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…

70 Comments

  1. Robert

    17th January 2017

    I have had NetGenie (NG11EH) for the past 3 years and it has met my needs nicely. My 3-year subscription ends in 2 months. I just talked with a rep from there, and he told me to use up my 2 months and go someplace else because SOPHOS (who bought Cyberroam) is not committed to the future of the NetGenie product. He told me twice to go get something else. I have look at a newer product called MyTorch, but I’m wondering what you think is the most similiar router-based solution to NetGenie. I’m willing to sacrifice some performance if I need to for more robust, detailed security/filtering options. Thanks!

  2. admin

    17th January 2017

    As I’ve stated, I do not/will not consider systems that work strictly on WiFi, nor systems that require a cell phone (iOS or Android) in order to operate. I haven’t heard of nor seen the ‘Router Limits’. I will see what they offer. However, the other two you listed do not meet my criteria for a true whole home filter.

  3. admin

    17th January 2017

    At this point, for the price, Blocksi is the best bet. I am currently looking into the new system from Amped Wireless (Ally) which looks good, but I’m getting nowhere with their phone support, which worries me a bit…

  4. Ali

    9th January 2017

    @Admin,

    Happy New Year!

    My Skydog subscription is about to expire. Is Blocksi the nearest router to Skydog? Have you tested any others that may be better than Blocksi? Please advise.

  5. laushaw

    1st January 2017

    There are way more new routers in the market now, such as circle with disney, router limits, koalasafe etc, check them out…

  6. Ali

    21st October 2016

    @Admin,
    Can you please take a look at new router called Router Limits (see: https://routerlimits.com ) and tell me how you think it compares to Blocksi. Ignoring their pricey monthly subscription, I’d like to know your thoughts if its features surpasses Blocksi and if its more closer to Skydog or not

    Thanking you in anticipation

  7. admin

    18th September 2016

    Kay, unless they changed it again, I still find $12.95/month + $200 for the router with no initial ‘free year’ (like most units give you) to be outside the realm of acceptable. Until they change their structure rather dramatically, I will not test it, since I pay full price for these things, and I would really rather not buy one that expensive.
    At this point Blocksi doesn’t have a way to ‘Pause’ the internet. That is a good question, and I will pass it onto their development team. Yes, it does lock in safe search, for both Google and Bing. At this point, I don’t think it blocks ads by default, but you can customize the level of blocking, so you might be able to…I just don’t block down to that level.

  8. Kay

    13th September 2016

    Clean router ‘s pricing has changed. Is it possible to look into it for a review? I am really interested in how it compares to Blocksi. Can you “pause” the internet on blocksi? Does it force safe search? Does it block ads? Thanks for the help. I have not found a lot of comparison reviews for these products.

  9. admin

    11th September 2016

    Todd…the speed of 30mps…is that over WiFi? Wired speeds and wifi speeds are DRAMATICALLY different. WiFi speeds are affected by proximity to source (router), type of signal (b/g/n), and the ability of the receiver (the computer) to match the type of signal. Using WiFi will often force the signal speed to the lowest common denominator, so if one device is a B or G device, that is the top speed at which the device will connect…B top speed is 11mps, G top speed is 54 mps, N top speed is 300mps. HOWEVER, these are ‘theoretical’ speeds in a perfect world. Usually, you are going to see at best 1/2 those speeds. Also, N is VERY short distance…you need to be within probably 10 to 15 feet of the router to connect at N speeds. Sorry if this is TMI, but don’t hate the router for slow wifi speeds…that’s just the way it is…

  10. Todd

    9th September 2016

    Thanks so much that helps.

    We just upgraded to the Comcast 150MBs and to the wired computer it is giving me 167MBs so I know the modem is working, but my router is only giving me out about 30MB.

    Having some issues with kids and sites I need something with some great PCR and that has not been easy to find.

    Thanks again for your work and helping parents out, it is appreciated.

  11. admin

    9th September 2016

    Ali, the Blocksi has definitely grown on me. From my perspective, it is still more ‘Skydogish’ than Kibosh. Kibosh has a few features I like, but Blocksi is still the top ‘dog’ in my list. I have requested some updates in the reporting and features on the Blocksi, and they have been rather responsive…which is nice. As you can see from my review above, they have addressed many of the initial issues I had with their device.

