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First of all, I'm not entirely sure what the term is for a computer that only stands around and shows pictures, but I'm sure you've all encountered them at work, in stores and so on. Usually we notice them because they've bluescreened or they are showing some strange error message.

What I'm wondering is, is there a guide on how to set up a system like this in the best way? I'm thinking that custom distros (like XBMCbuntu for HTPCs) is a bit overkill for only showing slideshows, but surely there's some specialized software or some specific suitable configuration in some guide somewhere, even if the guide is very basic -- such as "Set up Debian Stable, install Gnome, write this in a script and run on boot to display your selection of images".

If anyone has any experience of setting something like this up, I could really benefit from some tips and tricks.

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The term you are looking for is kiosk mode. –  Chris Nava Feb 28 '13 at 16:52
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Term "kiosk" implies customer interaction. –  Alex P. Feb 28 '13 at 16:55
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In general, a kiosk is a sandboxed application that starts automatically. Could be a web browser, custom software or a slideshow. –  Chris Nava Feb 28 '13 at 17:00
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Perhaps a Rasberry Pi with whatever distribution it comes (Debian and Fedora are supported if I'm not mistaking). –  Cristian Ciupitu Feb 28 '13 at 17:02

3 Answers 3

I've never built an actual kiosk but I do have a couple of media-centres in the house that work in a similar way (one application that has the whole control of the screen). The main thing is stripping out (or never installing) a window manager and then your application is the only thing running by default.

Here's how I would do this:

  1. Install ubuntu-minimal
  2. Install nodm, X and whatever drivers are needed for the screen if they're not included (jockey-text might be useful if you need binary drivers).
  3. Install feh (or other image viewer with a slideshow plugin) to display your images:

    feh -zsZFD 3 /path/to/pictures
    

You could replace feh with another image viewer or even a browser showing some HTML you made, or whatever but feh is probably the quickest, most dependency-light way to get this done.

The main thing in terms of boot-up is stripping out (or never installing) a full desktop session like Gnome and having nodm handle things. Here's how I did a kiosk-mode xbmc install. That should get you 99% of the way, just sub in your feh command.

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I believe the term is digital signage solution. Usually having whole PC dedicated to the task is considered overkill. For $50 you can get a media player with size smaller than a cigarette pack. Then you just use whatever software it comes with to set up auto play from whatever media source you prefer - usually local SD card, USB flash drive or DLNA server.

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"Whole PC" doesn't mean a lot these days. The Raspi A is less than £20 which can be a lot cheaper than a lot of for-purpose products like media dongles, with more flexibility if you later need it. –  Oli Feb 28 '13 at 16:57
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Pi's "low" price is adding up fast when you factor in enclosure, power supply, storage card, etc. The media player would come with a remote control too. As for the flexibility - the trick is to choose one with open sourced firmware (many of them are) and active community. –  Alex P. Feb 28 '13 at 17:03

http://www.binaryemotions.com/instant-webkiosk/index.html

Instant Webkiosk, Browser and Digital Signage versions. You don't even need a Hard Drive, boot from USB.

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