Privacy friendly phone, desktop and services

This is a living document, I'll update if things change in the future.

Why

It started as an exercise to start replacing applications and (free) services with open source variants. As I'm using Android phone for all these years, getting rid of Google was the hardest part, even though I don't necessarily have a big problem with them. Given how much you can control in your settings, they are doing a good job. This made the exercise quite interesting because I had no clue anymore how many dependencies I had on them. Besides that, I simply started to hate the additional layers that Android comes with, plus additional applications which come from the vendors as well on your phone. It should be easier to control this, which simply is not the case anymore.

The most fun part so far was discovering many fun and handy applications out there that exactly do one thing perfectly. Especially playing with GPS utilities was rewarding.

I still have a Google account for one reason: publish two apps (Indigenous and Gentse Feesten) on the play store. I'm not planning to close that down for now as more are on the way. I will be moving all YouTube videos to a PeerTube instance though at some point.

Food for thought

This might not apply to your personal situation, but below are some general digital principles I try to live by.

  • Don't use main stream services: no WhatsApp, Facebook, Slack and so on for me. I really don't miss anything at all (au contraire), and there are good replacements for communication. Signal comes to mind, and the list of people I know using it is steadily growing.
  • Work: don't read your e-mail or sync your calendar on the phone. I've stopped doing this for almost a year now and it's extremely liberating. Ideally, my next phone also comes with two sim card slots so I can start using a dedicated professional phone number.
  • Use your own domain for your website and go IndieWeb. It still allows you to broadcast to external services like Twitter, or (even better), the Fediverse.

Data management

To store, sync and backup my personal data, I've setup a private Nextcloud instance. It manages my files, contacts and calendar. More extensions are available which I still have to discover, but the important ones are covered. My partner also has an account and uses it to manage her work and our shared calendar.

My e-mails provider is Combell where my personal domain is registered.

Phone

Running /e/ on a Fairphone which is really smooth. In all fairness, I do like the look and feel of LineageOS a bit more, but it's still great. The Pine64 is also interesting, but then for the laptop only since I've tried an Ubuntu based phone in the past which was quite disappointing.

Applications

  • General: Signal, K-9 Mail, VLC, Open Camera, Simple mobile tools calendar, andOTP, Jitsi Meet, Nextcloud (with DAVx5), c:geo and (of course) Indigenous.
  • Ad blocking: personalDNSfilter. Works amazing and has great flexibility. I've also added 0.0.0.0 *.facebook.com. I smiled when I added that line.
  • I'm not a fan of the default launcher, so I run a slightly modified version of the Trebuchet launcher from LineageOS.

That's practically the full list I have installed. I'm hardly distracted anymore by my phone, apart from playing Wordfeud which is a big hit with the family. Feel free to challenge me, swentel is my username.

Itsme could be installed using the Aurora store. It's a useful tool to login into my bank accounts or government services. I still think they should offer a non mobile solution, like. e.g. Signal desktop has, because relying on a phone alone is annoying and a bit weird IMO. (Look again at the second introduction movie, it even becomes more weirder in my opinion: someone working on a tablet, then having to switch to a phone .. really .. it's just silly).

Desktop

OS: Ubuntu. I've been a long time Redhat/Fedora user, but switched a few years ago as I experienced too many hassles when upgrading. Check your dash settings and optionally motd-news too. I might switch back one day though, or go to XUbuntu, you never know. Qubes OS has been on my radar for a while as well, especially as Android support is on the roadmap.

Applications

  • General: Evolution (mail, contacts), Signal desktop, Nextcloud sync, Libre Office, Glimpse, Authenticator, KeepassX and supergenpass bash. Using Jitsi web for video conferencing.
  • Ads blocking: manage my hosts file with the excellent project by Steven Black. Pi-hole is on the radar so I can protect my entire network even better.
  • HexChat: yes, I'm still on IRC, connected with the freenode network, usually on most #indieweb channels. Now and then I login into drupalchat.eu, but happens rarely.
  • GPS babel and GpsPrune: utitilies to read activities from my Garmin Instinct watch and convert gpx files. This is enough so I don't need a Garmin account or the Garmin apps to sync tracks, waypoints or courses.

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