Firewalls and more tethering

In last week's Backspin I asked for input on your experiences with the Netgear eight-port Gigabit ProSafe VPN Firewall (model FVS318G). I recently purchased one for my network and the next day I found it sitting there looking like it was working normally with all of its lights flashing happily but, in reality, it was doing nothing.

Of course, I didn't figure that out immediately and foolishly jumped to the conclusion that my DSL modem had died an unpleasant death. After resetting the modem and still getting nothing I realized the firewall was the problem. After power cycling the device, it worked fine so I hoped it had been a transient snafu. Alas, it was not.

Some 12 hours later, the firewall locked up again. I tried all sorts of things but, despite the blinking lights, what I had on my hands was a boat anchor with LEDs.

I tried to determine what the problem was over the next couple of days and discovered that other people had experienced similar problems. After feedback request I got a few responses. Reader Richard L. Hess has used the same model and its sibling, the FVS-318v3, with no problems while his experiences with related products, the FVS-124 and FVS-124G dual WAN, were less than stellar, he reports.

Reader Mike Dafforn reported that he had seen the internal clock on the firewall drift up to five minutes in a week, which meant that at some point after a reset the two ends of any open LAN-to-LAN tunnels would eventually disagree on the time enough that they would disconnect.

Mike's issue with the clock may be relevant but after several more lockups I couldn't figure out I gave up and the firewall went back to Fry's for a refund. Netgear is interested in resolving this problem and is sending me some replacement equipment so stay tuned … and if you have seen this kind of problem, please let me know.

So, last week's Gearhead left me waiting for the HTC Sync software (which is preloaded on the Verizon HTC Droid Incredible) to install on my PC. This process took a remarkably long time (although I'm not sure that Vista wasn't to blame … this OS seems to suffer from Winrot worse than XP did) and when it finally finished I tried to launch the application.

What a waste of time! HTC Sync loaded then complained about missing drivers and, search as I might on the 'Net, there were no drivers to be found. Then I discovered that I didn't actually need the HTC Sync software … what I needed was something called VZAccess Manager (you can find this at http://vzam.net/).

Once installed everything worked; I was connected to the Internet via the Incredible but what a ridiculous process to get the software installed. HTC's site has nothing to say about the Incredible and even Verizon seems to think that information about the Incredible and the Broadband Connect service are some kind of secret.

Of course, we're taking cell phone companies here and, not surprisingly, there ain't no free ride. Use Verizon's tethering and you'll need a basic Broadband Connect plan which currently costs $10 per month for a pathetic 5GB of data and when you exceed that you'll be paying 5 cents for every subsequent megabyte.

On the whole I'd say that the PdaNet software I discussed a couple of weeks ago does essentially the same thing that VZAccess does but with a lot less fuss.

While I have yet to have it confirmed I suspect that, should you use the PdaNet software without a tethering plan, Verizon will notice and charge you accordingly. I couldn't determine this by 11:30 on Tuesday night because the Verizon Wireless site was "temporarily unavailable." Sigh.

I award the VZAccess Manager a rating of 2 out of 5 because, although it works, it is poorly documented, and way too hard to find and install unless you stumble over the answers, and overall more complicated than it needs to be.

Gibbs is untethered in Ventura, Calif. Get connected through gearhead@gibbs.com.

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