Home Internet Filters/Controls – Updated as of June, 2017

by admin on Aug 19th in Uncategorized

June 12, 2017 Update:

Well, at this point I am officially jumping on the Roqos bandwagon.  I have now had the unit for a month or two, and have found it to be very simple to use, easy to configure, and the tech support is very responsive.  Their rather aggressive roadmap for future features is quite impressive.  They are also quite willing to consider new concepts and features if presented in a way that shows the importance.

I like them so much that I just purchased a rather large quantity to start selling/installing for my clients who have SkyDog (since it is getting shut off in a little while).

Here’s my list of pros/cons…

Cons:

  • Lack of documentation – they have so many features, but there isn’t a user’s manual that you can download.  Their rationale is that it is so easy to setup, it isn’t necessary.  While that is true, I feel there is a need for documentation in order to understand just what the unit is capable of doing.
  • High Cost of Subscription – I really dislike their monthly fee…however, it seems that those units that have all the features I want are going to charge exorbitant fees.  The difference here is that they do offer ways to decrease the amount by buying ‘in advance’…
  • Strength of Signal – The strength of signal isn’t necessarily bad, it is just that I replaced my RouterLimits router with the Roqos, and the RL router had the strongest signal of all units I tested.  Roqos router is fine, it just isn’t the best…

Pros:

  • Ease of setup – while I had issues setting mine up, it was due to my lack of understanding how to do it (which points back to a con of lack of documentation).
  • Configuration based on users – you can create guidelines for different groups or individuals.  I set it up the same way I setup my SkyDog…I created a ‘group’ with the name of family members, then assigned their hardware to that group.
  • Guest SSID – this allows you to set a time limit (in days) that the password will work…it auto-generates a new one on the frequency that you request
  • VPN – this allows you to set your devices to go through the Roqos router even when they are NOT on your home network!  Haven’t tried this yet, but it is a great feature if you want to keep the filtering going even when away from your home.
  • Intrusion Detection – one of the features of this router is that it is more than just a filter…it provides protection from external attacks as well.  Again, I wish there was documentation that explained just what it does…
  • Proxy Blocking – this is a feature they are adding in July…
  • Reporting – this is a feature that they currently have, but are extending it with the July update
  • Subscription options – while their monthly cost is a ‘con’, they offer two other options that decreases the monthly fee rather substantially.  If you buy the router with a one-year subscription (that’s what I would recommend), the future years are just $149, which works out to about $12.40 a month.  You can also purchase a ‘life-time’ subscription, where if you keep it for 5 years, it works out to about $9 a month.  One of the reasons I don’t like the ‘lifetime’ option is that in technology terms, life-time can be a rather short time…so whether you get your money out of a life-time option is up for grabs.

Well, let’s see how long Roqos stays at the top.  I do have a large stock of Blocksi and pcWRT routers that I purchased when I thought they were going to be the top ‘dog’…

 

April 24, 2017 Update:

Yet another new player has joined the game.  The company is Roqos, and for all intents and purposes, it appears they are on the right track to be a SkyDog replacement contender.  I have ordered a unit to test, so we will see if their PR is as impressive as their AR (Actual Reality).  Things I like from their description:

  • Strong hardware
  • Reporting
  • Much more flexibility in configuring hardware (where RouterLimits falls down)
  • Ability to do more than filter content…it looks like a full blown cyber safety system (malware, virus, and content filtering).  Their VPN concept is amazing, if it works as ‘advertised’.

While their subscription rate is a bit high ($17 a month), they do offer several ways to decrease that.  If you purchase a full year, it is $269 and includes the router.  Subsequent years are only $149.  Another option is the lifetime subscription, which is $649 and includes the router as well…so if you’ve got young children, this option could work quite well for you!

I will update this update once I get the unit and try it out.  Until then, check out their website at www.roqos.com!

 

April 4, 2017 Update:

After working with the RouterLimits devices, I have to say that I haven’t found them to be worth the extra per month charge (for me).  My current frustration is lack of communication over several issues I’ve had with the units…the support I got was what I would call a ‘flash in the pan’…fast, intense, but quickly disappears.  I am still stuck on a few issues with no help.  I think that they are a new enough company that they are working out some of the communication bugs…we’ll see…

Also, Blocksi (my other favorite) has been busy adding features.  They now have a timer feature for specific programs/websites…so you can set time of day ranges AS WELL as actually total time using…a great feature if you have someone ‘addicted’ to FaceBook or YouTube, etc.  Since their yearly subscription price is equal to only two months of RouterLimits, they seem like the best deal at this point…

I am at this point going to stop purchasing units that cost more than $10/month.  With my next child heading of to college soon, I just don’t have the financial wherewithal to keep buying this stuff…and I’m starting to question my stewardship as I see my piles of routers in the basement…

 

One aspect of our company is training, installing, maintaining filters and controls for home and small business internet access.  It used to be easy…use iBoss.  However, over the last 8 years, things have changed a lot!  Here’s some guidelines you may find useful in determining how to best control the Internet in your location.  If you are a troll who wants to complain about how unfair it is that parents/employers limit/control your Internet, go away.

