5-Jul-2009 (Sun)
Wherein the kiosks are on the chopping block.

I am giving serious consideration to removing the kiosks from DNA Lounge.

This would set off a minor internet freakout, I'm sure, since the web is full of bloggers who have never been to DNA Lounge but who think that the kiosks are our single defining characteristic.

In 2001, we started off with six kiosks in the club. We managed to maintain those until about a year ago. I guess we upgraded their CPUs and power supplies around three times each in that period. We've gone through about 30 keyboards, and a dozen trackballs. But today, we are down to two kiosks that are still working, the others being victims of dead power supplies and/or motherboards.

For the first five years or so, I had an employee who did the routine maintenance on them (replacing motherboards, de-gunking keyboards, bolting enclosures to the wall, etc.) and he was great at it, but sadly moved on to greener pastures. My second guy quit recently, too, but that guy was terrible at it, and very unresponsive. But hey, it's a crap job that doesn't pay much, what do you expect? It's not like a "real" sysadmin job: since it only requires a few hours a week, it ends up being a rock-bottom priority, as said person's day-job sysadmin gig actually pays.

Which means, I have to do the repairs myself. And I hate doing that kind of crap, so I don't. Which is how we ended up with only two working kiosks.

Recently an anonymous benefactor generously gifted me with a stack of 1U servers from a decomissioned data center, and I've been halfheartedly trying to install the kiosk software onto them, without making a whole lot of progress. (Basically: using a stock LTSP on a stock Ubuntu results in the client machine killing init, and have I mentioned that I hate debugging this kind of crap? So I manage to put about ten minutes into it at a time before getting fed up.)

Plus, even if I got them working, I'd have to be the guy standing on the ladder with the drill, trying to figure out how to bolt a 1U to the wall. I have no one both competent and willing to whom I can delegate this work. And the new machines' fans are louder than a hair dryer, so I'd have to find a replacement for those. (Seriously, I think they are loud enough that you'd be able to hear them over the music!) And so on. These things are not things I enjoy.

So that all puts me in the state of mind of, "my life would be more pleasant if there were not kiosks in it."

I want to convince myself that everyone who would care to use the interweb at a nightclub is already the owner of an iPhone or similar dingus which has an adequate web browser on it already. I want to believe that time has marched on, and relegated the kiosks to mere historical curiosity rather than something that is actually useful.

That way I can throw them away and believe I'm doing it for a good reason.

47 Responses:

  1. ckn says:

    ...havent seen a kiosk user hit IRC in ages...

    • jwz says:

      That's because I took the default IRC sign-in out in like 2002.

      • ckn says:

        ...well that explains it :)

        the same old group of misanthropes, miscreants, and mayhem makers is still where you left them ;)

  2. xenogram says:

    I think you're right, Internet Kiosks are probably a novelty that you can do without, especially if they're a pain in the arse, and especially now that internet capable hand-helds are so much more common. I doubt that many people go to you club *only* for half a dozen internet kiosks (in a good year).

    This reminds me of throwing a big party, where you sit down with your friends and flatmates and make wild plans (A candy floss machine! A room full of balloons! A paddling pool full of jelly! Projectors! 200 Party Poppers! A disco-ball in the toilet! Giant posters of David Hasselhoff and Kylie Minogue! Home-made jelly shots! Sausage rolls, pizzas...), and then you discard ideas when you can't get them done, or they cost to much, or you decide afterwards not to do them more than once (when the jelly blocks your drains), and stick with the import parts like moving the furniture, dimming the lights and playing some decent music.

    Of course, you do need to be different from the other nightclubs, and I'm in no position to try and teach you how to suck eggs.

  3. tjic says:

    Gather a list of people on the Net who complain, and then say "great, it's in your hands - the doors will be open all day Saturday, come on over with your screwdrivers and Ubuntu install DVDs and make it work, if you care so much".

    Otoh, this immediately raises the image of an army of monkeys armed with drills and wirecutters and install disks, and that's about 40 times more horrifying than no kiosks...

  4. I have a puppet .pp that automates all the setup work required for nfs-root-backed fat clients on ubuntu, if you're interested.

  5. allartburns says:

    Wow, I'm surprised they lasted this long. The only reason I'd keep them around is if you could do something with them related to the club that you couldn't do from a mobile -- project your face onto the wall or some other nonsense.

  6. dagbrown says:

    I think it's safe to say that in the science fiction future year of 2009, anyone at your club who might want to tell the Internet about it already does, indeed, have an iPhone or a similar dingus.

    So what the hell. Reduce the stress in your life. Get rid of the kiosks.

    That's why I switched all my video-gaming to consoles years ago. Why in the hell should you be the sysadmin for your toys?

  7. baconmonkey says:

    I imagine it's probably pretty easy to log how much the machines themselves are actually being used. That's probably a better metric of how useful they are. however, none of that will get anyone to stand up and say "I will make them go".

    • jwz says:

      You imagine wrong, monkey boy. This is Linux we're talking about.

