The Pi-hole is a useful project, which turns any Raspberry Pi into a DNS server with blocking capabilities, mostly against ads, unwanted analytics and malware.

I’ve been using it on a Raspberry Pi 1 for nearly a year now - and I’m quite happy with the results.

Mitch’s local Pi-hole

Why should you run one?

In the past this could be done in browser using extensions like uBlock Origin, but nowadays a lot of internet access is done outside of classic browsers:

  • On one or more mobile devices (smartphones / tablets)
  • Internet connected TVs
  • Other IoT or “Smart Home” devices

Managing adblock extensions on multiple devices slowly gets tiring, and some devices don’t support it at all, or just very limited (like anything running iOS). A centralized solution solves this problem, and adds useful features like whitelisting and fancy statistics.

How can I get one?

  1. Grab yourself a Raspberry Pi, either a new one or used - Pi-hole doesn’t need a lot of resources. Maybe ask around your friend circle - someone might have an old model in a drawer collecting dust.

  2. Everything else is documented on the Pi-hole GitHub repository.

  3. ???

  4. Profit! (faster and safer internet browsing 😎)

Limitations

Because Pi-hole is a pure DNS-based solution, there are ways for devices to “sneak out”, e.g. by using hard-coded DNS servers like Google DNS or the vendor’s, or bypassing DNS directly and using hard-coded IP addresses.

Depending on the router/firewall it might be possible to redirect or block these “rogue” clients, but there is not much to do against the latter. Fortunately these cases are pretty rare.

But the publishers!

There is quite a debate about whether ad blocking is hurting the web. I understand that a lot websites use advertisements to finance the costs for hosting and creating the contents (especially in the news).

On the other hand, the online ad industry is plagued by problems, seemingly without any motivation to fix them:

As long as ad networks lack any respect of the users - I won’t tolerate them on any of my devices.

Blocklists to use

A large and well-maintained list of potential blocklists can be found at The Firebog.

Another great source are the unified lists by StevenBlack.