Michael Lanyon's Blog Notes and thoughts from LanyonM

Raspberry Pi Dashboard Kiosk


I’ve had a Raspberry Pi sitting on my desk at home for months telling me whether I had new Gmail. At $35, the Pi is cheap, but I sure wasn’t getting my money’s worth using it as a glorified dock notification. Then I saw this post from Pivotal Labs about using a Pi as a kiosk. I immediately thought of using a Pi to display Graphite graphs at work, and while it took an ashamedly long time to get moving on the project, the configuration only took an hour.

Update 2015-02-25: As of the 2015-01-31 release of Raspbian (for Pi2 support), the LXDE autostart file is located at /etc/xdg/lxsession/LXDE-pi/autostart. I’ve updated the instructions to reflect this change.

The full setup - with the Pi exposed.

Configuring the Pi to be a kiosk was pretty easy. The idea is to have the Pi boot to a full-screen browser that loads a predetermined page. Additionally, I installed VNC so that I could view the desktop remotely if necessary.

I followed the following steps starting from a fresh Raspbian image:

Use raspi-config to:

  • enable ssh
  • change the locale and timezone
  • boot to desktop
  • expand_rootfs

Update and install some software:

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install ttf-mscorefonts-installer unclutter x11vnc x11-xserver-utils

Disable sleep so the screen stays on:

$ sudo vi /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf

# add the following lines to the [SeatDefaults] section

# don't sleep the screen
xserver-command=X -s 0 dpms

Configure LXDE to start the Midori browser on login:

$ sudo vi /etc/xdg/lxsession/LXDE-pi/autostart

# comment everything and add the following lines

@xset s off
@xset -dpms
@xset s noblank
@midori -e Fullscreen -a http://example.com

Please Note: If the LXDE-pi folder doesn’t exist on your, you may be using an earlier version of Raspbian. The correct location for the pre-2015 Raspbian is /etc/xdg/lxsession/LXDE/autostart.

Configure VNC to start on boot

$ sudo curl -L -o /etc/init.d/x11vnc https://raw.githubusercontent.com/starlightmedia/bin/master/x11vnc
$ sudo chmod 755 /etc/init.d/x11vnc
$ sudo update-rc.d x11vnc defaults


If you prefer to use Chrome as the kiosk’s browser, you can do this:

$ sudo apt-get install chromium


$ sudo vi /etc/xdg/lxsession/LXDE-pi/autostart

# replace the midori line with the following
@chromium --kiosk --disable-session-crashed-bubble --disable-restore-background-contents --disable-new-tab-first-run --disable-restore-session-state http://example.com


The Graphite dashboard pictured at the top of this article seemed to have a memory leak because both Midori and Chrome would crash after running the dashboard for about 20 hours. Instead of trying to fix Graphite I treated the symptoms. Xdotool is one of the handy utilities written by the awesome Jordan Sissel and allows you to simulate keyboard and mouse input.

sudo apt-get install xdotool

and add the following to crontab (you’ll need to make sure the name matches the browser application you’re running):

0 */6 * * * DISPLAY=:0 xdotool search --name chromium windowactivate --sync key F5

That should be all you need to do to get the Pi configured. I use RealVNC to connect to the Pi.

If I’ve left something out, please leave a comment and let me know.