Debian-based Kiosk in Davis

Bill Kendrick
Tue, 13 Jan 2004 04:58:56 -0800

Late 2002, I was asked if I'd put together a Linux-based kiosk to replace
a Windows one being run at a local newspaper/magazine store here in Davis.

The original hardware was donated, I believe, and the Internet access was
from a local ISP (Omsoft Technologies) that works closely with a non-profit
group in town (Davis Community Network).  (DCN contacted me, FYI)

Anyway, I set up a Debian Woody system, with KDE 3.0, and eventually 3.1,
backports.  I worked with people on the 'kde-kiosk' framework to try to
get them to add features I needed, and, more-or-less, the system seems to
have been chugging away for almost a year there.

Fast-forward to Novmeber 2003.  I land a job programming video games for
cellphones (w00t!), and am provided a laptop, and the ability to work from
home.  Home is boring; I had been sat sitting here for most of the 6 months
since I was laid off by WorldCom back in Feb. 2003.  (Not counting the
absolutely _hellish_ ordeal in October working full-time on backend web stuff
for a bookstore an hour east of here. :^) )

Anyway, I quickly discovered a new little coffee shop in the shopping
center near where I live.  They have free wireless Internet access!
So I happily walked over each day, got a laughed at for being there
constantly, and sipped my coffee while I learned to live with WinXP and
VisualStudio.NET. >:^P

Then I started noticing customers coming in asking about the
"FREE INTERNET" sign they see on the road.  "Do you have a computer?"
"Oh, you need a laptop?  I don't have a laptop."  "A wireless what?"

Fed up, I decided to ask the fine folks from LUGOD "Hey, who wants to donate
a PII to this coffee shop so's I can set up a kiosk?"  5 minutes later,
I check my email again and discovered two replies:  "I've got a PII you
can have, but no monitor, keyboard or mouse", and "I don't have a computer,
but I've got a monitor, keyboard and mouse you can have." ;^)

It ended up being a tad more complicated than that.  My friend who gave me
the PC forgot the RAM.  The fellow with the kybd/mouse/monitor disappeared.
Fortunately, someone else in the club stepped forward with RAM and input
devices, PLUS a wireless NIC he sold me for a mere $20.  The owner happened
to have a spare monitor.

A week later, a Debian 2.2 install (burned the wrong 3.0 disc ;^) ),
Debian 3.0 upgrade, and KDE 3.1 backport install later, and _voila!_
Public access terminal!

Already the owner was asked "bash? ssh?" by some girl (UCD CS student,
I assume; apparently not someone I know from the LUG, so maybe new in town).
I've carefully set up an SSH button on the desktop, along with plenty of
"You DO realize you're on a PUBLIC COMPUTER, _right!?_" disclaimers. ;^)

Anyway, long story... sorry.  I'm just pleased to have a nice setup,
and have the Debian and KDE camps (and IceWM developers) to thank,
especially, for it. :^)  Oh, and that Linus guy... ;)


-bill!                           Got kids?  Get Tux Paint!