  12. admin

    9th September 2016

    Todd…the Blocksi router is average on the signal strength. Whether you will get coverage in your house will depend on the placement of the device. The signal comes out of antennas in a circular donut shape…so take that into account.
    As for speeds, I haven’t found any decrease in speeds with Blocksi. My kids haven’t complained about it, so it must be ok! 🙂 We have high speed Comcast, so we aren’t slow to start with…
    The delivery was about 4 or 5 business days to get the Blocksi router.

  13. admin

    9th September 2016

    Hi…I’ve looked into WebCurfew a bit, but was never able to get any real answers that made sense. Circle by Disney only covers wifi devices (at least it used to). If you don’t want to replace your current router, look into Kindera…it is an add on to your router. But the price of it is a bit steep, and you can get a full blown parental control router like Blocksi for less…

  14. Ali

    9th September 2016

    @Admin
    Being a Skydog user, in your humble opinion is Blocksi or Kibosh the closest to Skydog? I’m a big fan of configuring, monitoring and reporting at a device level, which Skydog did so effectively. Is your rating still Blocksi 4.5 and Kibosh 3.5 ?
    Please advise.

  15. Todd

    7th September 2016

    Thank you for taking the time (and $$$) to test and explore these devices to help us in our search for a good PCR.

    I am now considering the Blocks Router but have a couple of questions that I like real world answers to.

    How are the speeds do they deliver what the modem can deliver?

    How is the range. I am in an approximately 2100 sq. ft. house will it all be covered?

    How long did it take from placing order to receiving product?

    Thanks again for you help, reviews and updates.

    Totally Awesome!

  16. Ruby

    6th September 2016

    Hi,

    I am looking into control all devices my kids uses (wifi and wired). Do you have experience with Webcurfew and Circle with Disney?

    I have Comcast and just bought Netgear NightHawk router but the the Genie that come with it is very limited.

    Thanks

    Ruby

  17. admin

    5th September 2016

    Doug…thanks for the clarification. After checking out their website, I’m curious if that is in fact a router. I have contacted the company to get a few generic questions answered. I’ll see if it is something I will buy and test out…it is a little steep at $199.99.

    Also, the AmpedWireless Ally looks great. I love AmpedWireless products, and use them frequently. It looks like the Ally isn’t out yet, but hopefully when it does come out I will be able to get a unit and test it out. Again the price is $199, so it seems a bit steep…

  18. Doug

    5th September 2016

    Thanks for the response. I neglected to mention that the Kindera does provide 4 or 5 wired ports that can be filtered as well as wireless WiFi. It is not a router, but it does provide filtering for wired and wireless. Thanks.

    Also, here is another option for testing: http://www.ampedwireless.com/products/ally.html

  19. admin

    4th September 2016

    Doug…sorry, don’t plan on testing the Kindera, since I only recommend products that can filter both wired and wireless access. There are lots of devices out there that can do WiFi only, but in my book, that leaves a gaping hole in the filtering aspect.

    The Blocksi does not have an option for shutting off WiFi on a schedule (that I have found). If the reason is electromagnetic ‘pollution’, there are so many other sources you should be concerned about, and the output from this router is minimal compared to other devices both in your house and throughout your daily environment.
    At this point, I have only found the ability to enable/disable apps such as Facebook and YouTube. However, you can create a policy and then apply that policy to specific machines and time frames. Don’t know if that is what you are referring to. For setting specific time limits, no, Blocksi does not do that.

  20. Doug

    4th September 2016

    Thanks for doing all the testing for us parents. Would please test the Kindera from kindera.com? It is not a router, but a Wireless Access Point that you add to an existing router. As a result now new network configuration is needed.

    Also, does the Blocksi allow the user to schedule the WiFi to turn off (like at night) to improve the security posture and to minimize health impacts of electromagnetic radiation? Lastly, does it allow the user set usage limits of sites like Facebook, instead of just scheduling it?

  21. Dan

    9th July 2016

    This is such an awesome list! Thanks so much…

    Any chance you can elaborate on the pcWRT.
    You mentioned “if you create a free account with them (OpenDNS), you can then customise the filtering even more”

    I jumped on the demo page and couldn’t see how this would be done?

