FAQs: Web Filtering and Proxies with Userful Desktop

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Copyright © 2007-2015 Userful Corporation. All rights reserved.
(Updated 2015.09.25)

Web Filtering/Proxies

Q: How can I setup my own Web filters?

A: To do this, you first need to decide which of the following options to use:

Q: How can I use Userful Desktop's built-in filtering?

A: By default, your Userful Desktop is set to use its built-in filtering (using Dansguardian and Squid software). It is controlled by settings made in Userful Manager.

For a simple overview of this feature, please have a look at the Using Web Filters section. For an introduction on how to manage Web Filters with Userful Manager, please see the Userful Manager User Guide.

Once you are more familiar with Userful Manager, you can create your own filters by following these general steps:

  1. Log in to Userful Manager.
  2. Enter the Solutions Expert.
  3. Click on Web Filtering profiles.
  4. Click on an existing filter's name to modify it or click on Create a New Web Filter.
  5. Give your filter an appropriate name, then fill in the Internal Filtering settings.
  6. Make sure the External Filter settings (IP address and Port) are both blank.
  7. Click on the Save button at the bottom.
  8. Return to the Solutions Expert and click on Session Properties & Timing.
  9. Make sure your session profile(s) use the appropriate filter by clicking on the session name, then clicking the Filtering tab. There are four settings as follows:
    • Web filtering -- set this as appropriate for your needs.
    • Hide Filter Options -- selecting this disables the user's ability to manually switch filters on and off.
    • Filter Name -- make sure this has the name of the filter you've created.
    • Performance Filter -- this filter blocks out sites that are known to consume an abnormal amount of bandwidth and processing power.
  10. Click the Save button at the bottom of the page.
  11. Once your session(s) are set to use your filter, make sure you go to Computers from Solutions Expert. Check all the machines affected, and click on the Apply Configuration button.
Q: How can I use an external proxy?

A: First, you need to answer: Do you want to:

  • Use an external proxy to do Web filtering, or
  • Use Userful Desktop's built in Web filtering through an external proxy?

Using Userful Desktop's Web filtering allows you to control filter settings through Userful Manager, and you can have different filtering policies for different kinds of sessions. However, using your own external proxy allows you to set company-wide or network-wide filtering policies. Let's examine each option separately.

  • Use only the external proxy. Follow these steps:
    1. Log in to Userful Manager.
    2. Go to Solutions Expert > Web Filtering > Create a New Web Filter (or click on an existing filter).
    3. Go to the External Filter section, and enter your proxy's IP address and port number. (Remember, if you use the external proxy this way all the settings in the Internal Filter section above will be ignored.)
    4. Click on Save.
    5. Return to the Solutions Expert, click on Session Properties & Timing and select a session profile to edit.
    6. In the Filter section, make sure the Filter Name uses the correct filter. (You may need to do this with multiple session profiles depending on your policy.)
    7. If you created a new session profile for this filter, you should also go into the Welcome Screens page and make sure the new session profile is in the proper Welcome Screen.
    8. In Computers check the affected machines and Apply Configuration.
    9. If you want to test the changes immediately, just go to the station and press ALT-CTRL-U to immediately update configuration. You only need to do that on one station per machine.
  • Use Userful Desktop's Web filtering through an external proxy. Follow these steps:
    1. Make sure you have set up your filter properly.
    2. Go into Administrator Mode from the Userful Desktop's Welcome Screen.
    3. Double-click on the Proxy Settings icon on the desktop.
    4. Enter the external proxy settings and click OK.
Q: Why is the blacklist (UM filter setting) ignored when an external proxy is used?

A: Because Userful Manager was told to ignore it. There are various different settings for filters and proxies with Userful Manager and Userful Desktop. Let's clarify some of the key options.

  • Userful Desktop proxy settings. In Admin mode, the desktop has a "Proxy settings" icon. Clicking on this brings up your HTTP proxy settings. This allows you to modify which proxy Dansguardian (our Web filter) uses. If, for example, you already have an external proxy, you can fill in this proxy settings dialog to use it, while still allowing Dansguardian Web filtering to do its thing. Changes to these settings will still allow you to use your internal filter settings in UM.
  • External proxy for web filters. If you set an external proxy through Userful Manager > Web Filtering > Create a New Web Filter, this essentially instructs Userful Desktop not to use the internal (Dansguardian) filtering. Through Userful Manager, you can use internal or external filter proxies, but not both.
  • Performance Filter. In Solutions Expert > Session Profiles & Timing > Edit Session Profile > Filtering, you can choose whether or not to use the Performance Filter for Dansguardian. If this is turned off, it allows your stations to access certain sites (such as certain Flash game sites) which consume system resources to the point that all of the sessions on a Userful Desktop may be slowed or frozen.
Q: What are the available filter settings in Userful Manager?

