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Booting in kiosk mode

I am from India and am running a small Internet cafe. I did install Ubuntu 11 on my systems but could not continue with Ubuntu OS as it was downloading updates of more than 120MB every day. This eats up my data plan. Now I need an up to 700MB OS that doesn't need any updates but should have networking, Office applications (PDF reader, Word, Excel, PPT) browser, chat client, audio & sound, web cam, and printer support. Can anybody help me on this? I be thankful to you.

  • 1
    beside the answers bellow (limiting updates), also use a light desktop (Xubuntu/Xfce or even lighter Lubuntu/LXDE)
    – user47206
    Sep 14, 2012 at 13:10
  • 2
    Have you considered starting with a very lightweight distro and then just adding firefox/chrome instead? It might be simpler to maintain than a full featured distro with lots of stuff disabled. Sep 14, 2012 at 20:08
  • Or you might even go with something like Chromium OS?
    – Zoredache
    Sep 14, 2012 at 23:24

4 Answers 4


You can tell Ubuntu to either forget the updating completely, or just install the important security updates. Go to the Ubuntu software center, then to "Edit" -> "Software sources".

Tell Ubuntu to check only for important security updates (I definitely would do that!), and uncheck all the other boxes. Furthermore, select the "Never" option under "Automatically check for updates". You will then have to run the updates (if any) manually, for example at the end of the month if you see that you still have some transfer volume left.

enter image description here

That said, I assume that you have more than one computer in your café, and your main problem is not so much downloading the updates once, but the fact that each and every computer attempts to download all of the updates.

EDIT: Here, as pointed out by akin1012, there is an easier way of making a local update cache using the squid proxy server. However, personally I prefer apt-mirror, because it is easier to ensure that all of the clients get the updates only from the mirror, and if the mirror breaks, then the clients will just stop downloading updates instead of suddenly trying to get them from the Internet.

EDIT2: it is true that apt-mirror will download a large amount of data initially, so possibly that is not the best option. apt-cacher-ng has been suggested, but I have no experience with that.

You can do it with installing apt-mirror on one of the machines and pointing all of the other machines to this one. Naturally, you must carefully select what to mirror, otherwise it will try to mirror the whole Ubuntu repository, and not just the important updates (which is probably what you want).

You will find a detailed description of the process here, but beware: you only want to mirror these sources that you actually use!

In short, you need to do the following:

  1. Install apt-mirror

  2. Edit the configuration file (include only what you need)

  3. Start the mirroring -- it will automatically download all relevant files

  4. Install a local web server on the same machine and point it to the downloaded mirrors

  5. Configure all remaining machines to use that mirror instead of the regular sources.

This is all rather complex, but may be worth it.

  • The issue with apt-mirror although I prefer it as well is that it initially pulls the entire repository...possibly using the month's allotment for data traffic in this case. Sep 14, 2012 at 11:17
  • 10
    Use apt-cacher-ng instead. It will just store the requested packages, nothing more. That is better than a local mirror. Sep 14, 2012 at 11:25
  • @aking1012: Yes, I think you are right.
    – January
    Sep 14, 2012 at 11:58
  1. Start with a base server installation.
    During installation it gives you the option to automatically download and apply ONLY security updates.

  2. Use this as your base template for installing each kiosk.
    See above.

  3. Next, configure a squid deb cache-ing proxy as described here.
    This would ensure that any updates for one PC get cached for all PCs.

  • 2
    I don't believe a base server install gives you a GUI - in which case, the OP would have to manually install the Window Manager on top of the base install. At least, this has been my experience with the server version.
    – Suman
    Sep 14, 2012 at 16:16
  • 1
    @Suman - Yes, installation of a GUI would be required. Hence calling it a "base" not a "finished kiosk" Sep 14, 2012 at 16:17

Install Ubuntu and all the necessary updates and drivers in one Master system properly and disable updates completely after that. you can use clonezilla (http://clonezilla.org/downloads.php) to clone the Hard Disk of the Master System(or just the required partition) and just replicate it in all the other systems.

  • 6
    Completely disabling updates is a bad idea on a system that's going to be online. You really need at least the security updates. Sep 14, 2012 at 18:59

Since you are seeking stability over the latest feature tweaks, have you considered using only the LTS (Long Term Support) releases? They tend to be much more stable especially after the first year and thus get many fewer updates. And of course, set the Automatically Check for Updates to Never and Notify New Ubuntu Versions to For Long Term Support Versions, as shown in the earlier picture. I would have no problem installing a 10.04 LTS in a kiosk environment today, skipping updates and switching to 12.04 next year when it has matured a bit.


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