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Revision as of 21:15, 10 May 2007

Copyright © 2007 Userful Corporation. All rights reserved.
(Updated April 2007)


Welcome to Pre-Book

Thank you for choosing Pre-Book, Userful's full-featured, open source, PC reservation system which integrates with Userful's DiscoverStation public access computing software, as well as Windows. With Pre-book, patrons can book time on a station using the Internet, Intranet or by simply logging in at an available station. Whether it is in a library, school, or another venue, Pre-Book is easy to install, learn and use.

Purpose of This Guide

This guide is targeted towards administrators and staff, who will interact directly with the Pre-Book system. It details the operational aspects of Pre-Book functionality, not the technical aspects of Pre-Book architecture.

Pre-Book Server Installation

Pre-Book Server is the server component of the Pre-Book system. The server houses the Pre-Book database, acts as the authentication server, and provides the public front end for Web-based PC reservation.

Minimum System Requirements

Ensure that your system meets the following criteria. It is possible to install Pre-Book on a machine that doesn't meet all of these requirements but it is not recommended.

The minimum system requirements are as follows.

  • 128 MB of RAM.
  • An 800 MHZ Intel X86 processor (or equivalent AMD processor).
  • 4 GB of available hard disk space.
  • A monitor with a minimum of 800x600 resolution.
  • CD-ROM or DVD drive, keyboard and mouse.
  • Ethernet card for Internet/LAN connectivity.

Installing Pre-Book Server

There are three main parts to Pre-Book Server installation: (1) installing the operating system, (2) configuring and installing the Pre-Book Server software, and (3) configuring your Pre-Book settings. The first two will be discussed in this section, and the third will be considered in the next section.

Follow these steps to install Pre-Book Server:

Operating System Installation

Figure: Install CD splash screen.
  • Ensure that the computer on which you will install Pre-Book Server is bootable from the CD or DVD drive. (This may require an adjustment in the computer's BIOS settings.)
  • Insert the Pre-Book Install CD in the drive and reboot the machine. After several moments a splash screen will appear:
  • At this point type install and press the Enter key.

Figure: Installation begins.
  • Installation will proceed automatically.

Figure: Installation finished.
  • Once installation completes, you will be asked to remove the Pre-Book Install CD from the CD drive.
  • Verify that the ethernet cable is connected, then click Reboot.
  • The computer will now reboot.
  • At the prompt, log in using the proper username and password. (The default username and password may be found in the README file on newer versions of the Install CD, or you can call Userful Technical Support.)
Warning: Please change the default root password as soon as you have finished installing.

Figure: IP address displayed by ifconfig.
  • The Pre-Book Server's IP address is obtained by typing ifconfig at the command prompt and then pressing Enter. Patrons will access the Pre-Book PC reservation system at that IP address.
  • Ensure that the Pre-Book Server is accessible externally on ports 22 and 80. (Port 22 is for remote maintenance and port 80 is for the Web interface.)

Pre-Book Server Software Installation/Configuration

Figure: Use a Web browser to configure software install.
  • Using a Web browser from any computer in your network, enter the IP address in the address bar.
  • The Pre-Book Installation Welcome page from Userful will be displayed. This will install and configure the Pre-Book Server software and database.

Figure: Start installation and configuration.
  • Complete the form by supplying configuration information, then click Start Installation.

Figure: Configuration installation progressing.
  • The Pre-Book Server will configure itself based on details supplied. The process may take 3 to 10 minutes depending on the configuration.

Figure: Configuration done.
  • Once the status bar in the browser displays "Done", scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Figure: Start administration configuration.
  • Click "Pre-Book administration pages" to start configuring Pre-Book settings and policies.
NOTE: To configure and use Pre-Book, refer to the next section of this manual.

Configuring Pre-Book

To configure Pre-Book, log in as administrator. Administrators have complete control over the Pre-Book system. Administrators can set up and control access to their public computers, manage time limits for usage and view usage reports.

To begin configuring, follow the steps below.

