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Raspberry Pi

In our office, the need for up-to-date information regarding the operations and upkeep of live equipment is a source of major importance for our system administrators. As malfunctions can lead to a wide breadth of issues such as delayed response times, lack of adequate feedback, or even the risk of downtime. All of these potentialities can prove troublesome for any well respecting company much less a security centric firm such as ours, and this is why technologies like Icinga are so popular in the information technology field.

That said, one of our head system administrators came up with the idea of a constant display that could render an up-to-date Icinga feed in real time, and this seemed like an appropriate excuse to try out the much lauded “Raspberry Pi” in a work appropriate context. The process was made much easier by way of the “New Out of Box Software” (NOOBS) suite which is a piece of software that can be flashed to the SD card and creates a bootable file system for the device. From that point on all we had to do was pick a distribution and follow the initial setup prompts, but a few issues popped up along the way.

One of the initial problems was the default keyboard selection as the NOOBS system selects the UK layout instead of the US layout on boot. While a seemingly small issue, it did cause a number of problems before we caught onto the setting conflict. The second issue was a lack of mindfulness during the initial configurations. This stemmed from the constant back and forth that arose out of trying various solutions, and really did reinforce the need to keep a clear head during system setups.

After making it through those hurdles we then ran into the issue of over complexity, which arose out of depending upon too many varied sources for assistance. Many others have had their own solution for a Raspberry Pi setup like this, but in each case they all had points of divergence that were not directly applicable to our situation. These tended to skew our setup process and led to a number of unpleasant failures, but as a result we can now present our own iteration of a Raspberry Pi kiosk setup.

Step 1: After the initial setup, you need to update the packages and chosen distribution on your Raspberry Pi. This can be done by entering the following at a terminal session on the Pi in question.

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

Step 2: You should then install chromium, Xscreensaver, and Xserver utilities with the following command.

sudo apt-get install chromium x11-xserver-utils xscreensaver

• There are a number of Raspberry Pi kiosk tutorials out there that recommend the usage of Midori, the default browser on the Raspberry Pi. We had a number of issues with this browser and cannot recommend its usage due to the number of inherent limitations that it has.

Step 3: Also be sure to change the time to the proper settings for your time zone. This is important as some secure sites may enforce the usage of correct time and date stamps. Below is an example of the proper format for the “date” command.

sudo date -s "Thu Aug 9 21:31:26 UTC 2012"

Step 4: Now bring up chromium, click the “store” option on the default page, and search for either “Auto Refresh Plus” or “Easy Auto Refresh.” Either of these free products will allow you to select custom time amounts for the refresh period, and are rather easy to use as well.

Step 5: From this point you have a number of options. You can either save the Icinga address of choice in chromium under “customize → settings → On startup → “Open a specific page or set of pages” →

“Set pages,” or edit the LXDE settings for the Raspberry Pi at

“/etc/xdg/lxsession/LXDE/autostart”
  with the following information.

e # Chromium

* The kiosk mode for chromium can be somewhat troublesome to use, and has been known to be glitchy depending upon the distribution. An alternative to that would be to boot without kiosk mode using:

“@chromium http://dashaddress.domain.tld # Chromium”
  which should start Chromium up on boot in windowed mode. That said, try them both to see what works best for your situation.

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Christina O’Neill has been working in the information security field for 3 years. She is a board member for the Northern Ohio InfraGard Members Alliance and a committee member for the Information Security Summit, a conference held once a year for information security and physical security professionals.