My experiences trying to avoid "modern" computing

I desire to keep this post somewhat brief, although I don't know how particularly easy that will be. I didn't plan this post at all in advance.

Many on SpaceHey, or on Twitter, or Reddit, or...well, pretty much anywhere you look, really - many people will consistently lament the state of computer software today. Whether it's a browser monopoly (we know Firefox is there, but we also all know the web as we know it is designed for Chrome), an operating system that you don't have control over (I don't care if this is a "system-protected" file, Apple, let me modify it), or some bloated hybrid experience of both combined (looking at you, Facebook and Twitter), it's seemingly impossible to escape the clutches of ugly web apps and controlling corporations.

What many refer to as "the internet" today can roughly be equated to simply "social media". Everything meticulously designed for high engagement rates, subtle encouragement to share and interact with what you find. And the truth of the matter is, if you gave your average user a device with access to like, a small handful of companies' services - like Google, Facebook, Twitter, maybe a streaming site here or there - they would have no other need for any other service.

On one hand, I can understand the convenience of keeping everything in one place. It's very enticing to be able to say, "I can talk to all of my friends via Discord," or "I can stay caught up with everything through Twitter." But the internet wasn't meant to be some centralized mass of corporations sleeping with each other to milk the most out of the average user.

And do not get me started on the proprietary locking-down BS of Apple and Microsoft, with the current iterations of macOS and Windows. I could write an entire separate blog post about that, and maybe some day I will.

Of course, I am beholden to many of the services and software that I complain about. I use macOS and Windows, for work and play, I keep up with events and friends through Twitter and Discord, I get my entertainment through YouTube and Apple Music. And, in fact, I am sadly typing this from a Chromium-based web browser. I realize entirely that I am complicit in the system of which I complain about so frequently.

With this in mind, I thought it best to learn how to make computing much more enjoyable, and take back a little bit of the control that I can.

The first step was the most obvious step - if I dislike the big two operating systems so much, then it's time to jump ship to Linux. And this is something I have consistently made earnest attempts to do. I've tried so many times to switch over. Between Arch Linux with KDE, and Pop!_OS, I have made many an honest attempt to move my desktop computing needs over to Linux.

I do enjoy using it quite a lot! Being able to tweak and customize it, making it work for what I need it to do for me, is quite fun. I enjoy the tinkering aspect of Proton and Lutris, trying to get games and programs to work. It's certainly not for everyone, but sometimes that troubleshooting process can be a bit enjoyable. However, I am still held back by the same thing that has been holding me back for over a year - software compatibility.

Wine and Proton have made huge leaps over the past few years. The fact that so many more games are playable, and programs are usable, is astounding. I very vividly remember trying to get lots of them to work in 2016 on an old MacBook Air, to no luck. Many of those same apps are now working nearly flawlessly!

Unfortunately, some of the apps I need to work still aren't functional. I don't have the time to relearn a new graphic design program, and Affinity Photo/Designer still don't work within Proton - lots of UI glitches (as in, being entirely black), and it usually crashes within a few minutes. And unfortunately, even if I didn't play video games, this is enough of a deal breaker that I simply can't stick with the penguin full-time. It simply isn't feasible to just...reboot into Windows whenever I need to use Affinity. I'd be in Windows full-time, which, sadly, I practically am already.

I did manage to find a nice sort of alternative, though - I've been using an older MacBook to do a lot of my basic computing tasks, and it's lovely! It's a mid-2010 MacBook, the white unibody ones with the nice trackpad. With a Core2Duo P8600, GeForce 320M, and 6GB of RAM, it absolutely breezes through OS X 10.9.5 (the last version of OS X before Apple gave the OS the iOS 7 treatment).

Admittedly, it's a bit modern. I'm still using Chromium on it through Chromium Legacy, and I'm still listening to Apple Music through a somewhat up-to-date iTunes, but it still flies by faster than lots of modern operating systems, and the older hardware makes me feel at home. It's a nice compromise, and helps me focus when writing really long blog posts like this one.

However, on the topic of Apple Music, I now have my own music server hosted through Navidrome on a DigitalOcean droplet, which means that if I needed to stop paying for or using my Apple Music services immediately, I'd still have something that works well to fall back on. I also have my own Nextcloud instance hosted through DigitalOcean as well, and honestly, I have no intentions of ever going back to Google Drive or MEGA. I love my Nextcloud a lot, it rules, and is stable and fast and reliable.

As for social media services, I'm still stuck with Discord for the foreseeable future. I attempted to endeavor into the world of Matrix/Element, but the organization is far too confusing to understand for me. I don't like it and it's nothing like I'm used to, and I don't see myself going back to it. However, I am interested in, an open-source Discord clone that has promise, so maybe sometime I'll get people over to that - especially if Discord goes ahead with it's plans to enable cryptocurrency and NFT integration.

In terms of Twitter, I'm still there, but I've been using it less and less! I've been spending more and more of my time on Mastodon. I found an instance that I like as my home, and although I'm not fully active there either, I feel less anchored to Twitter, especially with a community that seems much more active around many of the things I hold important, like queer issues and open-source software. Should you want to find me, my Mastodon currently is

Mastodon's community is definitely smaller than that I'm used to. It's not a 24/7, constantly active social network, but getting used to it, it's quieter and calmer, and it's better for my mental health that way. But, that was one of my major hurdles when initially trying to get into SpaceHey, in fact! It was somewhat hard to find people to talk to about my interests, because (A) the site is designed to be slower-paced than Twitter and Discord, and (B) there just weren't as many people! But hopefully, it's a bit better now, especially with the influx of new users. I'm always down to talk, so feel free to shoot me a message here (or on Twitter/Mastodon). 

I think that mostly concludes this rambling blog post. I'll be continuing to find new alternatives for services and programs I still use, while trying to embrace my current alternatives more and more - old habits die hard and all that.

Thanks for reading, would always love to hear your thoughts!

Amber out.

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2kJen's profile picture

Great blog post! I thought this line was very powerful: 'What many refer to as "the internet" today can roughly be equated to simply "social media"'

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