Image: Ubuntu and DansGuardian--Great for Libraries!

Ubuntu Hardy and DansGuardian for
Filtering and Public Wireless Access

By John C. Rucker (Page 1 of 10)

This guide is an update of my earlier tutorial. That tutorial was all command-line based, using Ubuntu 6.06 "Dapper Drake".  This new version uses a graphical interface for just about everything and is based on Ubuntu 8.04 "Hardy Heron".

Introduction

Many public libraries find themselves investigating solutions for filtering web content in order to comply with federal or state laws, or because they just need to. There are many solutions out there, some cheap, some … well, not so much. This issue can just get even more complicated if you want to add a public wireless network. And what if you need this public wireless access to be filtered, too? Don't worry! Thanks to the hard work and generosity of thousands of people in the Free and Open Source Software community, a solution exists that is free, is easy to set up, and is perfect for public libraries.

To accomplish this we'll be using a free Linux operating system called Ubuntu, and a web content filter called DansGuardian, along with a few other programs to make it all work.

The only costs you'll have for this project will be for the hardware and your time. And depending on how busy your library is, you can use even fairly old hardware that you might have lying around. Got an old PC that works but can't really run Windows XP? Toss in an extra network interface card and it's perfect. At our branch locations we have used 800 MHz Pentium III desktop computers with only 256MB of RAM that we recycled for this purpose. These machines, originally acquired in 2000, have handled as many 35 as wireless clients at one time with no problems at all.

If you want to add wireless access, you'll need at least one simple wireless access point. You can easily find one for under $100. This filtering setup will also work perfectly with expensive business-class wireless setups, too.

When you are finished with this tutorial, you will have a machine that you can use as a web content filter for your public and staff machines, as well as a way to offer web access to patrons with laptops via either a wired or wireless network. Patron laptops will have web pages filtered for content that you decide needs to be filtered, without you touching any patron's computer. This public network will also be completely separate from your staff network where your library transactions occur. Finally, most non-web Internet traffic will be blocked to prevent abuse.

This setup should leave you confident that the web access you provide to your patrons' laptops is filtered in accordance with your needs and any applicable laws, and is separate and secure from your private staff network.

You don't need to be a sophisticated computer user to put this setup together. You'll just need to be able to follow these directions and type some commands. And don't worry if you don't understand everything; for our purposes here, you don't need to. If you've never done this sort of thing before, you should probably give yourself an entire working day to finish the project. If you're experienced at this sort of thing, you can easily have the whole setup done in under two hours.

So let's get started! In this tutorial we'll cover:


 

Next Page: Hardware Configuration


Originally published on 1 October 2008. Last modified on 3 November 2009.
Copyright © 2008 John C. Rucker
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.