Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Pi-hole Ad Blocker

Tired of finding the best ad blocking software and applying it on every PC and mobile device, I came across and immediately set out to test it on my network. It is a DNS based ad blocker that will handle ad blocking for all devices on your network at once. All DNS requests are sent to the pi-hole device, ad serving IP addresses are filtered out, and the remaining requests are forwarded as usual to the DNS provider of your choice.

I ran the install on a Raspberry Pi 3 and the single command install and accompanying setup was completed within minutes. Ads on my PCs and mobile devices had disappeared and the pi-hole admin console confirmed which DNS lookups were being blocked. From the admin console I can also tweak which domains are blocked or make exceptions for domains I need to access.

I have had this setup running for about 3 months without issue and little need for maintenance beyond occasionally running updates. I recently purchased a new router that forced me to switch the Raspberry Pi to wireless connectivity, which some have written can cause latency issues with the DNS lookups, but so far I have not seen noticeably delays. Overall, it was a cheap and simple project that improved my network security and user experience. 

Edit: 4 months later, this setup continues to work without issue. I was curious if the wireless connection would be a problem, but that does not appear to be the case.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Project Fi Bill Protection

This newly announced change, effective the next billing period, adds unlimited free data once you reach 6 GB of data usage ($60 worth of data + $20 talk and text). Essentially capping a single user's bill at $80. There is also the caveat that data will be throttled after reaching 15 GB.

As a low data user, this is not applicable to me, but it's good to see Google Fi actively working to improve their offerings. More info available below.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Google Fi Referral Link

Google's own MVNO monthly cellular service. Click below for $20 off your first month's service.

Google Fi Referral Code for $20 off

About Google Fi

Google Fi is a MVNO with the somewhat unique ability to operate across multiple carriers (T-Mobile and Sprint being the major providers) as well as offload calls to Wi-Fi when available. For the end user, this means better connectivity as the phone seamlessly switches among multiple connections to provide the best service, but comes at the cost of a limited number of devices. That being said, if you wish to forgo the carrier optimization described above, the Google Fi SIM seems to work with other devices as well.

Although capable of working on other phones, I much prefer using the Google approved devices (Nexus and now Pixel) as they provide the cleanest Android experience free from the OEM and carrier adulterations. The fact that I was already using a Nexus device with another MVNO carrier, and the generous discounts Google Fi offers towards Nexus and Pixel phone purchases, made switching to Google Fi completely worth it. Although I had no service problems to speak of, the Nexus/Pixel phones are sold unlocked so switching back after receiving your discounted phone is a non-issue.

 I’ve been using Google Fi for over a year, including several international trips, and the service worked well and without issue. I did contact support for a replacement Nexus 5X device (the LG-produced device had a defect that caused many devices to boot-loop) and was issued a refurbished Nexus in short order. I would say existing MVNO users, international travelers, users already invested in Google’s ecosystem, and users that are not data-heavy could benefit from trying out the service.