LibreSignage - An open source digital signage solution
Table Of Contents
Digital Signage is everything from large-scale commercial billboards to smaller advertisement displays, notice boards or digital restaurant menus. The possibilities of digital signage are endless. If you need to display periodically changing content to users on a wall-mounted TV for example, digital signage is probably what you are looking for.
LibreSignage is a free and open source, lightweight and easy-to-use digital signage solution for use in schools, cafés, restaurants and shops among others. LibreSignage can be used to manage a network of digital signage displays. Don't let the word network fool you though; a network can be as small as one display on an office wall or as big as 50+ displays spread throughout a larger building.
LibreSignage also includes multi-user support with password authentication and configurable access control to specific features. If a school wants to setup a digital notice board system for example, they might give every teacher an account with slide editing permissions so that teachers could manage the content on the internal digital signage network. This way the teachers could inform students about important things such as upcoming tests for example.
LibreSignage uses a HTTP web server to serve content to the individual signage displays. This means that he displays only need to run a web browser pointed to the central LibreSignage server to actually display content. This approach has a few advantages.
- It's simple - No specific hardware/software platform is required. Any system with a fairly recent web browser works.
- It's cheap - You don't necessarily need to buy lots of expensive equipment to get started. Just dust off the old PC in the closet, install an up-to-date OS like Linux on it, install a web browser, hide the mouse pointer by default and connect the system to a display. That's it. The only other thing you need is the server, which in fact can run on the same system if needed.
- It's reliable - The web infrastructure is already implemented and well tested so why not use it.
- It makes editing easy - Displaying content in a browser has the advantage of making slide previewing very simple. You can either use the 'Live Preview' in the editor or check the exact results from the actual 'Display' page that's displayed on the clients too.
- Web interface for editing slides and managing the LibreSignage instance.
- Many per slide settings like durations, transitions, etc.
- Special markup syntax for easily formatting slides.
- Live preview of the slide markup in the slide editor.
- Support for embedding remote or uploaded image and video files.
- Support for scheduling specific slides for a specific time-frame.
- Collaboration features with other users on the network.
- Separate slide queues for different sets of signage clients.
- Multi user support with configurable access control.
- User management features for admin users in the web interface.
- Configurable quota for the amount of slides a user can create.
- Rate limited API for reducing server load.
- Extensive documentation of features including docs for developers.
- Extensive configuration possibilities.
3. Project goals
- Create a lightweight alternative to other digital signage solutions.
- Create a system that's both easy to set up and easy to use.
- Write a well documented and modular API so that implementing new user interfaces is simple.
- Avoid scope creep.
- Document all features.
- Keep it simple.
LibreSignage has currently only been tested on Linux based systems, however it should be possible to run it on other systems aswell. Running LibreSignage on other systems will require some manual configuration though, since the build and installation systems won't work out of the box. The only requirement for running a LibreSignage server instance is the Apache web server with PHP support, which should be available on most systems. Building LibreSignage on the other hand requires some additional software.
LibreSignage is designed to be used with Apache 2.0 and the default install system is programmed to use Apache's Virtual Host configuration features.
In a nutshell, Virtual Hosts are a way of hosting multiple websites on one server, which is ideal in the case of LibreSignage. Using Virtual Hosts makes it really simple to host one or more LibreSignage instances on a server and adding or removing instances is also rather easy. You can look up more information about Virtual Hosts on the Apache website.
Doing a basic install of LibreSignage is quite simple. The required steps are listed below.
Install software needed for building LibreSignage. You will need the following packages:
git, apache2, php, php-gd, pandoc, npm, make. On Debian Stretch all other packages except npm can installed by running
sudo apt install git apache2 php php-gd pandoc make. Currently npm is only available in the Debian Sid repos and even there the package is so old it doesn't work correctly. You can, however, install npm manually. See 6. How to install NPM for more info.
cdto move to the directory where you want to download the LibreSignage repository.
git clone https://github.com/eerotal/LibreSignage.git. The repository will be cloned into the directory LibreSignage/.
cd LibreSignageto move into the LibreSignage repository.
Install dependencies from NPM by running
make configure. This script asks you to enter the following configuration values.
- Document root (default: /var/www)
- The document root to use.
