Thursday, March 29, 2018

Down the Pi Hole



Introducing PiHole


Part of the joy of getting older and just a little bit wiser is that you can say with a sincere smile:

Well I never knew that!

This is an article to advertise first and foremost a Linux Advertisement Blocker called  Pi Hole, and also with a nudge, and a wink, and a we are not worthy bow in homage as Raspberry Pi, yet again comes to the rescue


What is it?
Using a Raspberry Pi computer and a very slickly automated software installation you can create yourself a DNS server (and optionally a DHCP server too) which will help you dramatically reduce the Internet Ads you see whilst using it.

Oh, and reduced Ads will also probably speed up your browsing experience.



Backing Up
Until yesterday Marcus' primary ad blocking was done by installing an Extension into my Chrome Canary Browser.

Adblock Plus is a popular choice of many

But this only blocks ads in the browser of your choice.  What if your embedded application, say on your mobile phone, serves up ads.  Your Chrome extension won't help there.

Etcetera.

Pi-Hole sets itself up as a DNS server.  You use it as a primary DNS server.  Any application asking for the name resolution of an ad will have a null response, typically forcing your application to ignore it.

If Pi-Hole thinks however it is a valid request it will send it onto Google or whoever else you configured as your reliable DNS server.


Hardware





Don't expect me ever to stop being totally and utterly gob smacked by the low price and high functionality of the Raspberry Pi.

Today I went really and disgracefully cheap.  Since I have stopped freaking out the neighbours with my Raspberry Pi powered Christmas tree.  Well I have reused this Zero W,  10 GBP pound computer as the Pi-Hole Server.


I know, I'm going to make a wireless connection from all devices at home to the DNS server, whereas a wired Ethernet would be so much more reliable.  I know.  Well if it proves unreliable I may have to upgrade the PiHole server to a Pi 3 B+ :-)

Meanwhile this little computer will be running

- Full Linux
- lighttpd Webserver
- DNS server and redirector
- PHP
- Optionally a DHCP  IP server

I know, totally crackers,  and all for 10 GBP hardware plus the cost of a small SD card to hold the Operating System.

Installation

curl -sSL https://install.pi-hole.net | bash


This is the simple and single command line that will guide you through installation.  It is clear that the authors have made this process very smooth and idiot proof.   The highlights for me








A Day later
 I do like a nice clean summary screen showing me what traffic and when and all those block statistics


There is a summary of what is being blocked and what is being allowed



 I can see what machines, or well networks of machines (behind individual firewalls) are making the most requests.




 You can see what will be blocked by looking thru block lists



And most importantly I can see and track all the DNS requests being made.  I have already learnt that some Internet of Things devices are making a lot  (I mean over 500 per day each) DNS requests that seem totally unnecessary.   I only found this out thanks to Pi-Hole.



Signing Off




Thanks so much to Richard for recommending Pi-Hole, I am now so happy it is time for me to kick back and relax.