A: Currently there are three available internal filter settings: White List, Black List and Phrase Limits. When you go into Solutions Expert > Web Filtering > Create a New Web Filter, the internal filtering options are found under two tabs:

  • "Block/Allow Websites" gives access to the White List and Black List.
  • "Screen Content Dynamically" allows the setting of Phrase Limits.

There is also an option to use an external filter proxy, which essentially turns off the built in filtering that comes with Userful Desktop/Userful Manager.

Q: Why do some games seem to cause problems?

A: Games are resource hogs. Some games are more demanding than others, but, in general, they require extra memory and CPU processing time. Internet games usually use either Flash or Java technologies, which would be fine if only one user was using the computer. But when you have several people sharing one Userful Desktop computer, then they are all sharing the memory and CPU processing power of the computer. Once you have a couple of people playing games at the same time, or perhaps one especially selfish game, other stations may grind to a halt. For this reason, we have the Performance Filter.

Here is a list of sites that are currently blocked by the Performance Filter:


To see how to prevent users from playing these kinds of games, read on.

If you would like to unblock some or all of these, simply un-check the Performance Filter in Userful Manager by going to Session Profiles & Timing->The profile you would like to change->Filtering. Then, add the sites to the black or white lists as appropriate.

Q: How can I restrict access to websites that affect system performance?

A: Turn on the Performance Filter. To flip the switch on:

  1. Log in to Userful Manager.
  2. Go to Solutions Expert > Session Profiles & Timing > Edit Session Profile (by clicking on a session profile name).
  3. In the Filtering section, make sure the Performance Filtering checkbox is checked.
  4. Scroll down all the way to the bottom and click on the Save button.
  5. Go to Solutions Expert > Computers and make sure to use Apply Configuration for all computers using that session profile.

Another solution to this problem might be to set up your own Web filter for specific sites that affect performance. (Although we've already done this for you with the Performance Filter.)

Q: Why isn't my UM filter working?

A: There are several possible reasons. Please go into Userful Manager and check things in this order:

  1. The entries in your White List or Black List include "http://" at the beginning. This prefix must be removed.
  2. The White List/Black List entries are too specific. For example, if you accept all Yahoo! websites it is better to simply put "yahoo.com" (or "yahoo.ca", etc.) in your White List. If you accept all Yahoo! sites except for games, for example, put "yahoo.com" in your White List and "games.yahoo.com" in your Black List.
  3. There is something typed into the External Filter settings. This will turn off internal (Userful Manager/Userful Desktop built-in) filtering.
  4. The session profile is not set up to use your filter. Please check Userful Manager > Session Profiles & Timing, then select your profile, scroll down to Filter Name to make sure it is using your filter.
  5. The session profile has Web filtering defaulted to off. Please check Solutions Expert > Session Profiles & Timing, then select your profile and scroll down to Web filtering to make sure it is set appropriately. (If you select Optional (default=OFF), make sure you turn on the filter when you begin your Userful Desktop session. See below.)
  6. The Welcome Screen is not using the correct session profile. You can check this through Solutions Expert > Welcome Screens, then make sure the information listed in the Session Profiles column is correct.
  7. The filter is set to Optional (default=OFF), and is not being switched on when a Userful Desktop session is started. Please see Using Web Filters for notes on what to do after starting the session.
Q: How can I turn off filtering?

A: There are different ways:

  • Disabling the filter during a session. Each session type can use a different filter.
    If a filter is set to be optional, the user can choose whether to enable or disable filtering when their session starts (Please see Using Web Filters for notes on this.) They can also change it during their session by clicking on the filter icon near the bottom right hand corner of the screen (it looks like a globe with a pane of glass in front of it; if the pane of glass is virtually invisible, it means filtering is turned off)
    If the filter is set to be always on, the administrator can disable it after the session begins by pressing Ctrl-Alt-F and then entering the password (this password can be found and changed in Userful Manager > Solutions Expert > System Passwords. See the Administrator Guide for more information). Please be careful not to let the user see how you do this or what the password is... they will remember and share it with others.
  • Remote Monitoring and Control to switch filtering off. This could be used during a session to change a specific station's filtering from another station. The administrator could use this at their desk without having to do anything at the user's station. See the Remote Monitoring and Control User Guide for details on how to use it.
  • Create a Web filter that filters nothing. This option would turn off filtering for all session profiles which use it. You would use Userful Manager to do this. Follow the steps for creating a filter and use the following settings:
         Name:          No Filtering  (or whatever name you want)
         Black List:    (empty)
         Phrase Limit:  10000
         External:      (empty)
         Port:          (empty)