Using Gertrude

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes Gertrude better?

I'm a software developer who built Gertrude because I was trying to protect my kids online, and was frustrated with the lack of safety and usability of other solutions on the market. A lot of Gertrude's core features came out of things I wished I had while trying to protect my kids online using other off-the shelf software, things like:

  • Real safety. Nearly every other internet security tool tries to block categories of websites, like pornography, gambling, etc. This is tantalizing because its so easy, but it doesn't actually work. With 1.7 billion websites on the internet, and thousands being added every day, a motivated user will always be able to find inappropriate content not properly categorized. I needed something that blocked the entire internet, and let me choose what parts to unblock.
  • Ease of use. A few solutions do exist that will block the entire internet and let you specify what to unlock, but they are incredibly onerous and cumbersome to use. For instance, my two oldest kids needed many of the same websites unblocked, but I had to manually type dozens of domains twice: once for each of their computers. Gertrude fixes this by allowing you to create "keychains"—groups of shareable and reusable "keys" that unlock parts of the internet. It also allows my kids to identify blocked requests, and send me a notification requesting it be unblocked.
  • Supervision. Previous solutions I tried sometimes failed. I wanted a backup, so I tried installing software that would monitor keystrokes, but it was hard to find anything that was affordable and actually worked, and that didn't seem slimy. I'm not trying to hide the fact that I'm watching my kids computer use, they know it. So I built Gertrude to take periodic screenshots of my kids screens, and to record their keystrokes. I get to review these on my phone, any time I want. And it's not hidden—the Gertrude app clearly lets the user know if their screen and keystrokes are being recorded. This also makes it so I can now temporarily suspend the filter—I know it's safe because I'll see their activity afterwards, and they know it too.
  • Remote control. Every other solution I tried had to be configured and managed on my kids' computer. Every time they needed something changed or unlocked, they would have to bring me their computer so I could authenticate and tweak the settings. I built Gertrude so that I could manage every aspect of their protection from the comfort of my own computer or phone, no matter where I was.

Does it work on iPhones or iPads?

No. It only works for Mac computers. This is primarily because I built Gertrude originally for myself, and I only needed a solution for the computers where my kids did their homework. I already had a very reliable way of keeping them safe on a phone—don't give them one. When I finally got my 16+ year old a phone, I protected it using the Apple Screen Time feature, which is very effective, although difficult to setup. Check out our guide to locking down an iPhone for more information.

I can't access the internet on my admin user account

TLDR—Sign in as your protected user, go to the "Administrate" > "Exempt Users" screen, and click to allow unrestricted access for the admin user account.

Exempt an admin user from filtering
Exempt an admin user from filtering

If you share a computer with your kid, and the Gertrude app is installed on their macOS user, the filter will by default block all the internet requests from every other user on the computer. That's because the Gertrude filter system extension runs as root and has to make a decision about every network request attempted by every user on the system. For maximum safety, I built Gertrude to be very defensive, when in doubt, it always takes the most safe option, which is to forbid network requests for users it has no instructions about.

Therefore, you need to explicitly instruct the filter about macOS users who should be exempt from filtering. To do this, sign in as the macOS user being protected by Gertrude. Click the Gertrude menu bar icon, then click Administrate... and choose the Exempt Users option from the left sidebar, then click to exempt the user.

Be careful with exemptions!

It's critical that any user that is exempt from filtering be protected by a password that is unknown to any of your kids. Otherwise, they would be able to sign in to the exempt user and have unrestricted internet and no monitoring from the Gertrude app.

Why are browsers forced to quit after a filter suspension expires?

For maximum safety. Modern web browsers use http2, allowing them to re-use socket connections to transmit data. In English, what that means is that any websites your user has opened during a filter suspension will remain partially unblocked after the filter suspension expires, as the browser will keep using a connection opened during the suspension. To prevent this, we terminate all browsers 60 seconds after a suspension expires.

Gertrude

The Gertrude app helps you protect your kids online with strict internet filtering that you can manage from your own computer or phone, plus remote monitoring of screenshots and keystrokes. $5/mo, with a 60 day free trial.

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