Digital self improvement: your recommendations

I started a digital self-improvement journey. The beginning was actually focused on productivity improvement. I think that Edge and Outlook are better than Chrome and Gmail. That said, moving from free services, paid by advertising, to commercial services did push me into a privacy campaign.

– Day #1: uninstalling #Chrome
– Day #2: ditching #Gmail 
– Day #3: delete my #Facebook 
– Day #4: #DuckDuckGo.
– Day #5: VPN
– Day $6: Startpage

Along the way, I received a lot of advice from you all, and in this post, I am summarizing it, adding my journey experience when I already have some.

Moving away from Google was a byproduct of switching from Chrome to Edge, inheriting Bing along the way. You suggested that I use DuckDuckGo, and Startpage to improve privacy and you.com to get better search results.

I summarized my initial experience, but the verdict was not final. Since then, I did find that Google works better sometimes, and I am using DuckDuckGo bangs to use Google within DuckDuckGo from time to time. I did not nail precisely what is this advantage and when to expect it.

Browser

I received a lot of recommendations for alternative browsers, including Firefox Focus, Brave, Chromium-based (Iridium) builds, KHTML based browsers such as Konquerer, WebKit based browsers such as Midori and Epiphany browsers (if you are on Linux), and Opera. Someone nostalgic also mentioned Netscape.

Maybe it is the number of options, or maybe my take on the importance of the browser itself, but I did not go that route and kept to Edge. I do use DuckDuckGo, as an easy way to use DuckDuckGo as my search engine.

Social

I deleted my Facebook account, and obviously, many recommended ditching every possible social service: WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, to name a few. But I wasn’t after privacy to start with. To an extend, deleting Facebook was just a showoff. I never logged in anyways. While I appreciate the privacy price I am paying, I do need those services, and I want to keep socializing. Quoting one of the comments on my posts from someone who ditches WhatsApp: “It is a lonely world out there”.

VPN

I never used VPN, and once on my digital transformation got really tempted to experiment. I went with Nord VPN. Of all the changes I did, this one got the least comments and, on the other hand, probably affected my digital life the most.  Using VPN obviously provides more privacy, but websites and apps fight back. Some inadvertently: I really don’t read German even if I connected through Switzerland, and some purposely: I need to use multi-factor authentication a lot more.

The two comments I got on my VPN usage are whether I can trust any VPN vendor to really keep my privacy (probably not) and to tunnel to Blida. I will leave you as a challenge to figure out the last one.

E-mail

I received recommendations for different alternative e-mail systems, namely Protonmail and GMX. That said, I think moving from a free service, in which I paid with my privacy, to a paid one, namely outlook.com, is sufficient for my privacy. And outlook.com is a great e-mail client, not least because of excellent integration with the desktop and mobile apps.

What’s next?

  • Someone suggested switching my DNS service (guide here) or using a DNS sinkhole like Pi-Hole. Using 8.8.8.8 is easy, but it is Google. I want to explore that route, but not sure who actually provides more privacy.
  • I am still using Google Photos and Google Maps. I would love to find a decent, paid-for alternative, but nothing is on par.  I got OsmAnd as a navigation suggestion, but it is far off the mark.
  • Someone suggested switching to another OS, LineageOS, instead of Android, for example. Well, I do need to get value from my digital life, not just experiment with technology.

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