Review article, history of program

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'Internet Cafe' software

accounting work of Internet cafe, gaming center

 

The spread of internet cafes, gaming centers all over the world booming in popularity. Possibility to get an easy access to internet anywhere in the world is very important and useful for everyone. E-Mail, social networks, network gaming, access to internet resources - everything that makes our lives more convenient, productive and fun. This is a real gold mine for students, communication and recreation tool. Gamers have the opportunity to play with each other, not only within the room of cybercafe, but any opponent at any point on the globe. Invaluable assistance of internet cafes for people who are on vacation, business trip. For them it is means of communication, the ability to share documents, important messages. Impossible to list all the areas of valuable services provided by internet cafes.

 

Internet cafe owners, from the first day of work, faced with a mass of different problems. How to control the work of employees? Dishonest employees (administrators) often do not convey money to cash, selling computer time without accounting. Cafe owner can not always be present and monitor the work. He needs a reliable daily reports on the work (which would be impossible to counterfeit), the statistics of cafe operations, opportunity to control the cafe from home via internet. His main target - to increase the profit received from cafe. Administrators work in internet cafe isn't only recording of paid time and getting money from clients. Necessary to monitor the state of computers, work of LAN, restrict clients from running malicious programs. All this isn't complete list of problems that are solved with software for automation and management of internet cafes.

 

There are many software for accounting work of internet cafes available. Amateur and professional, free and paid. This review focuses on "Internet Cafe" software by AstrumSoft (http://astrumsoft.com/compzal/). Its headquarter is located in Odessa/Ukraine. Software invented in 2000 by Ruslan Shcherbatyuk (ruslan@astrumsoft.com). It is very popular in Russian-speaking countries as its interface was initially Russian. Nowadays it is available in English and other languages. It supports most Windows operation systems (XP/2003/Vista/7/8).

 

History

 

At the 2000, being a student of I. I. Mechnikov Odessa National University, Institute of Mathematics, Mechanics and Economics, faculty of Applied Mathematics - Ruslan Shcherbatyuk invented his first version of "Internet Cafe" software. The original idea of program was proposed by his friend Viktor Myasnikov who was working in Internet Cafe at that moment. He had designed program interface and basic functionality. Program was well implemented and it was decided to try selling it via internet. Very soon first clients had appeared. Many thanks to all program users as they had proposed valuable ideas and it started to dynamically evolve. Locking PC control via LAN had appeared soon. Many other features were implemented that should have each internet cafe control program nowadays. Years passed, functionality was growing up together with the quality of the program. At 2004 Ruslan Shcherbatyuk started AstermSoft company. Official website started at: http://astrumsoft.com. Working together with high skilled engineers mainly improved software and it is rated as very professional nowadays. Worldwide sales started very soon, starting from home Odessa/Ukraine and targeting far located Fiji islands.

 

 

Review

 

Original program interface allows quick estimation of cafe state. Single screen contains information about all the computers in the cafe. There is a dependency on PC Display connected to computer of administrator as it should contain all the information at the same time. For example, cafe containing 16 PC's should have screen resolution 800x600, cafe with 48 PC's should have 1280x1024 screen resolution. Not a problem nowadays, rather a historical requirement:

 

art-zalsm

 

Software consist of two parts: server and client. Server part is installed on PC of the cafe admistrator (person who takes money from clients and controls their time). Client part is installed on each PC in local network. Clients of internet cafe rent their time to work on these client PC's.

 

Primiary focus of client software is to lock PC until it is rented (paid). There are several locking techniques: locking pop-up window and locking of keyboard/mouse. Take a look at a sample locking window:

 

art-splash

 

You can use any image or even a group of images changing with a given period of time.

 

Control of paid time - primary functionlity that is present in all internet cafe accounting software. Cafe administrator can easily type paid time (i.e. how long client is going to rent a PC), and paid sum will be calculated automatically. Computer will be unlocked. When the time is off, client PC will be automatically locked. So client will not use a rented PC more then he had paid. Cafe owner will get his maximal profit. Software is able to notify client about the rest of his time (or how much time he has already used), including voice, 5 minutes before the end of time, directly into his speakerphones or using administrator PC speakers.

 

Software operates with the cost per hour of games and cost per hour of internet. There are conceptions of "night" and "half-night". Clients are often stay at cafe during the whole night. It usually costs cheaper then cost per hour. Timer mode can be used when user has no idea how long he will rent a PC and likes to pay at the end of his work.

Time packets are implemented for pre-selling minutes cheaper to a loyal customers, accounting to their personal balance (i.e. game and internet hour cards).

 

Discounts, payment round up, free time for computer customization, tariffs can automatically change during the day. Possibilty to fine clients because of their discipline (by decreasing their paid time). There is a possibility to return the rest of paid sum to the client (example: he had paid for 1 hour, but spent 30 minutes only and wants to leave).

Changing client seats, possibility for client to give the rest of his time to the friend.

 

Reliable reports - exteremly important functionality of each accounting software. "Internet Cafe" software proposes different reports that you can observe using any time interval (originally for current work shift). Reports are encrypted. There is no possibility of easy changing or replacing them. Reports even have some techniques of automatical repairing using internal back ups. Cafe owner can be sure in reports security: all the holes all cheats for administrators are fixed so he will see work statistics as it originally was. Here is a sample of program report:

 

art-mainreport

 

 

Software reports and software itself have different security access levels protected by password. Cafe owner, for example, able to deny changing tariffs, deny observing reports of work shifts of other admins. Special security report "used processes" shows what programs were used by clients, at what time. There is a possibility to sort process list by its  popularity. Owner of cafe will be informed of most popular games used by clients.

 

Software allows to account any other services, like: printing, scanning, burning CD's, bar services (tea, coffee). Printing is specially controlled: all the printers connected to admin PC under program control. Each printed list of paper is accounted.

 

Software allows to control internet usage under different operating modes. It is possible to disable internet when in games mode or restrict some functionlity. If you are a software engineer and desire to construct your own internet control plugin - this manual describes how to do that.

 

Software allows to control and account internet traffic. You can separate local network traffic and internet traffic. You can set cost per 1 megabyte of traffic depending on its volume.

 

Software contains database of loyal clients. You can enter personal data for each client, including: home address, picture. Program remembers total time spent in cafe, total paid sum. You can group loyal clients, name groups and assign special discounts to groups. For example: regular group: 3% discount, silver group: 5% discount, gold group: 10% discount. At the end of the month you probably want to raffle some bonus to the most active loyal client.

 

There is a rich functionality of remote control of clients. It is primarily useful for admins. They can review client desktops, program lists, kill programs, adjust sound volume, reboot and shutdown computers, send text messages and many more.

 

One of the shortcomings of many internet cafe accounting software is a complex procedure of upgrading client part software when new version was released. It is a long time even for a cafe with 10 computers. "Internet Cafe" software allows you to update client software in one click. Next click allow to check client software versions, their integrity.

 

Cafe owner is able to inspect admins work via internet. He should just launch his favourite internet browser, type special URL and password. He can even observe some remote reports, client desktop screenshots, connection with clients, tariffs etc.

 

Software user manul (that is currently more then 200 pages), contains lots of recommendations for internet cafe owner, including how to catch administrator cheats. Putting a system clock backwards, disabling client part, attempt to change the report - everything will be reported to cafe owner.

 

If you would like to give a try for a demo version of software, please download it here: http://astrumsoft.com/download/en/ . The only difference with full version is that demo version allows connection with 4 client computers only. Other functionality is exactly as in full version. Small cafes with a number of client computers below 4 are allowed to use this software for a free, unlimited time.

 

Please proceed to observing feature list.


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