Happy Monday, everyone!

We made it to Issue #84! Thank you to everyone who read last week’s issue ❤️

Today’s Spotlighted Indie Dev

📆 Today I’m featuring Joost van den Akker.

Joost is the creator of Pi-hole Remote and AdGuard Home Remote. Pi-hole Remote and AdGuard Home Remote are third party applications that let you quickly enable/disable blocking features, viewing statistics, and more! Pi-hole and AdGuard Home are open source applications that can be installed on devices such as Raspberry Pis to block certain URLs. Both Pi-hole and AdGuard are mainly used to block ads on a network level. This means that everybody and every device in your home network will be protected from being tracked by ads and from being shown ads 🙌 The dashboards can be a little complex to use (especially from a mobile device) and this is where Joost saw an opportunity! Pi-hole Remote and AdGuard Home Remote are both designed to be super functional and easy to use for an iPhone but also Apple Watch, Mac, and more! I’d highly recommend checking out either of these apps if you are running PiHole or AdGuard Home already or are thinking about it 😁

👉 Please make sure to follow them or support them anyway you can! 😇 I’m excited to share their indie dev stories.

Indie Dev

Joost van den Akker

‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands

Part-time freelancer and creator of Pi-home Remote and AdGuard Home Remote

Joost van den Akker


1) What is your name? Where do you live (city or general area)?

Hi! I’m Joost van den Akker, 25 years old, and I live near ‘s-Hertogenbosch in The Netherlands .

2) Introduce yourself. Education? Background? Main job? Interests outside of tech? Interests inside of tech?

Since high school I’ve always struggled a bit with what I wanted to do; school and ‘studying for the sake of studying’ didn’t really excite me much. During high school and my studies in Information Sciences at Utrecht University, I’ve always been more attracted to side-projects: shooting/editing videos, designing and building websites, dipping my tows into app development, etc.

This really kickstarted when I first used an iMac which - together with the 2nd generation iPad (believe it or not) - opened the door to a world of creative things I could suddenly do! Steve was right: a bicycle for the mind 😉..

After my studies I first started working as a QA Engineer, focussing on mobile testing and test automation. I’ve also tried some design-work and built a website and apps for my student e sports association TSEA Link, while exploring what path I wanted to take in terms of work/career.

I love traveling (🦠🙅), I’m slowly trying to learn Japanese, and lately I’m really interested in anything related to climate change. Oh and space 🚀!! Regarding tech you can hear me ramble an entire evening about home automation, electric cars, and whatever Apple’s up to.

3) Have you ever considered yourself an indie developer?

Last month I left my old jobby-job and started my new hobby-job: focussing more on my own apps and new ideas, while making ends meet with part-time freelance positions. So right now: yes!

4) What got you started/interested in creating your own applications outside of your “normal” job?

I found out the most awesome thing about building an app - or basically anything else - yourself, is that it can provide so much variation in what you do. It’s hard for me to do the same thing for a long period of time.

I love the process of thinking about what app you could build that you might find useful yourself, playing around in Sketch to create a design, tinkering in Xcode to get the thing to work, testing it, and eventually getting it in the hands of people. Want to focus more on design today? Go for it! Feel like coding all day? Just do it! I also love being able to continuously iterate on them together with users.

5) How do you balance your time between friends/family, work, hobbies, and indie dev?

Before, working on my own apps really was mostly a hobby of mine, so I spent evenings & weekends on it. I did have the luxury of working 4 days instead of 5 to balance things out a bit and working from home made it a bit easier as well. I recommend the book Grip by Rick Pastoor which has great tips on how find a great balance and set goals.

6) Pi-hole, AdGuard - To be honest, I am not a Pi-hole or AdGuard user (at the moment) but I’m really intrigued by them both and I feel like my time is coming 😛 How do Pi-hole and AdGuard work and what got you interested in making remotes for them?

