ChromeOS Flex for Digital Signage

What is ChromeOS Flex?

ChromeOS Flex is an exciting new operating system for Macs, Linux devices, and PCs. ChromeOS Flex was designed to make older devices faster and more secure.


Why is ChromeOS Flex important for digital signage customers?

Many customers have older devices, or even newer devices that aren’t compatible with certain digital signage softwares. ChromeOS Flex allows these customers to enroll devices in the Google admin console, and lock them down in kiosk mode. Kiosk mode makes digital signs tamper proof and secure. Flex also allows users to control updates, and enables digital signage software to work with the operating system seamlessly.

What devices are ChromeOS Flex compatible?

Google is constantly adding to the list of ChromeOS Flex certified devices. One example is the AOPEN Ace Mini, which we recently reviewed. View the full list of ChromeOS Flex certified devices HERE. This list will indicate whether a device is certified, if minor issues are expected, or if major issues are expected.

Flex works on most Windows, Mac, and Linux devices made over the last 10 years. For every certified model the following actions are guaranteed to work:

  • Audio input, at least one method
  • Audio output, at least one method
  • Internal display, if present
  • Video output
  • Installation
  • Network—Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or both, if present
  • Touchpad, if present
  • Keyboard
  • Sleep and resume
  • System UI and graphics
  • USB
  • Webcam, if present

These actions are not guaranteed to work:

  • Automatic screen rotation
  • Bluetooth
  • Keyboard shortcuts and function keys, such as brightness and volume
  • Touchscreens
  • SD card slots

What about devices that aren’t on the certified models list?

Flex might work with no issues on devices that aren’t already listed as certified models, but Google can’t guarantee that it will work properly between updates.

How do you install Flex?

Installing ChromeOS Flex is simple. First, you’ll need a USB drive to create a bootable version of Flex to try before installing. Next, install Flex to replace your current operating system. Finally, add Flex to other devices with a USB drive or through network deployment.

How is ChromeOS Flex different than ChromeOS?

  • Security
    • Verified boot and Google Security Chip: ChromeOS devices have a Google security chip built in. This security chip enables devices to use verified boot, a procedure which prevents devices from booting up if they are infected. Since Flex devices don’t have a Google Security Chip built in, verified boot is not available.
    • Firmware Updates: Flex devices do not automatically update BIOS or UEFI firmware as ChromesOS devices do.
  • Virtual Machines and Apps
    • Google Play and Android apps: Not supported on Flex.
    • Virtual Machines: Flex does not support running Windows virtual machines.
  • Performance
    • Some performance factors vary by model such as: Boot Speed, Battery Life, and Power Savings
  • Device Management
    • Zero-touch Enrollment: Not supported on Flex.
    • Forced re-enrollment: Not supported on Flex.
    • Simple Certificate Enrollment Protocol: Supported on Flex.

View the FULL LIST of differences.

Best Practices for Deployment

  • Enable Secure Boot
  • Clear and Enable TPM
  • Restrict bootable media and BIOS or UEFI access
  • Only use official Flex Images

View the FULL LIST of Best Practices.


Why not to use Raspberry Pi

Chrome vs Raspberry Pi

  • You have to select and install an Operating System (OS)
  • You have to build a case, make sure it has ventilation and keep cool
  • Software & Firmware Updates must be applied
  • Device lifecycle – Raspberry Pi is on a 2yr cycle
  • Remote Management – Must supply your own secure remote management.  No management features built in.
  • Security – Security is on you to configure and apply best practices
  • Performance – Raspberry Pi, even the latest models, are not recommended for video content or interactives.

One question we get a lot here at Arreya is “What about using a Raspberry Pi?”  The thing to remember with Raspberry Pi devices is that they are development boards that are used to prototype something that will be put into production if it works.  They are great for DIY, and while we use and love them here at Arreya for a variety of purposes, they aren’t a good fit for most of our customer’s digital signage or kiosk needs.

Let’s start by talking about performance.  Most of the questions we get about Raspberry Pi look at it as a more cost effective solution, with comparable performance.  But they aren’t comparable.  The optimization of Chrome devices with Chrome OS make it so even the lowest end device – a Chromebit, with similar hardware specifications, runs circles around a Raspberry Pi for content performance.  Picking a solution on one feature or metric is not a good way to look at things, so let’s look at the other ways a Raspberry Pi is different from a Chrome device for digital signage and kiosks.

