Running childrens’ games using IIS on Windows XP

My son is fascinated with computers. It could be because every time he sees his Daddy I’m using one… or it could be just a sign of the times. Either way, we’re fast approaching the age when I need to set the little fella up with some IT of his own (he’s no longer interested in the old keyboard I gave him last year as he’s worked out that it doesn’t do anything on a screen).

Miffy Plays with NumbersMiffy's World of Colour and Shapes

On a recent trip to PC World, I spotted some educational games for just £4.99 each, so “Miffy Plays with Numbers” and “Miffy’s World of Colour and Shapes” joined my software collection. This weekend, I found some time to rebuild an old laptop and install the games in readiness for use (they are marked as suitable for ages 2 to 5, although I think 2 might be pushing things a little). It shouldn’t really be a case of installing (the games in question appear to be a bunch of Shockwave files which run directly from the CD) but anyone with young children will know that optical media and toddlers don’t go very well together and so I’d like to run the applications from the hard disk.

Working out which files to copy wasn’t too difficult (in any case, copying the entire CD contents would be fine), but Internet Explorer wasn’t happy with the use of active content (requiring Information Bar interaction) and I couldn’t add a local file URL to the trusted sites list.

The answer was quite simple – Windows XP includes Internet Information Services (IIS), so I set the PC up as a web server and served the content from there. After installing the necessary IIS components (just select the world wide web service and the other necessary components will be selected automatically), I copied the game files to a new folder inside wwwroot. The next step was to create a new virtual directory (e.g. miffy-numbers) on the default web site and to follow the wizard, pointing it at my local copy of the files and accepting the defaults. Finally, I allowed access to the virtual directory (properties, directory security, edit anonymous access and authentication control) using integrated Windows authentication and added index2.htm to the list of documents (properties, documents), avoiding the need to accept the license agreement every time the program is run.

Now I can run the programs from http://localhost/virtualdirectory/ (e.g. http://localhost/miffy-numbers/) and have set up a couple of shortcuts on the desktop for my small person to launch them. The only downside is the recent Microsoft update that requires a control to be clicked to be activated before it will run (that is all down to a Windows XP update to circumvent a dodgy patent ruling against Microsoft and should be possible to resolve by removing the update that relates to Microsoft knowledge base article 912945).

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