Kwartik's Blog

December 7, 2009

How to set up a free and practical parental control filter with Procon Latte

Filed under: General — Tags: , — kwartik @ 11:50 pm

I was looking for a simple parental control filter solution in order to be sure that my young daughter (4 years old who of course likes to click on any link she sees !) will not accidentally find herself on one of these numerous undesirable sites. My requirements were the following :

– white list feature (I want to block all sites by default and allow explicitly a small number of sites)

– configuration protected with a master password

– filtering at application level, ideally as a Firefox module (add-on). I consider as totally sufficient this solution for my daughter, as I am sure that she is too young to think of using a different browser. She would have indeed quite some difficulties to find one on the Linux system I have configured for her !

– free solution

I queried the Firefox module catalog ( Tools / Complementary Modules / Catalog ) and it basically proposed me two parental control modules :

foxfilter, promoted as “Simple and effective! FoxFilter is a personal content filter that helps block pornographic and other inappropriate content using customizable features. All filtering features are free! Premium features require a small support fee.”,

broozi, promoted as the “first Firefox add-on which enable kids to take their first steps on Internet, so simply and in full safety”.

I was amazed by the philosophy of FoxFilter. “All filtering features free”, but the most important one which is the master password to guarantee that your kid will not be able to add a site to a white list is a Premium feature ! More over, I had the impression that a lot of the configuration is done online as if the foxfilter is insterested by your parental configuration settings ! A few minutes of testing were sufficient to add the product to my black list!

– The philosophy of broozi to radically change the user interface was not at all what I was looking for. Moreover, control parental feature simply did not work, as it was possible to click on the firefox icon in the tasks bar to leave the broozi interface and to go back to the firefox interface and my daughter is clearly able to do this ! Once installed I was encouraged to purchase Rooki, which adds a real _safe_ parental control feature to broozi.

– Finally, I googled a little bit and found ProCon Latte described as a content filter for Forefox allowing to “filter any kind of material (pornography, gambling, hacking, cracking, etc…), it can also block all traffic, making sure that only desired websites (set in the Whitelist) can be accessed, and includes a profanity filter, all *like* a parental control filter.” I tested only the “block all traffic” and white list features and I really appreciated this tool. I found the interface really intuitive to use and not at all intrusive.

I have posted below a few screenshots showing how easy it was to set a configuration compliant to my requirements. My system uses french locales but of course internationalization is well managed by ProCon.

First, a master password needs to be set, it will be required at each settings modifications as shown on the picture below :

ProCon master password prompt

Then all sites can be blocked by default by clicking on the “Block all traffic checkbox” :

ProCon : activation of the "all sites are blocked by default" rule

Finally, a white list can be easily created by clicking on the “Activate white list” check box :

ProCon: activating the white list

And that’s it ! After this straight-forward configuration step, I can safely leave my daughter in front of the screen. ProCon implements also much more elaborated filtering logic that is detailed on its web site.

I was also very impressed by the support provided by corvineum, the author of ProCon. After a ProCon minor release update (v1.7.9.7 => 1.7.9.8), I was not able to use ProCon anymore and an error related to the french accents was displayed in a popup. I sent a email to corvineum and twelve hours latter he sent me the fix ! I am not even sure that if I had experimented a similar problem with a proprietary solution, I would have observed the same reactivity !

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