Some basics:

  • Filtering software is good but bad – it only will work on the system it is installed on, it requires updating, and is difficult to find software that will work on phones, tablets, and desktop computers.  Also, the cost is rather steep, since it is usually based on per device!  Also, this is probably the easiest to bypass.
  • A router with built in filtering and control is the best option, since it will apply to ALL devices that use your Internet connection.  However, once the devices leave your house/business, the filtering isn’t there anymore.  Usually has a yearly subscription price, which is MUCH less than having to buy something for every device in the house.  Many off-the-shelf routers have some basic controls and filters, but are far from user friendly!
  • DNS filtering is an option as well, but much less configurable than a router with built in filtering/control.  Good news is that OpenDNS is a free service.
  • If you have a U-Verse modem/router combination, you CANNOT change the DNS to the filter option!  Complain to AT&T so they change that.
  • If you have a U-Verse or Comcast (Xfinity) modem/router combination and you want to use a router with filter/control, you will have to do some ‘finagling’ to get it to work (google the process – a bit too much to cover on this post)

Our company buys and tests most of the different routers to see what we should recommend.  Check back here for updates…and if you know of a router we don’t have listed here, please let us know, so we can try it out!  We DO NOT accept any of them for free – we want to be unbiased in our evaluation of the units, so we buy them just as you would.

Below is an evaluation of the units we have tested.  Hopefully, by reading the evaluations, you can start to see some of the more important criteria.

 

iBoss (current rating: 2)

These guys were one of the original vendors of home/business Internet filter/control.  Their user interface and usability are excellent!  However, they haven’t updated their hardware in nearly 6 years, and in the technology world, that is ANCIENT!  They have told me they are in the process of updating, but they’ve been telling me that for nearly 2 years now.  Also, their yearly subscription is $60, which is one of the most expensive of all the units tested!  Another drawback is that you can only ‘identify’ 16 devices.  When their product first came out, that seemed astronomical, I’m sure.  However, nowadays, 16 devices is at the low end when you consider phones, tablets, computers, printers, TVs, DVD players, game consoles, etc.  iBoss is an afterthought from a company (phantom technologies) that deals with enterprise (big company) Internet control and filtering.  I question how serious they are in continuing to develop/update their home/small business devices.

SkyDog (current rating: 5, availability: none)

This company exploded onto the scene in 2013 through a Kickstarter campaign, and they knocked it out of the park!  They received more awards and accolades in 8 months than any other networking device has in its lifetime!  Their hardware was good, the controls and filters were all cloud based so that you could change settings from anywhere.  By far my favorite device.  Bad news is, they did so well that Comcast bought their company and stopped production and sales of the SkyDog device.  However, I still have a little stock of them if you are interested! 🙂  The initial cost INCLUDES 3 years of subscription, which Comcast promises (?) will remain functional until September, 2017.

 

BUC Router

A new player in the game, BUC stands for Block Unwanted Content (cute).  However, their user interface and flexibility is horrendous!  They basically flashed a good router with DD-WRT firmware and added a subscription server.  While initial connection is simple and straightforward, the setup of the controls and filters is beyond convoluted!  Hopefully they clean up their interface….  In talking with them, they are actively working on improving their UI.  As a small company, they obviously don’t have the deep pockets, so I’ll be patient to see what they can accomplish in the next couple of months! UPDATE: They have changed their name to ‘Kibosh’, and I have reached out to them to see if things have improved, but they won’t respond to my requests…bummer…

Kibosh – READ-Updated 6/25/2016 (current rating: 3.5)

I’m going to give these guys a separate grouping now.  They used to be BUC (see above), and I didn’t like (put mildly) their interface.  However, after contributor John left a review on it, I will again pursue their unit.  From what their website shows, it provides a lot of the ‘SkyDog’ features that pcWRT is missing.  They weren’t real fond of my negative review, even though I did say that we had to cut them some slack, which apparently they didn’t reciprocate.  I will order one of these (using an alias) and test it out and see if John is legit or yet another plant… 🙂

OK, got the new Kibosh router and installed it.  Here are my comments/observations:

  • Simplest connection of any router thus far.  No need to spoof a MAC address, no need to contact Comcast, it just worked!  Kudos on this…
  • UI has improved…still a bit on the clunky side and requires a lot of copying and pasting of MAC addresses to get things to work…this is a major flaw from my perspective.
    • In setting up specific profiles, you have to type in the IP address (a bad idea, because this could easily change due to DHCP) or the MAC address.  The reason this bothers me is that in other areas of the UI, there is a drop down list of ‘hosts’, with the computer name by it.  Why don’t they just use that same API call and allow the user to choose from a drop down list rather than having to type in a MAC address?!  Yes, I know you give instructions on how to find the MAC address, but for the average user, TMI!!
  • The reporting is a bit limited.  Yes, there are reports, and that is good.  However, some basic reports are missing, such as total time online, time spent on specific sites, etc.  You may be asking what reports there actually are…
    • Bandwidth usage – kind of helpful…but I think this was added merely as a cool visual effect.
    • Sites visited – the problem here is that you can’t view by user/host…you get everything, which then requires you to export to Excel and then work your magic if you are an Excel maven.
    • Searches – I like this…it tells you the host, date/time, and the search terms used…OK, that is cool!!!
  • The router is a gigabit router!  Again, from an internet perspective, not a big deal, but from an internal LAN perspective, very nice!
  • You can lock in Safe-Search…a key ingredient to a parental control router!
  • It shows all connections to your network…this is good…now they just need to add the ability to disconnect wifi users from the interface…many routers have that option…
  • For some reason, my web-based interface isn’t connecting with my unit…not sure why…I’ll check with tech support.

