OpenDNS

openDNS is a company who’s purpose is to replace the sometimes flaky DNS service that comes with your ISP (Hi, Comcast!) and provide an alternate means to look up addresses on the internet. This means that every time you try to look up www.apple.com, their computer takes the web address and sends back the numerical address, much like looking up phone numbers in a phonebook by name.

The side benefit of this is that with openDNS, you can also specify corrections of typos, define what kind of websites you don’t want visited from your household or office, and specify what exceptions you want to allow, because they control what computer you connect to when you ask for a website.

Specifying what you want to block follows the same categories used in many common filtering apps, and the logs give you a nice list of sites that have been denied. What it doesn’t do is let you know who in your network made the request, give you a weight for how strict to be within a category, or let you see what sites have been visited that were not blocked.

I can deal with those weaknesses, as it simplifies my computer setup and makes it a little more difficult for the kids to work around the restraints (I still make sure I eyeball their activity and computers on a regular basis). It has one other “plus” – the instructions. They have excellent documentation that should go a long way in helping you set up your router or computer to use their DNS servers as well as tracking changes in the IP address your ISP hands you.

Best of all, it’s “free.”