In this article I am documenting how I use a Windows tablet (Surface Go) as always-on monitoring dashboard in our house. Upon power-up the dashboard automatically logs into Windows and starts a chrome browser with a dashboard-map of my PRTG Network Monitor account. This is an updated version of the dashboard screen that I also run on my desk.
An Upgrade for the pantry
Today I had to update my dashboard computer in our kitchen/pantry. After running fine 24/7 for almost one year my old home dashboard (a cheap Chuwi Hi8 tablet) started to show display problems (screen flickering). Today I replaced it with a Surface Go tablet.
With US$/€ 400 it is more expensive than the old Chuwi Hi8 (€80), but it also has a bigger screen and more power, and I expect it to survive longer.
Starting with a new Surface Go there are a few things that need to be configured:
Step 1: Turn on Automatic Power-On after power loss
We want the dashboard to turn on automatically when it receives power. To enable this you need to enter the Surface Go’s UEFI setup screen. This can only be done while your Surface is starting up. Here is how you do that:
- Shut down your Surface.
- Press and hold the Volume Up button on your Surface, then press and release the Power button.
- When you see the Surface logo screen appear, release the Volume Up button. The UEFI settings menu will appear in a few seconds.
- Go to Boot Configuration and enable Turn on Automatic Power-On after power loss. Thanks to surfacetip.com for the information.
Step 2: Disable power-saving
In the Windows power settings disable energy saving mode when plugged in.
Step 3: Enable Auto-Logging into Windows upon power-up
We want the dashboard to always log into Windows automatically when it is turned on. Please note that this makes the computer massively insecure, anybody who gets it into his hands can access the data on this computer! So you shouldn’t store any personal information on the PC before you do this!
First I created a local “dashboard” account (without email address etc.). Then I selected this account as default auto-login account using the netplwiz command:
- Press Win + R to open Run box, and enter “netplwiz“.
- Click OK to open User Accounts dialog.
- Uncheck “User must enter a user name and password to use the computer”.
- Click Apply and if there is pop-up dialog, please confirm the user account and enter its password. The specified user will be used to automatically sign in Windows 10.
- Restart computer and it will bypass windows 10 login screen and automatically login with user account you enter password for.
Here you can find this description along with screenshots and one other way to do it.
Step 4: Auto-starting Chrome in fullscreen mode showing the dashboard web page
If you haven’t installed the Chrome browser please do so now.
Then log into Windows with the new local “dashboard” account and open the webpage that you want to be displayed in Chrome (in my case a map/dashboard created with PRTG Network Monitor which I use to monitor our home) and copy the url into the clipboard.
Now we will create an new chrome icon in the startup folder and add some command-line parameter to it:
- Press Win + R to open Run box, and enter “shell:startup“.
- Click OK to open the startup folder
- Right click into the window and select New => Shortcut
- Select the exe file of Google Chrome (usually “C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe”) and click continue
- Set a name of your choice and click finish
- Now right click the new icon and select Properties
- In the target edit field you should see something like:
“C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe”
- Extent this with the bold stuff:
“C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe” –start-fullscreen –start-maximized https://yoururlhere.com/blabla
- Click OK and you are done
Next time you reboot the computer it will log into the desired account and display the selected webpage.
Putting it on the wall
Finally I fixed the Surface Go onto the wall using simple €13 wall mounts for tablets (Amazon), installed Teamviewer for remote administration and installed a remote probe for PRTG.