Thursday, November 19, 2009

Parental Controls - The wikipedia problem solved

I'm setting up a special account on one of our laptops that will be used by my son with light supervision. It will be much more restricted than the account he uses when closely supervised.

So I'm back with Apple's notoriously buggy Parental Controls. It's been a while, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that several old bugs are better in the latest version of Safari and 10.5.

One is acting strangely however. I wonder if it's a new Safari bug. When I limit access to listed web sites, many links within the sight are unavailable. This isn't how it's supposed to work (emphases mine) ...
Mac OS X 10.5: About the Parental Controls Internet content filter
... If 'Allow access to only these websites' is selected in Parental Controls, the Internet content filter blocks any website which is not on the list. When the blocking web page is presented, a list of allowed websites is also shown. If using Safari, allowed websites are displayed as bookmarks in the bookmarks bar.

Note: For most websites, the Internet content filter considers the domain name and not the path. For example, if is added to the list, then will be allowed, as will
The key word here is "most". In one site I tested it works as above. In another, only the main page is accessible. I can't find any documentation that explains why behavior varies by site. I'll try asking on Apple Discussions.

Update 11/20/09: I found a 2008 post on this topic. The user never found a fix, but later, on a different 10.5 machine, the problem resolved.

Update 11/21/09: Wikipedia has a nonstandard approach to IP addresses. I can use ping to find an IP address for, but I can't use that address in a URL. I suspect this is done to meet some security and confidentiality goal. However this approach may also defeat Parental Controls, which probably works from IP addresses.

Update 11/21/09b: We use OpenDNS on some kid machines, and OpenDNS supports a "shortcut" redirect like "simple" for Except it doesn't work for this domain. Wikipedia is doing something unusual with IP addresses, perhaps as a side-effect of protecting user IP addresses. I think Wikipedia manages IP addresses differently for logged in users, so I'm going to explore that option next.

Update 11/21/09c. I dance the geek dance of Dilbertian triumph. What worked for me is the combination of establishing a user account and secure server access (https to server). The sequence I followed is:
  1. From Admin account off content controls for the child account browser.
  2. In Child account create a user account on wikipedia and use their secure login: Create a bookmark to this page.
  3. Go to main page: Create a bookmark to this page.
  4. Now return to Admin account and limit access controls to the above listed bookmarks.

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