Thursday, March 04, 2010

Subsite filtering - harder than it looks

In general the kids earn supervised computer time, but we have a "learning workstation" that's open access and less supervised. Demand is limited however; the Learning account is restricted to "educational sites". Educational as defined by Dad. The permitted sites are not terribly exciting.

One of the better sites is National Geographic Video. In fact almost all of the Nat Geo site is great -- except for the games. Of course that's also the part of the site that gets the ad revenue, so Nat Geo isn't keen to turn it off.

Naturally the kids just want to play the games. OpenDNS, OS X Parental Controls and the wee firewall built into one of our routers will let me block domains, but not specific URL patterns. So if I block Nat Geo games, I block everything.

Google's not helping me with this one. It doesn't help that the Parental Control software marketplace for OS X is moribund, probably done in by OS X Parental Controls and Steve Jobs presumed personal antipathy to parental controls. I'm also not finding any "home filtering firewall" articles, but that might be a Google problem.

I am also beginning to suspect that selective subsite filtering is technically very hard - or impossible.

I thought I'd try a proxy server with built-in filter controls, but those things are harder to find than the last time I used one about 15 years ago.

So I'm stuck for the moment. I'll update this post if I learn more. Of course eventually the kids will learn the workarounds, but by then they'll either be net solo or I'll have bigger things to deal with.

See also
Update 3/4/2010: OS X includes Apache server; this post makes it sound relatively easy to use it as a proxy server and use ProxyBlock to control access. Unfortunately it's not clear whether you can control access to a subdomain; I suspect not.

1 comment:

Andrew W said...

I think DD-WRT or Tomato router firmware can block specific URL patterns. I used to use it as a poor man's ad-blocker.

[Sorry if you got this comment more than once - I first tried to post with Chrome but it oddly didn't seem to work.]