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Mark Nelson

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

Kiosks: Ur Doin It Rong

July 20, 2008

Learning from others mistakes may smack of schadenfreude, but honestly, if a horrible mistake must be made to learn a lesson, isn't it best for someone else to make the mistake, and you to learn the lesson?

In this spirit of pointing out the bad along with the good,  I'll share this shot of a registry kiosk I saw at Macy's this week: (apologies for camphone resolution)

Macy's Kiosk

You've probably seen this type of thing yourself - an instance of a desktop application, Windows, being shoved into an embedded, hands-off context, and failing. In this case, Windows wants to let the user know that either a driver failed to load or a service failed to start. 

The moral of the story here should be obvious. A desktop operating system like Windows counts on having user interaction to deal with unexpected events. But this doesn't work in a kiosk, an ATM, or an air traffic control system. For those systems you need an emedded O/S that can be managed remotely and knows how to handle this type of error with a bit more aplomb.

Of course, one other thing we have to consider is that Macy's just might not care too much. Being able to deploy this kiosk using Windows may have saved them a bundle of development costs. And if this is at the expense of requiring an occasional reboot, that might just be acceptable. 

Don't let this happen to you. Know the O/S.

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