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Nanny Linux: Parental Controls on Little Tuxes
Live Parental Controls
October 13, 2009
Over the years I've witnessed desktop Linux distros evolve dramatically - change the very core of the way we look at how an operating system interacts with its users. However, I still find plenty of forum posts on the Web stating that Linux as a platform still lacks suitable parental controls.
It is true that this is still a bit of a new, gray area in which development has been slower than most of us might have liked. That said, it's not entirely true that there is a complete vacuum in place of where working Linux parental content control solutions.
As a matter of fact, there are a number of ways you can make sure that your kids are able to use the family Linux box safely and without concern over stumbling onto something that might be deemed adult content. In this piece, I'll share solutions that I've recommended to parents that also happen to be Linux enthusiasts. With any luck, each of you out there will be able to gain something from this roundup so it can be shared with others.
Content control starts at home
There is certainly something to be said for parents taking control over the content their kids interact with. Clearly, it is important. But let's face it, this is not always practical 100% of the time.
Realizing this, it is critical to realize that one of the best places to protect your kids from objectionable content is right from your family router.
Many routers today come with built-in services that allow for various levels of content filtering. Netgear, for example, has routers available that provide parents with much of the control they have been looking for.
In Netgear's case however, the parental controls being used are not actually based on something that they came up with. Rather we find Netgear using something that is freely available to all who choose to utilize it.
The tool for parental control provided by Netgear is called Live Parental Controls and it is powered by an innovative web service known simply as OpenDNS.
Blocking adult content from outside of the home
OpenDNS is perhaps best known for its ability to provide a speedy way to get to your favorite websites when your ISP's DNS servers are just not cutting it.
And let it be known that, overall, OpenDNS has done marvelous things in this department. But OpenDNS did not stop there with their innovations.
The other service provided by OpenDNS happens to also include the option to engage web-based parental controls. So any computer configured to utilize OpenDNS for its DNS settings also has the ability to filter out the junk content you might not want made available in your household.
Unfortunately as good as OpenDNS can be in helping you to keep the web content viewed in you home under control, there are still some fairly easy ways a Linux user can get around this.
To counter this, it might be a better plan to actually setup the computer itself to use OpenDNS instead of the router.
It can be done with Linux easily enough. Assuming Ubuntu is in play, simply use the following:
This way even if the kids take the computer out of the home, OpenDNS can still be in place to protect their young eyes from content that might be objectionable.
Despite recommending using OpenDNS for content filtering in the average home, this may not be seen as a practical solution for everyone out there.
This brings us to a GUI for the following programs designed to work on Linux: DansGuardian, TinyProxy and FireHol.