The cost for the unit is $129, and that includes at least 1 year of their service, after which it is $29.95/year…a very reasonable rate…unlike CleanRouter (see below).

My biggest beef with this unit is its inability to EASILY setup controls based on devices/users.  The Skydog (the gold standard in UI for PCR (Parental Control Routers)) allowed you to create profile then assign devices to that profile.  In our house, I created a profile for each person as well as a ‘network’ profile (this was for printers, APs, etc) then assigned devices to each profile…Scott’s computer, phone and tablet were all assigned to the Scott profile…easy peasy…

So, all that to say, I’m not sure if John (from the comments) was a plant or not…the Kibosh router has definitely moved up the ladder of options, but a few more rungs on the ladder are needed to reach perfection…

I have ordered the new Blocksi router…that one also looks like they have made MAJOR changes to take them out of the pool of mediocrity and into the running for topdog (Skydog).

Pandora’s Hope – AKA Clean Router (current rating: unavailable – too expensive to test)

Another new player, they have the right ideas, excellent hardware, and a much better interface than the BUC Router.  However, they are very limited in the controls and filtering.  You can only setup one level of control/filtering, and every device has to either follow those guidelines or no guidelines at all!  I look forward to see how this company’s product develops of the next couple of months!

OK, here’s an update on this device.  It has changed its name to CleanRouter.  It seems the most like SkyDog (my favorite), seems to have all the bells and whistles, but I haven’t tested it yet.  Here’s why – it is freaking expensive!  When it was Pandora’s Hope, it was $29.95 a year.  They have now changed it to $29.95 A MONTH!! Plus the router is $200!!  I’ve contacted them to express my concern about the price, but they really are set on this price.  While I agree with them that it is probably worth it, you have to play within the market, which this doesn’t…it is astronomically higher than any other player in the game.

Update – they dropped their price to $12.95/month!  Still rather high, but headed in the correct direction!

NetGenie (current rating: 3)

They have great hardware, as well as decent controls and filters that are USER based.  My only complaint so far is that you have to log in EVERY time you access the Internet (which is required, since the controls and filters are user based).  I am talking with them to see if there are other options.  Similar to the iBoss, this device is an off-shoot of much more robust enterprise devices by the company CyberRoam.  I’m not sure how committed they are to the home/small business faction.

pcWRT Router (current rating: 3.5)

 I’m giving this device its own spot now, since I’ve tested it quite a bit, and installed about 10 of them for various clients.  This device is a basic wireless router that has been flashed with OpenWRT firmware, then beautifully customized by the developer.  With the loss of SkyDog, this was my go-to answer for hardware Parental Control for awhile.  You can purchase this through Amazon for $99, and there is currently no yearly subscription cost.  I hope that changes…because I want a cloud based dashboard, which it currently doesn’t have.

Here are my thoughts on this device:

Pros:

  • Simple setup – I have never had a device that worked so well out of the box (once we got some initial bugs worked out with firmware updates)
  • Locks in Safe Search!
  • utilizes OpenDNS, so if you create a free account with them, you can then customize the filtering even more…
  • No subscription fee – I view this as both a positive and a negative.  Positive because you can set it up and test it without committing a credit card number!
  • Strong wifi signal from router…by default, it comes set at 2/3 power, but you can easily increase the power
  • Allows for creation of ‘profiles’, which you set time usage, blacklists, whitelists, and even varying DNS settings for each, then assign devices to the appropriate profile
  • Excellent support – I’ve run into ‘glitches’, and the developer sends me a firmware update within 48 hours to correct the issue (or he sends me a link to the instructions that I hadn’t read! 🙂 )
  • Website has a demo model of the interface, so you can see how easy/hard it is BEFORE you buy/try it yourself.  I have my clients use the demo on the website to familiarize themselves with the interface before they start working on their own router.

Cons:

  • Switch isn’t gigabit – yeah…nobody uses gigabit, but I like to plan for the inevitable
  • No reporting – this is a real problem in my book.  I want to have some level of reporting – time on-line, sites visited, etc.  Developer is working on this
  • No subscription fee – this means no cloud control/dashboard.  I (and most of my clients) are more than willing to shell out a few bucks to get a cloud based dashboard…
  • Since filtering is tied to OpenDNS, the filtering is less than customizable if you want to have varying levels of filtering (other than filtered and not filtered).  Again, this is probably due to the fact that there is no yearly fee, so it is relying on a free service that, while excellent, doesn’t offer the flexibility that the iBoss or SkyDog did.
  • Need to update firmware – while I can do this without a problem, the un-tech people get scared and confused trying this…not really anybody’s fault, just an observation

Even with the shortcomings, I am excited about this device.  Kudos to the developer on creating such a device!

New Player (as of July 2016)!!

