A roadmap to reclaiming my attention and time
Last edited in October 2022
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,
- latex to write templates of letters, invoices,
- find to search for files (instead of using some SaaS like Evernote),
- grep to search for text through text files,
- openvpn to connect to the VPN server I use,
- atril to view pdf,
- bc to run calculation,
- 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),
- 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 “send” emails offline,
- vlc 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: podcast, radio programme or music (and listen offline),
- youtube-dl to play video or music locally and offline,
- diff to compare text files,
- mount and umount to manage external storage e.g USB sticks, backup drive,
- tail, head, sort, uniq.
Table of Contents
- 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.
- Deleted my accounts with LinkedIn, Twitter, Airbnb and Signal messenger (Why delete Signal? Because it is a walled-garden; no interoperability)
- Stopped using my MacBook (and MacOS); I now use a second-hand PC laptop from 2012 where I installed the operating system Trisquel GNU/Linux as my main computer.
- Removed Duckduckgo as my default search engine because it is proprietary - 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.
- Got an old second-hand laptop and installed the operating system Trisquel GNU/Linux with the aim of switch from Mac to GNU/Linux.
- Replaced Books (on Mac) with Calibre to manage my ebook library. Next step is to get an e-reader built on Open Book printed circuit board (PCB).
- Ended Spotify subscription and deleted account.
- Started to send printed pictures via post to my friends instead of digital pictures.
- Stopped carrying my mobile phone by default when I leave my house.
- Started using an RSS reader.1
- Started to send more (postal) letters to my friends. (What will be left from our relationships if all interactions and memories are digitised?)
- Started to send less instant messages to friends and people. I call instead. We miss the subtlety of relationships via instant messages. Also, instant messages let us put the burden on others without investing much energy ourselves. In other words, we can demand the attention of others by sending an instant message without committing to invest the attention to listen to them. I am not saying instant messages are useful or to be avoided.
- Switched back to an old dumb phone I had in my drawer as my main phone. Also, I did not want that switch to be an excuse to buy one of this “new” dumb phone which value proposition is to help people recover the time and energy they wast on smartphone.
- Resumed using an analog camera.
- Resumed using a dumb MP3 player where I can “drag and drop” music and audio book.
- 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
- Deleted email application from my smartphone.
- Started a mailing list3.
- Limited myself to check Facebook only once a day.
- Deleted ‘social media’ applications or applications that use infinite scroll from my smartphone.
- Started to use Signal
On the Web
|software||deprecated or deleted*||replaced with||license||organisation|
|deleted in 2018||I call people, send a newsletter, write postcards, letters, et cetera||-||-|
I don’t know
|deprecated||twtxt||MIT License||License held by the developer|
|Amazon||deprecated||bookstores in my neighbourhood4
|deprecated in 2016
deprecated in 2021
|Gmail||deprecated in 2017||ProtonMail||MIT License & GNU GPLv3||commercial|
|Google Calendar||deprecated in 2017||a calendar notebook
and Thunderbird to deal with e-invites
|Google Drive||deprecated in 2019||I no longer need a cloud cause I have only one device; no need to sync||-||-|
|Google Doc||deprecated in 2019||LibreOffice Writer
License held by Tzu-ping Chung
|Google Sheet||deprecated in 2019||LibreOffice Calc||-||-|
|Google Slide||deprecated in 2019||I don’t use slides these days||-||-|
|Google Alerts||deprecated in 2019||I stopped using Alerts. I had already too much information to deal with.||-||-|
|YouTube||deprecated in 2020||-||-||-|
|Spotify||deleted in 2020||personal playlists on MP3 files
|Netflix||deleted in 2020||no replacement,
I do more reading, and I sleep earlier
& GNU GPLv2
License held by Junio Hamano & others
License held by Tzu-ping Chung
|GitHub||I don’t know yet|
|Substack||deprecated||I don’t know yet|
|Quora||deleted in 2020||-||-||-|
|Blablacar (ridesharing)||deprecated in 2021||Mobicoop||GNU GPLv3||cooperative|
|Netlify||I don’t know yet|
*Accounts are surprisingly difficult to delete! Even once I stopped using them.
This blog use to be a Medium account. Now I use Blot which I really like. My aim is to self-host.
I still use a few proprietary software ran by commercial entities. The plan is to switch to Libre software ran by non-profit.
On my laptop (MacBook)
|software||deprecated or deleted||replace with||license||organization|
|Joplin||MIT License||License held by the developer, Laurent Cozic|
Apache License 2.0
|Books||deleted||Calibre||GNU GPLv3||License held by the developer, Kovid Goyal|
|Screen capture||deprecated||Kap||MIT License||commercial|
|Map||deprecated||OpenStreetMap||Open Database License (ODbL)||non-profit|
|Dashlane||deprecated||KeePassXC||GPL||License held by the developers|
With other “smart” devices: ditch them
I want to ditch “smart” devices and replace them with “dumb” devices.
“Smart” is a euphemism.
This is the plain-word explanation of “smart device”:
a “smart device” is a device that substitutes for your cognitive resources while collecting personal data and metadata.
|smartphone||2020-07||an old dumb phone
an analog camera
a $25 MP3 player
a $10 alarm clock
a pen & note-book
a paper map
a $15 quartz watch
a paperback book or a magazine
|Kindle||not yet||a homemade e-reader built w/ Open Book PCB||MIT License||License held by the maker|
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↩︎