Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ubuntu Kiosk + Opera = FTW!

Recently I've been tasked by the company that I work with to create kiosk terminals. We had some old Dell's lying around, they have a 400mhz processor, 128mb ram, 10gb hard drive. They would basically just show the company website but prevent them from going anywhere else.

Now I thought this would be a good chance to show them Ubuntu and Firefox, I'm an evangelist for those two. However what happens next is a trip into the twilight zone, I ended up having to use Opera.

It seems there are no good firefox extension that turns it into a kiosk, I tried searching on its add-on database. While there are some, most of them only works in Windoze!!! WTF!!! Mozilla wtf!!!! Open Source, ever heard of it???

Damn I was so pissed off, add the fact that the wireless usb adapters are a pain to configure in Ubuntu. I started to think that maybe I'm going on the wrong path. After googling for a miracle I finally found one post in a forum suggesting why not try opera... I've used opera before, in fact before Firefox I was a huge opera fan.

Sure enough, damn it was so easy with Opera, opera -kioskmode -nomenu -nosysmenu etc.

Check that link for the full list of options, everything worked so sweet in opera and it was fast too. I finished all the kiosk stations in a day, and wasted 2-3 days trying to get firefox to work.

To sum it up, I installed Ubuntu using the server iso. Create a kiosk user with limited system access. Then installed xorg, xscreensaver, opera, msttcorefonts. Got the wireless adapters working using wpa_supplicant and ndiswrapper.

I created a script to start X and then when opera closes it will logout the user, this script is then called from .bashrc

#! /bin/bash

xscreensaver &
exec opera -kioskmode -noexit -nomenu -nosysmenu etc...

Removed the other terminals and left 2 running, didn't have any graphical login manager, and didn't need any window manager. They run fast and sweet on those old Dell suckers, I bet they are thankful that I saved them from the junkyard.

As for firefox, I'm so disappointed... really I am!

This post from ubuntuforums helped me install programs when the ubuntu servers were being leeched to death after the release of 8.04 it was posted by izut.

Re: How to Create Local Repository on Hard Disk

I'll describe a few steps I made to construct my personal repository. My current setup is:

- Ubuntu 'Warty' installed with Internet access (at work)
- Ubuntu 'Warty' installed without Internet access (at home)

Using the usual Ubuntu repositories, I updated the system and installed some packages I wanted (ruby, apache, mysql, etc). You don't need to install that on the host system, just use the apt-get's download only option. All files downloaded from repositories are in the /var/cache/apt/archives directory in the host system. I did these steps:

1. Created /opt/repo directory (could be the home directory)
2. Created the directory /opt/repo/binary (copied from Debian specs)
3. Copied all debs from my update from /var/cache/apt/archives to /opt/repo/binary
4. Executed dpkg-scanpackages like this:
# pwd
# dpkg-scanpackages binary /dev/null | gzip -9c > binary/Packages.gz
5. Burned a CD with its contents

For use that in my standalone host, I did this:
# apt-cdrom add

I think it's all.



hex said...

Great post, thank you, your script should be quite useful for my setup too.

I intend to do the same on a 333mHz PC with 160 RAM, but use Debian instead - seems like Ubuntu server is resource hungry; Debian uses only 11MB of RAM when installed.

Maybe useful for someone else - Opera didn't want to go fullscreen, so I used -geometry 1024x768+0+0, which creates a 1024x768 window and then places it in the top left.

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