Blocksi Router (current rating: 4.5)

This company (from France) had a router I tested earlier (see below) and didn’t like it at all.  However, after talking with their support, they told me they would be coming out with a new upgrade soon.  Well, as of July 15th, it was available.  So of course, I bought one.  I got it today and tried to install it.  Not happy at all.  Here are my issues (currently – this may change after tech support gets back to me, but right now I’m so frustrated I had to put this down in writing):

  • After connecting it to my modem, it would not connect to the Internet.  I’ve done this enough to know the tricks to try, and I tried them all, but to no avail.
  • I tried to get to the router management dashboard, which has a default password of admin.  Apparently, it isn’t admin…couldn’t get into the router to do anything.  I tried all other ‘default’ passwords I know, I tried resetting the unit, but still nothing.
  • Also, it looks like you still have to setup an account with them using your gmail, yahoo, or Facebook credentials…I really dislike that…but I can’t tell for sure since it doesn’t even work!

I know, I may have just gotten a ‘lemon’…but right now, I’m not impressed at all…we’ll see where I am in a week or so…stay tuned…

UPDATE #1 – I got an email reply to my support request…within 12 hours (seeing as I entered it at 8 PM, rather impressive).  They are sending me a new unit today, and the issue of having to use gmail/yahoo/Facebook will be addressed this month sometime!  So far, I’m impressed with their support…we’ll see if I can get the system up and running!!

OK, I have gotten my Blocksi router up and running.  It took a little bit of work, but their tech support was phenomenal…helpful AND fast…

They claim they are very much like SkyDog…and I have to admit, it appears they are!  I am so impressed so far with the feature set of this system that I’m having a hard time containing my child-like excitement.  I will try to focus here and get the info to you.  Here are my pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Full cloud based configuration and controls.  Excellent UI!
  • Excellent device level control – you can create ‘policies’ for filtering, then assign devices to that policy…there is a default policy that you can have anything that is unknown assigned to that policy…
  • Policy setup  is very granular.  You can setup blacklists, whitelists, keywords, content filtering levels, etc. for each policy.
  • Device control includes a complete timetable where you can choose what policy to assign during what times…very granular!
  • Reporting seems excellent.  Haven’t gotten too far into it yet, but it looks great.  Nice visuals, and the reporting can be done as a whole network or down to individual devices.
  • Tech support, as I had mentioned, is very responsive and on target.  Very impressed.
  • Gigabit router
  • 2.4/5 Ghz radios
  • Initial purchase includes two years of subscription, then $29.95 a year there after.

Cons:

  • Initial connection was a bit bumpy, but I think a firmware update they sent me resolved the issue.  I will have to install another couple to see if the bugs are gone…
  • Doesn’t allow special characters in wifi passphrase.  They said they will correct that soon…UPDATE – This has been resolved!!
  • Had to log in with my Facebook creds…don’t like that.  Again, they said they will fix that within a week. UPDATE – This has been resolved!!

I will continue to post updates if I find anything that is a deal-breaker either way…

 

RouterLimits (current rating: 4.5)

This is a new player in the game, and from all appearances, they seem to be very similar to SkyDog.  They also appear to use TP-Link hardware, which is the brand router I install/sell for my clients most often, so that’s a good thing.  Also, they have a web-based control dashboard, which to me is a critical aspect.  At this point, the only chink in their armor (from my perspective) is their cost.  Like Clean Router, they have an exorbitant monthly charge of $15.  There also doesn’t appear to be any time included with the initial router purchase.  However, they do offer three ‘levels’ of filtering – free, $9, and $15.  I do plan on getting a system to check out, but it looks good so far (except for the price).

Update – January 25th: I talked with the tech support rep from Router Limits and I am very excited about their products’ potential.  I talked with Russ, and he was extremely helpful in answering all my geek based questions as well as giving me a little insight into the company in general.  To me, one of the selling points for them is that they are a company that was built on and seeks to remain in the home/small business filtering market.  This is in direct contrast to some of the other companies that are merely offshoots of large enterprise filtering companies that are giving home filtering ‘a try’.  While their pricing is a bit steep, in talking with Russ and looking at the feature set, it seems well worth it.  I compared their listed feature sets to Clean Router, and RouterLimits seems to be a much bigger bang for the buck.  I have ordered three of their various products to see just how they work.  If they come close to their claims, this may be the winner.  They even claim to have a unit that you merely plug into your EXISTING network and it then does its magic!  If this is true, I’m buying those by the gross!!  Here’s hoping!!

Update – February 22nd: I have received and installed two of their devices.  The router unit worked nearly flawlessly.  The setup was a bit confusing, but I was told that normally there is a level of support to help getting it connected.  To be honest, there were times I was ready to pack it up and send it back.  HOWEVER, once it was running, this is by far my favorite device thus far.  The only reason I don’t give it a 5 is the price of the subscription.  The feature set, the ease of use (once setup), all combine to make a great filtering option.    The second item I tried to install (the Mini, which is the device I was most excited about) didn’t fair so well.  It actually brought down the network I installed it on.  To be fair, it was a business network, running Windows Server 2012, with internal DNS and DHCP.  Apparently, the way RouterLimits works to to capture and re-direct all traffic bound to the DNS server…unfortunately, it has to be an external DNS server…there be the rub for my client.  I am waiting for a response from their engineers to see if there is a way around the problem.  I will be anxious to try the Mini on a smaller (home) network and see how it fares.

