Sunday, October 16, 2022

VPN, but not as most use one

Last month, I mentioned that I was satisfied with the job my Pi Hole installation was doing. And, a month later, I'm still quite satisfied. Even more so, since I added a VPN to the setup.

Many people will use a VPN, either a free ad-supported one, or a paid one, to try to get around geolocation restrictions for streaming content. I use a VPN for other reasons.

I'm using Open VPN to power everything, and am running the VPN on a Raspberry Pi (of course). In fact, it's the same Raspberry Pi I use to run Pi Hole. I can use it to connect devices to my home network.

I'm not connecting to a service in another location. I'm connecting to my home network when I'm not at home. So why would I do that?

Well, most of the time, I'm having my mobile device connected to my network via VPN in order to take advantage of my Pi Hole setup. That way, I can have tracker blocking anywhere. And, if I need to get to something on my network, I can. Now, admittedly, this rarely happens. Very rarely. But using Pi Hole when I'm away from home my home network is great.

I found out how much I liked it yesterday, in fact. A friend was having trouble with her cell phone. She was unable to log in to a particular Website. Now, to be sure, there were several things she could have done, but the way she like to do it involved launching her default browser and logging in to the Website of a particular store. And that's a perfectly legitimate way to do it. It should work.

Well, it wasn't working. She uses ad and tracking blocking on her mobile browser, as well as popup blocking. And recently, this particular store's Website was not longer accessible for logging in. It kept giving her a message about turning off ad and popup blocking.

She didn't need to actually turn everything off, but all of them together were stopping her from logging in. Whether that was because of an update to the browser, or (more likely, in my mind) an update to the login process of the store, I can't say with certainty. But by experimenting, I found that using it all stopped her from logging in. If she turned off, say, popup blocking, but left the ad blocking in place, things worked. So, she had to turn off popup blocking, then log in, and when she was done, turn it back on.

By the way, if she turned it back on in the middle of her session, it logged her off. So, she had to turn off and leave off popup blocking.

I, on the other hand, am able to access the Website with no issues via my VPN. Pi Hole tracker blocking works different from the ad blocking on cell phones. And so it can't tell I'm using it. Remember it's the combination of all that which causes the problem. So, I don't have an ad or tracker blocker on my browser. It's on my home network, and I'm using a VPN to connect. Meaning the superior blocking of Pi Hole is coming into play. I get the benefit, and not the issues she has.

That was something I had considered, but now I'm aware of it, I'm even happier with my VPN setup. While this isn't directly affecting my Streaming Life, it does make my mobile connected life much easier.

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