oda: Chrome tab with a sad face on blue-violet field field (degoogle)
2011-12-06 10:41 am

Rambling Update, Continued Random Bits of De-Google

Prying myself out of the cloud is hard when I've continued to be too ill to get much usable time in the day. So I'm going for ambient effects. It's kind of morphing into a general 'why aren't we doing proper backups anyway?' project, too. The backup coverage is not as tragic as all that -- Dropbox and other cloud services are pretty good for covering the gaps, and my raw photos all end up in a locked flickr stream, but there's a definite dependence on external cloud services that I don't want to fix by just paying a new cloud service. (Even though that would at least be a matter of aligned interests.)

So... let's see. Thunderbird still seems useful, but I'm mostly using it for archival and not really reading mail in it. That's probably not a plus, but to be honest I'm not reading/replying to a lot of mail at all. I've noted the presence of a portable Thunderbird, which means it can be run out of a crypted space or cloud synced share or both, and that's very interesting. A synced/encrypted Thunderbird that can live in a dropbox and/or memory stick is about as handy as Gmail without being web-based, and it's very flexible about who it will talk to. The person who kindly hosts my mail has been busy, so no IMAP there yet; I imagine I will want to use Thunderbird a lot more once there's IMAP for my main mail.

I like Dropbox and I liked Mesh before it stopped working on XP, and in general I like multi-way sync, especially with versioning. I do not know if I like Dropbox enough to pay for it, especially with the privacy concerns, even with tack-ons to encrypt the contents (I would rather give money to people who get it right, as a point of principle.) I've been comparing to Spideroak for a while now... but haven't tried the Spideroak sync yet. I think I want to play around with Spideroak sync and then decide. I prefer Spideroak's ethos, and it's a true backup solution with sync tacked on, which may be more what we need anyhow. Where Dropbox really shines is around shared files, so I need to see if Spideroak can be usable that way as well.

Spideroak does seem to work pretty well, with the exception of some cruftiness with iTunes, which is the major reason I use it -- it builds up a lot of copies and I have to go in and manually delete them to make room. What I'd like to do is set up a policy to only keep certain ones, like a tiered incremental plan. It also seems to back up the entire library over and over again, rather than doing change-only partial backups as promised. Possibly because it's almost always open and iTunes isn't a very polite app and may not play well with being rifled while open? I wouldn't put it past iTunes, which has been a cranky beast since the day I installed it and hasn't really gotten much better. I do not have the brain cells to play with other music management right now, though, so I'm stuck with it.

I have also looked at Zoho -- in a very cursory manner at their mail, and deeper at their spreadsheets, which aren't a bad replacement for Google Docs, though they're showing a few buggy bits and aren't as well developed. From there I sort of toppled sideways into Creator, which I gather is a kind of Access-like (I have never seen Access so I'm not sure) forms creator which has some nice integration with Sheet -- you can export a set of records to Sheets and then operate on it in the spreadsheet. Anyhow, it seems functional and cool. I haven't looked at the plain writing app yet because I mostly write into text files. I haven't played with sharing yet. The major alternative to something like Zoho would be some sort of versioned sync that lets me share spreadsheets with my honey, since that's a major thing we do with Google Docs.

I'm actually pretty close to looking at some sort of version control like git or svn -- I've only used them in a very rudimentary fashion in the past (and mostly rcs and perforce) but version control speaks to my former-sysadminly heart in a way I cannot deny; being able to roll back to older versions was great at work and it's sort of a basic need whenever you have two or more people with their paws on the same files, even if they're both reasonably careful about it. (Google Docs and Dropbox bake that in.) Either that, or backing everything up/repositing everything on a version controlled file system, which I'm not sure is easy to do with the kind of shoestring budget I have. (A handful of random old PCs running Windows, and no brain budget to switch to a UNIX. Plus shell access to a remote UNIX box with web/mail/ssh but no PHP.)
oda: Chrome tab with a sad face on blue-violet field field (degoogle)
2011-09-29 04:56 pm

De-Googlefication: Dribs and Drabs

My health is still on the really bad side, so I haven't been doing much more than skimming and collecting links.

