My About blurb, has some mantras listed and I’d like to talk about them.
This took a long time to write and then I waffled about even posting it. Then I thought: fuck it.
So here we go. And my apologies, it’s long.
Reel In Big Tech, As much As possible
When I say Big Tech, I don’t mean hardware and Operating Systems as much as the software platforms that the likes of Meta, Google, and Whatever The Fuck Twitter Is These Days®™ has foisted upon the world. There is simply no way around it: the world is run by big tech. Nearly everything we do in life from travel to rewards cards to local coffee shop contests requires an app that tracks you and makes you the product.
Yes, the hardware and operating systems are owned by various monopolies. For phones you have Apple or Android. Similarly, if you’re a gamer or someone who is tired of hardware you can’t repair or upgrade and decide to build a computer, parts still come from Intel or AMD or nVidia, and the Microsoft behemoth is right there with Windows for your operating system 1.
The base hardware and OS is one thing but it doesn’t really matter. Tracking, data scraping, and advertising are all something else entirely. The “products” that do this can be accessed on any hardware platform. You can doomscroll through, say, Facebook on Windows, macOS, and Linux. To me “reeling in Big Tech” means dealing with Social Media and its ilk. It means dealing with tracking and targeting. It means dealing with algorithmic feeds that push stupid shit into your face whether you want it or not and pretty much hiding posts from the people or accounts you actually follow.
We’ve all been sucked into it to some degree. It’s impossible not to. While I’ve avoided the truly toxic cesspools that are Reddit and Whatever The Fuck Twitter Is These Days®™, I do have Instagram and Facebook accounts.
I loved Instagram when it was brand new. It was so simple and lovely: post photos, maybe with a filter if you want. Like others photos. Maybe leave a comment. Perfect.
Now it’s just a junky, algorithmic meme feed, riddled with shitty ads, and bloated with the shoehorned functionality of other apps. It really is quite awful now. I haven’t posted anything in nearly a year and I very rarely engage with others on the platform. I keep Instagram around because the photos my friends post are interesting but I’m increasingly weary of its ability to suck me into aimlessly scrolling through bullshit that adds absolutely nothing to my life.
As for Facebook, I keep it around for a very specific reason. I’m not going into detail other than to say it’s family related, but I never post and never engage with the posts of others 2.
So I just do what I do, try to avoid the worst of it, and always keep the following in mind:
- Chrome is a piece of shit. Some websites require it and it pisses me off to no end whey I trip across one. I use Firefox as my default browser (some people would recommend Tor but that’s overkill unless you’re being shady).
- Use an ad blocker.
- Set your browsers tracking protection settings to Strict.
- Use a VPN.
- If I’m running through any kind of account setup, I read the options carefully and be sure to uncheck anything having to do with data collection or tracking or sending usage statistics back to the mothership. If I have no choice regarding stats, I make sure they’re anonymous and hope they really are.
- While those GDPR cookie pop ups are annoying, I pay attention to them and always customize, and reject/turn off as much as is allowed..
- If a “free” website won’t let me read or access any of their content without creating an account first, I don’t bother with them and move on.
- I have, and use a burner email. My personal email is only used for things like banking, etc.
- Just for fun, I fuck with the algorithms on my social accounts by clicking the “not interested” option on sponsored content and watch what I’m served up become increasingly weird.
This list isn’t perfect, of course, but it’s something and allows me a little piece of mind.
Use Free, Open Source Software, as much as possible
There is a lot of great, free software out there from tiny music plugins all the way up to full operating systems. I am a user of both Linux and Windows and I make use of Open Source software across both: FocusWriter, Strawberry Music Player, WordPress just to name a few.
Sometimes Open Source will serve you better than whatever the conglomerates are offering. One of the best examples out there is video editing. Why use Adobe Premiere or Resolve or even iMovie when there is Kdenlive? Yes, Resolve is “free” but the free version is iffy depending on your hardware (runs good on Macs and crap on Windows). Sure iMovie is “free” but it’s Mac only so you have to shell out for a Mac 3. And Adobe Premiere is … well, it’s Adobe, and expensive, and overkill for what most people want to use it for.
Kdenlive sits somewhere between iMovie and Resolve/Premiere as far as functionality. It’s also Open Source, free, runs on all three desktop platforms, and the system requirements are not ridiculous.
Why don’t people know about these products? Marketing. We’re all “prosumers” being told we need the best. And the best is only made by whoever has the biggest marketing budget, so just a few companies take up our mindshare:
Graphic design? Adobe Photoshop. Music Production? Pro Tools. Video Production? Premiere, Resolve, or Final Cut Pro. Rarely does anyone hear about excellent, Open Source applications like Krita, Ardour, or Kdenlive.
While the Open Source drum is beating, it’s constantly drowned out by the thrash metal drum kits of Big Tech. Let me tell you, it’s fun to walk away from the mosh pit and wander to the Jazz club across the street and see what’s happening there. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
Support The Independents. If they have a donate button, click it and donate. If they ask a small fee for their work, pay it
I love supporting small and/or independent Developers, musicians, artists, et all, and you should too. They’re the ones doing the hard work. Selling out is great, but it’s more difficult than people like to think. Before you can sell out, you have to do your thing and hope enough people get value out of your thing to pay you for it.
Some software isn’t free, but it’s not expensive either. Reaper is probably one of the best DAWs out there and it’s only $60. Before you thrown money at the likes of Adobe or Apple, consider your alternatives.
With free software, you’ll usually “click here to donate”. It’s essentially busking on the internet. It’s the developer saying, “I made a thing. If you enjoy it, please toss some change into my hat.”
