Charity membership drive – using a laptop as a signup form

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The situation:

I work for a charity, and we frequently go to events where people want to sign up and learn more about the problem we work on and our work.

The problem:

This requires a) printing 100s of signup sheets for people to write their details on (name, address, email address), and b) a great deal of staff or volunteer time entering this data.

The ask:

Would anyone be able to suggest a suitable program that would allow users to signup on the computer directly, but prevent them from exiting this signup screen, and using any other part of the computer?

It would need to be able to output to .csv so that the data can be imported into our mailing list software.

Ideally, it, and its host OS, would run on very old hardware – it’d be a massive advantage if we could avoid using relatively expensive new(ish) laptops for this, and instead use a couple of old laptops (think Pentium 1 166 mmx running Windows 98 SE) that I can donate to the charity, as there’d be much less risk of theft / cost if they got damaged.


If I was you, I would use Access as it suits your needs perfectly – You can set up a database in no time at all – simply one field for each question that would of been on the paper, then you can either import it directly in to the program you will be using later or export to CSV or a number of other programs.

You can use a old version of it on a old version of Windows and it should still be compatible with newer versions (just be sure to create the file on the old ones, or set compatibility to the old version if creating on newer – I think the earliest you can do on 2007 is compatibility for 97)

As for stopping people getting around the OS… You could hve someone else fill out the forms for people, apart from that, I would say converting the access database to a stand alone file where you cannot access the back end, then possibly changing the Windows shell (either through registry, or win.ini on older versions) from explorer to the access database.

Just be sure to either create a password protected button that will launch explorer, or some other way to launch it later.

As a programmer this problem is really trivial for me. It would be simple enough to write a program that disallows access to the OS and outputs to a CSV (as CSV files are plaintext). I can’t really think of a program currently on the market that would give you the flexibility you desire and run on a 166Mhz CPU. If you are somewhere near NJ I might be able to help.

You could use a webform for this — if your organization has anybody with even basic PHP experience, you could set it all up as a webform which just appends the data to a CSV. Internet Explorer on Windows 2000 and later can be locked down pretty tightly using Group Policies. You can set IE to be the only program running, disable closing it, and remove any links to other pages then disable the address bar. You could also use the R-Kiosk addon for Mozilla Firefox – it puts the browser into “kiosk mode”, where it’s full screen, you can’t exit, and I believe it has ways to specify which sites can be visited and which can’t. If you’d like more info on either of those options, let me know and I can give you some pointers.

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