Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have gotten a request to roll out a total of 8 internet cafe's in a large network. Budget is non-existent as it will all be done for a non-profit. I was planing to use Ubuntu and live-cds to minimize the amount of management required, but I can't seem to find any suitable internet cafe system that is Ubuntu based. The requirements are pretty basic: It needs to keep track of logged in time and log out users when their time it up. No billing will be done, it will just be used to ensure people can share the computers fairly. It should be possible to force logout from a central system. Users will be unskilled, so it has to have a GUI.

What (preferably free, considering the shoe-string budget) software would you suggest to manage this?


locked by Iain Oct 11 '12 at 8:56

This question exists because it has historical significance, but it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site, so please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions here. This question and its answers are frozen and cannot be changed. More info: help center.

closed as off topic by Iain Oct 11 '12 at 8:55

Questions on Server Fault are expected to relate to server, networking, or related infrastructure administration within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

It should also have an exclusion time period to prevent a disconnected user logging straight back in. – John Gardeniers Mar 7 '11 at 11:13
@John Gardeniers: Probably a good idea, thanks for pointing that out. – pehrs Mar 7 '11 at 12:21
Don't use LiveCDs. Use LiveUSB. The CD drives wear out quicker than you think. Set up a single station as you think it should be, and then remaster from that. A year or so ago there was… -- there maybe other tools as well. For starters, make login-without-password possible from the console, have some startup scripts in a home directory that start a browser. and have tabs in the browser that point to the big sites like google, gmail, facebook, twitter, etc. – Paul Mar 16 '11 at 0:11
Don't use LiveUSB either. Use apt-cacher-ng on a central server, and PXE boot, and a preseed file. Then use Puppet configuration management to manage and install software on the clients. – Tom O'Connor Jan 7 '12 at 11:18
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Maybe you will be interested to have a look at this open source project Mkahawa, a derivative of Cafe Con Leche (old unmaintained). It is a full Internet Cafe billing system, but of course you are always free to charge nothing for usage.

CCL doesn't seem to be maintained. The page suggest using mkahawa... – pehrs Mar 10 '11 at 16:39
Thanks pehrs, answer updated. – Daniel Baktiar Jul 27 '11 at 10:09

EDIT - since I misunderstood the question... How about timeoutd? - WLAN Access Point controller software runs on Linux needs to be integrated with FreeRADIUS or OpenRADIUS or some other authentication method.. Also a simple webserver for the splash.

Supports various time-out options, logins or no logins, very customizeable. I saw this link on their site, looks maybe like a more user-friendly variant.

edit - this might be the currently supported ChilliSpot

We primarily need the software to manage the computers. The WiFi network will simply be left open (with some basic filtering). – pehrs Mar 10 '11 at 16:51
Ah, I misunderstood. – Brian Mar 10 '11 at 16:52
If I will just do a hack to regularly log out users timeoutd seems like the way to go. Thanks a lot for locating that one, it will save me from some ugly scripting! – pehrs Mar 10 '11 at 17:52
egg timers make a good visual way of doing this. As your not charging for access, then it makes sense that users can have as much time as they want, until all the terminals are fullm then someone leaves to accomdate the new person. We've run this system with free internet access and it works great. You get half an hour guranteed, and then you can use you workstation for anytime after that unless someone is waiting. – The Unix Janitor Mar 11 '11 at 20:38

i think Zencafe is perhaps interesting for your system.

ZenCafe is based on Zenwalk which is slackware if I recall correctly. If I am to introduce a new I would prefer it to be Ubuntu/Debian based. But I will check out ZenCafe. – pehrs Mar 10 '11 at 16:49

I am using:

For your setup, you would probably want to setup a central RADIUS/webserver to host hot spot logins and auth, then just CoovaChilli on your access gateways. (DaloRADIUS includes some decent starter pages for use with Chilli under daloradius/contrib/chilli)

More info:


There's a number of Linux distributions tailored towards kiosk or public use. Try looking at this question for some ideas: I'm looking for secure linux kiosk software

There's plenty of results if you google "Linux Kiosk Distributions". WebConverger looks interesting.

Depending on the total number of kiosk machines you are planning on having, you might want to consider doing a diskless setup to try and reduce maintenance and deal with some of the security issues: diskless kiosk setup.


check out Ubuntu implementation of LTSP, I've been runing Xubuntu LTSP for several years mainly for internet cafe. been running rock solid since then.

Edubuntu has stable implementation of LTSP, and has centralized management for diskless client in education and non-profit environment.


I am not an expert of internet cafe but I would use a centralized syslog, so you could configure all workstations to send their logs to the central syslog server. You could install Splunk as front-end to search for logs; Splunk is free for low quantity of logs and should be enough for you. I would configure all the Workstations to use LDAP as central authentication. There is a PHP front-end for Open Ldap, but I might use 389 Directory Project which is easier and more feature complete.

I would use Ubuntu, but not on a Live CD, since you will need to do some configuration. An automated deployment solution would be really useful to install quickly as many workstations you need.

While it's good advice it doesn't address the question at all. – John Gardeniers Mar 7 '11 at 11:15

Having used Mkahawa i can't recommend it.The client is a big bother and almost makes a computer not respond to any command.You can remove the server you installed using:

sudo dpkg -r mkahawa-srv

and the client:

sudo dpkg -r mkahawa-client

Note:Just my 2 cents.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.