Small Players, Big Impact: Why You Should Opt for Alternative Tech
This was originally a Mastodon thread, but, due to popular demand (lies), I am going to rehash the whole thing here.
So, please allow me to go on about what I've been doing to get a little less dependent on the whims of billionaires, surveillance capitalism, and “tech giants”. As the enshittification (see @pluralistic for more) marches on, and rich folks plan on extracting even more from everything and everyone, you're no longer just the product: you are the product AND the paying customer. Fuck. That.
Let me preface all this by saying that this is not a “mY tHrEaT mOdEL iS dIfFeReNt” situation. Thankfully, no one's threatening me. What IS different, though, is that I am extremely privileged in many ways, and I can do this kind of stuff without breaking a sweat or the bank. Goes without saying that this is not the reality for the vast majority of people, so take what I'm saying with a huge pile of salt.
First thing I've done was to get myself some hardware so I can self-host at least some stuff. In a couple of Single Board Computers (see https://hackerboards.com) I run the of heart of the operation: PiHole. It's my local DNS, DHCP server, and—of course—ad blocker. You know who gets blocked the most in my house? The fucking TVs. They try to phone home ALL. THE. TIME. And that's AFTER I got rid of every single Amazon Fire Stick I had.
I also have Home Assistant running on another SBC. I got rid of a bunch of “hubs” that are completely unnecessary, and I'm able to control everything through it. Lights, sensors, the works. Even “proprietary” shit like some wi-fi outlets I have were re-flashed with Tasmota or ESPHome to bypass the whole “download our app to control your device” rigmarole. You can also access your home assistant from the outside for $6.50/month (or roll your own.)
Sidebar: I have a PiHole + CloudFlare + Let's Encrypt + Traefik setup here that allows me to have a normal domain name and valid certificates internally so I don't have to worry about self-signed certs, weird ports and things of that nature. Instead of going http://192.168.1.123:5487 and go through the browser warnings about the certificate, I just type service.mydomain.com and that's it.
In terms of social media, I just use Mastodon. I run my own instance (~$20/month), but, as you know, you don't have to do that. Tip your instance admin, though! I have an Instagram account, but I don't post there very often. No Facebook, Twitter/X, Bluesky, Threads, et al.
As we know, Google searches are garbage these days, so I've been using Kagi instead. It's good to have search results that are the results for the thing you've searched for, and not 12 ads, 5 YouTube videos, 3 malware sites, and 1 result buried deep down. That's $10/month for the Professional plan. They have a 300 searches trial, and a $5 plan.
With the exception of my gmail.com email (which I got back when Gmail was invite-only), I have 3 “active” email addresses on domains that I own. Those used to be with Google Workspaces (back when it was called something else and free.) Those became not-free ($6 per user of each Workspace), so I just migrated all three to Proton for $191.76 for 2 years. That's about $9 a month for all 3 domains + 500 Gb of storage + VPN.
For my (very sporadic) newsletter and (not so sporadic) blog, I went with Write.as. No Medium, no Substack, none of that shit. 3 blogs/newsletters with custom domains for $9/month or $6/month if you pay for the whole year. It uses ActivityPub, so you can literally follow the blog from Mastodon. Simple and to the point.
I have a Synology NAS here for my backups. The NAS has some stock software I use to backup my phone pictures, old cloud drives, can be used as a networked Time Machine drive for my Macs, etc. I do backups of the backup on an external 12 Tb drive, and, maybe once a month, dump a ~2 Tb encrypted blob onto AWS Glacier because it's super cheap (like $2 a month). If you have any suggestions that would allow me to move elsewhere, I'm all ears. If I need to share files with anyone, I just use Proton Drive.
For my homelab, I have a small Proxmox cluster running on a few old refurbished HP EliteDesks I got for like $100 each. Also, some services like the aforementioned Home Assistant, Gitea, Octopi, Traefik, and Grafana run on podman (no Docker here) on some not-so-cheap-but-still-kinda-affordable Beelink SER3 mini PC (~$250). NixOS, btw (wink, wink)
I used to have a couple of machines on AWS, then moved to Lightsail, then ditched Amazon for Hetzner. I have my Veilid node running there, and my Gemini capsule that pretty much mirrors the blog I have with Write.as. That's a simple VM that doesn't need a whole lot of resources. It's not as cheap as, say, Lightsail, but at ~€8 a month, it doesn't make me mad.
Lastly, I do drop some ~$130/year on DeleteMe. I like it, the reports are neat, and the ecosystem is just too bizarre to keep track of all the brokers and opt out by hand. There are other bits and bobs here and there, but that's pretty much the gist. It's not exactly dirt cheap, it can definitely be optimized, but it does give me at least some peace of mind and some control over my stuff.
Some other good shit:
And, look. I was a Pocket paying user for YEARS. Mozilla just forgot about it, and now Pocket has a fraction of the functionality of similar products, and it is more expensive than those similar products. Pocket Premium is $45/year while Raindrop.io is $28 is actively developed, maintained, and has way more functionality. Another good contender in this field is Readwise. Their Reader (in beta right now) kinda blends Feedly/Feedbin with Raindrop.io/Pocket, which is neat. That goes for ~$96/year, so do the math.
2023.12.26 Update: Another solid option in this space is Omnivore. Open source and free.