Automatic updates for Porteus Kiosk

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Distribution: Porteus Kiosk
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Automatic updates for Porteus Kiosk

Post#1 by fanthom » 30 Mar 2014, 22:54

Hello Kiosk users,

As you may know already our Kiosk edition is very well secured but is lacking a system for automatic updates. This is a rather important feature which would provide security patches in real time to keep your kiosks safe from any malicious tampering. New versions of Porteus Kiosk are released about 2 times per year which may not be enough for some users/companies where security is critical from a business point of view.

Currently we are thinking about making a paid subscription for those who want to keep their systems updated and secure 365 days a year. We would like to target a 'setup and forget' approach which means that you need to setup your kiosk only once (through our web wizard) and then it updates automatically without any user intervention. Only a reboot is required so updated components like kernel, Xorg, firefox can be loaded in place of the old ones.

Here is an idea how to handle this task:
- kiosk boots and does an md5sum check of all system components
- once network is fully initialized, the kiosk contacts our server which has a list of md5sums for very latest components
- if there is a mismatch between local and remote md5sums then it downloads the updated item (kernel or xzm module) -> creates new hybrid ISO on the fly -> burns in the place of the old one -> does a reboot
- after a reboot, the kiosk is fully updated and secure again

Here is a draft of what will be visible on the screen during an update:

- your system will be kept up to date all the time
- only updated components are downloaded over the network which saves time and bandwidth required for doing an update (small downtime)
- everything is done automatically, no need to burn the ISO's manually anymore
- wizard could offer an option for enabling a daemon to run in the background which would notify about new available updates (maybe email an admin to ask for rebooting the kiosk to fetch latest updates?)

Known limitations:
- 'copy to RAM' is forced to make sure that burning new ISO wont destabilize the currently running kiosk
- automatic updates will work only for writable media (usb/hd installations) as CDs/DVDs are read only (there is no way to change that)
- with automatic updates enabled there won't be any possibility to perform kiosk ISO tweaks manually as every md5sum mismatch would bring a 'clean' component from our server
- automatic updates are meant to be a paid service and will work 'per PC' so PXE booting wont be allowed (we could offer a discount for multiple Kiosk installations)

Some people may ask: Why introduce a paid service when Porteus Kiosk is offered for free?

There are a couple reasons for that:
- we need to constantly watch for all the known security vulnerabilities to be able to fix them as soon as possible
- we will have to recompile components from sources to apply security patches and this can be a time consuming task
- we must make sure that nothing breaks and you can still use your system after an update - that means a lot of testing is involved
- in reality a 100% 'fail safe' automatic update system does not exist. PC's gets old and new kernel/Xorg/driver may not work for some machines anymore, our role will be to troubleshoot the problem and deliver a component which works correctly for the affected PC.
All of the above are the jobs we would be paid for.

We would like to know how many users would be interested in subscribing to such a service. Please post your questions, comments and ideas about how to make this system better in this thread:
click here

Thank you.
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