Linux Guest Account

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Linux Guest Account

Linux Guest Account

In public computers (e.g. in schools, libraries, universities, etc.) it is useful to have a frozen guest account. This means that the content of the account is temporary and is erased immediately after logout or reboot. This is important because it reverts automatically all the default settings, no matter how much the users mess with them, therefore minimising the need for maintenance. It is also important for the safety of the users, because it ensures that no open accounts or passwords are left behind.

For example a user may login to his gmail account and forget to logout (or maybe the electricity goes out). Then the next user will be able to read his emails because the session is open in the browser. Or maybe a user writes a personal document (e.g. a homework) and forgets to delete it when he is done. Then the next user will be able to copy it. Or maybe a user changes the settings of the desktop and makes it difficult for the other users to use it. Then the administartor has to fix it back again. The guest account is a good solution for all these kind of problems.

Ubuntu already has a guest account, but we will see how to improve it and customize it.

1 Automatic login of the guest account

Since the guest account is the one that will be mostly used in a public computer, it may be nice to enable automatic login for it. It can be done by editing the file /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf and making sure that it has a config line like this:

[SeatDefaults]
autologin-guest=true

Another option that may be usefull is:

autologin-user-timeout=10

2 Customize the guest account

In case that we want to modify the default settings of the guest acount, we can use a trick like this: create a skeleton account with the right settings and then configure the guest session to copy those settings from the skeleton account.

This is how you can do it:

  • Create a new user account, called "Hospitality". You can do that by launching "Users and Groups" from the menu. This should be a normal user account with no special priviliges.

    Note: the "Full Name" of this new user should begin with a capital letter! Not the "Username", because user names have to be all lowercase. But in "Users and Groups" the new "Full Name" should begin with a capital letter, because otherwise a malfunction might occur.

    Ensure that a password is required for logging into this new user account. It's best to set the same password as the one for the account of the system administrator (your personal account), because only the system administrator should be able to log into it.

  • Log out and then log into the new user account Hospitality, and configure it the way you want the Guest session to become. For example with different settings for Firefox and Libre Office.

    In the next step you'll ensure that the Guest session will copy all of it's settings from the new account Hospitality. You can change those settings later on as well: later changes will also land automatically in the Guest session.

  • Log out from the Hospitality account and log into the account of the system administrator (your personal account).
  • Launch a terminal window and copy/paste the following command line into it:

    sudo mkdir /etc/guest-session
    

    Press Enter. When prompted, type your password. Your password will remain entirely invisible, not even dots will show, this is normal. Press Enter again.

    Then copy/paste this command line into the terminal:

    sudo ln -s /home/hospitality /etc/guest-session/skel
    

    Press Enter. (Note that hospitality doesn't begin with a capital letter in the command.)

  • Log out from your account and log into the Guest session. Now it should have the same settings as the new user account Hospitality.

The only disadvantage is, that you now have an extra "useless" user account in the login window.

Date: 2017-01-14

Author: Dashamir Hoxha

Created: 2017-01-14 Sat 06:59

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