The latest Macs have parental software built in -- a much better idea than adding it on later, as Windows forces you to do.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
Parental Control software for Windows, copying your Favorites to another computer, choosing the right blank DVD

March 25, 2007

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, The Post-Standard

   It's that time again. My inbox is overflowing, and I'll answer as many reader questions as I can this week and next.
   I'm looking for some software (preferably free) that can block objectionable material and chat rooms. Is there anything good that you can recommend? -- C.D.

   I call programs of this type "Net Nannies," after the early program named Net Nanny that popularized parental control software. Windows users have many choices. Two of them of them stand out:
   Child Safe, from www.webroot.com. It's $39.95 for up to three family computers (Windows PCs only).
   SafeEyes, from www.safeeyes.com. It costs $49.95 for up to three family computers (Windows PCs only).
   Apple Mac users have parental controls built in if they're using the current version of the Mac operating system. All Macs sold in the last two years should have it. Click "About This Mac" under the Apple logo to find out. The current version, called "Tiger," will show "10.4" followed by a period and another number.
   Apple's approach of building parental controls into the computer itself generally works better than the addition of extra software onto a Windows PC, since controls work no matter what the computer is doing.
   (If you're using OS X but haven't yet upgraded to Tiger -- OS X 10.4.x -- it's surely time to upgrade if you have children under your care.)
   I've tried everything I can think of, but I can't figure how to copy my Favorites from my Windows desktop PC to my new laptop. Complicating everything is the fact that the laptop doesn't even run Windows! So I don't even have Internet Explorer on my laptop. Is this hopeless? Should I just print them and type them into my laptop browser by hand? I have more than 600 favorites! -- R.A.

   The "native" format that Web browsers deal with is called HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language). So all you have to do is convert your Favorites or bookmarks into an HTML page -- into a Web page, in other words. Then you can open all your favorite sites as clickable links in a single, home-brew Web page.
   This is actually easy. In your browser, look for an option (usually under the File menu) that lets you export your Favorites or bookmarks. You'll be asked to give a location (choose your desktop) and you'll have a chance to give the file a meaningful name. Make it "My old favorites" or "My old bookmarks." Then copy that file to your laptop using a wireless connection, a burnable CD or a USB thumb drive.
   I have never before had the capacity to use DVDs for making backups, but now, with my new computer, I have multiple options for the types of blank DVDs. Do you have a favorite DVD format for making backups? -- S.R.

   DVDs are much better for storing backups than CDs, simply because DVDs hold so much more data -- at least six times as much as CDs. The latest DVD burners are quite fast, too, so backups don't take much time.
   Alas, two competing formats add a lot of confusion to DVD choices. DVD- (called "DVD dash" to keep people from thinking there is something "minus" about the format) was first on the market and became the leader for that reason. DVD+ is the other format. It's called "DVD plus" by its backers to make people think there is something "plus" about it -- the grandest kind of marketing I've seen in years. DVD+ has a few advantages in special situations but not in computer use.
   My main computer came with a DVD- burner but I replaced it with a combination burner, one that records both - and + disks. So I use either kind. If you stick to name-brand disks, both types are reliable, and prices are about the same.
   But there's one format I prefer over all others when I need high capacity. It's DVD+DL, a dual-layer disk that has double the capacity of a standard disk (about 9.6 gigabytes). Not all drives that handle DVD+ disks can record on DVD+DL. Of you're not sure if yours can, buy one DL disk and try to copy at least 8 gigabytes of files onto it, Make a folder on your desktop, stuff it full of files, get it up to 8 GB and try to burn it to a DL disk.