My only problem with the current router I have setup and working is that I can’t seem to get any port forwarding to work.  We have a webcam inside to keep an eye on our dog during the day…however, we can’t seem to get access to it through the RouterLimits unit.

The other issue that readers of this blog may face is that RouterLimits is a company that is focused on resellers.  Now, since I am a reseller, it is fine for me, but I’m not sure how it will work the the ‘average joe’.  I am still in contact with them and will keep you posted about what I find.

 

As you can see, there are lots of choices, but not necessarily clear answers.  We will continue to review and test devices as they come to our attention.  Check back here on a regular basis.  Also, feel free to ask questions or give your insight into these devices.

 

Pricing

As you can tell by many of my reviews, I do view pricing as a critical aspect of the home internet filter/router.  Let me explain my stance.  Yes, I believe that filtering your internet and protecting your family is crucial and worthy of expense far beyond the amount charged by any of the companies.  However, that being said, there is a point where people will balk at the price (even though they spend more than that on coffee in a week) if it is too high.  Also, there is a pattern and general range that has been set by some of the initial players that is being either ignored or forgotten by the new entries.

Here are some of the features that should be included (again, from my perspective):

  • A few months (or a year) subscription should be included in the initial router purchase.  This is key so that you can ‘try’ before you hand over your credit card.  This is one of iBoss’s big shortcomings…you had to enter a CC just to start it up, even if you had purchased a full year in advance–good luck getting your CC OFF the system!
  • there should be a discount if you purchase a year in advance.  Yes, month to month is nice, with no ‘contract’, but if I’m committing to you, I want a discount.
  • Fees shouldn’t be higher than $100 a year.  Yes, again I know that this is ‘pocket change’ compared to other expenses, but we are ADDING a NEW expense, not replacing one…

OK, I’m going to try to create a chart of the various players, along with their fee structure…bear with me as I try to create a table…

ProductFee/YearTime Included in Initial PurchaseNotes
iBoss$69.95-none-Must input CC info before you can use it!
SkyDog (no longer available)$29.953 Yearsmiss them!
Blocksi$29.952 YearsCurrently my go-to filterer
pcWRT-none-foreverNo cloud control, no reporting...but it's free after initial purchase
Clean Router$15630 daysStill have to enter CC info...
Router LimitsFree/$108/$180-none-Routers are strong from a hardware perspective. However, can't get port forwarding to work.
Kibosh$29.95 ($99 Lifetime)1 Year
NetGenie??? - couldn't find fee listed anywhere1 YearHeard they got bought out...not sure how much longer they will be around
Roqos$149 or $649 lifetime30 day money back policyHaven't installed it yet...

Update – 1/26/2015

There is a new player in the game, Blocksi Router from Blocksi SAS France.  At first glance, it looks pretty good.  Currently, they only have two ‘groups’ for filtering, but claim to be adding the ability to filter by individual MAC address.  That would be nice.  We’ll see what they come up with.  Till then, I’m still using SkyDog as the bar by which to measure all others, and currently, no one has come close. – Note – new router has been released…see review above…

 

Update – 5/28/2015


There seems to be yet another new option for the home network filtering game.  I just found a company called HomeNetRouter, and they seem to be VERY similar to SkyDog, currently my favorite option (but unfortunately also no longer available).  In looking through the documentation, they seem to be on track to be the next heir apparent.  I will soon try to purchase one and then see if they indeed live up to my hype!

Well…after reading through all their documentation and being in contact with the company, I apparently mis-spoke.  The HomeNetRouter DOES NOT do any content filtering, and is basically a bandwidth manager…and to be honest, who needs that…  Very disappointed…but still seeking out the perfect solution for home internet control…

 

Update – 6/5/2015

OK, got news that the Blocksi router now can filter by system…I’ll have to check that out.  Also found two other players new to the game…

  • Appiom – a small venture funded startup that is a device you hook into your existing router/modem setup.  This was the same concept as the ‘SecureSpot’ from 10 years ago…a great idea.  I’m waiting to hear more about this, but it could be a major player.
  • WebCurfew – an interesting option that may or may not be a potential player.  They are a monthly subscription service, with many of the features of SkyDog, but what interests/concerns me is how it operates.  They claim they merely have to send some ‘instructions’ to your existing router and then things will magically work…sounds like some funky tech voodoo…but if true, I’m very interested.

 

Update – 9/9/2015

OK, purchased and received the Blocksi router.  While it looks good, I’ve run into two problems so far (three if you include the fact they aren’t responding to calls/emails)

  • I can’t seem to find how to change the default IP address…this is a critical flaw if it is true…
  • I can’t seem to log in away from home…using their website dashboard doesn’t seem to work…

Take all this with a grain of salt…I’m still playing around with it…

 

As for the question regarding the Kibosh…I’ve tried contacting them, but they don’t like me since I didn’t give their BUC a very good review.  I believe they still operate at a router programming level…get your Linux programming hat on…

Stay tuned, I’ll keep you posted as things reveal/unravel….

