Entrian Solutions
 

The 30 day product challenge: ClickStop

Thursday, June 5th, 2008 by

When Sohail and Patrick proposed the 30 day product challenge, I thought “Bad timing – with Entrian Source Search only just out on Beta, I can’t get involved with this right now.” I had the perfect project already lined up, but taking that on during this Beta seemed crazy.

Well, call me crazy, but I’ve changed my mind. I’ll take on the 30-day challenge, and manage the Beta at the same time. At the very least, I’ll prove to myself if no-one else that Source Search makes me more productive. 🙂

The Product: Codename ClickStop

One of my 4-year-old daughter Jenny’s favourite toys is Paint Shop Pro. She loves to sit and paint bizarre and random pictures with it. Sadly, the moment I turn my back she commits bizarre and random acts of damage to my PC – not through malice, but through being clumsy and poorly trained. I’ve been developing Windows software for about a dozen years, and she’s got the PC into states that I wouldn’t believe possible without kernel-level hackery, just by jiggling the mouse the wrong way.

What I need is a way to allow her to click in Paint Shop Pro’s picture, and the tools and colours, but not on the taskbar, the desktop, the “Print” button, and so on.

Imagine mounting a click-proof barrier over some parts of the screen. That’s what ClickStop is – you decide which screen areas can be clicked, and which can’t. It also prevents certain keys and key combinations, like Alt+Tab, Ctrl+P, Ctrl+Alt+Delete, and the Windows key. The only way out is to enter a password.

Who needs it?

Jenny and Paint Shop Pro is just an example – any situation where you have someone who could accidentally mess up a PC is a candidate for ClickStop. Who needs it?:

  • Parents of small children, like me. But also:
  • Schools with computer labs frequented by small children
  • Companies running demo PCs at trade shows
  • Anyone with a PC in a public place (although I’m sure they’re already running a vertical solution)

(Note that I said “accidentally”. I don’t want to pitch this as a PC security product, to keep your teenage son out of your files. Your teenage son could undoubtedly break it in a heartbeat. This is for untrained, non-malicious users.)

The biggest problem I can see with this idea is that no-one knows they need it. I don’t know much about marketing, and what little I do know applies only to the internet. This will require offline marketing – parenting magazines, PC magazines, etc. Do I really want to take that on?

What’s in a name?

“ClickStop” could mean anything, and there’s no chance of getting the domain. Suggestions on a postcard (or a blog comment) for a good name would be gratefully received. Anything that doesn’t sound like an Internet Security product would be good…

Where I am

I already have a (very) early prototype of ClickStop. It’s just enough to stop Jenny wreaking havoc when my back’s turned. But it has exactly no user interface – you run it, your screen goes dark. It needs a user interface, lots of testing with different applications on different versions of Windows, and a website that somehow attracts people who didn’t know they were looking for it. Um.

PS.

As I was typing this blog post, Jenny turned 5. Happy birthday, Jenny!

8 Responses to “The 30 day product challenge: ClickStop”

  1. Mike Wilson Says:

    Hello Richie,

    I’ve added you to the list, and I must say what a brilliant idea. My little one now 10 months old absolutely loves to use “daddy’s” computer and anything that can help prevent loss of work or data (say I have visual studio open) would be most helpful.

    It would also help prevent against cat’s. My cat has so far in 2008 sent several emails and cancelled a direct debit. Not good!

    Best Regards,

    Mike Wilson

  2. Daniel Plaisted Says:

    Can you prevent CTRL+ALT+DEL? I don’t think you are supposed to be able to.

    Also you may want to check out http://www.hanselman.com/babysmash/ for something kind of similar.

  3. Bracken Says:

    I think that is a great idea!
    I know anything is possible, but it seems at least somewhat unlikely that a little kid would get the CTRL+ALT+DEL combination all together. So maybe that wouldn’t be necessary…
    Will you also have some text on the screen somewhere explaining what is happening and how to get out? I can just imagine leaving that program running and a friend or someone coming in to use the computer and being totally dumbfounded. That could be a little entertaining actually. 😉

  4. Richie Hindle Says:

    @Mike: Thanks, and consider yourself signed up as a beta tester!

    @Daniel: You’re right, you can’t prevent Ctrl+Alt+Del, but you temporarily register your own program as Task Manager. Effectively the same thing. Baby Smash looks cool, and its non-destructive promise is just like ClickStop. The difference is that ClickStop doesn’t provide any activity – you choose whatever software you like for that (Paint, Word, games, Flash game website, whatever) and then you sandbox the kid into it using ClickStop.

    @Bracken: You never know what kids will do. 🙂 And there’s always the clever kid with the older brother who’s taught her a trick or two. As for “text on the screen”, yes, absolutely. Stay tuned – my next post will be talking about exactly that.

  5. Susan Says:

    Hi,

    I think your app idea sounds interesting. My daughter is 7 now, but when she was 4, she did the same thing. This would have been very helpful then.

    And a Happy Birthday to Jenny! Five is such a wonderful age. I hope you all have a great year. 🙂

    Best regards,

    Susan

  6. Design day (28 days to go) : Mike on Software Says:

    […] Richie Hindle has posted up detail on his latest product – ClickStop. A product intended to allow a parent to block certain keystrokes and demarcate boundaries of the desktop primarily so that children can use a software application (like Paint Shop Pro) without ruining Windows! There are competitors in this space, but all block user action so as to use their own kiddie-entertaining software. None allow you to block actions to use a software product only you want. His software could find use in trade shows and schools too. […]

  7. Tower Prints » Blog Archive » An update on our progress Says:

    […] stop them from deleting files and changing settings etc. Here is his explanation about his product: Click Stop. Filed under: 30days Article tags: capistrano, dreamhost, mod_rails, passenger, ror, ruby on […]

  8. Design day (28 days to go) Says:

    […] Richie Hindle has posted up detail on his latest product – ClickStop. A product intended to allow a parent to block certain keystrokes and demarcate boundaries of the desktop primarily so that children can use a software application (like Paint Shop Pro) without ruining Windows! There are competitors in this space, but all block user action so as to use their own kiddie-entertaining software. None allow you to block actions to use a software product only you want. His software could find use in trade shows and schools too. […]

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