In short, Pi-hole and AdGuard Home provide network-wide blocking for ads & trackers by replacing your home DNS server. You can compare DNS with a kind of ‘phone book’ for your network. This new phone book is one that deliberately leaves out certain entries. If it doesn’t have entries for domains that are serving ads, trackers, and other creepy stuff, all the devices on your network won’t be able to ‘find’ them! Voilà, a network-wide blocker. Both Pi-hole and AdGuard Home are open source and it’s easy to install on a Raspberry or other device.

Being privacy conscious, I’ve started using Pi-hole myself and noticed it would be awesome if I could disable blocking temporarily with an app instead of the web-interface they provide. Insight in statistics would be cool too.. Oh what about widgets.. And what if I could even disable it from my wrist.. 😉

7) Pi-hole - There are so many features in Pi-hole! I started to list some of them but this question got really long 🤦‍♂️ What were your initial goals for Pi-hole and how has it evolved? What were the most fun features to build?

The initial v1.0 that I released in the App Store just had disable/enable functionality & I loved iterating on it from there: adding statistics, then widgets, a query log, etc; it has really evolved a bunch! I really liked building the widgets, because of the utility they provide. The ‘Lists’ functionality was a lot of fun to build as well.

Screenshots from Initial 1.0

Screenshots from today’s version

8) Pi-hole, AdGuard - It looks like you support all of the Apple platforms including tvOS and watchOS! Which platforms are your favorite to build for? Were there any things that surprised you in any of the platforms?

I think iOS is still my favorite platform, I feel like it gives me the most design-freedom compared to other platforms. This might sound strange because the platform has many guidelines and restrictions, but I feel like there are so many amazing and diverse (indie-)apps I can draw inspiration from.

The difficulty of building a good UI on watchOS & tvOS surprised me, I feel like these platforms really make you think twice on how to build something intuitive.

9) Pi-hole - I think I saw on your website that this was your first app built with SwiftUI. I’ve been having so much fun with it! How was your experience? Was there anything you had to drop back into UIKit or AppKit for?

I love SwiftUI. It makes it so easy to build UIs and honestly I don’t think I could ever build something with UIKit again - crazy right?! The first iteration of SwiftUI in iOS 13 was pretty rough and missing a lot, even now 3 years later it’s still missing some basic stuff that could have been made so much easier (Want a native refreshable view that’s not a List but a ScrollView? Good luck). Right now I only use UIKit for the Safari share extension.

10) Pi-hole, AdGuard - What is your favorite part of Pi-hole and AdGuard outside of development? Do you have any fun tips or tricks you can share about promotion, support, or customer communication?

Definitely customer communication. I love talking to users and listening to their suggestions for new features or improvements. I strongly believe it’s best to build an app 20 people really love instead of an app 1000 people ‘just like’. By constantly co-creating with my users, I feel like the apps can really improve in meaningful ways.

11) Pi-hole, AdGuard - What’s next?! Do you have any future features planned that you can share with us?

Yes! I’m currently working on some Local DNS functionality for Pi-hole Remote and the next version of AdGuard Home Remote will include major improvements to DHCP management 🌟 I’m often sharing more on Twitter: PHR & AGHR.

Oh and I’m building a new Anime & Manga tracker app called ManGo, slide in my DM’s if you want to try it!

12) What’s been the hardest part of being an indie dev? What the most fun part of being an indie dev?

Having full ‘ownership’ of your apps, you can do whatever you want - which is a double edged sword, I have to watch out not to feel rushed all the time. For example I’ve been releasing large monthly updates to both apps, which is awesome, but it’s fine to take it easy every once in a while! I think what I enjoy most is the variation what I mentioned before.

13) Is there anything else you’d like to tell the indie dev community about you?

Feel free to contact me on Twitter (@joost_akker) if you have more questions about anything or if you want to work together! I really enjoy my indie-dev journey like so far and would love to help people with theirs as well.

14) Do you have any other indie devs that readers should follow / lookout for?

People that inspire me: @ryanashcraft, @thatvirtualboy, @Dennissimeau, @jordibruin, @mecid, @ChristianSelig.

Newly Released and Updated Indie Apps

None this week which is totally okay!

If you would like to possibly see your app in this list, please submit your app to the look at me form 👀

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