De-Servicing Life: Revised

A few months ago, I began a journey of mainly de-Googleing, but other services as well. I've made some good and bad choices in terms of alternatives for myself so I have begun revising my choices.

Drive Storage

Provider

Previously, I chose pCloud, mainly due to their Linux support. They have a Linux client which mounts as a standard drive. Using it for over a month, I had no issues. Its desktop app and Android app work flawlessly. Their pricing is also really fair.

However, through an Exodus scan, I found it used several trackers including Facebook specific ones (even the Facebook SSO SDK). I emailed their support about this privacy concern, twice, and received a complete "robot response" back after a couple weeks of wait. They simply stated they can not remove it and ensured its safe — Goodbye!

I considered jumping to Sync next, which is a truly great Canadian-based service focused on privacy and security of your data. They have great pricing as well, similar to pCloud.

Apps

However, I had an itch and decided to go the self-hosted route. Using my Pi 1 Model B, I attempted to install NextCloud. Yes, I knew of the performance issues with NextCloud on Pi, but I didn't care at the time — I was determined.

In practice though, it was true, the thing is a beast to try and run on a little 700mhz CPU with <1GB RAM board... I had to bail on it. Of course, I could purchase a DigitalOcean server to host NextCloud 1-click, but at this point I was still determined to keep it self-hosted.

I then discovered Syncthing. Syncthing has a large following and its open source, with clients for all the major platforms. It works by syncing folders you choose, to only the devices you choose in a secure way. This means every device you share that folder to, will get a copy of the same data synced. It also offers several revision control options. I haven been using it now for over a month to hold my data (of course with regular backups) and have had no issues, plus everything is self-hosted this way!

Solution: Desktop & Mobile (Syncthing)

Communication

Provider

I'm still with the same private email hosting provider, which handles my mail well, calendar, and contacts; through CalDav and CardDav.

The only downside is no automated Birthdays & Events calendar like other services generate based on your contacts. Luckily, I found this app, "Contact Events & Birthdays FREE". It will list our any events in your contacts... for birthdays, it'll say how far away the birthday is, plus the person's age, it will also list out any anniversaries. Further, it will notify you ahead of time. It has a solid privacy policy, and sniffing the requests it doesn't seem to have anything out of the ordinary.

Solution: Remained the same

Apps

On mobile, I tried a lot of options but some failed to work well with my work email (gSuite), or some plain didn't work. K9, which I do like because its open source, hasn't been updated in ages, the UI makes it hard to read and navigate. MailDroid was a good one as well, however I had trouble with it loading and parsing attachments, its notifications didn't seem to come in correctly as well. Nine, while praised, is $25; it works well but I am not sure I will commit to it yet.

So for now, I'm stuck with stock gMail app still.

On the desktop, I've moved over to Evolution which seems to work for my personal and work quite well. A few bugs here and there but I can get around them.

Solution: Mobile (None) — Desktop (Evolution)

Office Suite

I have fully moved off of using Google to manage my documents. I now use LibreOffice and simple Markdown documents where I can with Typora.

With Syncthing running, I can edit documents on my computer and it will sync to my devices. For Markdown, I use Typora on the desktop and on Android I use an app called Markor.

The only thing I can not find is an open source office suite for Android. Previous I tried PolarisOffice but it's riddled with ads and trackers.

For todo lists, I moved away finally from Todoist. I regular use todo list but I don't need anything heavy. I settled on a simple todo.txt file synced with Syncthing. I am able to edit this on desktop and mobile through Markor (which has todo.txt support built in).

Solution: Mobile (Markor, but no Office Suite yet) — Desktop ( LibreOffice + Typora)

Backups

I am still self-hosting... I regularly run bash scripts monthly to gather all the data I need, compress it, and sync it (through Syncthing) to an external drive as well as my Pi. With multiple copies and drives, I feel safe in this regard.

Solution: Remained the same

Photos

Sadly, no update here. Still stuck on Google Photos. I am investigating building my own solution using face_recognition library for Python. With some initial code I have some good success, the problem is finding the time to code the thing.

Solution: None

Misc

Other than that, I run blocking on all my desktop and mobile browsers. I have also setup Blokada on my Android. Blokada is open source, available on F-Droid and works by creating a local VPN on your device to run requests through. It will block tracking domains, ad domains, and more, instantly. I no longer see ads on any webpage or app I use, its successfully blocked over 10,000 of these requests for me so far in a month!

For RSS feeds, I have dropped Feedly. I now use a synced OPML list for desktop and devices. On desktop I use QuiteRSS which is fully featured and a Thunderbird-like interface to it for managing articles. On mobile, I am using Fylm, which is available on F-Droid and open source. The only downside is not having synced what was alread read or not read, but its fairly easy for me to find the point of where I left off.

I'm slowly trying to move over everything else remaining to open source apps if possible and am almost complete in my journey to de-service myself... cheers!


Photo credit: Mael BALLAND

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