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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Apple is Cleaning Up it's App Store

Good article about Apple's latest efforts to make it's App Store (where people buy applications for their iPhone or iPod Touch) more family friendly:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35529860/ns/technology_and_science-wireless/

Sunday, February 14, 2010

iBoss Router


A couple of weeks ago, my friend Nancy asked me about the iBoss Router.  iBoss is a router for your home that filters and monitors the internet on every computer that connects to the internet through it.  I was intrigued so I decided to get my hands on one and try it out.  After two weeks of working with it, I feel a little more confident to write a review.

The first thing I have to say about it is, while it works well and does a good job, if you have or plan on getting Windows 7 on your computers at home, then you may not need iBoss.  iBoss costs only $40 to buy and then another $60 per year and while it does do several things that Windows 7 can't do, I personally wouldn't pay the extra money.  BUT then again, I am technically saavy and can tweak my computer and internet settings on a regular basis to make sure they're safe.

iBoss is basically a plain old wireless router like Linksys or NetGear would make.  Most wireless routers have parental controls built into their software but iBoss is better in two ways: 1. It is easier to setup and configure than most routers and 2. It offers many more options for filtering and monitoring content.  Setup took about 15 minutes and was pretty intuitive.  Unlike most routers, iBoss connects through the web to the manufacturers website to get definition and configuration updates on a regular basis.  That means that the filtering capabilities will stay up to date, unlike a typical router which receives no such parental control updates.

iBoss lets you control every computer in your house that connects to the internet, provided they connect via the iBoss.  You can configure each computer individually or use a preset level of protection for any and all computers.  That means when someone brings a laptop or mobile device into the house, it will be filtered as soon as it connects to the internet (that, I liked).  Many area high schools require students to have laptops and if your kid's buddy brings his/her computer over to the house, its internet connection will be filtered as soon as it comes online.

iBoss also gives you more options for filtering content than Windows 7.  iBoss uses the same technology/software as most schools to filter content so it is fairly reliable.  I could configure not only the type of content I wanted filtered from each computer, but I could also add specific websites to my "blocked" list.  I could also set certain times of day that I didn't want computers to access the internet.  So if my kids were home for an hour or so before either parent, then I could block the internet during that time.  Windows 7 allows this as well but it was nice to have all the features rolled into one package.

As a parental control device, I was impressed with iBoss but as a general wireless router, I was a little let down by it.  It was slow, especially when multiple computers were connected.  I tested 4 consecutive connections and it definitely had noticeable performance issues when all 4 were accessing the internet.  It also had a more limited range than a typical router.  I can put my Linksys wireless router in my basement and still access the internet on the second floor with no problem.  The iBoss didn't have such a range.  If you need three stories of coverage, it's not going to cut it.  At best you'll get two floors out of it.  It also did not work well with mobile devices like the iPhone or iPod Touch that use wireless to connect to the internet.  It still filtered the content that these units received but the pages didn't render correctly and sometimes not at all.  It was definitely frustrating trying to browse the web with a mobile device using the iBoss.

So what is my advice?  It's definitely a good unit.  It does its job well and is easy to use.  As long as you can deal with speed, coverage, and mobile device limitations, it's worthwhile.  I personally wouldn't buy it but I can do the work to get the same results without it.  However, most parents may not be able to roll up their sleeves and work with each computer to set the parental control options.  OR, you may not want to mess with configuring 4 machines individually and enjoy the convenience of a single interface to control all content in your house.

So Nancy, I think you bought a good product and it was worth the money.  But the techy geek population may be let down by it's limitations. 

Here is a link to a review on Cnet:  http://reviews.cnet.com/routers/iboss-home-parental-control/4505-3319_7-33669195.html#cnetReview.

