Next, I tried to check mail. This time we had better luck -- it actually
reported that I had 48 email messages. But, then, strangely, it reported an
error message something along the lines of "line has been idle for N
minutes", which was quickly obscured by an "automation error" dialog box.
This then quickly went away, as the system reset itself. This was a tad
disconcerting, since I'm not sure whether it stopped accumulating charge
Next, I tried to surf the web. Since I was curious as to which browser was
being used, I decided to see if it would reply to the "about:" URI. When I
entered this URI, I received another "automation error", and the system
reset itself, again leaving me to wonder whether I was being continually
Julia was curious to see whether she could get a telnet connection, so we
tried the surf the web feature again, and entered a "telnet:" URI. Much to
my surprise, a telnet window actually appeared, and Julia was able to log
in. But, the telnet window wasn't centered in the screen exactly, so it was
difficult to read text on the right had side of the screen. And, again, we
experienced the "connection idle" ... "automation error" dialog box combo,
before being logged out (in fact, I don't think I exited the kiosk normally
on any operation).
So, in the final analysis, the TouchNet kiosks appear to be extremely
brittle, with crude error recovery (reset to front page of system for all
errors). Even straightforward operations, like checking mail, either didn't
work right, or caused errors.
Finally, and intriguingly, the phone jack used by the kiosk was very easily
accessible, and was a normal jack. This seemed to be the case for many of
the low-volume ATM machines that I saw while in Florida as well. I didn't
try using this phone connection, so I can't report on whether it can be
reused (I suspect it would be considered fraud to use it), but I imagine it
could be used to call a local ISP's access point.