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Tags: software-recommendation   bash   parental-controls  
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Title: How do I restrict my kids' computing time?
ID: /2018/03/22/How-do-I-restrict-my-kids_-computing-time_
Created: March 22, 2018    Edited:  December 4, 2021
Upload: November 24, 2022    Layout:  post
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Lock Screen Timer


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Table of Contents

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Create your own Screen Lock Timer instead of 3rd Party applications

Although there are 3rd Party applications to do this, you can create your own. Summary of steps:

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Use gedit to create script lock-screen-timer

Open the Terminal using Ctrl+Alt+T and type:

gedit lock-screen-timer

Copy and paste code from window below to lock-screen-timer

Toggle back to this screen and copy the following code by highlighting it and pressing Ctrl+C:


# NAME: lock-screen-timer
# PATH: $HOME/bin
# DESC: Lock screen in x minutes
# CALL: Place on Desktop or call from Terminal with "lock-screen-timer 99"
# DATE: Created Nov 19, 2016. Last revision Nov 13, 2021.

# UPDT: Updated to support WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux)
#       Remove hotplugtv. Replace ogg with paplay.
#       May 30 2018 - Cohesion with multi-timer. New sysmonitor indicator style.
#       Nov 13 2021 - Wrap long lines with \ continuation. Shorten comments.

# NOTE: Time defaults to 30 minutes.
#       If previous version is sleeping it is killed.
#       Zenity is used to pop up entry box to get number of minutes.
#       If zenity is closed with X or Cancel, no screen lock timer is launched.
#       Pending lock warning displayed at set intervals.
#       Write time remaining to ~/.lock-screen-timer-remaining

MINUTES="$1" # Optional parameter 1 when invoked from terminal.

# if no parameters set default MINUTES to 30
if [ $# == 0 ]; then

DEFAULT="$MINUTES" # When looping, minutes count down to zero. 
                   # Save deafult for subsequent timers.

# Check if lock screen timer already running
pID=$(pgrep -f "${0##*/}") # All PIDs matching lock-screen-timer name
PREVIOUS=$(echo "$pID" | grep -v ^"$$") # Strip out this running copy ($$$)
if [ "$PREVIOUS" != "" ]; then
    kill "$PREVIOUS"
    rm ~/.lock-screen-timer-remaining
    zenity --info --title="Lock screen timer already running" \
        --text="Previous lock screen timer has been terminated."

# Running under WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux)?
if cat /proc/version | grep Microsoft; then

while true ; do # loop until cancel

    # Get number of minutes until lock from user
    MINUTES=$(zenity --entry --title="Lock screen timer" \
        --text="Set number of minutes until lock" --entry-text="$DEFAULT")

    RESULT=$? # Zenity return code
    if [ $RESULT != 0 ]; then
        break ; # break out of timer lock screen loop and end this script.

    DEFAULT="$MINUTES" # Save deafult for subsequent timers.
    if [[ $MINUTES == 0 ]] || [[ $MINUTES == "" ]]; then
        break ; # zero minutes considered cancel.

    # Loop for X minutes, testing each minute for alert message.
    (( ++MINUTES )) 
    while (( --MINUTES > 0 )); do
        case $MINUTES in 1|2|3|5|10|15|30|45|60|120|480|960|1920)
	        notify-send --urgency=critical \
	        --icon=/usr/share/icons/gnome/256x256/status/appointment-soon.png \
	        "Locking screen in ""$MINUTES"" minute(s)." ;
            if [[ $WSL_running == true ]]; then  
                powershell.exe -c '(New-Object Media.SoundPlayer \
	           paplay /usr/share/sounds/freedesktop/stereo/complete.oga ;

        # Record number of minutes remaining to file other processes can read.
        echo "Lock screen in: $MINUTES Minutes" > ~/.lock-screen-timer-remaining

        sleep 60


    rm ~/.lock-screen-timer-remaining # Remove countdown work file

    if [[ $WSL_running == true ]]; then  
        # Call lock screen for Windows 10
        rundll32.exe user32.dll,LockWorkStation
        # Call screen saver lock for Unbuntu versions > 14.04.
        dbus-send --type=method_call --dest=org.gnome.ScreenSaver \
            /org/gnome/ScreenSaver org.gnome.ScreenSaver.Lock

done # End of while loop getting minutes to next lock screen

exit 0 # Closed dialog box or "Cancel" selected.

Then toggle back to the empty gedit window and paste the code using Ctrl+V. Save the file and exit the editor back to the command prompt.

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Mark lock-screen-timer as an executable

Now we need to make the script executable by typing:

chmod +x lock-screen-timer

Test It!

Before calling the script from the GUI, we’ll call it from the terminal so we can see if any error messages are displayed:


You are prompted for the number of minutes:

Lock Screen Timer

Set the desired number of minutes and click OK to start the timer. When there are 15, 10, 5, 3, 2 and 1 minute(s) left a system sound is heard and a message bubble appears advising when the screen will be locked. After the screen is locked you need to enter your password to unlock the screen.

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Configure Nautilus to execute bash scripts

Nautilus defines what happens when we double click on an executable script when it’s the files display window or a link on on the desktop. Normal behavior is to edit the script using gedit. We want to change this behavior such that it is executed.

Start Nautilus and navigate to directory containing lock-screen-timer. Left click on it once to give it focus. Hover mouse over top menu bar until β€œFile Edit…” menu appears, use:

  1. Click Edit drop-down menu
  2. Click Properties option
  3. Click Behavior tab
  4. Observe the radio option buttons under Executable Text Files
  5. Check radio button Run executable text files when they are opened

Create desktop shortcut link

From previous section lock-screen-timer still has focus. If not, navigate to the script and left click on it once to give it focus. Then use:

Now you can double click on the desktop shortcut link and the script is run. A dialog box appears to get the number minutes. Two buttons are presented Cancel and OK. If you click the X to close the window it is the same as selecting Cancel.

After the timer is running and you double click on it again the first running copy is β€œkilled”. You can now start a new scren lock countdown or click Cancel for no countdown.

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Display Time Remaining in systray / notification area

While lock screen timer is running it records how many minutes are remaining into the file ~/.lock-screen-timer-remaining. You can look at this file with the watch command or display it on Ubuntu’s system tray / application indicator bar as shown at the top of this answer. To display time remaining in the notification area, follow the instructions in this Q&A: Can BASH display in systray as application indicator?.

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