Most of us would agree that the Internet has its share of scary places. Some are rabbit holes I don’t want anyone to venture down. Aside from security, another factor is time. Many sites can be addicting and don’t add to our productivity. Some examples people mentioned with their questions were:
- Social networking sites
- Auctions sites
- Political sites
- Adult sites
- Finance sites
- News sites
The suggestions below are a variety of solutions that are easily available. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
Using OpenDNS to Block Site Categories or Domains
OpenDNS is a company that provides free DNS servers rather than using your internet service provider (ISP). I’ve been using the service for years, but didn’t realize all the features they offered until recently. One feature is the ability to block domains or category of domains.
The service appeals to me for two reasons. The first is that it’s the fastest DNS service I’ve used. They were also immune to the latest DNS security issues that took place this summer. Second, the service is free.
If you create an account with the service you can gain access to more features. If you need to restrict access, OpenDNS has over 50 category filters covering the usual suspects. Moreover, you can also choose to block specific websites on a domain basis. There are a couple of exceptions and these are Overture.com and Yahoo.com, which are part of the company’s business model. The company does show text ads if the URL you type in a browser doesn’t exist or is down.
To block a domain, you did need to enable your account to use the “typo correction” feature. This feature is handy and fixes common mistakes. The second requirement to restricting website access is to use their web proxy. The company does have a page addressing privacy concerns.
When a browser goes to a blocked domain, such as the myspace.com example, an error message like the one below displays.
Using your Router Software to Block Sites
Another way to block websites is with your router. A router is hardware that directs traffic between your network and the internet. Most popular routers offer some sort of “parental control” or “internet access policy”. The key for many people may be remembering how to access that administrative panel. Usually, you can find this information from the manufacturer’s website.
The screen snap above represents the configuration panel on my LinkSys router. In this case, I’m allowing one PC to access the internet all the time except for the eBay domain that I’ve blocked. These options differ between manufacturers, but may offer you the best option as the changes can apply throughout your network or to a specific PC or MAC address. (We did a short MAC address tutorial if you need find these numbers.)
Some of these systems also allow you to regulate Internet access based on the day of week or hour.
Using Microsoft Windows SteadyState to Limit Access
This is a new program by Microsoft for Windows XP and Vista users that allows you to define features by user profiles. As you might guess, you need to have different user accounts and assign privileges. These privileges range from being able to save data to the hard drive or gaining access to the Internet. Microsoft describes the product as allowing you to,
- Defend shared computers from unauthorized changes to their hard disks
- Restrict users from accessing system settings and data
- Enhance the user experience on shared computers
Windows SteadyState is free and powerful. It’s one people might consider when they get a new computer. There are a couple caveats. The first is the program works using an Internet whitelist, not blacklist. In other words, you can tell SteadyState to allow a specific profile access to a web site, but you couldn’t list a site as an exclusion.
Another caveat is that it comes with a learning curve which makes sense given its capabilities. There is a fairly active community where you can pose questions but I would suggest reading the documentation before you start. Currently the program does not work with Vista 64 bit versions.
Using the Windows Hosts File
This approach can be as easy or complicated as you like. We wrote an article about hosts files several years ago, but a more detailed write-up was done by the MVPS.ORG. The idea is that you redirect your web browser to go to another IP address, such as your local machine, rather than the intended site. In most cases, the fix requires you add a line to the Hosts file using a text editor.
In the example above, if I tried to connect to that site with Firefox 3, I get a “Failed to Connect” message. With IE 8, I get a message “Internet Explorer cannot display the page”. I also have a button to Diagnose Connection Problems.
While using the hosts file is easy, there are limitations:
1. You need to have administrative rights to the Hosts file.
2. You may need to put multiple lines in to represent other pages being accessed in the domain. As example, if someone wants to reach a specific profile page or sub domain, you’ll want to add these blocks as well. You can’t assume people will always start at the home page for a site. Some sites also have canonicalization issues and can be reached using “www.” or without.
3. The block will only work for this one computer.
The above suggestions aren’t the only options for restricting internet viewing or access. There are commercial software packages that limit internet viewing. You may find another option is to use a service like RescueTime which quantifies viewing habits and program usage. It may reveal something about your own behavior. The point to remember about all these measures is people will try to get around them. This isn’t surprising if someone thinks a site is that valuable.
Last Updated (Saturday, 19 June 2010 15:22)