We went to IKEA today, and I was walking near the exit and noticed a bunch of laptops set up in the kids play area.  For a moment I thought maybe they had free net terminals for parents, but it was not to be.  A nice lady asked me if I wanted to take a survey in exchange for free coffee.  I said sure, since my wife likes coffee.

About a year ago I was asked by work to look into making a laptop based survey system for remotes.  Since a net application can never be counted on, my suggestion was actually to have a web server on the laptop, and have all the data saved locally, to be extracted later.

That’s exactly what IKEA did, though not in the way I would have done.

The laptops were truly old and nasty, probably for several good reasons.  They were about 3 inches thick, with 12 inch screens, and the plastic felt really cheap.  Some brand I’d never heard of.  I figured it was partly because they didn’t NEED more, and they were less attractive to thieves.

It looked like they were running IE in full screen mode, and a quick alt-tab confirmed that.  There were two other icons running, one I didn’t recognize, and one MS-DOS icon titled "Apache".  Imagine that.  I’m actually surprised they used Apache, since they were obviously running windows stuff.  The forms were talking to DLL’s, so I’m surprised they didn’t use IIS, or even PWS.

I’m guessing there was also some sort of database on the machine, though I guess it could have been writing to text files.  Since there were no wires, and they looked too old to internal wi-fi and they were running a local web server on every one of them, I’m pretty sure they were all independant machines.

So I may think again about doing this.  I’d probably make them LAMP machines, with full screen Firefox.  The keyconfig extension will let you change the keybinding for full screen, which will deter the mildly curious.

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