Rambles

Digital freedom

The battle for privacy on the internet was lost before it even began, but here are a few words about how I've been trying to tip the scales in my favor.

Step 0

Firstly, and maybe most importantly, getting rid of my macbook was a personal way of committing to my beliefs. I had been using as much open source software as possible on MacOS but at the end of the day, there were so many things I hated about the system. The more the company is moving towards merging their mobile platform with their desktops, the more it became apparent to me that OSX is built for users, not builders.

What Apple call simplifications seem to me to be stupidifications if you'll pardon the made up word. The company believes that they should build their systems down for all to be able to use, which, in itself, sounds fine, but the way they are hiding functionalities and usability into dedicated applications seems to me to be the wrong way of going. Sure, their is a learning curve in any new digital environment, but I don't see that as a bad thing. Learning to use tools, whatever their level of ability or end use is a good thing. I recall reading Jobs singling out the file system as an unnecessary level of abstraction, essentially blaming it for most misunderstandings on a computer environment. Be that as it may, I think of this as the very basis of the power of any computer user. Understanding file formats, versions and extensions is key for anybody wanting to better understand their computer. It's step 0.

They've managed to get rid of it within iOS, a platform where all actual files are hidden inside apps, which, to me, results in an inversion of digital literacy. Beyond the debilitation factors of this system, it also lock people in, disabling any cross compatibility of content. iOS thinks of it's users as idiots, hiding away any flexibility and empowering abilities inside their own closed locker.

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I'm afraid of the (soon to come) day where they'll have managed a seamless merge of their mobile and their desktop OS, pushing debilitation to all their desktop users. All this to say, I got rid of my mac laptop as soon as I could.

The reason I was still stuck with it was because of collaboration and requirement system my previous school locked itself into; I studied graphic design, so you won't be surprised that I was thought to use Adobe software. The Adobe programs were considered standards, and if I was to cooperate in the collaboration assignments these last few years, it was going to have to start with similar tool kits unfortunately.


Browsers

That was an easy change, but an important one none the less. The solution was easy and obvious, moving to Firefox was all too easy. The newer versions of the browser are extremely well put together, with nice management of add-ons and a customisable interface.

I used to use Chromium but I then was scooped back into signing into the browsers login module, rendering it just a more advanced version of Chrome. The entire web-kit -> blink debacle was something I couldn't actually get my head around, but it got me thinking about the superpowers working together, and how that goes completely against one of the fundamentals of the web: decentralization.

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In addition to Firefox, I use this great plugin Self-Destructing Cookies which is pretty self explanatory, but gives me a certain amount of piece of mind regarding unconventional out of website tracking methods. The plugins white list works wonders for the few sites I trust, as for the rest, I use Firefox's ability to remember usernames and passwords for login requiring websites. Beyond that, their is also the Tor network, that I enjoy using when planning a trip or shopping for train/plane tickets.


Email

Managing email is a tough one. I've had the same google mail address for years now, and it's hard to just abandon it. I'm holding no sentimental value here, purely practical. I've started a list of all the places and services I've used it for and, while I'm sure I'm missing tons, it would take hours to change all of those accounts. The main issue is that I don't know what google is up to with our emails. They have had access to them for years and their is a good amount of data in there. For now, the best I could come up with was to create a new one.

I moved my domain name to Gandi as they have free email accounts possibilities with any domain name, which is more than can be said for the previously used GoDaddy. I'm also reassured by the fact that their webclient is a fairly standard looking RoundCube. I can trust RoundCube, it's open source.

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Forwarding all gmail to this new personal address and replying to any incoming mail with the new address seems to work fairly well, in regards to people using the new mail location.

Meanwhile, the gmail is still tied to many many services that would go berserk if the login email was to just dissapear. Not to mention the way it is used on my phone;


Mobile phone

New device, entire new set of issues. How do I keep up the previously set standards for my privacy / controllability on this handset? It's an extra degree of tediousness when you throw in location and mobile data, without even thinking of SMS and phone call details.

Cyanogenmod to the rescue. Thankfully, android phones are set up in a way that still gives users control over their operating system. In a fairly bold move, Google opened up it's source code to build Android for any device. Although I suspect this to be a two step strategy to get people locked into the google apps, I'm glad to see so many custom rom distributions out there. Cyanogen is probably the Ubuntu of custom roms, in the sense that it is the go-to version of android for anybody starting out phone-modding.

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In other ways ways, it is my phone version of Chromium. It's more advanced, more up to date, has more features, but I'm still locked in to signing in to my gmail with the phone. The install process does let you choose to include or ignore the g-apps package though, so there is hope but not before a few bigger alterations;


Web apps / online services

And finally on to the biggest step forward: the reason I'm still locked into gmail on Cyanogen is that I still need a way to sync both my calendar and my contacts. These functionalities I did not want to compromise on.

Queue ownCloud

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ownCloud is a game changer. It really is all the things you would hope from a "Cloud" client. First of all it enabled me to #DropDropbox and set custom amounts of memory dedicated to the files I needed to sync.

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Secondly, I can manage my calendars here, and sync them with WebDAV across the phone, tablet, and desktop client.
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Similar CardDAV abilities.

This makes a lot possible. I read that their is a RoundCube app available so I might even be able to keep personal copies of email on my own server, and not depend on Gandi for synchronising.

I'm far from finished, but it's going well. I hope to soon find a solution to be able to manage email forwarding after I close the address. Or deactivate it for a test period. I don't know enough about automatic forwarding yet.

Then there is the F-Droid market substitute, and the web app strives Firefox OS has been making.

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