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.
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.
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 advertising. This 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 22.214.171.1241
- 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.
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.
Just follow this video.
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.
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
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 126.96.36.199
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.
Changes in the logs appear immediately.
- 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.)
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%…………
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.
- Q. Won’t this hit advert income in these news organisations? Won’t it hurt Google, Taboola and the rest?
- A. It might do. I hope so. I see Google has doubled profits for 2nd quarter this year compared to the same quarter last year – see https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/jul/27/google-apple-and-microsoft-to-report-record-breaking-profits
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.