Take the 2-minute tour ×
Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm looking to set up a simple internet kiosk in the lobby of a motel. For security, I think it's best if I set up a simple Linux distribution whose only user-accessible program is a browser.

Would it be a good idea to take a distro like Ubuntu, set up a limited user account, and uninstall everything except a browser? It might also be possible to use a minimal VM like Blackbox and configure the browser to start when the computer is booted. Alternatively, I've seen some distros that have already been configured for kiosk use - anybody have experience using one?

How would you recommend configuring the system to discard any changes on reboot? It would be nice to allow the browser to be able to write temp files, but I don't want users to be able to make permanent changes to the system.

What browser would you recommend? Firefox is the traditional choice, but there are some other contenders. I know that Arora and Chromium aren't fully baked yet, but I am a fan of the WebKit rendering engine and I am hoping that it's possible to use somehow.

share|improve this question
add comment

4 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I think you can best customize the machine by putting Linux on, and using something like Opera in kiosk mode, as already mentioned by John T.

But really, just throwing Linux on it and leaving defaults is pretty useless just like giving users Windows. I recommend a Linux distro becase of customizability. If you are new with Linux, get someone who knows what they're doing (and I mean really knows what they're doing) and get them to limit the machine just enough.

Uninstalling "everything" from Linux (Ubuntu) machine might be a bit ... well ... problematic, since you can literally uninstall everything and literally leave just browser around. Including kernel, X11 GUI, and package manager. And removing just one of those three would leave you somewhat stranded.

EDIT.

Opera's kiosk mode can be launched by punching in:

opera -kioskmode

You should probably configure a startpage / homepage, however. There's some help for kiosk related options:

opera -kioskhelp

Some more information available from Opera themselves.

When I need a lite window manager, I like IceWM.

With a little time and will, GNU/Linux systems can be customized to do anything. If you have more than one machine, this time will definitely pay off. If nothing else, there's no arcane concepts such as registry so backup of all user configuration can be simplified to just copying the home directory.

Good luck!

EDIT 2

Just went to serverfault.com, there's a related and potentially interesting question over there.

share|improve this answer
    
Right, I shouldn't have said "everything", but just those programs in the menus and such. Although the fact that you mentioned window managers leads me to think that it might be possible to use a minimal WM like blackbox and configure the browser to start and maximize at login. –  Kyle Cronin Sep 7 '09 at 0:52
    
Opera in kiosk mode will do just that. I'll edit my response to add more info. –  Ivan Vučica Sep 7 '09 at 1:02
    
Btw, don't forget to upvote useful answers, and to tick the most helpful one! –  Ivan Vučica Sep 7 '09 at 1:15
1  
@Ivan: Yeah, I know the drill. I've been at this longer than you ;-) –  Kyle Cronin Sep 7 '09 at 1:41
    
I just checked out kiosk mode. It's good, but it seems to disable the address bar. Any way to get that back? –  Kyle Cronin Sep 7 '09 at 1:50
show 2 more comments

This is the sort of place where Knoppix shines. When your OS is on media that can't be written, 99% of your problems just go away. Why worry about leaving functionality when the user can't hurt anything?

Knoppix is also friendly for building your own custom distros, so you can choose what needs to be included, and what doesn't.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I believe a few companies have been using imbedded Linux in Kiosk for some time now, try getting in touch with a company called 3Mtouch , I think I saw a demonstration at a convention once.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I don't see the need to uninstall everything else, just throw on Opera in kiosk mode.

How would you recommend configuring the system to discard any changes on reboot?

Deep Freeze.

What browser would you recommend?

See above

share|improve this answer
    
+1 for Deepfreeze ... set and forget. unrivaled. –  Molly7244 Sep 7 '09 at 0:49
    
Hm, I hadn't considered Opera, I'll look into it. With regard to Deep Freeze, I was hoping to not spend money (money's fairly tight) and instead just set up a RAM disk or whatever live CDs do. –  Kyle Cronin Sep 7 '09 at 0:50
    
Yeah it's not really necessary unless you get a real tech savvy person messing with the kiosk, which it usually isn't. There is an option called resetonexit which clears the cache, history, cookies, and passwords on exit. So your problem of discarding changes on reboot is sort of solved there. –  John T Sep 7 '09 at 0:57
    
you can use MS SteadyState instead which is free. however, a single license for deepfreeze standard is only $40 and well worth it. you won't regret it. –  Molly7244 Sep 7 '09 at 0:58
1  
and if may add: you may want to use 'Browser Chooser' which is acting as the default browser (so the customer can pick the browser he/she is most comfortable with) and place a shortcut to 'Superfast Reboot' prominently on the desktop. since this is a public terminal, it's a matter of hygiene (like flushing the toilet :) to reboot the machine after use. i have setup dozens of such computers in the area this way (i live in touristland :) and i haven't heard from them since (except in case of mechanical failure). –  Molly7244 Sep 7 '09 at 1:15
show 1 more comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.