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LAN & WAN Reviews

Thin is In

It is tempting to think of the DSD-150 as a hardware replacement for anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-popup software. But those functions are handled on each protected computer by the thin client.

Figure 2 shows the thin client download prompt screen that greets each LAN user on the first Internet connection attempt after the DSD-150's installation. Note that the thin client (1.1 MB on XP and 1.9 MB on Mac OS X) requires manual installation after download and a reboot on both Windows and Mac OS X.

Thin Client download prompt

Figure 2: Thin Client download prompt (click to enlarge)

With a 1.9 MB download, it seemed like my Mac gained anti-virus, intrusion detection, and firewall functionality. That's a lot of functionality for a 1.9 MB! But as I learned while getting to know the DSD-150, the real anti-virus protection is provided by a 10 MB SophosAV antivirus update downloaded in the background (i.e., whenever the client authenticates with the DSD-150). The same thing happens, i.e. large background downloads, for the other "thin client" functions in the DSD-150 (Identity Protection, Popup Blocker, and AntiVirus/Spyware) So the thin client is really mostly an authentication and download agent.

Once I realized this "hidden" background behavior, I understood why my Windows machine became slow and seemed to freeze up after I installed the thin client. This unexplained, but not unnoticeable, behavior is the key reason for my advice to be patient when getting the DSD-150 up and running. And it also explains why rebooting and power-cycling does nothing to help the process along.

I think D-Link would be wise to warn users when these downloads happen and to set expectations in advance. Expectations for a slow system in the short run, and for speed to return once the thin client has configured itself on their PC. Or, like other applications, D-Link could set downloads to happen when nothing else is happening. I think that after the thin client gets all its software components downloaded and updated, that you will notice the loss of system response less often - at least that was my experience.

On XP, the thin client resides in the system tray (top of Figure 3) and on the Mac the thin client resides in the menu bar (bottom of Figure 3). These icons are critical to understand because they are the main lifelines you have in getting your DSD-150 installation up and running. The integration of the DSD-150 hardware and the thin client is subtle because you can't see what is going on by default.

Thin Client Icons

Figure 3: Thin Client Icons

Figures 4 and 5 show the menus that pop up from the thin client icons in each operating system. Note that the menus are just similar enough that you might think they are the same. They are not. In fact, the DSD-150 provides features (ex., Intrusion Detection, Identity Protection) in different ways to Windows PCs and Macs.

Win XP Thin Client Menu

Figure 4: Win XP Thin Client Menu

Mac OS X Thin Client Menu

Figure 5: Mac OS X Thin Client Menu

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