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Linux, Unix, and *nix like Operating Systems Forum

What's a good distro for a bar?

 8:08 am on Aug 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

A local pub asked me for help setting up a PC for them. This is a machine that sits on the bar and is used by patrons.

Windows is one option, but I wondered if there might also be a good Linux alternative.

They don't want patrons altering the machine, installing software, or otherwise irreparably messing it up. It's really just a web surfing box. Also, it's got to be easy enough for them to maintain and keep reasonably updated without requiring an IT person. The more automated the better.

Years ago I would have simply suggested Windows SteadyState, which was great for internet cafes, libraries, etc. That's no longer supported so I'm forced to look elsewhere.

One idea was to simply run a Linux boot disk as the OS and tape the CD-ROM drive shut. That would eliminate tampering to a degree, but would probably be slow.

Any tamper-proof Linux suggestions?



 10:54 am on Aug 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

A lightweight Lniux distro booting off a CD or USB is fast - a lot faster than any large OS booting off a hard drive. I like Puppy, but it needs a bit off work to prevent software installation if running off USB (and you will need to remaster to have a decent browser if running off CD).

An alternative is to use any Linux distro that has a guest login. They cannot install software, and everything they do will be wiped on logout.

Ubuntu can be configured to automatically apply security updates (software updater > settings > updates > when there are security updates > download and install immediately).


 10:59 am on Aug 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

There is also this:

[binaryemotions.com ]

No experience of it, but looks right for the job.


 7:24 pm on Aug 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

I would recommend Mint rather than Ubuntu as being easier and more windows-like in visual operation (and it's based on a Ubuntu distro anyway). Otherwise same comments as graeme: auto-updates almost never require a reboot but you'd need to reload firefox, the recommended and pre-installed browser. Add a few security add-ons to it such as ad-block, flash-block and possibly NoScript (a difficult decision for a public machine: where does security end?).


 7:40 pm on Aug 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

I can't imagine putting a PC in a bar for customer use. That said, I like @graeme_p's idea of putting it on a flash drive. Have a couple extras around for when it gets screwed up and you can just swap flash drives.


 10:20 pm on Aug 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

Hook up a monitor, mouse and keyboard to a Chromebook, then lock the thing in a box (with holes)?

The power and security of Linux, a familiar browser, and automatic updates.


 12:12 pm on Sep 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

I tried Mint 13 LTS, but for some reason couldn't get it to install properly. Might have been the DVD media. I could only get it to run in compatibility mode off the CD, but after an install the machine wouldn't boot. After several install attempts I gave up.

I put Windows on it for the time being, but I will go back armed with more Mint and maybe Ubuntu disks to see what can be done.


 2:24 pm on Sep 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

Install off USB (use unetbootin or similar to create them) - fewer problems, faster, and you do not waste DVDs or CDs.

There should also be a boot option to check media.

Mint has very helpful forums if you keep having problems.


 9:21 pm on Sep 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

I've just installed a fifth copy of Mint from the same DVD, downloaded originally from the web site via Ubuntu Hardy (10.04). First three were over Ubuntu (10.04 and 12.04), next was on "clean" m/c and final one over an old XP.

Worst case was hanging after installation whilst trying to reboot (black screen). After a long while I hit the Reset button on the front of the reluctant machines and away they went.

Of course, no OS ever has what I want out of the box so in each case I spent bits of the next week installing odds and ends. :(


 11:14 pm on Sep 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

This was a "new" refurbished machine with a blank HDD, so I was working from a clean slate. I was getting a blank screen after my Mint install and no amount of rebooting or reinstalling seemed to work.

I'll give the USB key a try. I'm assuming tools like unetbootin allow for multiple OSs on the same USB dongle. I'd like to have more than one option.


 7:38 am on Sep 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

Unfortunately getting multiple distros on one USB drive takes work. I just keep two small drives just for Linux installs and rescue.

Hanging on boot is not a problem I have come across before. Does it start booting? Does it even get to the boot loader? Also, try pressing ESC (switch to text mode boot) while its booting in case its a problem with the boot graphics.


 8:42 am on Sep 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

Oh, you have the machine already. Well, you could give Elementary OS a try. It's based on Ubuntu, but the interface reminds more of Mac OS (much better than GNOME3, if you ask me), and it's quite fast and friendly. Certainly one of my favorite desktop distros at the moment.


 11:01 am on Sep 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

Hanging on boot is not a problem I have come across before. Does it start booting? Does it even get to the boot loader? Also, try pressing ESC (switch to text mode boot) while its booting in case its a problem with the boot graphics.

It was odd. The install completed. I got a message saying the machine was restarting, the DVD would pop out, then the machine would hang...I guess it was hung because the message stayed onscreen for about 20 minutes. I manually restarted the machine and got nothing. After the BIOS boot message there was absolutely nothing. Just a black screen. I tried hitting every single key on the keyboard. Nothing. I repeated this process 3 times each time fully rewriting over the previous install. Once I used the Windows disk to format the drive.

Elementary OS

Sounds interesting. I'll throw it in a VM this week and give it a try.


 2:41 pm on Sep 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

If you are using UEFI you could try BIOS or CSM.

Also, have you checked the BIOS and Linux install agree about whether you are using UEFI or BIOS?

More here:

[askubuntu.com ]


 6:56 pm on Sep 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

This is an older machine that just has BIOS. No UEFI or CSM. I'll have to keep that link handy for reference. There seem to be others with this same issue.

One solution suggested on that page has to do with the integrity of the image. As my installs continued to fail that was the first thing I was wondering about. I was kicking myself for not burning more DVDs to have more options.


 8:53 am on Sep 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

I burned a bunch of Linux Mint variants to DVDs and USB keys and gave it another go this past weekend. Once again I was unable to get the LTS version to install. I quickly gave up on that version and tried Linux Mint Debian. For some reason that installed with no issues and supported all of the hardware right from the beginning. I'm sticking with that for now as the default OS for this machine (although Windows is still hiding in the background via GRUB).

I was impressed that random customers jumped onto the machine within minutes of my setup of a Desktop account and had no problem using the system. I asked and they'd never used Linux before, so that was reassuring.

Anyone else use LMDE? I like the idea of the rolling installations, so I won't have to reinstall the system. Any major Cons?


 9:24 am on Sep 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

The major con is its more likely to break when you get one of those rolling updates!

LMDE, as far as I know, is more "very frequent" rather than true rolling.

Most Linux distros do NOT require you to do a full reinstall to upgrade. You just point and click on the software updater, wait a while, and reboot. That is why I am quite happy with Ubuntu;s six month update cycle.

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