Administrator Login

Figure: Pre-Book Web interface Welcome Page.
  • From any Web browser in your network enter the IP address of the Pre-Book Server.
  • On the Welcome Page as shown in the figure click Staff Login.

Figure: Logging into the administrator's account.
  • Enter the administrator's email address and password (these are same as those you entered during the Pre-Book Server software install process documented above).
  • Click OK.

Administrator Menu

Figure: The Administrator Menu.
  • The Administrator Menu is located at the right of all Pre-Book administrator pages. It provides access to important administrative functions which are described below.
  • Click on Administrator Menu links to access each section.
  • Enter the details based on the description of Pre-Book administration pages given below. We recommend configuring these pages based on the order they appear in this manual.

Web Parameters

Web parameters are used by Pre-Book to configure the Web service that provides the Web-based user interface, and manages access modes and provides authentication services to Pre-Book clients. These parameters are pre-filled based on details supplied at the time of installation. This section describes each option.

Note that if you change one of these parameters, you must click on the OK button at the bottom of the page to save your changes.

  • AdministratorEMail -- Enter the email address of the administrator. It is important that this email address is valid, since the Pre-Book Server regularly sends important information to this address, such as errors, password resets etc.
  • AllowLoginOnAuthServerFailureP -- Set this parameter to "1" to allow patrons to book computer stations even if the authentication server is inaccessible. Set this parameter to "0" to always require proper authentication.
  • BarcodePrefix -- This field allows Pre-Book to fill in much of the Barcode field on the patron login screen. Pre-populating the input box can minimize patron input errors. For example, if all barcodes begin with 2000105, enter "2000105" in the field.
  • DemoAllowRegisteredUserP -- Set this parameter to "0" to allow only registered patrons to login, or to "1" to allow access to anyone.
  • DemoModeP -- Set this parameter to "1" if PrebookMode is set to "demo", or "0" if Pre-book is being used to demo.
  • Introduction -- Welcome statement for the users. It appears on the login page below the "Welcome to ..." text.
  • LocationPrettyName -- The singular form of the name for the facility in which Pre-Book will be serving. This name is displayed in various parts of Pre-Book. We recommend leaving it to the default value.
  • LocationPrettyPlural -- The plural form of the facility name used in LocationPrettyName.
  • OrganizationName -- Enter the name of the organization or association that will be using the reservation system. This name will also appear on the patron login page in the "Welcome to ..." text.
  • PatronPasswordP -- Set this parameter to "1" to display a PIN or password field on the patron login screen. Set this parameter to "0" to hide the field if you do not require your patrons to use it.
  • PrebookMode -- This field sets the mode in which Pre-Book runs. Set this parameter to "normal" to require patron authentication, "demo" to allow only demo users to login, "bypass" to allow everyone to login (no matter what they type in) and "existing users" to allow locally created OpenACS users to log in.
  • ProductToReserve -- The kind of property that is to be reserved. In most cases this will be set to "PC".
  • ReservationEmail -- This is the outgoing email address from which reservation notification messages are sent to patrons.
  • WebsiteAddress -- The website address used in some email notifications.

Policy Settings

The Policy Settings page allows administrators to establish how patrons access PCs managed by Pre-Book. After changing these parameters, you must press the OK button at the bottom of the page to save your changes.

