Block Adverts using Pihole in Container Station on a QNAP NAS with a GL.iNet GL-AR750 Travel Router

Introduction

Adblocking

I was reminded about Pihole on a Raspberry Pi by this article (“How to Blocks Ads Network-Wide With Pi-hole on Raspberry Pi“) today on Tom’s Hardware.

Tom’s Hardware article

However, I don’t have a Raspberry Pi so I decided to give the software a go on my QNAP NAS instead, a TS-251+ in which I’ve maxed out the memory to 8MB (gosh…) and installed two 4TB spinning discs by HGST.   I use it for backup mainly and occasionally have a play with the software.

Essentially, I’m trying to speed up browsing, especially on UK news sites which are now becoming almost unusable due to the vast adverts which, on my smartphone, manically jump up and down the screen along with the slow scripted GDPR and cookie bollox.   Truly, if the red-tops and others cared so much about their content it would be cared for – instead, their content is buried under repetitive, animated huge adverts, so much so that the dancing ads are totally ignored by me.  They are far removed from the original Google ads with a tiny blue link and are a data suck on the web and a time suck on a thinking humanity.

38% of DNS queries were for advertising in one spell. Average of a fifth!!

Concurrently, I wanted to see how many warnings I’d get and if some sites refused to load.  It’s a good experiment……

See general results & observations here.

When I’d finished, in one 10 minute period today, 38% of DNS queries were for advertisingThis is appalling.  Each DNS query is reporting to each advert’s death-star on my status and downloading a stack of useless imagery.

I used my dinky little travel router which is chained behind a standard ISP router through a Netgear mains ethernet.

All equipment is running the latest software:

  • QNAP TS251+ running QTS 4.5.4.1741
  • Pi-hole v5.3.1    Web Interface v5.5    FTL v5.8.1
  • GL.iNet  v3.201  OpenWrt 19.07.7 r11306-c4a6851c72 

The ISP router has a ubiquitous IP gateway address of 192.168.0.1 and has a DHCP server.  My travel router picks up from there with its own DHCP server on 10.10.10.10  With this setup I haven’t had any conflicts though previously in France using their Orange ISP supplied router I got conflicts because of the DHCP chained servers.

The Install.

Well it’s simplicity itself.  It uses the Container Station app which following the install and running properly, you’ll see that it uses few resources.

Tiny resource usage of the Pihole container

Just follow this video.

Configuration

Background:

There are 3 blocks of IPv4 addresses set aside for private networks – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_network#Private_IPv4_addresses.   This is what I use.

Pihole Config

My typing is awful, so I tend to set networks to IP addresses I can remember and that are easy and fast to type.  Thus I don’t tend to use things like 192.168.0.1 for a router base IP.  Instead I use 10.10.10.10…..  I tend to set the DHCP range of the last octet from 100 to 120 or less as well, limiting the available IPs to the expected connected device number.

In the case of the Pihole I’ve set its fixed IP outside the DHCP range I used to 10.10.10.222 …   The actual NAS is on 10.10.10.111!!

GR-750 Travel Router Config

DNS servers’ settings in Pi-hole

The DNS inside my travel router I then set to the Pihole IP of 10.10.10.222,  the secondary DNS address to Cloudflare’s 1.1.1.1

Extra Config in Pihole

I then spotted an override in Pihole which is a simple tick which I’ve set to OpenDNS, which I like.

Override in Pihole

Changes in the logs appear immediately.

Results

Very good!

  • Immediate speed increases in laptop browser speed.
  • Immediate speed increases when following links from Google News to UK news sites on desktop/laptop.
  • No warnings from websites found…….yet….
  • No warnings about disabling ad-blockers…yet

Within seconds domains were being blocked.

As you can see on this early Pi-hole screenshot, a tenth of the web being served to me is adverts.  (Later, I’ll try the PfSense firewall again in a similar way.)

Early Pihole screenshot

Updated Results – Block Rate Up.

After finishing this article I ran through a few more news sites, mainly red-tops.  The %-age block rate has shot up to over 15%…………

Block %-age up to 15.6% after an hour or so of running. The next day the average had risen to 15.7%

Observations

While there’s much improvement on Windows’ desktop machines, there’s improvement on my Android smartphone too.  However, on Google News, so far I’ve not been able to move away from Google AMP (which keeps every news website within the Google News window,) unless I use extra clicks to browse that website with a different browser.  This means Google continues to get all the data feedback.

I need to block this somehow.

I know that AMP is supposed to speed up websites (which then slow themselves up with the very adverts and slack programming that I’m trying to reduce right here!!!   However, if the websites were designed properly, there’d be no need of this travesty of a circular clusterfuck.

So What?

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Adverts, the drive to sell at all costs, has made the web a tortuous place to navigate.  However, some years ago Google saw adblockers as a major threat, so the cash-cow, Youtube, now embeds adverts into video play whereas previously, adverts were separate and came from different servers, which we could block.  But now we all have to watch endless repeats of Grammarly adverts and the stupid potato smash into chips.  Often, the “skip now” message doesn’t appear.

By Strangely

Founding member of the gifted & talented band, "The Crawling Chaos" from the North-East of England.

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