 

Update – 9/15/2015

Well, I found out that you in fact CANNOT change the IP address of the Blocksi router.  That is a major no-no for me.  Maybe if you are setting up a brand new network, it may be what you are looking for, but if you have any static IP address requirements, I recommend you steer clear of this device at this point.  They claim they are coming out with a NEW device that will allow you to change the IP address, but it is a new device, not a firmware update.

I have found another device, called the pcWRT.  It looks promising, and I have ordered one and it should be delivered in the next week or so.  Other reviews for it appear positive, so I will be anxious to see how it measures up!

 

Update – 10/12/2015

OK, a couple of updates on the Blocksi device:

  • They did finally respond to my questions, and told me how to change the IP address…haven’t tried it yet…
  • Apparently, in order to log into their dashboard, you have to clear your browser cache.  You have to use either your google or facebook account to sign in.  I’m sorry, but I really don’t like having to clear my cache too often…  How difficult would it be to just create an account for this dashboard?  Not willing to jump through their hoops, so I can’t give a fair test of the actual fuctionality.

I received the pcWRT router and have been working with it…here are some of my initial views: (SEE UPDATE IN MAIN SECTION ABOVE)

  • Wouldn’t take the change IP address function (firmware update fixed this)
  • Couldn’t change router time from control panel (firmware update fixed this)
  • I am so impressed with the support…I email the issue, and within a day I have an updated firmware to resolve the issue.  With this kind of response, I foresee this device as being the go-to filtering device!
  • I wish it had a cloud based dashboard.  I understand why it doesn’t, but still, that is one of the features I really loved about the SkyDog.  Since there is no recurring fee, there is no funding for a cloud based server.  However, I’d be more than glad to pay a minimal fee per year to get this feature–I don’t expect something for nothing…
  • The jury’s still out on the hardware itself.  It is unfortunate that the built in switch isn’t gigabit.  I know, no one really uses gigabit, but it would be nice.
  • I haven’t been able to test the WiFi coverage yet, either.  I will keep updating this as I finish testing this device.

 

Update – 1/4/2016

I have had a chance to research a few more options out there…Clean Router is the best thing going (without testing), but WAY TOO expensive (see Pandora’s Hope above)…that’s why I won’t even test it at this point.  Your first year costs would be around $500…OUCH!!

There seems to be a plethora of new devices arriving on the market that I won’t test at this time, since I see a major flaw in them right off the bat.  These are small devices you plug into your current router and it provides filtering but ONLY on WiFi devices…nothing for your wired devices.  For me to bother or recommend, the device must provide filtering/control for both wired and wireless networking in the home.  Examples of these are Torch, Disney’s Circle, KoalaCare, etc.  I also dislike any device that requires you to configure it through iOS or Android only.  Seriously people, use the web so EVERYONE can use it…yes, I am one of the four Windows Phone users left in the world…

71 Comments

  1. Ali

    2nd June 2017

    @Admin,
    Have you had chance to fully assess Roqos router yet? Please can you post you feedback here? I’m interested to see how it compares to RouterLimits, and if Roqos is still only limited to 6 parental categories and whether it has a ‘Proxy Avoidance’ category now, as that was crucially missing with tech savvy teenagers these days!

    In the meantime, I have been using RouterLimits for a several months now and ignoring the high monthly price, I’ve found they are closer to Skydog features than Blocksi. I have recently provided Routerlimits developers with feedback on providing flexibility in configuring hardware, ability to have temporary schedule bypass time (to extend kid’s internet time) plus e-mail altering and reporting. I’ve been told this is being taken into account in their next release (no date given though).

  2. admin

    22nd May 2017

    I know they actually are a French company, but they are gaining a strong presence here in the US. I still think they are the best bang for the buck. I have now been using the Roqos router for a week or so, and really like it…but they are a bit on the expensive side (Like Router Limits)…

  3. admin

    22nd May 2017

    Blocksi also provides a service that filters Chromebooks…a lot of schools use their tools (my son’s school uses it…that is how I first heard about Blocksi). On their website, look for ‘Home Router’…that should take you to the pages that describe their unit…

  4. Diane

    21st May 2017

    So, I found the info on Blocksi routers. They are just out of stock. On Amazon. On their own website. And their website says it is $99 for the router and 2 years of service–awesome! But when you go to buy it the price is 99 Euros. I will try calling tomorrow. Sorry I bothered you…

  5. Diane

    21st May 2017

    I hope newbie questions are appropriate here! This info is wonderful…thank you so much for posting and updating this site. I have had Clean Router since the early Pandora’s Hope days. I need to buy a new router and am not sure I want to spend $200 and pay the $13 monthly fee. You about had me sold on Blocksi, but when I went to the site blocksi.net it was all about Chromebooks (we have a lot of screens and none of them are Chromebooks!) What did I miss? Do I need to go with Router Limits? Thanks for any light you can share =)

  6. Doug

    7th May 2017

    Thanks for taking the time to evaluate Untangle installed on a consumer WiFi router. Your evaluation of the user interface is correct and parents who are not technical could be challenged by it. However, the complexity enables it address families who have children that are older. Captive portal can be used to know who the user is and not just what the machine is. Older children can be given a special password to bypass filtering on a particular site. This is logged and the parent can hold them accountable if the bypass site turned out to be an abuse of their privileges. Also, it helps to provide security for the home network so that the remote turning on of laptop cameras/microphones and Smart TV microphones is a little bit harder to do. Additionally virus protection is in one place as well as add blocking.