  • Policy Name -- A short, descriptive name for the current policy.
  • Maximum Reservation Length -- The maximum length of time a station can be reserved with a single reservation.
  • Minimum Reservation Length -- The minimum length of time a station can be reserved for.
  • Reservation Block Length -- The basic unit of time of which reservable blocks of time are multiples. For example, a block length of 15 minutes means reservations may be made for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minute etc.
NOTE: We recommend setting this value to "0" to minimize unused computer time.
  • Maximum Reservations -- Maximum number of future reservations which can be made by a patron.
  • Maximum Advance Notice -- Patrons cannot make reservations earlier than this amount of time in advance.
  • Minimum Advance Notice -- Patrons cannot make reservations with less than this amount of time before the session time starts.
NOTE: We recommend setting this value to "0" if walk-up reservations are allowed.
  • Cancellation Notice -- Users must cancel reservations at least this amount of time before their reserved session time starts.
  • Accounting Period -- Time period in which reservations are limited to the maximum total reservation time. This may be any number of minutes, hours or days. After each Accounting Period, patrons' consumed computer time reverts to zero. Reservations are unaffected by the Accounting Period.
NOTE: Patrons cannot make any more reservations if they are already at the maximum for the Accounting Period.
  • Maximum Total Reservation Time -- Maximum total reservation time allowed for all items, per patron, per accounting period.
  • Maximum Number of Reservations -- Maximum total number of individual reservations, per patron, per accounting period.
  • Grace Period -- Maximum amount of time an unclaimed reservation is held. After this time, the reserved PC becomes available for walk-up use and reservation by another patron.
  • Unclaimed Reservation Penalty -- The penalty applied for unclaimed or "no-show" reservations. Options are: "No penalty", "User loses grace period minutes", or "User loses full length of reservation".
  • Service Withdrawal Threshold -- Maximum number of unclaimed reservations per accounting period before a user is prevented from making further reservations.
  • Accounting Period for Penalties -- Time period over which penalties remain in effect. This allows reservation misuse to be penalized over a broader range of time than the regular Accounting Period. After each Accounting Period, a patron's consumed computer time and penalties revert to zero. Reservations are unaffected by the Accounting Period for Penalties.

Machines and Locations

Figure: The Machines and Locations page.

The Machines and Locations page allows the administrator to change locations (offices, branches, departments, etc.) and computer station parameters. Both machines and locations must be configured before the Pre-Book system can be used for reservations.

NOTE: Locations must be defined before machines can be added to it. All machines must be deleted from a location before deleting that location.

Figure: The Machines and Locations page.

Locations are physical or logical groupings of stations managed by the Pre-Book system. For example, a location might be a cluster of stations in the juvenile literature area or all the stations at a branch of a library.

  • Location Name -- This is the unique name that identifies a physical or logical location, such as "Central Branch", "Business Centre", or "Third Floor".
  • Address Fields -- The physical address of the location.
  • Time Zone -- The time zone in which the location resides.
  • Phone Number -- (Reference desk, reception, etc.) A phone number which patrons can call to direct inquiries about their reservations.

NOTE: You must click the Save Location button after making changes for it to take effect.

Figure: Machine settings page.

Machines are individual PCs managed by Pre-Book. Each machine must have at least one, but no more than ten stations. In the case of Pre-Book Microsoft Windows clients, each machine will be considered as one station.

  • System Name -- This is the unique name that identifies the machine. Make sure that your DiscoverStations or Windows clients have this same name as their System ID. (For example, with DiscoverStation, the computer's System ID listed in Network Personalizer is often used as the System Name in Pre-Book.)
  • Number of Stations -- The number of stations connected to the machine. In the case of Windows clients the value should be 1.
  • Begin Numbering At -- Number assigned to the first station of the machine. For DiscoverStations, this must match the numbering scheme in Network Personalizer.
  • Location -- The location the machine is in. (See above.)

NOTE: You must click the Save Machine button after making changes for them to take effect.

Holiday Hours

Figure: Configure Holiday Hours.

This section is used to remove time from ordinary operating hours. For example if your operating hours are usually 10:00 - 5:00 and on a holiday you would be open 10:00 - 3:00 you would set a holiday from 3:00 - 5:00 that day.

  • You can specify more than one holiday per day. So if you want to open later, and close earlier, just make 2 holidays those days.
  • If you want to extend your hours over a holiday, you will have to change your hours of operation in the Machine and Location page, then change them back when the change in service is over.

Override Barcodes

Figure: Override barcodes.

Override barcodes allow users to enter into the system without registering or having a password.

  • Does not have restrictions on the number of logins.
  • Can be added by simply entering the barcode in the designated field and clicking on Add.

Note: Since these login credentials allow so much freedom, your staff should be careful not to allow patrons to see the barcode being entered. This will prevent abuse of override barcodes. However, if a barcode is being abused, you can always delete it and create a new one.

