December 22, 2020

A roadmap to reclaiming my attention and time

Last edited in February 2023

This is a page to document my move to quit using proprietary software, SaaS (Software as a Service) or the cloud” (i.e. servers ran by third-parties).

When I started this I was seeking to replace each proprietary software (or SaaS or cloud service”) I used with a privacy-friendly” alternative. But after a while I realised that privacy-friendly” software were often similar to proprietary software in essence. Some were partially proprietary like Duckduckgo the privacy-friendly” alternative to Google, or with motivation that diverge from user’s best interest, for example they have investors thus will prioritise their what’s best for their investments. Other privacy-friendly” software ran in the cloud, on the server of a third-party company; they restrict users with the freedom to run a copy locally, for example. So I eventually set myself on seeking free software and run these locally, on my computer. No SaaS, no cloud. These days I even try to run more of the stuff I use to do online” i.e. on remote servers, locally on my computer e.g. bike itinerary routing, foreign language translations, checking time in another time zone.

Also, first, when I started, I was thinking in terms of substitutes e.g. “which software can I use to replace Google Alert, or LinkedIn?”, but as I moved further towards using copyleft-licensed software and running software and computing tasks locally, the way I use my computer has evolved away from habits which had been shaped by the design of software by companies which think in terms of creating software to create financial wealth to software which are developed by contributors who seek to build a tool they will rely on themselves, and that which others other can use freely if they wish to do so. The motivations of developers who build a software, whether they are driven by the financial profit or just building something they want to use and that other can also use (i.e. a common good) impact the way the software and its usage. So it no longer made sense to think in terms of substitutes.

To give the reader an idea of where I am at in my move away from proprietary software, SaaS and cloud”, it is best to list the programmes I now use (mostly from the command line):

  • less to view text files,
  • vim to do text edit (including writing emails),
  • git to keep track of files’ versions, changes, etc.
  • pandoc to convert files from Markdown to pdf, from html to epub or pdf,
  • latex to write templates of letters, invoices,
  • find to search for files (I use it all the time)
  • grep to search for text through text files,
  • openvpn to connect to the VPN server I use,
  • atril to view pdf,
  • wc to count words in vim,
  • history (or CRTL + R)
  • backintime to backup the home folder of my computer,
  • date to check the time in other time zones,
  • keepassxc to store passwords,
  • abrowser to read html files (and browser www),
  • tor,
  • mutt to read emails locally/offline and send emails,
  • mbsync to download emails locally,
  • msmtp to send emails from mutt or from the command line,
  • msmtp-queue to queue emails to be sent later when I am online,
  • abook as an address book,
  • cvlc or nvlc to watch videos, listen to music or audio books,
  • sed & echo to edit files
  • wget to download webpages (and read offline) or to download MP3 files from webpages e.g. radio programmes, podcasts, so I can copy them on my MP3 player,
  • youtube-dl so that I can play video or music locally and offline,
  • diff to compare text files,
  • cat to display content of, for example, my own wiki files in the terminal,
  • mount and umount to manage external storage e.g USB sticks, backup drive,
  • tail, head, sort, uniq,
  • xclip,
  • tar, gzip,
  • apt-get or dpkg to install, update or remove programmes, or update the operating system,
  • sc as a spreadsheet.

Run $ man in your terminal to check what each of the programmes above is about.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions or thoughts.

Table of Contents


  • 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, Airbnb and Signal messenger.
  • 2022-03
    • Switched to a 2012 second-hand laptop running Trisquel GNU/Linux as my main computer.
  • 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).
    • Removed (proprietary) Duckduckgo as my default search engine - same as Google. I now use MetaGer, a search engine that is published (1) under copyleft licence (2) by a non-profit organisation.
    • Deactivated my accounts on LinkedIn and Twitter (and later deleted in 2022).
    • Buy a 2012 second-hand laptop and installed the operating system Trisquel GNU/Linux to replace my Mac.
  • 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.
  • 2020-09
    • Started using an RSS reader.1
  • 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 rather than using a smartphone; plus, paper and pen is best for thinking.2
  • 2018-07
    • Deleted email application from my smartphone.
  • 2018-03
    • Deleted my Facebook account.
  • 2017-08
    • Started a mailing list3.
  • 2017-05
    • Limited myself to check Facebook only once a day (and subsequently deleted it in 2018).
  • 2017-04
    • Deleted social media’ applications or applications that use infinite scroll from my smartphone.
  • 2016
    • Started to use Signal (and subsequently deleted it in 2022).


  2. Pam A. Mueller, Daniel M. Oppenheimer (2014), The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking, aps, Vol 25, Issue 6; Faria Sanaa, Tina Weston, Nicholas J.Cepeda (2013), Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers, Computers & Education Volume 62, pages 24-31; Anne Mangen, Liss Gøril Anda, Gunn H. Oxborough, Kolbjørn Kallesten Brønnick (2015), Handwriting versus Keyboard Writing: Effect on Word Recall, Journal of Writing Research, 7(2):227-247↩︎


personal computing gnu linux trisquel command-line interface (cli)

No affiliate links, no analytics, no tracking, no cookies. © 2016-2023 Content is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 .