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How to Set Up and Use a "hosts" File

by Michael Greifenkamp (June 12th, 2003)

My family and I live in a rural part of the country, and technologically the town is rather, well, behind the times. However, a few months back the cable company came calling and announced that they were finally bringing high-speed internet to town. I was ecstatic.

I had already wired my house for 100base-T ethernet and I used the network to share files using a 10/100base-T switched hub. But now the circle would become complete--my days on dial-up were numbered.

But there is a twist to all of this. I don't want my kids to be on the internet unsupervised. While I think that the web is the greatest tool in the history of the world, I don't want them seeing anything they shouldn't at their young and tender age. And there are only a few degrees of separation between an innocuous computer gaming website and the dreaded p-word.

Don't get me wrong--if people want to look at porn, feel free. But I don't want my kids stumbling onto something of which they have no concept. Having the "sex talk" in a few years will be difficult enough--having to do it a few years too soon because of a picture on the web? I'd rather not.

I don't trust browsers to block stuff. I don't trust other programs to block stuff. Basically, what I want to do is have a list of sites that they are allowed to visit, not a list of sites that should be blocked. When they want to visit a new site, I want to be able to add that site to some sort of master list, to prevent them from seeing anything other than what I have allowed.

I was musing about setting up a proxy server and all sorts of other way-too-tricky stuff. Then I found out about a neat little file in Mac OS called "hosts."

*Note: This explanation presumes that you are using a Macintosh computer, with a Pre-OS X operating system.

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