDNS adult site blocking we have in place, just like everyone else.