Monday, November 30, 2020

My first week with Circle (1st Gen) on Netgear

 So Circle sent me a cheery email about my "first week with Circle!".  

However, it feels like a lot longer than a week, and I haven't exactly felt cheerful.

Yes, OK, my setup is unconventional.  It's likely the source of many of my issues. 

But, in the last week:

•  I've found that Circle is not logging Usage or History, and does not enforce time limits.

•  Circle is not filtering correctly. 

•  It is unclear if it is enforcing SafeSearch.  It seems to be, but it's hard to tell.

•  Rewards are limited to the current day.  You can set "Extend/No Time Limit", "Late/No Bedtime", or "No Offtimes".  You cannot set an increased amount of time for future days.

•  Circle notifies you of new devices appearing on the network, but tapping the notification just makes the Circle app hang.  This is obviously different behavior from every other app out there.

•  The Circle 1st Gen app has forgotten my premium subscription twice, forcing me to unsubscribe, uninstall the app, reinstall, and resubscribe.  Twice.

[Update]:  OK, three times.  So far.

•  The first time, Circle forgot ALL of my setup, and I had to re-enter every single device, profile and setting.  It seems backup is not automatic; rather, you have to manually back up the 1st Gen app.  I didn't realize this since Circle touts their cloud-based accounts as crash-proof and the backup option is buried at the bottom of the "Manage" menu.

•  Backups appear to be local to the mobile device running the Circle app.

•  The second time 'round, the app asked me for a passcode, but couldn't send it to me, making it useless.  I had to change DNS settings in my primary router to get it to work.

•  When I did get the passcode, it wouldn't validate.

•  For some dumb reason, the passcode is not available in the router UI, nor can it be sent via email.  And it seems to change, meaning you can't just write it down for future reference.

•  After reconfiguration, everything connected except for Chromebooks.  Rebooting and changing DNS on the Chromebooks didn't help.  It took a reboot of the Circle router itself to fix the Chromebooks, which was not obvious.

•  Circle no longer supports the Circle Go app for 1st Gen, meaning there is no parental control off of the local Circle Wi-Fi.

From this, about the only thing that works properly are time-based schedules (Bedtime, Off Time, and Rewards thereto), and Pause.  Everything else seems broken.

Again, my setup is weird, and probably unsupported, and I freely admit that many of my troubles are caused by this.  But even when it's working, the limited Rewards, broken core functionality, and constant forgetting of premium features has driven me nearly to the breaking point.

I may bite the bullet and get a Circle Home Plus (2nd Gen) device, and use it as intended - that is, directly attached to my primary router.  But after perusing the Netgear support forums, I'm not hopeful that it will actually do what it's supposed to do.  

Plus, I'm anticipating my router to be smart enough to prevent the ARP poisoning used by Circle.  And I'm quite frankly sick of troubleshooting this thing.

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