If I added up all of the hours I’ve lost at my desktop simply by doing nothing of note I’d likely be eligible for honorary Time Lord status from Gallifrey.
Thankfully, I’m big enough to know when I’m impacting on my productivity and how to sort it out. But kids? Kids sometimes need cajoling – a quick prod in the direction of what’s best for them. And when it comes to computers, that means limiting the amount of time they can spend staring at a backlit display.
Of course, that’s not to say that all time spent in front of a PC or laptop is useless. Many conscientious parents know that there are benefits to be had from letting them indulge their curiosity on Wikipedia, or sharpen their computer skills on forums, and letting them blow off steam on Steam. Outright computer restrictions are unlikely to prove a prudent course of action in the long run.
But sometimes ‘off’ has to mean ‘off’. That’s where oft-hated parental control applications come in handy.
How to Limit Time Spent on Computer
The Windows, Android, and Apple platforms are home to a raft of applications to restrict, limit and otherwise curtail the amount of time someone can spend logged in or what they can view online.
Ubuntu has less choice, which makes the following app stand out more than it might have otherwise.
If you want to set the hours of the day when computing is ‘ok’, or a certain amount of time per day, check out Timekpr. Unlike the majority of “parental control” apps available, Timekpr is not a web blocker or activity monitor. It’s much simpler in aim: it lets you choose when a computer can be used, and when it can’t.
If you’ve spent any time looking into time limiting applications for Ubuntu (which given that you’re reading this article means you probably have) then you’ll have come across Timekpr.
Sadly, development of the app ground to a halt for a few years and the last ‘official’ builds produced were for Ubuntu 11.10.
Not wanting to let a (largely) functional app go to waste a new developer has stepped in to foster it. Eduards Bezverhijs, who encountered the application while looking for something similar to it, has picked up development, wiped the dust off and added a few neat extras to it.
He tells me that the app is ‘by no means new app except the app-indicator for Ubuntu’ and that he simply wants to ‘share a working app for latest version of Ubuntu to the world.’
Eduards is being a little modest. He has added support for LightDM (the display manager used in Ubuntu), support for the systemd login manager ‘loginctl’ and introduced an indicator applet for easy control.
How To Use It
Timekpr works on a per-user basis. It retrieves a list of accounts from many popular display managers (including GDM, KDM and LXDM) and, providing you’re the root user, allow you to:
- Set duration access limits (e.g., 1 hour) for selected users
- Limited time frame of access (e.g., 7 AM to 4 PM) for selected users
- Configure limitations on a whole week or per-day basis
Get Timekpr for Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
While Timekpr is not the only program offering parental controls on Ubuntu, it is one of the easiest to grapple with. More details, along with a PPA for the app, can be found at launchpad.net/~mjasnik/+archive/ppa.
Debian installers for Ubuntu 14.04 LTS are listed below.
After installing you can launch Timekpr from the command line as root by running: