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If you're the type who doesn't read manuals, maybe you'll like NETGEAR's Installation Assist application. I hadn't used it before, but have to admin that it's pretty slick. It runs in your web browser, and uses Flash animation to walk you through pretty much the same setup procedure described in the Installation Guide. Experienced users won't find any value added here, but it just might help first-timers successfully get through the installation process without having to make that dreaded call to Tech Support.

Opening the router's default address for the first time brings you to the Setup Wizard shown in Figure 1 below.

NETGEAR FVS318: Setup Wizard screen

Figure 1: Setup Wizard
(click on the image for a full-sized view)

The Wizard's main contribution is that it will auto-detect the type of connection you have and present you with the appropriate Internet connection configuration options. I don't know how the Wizard does this, but it detected my Dynamic IP type connection without a problem. All the normal connection types and authentication methods are supported so you shouldn't have a problem getting connected to your ISP.

The 318 automatically checks a NTP server (you can specify the IP address of your favorite one, or just use the default one) for the correct time once it gets connected to the Internet. The only thing you have to do is set your Time Zone and whether your location observes Daylight Savings time.

The overall responsiveness was good with screens coming up quickly and changes only taking a few seconds to be registered.

Remote Management can be enabled (it's off by default), and you can set the port used and restrict access to a single IP address or range of addresses if you like. That gives you some measure of security, but it would be better if you could access the admin interface of a remote 318 via the VPN tunnel, which you can't. You also can't reboot the router via the admin interface, but can do a reset-to-factory-defaults (!), and save and load router settings to/from a local file.

The 318 does not allow multiple administrator logins at a time and tells the second would-be administrator the IP address of the current admin. NETGEAR has thoughtfully provided both a admin log-out function and the ability to set the time for auto-logout of an inactive admin session (I wish all manufacturers did this!)

The Interface does have some problems that became quite irritating in my short time with the product. I hope NETGEAR fixes them as soon as possible. Here's my list:

  • Although I applaud the right hand "Help" frame, which automatically changes from screen to screen to provide an easy reference, I don't like the fact that you can't resize or get rid of it. Expanding the browser window doesn't help, since the Help frame is the only frame that expands in size! It's silly (and frustrating!) to constantly have to scroll the middle frame back and forth when you're trying to read the Security logs, for example, because the log field doesn't size itself to fit the frame.

  • The method of popping up another window for each of the four status screens was equally frustrating. First, the new window wasn't always automatically brought to the front. Second, all four of the different statuses have the same target window, making it impossible to view more than one status at a time! This made debugging a VPN setup particularly hard (see next item). Finally, the status window can't be resized!!! This design is not user friendly at all and really needs to be reworked

  • As I said above, the single status window method made VPN setup debugging much harder than it needed to be. Because of the fixed-size window (see Figure 2), I had to constantly scroll back and forth in the window get to the log window's scroll bar. This caused me to get confused as to the time of the event that I was looking at.

NETGEAR FVS318: VPN log screen

Figure 2: VPN Log
(click on the image for a full-sized view)

There are also bugs in the log's time stamps, which you'll see if you click on Figure 2 and look at the highlighted area on the full-sized view. In addition to this obvious problem, I also found out-of-sequence time stamps (I thought I was imagining this at first), which made it difficult to figure out whether new events were added to the top or bottom of the window (they're added to the bottom), even though the 318 writes "End of Log" into the log stream. Finally, I found that the log cleared itself from time to time for no reason.

NOTE!NOTE! I found two bugs in the admin login:

1) When you try to log into the router after being automatically logged out due to inactivity, you'll be presented with the authentication/login box, but you'll see the admin interface be refreshed in the browser window. If you just cancel the login box and refresh the browser, you'll be back in without having to re-enter your login info. If you quit your browser between the time you're auto logged out and when you try to re-login, you'll have to enter the proper login info, however.

2) If an administrator (let's call them Admin #1) quits their browser without logging out of the router and then Admin #2 else tries to log in from a different computer, Admin #2 will get the "Duplicate Administrator" message and not be able to log in. Admin #2 will have to wait until the auto-logout time expires, or have Admin #1 log back in from Admin #1's computer, then log out to free up the session.

I guess I've beaten this to death, so let's go check out the Firewall features.

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