And here is a link to the iBoss website:  http://residential.iphantom.com/

Friday, February 12, 2010

Mobicip and iBoss Reviews Coming Soon

I love the feedback from readers.  Based on a couple of requests, I will be reviewing two different items (actually, I have been reviewing one for the past week and will start reviewing the other today).  They are:

  • The iBoss router - a web content filtering and internet activity control device for your home
  • Mobicip - a web content filtering and monitoring device for mobile devices (like SafeEyes).
Check back soon for both reviews and thanks to the readers who submitted the requests.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Safe Eyes Mobile - First Hand Experience


Back in December I posted a segment introducing you to an "app" for iPhones and the iPod Touch called "Safe Eyes Mobile."  At the time, my experience with it was limited to what I had read online and a few opportunities to see the app in action on friend's devices.  For Christmas, my kids (11 and soon to be 13) both got an iPod Touch, so naturally I wanted to make their online experience with their new toys as safe as possible (and let me remind you that the iPod Touch can connect to the internet through a wireless connection just like a computer).  I purchased the app for $19.99 and loaded it onto both of my kids' iPod Touch.

Installing it was easy.  There were a few screens of setup I had to do on each iPod and it required me to create a master administrative account so that I alone could change settings.  During setup I chose the types of site content I wanted filtered out (like adult, violence, hate, etc.).  Naturally I checked most of the options only to find that it filtered EVERY site out, including most news sites and even National Geographic Kids.  Lesson learned - you can't go crazy with blocking things out or it will block everything. The nice thing about the app is that I can change settings as we go along.  When a site is blocked that shouldn't be, I can add it to the "allow" list.  If a bad site slips through the filters I can add it to the "block" list.  The app will obviously have to evolve as my kids use it which means, like any filtering/monitoring software, it will require my time to maintain and adjust it.  I've said it before and I'll continue to say it, when it comes to keeping your kids safe online, there is no magic application that you set once and walk away from.  If you want the software to do its job you have to put some time in.

Safe Eyes Mobile is actually it's own browser, it is not a filtering device for the iPod/iPhone's native browser (called Safari).  When you install SafeEyes, your kids must access the internet through it or it will not work.  That means that you have to disable Safari once Safe Eyes is installed.  The cool thing is that when you install Safe Eyes, it reminds you that you need to disable Safari and walks you through the steps to do it.  And, don't worry, you can always enable it later if you want to (though your kids can't).  You should also keep in mind that there are other browser apps out there that your kids can download and install.  If they do, then Safe Eyes is worthless.  Check your child's device often and look for other browsers.  Honestly you should be checking them regularly anyway so you know what is on them.  If you don't know what an app is, make them open it up and show you.

So far so good.  I like Safe Eyes Mobile.  For $19.99 it was worth it.  I would certainly recommend it to other parents.  Here is the link again if you are interested: http://www.internetsafety.com/safe-eyes-mobile-iphone.php.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Facebook's New Privacy Settings Not as Good as Everyone Thought

I've been reading about this on various IT blogs for a couple of weeks and now it has appeared as a story on USA Today's website.  If you are a regular to this blog, you know that I have written about Facebook's ever evolving privacy settings, the last batch coming out about two months ago.  Facebook claims that their new privacy settings allow users to be very selective about what the public sees on their page and this claim is absolutely true.  The catch is that you have to take the time to set it all up and if you don't you are actually authorizing Facebook to share the information that you haven't locked down with the rest of the world. 

Think about a teenager anxious to get their new Facebook account up and running, are they really going to take the time to go through the seemingly endless security and privacy settings?  Even if they did would they really comprehend the implications of their choices?  Most kids will just blast through all of the "technical" garbage and get their page posted...thereby opening the door for Facebook to share information that should be kept private.  Facebook calls it "flexibility" but it seems to be turning into a trap for young people who don't take the time to pay attention to the fine details.

Since Facebook is by far the largest social networking site in the world, it has been given the title as the most dangerous.  Personally, I think MySpace is worse since they A.) Advertise objectionable content in their ads section of everyone's pages B.) Sell your (and your friends) e-mail addresses to spammers though they claim they don't and C.) Provide far fewer privacy options to users.  But MySpace isn't used by as many people so if you look at sheer numbers, Facebook would be the biggest threat.

Here is the article: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/technologylive/post/2010/02/facebook-viewed-as-riskiest-social-network-by-companies/1?loc=interstitialskip.