Search for a Patron

Figure: Barcode search screen.

Enter the barcode you want to search for and click OK.

Figure: Search results.

The search results page allows you to see a patron's login records and also displays station availability. This allows you to reserve a PC for them if needed.

Staff Members:

Figure: Adding a Staff Member

You can create logins for various staff members so they can administer basic Pre-book functionality without the Administrator’s user name and password.

Computer Log-In Records

Figure: Log In Records

This page displays computer log-in attempts. You can display the records by date and location or combination of both.

Windows Client Installation

Follow the steps below to install the Pre-Book Windows Client:

Figure: Installation welcome screen
  • Insert the Pre-Book CD into the drive.
NOTE: Pre-Book Windows Client can also be downloaded from Userful's website (see http://userful.com/download/).
  • Login as administrator.
  • From your desktop, double-click on My Computer.
  • Double-click on the CD Drive icon.
  • Double-click on pre-book_1.0.exe (your version number may differ).
  • Click Next on the install program's welcome screen.

Figure: License Agreement
  • Accept the license agreement by clicking on I Agree.

Figure: Install Location
  • Verify the installation folder and click on Next.

Figure: Server Address and Port
  • Enter the details asked for based on the following descriptions and click on Install.
    • Pre-Book Server -- The IP address of the Pre-Book Server.
    • Port -- This must be "80".
    • URI -- This must say "/pre-book/XMLRPC"
    • System ID -- The unique name of client (anything you want).

Figure: Restart
  • Select Reboot now and click on Finish. This should automatically reboot your Windows computer.
  • Finally, login using the non-administrator Windows account and Pre-Book Client should start up.

Using Pre-Book

Making a Reservation

There are a few steps to making a reservation:

Figure: Reservation main screen.
  • Enter the Pre-Book Web interface by typing in the IP address of your Pre-Book Server in your Web browser's address bar.
  • Type in your username (or barcode) and password in the appropriate field and click on OK to continue.

Figure: Book it.
  • Select the date, time and location for your reservation; this will display the available stations.
  • Click on book it to reserve your PC.

Figure: Confirmation.
  • A message will display confirming the details of your reservation.
  • If you wish to receive e-mail notification of your reservation, enter your e-mail address.
  • Click on Confirm Reservation to complete the process.

Figure: Review reservations.
  • Your reservation history will be displayed.
  • You can scroll down to the end of the displayed page to review your reservations.
  • NOTE: Make sure you click on Log out before leaving the reservation station, or else other people will be able to view your information and even make changes.

Deleting a Reservation

Figure: Deleting reservations.

Both patrons and administrators can delete an unfinished reservation through the reservations page.

  • Patrons can reach this page by logging in with their username/barcode and password in the main page, as explained in the section "Making a Reservation".
  • Staff can use the "Search for a Patron" option from the staff menu.
  • Once you find the unwanted reservation, just click on the trash can icon beside the reservation to delete it.



The procedures described below are the recommended methods to try when troubleshooting Pre-Book issues. All of these procedures are good to use when beginning troubleshooting or when other solutions have not resolved your problems. With the help of these methods, most users will either have their issues resolved or be able to find the next best technique for troubleshooting their problem.

Common Errors and How to Fix Them

Below is a listing of common errors that can occur on Pre-Book Servers and Clients. Each of these have additional information about the errors and recommendations on how to resolve the issue.

I cannot install Pre-Book Server

Solution: Before you follow the steps below, check to see if your hardware configuration meets the minimum system requirement specified in the "Pre-Book Server Installation" Chapter.

The problem may be that your hard drive still has residual data from previous operating systems or software installs. This residual data will need to be completely wiped clean and Pre-Book Server reinstalled.

Figure: Install Screen.
  • Insert the Pre-Book Install CD.
  • Turn off the computer, wait 5 seconds, then turn it back on.
  • Once you see the Install Screen, Press F2 to enter diagnostics mode.

