Recycled computers as Scratch! arcade machines — Pt 3

So we have a concept for our arcade machine interface. A web-base menu that launches a stand-alone javascript version of our games, and launches full screen video file playback. While the web capable did their web things, I started to look at the rest of the software stack. The system would have to boot off a USB, automatically log-in as a user, launch a web server, then a web browser in full screen, then load our menu. So basically we want a web kiosk with a web server serving up just our little one page menu.

Web kiosks using Linux have been done many times, two approaches are usually used. The first; a minimal OS, with customised install of window manager, desktop manager, browser and restricted user, a great example can be found here. Secondly a mainstream OS, customised using GUI control over settings like in this instructional. While I’d love to go with the former due to the streamlined nature of the process, I ended up using xubuntu as a base with a mix and match approach, using the GUI where I had too. The system had two user accounts, one for admin, the second as our ‘kiosk mode’ arcade user.

The server side of things is straight forward. Setting up an apache server in ubuntu is easy, serving local content as simple as chucking everything in a folder. Our remaining challenge of using the arcade controls as in interface looked easily solvable by using a simple key remapping program, and hiding the mouse pointer when not in use would remove any hint of a real computer lurking behind the kiosk.   Then we struck our first big issue. No matter what we tried, our Scratch! game would not function using the javascript convertor. No javascript game, meant no web-menu, meant no arcade machine. What next?

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