This has been a post I’ve wanted to do for a while. I’ve finally started the slow transition away from Google’s tools.
Let me start off by saying I have nothing against Google at all. I find their tools incredibly useful and I think they’re an awesome company. I think so far they’ve done a pretty good job of following their “Don’t be evil” motto, I can imagine it’s quite difficult for a company that size. Anyway, suffice it to say that in the interest of privacy, I’ve decided to move as much as I can away from Google’s tools. I find it marginally creepy that a site can see example what I send in email, read in RSS feeds, put in my calendar, take notes on, etc. So what am I moving all this stuff to? Well, let’s take a look at each tool in turn: (Keep in mind that I am a console user who likes lightweight applications, and I like almost everything I use to have vi keybindings, hence the focus on console applications)
Gmail is pretty awesome, and I do really enjoy the amount of space of Google is kind enough to lend us. However, I’m not a fan of anyone reading my email. I have moved all my email over to my hosting solution (the company that is hosting writequit.org). It’s going to take me a long time to go through all the accounts I have and update my email address, but I don’t think it’ll be too difficult. While I’m talking about email, I’d like to plug an awesome email client that I’ve been using, Sup. Sup is similar to Mutt, written in Ruby and has a gmail-esque feel to it (tags, archiving, fast search, not having the nightmare of contact management like Mutt). Here’s a screenshot (from Sup’s site, not my mail)
I haven’t used Google search for quite a while, I have all my browsers set up to search through Scroogle over SSL (through a handy Firefox search plugin), part of this is privacy at coffeeshops (and at work), and part of it is because Scroogle’s results page is much cleaner and offers much easier links for Vimperator than Google’s. I encourage anyone who doesn’t want their search strings to be statistically correlated to check it out.
I’ve tried a lot of native client RSS readers over the last year, and I still didn’t find one that could compare to gReader until I finally stumbled onto Newsbeuter from a link in one of Zed Shaw’s rants. I have to say that after only a few hours, I was hooked. Newsbeuter’s claim to fame is being the “Mutt of RSS readers”, and it certainly is (it was much closer once I mapped j to ‘down’ and k to ‘up’ in the configuration). I have 200+ feeds, and I have to say I’ve actually spent less time reading feeds using Newsbeuter than I have using google-reader (which is a good thing), mostly because it’s easy to mark things read without actually reading the article, I don’t have to wait for images to load, etc. If you’re a fan of console applications, give Newsbeuter a try! Here’s a screenshot of what Newsbeuter looks like (again, from Newsbeuter’s site, not my setup):
I shy away (far-far-far-far away) from using Outlook’s calendar in the office. Yes, I know this irritates the heck out of people because they never receive a little email stating that I’ve pledged an hour of my life to them, but I’m okay with that. Usually, I would receive an invitation, enter it into gCal and use that to track meetings and other requests (it works for me, I tend not to have a ridiculous amount of meetings anyway). Well, rather than Google’s knowing exactly where I am at all times, I’ve switched over to using Remind. Remind allows me to use a simple scripting language to set up reminders, send me reminders before meetings and so forth. Here’s an example of a simple reminder:
REM 17 Dec +2 AT 11:30 +15 DURATION 2:00 MSG Holiday pot-luck for work %b %
(On the 17th of December at 11:30-1:30 there’s a pot-luck, remind me +2 days before the potluck and also +15 minutes before it)
I use Wyrd (weird) as a really nice console gui for remind, which lets me see what I’m doing that day. Here are a couple of screenshots, one of remind and one of wyrd:
Well, this is an easy one, I tend to have plaintext notes, so if I want to store them, a flatfile works great, or a wiki for more complex note taking (I mostly only note things like what compilation flags I used for what, so flatfile it is for me!). Previously I was using Google notebook, so this is an easy switch.
All this switching is not without caveats. Let me go over some of the difficulties of switching some of these things:
- Google Code and Google Groups both *require* you be signed in, and use your gmail address for posting information, seeing as how I use both of these a lot, I have no choice but to keep my gmail address and forward email to my new address. At least, until OS projects move away from these products (don’t see that happening for quite a while).
- Google’s Gmail spam filtering is awesome, I haven’t had spam in my inbox for over a year, I think I’ll be brushing up on my spamassassin configuration knowledge quite a bit now.
- Gtalk is gone, yes, I did use gtalk occasionally over the last year, however it’s blocked at work anyway, so I won’t miss it much, I tend to use AIM, Yahoo or IRC anyway.
- A web interface for everything. Yes, I do use more than one computer, so I need a way to sync my email, RSS, etc. I tend towards SSHing into my home computer and using screen helps. I can deal with the minor inconvienience
- Calendar sharing, I share calendars with my wife and another friend of mine. Rest assured I’ll find a way to share my calendar, perhaps a cronjob for rem2html?
- I’m sure there are other inconviences I’ve yet to encounter, but I’ll deal with them as well as I can.
Was I able to completely de-google my life? No. Do I hate Google? Not at all. Do I hate people you use Google’s products? Of course not! What I do hope sharing this has done is given you an idea of just what kind of information you’re sharing with <insert web company> when you use their tools. I was unable to completely separate myself (google groups and google code) from Google, but I was able to make a significant amount of headway in reduction of statisticaly marketing research. I encourage anyone interested in privacy to maybe look into switching to some different tools. Of course my tools might not be the same tools you pick, but at least I’ve given some alternatives