BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 2000

  

 

BOOT CAMP 112

SAFETY ON THE NET, Part 2

Last week we looked at ways for concerned parents and teachers to control children’s Internet access using the built-in content and ratings facilities in Internet Explorer and Netscape Communicator. This week we’re considering web ‘filter’ programs and the major Search Engines.

It’s worth checking the contents listing and subscriber services menus on your ISP’s home page for parental controls or web filtering options, you may be lucky, however many of the newer and smaller ISPs and in particular those providing free net access without any significant web content of their own, do not seem to bother with such extras. Most people’s first port of call after logging on to the Internet is a Search Engine and several of the major ones can be set up so they will not look for or block access to various types of material. There are also a number of search engines, designed especially for youngsters that will only allow access to ‘safe’ sites. If your ISP’s web site has no controls of its own it’s worth setting up a search engine up as your browser’s Home Page, so that it becomes the first thing that appears when you, your children (or your nervous granny…) logs on to the Internet.

In Internet Explorer this facility is on the View or Tools menu under Internet Options, select the General tab and type in the Search Engine’s address in the Home Page box and click the Use Current button.  In Netscape Communicator it’s listed under Preferences on the Edit menu, in the Home Page box.

Now choose your search engine, and be warned not all of them have filtering facilities, here’s some that do. AltaVista has a fairly good set of controls called Family Filter, it can be found to the right of the search field. Click on the link and it will take you to a page to set up a range of preferences, which can be locked with a password. Infoseek (now called go.com) has a password protected screening feature called Go Guardian, there are no user settings but the page claims it screens out ‘objectionable’ material. In Lycos click the ‘Parental Control’ link immediately below the Search field, this leads to a password protected preferences list which includes an option to disable Lycos’s chat, email and message boards.

Yahoo (www.yahoo.com) has some useful advice for parents under Family Accounts (click on ‘More’ at the end of the list of subjects underneath the Search field), but on the two occasions we tried to set up a password protected Child Account the site returned ‘page not found’ error messages. Both Lycos and AltaVista have child safe search engines, Lycos’s is called Lycozone and Yahoo’s is Yahooligans, the addresses, along with a list of other child-friendly search engines can be found in the Contacts listing below. Now for those commercial programs mentioned earlier.

Cyber Patrol (V4.0) is generally reckoned to be one of the most sophisticated packages; a fully functioning trial version can be downloaded from the web site listed in Contacts (it normally costs £24.95). Cyber Patrol can be set up for up to nine users and it works on a number of levels. There is a facility to control when and how long much time each user spends on line. Filters can block access to specified sites and prevent downloads of potentially virus- infected .exe files. The program comes with its own extensive list of dubious sites, (covering twelve different categories or subjects). A facility within Cyber Patrol called ChatGuard oversees chat-room activities by looking out for specified keywords and the program generates a full report on each user, logging the sites they’ve visited and any attempts to access areas of the net that are off-limits.

Net Nanny is one of the best-known web filters and the latest version (4.0) is due out shortly.  A 30-day evaluation copy of the current version (3.1) can be downloaded from the web address below; the program retails for around £30, which includes an upgrade to version 4 when it becomes available. Net Nanny supports up to twelve users and in addition to controlling net browsing and chat-rooms it can also restrict access to programs, applications and system files on the PC. Prohibited sites can be blocked by name and keywords and the program includes its own list of undesirable sites.

SurfWatch contains a regularly updated list of undesirable sites in covering five subject areas, namely violence, hate messages, sexually explicit material, drugs and alcohol and gambling. Web sites can be locked out and the user can specify their own key words and web page addresses. The program is widely distributed and sells for around £30.

CyberSitter (£30) is another program that relies on a database of sites in conjunction with user-defined restrictions, defined by web site address and words. A key features is that it operates secretly, in the background, monitoring and logging all Internet activity. Options include blocking sites, block and log attempts to access restricted sites and programmable alerts that warn the user if an attempt has been made to log on to a prohibited site. The makers claim it is almost impossible for a child to defeat... A 10-day trial version is available from the CyberSitter website.

Shareware and freeware programs are fairly thing on the ground but one that’s definitely worth trying is We-Blocker. It works pretty much like its commercial rivals, using a combination of restricted site lists (seven categories: pornography, violence, weaponry, drugs & alcohol, gambling, adult subjects and hate speech), plus user-defined addresses, keywords and phrases. It free and can be downloaded from the site listed in Contacts.

Next week – introduction to DOS

 

CONTACTS

CHILD-SAFE SEARCH ENGINES

http://www.ajkids.com/

http://www.ah-ha.com/

http://disney.go.com/home/homepage/index.html

http://www.lycoszone.com/

http://www.searchopolis.com/

http://www.yahooligans.com/

 

WEB FILTER SOFTWARE

http://www.cyberpatrol.com/dyn_hm.htm

http://www.cybersitter.com/

http://www.hedgebuilders.com/

http://www.netnanny.co.uk/

http://www.surfwatch.com/

http://www.we-blocker.com/download/index.html

 

JARGON FILTER

EXE FILE

An ‘executable’ file or program that tells the computer to do something; viruses are often hidden inside .exe files  

KEYWORDS

Words or phrases that elicit a programmed response from a software application; in this context obscenities or words of a sexual nature

SYSTEM FILES

Important files (Autoexec.bat, config.sys, command.com, win.ini etc.) containing text-based commands, that set up and configure Windows and the programs running on the PC

 

TOP TIP

The jury is still out on this week’s tip, so please let is know if it works for you (don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe!). Changing Internet Explorer to full screen view, by pressing the F11 key appears to speed up Internet browsing by a small but noticeable amount, (pressing the F11 key a second time toggles IE back to normal view). The smaller toolbar and menus contain all of the most frequently used options and are almost as functional as the full size ones; moreover you gain around 10% more screen area. (More if you enable Taskbar auto hide, Start > Settings > Taskbar and Start Menu). Try it!   

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