Figure: At the diagnostics command prompt.
  • Diagnostics mode starts up, giving you a screen with several options.
  • Type the following at the command prompt (where it says, "boot:") and press Enter:

Figure: Boot and Nuke.
  • Darik's Boot and Nuke program (dban) will start up.
  • To start clearing residual data on the hard drive, type the following at the command prompt and press Enter:
NOTE: This will erase all the data from the computer's hard drive.

Figure: Percentage of hard drive wiped.
  • The program will start its cleaning process.
  • Wait for it to complete at least 10% of the first pass before you reboot the computer. Optionally you can wait for it to finish 100% in all three passes.
  • Once the program is at least 10% complete, reboot your computer by using the power switch.
  • Install Pre-Book Server from CD again.

I cannot access Pre-Book's Web page from my browser

Solution: Check to see if you have typed the right URL in your address bar. If you are sure it is correct, then follow the steps below.

Figure: At the terminal prompt.
  • Login to Pre-Book Server as root.
  • At the terminal prompt, type the following and press Enter:
    svc -t /service/prebook
  • Try reloading Pre-Book's Web page in your browser again; it should be accessible now.
  • At the terminal prompt, type the following and press Enter:
  • You will be logged out of root.

I get a "Pre-Book Installation: Error" message

Figure: Installation error.

Solution: If you get a "Pre-Book Installation: Error" message when you try to bring up the Pre-Book Web page that includes a database error message like, "OpenACS could not allocate a handle from database pool...", as shown in the screenshot, then follow the steps below.

Figure: Fixing a database error.
  • Login to the Pre-Book Server as root.
  • At the terminal prompt, type the following and press Enter:
    /etc/inid.d/postgresql restart
  • This should solve the installation error by restarting the database server.
  • Reload the Pre-Book Web page in your browser. It should be fine now.

Pre-Book is displaying the wrong time

Solution 1: Try this solution first.

Figure: Time Zone Selection.
  • Login to the Pre-Book Server as root.
  • At the terminal prompt, type the following and press Enter:
  • This should bring up the time configuration program with a timezone menu.
  • Select your timezone from the list by using the arrow keys and then use the mouse pointer to click OK or use the Tab key until the OK button is highlighted and press Enter.
  • Check the time by reloading the Pre-Book Web page in your browser. If it is not right follow the instructions in Solution 2 below.

Solution 2:

  • Login to the Pre-Book Server as root.
  • At the terminal prompt, enter the following commands one at a time in the order listed below and press Enter after each line:
    su - prebook
    psql prebook
  • This will start the PostgreSQL command prompt.
  • Now enter the following commands one at a time in the order listed below and press Enter after each line. Please make sure you substitute your timezone's notation for the "MST7MDT" shown below (you may find the appropriate notation on one of these Web pages: http://docs.sun.com/source/816-5523-10/appf.htm or http://docs.huihoo.com/oracle/docs/B25553_01/calendar.1012/b25486/time_zones.htm
  • The second command will quit out of the PostgreSQL command prompt.
  • Now enter the following commands one at a time in the order listed below and press Enter after each line:
    svc -d /service/prebook
    /etc/init.d/postgresql restart
    svc -u /service/prebook
  • Check the time by reloading the Pre-Book Web page in your browser to see if it has been fixed.

FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions (With Answers!)

Q: How do I change the root password?

A: Do the following:

  1. Login as root.
  2. Use this command to change the root password:

Q: How can I setup a static IP address on Pre-book Server?

A: Do the following:

  1. Login as root.
  2. Start the Network Configuration tool with this command:
  3. Use the tool to assign a static IP address.

Q: How can I configure a firewall on Pre-Book?

A: Do the following:

  1. Login as root.
  2. Run this program to set up the firewall:

Q: How can I get Pre-book integrated with my authentication server?

A: Currently, integration can only be done with the help of Userful staff. Contact information is provided in the "Support Information" section of this manual.

Support Information

  • Telephone: 1-866-873-9119
  • Online Support Documentation: support.userful.com
  • Email: support@userful.com