      Also, the fact that only two of them work right now would tend to have an impact on those statistics.

      • baconmonkey says:

        really?
        no traffic monitoring/sniffing for kiosk IPs?
        no way to log when xscreensaver is/is-not running?

        Though I'd figure with only 2 running, if people use them and think they are neato, they'd be seeing heavy use.

  8. evan says:

    If you hate 'em and they don't affect your business's bottom line, I don't see a reason to keep them.

    • jwz says:

      I don't hate them. I like the idea of them. I just don't want to be their plumber.

      • karlshea says:

        I'm guessing for the group of people that would actually want to use them, open WiFi would probably serve the same purpose. As awesome as the idea is, I'm guessing that you're right that only the hard-core will miss them, everyone else that needs to update Twitter EVERY TWO MINUTES already has a mobile device.

  9. mc_kingfish says:

    Tear 'em out! Tear 'em out and replace 'em with monkeys.

  10. radparker says:

    They make for neat toys and I certainly stop and play with them whenever I'm at the club. But, they're not essential and not even part of the reason anybody comes to the club. If they're causing you pain, I say axe them.

  11. pdx6 says:

    I don't think you're really going to find fans for the 1U servers that are quiet enough. They are so loud because they move a lot of air through that tiny box. But hey, if that's your solution, I have a few hundred 1U boxes I'm looking to unload too.

    The kiosks are sorta neat, mainly in the way that you get to show off Xscreensaver, but if you can't get some easy to manage thin clients in there that don't sound like jet engines, you're time is better spent managing the club.

    I'm sorta shocked that you can't find some blogger weenie to come in and set this shit up for you, but I guess bloggers are whiners not fixers these days.

    • jwz says:

      They never have been. Since day one I've been hearing people expressing their shock, shock that I can't get some internet fanboy to do ____ for free. It never happens.

  12. fo0bar says:

    Do it. Everybody is already on the MyTwitTube on their phones. Replace the kiosks with a sign that says, "drunkdna on LiveJournal. You remember LiveJournal, right?"

    Brought to you by the guy who has been to DNA Lounge exactly twice.

    • dr_memory says:

      Sadly, it would probably be more effective advertising to put "#dnalounge" on the signs. Otherwise, yes: the combination of Twitter and the rapidly-approaching-ubiquitous "smart" phone has rendered the idea of the "internet kiosk" kinda... quaint.

  13. houdini_cs says:

    I may have suggested this before, but the Sun thin client (SunRay) is pretty easy to manage, and the units don't fail often in normal operation. Their server-side software isn't intuitive, but I'm sure you could figure it out.

    That said, if they're not in use, well, what's the point?

    • karlshea says:

      "pretty easy to manage" falls apart pretty quick in a nightclub environment.

      No one writing spec sheets or putting together boxes generally envisions an environment where you can have spilled drinks and fog machine gunk.

      • houdini_cs says:

        I'm with you on that. However, I think that a box that runs 5W max and has no moving parts is probably a little more resistant to drinks and fog machine gunk than a PC. Clearly I haven't done it (being sadly short on nightclubs to experiment on), but that doesn't keep us from throwing out ideas :)

  14. I'm a poor-ass bitch who doesn't have one of those new-fangled smart phones, but I can't say I use the kiosks enough at the club to make it worth keeping them.

    I'd be sad to see them go, just because they're handy to have around sometimes.

  15. 0ntological says:

    If I was actually able to maintain them, you know I would, but since I can't and you don't want to.....I have to agree with everyone else: get rid of them!

  16. I am highly suspect that you will be able to find 1u fans that are quiet enough. Small diameter = high RPM = loud.

    If you want to do the kiosks, you probably just want to get a fit pc or some similar little thing with no/few moving parts etc.

  17. tecknicaltom says:

    I'd totally be there and help you out, if only I weren't on the wrong side of the country and have (unfortunately) never been to DNA. Seeing as my input means very little, I'll voice it (this is the internets, after all). I've always used the idea of the kiosks to explain why DNA is different than most places, and why I'd visit if I made it to SF. But if nobody uses them, I think you could do much cooler things with the boxes. At my software dev work, we have stoplights and beta brites as build indicators, and I'm sure you could come up with some great visualization stuff to put on a real display. But, feel free to ignore me, cause I'll still visit when I ever make it down to SF.

  18. keep the screens and just have them cycle through flyers of upcoming events. i like the tables they have and they would make a great marketing device without mcdonald's and starbucks ads like at other clubs.

  19. mark242 says:

    Ditch the kiosks.

    Maybe you can ask these guys to set up something at a reduced cost? The beer-spilling maintenance would probably end.

    My captcha was "klansman Funeral".

  20. violentbloom says:

    I used to use them but have happily had an iphone for a while now.

    Maybe you can sell the 1U servers for the dna legal defense fund? Or raffle them off?

  21. artkiver says:

    Could care less if they were gone; only ever used them to post to the snark-o-tron. I will say I still miss being able to write to the snark-o-tron though.