    Lastly, consumer routers have been noted to have failed in providing internet security lately. The Untangle business firewall ported to a consumer WiFi router will provide consumers with a business grade firewall at a consumer device price. Maybe in time Untangle will create a user interface that helps non technical parents manage parental controls.

    Thanks for evaluating parental controls for us all!

  7. Ali

    20th April 2017

    @Doug, I have taken a closer look at Untangle. It is typically geared towards Network Admins of small businesses/SoHo organizations, and looks like they are pushing the product out to the Consumer Home market at alow cost of $50 per annum (with no user/device limitations). Untangle is very granular and comprehensive in reporting and seems to be script based to enforce some of the rules and policies and would be too complicated for basic consumers/parents. For example, to set a schedule you need to select the appropriate app script to set the daily access/block times and cumbersome to combine different policies at various times. Whereas, Skydog and Routerlimits have a graphical table schedule, where you simply click and drag the mouse to set-up access/block times & policies per day. So Untangle really needs to have a simpler GUI/UI user friendly interface for standard parent Home users.

  8. Doug

    5th April 2017

    The “Untangle Firewall” home license can be configured to be accessed/managed from the WAN side. Also, it is smart phone compatible so the user interface will be smooth.

    All of its functionality can be experienced by the demo at:
    http://demo.untangle.com/auth/login?url=/setup/welcome.do&realm=Administrator

    Note: there are some features in the demo that are not available in the Linksys WRT 1900ACS edition due to memory constraints. I think it is intrusion detection/prevention and a few other advanced features that are not normally available on home routers.

    I flashed the router w/o a hitch just by following the instructions provided.

    However, the router can be purchased already flashed at:
    https://www.flashrouters.com/linksys-wrt1900acs-router-untangle

    Hope you decide to investigate it some more.

  9. admin

    4th April 2017

    Doug – This looks interesting, but for the average user to have to flash the firmware is a stretch for the non-tech comfortable user. I’d be curious to see just what kind of control and reporting this device provides…and can you remote control the filtering?

  10. Doug

    13th March 2017

    I’m trying out the new “Untangle Firewall” home license. It is $50.00 a year (used to be hundreds of dollars). This normally runs on Linux machines but they have a build that is targetted for the Linksys WRT1900ACS WiFi router. It has a comprehensive web filter and ad filter. It allows for parental web filter override mechanisms that are temporary or permanent. Also, captive portal can be turned on and each internet user will then have an ID and password. Different policies can be constructed for each user. This beneficial when machines or devices are shared.

    https://www.untangle.com/untangle-ng-firewall/untangle-at-home/

  11. Dare

    9th March 2017

    @Ali where is your post on your review? @Admin where is the skydog blog?

  12. Ali

    27th February 2017

    @Admin,
    As my Skydog subscription has finally ended, I took up your kind advise and ordered my Routerlimits router. It arrived and I have used my new RouerLimits for a week now and played around with all the features.

    Below is my assessment of Routerlimits when comparing against SkyDog router:

    PROS
    1) Has enforced Google Safesearch feature
    2) Has enforced You Tube Restriction
    3) A very rich Reporting Suite of analytics – better than Skydog. This really impressed me the most, where you can filter on device websites and grouped devices every which way you can ! e.g. filter to only show ‘blocked” websites by either individual device or groups (e.g. Kids Group)
    4) Each historic website is logged with date and time stamp. Skydog did not show date and time stamps.
    5) Ability to create multiple bespoke policy groups and include in the timed schedule. (With Skydog you could only create one bespoke policy)
    6) Easy click and drag of newly added network device to assign to existing policy groups.

    CONS
    1) Monthly subscription rather expensive at $15 per months. 🙁
    2) Settings is limited for any advance/superusers. e.g. cannot change wifi channel frequency and lock router ports. Nor do port forwarding or fixing IP yourself. Though you can ask RouterLimits Support to do this for you. Nor do you have flexibility to disable 5G wifi – as both 2.4G and 5G transmit together.
    3) There is no E-mail or SMS text alerting at all. e.g. when router is connected and disconnected, unknown device connected to network, etc., (Though you will see these unknown devices logged in under the default ‘Guest’ policy group, so you can decide whether to block to assign them to a policy group)
    4) Although you can switch off internet access immediately for each device, there is no temporary override period to extend access like Skydog
    5) cannot automatically add URL to blacklist and whitelist from the History page (by clicking on button like Skydog had). You have to manually copy and paste the URL into the blacklist and whitelist for RouterLimits.
    6) The graphical dashboard is simple and cannot be filtered by device or group
    7) No dedicated Parental smartphone app, but the pages display fine in mobile mode on a smartphone browser for parents to access.
    8) 60 days History stored. Skydog only showed 1 month

    MY OVERALL ASSESSMENT – RouterLimits is well designed and good balance for novice and intermediary users. Though being a power user myself, I would prefer more alerting, flexibility in router wifi settings and ability to add to blacklist and whitelist easily (with click of a button). I really liked the richer and granularity in history reporting suite with date and time stamps, which other routers don’t show. So for me Routerlimits is slightly better than Blocksi router in terms of functionality and granularity in device history reporting and more closer to Skydog, but the $15 per month is making me think if this is cost justified.

