Chris Wiegman Chris Wiegman

The Road Back to Open Tech

It’s time for me to make a move out of the Apple Ecosystem again. Between the ever eroding quality of Apple’s hardware and software, the push into AI and the increased reliance on services with questionable privacy implications I’m ready to give something else a try again.

My History with Leaving Big Tech

I first started this process back in 2017 when I traded in my iPhone for a Google Pixel XL2 and then I turned in my horrible 2016 MacBook Pro for a System76 Oryx Pro in 2018.

At the time I traded my phone just thought I was too deep into the ecosystem, didn’t trust Apple any more than Google and was ready to try something new. That followed with my laptop after I the 4th keyboard repair on my MacBook Pro in 2 years. System76 makes some great Linux machines and it was time to give them a shot.

For the first year it all actually worked really well. I basically traded in the Apple Ecosystem for the Google Ecosystem and we were all happy with the results. The only problem is that I was now as dependent on Google as I had been on Apple and I didn’t trust them anymore than I did Apple. It was time to try something different.

For the next two years I worked rather diligently on removing Google from my life and, at least for me, it worked decently well. For my family, however, it was a disaster.

My parents, my wife and I exchange a lot of data including photos, files, messages and more. For all of it I was asking them to install new apps like Nextcloud, Signal and others and they were growing increasingly frustrated with all of it. It all came to a head on Christmas 2020 when we tried to video chat with my parents. It just wasn’t working for my mom and, with COVID and everything else, it was too much leading to a bit of a breakdown for everyone. A few weeks later, when my Pixel 3XL died (the touchscreen had stopped responding), I traded it in for an iPhone.

Later in 2021 it was time to trade in the Oryx Pro when a change in drivers left it incompatible with my monitor at home. I sold it and wound up getting the M1 Max MacBook Pro I’m typing out this post on.

Today I’m deeper into the Apple ecosystem than ever which will make changing more difficult. On the other hand, I have a Framework laptop running Ubuntu that I really love using and a much greater understanding of what it is I want out of my tech in the future. Unlike when I set my goal of leaving big tech again in 2022, now I feel like I’m in a better place to make some changes that should last.

Rethinking How I Use My Tech

One of the biggest challenges I face in making a tech change successful is how I use my devices. It seems that most people use all their devices all the time, reaching for a phone for one function, their laptop for another, etc with little to no crossover. That is completely the opposite of how I use my tech.

For me each device is an extension of the rest and, with the exception of writing code, each of my devices needs to be able to do pretty much everything I need to do. If I’m at my laptop and want to reply to a text message, make a phone call or adjust my music or my lights I don’t want to find my phone to do so, I want to do all of it from my laptop. When I put my laptop down and pick up my tablet I want to do the same and when I leave the house with my phone I want to pick up and continue with the conversations I was having and still be able to access everything I can.

The only thing for me that is device specific is code. I don’t mind keeping that to my laptops as I simply get too distracted by it which means that if I want to focus on other things my iPad can really help me do so.

As I move back out of Apple I think I’m going to have to rethink all of this. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing for me or not.

I Can’t Escape it All

The other thing I need to remember this time around is that there is no possible way for me to completely escape both Apple and Google. I can do fine with one or the other but life means I need to have one of them for maps and travel, not to mention all the apps modern life requires of me that I simply cannot access without Android or iOS.

Making Plans

So where does this put me?

First I think I will eventually go to just a phone, a Linux laptop and a fitness tracker (not sure which yet). I don’t need multiple laptops nor do I need my tablet.

Next, most of my data can, I think, move to Nextcloud. It’s a service I’ve used and enjoyed in the past and it can store my photos, files, contacts, calendar etc without issue. I’ll augment this with an email service like Fastmail to get my email out of iCloud without going back to Gmail.

If I trade my iPhone in I’ll need to setup a personal Google account for Android apps, but I don’t need to go all-in again on the Google ecosystem. I’ll use what I need in either one and leave the rest behind. That said, with a Linux laptop an Android phone makes more sense as it means I won’t need both an Apple and a Google account for handling things like maps.

The other questions I need to answer for myself include home automation, music (it’s a nice thought to buy all my music but those days are past. I couldn’t buy it all on CD or MP3 if I wanted to) and a few others I’m sure are lingering somewhere.

The big question I need to answer beyond myself, and the question that sank my efforts in the past, is how this tech will affect my family. Can I setup something to still help my dad when he needs it and that won’t drive my wife crazy with new apps and services? I don’t know if I can, to be honest, but I need to explore some new solutions to try.

In Conclusion

In the end, I think I can escape a single ecosystem, Apple or Google, if I’m careful and plan out a path that will work for me and, more importantly, for those who rely on me to support their tech and data.