I manage my kids computer accounts using Snow Leopard using Parental Controls, and have worked out a good way to handle updating the list of allowed websites, but have so far been stumped about how to set the homepage for their accounts.
See, when you create a brand new account in OS X, and assign it as a “managed with parental controls” account, the preferences for Safari automatically disable the ability to change the homepage, and set the default homepage to Apple.com.
There is nothing really wrong with Apple.com, but it’s not what my kids want to see when they first start up Safari – they want to cut straight to the good stuff: SesameStreet.com, Funbrain.com, StarFall.com, etc.
In the past, the only way I’ve been able to change their homepage is to convert their account to a normal account, then log in and change the Home Page setting in Safari preferences, then log back out and convert their account back to one managed with Parental Controls.
That’s a whole lot of work to do something as simple as change their homepage.
So tonight I did a bit of digging, and discovered that you can change the Safari home page setting using the OS X defaults command, like this:
defaults write com.apple.Safari HomePage http://www.myFavoriteHomepage.com
The problem for my situation is that this only works for the currently logged-in user. So, if I want to change it for my kids, I have to be logged in as them, but Terminal is not an allowed application for them – bit of a catch-22 there.
So, instead I just log in to the terminal myself, sudo to their account, and then issue the command. Works like a champ. Restarting Safari in their account is required to see the change take effect.
Here is a transcript from a terminal showing exactly how I did it:
Last login: Fri Oct 30 21:14:05 2009
Mini:~ kimball$ sudo su
sh-3.2# su - firstKid
Mini:~ firstKid$ defaults write com.apple.Safari HomePage http://www.funbrain.com
Mini:~ firstKid$ exit
sh-3.2# su - secondKid
Mini:~ secondKid$ defaults write com.apple.Safari HomePage http://www.starfall.com
Mini:~ secondKid$ exit
sh-3.2# su - thirdKid
Mini:~ thirdKid$ defaults write com.apple.Safari HomePage http://www.sesamestreet.org/home
Mini:~ thirdKid$ exit