December 22, 2020

A roadmap to reclaiming my attention and time

Last edited in July 2024

Table of Contents

Introduction: what is this about?

I used to be hooked to a plethora of mobile apps, clouds, and a smartphone.

This was consuming too much of my time and attention.

This was in 2017.

Since then, I got rid of my smartphone and have been trying to figure how to do regain agency over the digital technologies I use.

I have been documenting this transition on this page.

My motivation for starting this weblog is to steer the conversation away from the idea that there is no alternative”, it’s too late” et cetera, which is also what my full time work is about (see homepage).

A few notes on how to choose software

The privacy-friendly” fallacy.

When I started this in 2017, I was seeking to replace each software (or SaaS or cloud”) I used with a privacy-friendly” alternative. However, after a while, I realised that privacy-friendly” software are often similar to proprietary software, in essence. For example, Duckduckgo is proprietary, like Google; a lot of privacy-friendly” tools also are. Other privacy-friendly” run on third-party servers, etc. I was struggling to convince myself that what privacy-friendly” are the panacea.

Doing things locally without the internet.

So after my privacy-friendly” stint, I moved onto seeking to use (1) Free Software alternatives and (2) run these programmes locally, e.g. on my computer. No SaaS, no cloud, only freely distributed software (that is different from Open Source!) running on my machine or on servers I run. I have even come to run some trivial tasks locally, like checking date and time in another time zone — instead of constantly having to rely on the search engine” and the internet, in other words: the computer of others. Now I use my computer as much as I can. It also has the advantage of being energy efficient1.

These days I manage to do my work offline. My current laptop does not connect to WiFi. I connect to the internet via an Ethernet cable when I need to download or send emails, pull or push to repositories, download files. Then I go back and work offline. I have everything I need locally. I know not everyone can do this.

The (non-copyleft) Free Software trap.

One step further to this (that is where I am at today, as of April 2023) is to seek copyleft-licensed software (e.g. GPL), rather than permissive-licensed software (e.g. MIT Licence).

Why do so?

Software licensed under a permissive (non-copyleft) licence, such as the MIT Licence, can end up proprietary (some of the readers will find this obvious). As one blogger puts it (I paraphrase): developers writing software under non-copyleft permissive licences are essentially writing software that will end up proprietary.

There are no alternatives.

One last point before I list the programme I use: when I first started, I was thinking in terms of substitutes e.g. “what tool can I use to replace Google Alert or Signal?”, but as I moved further towards adopting copyleft-licensed software and running programmes locally, the way I use my computer evolved away from habits which had been shaped by (the motivations of proprietary) software companies.

I found that using copyleft-licensed programmes locally, often written by agents first motivated by their own (computing) needs, has reshaped how I use digital technologies. The initial approach I had of seeking alternatives” has become vain. So now, sharing the plain list of programmes I use makes more sense than sharing a column-by-column, showing for instance what I use instead of Google Doc. That said, if you want see a path of my journey of letting go of proprietary software and the likes, go to the section of that post titled Journal, below.

Programmes and utilities I use

and: umount, tar, gzip, tail, head, sort.

Other programmes which I found interest in but have not put into use: simple scan; checkinstall; ffmpeg; which; whereis; diff & patch.

You can also check the commands and shortcuts I use here.

Scripts I use

Guide I wrote

Tutorials I wrote

Feel free to email me if you are trying to adopt these programmes and have any questions. It took me a while to do so - see my journal below.

Journal: from 2017 to present

You can get updates from this journal by following yctct on twtxt:

