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Setting up a narrowcasting unit

Narrowcasting is a great way of reaching the people inside your company. It's an easy way of informing people about what's new in the company. That is exactly why I needed to setup a couple of narrowcasting units. First we tried to use DLNA on our Sony Bravias as this would reduce the cost of the system. We thought that it might be possible to stream the live desktop running our narrowcasting software to the screens. However it soon showed that DLNA hasn't matured enough to be able to do this. We've tried every piece of software available that supported DLNA, but no joy.

After all the hassle with DLNA we decided to go with the simplest solution and use a PC for each screen. After checking out a couple of possibilities we went with the MSI Wind DE220 mini-PC. These beauties fit nicely behind the mounted screen and still have enough power to show a video or two. Also they come with a HDMI port, wireless network adapter, low power consumption and low pricing!

Although I only have 4 setups, I'm still too lazy to get up every day and press the on button. This means that I'll have to automate the boot process. Using Windows Task Scheduler you can get it into hibernation mode. With another task you can have it resume from hibernation mode (I will post more details on this later). I would prefer to do this using the BIOS, but MSI didn't include power scheduling in the BIOS.

After the boot, it'll just sit there idling until you enter the login details. To solve this, you'll have to dive into the registry and set it to login automatically (I will post more details on this later).

Once that's done, there's not much left but to make sure that the computers are secured and that the narrowcasting software is started. I've managed to do this with GPOs. Using the Group Policy Common Scenario templates you can easily lock down a computer even on Windows Vista and 7. The Kiosk GPOs are well suited for the task at hand. Just change the Custom User Interface which you can find at User Configuration > Administrative Templates > System > Custom User Interface. This will prevent Explorer to start and use your application instead.

Now you have a setup that when automatically started, logs in, starts the narrowcasting software, hibernates at a specified time and boots again at the specified time.

If you have questions or remarks, please leave a comment.