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Can anyone help break "router block"?

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I am being paralyzed by a case of "router block" and hoping some of you kind DC souls can help me out.

I'm WAY overdue for an upgrade to my wireless router. I know enough about this subject that I'm not going to just go down to Best Buy and pick between the 3 boxes they have on display. But I'm not enough into the "hack your router" space to make a clear, informed choice either.

My problem is, my main need for the router is the ability to set up sophisticated site filtering rules, based on MAC addresses, on a schedule.

The routers that seem to do this the best are the Netgear routers with Live Parental controls, which is actually integrated with OpenDNS.
All reports I've read say this is the most reliable way to set up site filtering on a schedule. (Although info about routers is plentiful online if you are interested in speed, throughput, etc. it's MUCH harder to find objective or even descriptive info about the less-techie features like parental controls / filtering.)

But the Amazon reviews of the mid-priced (~$100) Netgear routers I'm interested in are full of horror stories of devices that don't work terribly well, and that tend to fail on the day their 1-year warranty expires. Also Netgear appears to have an expensive, convoluted support process to get service on defective units, which seems to be based on a "soak the dummies" philosophy.

So all things being equal, I'd avoid Netgear, but they seem to be the ONLY ones with the kind of filtering controls I need. (Both powerful AND easy to use)

I've read that on routers that are running some form of Linux like OpenWRT, you can use Linux's IPTABLES to do sophisticated filtering. But I don't know Linux, and I don't want to have to climb over its substantial learning curve just to set up a new router and filter some websites.

Anyway, sorry for the long message, but I've been trying to get this decision made for weeks, and everything new I learn just makes the problem seem deeper.

Has anyone had an luck with setting up filtering on Netgear routers? If so, have you been running the router for more than a year? How is the reliability?

Alternately, are their other routers I should be looking at that implement this feature in a way that's both powerful and easy-to-use?

You might want to look into routers that support the Tomato firmware.  I use Tomato on my ASUS RT-N66U router and it has an access restriction feature that looks like it fits your requirements.  Disclaimer: I don't use this feature.  Here's a screenshot:

Can anyone help break "router block"?

Stoic Joker:
As a rule I tend to stay as far away from all things "Parental Control" as possible. They always seem to end up being a performance robing maintenance nightmare ... But then again I also primarily do business networks. I am however a huge fan of OpenDNS.

As far as Netgear's stuff getting bad reviews, I've never seen any consumer grade 802.11n class device get consistently good reviews from any of the manufacturers anywhere, ever. Netgear's tech support I only needed to use once with a new device on a really bizarre issue, as their available online documentation is really quite good.

I've dealt with several Netgear routers (like the FVS318) in SMB applications that have survived for years without incident. Hell our office wireless has been running off a Netgear WNR2000 v2.0 for so long I forgot where the damn thing is..

So yeah...I guess I kinda like'em

I'd recommend the Netgear WNDR3700v4 (Make sure the package identifies it as a v4) or the Netgear WNDR4300.

You reflash these to OpenWRT, and then you have a surprisingly powerful and capable router which offers complete control of what network configuration you wnat to have. I've got one at home for my own use, and 2 of them at work all configured like this solid as a rock.

Changing from the factory firmware to OpenWRT on those two models is only different from a normal firmware upgrade in that you have to do a couple extra power cycle steps afterward.

Even on the factory firmware those two models are based on some downright powerful hardware among consumer-grade routers, having 128MB of ram in them where most routers only have 16-32MB. Having the extra ram makes it a lot less likely to grind to a crawl under high traffic, and also gives it the capability to run advanced configurations like what you need.

Tomato is also a decent alternative to the factory firmware, but I've heard from quite a few people that it has become weak in development and isn't as reliably supported. There are a number of forks of Tomato that are kept up to date by other groups.

DD-WRT on the other hand has gone quite far downhill, between the move to 'premium features' and poor management practices. I would not recommend it unless you have an older device that can use the older versions of it from when it was progressing well.

Most of the builtin firmware offers very restrictive controls, or even none at all. You'd get a lot better value using OpenWRT on a decent quality hardware.

As for brands, Netgear is usually decent while D-link is quite good when you can find it. Linksys has a handful of good units in a flood of junk, and Belkin has never made a good product outside of USB adapters and cables.

I'm on record for not subscribing to the notion of "parental controls" as being a good thing for more reasons than it's worth going into. As a result, I can't really comment on how effective routers supporting that feature are. However, I'd strongly suggest you download a copy of the manual or look at the online docs for any router your plan on buying before you lay your money down.

If you don't clearly understand what the docs are telling you, you'd best consider another router since tech "support" for this class of product is either not that great - or it's "community sourced" (i.e. provided on a forum by other users :huh: and the occasional company volunteer)  - which means you'll get a lot of questionable to so-so advice along with the good.

For home/SOHO router reviews, I've found the ones posted over at SmallNetBuilder to be reliable and accurate.

As far as Netgear goes, I haven't found them to be significantly better or worse than most of the other big name consumer-grade routers out there. Maybe marginally better at best. And they are what they are. If you get a good one, it'll run for several years without incident. If you get a lemon (which happens) you'll get headaches.

FWIW, if I were buying an inexpensive "home" type router today, I'd probably be more inclined to get a Netgear rather than a Linksys or Belkin. But that's subject to change without notice. So please don't take this as a strong recommendation.

Luck! :Thmbsup:


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