Randonautica is an app that takes your current location and suggests a random route through some specified radius. I like any kind of aid to serendipity, so I wanted to bookmark it for the future.
“While every smartphone user wants to be prepared with comprehensive data backups in case their phone is lost or stolen, not every Android user wants to entrust their sensitive data to Google’s cloud-based storage. By storing data outside Google’s reach, and by using client-side encryption to protect all backed-up data, Seedvault offers users maximum data privacy with minimal hassle.
Seedvault allows Android users to store their phone data without relying on Google’s proprietary cloud storage. Users can decide where their phone’s backup will be stored, with options ranging from a USB flash drive to a remote self-hosted cloud storage alternative such as NextCloud. Seedvault also offers an Auto-Restore feature: instead of permanently losing all data for an app when it is uninstalled, Seedvault’s Auto-Restore will restore all backed-up data for the app upon reinstallation.–Seedvault
“Turn-by-turn navigation, HD Traffic, OpenStreetMap, 3D maps, Satellite maps, Offline maps and Transit. Entirely free.”—https://www.magicearth.com/
A privacy friendly alternative to Google Maps.
Hey! Vina is a Tinder-style app for women to meet other women and become friends.
SkyView “is a beautiful and intuitive stargazing app that uses your camera to precisely spot and identify celestial objects in sky, day or night. Find popular constellations as they fade in and out while you scan across the sky, locate planets in our solar system, discover distant galaxies, and witness satellite fly-bys.”
If you need a pub server, try: http://ssb.learningsocieties.org
“Intra protects you from DNS manipulation, a cyber attack used to block access to news sites, social media platforms and messaging apps.”
An app from Google’s Jigsaw Team that incorporates encrypted DNS lookups that come stock in 9 into older versions of Android. Not as good as using a VPN, but better than nothing.
“My phone never buzzes or beeps — unless someone calls me more than twice in a row, which is a setting I turned on in case of emergency — and the screen never flashes some distracting reminder of all the other nonsense I could be giving my attention. Even when my phone is open or in use, all the alerts stay neatly tucked away in the pulldown menu.”
—Paris Martineau. “Put Your Phone in Do Not Disturb Mode Forever.” The Outline. August 28, 2018.
A year ago, I deleted my Facebook account. It was a bit of a watershed moment for my digital life because it was the start of a process, where I took a hard look at my use of the “free” services offered by Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple and tried to assess whether other alternatives, particularly paid ones, were better based on factoring in other considerations than cost.
Facebook was the obvious starting point. On the plus side, it helped me to keep in touch with my extended family, a few groups I liked to participate in use the platform, and the calendar of events integration into Google calendar made it very easy to plan and take advantage of all the events my city has to offer.
On the negative side, those benefits came with a cost to my well-being and to society at large. During the U.S. election, it gave me a window into the thought-processes of people in my extended social circle, and I found I started liking them a lot less. It was obvious to me that people were being manipulated, less obvious to me is that I was one of those people. Reading “The Data That Turned The World Upside Down,” I had a realization that Facebook was manipulating everyone’s thoughts and interactions that used it, and by continuing to use it, I was essentially saying it was alright. It wasn’t.
But, once your mind goes down that route, then you can’t stop. You have to look at everything. Google has more than double the advertising revenue of Facebook. Yet, I used Google for almost everything, such as email, photo storage, contacts, etc. And, the influence they have, such as the companies that surface when using search, maps, or their other products is profound, but the algorithm is even more opaque than Facebook’s. You really have no idea what kind of influence Google is having over your choices, and it is impossible to have any transparency about what is going on behind the scenes and the intent behind it. Again, using Google means you agree the convenience is worth being manipulated. For me, it wasn’t worth it.
I changed my search engine to DuckDuckGo. I switched off of Gmail to one email provider then another. I switched off Google Drive to NextCloud, a free software cloud storage solution. With Nextcloud, I was able to migrate documents, pictures, contacts and notes off of Google’s servers. Some services, such as managing RSS feeds, were also part of NextCloud, which Google chose to no longer support when they retired Google Reader.
And once you go this far, it’s a short step to look at things like Wallabag to replace Feedly. Or eliminating other social media applications that are affiliated with feudal Internet companies, such as Instagram, Whatsapp, Hangouts, etc.
Once there, I was able to take bigger steps, such as installing LineageOS onto my android phone and Linux on the desktop to replace Microsoft Windows. Or using free alternatives to apps, such as those in F-Droid over those in Google Play or LibreOffice instead of the Microsoft Office suite. These moves were organic extensions of the thought processes quitting Facebook began.
Still, some things have no ready replacements. If you don’t use Google Maps, what are the alternatives? Those that exist are objectively nowhere near as good.
Choosing to not use Amazon is possible, but it comes with significant inconvenience, trade-offs and costs. Is it better to go to Wal-Mart rather than order from Amazon? What about paying 20% more by shopping elsewhere? Consider that over half of U.S. households have a subscription to Amazon Prime. Shipping costs alone make shopping for some products online prohibitive.
For Amazon, I’ve stopped buying ebooks from them. There is a lot of reading material to choose from in this world. I try to stick to DRM free books, but failing that, I try to use services that are not Amazon and available via the library, such as OverDrive. While OverDrive is not as good from a reading experience perspective, it does have the advantage of not being part of the feudal Internet.
The only Apple product I have ever used is iTunes and iPod related devices. I find other programs integrating my music collection to be easier to use. So, my exposure to Apple is negligible.
Being against the feudal Internet is swimming against the stream of convenience. It means more cost, more aggravation, and more of your time troubleshooting problems that would “just work” if you let Google, Apple or Microsoft manage everything for you.
Looking back after a year, choosing the path less travelled by has indeed made all the difference. Not everyone can do it — due to financial, time, or other constraints — but it is worth doing, if you can.