- Server name (domain)
- The domain name to use for configuring apache2. If you don't have a domain and you are just testing the system, you can either use 'localhost', your machines LAN IP or a testing domain you don't actually own. If you use a testing domain, you can add that domain to your /etc/hosts file. See the end of this section for more info.
- Server name aliases
- Admin name
- Shown to users on the main page.
- Admin email
- Shown to users on the main page.
- Enable debugging (y/N)
- Whether to enable debugging. N is default.
This command generates an instance configuration file needed for building LibreSignage. The file is saved in
<DOMAIN>is the domain name you specified.
- Document root (default: /var/www)
maketo build LibreSignage. You can use the
-j<MAXJOBS>CLI option to specify a maximum number of parallel jobs to speed up the building process. The usual recommended value for the max number of jobs is one per CPU core, meaning that for eg. a quad core CPU you should use -j4. See 11. Make rules for more advanced options.
Finally, to install LibreSignage, run
sudo make installand answer the questions asked.
After this the LibreSignage instance is fully installed and ready to be used via the web interface. If you specified a domain name you don't actually own just for testing the install, you can add it to your /etc/hosts file to be able to test the site using a normal browser. This only applies on Linux based systems of course. For example, if you specified the server name example.com, you could add the following line to your /etc/hosts file.
This will redirect all requests for example.com to 127.0.0.1 (loopback), making it possible to access the site by connecting to example.com.
5. Default users
The initial configured users and their groups and passwords are listed below. It goes without saying that you should create new users and change the passwords if you intend to use LibreSignage on a production system.
|admin||admin, editor, display||admin|
6. How to install npm
If npm doesn't exist in the repos of your Linux distribution of choice, is very outdated (like in the case of Debian) or you are not using a Linux based distribution at all, you must install it manually. You can follow the installation instructions for your OS on the node.js website.
There are other ways to install npm too. One alternative way to install npm is described below. Note that if you use this method to install npm, you shouldn't update npm via it's own update mechanism (running npm install npm) since that will install the new version into a different directory. To update npm when it's installed this way, you should just follow steps 1-3 again.
- Download the node.js binaries for your system from https://nodejs.org/en/download/.
- Extract the tarball with
tar -xvf <name of tarball>.
- Create a new directory
/opt/npmand copy the extracted files into it.
ln -s /opt/npm/bin/npm /usr/local/bin/npmand
ln -s /opt/npm/bin/npx /usr/local/bin/npx. You need to be root when running these commands so prefix them with
sudoor log in as root first.
cd ~/to go back to your home directory and verify the installation by running
npm -v. This should now print the installed npm version.
7. LibreSignage in GIT
LibreSignage uses the GIT version control system. The LibreSignage repository contains multiple branches that all have some differences.
- The master branch always contains the latest stable version of LibreSignage with all the latest backported fixes. If you just wan't to use a fully functioning version of LibreSignage, clone this branch. The actual LibreSignage release points are also marked in the GIT tree as annotated tags. You can clone a release tag too but note that the latest patch release doesn't necessarily contain the latest backports if new fixes have just been backported to master.
- These branches are release branches. Development for a specific LibreSignage version happens in the release branch for that specific version. A new release branch is created every time either the major or the minor version number changes. New eelease branches aren't created for patch releases. Release branches are often quite stable and they generally already work, but they might still contain serious bugs from time to time.
- feature/, bugfix/, ...
- Branches that start with a category and have the branch name after a forward slash are development branches. You normally shouldn't clone these because they are actively being worked on and even commit history might be rewritten from time to time. These branches aren't meant to be used by anyone else other than the developers working on the branch.
8. LibreSignage versioning
Each LibreSignage release has a designated version number of the form MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH.
- The PATCH version is incremented for each patch release. Patch releases only contain fixes and never contain new features.
- The MINOR version is incremented for every release where incrementing the MAJOR number is not justified. Minor releases can contain new features and bugfixes etc.
- The MAJOR version number is only incremented for very big and major releases.
The LibreSignage API also has its own version number that's just an integer which is incremented every time a backwards incompatible API change is made.
- Why doesn't LibreSignage use framework/library X?
