One of the features Mint has been lacking as a family desktop is the ability for parents to prevent their children from accessing certain websites. Parental control is easy to set up in Microsoft Windows and we got a lot of feedback from people who migrated to Linux and who missed this feature. Of course one could install DansGuardian and a few other packages but it’s not easy, it usually requires the use of a proxy and it’s also quite complex to configure. For Linux Mint 6 we came with a compromise and we decided to implement a minimal set of features but to make it as trivial to use as possible. So here comes mintNanny.
MintNanny is a small graphical interface which lets you “block” domain names. You can’t block domains for particular users or particular programs, the block is for everyone on the computer and for any protocol. When you “block” a domain in mintNanny it basically adds an entry to your /etc/hosts file and defines that domain’s IP address as being 0.0.0.0. This results in your computer not being able to communicate with the domain anymore. So if there are domains you really don’t want your children to have anything to do with, put them in mintNanny.
Remember that mintNanny blocks domain names, not IP addresses so if your children are smart enough to ping the domain from another computer they’ll be able to access it via its IP address.
Certain domains use subdomains and redirect to them so you might have to block them to. For instance if you want to block somewebsite.com you might also have to block www.somewebsite.com. As a rule of thumb try to access the website after you block it to see if your block was efficient enough.
Firefox caches DNS resolutions to speed things up. This means that it remembers where a website is until you close it. In other words, after you block a website, you’ll have to restart Firefox.
To install MintNanny you need the Romeo repositories. Perform an “apt update” and an “apt install mintnanny-gnome” in a terminal (or “apt install mintnanny-kde” if you run KDE).
If you don’t have Romeo set up, you can grab the packages from here:
MintNanny will be one of the featured improvements coming with Linux Mint 6 Felicia. We’re actively trying to get the community to translate this tool. If you happen to speak another language than English, please help us translate mintNanny by participating to this forum thread:
Bug reports and feedback
Tell us what you think by posting a comment on this blog post. Report bugs here as well.
Spread the word
We’re trying to raise people’s awareness about the Mint project and we’ve added a Digg plugin to this blog. If you find this blog post interesting, please help us spread the word by submitting it as a Digg story or by digging it if it’s already submitted.