Some dribs and drabs of progress on the De-Googlification front:

  • Inspiration: I reread Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, to get into the mood.... (the deadtree edition, not the free ebook, as when I'm sick I have less trouble with paper than with screens.) It holds up surprisingly well.

  • Search: Am doing just fine on DuckDuckGo. I love that it's customizable, though the default look is good enough for me. It's exactly what I want in a search engine, especially with the lack of tracking, and if I want different results it will run the same search again through another engine -- proxying to hide the tracking info. It's kind of startling what the world looks like outside of the filter bubble. Noisier, yes, but more evenhanded.

  • Subjot: Yeah, I'm counting this. Subjects and comments really hit a sweet spot for me. It's a for-profit startup but the dev team is amazingly responsive and doesn't seem to want to do anything evil; their ideas in the way of advertising etc. all make sense to me, and they may even end up with a dual-track ad-supported/subscription model like LJ. After DW/LJ this is the most pleasant place I visit every day, though Diaspora is quite nice (the partial implementation of Markdown and lack of collapsing of reshares makes D* a little too cluttery to be soothing.) I have even gotten oda there. Anyhow, this counts because it's a social site I actually enjoy.

  • Meanwhile, I have finally hit my last straw with Facebook. I'm tired of all of the reactive privacy, having to opt out to their brilliant new changes. I'm tired of people having to expose serious security issues in Facebook to get them to fix them. This "push sloppy changes and see who screams" strategy is old. Also, the current UI is a horrendous mess. Clearly a fine time to leave, and I'll be out of there by the end of October (allowing for the two week period of removal.) Of course that doesn't mean anything is actually deleted, just tagged as deleted. Feh. In the meantime I've also set up some AdBlock plus filters to be more aggressive about them.

  • Proxy options: I've been trying out TOR and VPNReactor. The former is a little more obfuscated, but any non-SSL content is in the clear for the last exit router, so I'm leery of using it for anything that's not fully encrypted or for read-only browsing -- session-based HTTP seems risky. VPNReactor will let me use my iPod on hotspots without worrying about my sessions getting hijacked by Firesheep. Sadly it doesn't work for my Android so I will want to use that only on trustworthy wifi networks and not open hotspots (my phone has unlimited, if slow and cruddy, 3g so this isn't exactly the end of the world; the iPod support on the other hand is lovely to have for my wifi-only critter, though I'm less likely to use that on hotspots now that I have a phone.) TOR will show Facebook in a satisfactory if slow-as-a-slug manner, and the Browser bundle was easy to install and use.

  • Email/GMail: My kind friend who runs my site for me is working on getting an IMAP server (Dovecot) up and running there. I've been using mutt for years and the approach is primitive and clunky. I only back up my mail to GMail so I have some flexibility on what I can do, but I need something web accessible so that my husband doesn't need to install anything to see his mail from work. So the options are either to find an email provider with a webmail UI and forward a copy of our mail to that, or to find a sturdy webmail server for my FreeBSD site. (This would actually be my ideal as it means edit operations happen on the live archive instead of the backup. Husband would much prefer to use a web interface for his email activity.) I've had no energy for assessing webmail providers and a general suspicion of PHP, so there's a lot of friction on this one.

  • Email/GMail, Part 2: Thunderbird. Finally got around to getting it ready and am using it to grab stuff. It's a little obtuse but works all right so far, though appears to have some issues with DNS leaking if combined with TOR. It also has the advantage of, if set to copy full messages down, providing a local email backup -- this means that if I get IMAP+webmail on my server I can stop forwarding a backup. If my husband likes this client all right, then he's willing to use this and his phone as clients and can put up with not having webmail access, woot.


I've also been playing around with accessibility extensions, but that's another post.
oda: Chrome tab with a sad face on blue-violet field field (degoogle)
2011-08-09 11:41 am

De-Googlefication

I thought it would be useful to have a presence here as I retreat from Google+.




