If You Like The Pi-hole, You Will Like Rolling-your-own DNSthingy (Netbender)

Yes, a DNSthingy (the consumer-facing name is Netbender).  It’s an (ASUS) router running some custom firmware (based on asuswrt-merlin) that does cool stuff using DNS, such as:

  • blocking ads
  • blocking malware, phishing, and tracking
  • virtual relocation for viewing different content via streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Pandora
  • speeding up downloads
  • speeding up general Internet browsing
  • and more…

I was surprised the first time I loaded and used my DNSthingy as I was skeptical it would actually make things faster, but I did notice a difference.  It’s easy to try and it doesn’t ask you for a credit card unless you actually want to sign up at the end of the free 30-day trial.

It’s $7.99 a month, but that price can be reduced by $0.50 for each friend you refer down to zero!

Manage Rules

Once you have it setup, you will have access to a nice dashboard that lets you configure everything.

Manage Virtual Relocation

This is what will allow you to get different shows that other countries have access to.  There is a bigger list than what is pictured here.

Manage Devices

You can also manage settings on a per-device basis, which is nice for families.

Real-time Logging

One of my favorite things about this is the real-time logging feature.  It is similar to watching your Pi-hole’s log file using tail -f /var/log/pihole.log, but is a little easier to decipher.

Setting It Up

This process is for a new router, but if you already have an existing ASUS router, you can still do this and the process is the same.  You will just want to document your current network settings before doing this.

Also note that if you are running ClearOS, you can try it via the marketplace.

Download The Custom DNSthingy Firmware For Your ASUS Model Router

Update The Firmware

  1. Open your router’s Web interface by going to http://router.asus.com/
  2. Navigate to Administration > Firmware Upgrade
  3. Click Choose File
  4. Select the .trx file downloaded from the previous section
  5. Follow the on-screen prompts and wait for the upgrade to complete

Clear The NVRAM Using A 30-30-30 Reset

If you have ever flashed a router before using something like DD-WRT, this will be familiar.  The process essentially erases NVRAM (non-volatile RAM), which contains configuration information. This is necessary in order for the DNSthingy-specific configuration to work.

  1. Press and hold the WPS button for 30 seconds
  2. While still holding the button, remove power and wait for 30 seconds
  3. While still holding the button, apply power and continue to hold for 30 seconds
  4. Release the button
  5. Power off your router
  6. Wait 10 seconds
  7. Power on your router

Register Your Box ID With DNSthingy

  1. Log into your newly-flashed router at http://mybox.management (which redirects you to https://mybox.management:8080/)
  2. It will appear as though you’re going through the steps to get the router online, but it’s using the new firmware
  3. Navigate to DNSthingy and enter your BoxID to register it
  4. Open your dashboard to manage your settings

From the dashboard, you can manage all the previously mentioned settings.  Plus, your Internet experience should now be faster!