- To avoid bloat; LibreSignage is designed to be minimal and lightweight and it only uses external libraries where they are actually needed. Most UI frameworks for example are huge. LibreSignage does use Bootstrap though, since it's a rather clean and simple framework.
- Why doesn't LibreSignage have feature X?
- You can suggest new features in the bug tracker. If you know a bit about programming in PHP, JS, HTML and CSS, you can also implement the feature yourself and create a pull request.
- Is LibreSignage really free?
- YES! In fact LibreSignage is not only free, it's also open source. You can find information about the LibreSignage license in the 15. License section.
Open these images in a new tab to view the full resolution versions. Note that these screenshots are always the latest ones no matter what branch or commit you are viewing.
LibreSignage Control Panel
LibreSignage Media Uploader
LibreSignage User Manager
LibreSignage User Settings
11. Make rules
make rules are implemented in the makefile.
- The default rule that builds the LibreSignage distribution.
- Install LibreSignage. This copies the LibreSignage distribution files into a virtual host directory in the configured document root.
- Run the LibreSignage unit testing scripts. Note that you must install LibreSignage before running this rule.
- Clean files generated by building LibreSignage.
- Same as clean but removes all generated files too. This rule effectively resets the LibreSignage directory to how it was right after cloning the repo.
- Count the lines of code in LibreSignage.
- Count the lines of documentation in LibreSignage. This target will only work after building LibreSignage since the documentation lines are counted from the docs in the dist/ directory. This way the generated API endpoint docs can be taken into account too.
You can also pass some other arguments to the LibreSignage makefile.
- INST=<config file> - (default: Last generated config.)
- Manually specify a config file to use.
- VERBOSE=<y/n> - (default: y)
- Print verbose log output.
- NOHTMLDOCS=<y/n> - (default: n)
- Don't generate HTML documentation from the reStructuredText docs
or the API endpoint files. This setting can be used with make rules
that build files. Using it with eg.
make installhas no effect.
LibreSignage documentation is written in reStructuredText, which is a plaintext format often used for writing technical documentation. The reStructuredText syntax is also human-readable as-is, so you can read the documentation files straight from the source tree. The docs are located in the directory src/doc/rst/.
The reStructuredText files are also compiled into HTML when LibreSignage is built and they can be accessed from the Help page of LibreSignage.
13. Third-party dependencies
- Bootstrap (Library, MIT License)
- Copyright (c) 2011-2016 Twitter, Inc.
- JQuery (Library, MIT License)
- Copyright JS Foundation and other contributors, https://js.foundation/
- Popper.JS (Library, MIT License)
- Copyright (C) 2016 Federico Zivolo and contributors
- Ace (Library, 3-clause BSD License)
- Copyright (c) 2010, Ajax.org B.V. All rights reserved.
- Raleway (Font, SIL Open Font License 1.1)
Copyright (c) 2010, Matt McInerney (firstname.lastname@example.org),
Copyright (c) 2011, Pablo Impallari (email@example.com),
Copyright (c) 2011, Rodrigo Fuenzalida (firstname.lastname@example.org), with Reserved Font Name Raleway
- Montserrat (Font, SIL Open Font License 1.1)
- Copyright 2011 The Montserrat Project Authors (https://github.com/JulietaUla/Montserrat)
- Inconsolata (Font, SIL Open Font License 1.1)
- Copyright 2006 The Inconsolata Project Authors (https://github.com/cyrealtype/Inconsolata)
- Font-Awesome (Icons: CC BY 4.0, Fonts: SIL OFL 1.1, Code: MIT License)
- Font Awesome Free 5.1.0 by @fontawesome - https://fontawesome.com
The full licenses for these third party libraries and resources can be found in the file src/doc/rst/LICENSES_EXT.rst in the source distribution.
14. Build system dependencies
- SASS (https://sass-lang.com/)
- Browserify (http://browserify.org/)
- PostCSS (https://postcss.org/)
- Autoprefixer (https://github.com/postcss/autoprefixer)
LibreSignage is licensed under the BSD 3-clause license, which can be found in the files LICENSE.rst and src/doc/rst/LICENSE.rst in the source distribution. Third party libraries and resources are licensed under their respective licenses. See 13. Third-party dependencies for more information.
Copyright Eero Talus 2018