(De-Googlefication; see original link for comments and elaboration.)

Taking the recent policy changes as the closest thing to a declaration of intent we seem likely to get, Project Googlefy which I had started prior to my testing of Google+ is now starting a 180 into Project De-Googlefy.

Why? Because as a prior Buzz/Picasa user affected by the fiat policy change, I am dissatisfied by a company that feels that it can make major changes to pre-established user privacy simply by introducing a new service. I would rather be more firmly divested in case they turn those policy changes loose on Gmail, and I'm generally very slow at making changes so need to get started now so I can pick at it in my slothlike fashion and don't end up falling off my comfortable tree-branch if it gets sawn off by future changes that I simply no longer trust Google to refrain from.

Yes, the horse can learn how to sing. But I am not holding my breath waiting for it to do so. As long as some groups of people receive disproportionate harassment and/or outright violence merely for being a member of that group, I am not interested in having a lot of my services tied up with a company that has clearly exhibited it simply does not understand privacy, or that it values privacy less than it values the appearance of conformity. (Especially as I am personally a member of at least one of those groups.)

So, step one: identify services.

  • Gmail: Been using it as a searchable archive/backup to my primary mail, an HTML mail reader (since I am text-only on my primary), a way to skim attachments, etc. I've already identified a potential alternative. There will be not inconsiderable pain in migrating an older archive like mine, given that the tools for migration are throttled down to moving only a few hundred messages at a time (IIRC; hopefully I'm wrong in that and I can let it run unattended.)

  • Docs: Collaboration with others, online spreadsheets. This has been a pretty good solution so far, and only improving as they add features, but I've already identified some alternatives. I don't have a huge store of docs, though some are rather crucial to our workflow, so this ought to be easy to migrate once I find a new home. Version controlled cloud storage could also be a solution here.

  • Android: Well, if I want to use the Android market (and to be honest, Amazon's market is a highly inferior alternative) I have to have a Google account. I guess I need to take a harder look at other smartphone OSes for future phone upgrades? Also I am a lot less excited than I was a month ago about having an Android tablet if apps on it can go suddenly defunct based on a random policy change. I might end up having to hold my nose and go Apple, who is at least predictable in its bad policies, or wait until there's another alternative. I'd been holding off on buying a tablet anyhow until the hardware improved, so this is not a priority. Luckily we are not locked into plans on our android phones, so the cost of switching phones is not excessive if that later becomes necessary. There also may be ways around the android market, by buying directly? Not sure; I haven't done a ton of research here yet.

  • Sites: Honestly I have found the site building software to be inferior to other solutions I've tried, though lower maintenance. I won't miss it very much. It might still be a pain to transition off. I'm glad I stopped adding data into that set when I started testing G+, because it's less to have to remove later.

  • Reader: Surely there is a cloud synced RSS reader solution out there somewhere. I just need to research it. Worst case I can probably run something out of cloud storage of some sort.= Calendar: See Reader.

  • Picasa: Had some sharing options that were pretty unique (or at least not readily available on Flickr), but I probably just need to look harder to replicate them. Will miss the ease of synchronization with a local store, but there might be desktop software out there that syncs readily with other solutions.

  • Google+: There may not be a decent substitute yet, but I can cope. I'll stay on while I document my progress at de-googlefying at the very least, and might stay on past that in the same way as I use facebook: exclusively to keep contact with a few people who are only there, and with my own data sequestered/segmented. Still thinking about where to draw the line on this one.

  • Chrome: This one is a sadness as Chrome puts up with my tab abuse and wimpy out of date desktop far better than Firefox does. Might hang onto this one to the bitter end, hoping Firefox solves some of its issues before I make the leap. Might decide it's all right to hang onto stuff that doesn't require any PII.

  • Search: Left off the original post, and it's important. Also: Ads (which I don't use but other people do) and Groups.