Sometimes you want a web application to run continuously 24/7 full-screen, for example for a web-based narrowcasting system. Both Windows and Linux require a number of steps to make this work stably and smoothly. In this blog, we look at how we can do this with Google Chrome on a computer with Linux Mint.
Install Linux Mint
Go to the website of Linux Mint and download the edition of your choice, for example, the 64-bit Cinnamon. At the time of writing, Linux Mint 19.3 “Tricia” – Cinnamon (64-bit) was the current version. Write the ISO to a USB drive, boot the computer from USB and wait until the Linux Mint desktop appears. Then double-click the “Install Linux Mint” icon and go through the installation process.
After installation, have the computer restart after you have disconnected the USB drive. Disable the “Welcome to Linux Mint” screen by checking “Show this dialog box at startup”.
To log in automatically next time without having to enter a password, go to System Settings > Login Window > Automatic Login and enter your username.
To complete the installation of Linux Mint we first have to download the latest updates of the packages. Start “Update Manager” by clicking on the (blue) shield in the lower right corner of the taskbar and click on the ‘ok’ button. To speed up updating, you can choose a mirror with a higher download speed here. Update “Update Manager” if necessary, click on “Perform Update”. You can then install all package updates by pressing the “Install updated packages” button.
Install Google Chrome Browser
You can install Google Chrome in different ways. In this case, we will download Chrome from the website and install it with the “GDebi package installer”.
Open Firefox, go to https://www.google.nl/chrome/ and click on the “Download Chrome” button
Choose “64-bit .deb (for Debian / Ubuntu)” and click “Accept and install”
When the download is complete, click on the newly-downloaded file
At the question “What should Firefox do with this file?”, Select the “Open with GDebi package installer (default)” option and click “OK”
In the package installer, click on “Install package”
When the installation is finished you can close the window
You can optionally create a shortcut on the desktop that you can use to launch Chrome in kiosk mode. For this, we add the parameters “–kiosk” and “–app=https://yoururl“.
Open the Linux Mint menu (click on the logo on the left side of the taskbar) and search for Chrome
Right-click Chrome, choose “Add to desktop”
Right-click on the new Chrome shortcut on the desktop and enter:
Assignment: at the end of the line, add: --kiosk --app=https://yoururl
Name: “Google Chrome Kiosk Mode” (for example)
When you click the shortcut now, Chrome will start full-screen. You can close Chrome again with the key combination ALT + F4.
Start Google Chrome automatically
Use the “Startup Applications” section of Linux Mint to determine which applications will and will not start automatically when the computer starts up. We also want to prevent Chrome from asking for a password at startup, so we add the “–password-store=basic” parameter.
Open the Linux Mint menu (logo on the left side of the taskbar) and search for “Startup applications”
In Startup applications, you can disable unnecessary applications (Print queue applet, Update management, Mintwelcome, etc.)
Press “+” to add> select “choose application“> select Google Chrome from the list
Back in the Startup Applications list, select Chrome and click the pencil to edit the options:
Name: Google Chrome Kiosk
Assignment: add above plus --kiosk --app=https://yoururl --password-store=basic
Optionally you can test the Chrome startup application by clicking on the icon with the gears (“turn now”)
Google Chrome will now launch full-screen when Linux Mint starts. You can close Chrome by pressing ALT + F4.
After starting Chrome, the cursor will remain on screen. With the application “unclutter” you can hide the cursor (and make it come back when you, for example, move the mouse). Open a terminal window (CTRL + ALT + T) and use the following command:
sudo apt-get install unclutter
Just like Chrome, we add unclutter to Startup applications:
Open “Startup Applications”
Click on “+” to add, select “custom order”
Name: Hide cursor
Assignment: unclutter -idle 3
(3 is the number of seconds that unclutter waits for hiding the cursor)
Optionally you can now test unclutter by clicking on the icon with the gears (“turn now”)
Remote control: Vino VNC server
When you are going to put the computer in a hard-to-reach place (in the case of narrowcasting, for example) then it might be useful to install a VNC server. That way you can take control with a VNC client on another computer on the network. For this you can install the Vino server:
Use this command in a terminal window (CTRL + ALT + T): sudo apt-get install vino
Add this “custom command” (see “unclutter” above) to Startup applications: /usr/lib/vino/vino-server
To set up Vino, we use the dconf-editor which you can install with:
sudo apt-get install dconf-editor
In the Linux Mint menu (bottom left of the taskbar), search for “dconf editor”.
In the editor, navigate to org / gnome / desktop / remote access and change the settings according to the requirements of your VNC client, for example:
Require encryption (off)
Set the VNC password
If you also have Linux Mint (or Debian or Ubuntu) on the other computer, you can install RealVNC as a client on it. To do this, go to the download page and choose the “DEBx64” version. Installation is the same as Google Chrome, see above.
If you are an advanced user, you may also want SSH access to the computer. Then install the SSH server: sudo apt install openssh-server
Screen saver and energy management
To prevent the screen from turning off or the screensaver turning on after a while, you can change two more settings.
To keep the screen on: go to Power Management > Power Options > “turn off screen when inactive during:” and choose “never“
To disable the screensaver (screen saver): go to System Settings > Screen saver > “Delay before the screen saver starts:” and choose “never“
If you use the computer without a mouse and keyboard and the screen is hanging remotely, it can be useful to have the on/off button switch the computer off immediately:
System settings > Equipment > Power management > Additional options > “When the power button is pressed” and choose “shut down immediately“
Finally, in the BIOS you should configure the computer to restart automatically after a power failure.
Do you have any tips or are you missing something in this manual? Then leave a message below!