How to Easily Turn Your Computer Into an Internet Kiosk

An Internet kiosk is fairly common in cafes and airports. If you have the need to install an Internet kiosk in your shop or home, there is no need to pay for a custom solution. With a little hack, you can easily turn your existing computer into an Internet kiosk.

Here is how you can do it for Linux (Ubuntu), Windows and Mac OS X.

Note: while the steps below are for a Ubuntu machine with Unity desktop, the general instructions will work for any other distro as well.

Setting up a new user account

1. Open up “User accounts” in the “System Settings.”

ubuntu-access-user-account

2. Click the “Unlock” button on the top right, followed by the “+” button at the bottom left.

ubuntu-add-new-user-account

3. Give the new user a name, something like “KioskUser,” and set its account type to “Standard.” Click Add.

ubuntu-create-standard-user-account

4. Next, click the “Account disabled” button beside the Password field and set the action to “Log in without a password.” An optional setting is to change the “Automatic login” field to “ON.” This will automatically log the kiosk user into kiosk mode when you boot up the computer.

ubuntu-no-password-for-user

Setting up browser

Google Chrome (or Chromium) comes with a kiosk mode that you can use to display the browser in full screen. If you have not installed Chrome, you can do so by downloading the .deb files from the Google Chrome site. If you prefer to go with Chromium, you can install it from Ubuntu Software Center, or with the command:

sudo apt-get install chromium-browser

One thing of note is that the kiosk mode for Chrome/Chromium doesn’t come with the URL and Tab bar. If you find it lacking in features, you can use Firefox in Full Screen mode as well.

Setting up kiosk desktop

Open up a terminal and type the following command:

sudo nano /usr/share/xsessions/kiosk.desktop

and paste the following to the terminal:

[Desktop Entry]
Encoding=UTF-8
Name=Kiosk Mode
Comment=Chrome Kiosk Mode
Exec=/usr/share/xsessions/chromeKiosk.sh
Type=Application

Press “Ctrl + o” to save and “Ctrl + x” to exit.

Next, type the following command:

sudo nano /usr/share/xsessions/chromeKiosk.sh

and paste the following:

#!/bin/bash
xset s off
xset s noblank
nm-applet &
sleep 5s
while true; do 
    google-chrome --incognito --start-maximized -kiosk http://google.com; 
    sleep 5s; 
done

You can change the startup URL to your preferred site.

For Firefox, replace the google-chrome... line with this:

firefox;

Press “Ctrl + o” to save and “Ctrl + x” to exit.

And lastly:

sudo chmod +x /usr/share/xsessions/chromeKiosk.sh

Setting up the kioskuser account

Now log out of your current administrator account and log in to the kioskuser account. Open the Chrome/Firefox browser. Maximize it to fill up the whole screen. For Firefox, you can install the mKiosk extension and enable kiosk mode by default.

Next, open the “Brightness & Lock” settings under “System Settings.” Turn the Lock switch to OFF and uncheck the box that state “Require my password when waking from suspend.”

ubuntu-kioskuser-disable-screensaver

Lastly, log out of the kioskuser account. Click on the icon to select the Desktop Environment. Select “Kiosk Mode.”

ubuntu-kioskuser-select-kiosk-mode

That’s it.

If you are using Windows 8, you can follow this tutorial that we have written earlier to turn your Windows 8 computer into an Internet kiosk.

The easiest way to turn your Mac OS X machine into an Internet kiosk is via the eCripser kiosk app. What this app does is open up a browser window that cannot be closed without an administrator password.

mac-ecripser

There is plenty of customization for the kiosk, like setting the default home page URL, placing your business logo, setting up time restriction for each usage, etc.

mac-ecripser-settings

eCrisper costs $79 but comes with a free trial so you can evaluate first before buying. It is definitely not a cheap solution, but it sure can get your kiosk set up very quickly and easily.

While there are vendors that sell commercial kiosk booths, they do cost a ton and probably also run the same software as your desktop computer. With this simple hack, you can easily turn your computer into an Internet kiosk, either for free or with a minimal amount. Do let us know if this is working for you.

Image credit: Hong Kong Airport Satellite Terminal Interior, Internet Kiosk at Narita Airport Station