Thursday, May 01, 2008

Babyproofing 2, the Next Generation

This week we entered a new phase of parenthood. Babyproofing, round two. No, I'm not talking about a new batch of outlet covers and spongy coffee table corner covers. I'm talking about Our old friend, the Internet. For so long, the ol' bunch of tubes has been our oasis, our home for our brains, our place to easily find videos of rednecks getting hit in the crotch.

Then Natalie discovered YouTube.

After several rounds of showing her Muppet classics, American Idol performances, and Time for Timer flashbacks, she realized there was something special about that magical search box. You want Zack & Cody? See Zack and Cody get their tongues stuck to the revolving door. Want Puppies? It's like a million and one dalmatians out there. Want Barbie? How about a video entitled "Is Barbie Based On a German Sex Doll?"? Okay, it could have been worse. Much worse. But right then I realized it was time to learn how to kid-proof our Internet experience.

Our family computer is in a very public area, on a counter in the center of the TV watching, dining, and kitchen area. In general, we trust that when she's beating on the keys, she's trying to reach 250 points on the Wow Wow Wubzy game. Now that she's got the power of the search box in her hands, we've realized we need to watch her like a hawk. One false click, and she'll be on the road to pornographic heroin-laced sugar daddies peddling Nigerian Viagra.

So it's time to investigate an area of the computer I've never bothered to look at before. Parental Controls. Now, if you read my last post you'll know we've got a nice shiny (and I DO mean shiny) iMac in our possession, giving us one Mac running OSX 10.5 Leopard, and another running the older OSX 10.4. Here's where my post wavers from it's normal snarkiness to providing perhaps useful information for anyone interested in this subject.

Apple did an excellent job building in kidproofing tools to OSX 10.4, and in 10.5 someone put some real thought into major improvements (huh, imagine that...Apple putting thought into their designs). While I found there were several annoying features involved with settings things up on the 10.4 machine, I discovered all of them were fixed on the 10.5 box. Here are some of the features and the major improvements they made with Leopard:

In 4, to set up Safari with access only to specific websites, you must log in as the kid you are attempting to protect, and EVERY time you add a website you need to type in your admin username and pwd. Pretty annoying when your admin user name is long and you've got a list of 10 or so sites to deal with. In 5, this is all done within the prefs panel on the Admin account, AND they provide you with a head start in the form of an excellent list of about a dozen sites like Scholastic, PBSKids, etc.

In 5, they improved the hierarchical list of applications you can turn on/off for the kids' login. It was very confusing in 4, and try as I might I could not get MS Word to appear when she logged in. That seems to be fixed in 5. They've also added a setting to hide profanity in the dictionary so my kids won't be able to look up all those little gems that come out of my mouth when I drop sheets of plywood on my toe.

In 5, they added a whole section on time limits. You can specify that the kid cannot login at certain hours without permission from an admin, and even then you can say "alright, give her one more hour then kick her out. You can also limit weekend usage to a total of X hours. Excellent way to get those grubby little sandwich clamps off the keyboard and onto the handle of a lawnmower on a Saturday morning.

In 5, they added complete logs of every site they either go to or try to go to (and are blocked from), every app used, and every iChat conversation.

So, if you're concerned about the kids, you can't go wrong with OSX 10.5 Buy a Mac, dude.

BTW, side note...MacOutfitters was nice enough to give me $212 back as a rebate for buying (literally) yesterday's model iMac. So kudos to them.

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