There is a lot more work to do to make a generic DIY device like a Raspberry Pi into a production ready digital signage device.

There is no software that comes standard with a Raspberry Pi for digital signage, you’ll have to do the research, configuration, and testing in order to turn the device into something usable for Digital Signage.  Most customers are not familiar with locking down Linux for public use, configuring a Linux firewall properly, updating a kernel, or turning off other unused services that hackers may be looking for.

Updates and Security are up to you.  Making sure the right updates make it to a device at the right time are crucial not only for maintaining a working network of devices, but also for preventing security threats and exploits that are actively looking for outdated software to infect.  Testing those updates? That’s on you too.  Unlike Chrome where thousands of people are testing the same software, you’re on your own to test yours and if there is an issue, hope that maybe someone else had it too, and they are willing to share the solution.  There is no support number to call, no person to email.  Beyond being confident in your security, is your customer going to allow this on their network, and does it follow their best practices?

Now that you have devices deployed, how do you manage them?  That’s on you as well.  There are tons of options, and it’s up to you to make them secure.  You don’t want to be the one running an open remote desktop on your signage, just waiting for someone to find it.  This happens more than you think it would.  What about those updates you need to deploy?  How are you going to handle those remotely?  Again, there are many options, and security is a top priority – it’s all up to you.

The next thing to consider is how you are going to house your Raspberry Pi.  There are no fans or other cooling options installed by default.  You’ll have to make your own case and make sure that it is properly ventilated.  Also, you need to think about how large of a space you have available when making that case.  Is your insurance going to cover you – or your clients – if your DIY device catches fire or burns the place down?  It’s not likely to happen, but these devices have not gone through the same regulatory approvals that other devices go through as a full product for sale.

Most of our customers are asking for a solution to these problems, they don’t want to deal with it themselves.  Each of these areas is one that Chrome has focused on, and solved.  You can spend your time going DIY with a device, or for a little more money, you have the power of one of the biggest companies behind you, supporting your digital signage efforts.

Inserting a RSS feed with the RSS widget

Inserting a RSS feed with the RSS widget

  1. From your Dashboard go to [Content] then [Presentations]
  2. Select the green Edit button the desired presentation
  3. Select [RSS Feed] from the [Widgets] drop down menu
  4. Use the [Feed URL] field to choose the URL for your desired feed
  5. Use the [Widget Format]  drop down to choose how the feed is formatted
  6. Use the  [Item Animation] drop down to choose the transition style between RSS items
  7. Use the [Max Items] field to choose the maximum amount of feed items to be displayed
  8. Use the [Separator] field to select a separator for between feed items
  9. Use the [Title] switch to choose whether to display feed item titles
  10. Use the [Description] switch to choose whether to display feed item descriptions
  11. Click [Ok] to insert the RSS widget
  12. Remember to save your changes by pushing the green [Push Live] button in the top right of the editor

How to enable Unified Desktop for video walls in Chrome OS

For managed devices (Chrome Enterprise Management) –

  1. Log in to your Google Admin console
  2. Click “Devices
  3. Click “Chrome” under “Devices” in the upper left
  4. Click “Apps & extensions
  5. Click on “Kiosks
  6. Click on the “Arreya” app in the list (if it is not there, please follow instructions for configuring Arreya in managed kiosk mode)
  7. Choose the desired OU
  8. Click the switch that says “Enabled unified desktop (BETA)
  9. Click “Save

unified desktop

Moving a device from one channel to another

To move a device from one channel to another –

Delete the device from the current channel

  1. Log in to the account where the device is currently paired –
  2. At the top navigation bar, click [Devices]
  3. Click [Delete] and then [Ok] to confirm deleting the device

The device will return to the pairing screen, presenting a new 4 digit code.
Tip: If you are using Chrome Device Management with manual pairing, you can use CDM to take a screenshot of a remote device and retrieve the 4 digit pairing code.


Add the device to the new channel

  1. Log in to the new account for the device –
  2. At the top navigation bar, click [Devices]
  3. Click [+ Add Device]
  4. Enter a name for the device, and the 4 digit pairing code displayed on the screen of the device you’d like to pair
  5. Click [Add Device!]

Your new device will show in the list below the map