  • 2024-07
  • 2024-04
  • 2024-03
  • 2024-02
  • 2024-01
  • 2023-12
    • Set up an email server at home by port-forwarding to a VPS to get a static IP (tutorials to be edited)
  • 2023-10
    • Deleted my Github account.
  • 2023-08
  • 2023-03
  • 2022-11
    • Deleted my Airbnb account.
  • 2022-10
    • Deleted my iCloud account I had created in 2009 when I first bought a MacBook.
    • Deleted the account I had with a password manager in the cloud”; I now use a password manager locally (i.e. on my computer only) and copyleft-licensed.
  • 2022-06
    • Deleted my accounts with LinkedIn, Twitter and Signal messenger.
    • Deprecated my Proton Mail account.
    • Started using an email address with my own domain name.
  • 2022-03
    • Switched to a second-hand laptop running Trisquel GNU/Linux as my main computer.
    • Deleted the last note-taking app I was using; I had been using note taking app since 2009.
    • Stopped using a Zettelkasten.
  • 2022-01
    • Deleted my accounts with WhatsApp, Uber, Netlify and Lyft
  • 2021-08
    • Deactivated my accounts with LinkedIn and Twitter (and subsequently deleted them in 2022).
    • Stopped using the proprietary search engine Duckduckgo (same as Google). I now use MetaGer, a search engine that is distributed freely (1) under copyleft licence (2) by a non-profit organisation
    • Bought a 13-year-old second-hand laptop for $150 and installed the operating system Trisquel GNU/Linux to eventually replace my Mac (which I did in 2022)
  • 2021-01
    • Deleted all my articles on Medium and deprecated my account (now deleted).
  • 2020-11
    • Ended Spotify and Netflix subscription and deleted my accounts.
    • Started to send printed pictures via post to my friends instead of digital pictures.
  • 2020-10
    • Stopped carrying my mobile phone by default when I leave home.
    • Started using an app to start a Zettelkasten (deleting the note-taking app and stopped using Zettelkasten in March 2022).
  • 2020-09
    • Started using an RSS reader.
  • 2020-08
    • Started to send more (postal) letters and postcards.
    • Started to send less instant messages. I call instead.
  • 2020-07
    • Switched back to an old dumb phone I had in my drawer as my main phone.
    • Resumed using an analog camera.
    • Resumed using a dumb MP3 player where I can drag and drop” music and audio files.
  • 2020-05
    • Replaced Pages, Number, Keynote, Notes, Mail, iCal, Screen capture, the proprietary password manager I used with free (libre) software alternatives.
  • 2019-07
    • Resumed using a pocket-size notebook and a pen to take notes on-the-go.
  • 2018-07
    • Deleted email application from my smartphone.
  • 2018-03
    • Deleted my Facebook account.
  • 2017-08
    • Started a mailing list4.
  • 2017-05
    • Limited myself to check Facebook only once a day; I would usually do so after lunch, connect for 15-20minutes, answer messages, check a few things and disconnect until the next day. This once-a-day-after-lunch rule helped me get my usage of Facebook under control, and consequently, reduce it drastically. I subsequently deleted it in 2018)
  • 2017-0n4
    • Deleted social media’ applications from my mobile phone (I’ve deleted them all as of 2023; the last I deleted was LinkedIn in 2022. I also deleted Github in 2023 if you categorise this website as a social network”. That is an attempt by Microsoft to intertwine our working life with its digital infrastructure in a way that a developer would seemingly no longer exist if they don’t have a Github account.)
    • Deleted all applications using infinite scroll from my mobile phone (I stopped using a smartphone in 2020)
  • 2016
    • Started using Signal (and subsequently deleted my account in 2022).
    • Started using ProtonMail (and subsequently deprecated it in 2022)

  • 2009
    • Switched to Mac from Windows (I later quit using Apple products in 2022).

  1. ICT sector on par with global aviation industry”–Software Licensing For A Circular Economy, KDE Eco↩︎

  2. Ubuntu and Debian come with proprietary blobs by default.↩︎

  3. for those who confuse information with knowledge↩︎

  4. Paused as of 2020; I am focusing on my research.↩︎

personal computing gnu linux trisquel command-line interface (cli) office applications shell literacy digital literacy blog post offline

No affiliate links, no analytics, no tracking, no cookies. This work © 2016-2024 by yctct is licensed under CC BY-ND 4.0 .   about me   contact me   all entries & tags   FAQ   GPG public key

GPG fingerprint: 2E0F FB60 7FEF 11D0 FB45 4DDC E979 E52A 7036 7A88