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I would like to make a debian system where you can only open one GUI program at boot, no other graphical interface, no minimize, or any X apart from that program, is there a way to do it on debian if possible, or any other custom distro? I just want to boot open the program and allow the user to only see and use that program.

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Running a single application is called a kiosk; use this word in your searches, including here. – Gilles Jan 28 '12 at 22:08
Thank you was looking for the correct term! – Zaxuhe Jan 31 '12 at 0:12

I've done that with Ubuntu (Debian based), though I think the technique applies for other distros too. I'll just summarize the steps here together with some explanation, see "Run Linux with a bare window manager" for the scripts.

  1. Add a custom session by creating a file at /usr/share/xsessions/metacity-session.desktop. This file tells the login manager about your session.
  2. Create the file to be executed by the session added in (1) /usr/local/bin/metacity-session
  3. Create the user-specific config file ~/.metacity-session. This file will be executed by the file added in (2). The content should be the program you want to run, followed by an ampersand, for example

    firefox &

  4. Optionally make the user auto-login and make the custom session the default session for the user.

Here I use Metacity as the window manager for its simplicity, you can use Compiz if you want to.

There are tools to lock down the system. A search yields tools such as sabayon and pessulus. I haven't used any of them to give a recommendation.

There are also distros specialized on kiosk mode, the most promising seems to be Fedora Kiosk Mode, though it's not Debian based.

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Webconverger looks interesting in the specialized distro department, and is Debian-based. – sr_ Nov 8 '12 at 11:56
The Run Linux with a bare window manager link now uses a different definition of bare than you intended! – Peter M Apr 8 '14 at 13:05
@PeterM :D lawl – datUser Aug 21 '15 at 14:24
@PeterM my old blog, it died </3 replaced with in archive.org link until I bring it back – phunehehe Aug 24 '15 at 9:57

It's a few years old, but here's a howto on setting up a Debian-based kiosk. It focuses on a web browser as the program, but I expect that you could use most any program.


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Link is dead :/ Please post the essential details that answer the question in the future – datUser Jul 28 '15 at 15:15
Link updated to point to archive.org version – Bill B Aug 26 '15 at 17:02

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