  22. admin

    29th June 2016

    My review of the Blocksi device is above, but the main issues where that there was only two profiles for filtering…children and adults. Also, there was no way to distinguish specific devices and they had issues allowing you to change IP address of the router.
    They have come out with a new router (gigabit), and they now allow specific device/MAC address filtering (according to their website). They also have added a more robust web based dashboard (again, according to their website). My goal is to get one after I get back from vacation and test out their claims. PCR – Parental Control Routers…sorry…I live in an alphabet soup…

  23. John

    29th June 2016

    In what areas did you mean that Blocksi was bad and what leads you to think they have improved? (I know they have recently come out with a new router).

    Also, what are PCR’s?

  24. admin

    27th June 2016

    Thanks, John…I found the same to be true…(see above review). I am now trying to get Blocksi to cut me a deal since I purchased the last one and it was really bad…hoping to get a discounted price on it. However, if I don’t get a reply from them in the near future, I will go ahead and buy one and test it out. Again, their website appears to address a lot of the issues/features that concern me in the area of PCRs…

  25. John

    27th June 2016

    Hold that thought. I bought the Kibosh router and it is not necessarily the answer. It is still overly complex but they are moving toward a simpler interface. I just don’t know how long it will take. I have to spend way too much time managing to fine tune it. Part of the complexity is the interface is not laid out to enable things to be done simply as they are in iBoss. I tested blocking and was able to get into some hardcore sites that should have been blocked. I believe this was primarily because their word block list was not extensively filled in. They primarily use other ? methodologies for blocking, but when I added to the list it blocked those sites so I don’t know what their rationale is. Also, the reporting is not as good as it seems. The reports contain urls that may just be links in pages visited so you end up with many extraneous hits which makes it difficult to see the forest for the trees… So the reports are not as useful as it would seem. I know this is a difficult area to produce something useful and even iBoss has the same problem. On the plus side the filtering does not slow speed at all and may even speed up! I would have stayed with iBoss, but they throttle the speed because everything goes through their servers and use an old router. Oh, and one more thing, when using the router Kibosh basically forces you to use only the Google search where they can enforce safe search. Yahoo is blocked because Yahoo uses https which encrypts the search making it impossible to block the search results (even though you shouldn’t be able to get into the sites themselves, it would give a list for someone to try to get an unblocked hit)unless the data flowed through Kibosh servers, which it does not, and could slow down data and also be more expensive. The Kibosh Cloud solution does not have this problem but I am uncertain exactly how that works. I got the router version since it gave more control (too much). So, I am at the point of deciding whether to keep Kibosh and weather through their upgrade process or to return the router and try Blocksi or pcWRT.

  26. admin

    17th June 2016

    John…thanks for the great review. I have looked extensively at Kibosh, and in the past it has had a horrific UI. I have tried to evaluate their new unit, but they were unwilling to work with me after my previous negative review. Their reviews on Amazon were obviously written by them, since their main points in the review were drastically incorrect, making claims that went directly against my negative points.

    After reading your review (hopefully you’re not one of them), I checked out their website, and a lot of the screenshots they provide are MAJOR improvements over what they had as a UI previously. I agree that the lack of reporting on pcWRT is a shortcoming to say the least. My hope is that they address the issue. But to be honest, if Kibosh has done away with their obnoxious ‘programmer required’ interface, I’d love to try them again. I’ll probably have to buy one using an alias since they don’t like me… 🙁

  27. John

    16th June 2016

    Receiving no response from admin I researched the leading contenders (Blocksi, Kibosh, pcWRT, Clean Router, and Net Angel (VPN)). My conclusion from comparing the features, talking with some of them, etc. is that Kibosh is the winner. It has the best reporting by far, including recording the search term used by device. It’s filtering appears more robust, not just depending on the OpenDNS list as does pcWRT. You can even manage your bandwidth with Kibosh. As admin stated also, I dropped Clean Router and Net Angel (VPN) for cost reasons, even tho the price has dropped some. Also, the VPN alternative, which can even cover smartphones accessing cell towers, could slow your experience. PcWRT has virtually no reporting at this time even though they say they will be adding it. Blocksi was second because their reporting is not as strong as Kibosh and I am not as confident of their blocking method. Also, I prefer not to use foreign companies and don’t have a foreign anti virus app like many people do. Kibosh has real-time web usage and search term monitoring which I am not sure the others have and also blocks phishing, malware and DNS hijacking sites. Overall, I liked the combination of features that Kibosh has and the quick responses they gave me both by phone and email.

