Kuukla and Sonos

Having confirmed the death of our CR100, I wanted to get back to the place where my son could have a single-purpose, wireless-but-safe-from-the-internet, non-privacy-invading device to control his music.

On the forums, many Sonos customers suggested using old iPads or Android devices, along with kiosk-mode apps to restrict use on the device only to the Sonos app. I didn’t see much in the way of HOWTOs on concrete experiences, though. So, here’s mine.

I have several old Android Nexus 5s. Excellent LG hardware, distributed by Google. It’s the original phone model I got for the girls. I wound up having a bunch of backups, from them getting lost, then being found; having screen problems, fixing the screens, etc. A few are still functional, though they’re now a few years out of OS support. It’s not that safe to use them in the wild. And not really safe to use them to browse.

But for internal-only use, via the home wifi, they’re fine. And happily the Sonos App still uses Android 6.0 APIs.

I decided to look for kiosk-mode functionality for the Nexus 5, either through apps or through code, to keep the phone sufficiently locked down. I would go looking for kiosk apps first, and if there were no apps, I would produce some code.

I had some other unrelated app research to do as well, so I set aside some time to get to know the App Store, and started counting my chicks.

Good god, the apps. The Android App Store is a hellhole.

By analogy- I’ve lived in New York City for nearly 40 years. I have long experience with a wide range of neighborhoods, from sketchy to gorgeous to threatening to interesting to, more recently, vacant. Here we have all kinds.

The Android App Store is the worst kind of neighborhood. It’s almost wholly predatory. Everything is a lie. You cannot trust anything.

There is a veneer of respectability. There are some brand names, lots of star ratings and reviews, impressive download numbers, some beautiful graphics, and of course for the paranoid, there is the permission model.

It’s all lies. In niche after ad-driven niche there is nothing but fraudulent garbage.

After looking and evaluating a range of apps in different categories, I needed a shower.

For kiosk mode on the Nexus 5, I gave up on the App Store and went digging on the web. This led me to Kuukla:


TLDR- it works pretty well.

Here’s what I did to get it running.

We have a google for work domain for our family, with accounts for myself, my wife, and the kids.

Then I tried to break through the kiosk mode.

In my testing, I found it possible, though not easy, to escape the kiosk. It’s timing-dependent. It seems like what one does is induce it to miss a focus/activation signal- whatever these are called in Android land- so it does not know to retake control of the UI when another app gets the focus.

So, we’ll have to see. It’s pretty important that he not get exposed to the internet. A few days in, though, and there have not been any escapes.

And despite the problems with the Sonos app itself- worthy its own post- he is able to use it, and to find and control the music on his own.