Set up a signage or kiosk machine with Debian 9 Linux

Tested on Debian 9.4.0

Initial installation

Install with debian-9.4.0-amd64-netinst.iso and perform graphical install, partition with MBR and single root partition filling the entire disk without any swap partition. You can use your own partitioning preference if you’d like here.

Choose minimal selections with no graphical desktop environment.

Create the default root user and a separate user tv.

Set up networking if desired, but we’ll assume here you’re using default settings on a network with a DHCP server automatically assigning IP addresses.

Install the following packages as root

apt-get install -y chromium xorg xinit vim openssh-server less curl

Configure ssh (optional)

Create ssh key with ssh-keygen and set up the authorized_keys file. Configure /etc/ssh/sshd_config if desired. On my test machine, I set the following in /etc/ssh/sshd_config

PermitRootLogin yes
PasswordAuthentication yes

You may wish to use PermitRootLogin without-password for better security. Using ssh makes it easier to update remotely. Just ssh into the machine remotely and run your typical apt-get update && apt-get -y dist-upgrade

Enable the service

systemctl enable ssh.service
systemctl start ssh.service

Configure auto login on tty1

Create a new dir:

mkdir -p "/etc/systemd/system/getty@tty1.service.d/"

Then create a new file /etc/systemd/system/getty@tty1.service.d/autologin.conf with:

ExecStart=-/sbin/agetty --autologin tv --noclear %I $TERM

Enable non-graphical console as the default runlevel with

systemctl set-default

Disable console blanking

This probably isn’t needed as we’ll be running X, but I like to add it anyway. Add the following to the end of /etc/profile

setterm -blank 0 -powersave off &> /dev/null

Disable X blanking

Create a new file /home/tv/.xinitrc and add:

xset s noblank
xset s off -dpms
exec /usr/bin/chromium --kiosk --window-size=1920x1080 'https://YOURWEBSITE.COM/'

I’ve had to use the --window-size option as otherwise it would open with a incorrect window size which only took up half the monitor (not sure of the reason behind this)

Replace the URL with your desired URL to open. I prefer the following, but it allows user to press F11 and exit fullscreen mode, access web developer tools, and the print dialog. This might not be desirable in an actual real kiosk.

exec /usr/bin/chromium --incognito --start-fullscreen 'https://YOURWEBSITE.COM/'

Set up to start X automatically for tv user

Add to the end of /home/tv/.profile

exec startx -- -nocursor

The -nocursor hides the mouse pointer. Don’t use this if you want the mouse pointer to be visible.

Start up

Reboot the machine, on starting up, the machine should autologin with user tv and start X with chromium running, loading your desired URL. You should not be able to exist this shell.

You can open a separate login console at tty2 if you wish by pressing CTRL + ALT + F2.

Shutting down machines

Press the power button. ACPI power shutdown sequence should begin.

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