  28. Harris

    4th June 2016

    Just entering this space – have a 7 yo with a new Chromebook. Got Mobicip installed and working, but interested in a router-based solution as well. Only a few days ago, Blocksi was advertising what must have been their older product for sale directly and via Amazon. Fast forward a few days, and their website has been updated with a new product, a new price, and Amazon now behaves like it’s never heard of Blocksi.

    Any insights into the new Blocksi device, and moreover, their perceived longevity?

    Thanks!

  29. John

    31st May 2016

    Hi Admin,
    My iBoss subscription is up at the end of June. I am not concerned with having cloud based control as I just want to set it and forget it. But, I want to have individual reports by MAC address of web access. Which is the best filter now and looking forward? Kibosh, pcWRT, etc.?

  30. admin

    21st April 2016

    @Terri – Actually, I have been in contact with Appiom. They seem to be a legit organization. If you are still having problems, let me know and I will see what buttons I can push from this end…

  31. admin

    21st April 2016

    Jay – sounds good…I will eagerly get one when they come out and test it. My previous experience with the Blocksi wasn’t too overwhelming…

  32. Jay K.

    20th April 2016

    Thanks for the info on the Blocksi router. I just had a wonderful chat with Jason over at Blocksi and he informed me that in 2 weeks they will be shipping a gigabit / ac supported router with many more Skydog type features than the previous version. They appear to be moving into the void left by Comcast killing skydog. Here’s some specs he gave me regarding the router:

    Blocksi Router GEAC-200
    6 dbi antenna
    gb and ac support
    22 dbm power transmit
    4 LAN GE ; 1 WAN GE ; b/g/n/ac 870
    dual core processor
    cloud managed
    128mb Ram

    captive portal on parent network

    He also pointed out that there are Chrome, Firefox, and Opera extensions available that use the same filtering services the router uses for free. So, you can install them and check out how the filtering works before buying the router! Here’s the link:

    http://www.blocksi.net/chromebook-filtering.php

  33. Terri

    19th April 2016

    Have you tried to contact Appiom, maker of Ombox? http://www.ombox.us/pricing/

    I paid for one in the fall of 2015, they kept delaying shipping and delaying responding to email after I paid, finally said they couldn’t deliver, but could I wait till spring 2016, so I asked for (and got) my money back. Now I see it’s chanaged to a monthly subscription, further delayed ship date for the premium raspberry pi unit with all the bells and whistles and not even taking orders for the basic parental control unit. I realize this is a kickstarter small tech company and my experience with their reliability so far concerns me, but their concept is exactly what I’m looking for, hoping it would work on Comcast. From what you can tell, is it worth waiting for?

  34. admin

    14th March 2016

    @Stacie…I’m not sure about the ombox…never heard of/used one of those. However, a common problem may be that it comes with a default IP address that your AT&T Uverse device won’t recognize. Try plugging it into your computer directly, and see if you can access its dashboard and change the IP address to something that the Uverse device would recognize.

    Actually, I have a few of the SkyDogs left, but they are now officially worthless because the server won’t accept any new accounts…so I have several very expensive bricks…argggg

    Try the pcWRT…it is a pretty straight forward device. Doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the SkyDog, but it is a work in progress. Also, I am looking at testing the new Torch device, which is supposed to be out sometime this month…

  35. Stacie

    21st January 2016

    Hi, do you still have skydogs to sell? I am on my second ombox (appiom) that has not worked. When the first one didn’t show up on my network, we thought it was a dud and replaced it. Now the 2nd is the same way. I have att Uverse. Can you offer any suggestions? Thank you!