If you use any free software that doesn’t rely on advertising or data scraping, and there is a donate option, you should donate. Even if it’s just a couple of dollars. It all helps.
Never buy new again, as much as possible
This is both obvious and, sometimes, obviously difficult. We live in a peak capitalism, consumerist world. Even though there are vast amounts of used/second hand products out there, there is a constant push to buy new. It’s in your face every single minute of the day. You don’t want somebody else’s dirty old hand me downs, do you? There is no warranty on second hand items, what if it breaks? It’s not in fashion anymore, do you want to look like that?
Every year there are new phone models that don’t really offer any tangible reason to upgrade over last years model. It’s just more of the same with a new hat.
I’ll never stop using that image. It’s aged so well and really sums up the literal state of things. We could now go two, three, or more years between phone models and hardly anyone, other than tech forum keyboard warriors, would really notice or care about any pf the “features” that have been added. Think about it. You don’t need new clothes because Zara tells you you do. You don’t need a new TV because they are now in 8K instead of 4K.
It’s all change for the sake of change and it needs to stop. Check out the second hand market. Shop refurbished. Shop at thrift stores. Hit up Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace. There is very little need to buy anything new these days.
More importantly, use what you have until until it falls apart or breaks so bad that you can’t…
Embrace The Right to Repair.
… oh shit. Yeah. I forgot. Almost nothing is user serviceable these days.
Open your car hood and have a look. The few things you’re allowed to touch (like the windshield washer fluid and the oil dip stick) are marked with yellow. Everything else is not accessible to you. We can’t change the batteries in our phones – in fact a lot of things are now coming with non replaceable batteries. Yes, they’re rechargeable but they have a lifespan and you’re left at the mercy of the hardware company who will happily tell you that buying a new thing is cheaper than replacing that one component.
Computers are also becoming increasingly impossible to upgrade or repair. For example, with one exception all the computers Apple sells now cannot be upgraded or repaired by you in any way after purchase. The only Apple computer you can upgrade in any capacity is the storage in the Mac Pro… if you buy an eye-wateringly expensive SSD upgrade kit 4
It really sucks that these companies are increasingly keeping us from being able to fix products when they break. From locking in things like batteries and other components to making basic replacement parts so expensive (I’m looking at you Fridgidaire) that people just give up, buy a new item and throw the broken one out. I hate that companies constantly lock things in and then try and sell it to us as “a better experience” all while selling us expensive warranty options – and nine time out of ten, they don’t fix anything, they just charge a fee (on top of the warranty payment) to hand us a refurbished (ha!) replacement and send us on our way thinking the service was great.
I know it’s about control. I know it’s about finding ways to squeeze every last cent out of us. The companies tell us that third party replacement parts can cause more damage to whatever it is we’re repairing, or if they allow us plebes to do it with first party parts then we’ll make a mess of it, or whatever they’re trying to tell us. We all know the reality:
I really don’t believe that this line of thinking makes the world better. It makes the general populace less interested in learning small skills that could actually matter. Why learn to fix something when you can just get a new thing? Read between the lines of marketing from companies like Apple and it says: “We know better than you. You’re just a stupid plebe. We made this shit complicated on purpose. We’re the gatekeepers. Take your unfixable shit and be happy with it.”
Whenever you can, buy items that you can try and repair yourself. This is not always possible; smartphones are notoriously difficult to fix, but it’s not impossible. Thanks to sites like iFixit, you can order tools and parts to do the work yourself. You can save yourself a few bucks and learn a skill in the process. Don’t be scared to try. Most people think they’ll just fuck it up, but how do you know until you try?
And that’s part of the solution in the end. We all need to stop thinking what the corporations want us to think and just go ahead and try. Sure you may fuck something up but, more often than not, you won’t. And let me tell you, there is nothing like the feeling of repairing something like a phone screen yourself, or discovering something new like a free piece of software that rivals teh expensive incumbents.
So go ahead and try. You’ll feel a little smarter. You’ll feel a little more free.
1: Yes, Linux is awesome, and I love it, but it’s still nowhere near mainstream enough to matter if you’re into gaming or heavy duty multimedia creation. Yes, I’ve recorded music in Linux with great results, but it’s much, much easier in Windows or Mac and professionals do not have the time to dick around with Open Source plugins or figuring out if their interface will actually work. And anyway, you still need computer parts from Intel/AMD/nVidia/etc to use Linux.
2: I use Facebook Marketplace from time to time but selling shit on Facebook is always hit or miss because of scams or weird, jerky people in general.
3: And there there is Final Cut. It’s $400 and only runs on Mac which adds at least a few thousand dollars to the cost.
4: I shit you not. Apple charges $750 CDN for a 1TB module. SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS!!!! You can buy an 8TB SSD module from Newegg for about $1200, yet Apple charges $3500 for 8TB. Nothing anyone can say will convince me that the SSD’s Apple uses are super special. They’re just SSD’s and Apple just fleeces people. While they were always overpriced compared to other companies offerings, Apple used to be pretty awesome. Now they’re just fucking greedy.
– Note: 1 all of the SSD upgrade kits on that page I linked are for their now defunct 2019 Intel Mac Pro. Who know what they’re going to charge for these Apple Silicone model.
-Note 2: yes, I know that cutting edge SSD M2 drives can be expensive. I know a Samsung 970 Pro 1TB SSD is around $1200, but you don’t have to buy it. You can get 1TB drives from various manufacturers starting at around $55. The whole idea is that Apple simply dosen’t allow it anymore. What sucks is that other companies are following suit.