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Setting Up Parental Controls in Ubuntu

Controlling Computer Usage by Users

  • November 17, 2008
  • By Eric Geier

If you're used to Windows Vista or Mac OS X Leopard, you may be disappointed in the parental controls, or the lack there of, in Ubuntu and other Linux distributions (distros). But don't give up on open source for your youngsters yet. This tutorial shows you how you can still create a safe computing experience. We'll conjure up a few different methods, programs, and services to control computer usage, limit access to settings and files, and filter the Internet.

As you may have seen in other operating systems, parental control solutions typically include a feature to limit when and how much time users can log into their individual accounts. For example, you can give Billy access from 4 to 7pm on weekdays and 8am to 8pm on weekends, while limiting each day's usage time to 2 hours. In addition to making sure your children don't spend too much time in front of the screen, this can help you keep a better eye on them by letting them on the computer only when you're around. For example, you can tighten the range of hours; maybe only give Billy 6 to 7pm on school nights and noon to 3pm on the weekends.

Timekpr is one program you can use to get this type of usage control. It lets you limit access periods and length of usage, with the ability to configure different limits for each day. See Figure 1 for a sneak peak of the application.

After you install Timekpr, you can access the program to configure the settings by clicking System, Administration, and Timekpr Control Panel. Then you can choose the account you want to configure from the Select User field. You can set the time limits on the Limits & Boundaries tab (see Figure 1). Back on the Status tab (see Figure 2), you can erase and reset all the limits, reset the day's counter or give additional reward time, bypass all limits for the day, or disable the account to lock out the user. When a user exceeds their usage time, they'll see an alert pop up informing them and letting them know they'll be logged off in two minutes; plus a one-minute warning is given. When time is up, their account will be disabled for the remainder of the restriction time. However, you can always login, unlock the child's account and give them more time using one of the multiple methods: reset the timer, add reward time, or bypass restrictions for the day.

 

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