2021's resolution retrospective

December 31st, 2021

It sounds kinda dorky but my new year's resolution for 2021 was to de-google my life. I had built up a heavy dependence on Google products since I was a teenager from being an avid Android fan and kept all my work from middle school through college in Drive. I've come to realize in adulthood that Google as a company kinda sucks but I haven't had the courage to leave until a year ago. Now that the year has come to an end, it's time to see how I did!

Essentially, my plan was to find an alternative each of their services until I was free. With my COVID-19 stimulus money I was able to build a new computer which I have been using with Docker to host microservices from home, many of which are Google app replacements. The first thing I installed was Searx which is a metasearch engine. It aggregates results from a bunch of different search engines, including Google if you choose. You can set preferences for which search engines you want it to use, and I have Google turned off in mine.

Often if you are looking for self-hostable all-in-one Google service replacements, the top suggestions you'll hear about most are Nextcloud and Owncloud. Indeed, they are both fine solutions if you aren't looking to spend too much time building something yourself. Nextcloud has the ability to replace Drive, Photos, Gmail, Calendar, Contacts, and more with a built-in add-on browser. I gave it a try but it wasn't really for me for a few reasons, but mainly I kept breaking something when I was just trying to do some simple configuration. That and the lackluster selection of add-ons pushed me to find individual alternatives that each do one thing well.

I'll just give you a brief list of the rest:

Google app Replacement
Drive Seafile
Docs+Sheets+Slides OnlyOffice (able to integrate with Seafile)
Gmail Migadu (email service), Thunderbird and pEp (clients)
Calendar Radicale
Photos PhotoPrism
Home Home Assistant

Of course, not everything has been easy or has had a perfect 1:1 alternative.

  • Maps - I have tried the few options available on Android: Here WeGo, OsmAnd, Maps.me... Nothing I've tried compares to the database of addresses / points of interest and the quality of navigation that Google Maps has. Which is sad.
  • Youtube - I like to go through rabbit holes of niche artisan videos to help me fall asleep, and their volume of content and recommendation algorithm caters to that need. Youtube is far from perfect though, and I'd be happy to switch to something better if it were brought to my attention.

Last thing: I have always been an Android user and I'm not about to switch to iPhone, so I flashed LineageOS, the successor to CyanogenMod, onto my phone. Yes it's still based on Android but it isn't as integrated with Google. It doesn't require you to sign in and it doesn't even come with any Google apps installed, though I did install Play Services afterwards since way too many apps depend on them to be able to work at all.

If you're considering de-googling yourself too, keep in mind that it has taken me a year to get to this point; I don't expect you to make the jump all at once. You're more than welcome to reach out to me and discuss further about anything mentioned in this post!

Looking forward

Now that I've mostly broken free from the shackles of the big G, I'd like to maybe try not being so attached to my electronics all the time and connect more with nature. When I was reading through the Zonelets website, Marina mentioned the author Jenny Odell who has some really neat (in my opinion) philosophy on taking breaks from social media and being more present and attentive to your surroundings. She has written a book titled How to do Nothing (I haven't read it yet) and has an essay-length keynote transcript on Medium that you should definitely check out. I'll be spending the next few weeks figuring out how to start applying these concepts to my life.

Until next time! I'll see you in 2022. 🎉

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