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Western Digital My Net N750 Dual Band Gigabit Wireless Router
on March 29, 2013
After 3 months of use, I have learned a lot regarding this router from WD and how to use it with OpenDNS. So I am putting what I learned here in the hope it may help other techies who had the same questions. I chose to write these on Amazon.com instead of WD forum or OpenDNS forum simply because I found a lot of good information on Amazon.com in my purchase research:
WD MyNet N600, N750, N900 have Parental Control as I reviewed before. As discussed, WD Parental Control allows a few *categories* such as None, Max, High, Medium, Moderate, Low, All. The manual and the online help on Parental Control webpage have very simple explanation of the classes of websites these categories prevent in general term such as Dating, Social Networking, Chat, etc. I could not find the information anywhere about *how* this works but I guess (because WD "designs/controls/owns" to router and the built-in DNS server, it can intercept the DNS lookup to filter out and reject DNS translation requests it deems violating the categories mentioned. Then the look-up activities resumes normally with the user-defined DNS primary and secondary servers as programmed. (For Computer Science folks, this is similar to the old days "interrupt interception" in assembly language).
I think this is a very clever design. Hence I concluded, and proved that WD MyNet Router allows user to enter OpenDNS DNS addresses to use an external service to filter DNS requests.
This "double-feature" of DNS filtering is an attractive design because it allows the router owner/administrator to filter DNS request once at WD Parental Control level, and another at OpenDNS specific web/machine level. They both work together nicely. I was puzzled for a while, as many other people whose posts I read on other forums, that sometimes OpenDNS would not work with WD Router. To be fair, this has nothing to do with WD Router. OpenDNS will work great if you "flush the DNS cache". If you don't know how to do this, just google "Flush DNS Cache". This problem, in my opinion, is a weak point of OpenDNS. But that is another post for OpenDNS folks.
The bottom line is, if you have used OpenDNS, and loved it, all you have to do is to set WD Router Parental Control to filter None (that means to allow ALL, all the time). Then enter OpenDNS server addresses in WAN/Internet Setup page. Your router will now works with OpenDNS exactly as before with other routers such as Dlink 825.
Hope this helps you techies. If you are not the techie type, my apologies.
Having tried WD Mynet Parental Control, I like it a lot. It is quirky and needs refinement to be useful for the majority of the users. I hope to be helpful to other users and to WD My Net Team with the following comments and suggestions:
1. Have a Help feature for Parental Control. For example, when the owner registers the router to gain parental control, he/she has only 24 hrs to confirm the email, or the confirmation link is invalidated. WD didn't bother to tell users how to recover from this invalidated link. Most likely, users will be stuck at this point and ended up hating the product. Simply tell them to reregister to get a new 24-hr response in the invalidated screen instead of let the program bomb out (and not in the email as they are frustrated now) is so easy I wonder whey WD didn't do it.
2. After setting the time block, there's no apparent way to unblock it. And there's no help anywhere short of calling technical support. It would be nice to let users know in order to unblock, users will need to "set" that same time block to "none", "low", etc. In my opinion, that is clumsy and counter-intuitive. One should be able to just unblock what is being blocked. To compound the issue, it takes 5 to 10 minutes to replicate the unblock/block command for the internet access to work again - and no where the users is informed of this. OpenDNS clearly says, "wait 3 minutes for the blocking/unblocking to work...". Again, regular users will be frustrated and stuck. They again feel the hate for a product that could prosper.
3. The block table is so cluttered with all the columns for each 15 minute time frame that it would be nice to use a different color scheme for block, versus unblock, low vs. high, etc. Speaking as a long-time IT specialist and manager, none of this is hard to do. Just a little more care for user-friendliness. WD Network Marketing Team, where are you? Did you use this product? Did you test it with regular users *and* observe them to see where they are confused? Your product is nice. But unless you improve the user interface and advertise (hint! sell) it, OpenDNS and the likes will catch up and do a better job of making it easy and selling it than you.
This router has a lot of attractive features for very cheap price (I got it for $50 new - free S/H). Originally I had some difficulties with this router and felt negative about WD Router. But to provide a fair assessment, I am writing down my experience to help future "early adopters".
For all the following features: , Simultaneous dual band (2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz at 300 Mbps and 450 Mbps) each with its own Guest channel, 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports, not one but 2 USB ports for storage and printer sharing, cloud configuration and cloud parental control for $50 new, this router sounds irresistible. Throwing a brand name of WD, albeit in hard drive area, I had to have one even though my DLink DIR-825 (with similar features) is still humming after a couple of years.
After getting the new WD router, it took me only 30 minutes to "clone" my DLink DIR-825 configuration (namely, same SSID names/pw and set up to switch two routers). The WD N750 is slightly faster than my three-year-old DIR-825. The range is about the same, namely not so spectacular. This is along the same experience as another reviewer's comments on WD choice to have internal antennae in the horizontal position. The router runs warm but not hot. The parental control feature uses similar service as OpenDNS. That means you can configure the blocking and filtering from anywhere. However, where OpenDNS is clear and organized, WD Parental Control feature treated users as all naive. I googled the web and no where that I found a single explanation of *how it works* - only what to do to make it work. Knowing how it works will allow customers to make the best of the feature, and to make WD shine on the feature as a competitive advantage. This is unfortunate as WD could have made a nice selling feature out of what they already have. NetGear touted built-in OpenDNS where WD is mute on this feature. For these reasons, I believe WD Networking is still in its starting mode. Not bad, but still awkward. It's up to WD, like any start-up, to improve and shine from here, or fall to the wayside into oblivion.
On the good side, all wired and wireless devices (a few laptops, desktops, smart phones, wireless printer, VOIP Phone) worked without change (since I cloned the configuration of the existing router) except one that has an inexpensive Wireless N150 USB Adapter by PatriotMemory.com. No matter what I did, the same USB Adapter works with DIR-825, but choked on WD N750 - No internet. To make it more confusing, the link between the computer running on Win7 Enterprise and the router appeared to be good, but there's no connection.
After a day of trying, I found out that the adapter and the router didn't agree on the way the latest (wireless USB adapter) driver from PatriotMemory.com worked between them. I uninstalled all drivers and utility software for the USB Adapter, and let Windows 7 Update find its own driver (version 2010), all worked well. So if you have trouble with a particular computer when you bring up your router, it's most likely the driver that is incompatible between them. I believe this is a common problem when you mix and match different wireless adapters, some are from cheap (namely low quality) brands with a newer router. So this is not WD fault. If you mix in with Win8, you will have another variable to contend with. If you don't want any trouble, your best bet is to stay with your existing equipment. Slow or not, it works (until it stops - then you will have to replace it and face the issues similar to what I had here).
The bottom line is following:
1. This is a good router for what you pay for. You get attractive shape and lots of nice features with decent performance for $50. But don't expect a top of the line router for that amount of money.
2. While Western Digital is a mature and well known player in the hard drive arena, their networking group shows that it's still in its infancy. Given time, all babies grow up. Time will tell if the baby grows into a movies model or every day Jane or Joe, or someone in between.
If you choose to adopt early products, good luck to you. The fun is in the ability to make things work even when they work awkwardly.