XELK-TN-001: Using Chromium browser as an Embedded GUI

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Axel-04.png Applies to Axel Ultra
Axel-02.png Applies to AXEL ESATTA
Axel-lite 02.png Applies to Axel Lite
SBC-AXEL-02.png Applies to SBC AXEL


This application note has been validated starting from the XELK 4.0.0 kit version.

History[edit | edit source]

Version Date XELK version Notes
1.0.0 Oct 2019 4.1.0

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Starting from XELK 4.0.0 a new root file system image can be created using Yocto recipes provided by DAVE's XELK BSP.

The new axel-image-x11-browser Yocto image includes the recipes for adding the LASP packages (Linux, Apache, SQLite and PHP):

  • backend with apache2 and PHP
  • frontend with Chromium browser with HTML5 and Javascript
  • database SQLite

Architecture[edit | edit source]

The new root file system can be a complete solution for creating GUI (Graphical User Interface) using popular knowledge as per designing HTML web pages. The apache2 web server is configured for starting at boot time: the web pages, stored on local file system, will be directly shown on the Chromium browser which is configured for looking on localhost interface.

Here below a command line example for chromium using this configuration:

google-chrome --test-type --kiosk -disable-gpu --start-maximized http://localhost:80/phpinfo.php

How to configure[edit | edit source]

Web server[edit | edit source]

Apache2 is used as a web server let the embedded system to provide the HTML pages used for creating the GUI. Once installed into the rfs, apache2 will be automatically started using the following configuration file:


It is possible to see that apache2 uses the web page present into the /usr/share/apache2/htdocs directory:

root@imx6qxelk:~# cat /etc/apache2/httpd.conf | grep htdocs
DocumentRoot "/usr/share/apache2/htdocs"
<Directory "/usr/share/apache2/htdocs">

Graphical backend[edit | edit source]

Chromium browser has been built on top of X11 backend: the Yocto build automatically starts the X11 Desktop which should be avoided for having a clean boot with only the browser displayed.

For this purposes, the desktop will be displayed and the X11 server will be started only as backend:

root@imx6qxelk:~# systemctl disable xserver-nodm.service
Removed /etc/systemd/system/multi-user.target.wants/xserver-nodm.service.

Then, the new X service will be created and started

root@imx6qxelk:~# cat /etc/systemd/system/X.service

ExecStart=/usr/bin/X -nocursor

root@imx6qxelk:~# systemctl enable X
Created symlink /etc/systemd/system/multi-user.target.wants/X.service → /etc/systemd/system/X.service.

Chromium[edit | edit source]

In the same way of the web server, chormium can be started using a proper service:

root@imx6qxelk:~# cat /etc/systemd/system/browser.service



and a script which will be started at boot time:

root@imx6qxelk:~# cat browser.sh

export DISPLAY=:0

google-chrome --test-type --kiosk -disable-gpu --start-maximized http://localhost:80/phpinfo.php

As per the command line parameters, chromium is started with the following properties:

  • Full screen mode: --start-maximized
  • Kiosk mode: --kiosk
  • removing warning popus: --test-type

keyboard[edit | edit source]

For touch screen interaction, it is possible to install a Virtual Keyboard available on the chrome Google store. This is very easy starting chrome on the proper URL and then installing it:

root@imx6qxelk:~# google-chrome https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/virtual-keyboard/pflmllfnnabikmfkkaddkoolinlfninn

Results[edit | edit source]

Chrome browser started with its home page:


Use case #1: PHP[edit | edit source]

For demonstration purposes the PHP info page is loaded as the home page for our web server running on the system:

root@imx6qxelk:~# cat /usr/share/apache2/htdocs/.htaccess
DirectoryIndex phpinfo.php
root@imx6qxelk:~# cat /usr/share/apache2/htdocs/phpinfo.php



In this way, the PHP info page is shown when the web browser is started on localhost.


Use case #2: eZ Server Monitor[edit | edit source]

A useful application demostrating PHP capabilities is the eZ Server Monitor: it is a lightweight and simple dashboard for Linux machine.

It uses PHP scripts for collecting the server status/information and displaying them on an embedded web page.

EZServer-top.png EZServer.png

eZ Server Monitor running on NXP iMX6DL