Monday, 21 March 2011

Safer web surfing (2)

 A while ago, I wrote up the steps for non techies to use the free web surf protection tools from Microsoft, I've started again fresh because the installer has updated, and as with most things 2011 the year has ushered in a new version. I find Family Safety very useful, because even as a computer software engineer, I have little time for poor software, and even less time to spend feeding the computer, maintaining stuff and reading manuals. Hence this quick-start guide.

Start here: http://explore.live.com/windows-live-family-safety?os=other

Download and start the installer, you will need to be an administrator (the person who installs programs and controls this computer) to proceed.

Once the cute splash screen ends, you MUST select the custom install option.

Turn all the options but one, off. I’m installing on a 64-bit machine with Windows 7, but the process will be the same even on Vista. In the next step, You may already be use msn messenger, and the photo and movie tools are not too shabby, but you only want to install the Family Safety program now. I’ll be associating this all to my hotmail account, you do not need to be using hotmail, but you will need to create an account. Run Family Safety now, and then let’s get the account bit out of the way.

If you have Windows 7, recently installed applications are in orange, and easy to find, open Windows live menu and continue.

This is where you need a Live ID, your existing hotmail account is one already, your messenger account probably counts as a Live ID, either create or log in directly here. Family Safety is not like facebook, you are not going to share or publish anything, and there is definitely no poking; the account is just to save your settings and manage things via web.

Create Family safety accounts for each computer user, if you do not have user accounts for each person, now is a good time to create them using the button at the bottom.

You will associate each user with a Family Safety profile.

The Family safety profile is stored in the “Cloud”, on Microsoft’s servers, where it is encrypted, and you alone can access it using your Windows Live ID, you only set this up once, and can use the same setup on multiple home computers at the same time. The “cloud” idea is a bit strange at first, but if you are having trouble understanding it, think if it like having a spare computer hard drive somewhere on the internet, just for your data. All your surfing will get filtered via this hard drive in future, it stores rules that say which websites you may or may not visit. The system only really works well if everyone has their own Windows passwords, but for young children, it’s not necessary, what is, is the safety level.

Next you want to go to your web control panel, find Family Safety in the Start Menu again, and start controlling your surf blocking. It will open in a web browser, where you can even set up things like say that the children can only go onto the web at certain times of day, for instance when you are at home. Think of it like a remote control that signals when it’s time for bed.
A bit about blocking, sometimes called black-listing.

Whenever you block a site, it gets added to a blocked sites list, sometimes you might allow access to a site, and change your mind latter, just find it here, and remove it from the list. It’s important to work this out over time, the filter is very aggressive, so it even blocks things like google and youtube, by default, both of which might make sense to you, or not. To unblock a site that’s not in the blocked list already, just visit it, and type in your password when asked to do so.
A blocking list is kept for each person who uses the computer, so proceed slowly. You only get warned about blocking a site once, if you choose to block a site, it will not ask you again in future, and you will have to open this web control panel in order to un-block a site later on.

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