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paddymac

Set up kids' homeschool computer

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We've got two kids ages 8 and 11 that are homeschooling for the first time this year. We've got one computer dedicated for the kids to use. It currently has Windows 10 on it. It was a fairly inexpensive Dell desktop for about $200 that included a keyboard, mouse, and monitor. We got the one to see how well it worked out, but for that low a price we may get a second one so the kids don't have to take turns on it.

 

In any case, I would like to eventually convert the computer to Funtoo. But here's what I really want to accomplish. I want to restrict the kids internet access so that they can only access their homeschool website during the day. I'd also like to restrict access to games or other distracting programs during the day but allow access to word processing programs or anything else they might actually need for their lessons. And if possible, I'd like to allow more access in the evening if they want to watch Youtube or play games or whatever.

 

I'd also like to set up VNC or something else so that I can view their desktops while they're using the computer so I can ensure they're actually working on the assignments and ensure that they can't somehow disable it. If I could set up some kind of instant messaging or voice chat just for private use on the LAN or accessible remotely, that would be nice too.

 

We've had issues especially with the 11 year old watching Youtube or web surfing or playing games instead of doing school work, and I want to put a stop to this ASAP.

 

If it's easier to set up such an environment on Windows 10, I'm willing to put up with the Microsoft OS for the sake of the kids (since they're the ones that will be primarily using it anyway), but even if so I'd like solutions that would at least be compatible with Linux software (such as being able to remotely view their desktop). Of course, if this is doable on Linux, all the better.

 

I guess one of the big issues is that I'm looking essentially for the ability to control access to software on a per-application basis instead of by categories and be able to have that access automatically change based on the time of day or maybe by some manual command on the part of an administrator.

 

So if anyone has any ideas on configuring something like this, I'd appreciate it.

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You could just find a router that supports scheduling and/or parental controls.

 

Create a schedule that only allows a 'whitelist' to school sites.

 

You could look into OpenDNS. It's a good start I think.

 

Plan on removing google though. I don't think there is ANYTHING that will prevent google search from locating games, porn, etc....that can be viewed no matter what app or hardware you are using to try to block this material(other than blocking media type extensions for every site). Google pulls in images to it's server then sends them to your PC when you search.

 

It will probably take a combination of tools and trial and error and adjustments to find something that works.

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I think you might be better off with two systems for each kid -- one for work and one for play.  Dual boot those systems so you don't end up buying 4 laptops.  At school time, the kid chooses "School" from the Grub menu.  After school, the kid reboots and chooses "Play" from the Grub menu.  You can restrict the hours that users can log into the "Play" system by editing /etc/security/time.conf.

 

In the School system, install only what they need to do school stuff.  You could also set up routing so that there is no default gateway, but there is a static route to their school website.  Of course, this solution will fail if the school website links to other school-related sites.

 

While having two separate School and Play systems feels like overkill, I think it might actually be easier than getting the functionality you want out of a single system.

 

The School and Play systems could/should share some partitions:  /usr/portage, /var/tmp, /tmp.  I wouldn't share /home because then the School system can be used to look at pictures, etc. that the kids downloaded during Play time.

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I would just give separate accounts for play and school, for each kid. The play accounts would include an extra 'group' membership.

 

The Linux firewall can restrict access to sites by the processes owning user and group. Application can have execute restricted if not in the owning group. You may need a fairly sophisticated firewall to scan the page for keywords like 'game', 'movie', 'porn' or whatever else you like. Some stuff always blacklisted, rest of the net locked except for whitelisted sites during school. And VNC should already be well integrated.

 

Now, set up the 'play' accounts to be able to log in between certain times, and you can have a from job force the play accounts to log off when school starts. I would make the kid's school files accessible outside of school, but not the other way around.

 

More about me at https://eddon.systems

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dansguardian can be used to block websites based on content.

 

The problem I see with restricting software based on group membership is that

 

1) you need to know which binaries you need to chmod

2) permissions will probably revert to their defaults upon upgrade (though I've not tested this)

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dansguardian can be used to block websites based on content.

 

The problem I see with restricting software based on group membership is that

 

1) you need to know which binaries you need to chmod

2) permissions will probably revert to their defaults upon upgrade (though I've not tested this)

Both points are valid, but there aren't many other options. Maybe we need a package manager that installs new software based on pre-defined groups and makes new users members.

 

More about me at https://eddon.systems

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