  36. Craig

    30th December 2015

    Thanks for keeping up on this and posting your updates – not always easy to find comprehensive discussions on the topic. Its a shame that so many good parental control filters were gobbled up by larger companies then mothballed.
    Have you seen Torch? (http://mytorch.com/) That looks like a promising prospect due to ship in March 2016. Also, any update on Cleanrouter? Have they made it so you can have multiple filtering groups like iBoss? I’ve had iBoss for over 8 years but the lack of hardware and software updates is no good. Not to mention the horrible DHCP on those. Tried open DNS for a couple of months but it’s just not as good as iBoss so thanks for outlining some of the alternatives.

  37. Matt

    22nd December 2015

    Well, it seems OpenDNS VIP is NOT an unlimited whitelist, only 50 sites (up from 25 on the free version) A little bait-n-switch that is 🙁

    So I am looking at either KoalaSafe or pcWRT.

  38. admin

    20th November 2015

    Harvey…the only way around this is to use the parental control router plugged into the Comcast/AT&T device, then shutting off the WiFi on the Comcast/AT&T device. That way you get to keep your phone lines, etc.

    The limitations of the iBoss haven’t been found in any of the other routers I’ve tested. Neither the 16 item limit nor the throttling of data (that they don’t tell you about) seem to be an issue with the other devices.

  39. Matt

    20th November 2015

    Forget it…I signed up for OpenDNS Home VIP ($20/yr), which provides a Whitelist Only option with unlimited whitelisting. This lets me just add, as needed, for my kids, using my existing router set to use OpenDNS. That with them being able to request sites, and Kidzsearch is pretty good.

  40. Harvey Caine

    14th November 2015

    Also anxious to hear your review on new Kibosh wifi router! How much is their yearly subscription after the 1st free year?

    Have you seen any modems with good parental controls that have phone lines also (with or without wifi router built in) ? I have comcast cable for phone and internet, so NEED 2 phone lines in modem. I can not find ANYTHING that has decent parental controls with phone lines! Unless there’s a way to have a separate modem just for the phone lines. Do you know? I may get modem with phone lines and separate wifi router for parental controls.
    Thanks for the best site I’ve found on modem based P. controls!

  41. Matt

    9th November 2015

    Hi, I was wondering on any updates on the pcWRT, Kibosh or Blocksi? I was leaning to getting the Kibosh or Blocksi….since they have remote admin, and I think I can white-list/black-list from the office if needed.

    Any updates on good or bad in the reviews?

    For price alone, Blocksi seems to be winning…if they are similar.

  42. Casey

    22nd October 2015

    Thanks for posting all this. I am looking at upgrading my iBoss to a Blocksi (16 device limitation is a huge hassle). Any idea what the throughput is like between the two devices? I have read a lot of complaints (and gotten them from the family) that our network is far slower than it should be with the iBoss, especially for gaming.

  43. admin

    15th September 2015

    Michael…I have received the Blocksi and tested it (as much as I could) and at this point I don’t recommend it unless you are installing it in a new network…it does NOT allow you to change the IP address of the router, which is a dealbreaker for me, as I have a rather complex network in my house, and I’m not about to change all my printers and other static IP addresses to match theirs…disappointing

  44. Michael Beeton

    3rd September 2015

    I’m currently looking at Blocksi. Unfortunately there are no user reviews on Amazon and they seem to filter posting to their Facebook page.

  45. Jonathan

    19th August 2015

    Hi,

    What about Chrome incognito mode image tab? It’s a complete bypass of most parental controls. Which routers enforce safe search something like option 3 in this link? https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/186669?hl=en. This page from blocksi claims they enforce safe search but Iboss, Skydog, and openDNS do not.

    BUC has changed names to Kibosh and released a new look. Could you give us an update on it?

    Awesome page. Thanks!

  46. Sheldon

    8th May 2015

    Do you have any Skydog routers still available?

  47. Joe

    9th April 2015

    Very nice review! Parental control on the wifi router is the way to go!

    To make parental control more affordable, we are building a router that does not require a subscription. Just buy, install and use. We have the software completed and will start a campaign on indiegogo soon to mass produce the hardware. Please take a look at our web site for an online demo: http://www.pcwrt.com.

    If you have any feedback or suggestions, please let us know. Thanks!

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    6th November 2014

    Hello,
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