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#1

I came across this hosts file a while back that claims to reduce online annoyances & bandwidth and prevent some kinds of user tracking.

It’s a long list of shock sites, ad servers, known malware sites and other nasties, and it redirects any requests - to localhost, 127.0.0.1 - so they never reach the servers. I’ve been using it for a while and am not aware of any downsides. The main thing I notice is that I see hardly any ads even when I have an adblocker switched off in my browsers.

From the preamble in the file:

Use this file to prevent your computer from connecting to selected
internet hosts. This is an easy and effective way to protect you from
many types of spyware, reduces bandwidth use, blocks certain pop-up
traps, prevents user tracking by way of “web bugs” embedded in spam,
provides partial protection to IE from certain web-based exploits and
blocks most advertising you would otherwise be subjected to on the
internet.

It comes with instructions on how to use it on pretty much any system, including traditional MacOS, and you can add domains yourself if you wish. It just needs to be dropped into /etc/ which requires an admin password.

Just wondering if others have experience with, or thoughts about it. I have no affiliation with the author.


#2

Or just use Pihole.

One device, entire network, auto updates as necessary.


#3

Looks good, but doesn’t it require a Linux server as the one device?


#4

A reporter on the ABC is currently running an article/s on how much of your information is being shared without your knowledge via various routes.

I have to say - whilst I’ve been “aware” of this, I really under-estimated it.


#5

Well, it runs on a Raspberry Pi (as the name suggests), but it can operate alongside whatever else is installed. It’s really just a local DNS server that shitcans known dodgy sites. Pretty easy to set up too.

Because it acts as a local DNS server, you can add your own blacklisting/whitelisting as required, and it can be configured to update lists automatically - mine are done every morning at 4am.


#6

I run Pihole on a Centos VM on my Unraid server. Easy as Pi…pun intended. Used to run it on a Raspberry Pi but I’ve been cutting down on needing those now that I have a beefy server that can run multiple VMs and has 32TB of space.

Hosts files are all well and good but can make it a pain to troubleshoot when things go a bit wrong, and might slow down your performance as each request will parse the file to validate the destination.


#7

I’ll go with the hosts file, since I dont have a Raspberry Pi, nor am likely to ever have one. I’m past tinkering. [edit: working well, thanks @soulman)


#8

Yes, I have wondered about both of these things. The troubleshooting issue would relatively easily solved by temporarily replacing the file with the original I would imagine. As to the speed, I have no idea if the decrease in network requests would balance that out or not. Perhaps more so in some cases than others.


#9

Mine’s running on a RasPi but I’ve been looking at moving it over to a VM, as I have the resources available. Not high on the priority list, but I’ll get around to it at some point.


#10

Haven’t noticed anything significant yet.


#11

I’ve got PiHole running on a VM too. Occasionally I consider picking up a RasPi to separate it out to a dedicated piece of hardware, but then it has been working just fine for a while now so probably not really worth the investment on the Pi.

That aside, PiHole is a great piece of tech that you should really consider. Whole of network in one box (all those iOS apps have their ads stop working!). I have noticed that occasionally you run into issues with a web page that just won’t load right (like some online chat/help popup windows) or some pages have that “you’re running an adblocker… disable to continue”. With PiHole you simply jump to the web interface, hit the pause for X minutes button then reload the page safe in the knowledge that it all turns itself back on a few minutes later.

My wife (and kids) love the lack of ads on their iPads now and get all confused when I’ve re-booted the server and they get a video between levels on their iOS game before PiHole is reloaded.


#12

I must confess, this does appeal. I’ve been using Weblock on iOS but its only partially effective.


#13

I really should get into the PiHole community with some feedback. I’d love to see an option to whitelist/exclude a local IP from they system either permanently or for a defined period. ie pause blocking only on my computer for 15 minutes but on the XBox permanently.

The permanent exclude you can do with manual DNS entries, but it would be very nice to see some extra controls in that dashboard.

I have a few extra block lists loaded, although I had to turn off lots of others as it was really interfering with websites trying to open and display correctly.

For now I’m hitting 39.8% of queries blocked!