e100 NETimer

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, send e-mail
Published by: PathLock Corporation, go to the web site
Requires: DSL, cable, satellite or wireless modem Internet connection

MSRP: $39.95

Steve Gibson, Internet security maven, technology columnist and president of Gibson Research Corp. says “There are good reasons for a personal computer, which is not actively using the Internet, to be disconnected. PathLock’s [e100 NETimer] hardware-based device is the only solution that cannot possibly be defeated by malicious hackers.” High praise indeed, so we set out to test PathLock's product and Steve's assertion.

The e100 NETimer is simple enough in appearance. It's a small plastic box with rounded corners, two front panel LEDs, top mounted Connect and Disconnect buttons, and a rear panel with one 10/100 Ethernet RJ45 input jack, one 10/100 Ethernet RJ45 output jack and an AC adapter jack. The whole thing measures about 3.5" wide, 3" deep and 1" high. Your incoming network cable or cable modem line plugs into the input jack on the e100 and the line going to your computer plugs into the output jack of the e100. Connect the AC adapter and you're done. There is no software or software setup of any kind. The device can be used with cable, DSL, satellite and wireless modems.

Operation of the e100 NETimer is simple beyond description. Hit the Connect button (the "Connected" LED will light up), launch your browser or e-mail client. That's it. After about an hour the "Time Out" LED will begin to flash, giving you a couple of minutes to either allow the e100 to disconnect you or let you hit the Connect button to continue the online session. Because the device has no relationship to your IP address or TCP/IP settings, connecting and disconnecting is instantaneous and does not affect your modem, TCP/IP settings or current URL. If you accidentally allow disconnection while visiting a site, simply hit the Connect button and continue the session.

Simple. No muss, no fuss. No frills, no settings, no configuration. It just works exactly as advertised. So what is it good for? How about an automatic and unhackable disconnect when you're away from your computer; automatic disconnection of the computer in your kids' room (so they can't surf at 2:00 AM); complete non-interference with antivirus and firewall software; automated time limit on Internet sessions. There's more, but you get the idea. In fact, you can use the e100 as a personally controllable connection manager because - as long as you remember there are TWO buttons - simply getting up from your computer and hitting "Disconnect" provides total protection from unwanted remote access via direct hacking, trojan horse attacks and so on. Return to the computer, hit "Connect" and you're back in the online world.

Cons: No selectable timers - you get approximately one hour of connection before having to push the connect button to continue the session. It would be nice to have at least a surface switch for .25, .5, 1, 2, & 3 hour timers, if not a full digital timer. No adhesive/velcro or a wall mount kit is included, something which would be handy for hiding the device from recalcitrant children, teenagers and irredeemably addicted online gamers.

Pros: A great little online connection controller for your kids (now THAT'S protection), especially if they don't know the device is installed (which is possible because of its compact size). Schools can mount a row of these at a teacher's desk or network demarcation point in a computer lab. Works just as well disconnecting single computers from a network as it does disconnecting a computer or home network from a satellite, DSL or cable modem. Connect/ disconnect response is instantaneous. Cannot mess up IP addresses or connection settings. Recommended.

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