    By the way, I had a look at CleanRouter features and although very similar to RouterLimits (with added bonus of keyword search blocks and e-mail reports) they did not match the superior granularity in history reports of sites visited & blocked as that of RouterLimits. If interested, you can find another review of CleanRouter at: http://bellyitchblog.com/2016/11/review-a-hardware-solution-to-parental-controlling-all-household-devices.html
    Current, CleanRouter subscription is now $19.99 per month, which is still too expensive!

    Hope this is useful review to post up on your site for your readers. I’ll continue to monitor and let you know of any other routers that come any where near to Skydog…. so until then I would say RouterLimits is leading the race (so far).

    Ali

  13. Ali

    22nd February 2017

    @Admin,
    Thanks for the update on RouterLimits. I’m a power / super user of Skydog and as my subscription has ended I’ve ordered RouterLimits as next best replacement, ignoring the the high $15 per month subscription.

    PS. I think I may have liaised with you on the Skydog forums before, assuming you are called SJ.

    Regards,
    Ali

  14. admin

    21st February 2017

    Yes, I have received the units and have given a brief review on the site. Again, the price is high, but so are the features! I personally would go with the RouterLimits device over the Blocksi. I much prefer their reporting and overall control.
    PS – please reference this site when claiming to have done a lot of research…(I’m on the SkyDog blog as well)…

  15. Ali

    20th February 2017

    @Admin,
    Did you get my last posting? It was a long post on my assessment of RouterLimits and wanted to know if your RouterLimits router has arrived and had a chance to evaluate it to see if it is better that Blocksi (ignoring the monthly Routerlimits monthly subscription cost) or not???

    Ali

  16. Ali

    6th February 2017

    @Admin,

    I’m trying to find the next closest router to Skydog. I’ve managed to find detailed support FAQs for RouterLimits router at: https://support.routerlimits.com/hc/en-us

    When comparing RouterLimits with Blocksi router, I found the following main differences:

    1) REPORTING ANALYTICS.

    RouterLimits allows superior customised filtering by websites accessed by each device. E.g. Filter by blocked websites only. RouterLimits has a “noise” filter to strip out normal sites in the History Report dashboard. Unlike Blocksi, Routerlimits also has useful date and time stamps against each site accessed or blocked.

    2) WEBSITE BLOCKING.

    Blocksi has key word (e.g. suicide) URL site blocking. RouterLimits does not do this.

    Both RouterLimits and Blocksi have a Safesearch lock and Your Tube Restricted access settings.

    Routerlimit has more flexibility than Blocksi to set-up multiple customised blocking profiles per device. E.g. on RouterLimits you have ability to block different categories and social media app access at different times of day.

    3) ALERTS AND NOTIFICATIONS.

    Neither RouterLimits or Blocksi send out e-mail or SMS text alerts if blocked sites are attempted to be accessed or where any domain time usage limits are reached. Skydog had this notification feature under their ‘Watch list’ function.

    SIMILARITIES – Similarities between RouterLimits and Blocksi routers.

    Both do time scheduled access, URL whitelist and Blacklisting,, though I don’t know the maximum limits. Routerlimits record 60 days history, though I couldn’t see how long Blocksi history period is. Neither routers have a dedicated parental App, though standard portal access is available. Neither have cellular/4G filtering away from home, but both say they plan to have this feature in the future, probably for an additional fee.

    @Admin, apart from the expensive RouterLimit $15 per month premium subscription, please can you advise how RouterLimits features compares to Blocksi, and if it is closer to Skydog or not. Assuming your RouterLimits router has now arrived.

    Personally, I found RouterLimits to be slightly richer in user interface with more granularity in reporting than Blocksi, but I can only go off their screenshots and FAQs. So, I would really appreciate your feedback on the RouterLimits router.

    Thanks,
    Ali

  17. admin

    1st February 2017

    I’ve placed my order for the RouterLimits hardware and I should have it within a few days. As soon as I install and test it, I’ll post some of my thoughts…

  18. Ali

    1st February 2017

    @Admin,
    Have you had chance to review RouterLimits yet? Is it is better than Blocksi and more closer to SkyDog? Please advise, as my SkyDog subscription is about to end and I need to find a replacement.
    Thanks

  19. admin

    18th January 2017

    Robert…I categorize MyTorch as a wifi only filter, which I personally do not consider a true whole house filter. Currently, I would recommend Blocksi, but I am in the process of looking at RouterLimits as well. My only hesitation on RouterLimits at this point is their rather exorbitant fees. Not that filtering isn’t worth it, but they seem to be pricing themselves WAY beyond the current fees for other companies (except CleanRouter). I’m hoping they offer some type of ‘prepaid’ options, or something to decrease their very high monthly cost.

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