Info TV
November 2, 2006 2:48 PM   Subscribe

Old hardware, open source (free) software, JPG's and slide show

I have the need for a cheap (free) way to do the following:
unattended PC's (no keyboard or mouse) slide show of JPG's, kind of a information TV.
I assume to use linux and older harware. I would like to keep most folks away (informal hacker types) other than viewing. I could use a USB keyboard when it needs updating, plugging it in should ask for password.
posted by raildr to Computers & Internet (4 answers total)
This is something that could be done very easily with Flash - give it a folder, and tell it to loop through all the images contained within. This flash file could be played back full screen / in a browser in kiosk mode.

Let me know if you want more info along this path.
posted by niles at 4:17 PM on November 2, 2006

Once you get Linux and X running on your old hardware, the slideshow with password is as easy as xscreensaver, in its slideshow mode. Turn on the password option and you're all set.

Alternatively, you could use Win95/98 with a password-protected slideshow screensaver - 95 especially is much easier on old hardware than modern Linux with XFree86. Same idea.
posted by pocams at 4:22 PM on November 2, 2006

I did exactly this with an old HP Vectra (Pentium III, 128MB RAM) for the lobby of a primary school. It took me an hour to set up, including wiping the hard drive, installing Ubuntu, connecting to the school network share that hosted the photo collection, copying all the photos to the appliance's local hard drive, pointing xscreensaver at the resulting folder and turning its activation timeout down to 1 minute.

I set Ubuntu up with an unprivileged user set to auto logon, with no write access to the photos folder. Plug in into power and push the button on the front, and it happily boots up with no mouse or keyboard attached, automatically logs in, shows you a blank Ubuntu desktop for a minute, then starts the slideshow. Press the power button again and it shuts down clean. Cut the power without shutting it down, and it cleans itself up quickly on the next reboot.

I also wrote a script that I left an icon for on the administrative user's desktop, that connects to the network and updates the photos folder.

It was a really good little appliance and ran rock-solid for two months. It pissed me off hugely when the teacher responsible for updating the photos decided that logging on (using the same administrative username and password used school-wide on all the Winboxen) and double-clicking a desktop icon was too scary because it wasn't a Windows box, and wanted me to install Windows 98 on it instead.

I asked him how he was going to make a Windows 98 box into a trouble-free slideshow appliance, and he said he didn't know but he was sure he could work it out. I spent the usual whole day setting up Windows 98. As far as I know, that box is still sitting in a corner somewhere with a fresh install of Win98 and nothing else on it. Grrrr.
posted by flabdablet at 6:22 PM on November 2, 2006

BTW, xubuntu would be my current distro of choice for older hardware. I didn't know that when I set up my appliance (I used a standard Ubuntu Breezy Badger installer) and it worked fine, apart from being a little sluggish to log on. I expect xubuntu would perform better.
posted by flabdablet at 6:26 PM on November 2, 2006

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