Last week's laments about the
iRoute nano aside, Apple popularized the notion of
shrinking networking gear down to the size where it could be considered a travel accessory when it introduced the
Airport Express. "Travel routers" from mainstream consumer networking brands Linksys and Netgear appeared soon after,
and Apple went on to shrink its desktop Macs, iPods, and future PowerPC chip consumption.
Earlier this year, though, a Canadian security startup took the torch and created a portable firewall that far exceeds even the Airport Express in simplicity. While Apple's product presumes software-based setup, the Stingray — which resembles its cartilaginous namesake — is extremely simple to install. After plugging it in, you attach one Ethernet cable to your cable or DSL modem and the other to your PC or router. Stingray is the firewall for the five year-old. There isn't even an on-off switch although there is a big button that, far from erasing history, enables you to bypass the firewall if you're having problems with a particular service. Unfortunately, though, one must press this button every time one wants to enable an application.
There is no software to install, nothing to configure and nothing to update. Unlike many firewalls on the market that use a static rule set, the Stingray's is dynamically generated, making it theoretically harder to crack and certainly far easier to administer. Since there is no software component to the Stingray, it can work with practically any Ethernet-connected computer. If you think IBM was a big blue quitter for announcing earlier this year that it will drop support for OS/2 or delight in the dual PowerPCs of your original BeBox, the Stingray will cover you as well as users of Macs, Linux and Windows PCs.