DxO to the rescue!

I have mentioned here that I'm cutting my numerous ties with Google in every way possible. As it happens, I'm also dumping Adobe. Two days ago, I finally canceled my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. So I'll no longer have Lightroom or Photoshop in my toolbox. I never used Photoshop much, and to be honest, although once upon a time I was very fond of Lightroom (mainly when I was shooting hundreds of portaits over at the Dallas Arboretum and had thousands of photos to process in a hurry), the truth is, in the last two years, I haven't used Lightroom much either. It's clear that I won't Adobe much. 

Less clear is what will become my go-to photo processing app. 

ON1 Photo Raw has some terrific features but it's often more trouble to use than it's worth. I like a couple of things about Luminar but it just doesn't click with me. And I keep going back to DxO Optics Pro; wrote a piece a year or two ago entitled "Why I keep DxO Optics Pro in my toolbox." OpticsPro is a great raw file converter and its automatic lens corrections are without equal. The biggest problem with Optics Pro is that it lacks localized corrections.

Not any longer, it doesn't. Well, DxO Optics Pro is now old news, having been replaced by DxO PhotoLab. And PhotoLab (finally) has a powerful localized adjustment tool, plus a tool for graduated adjustments. The localized adjustments in PhotoLab are a result of DxO buying the Nik Collection from Google. That's a brilliant move. The Nik Collection of apps (including Silver Efex Pro, my all-time favorite black and white processing app!) is nerdy in some of the same ways that DxO's software is. They're perfect for each other.

I am hoping to publish a review of DxO PhotoLab soon and will mention it here when it goes live.

How can I replace thee? Let me count the ways

As I mentioned the other day, I've been aware for a good while the Google owns me. There are lots of other reasons to dump Google, but the one that is most urgent to me is the fact that I have been depending on them for about seventy-five percent of what I do with my computer.

So when I decided that I had to escape from Google, of course, that meant I had to find a way to replace all of the services that I've been getting from Google. A couple years ago when I tried this, I found it harder than I expected. This time, to my surprise, it's been easy. Well, not exactly easy, but definitely doable. Here are some notes on the process.


Getting my data out of Google's clutches

The process of dumping Google was simple and logical. 

First, I found and started using replacement services for the key things I did in Google. I identify those replacements below.  

Then I simply stopped using Google.

Finally after a week or more, I used Google's tools to download all of my data: email, contacts, calendar data, photos, documents, notes, bookmarks, and more. I will give Google credit for one thing: It is indeed possible to download all of your data. It's not easy, but it's possible. (I should perhaps add here, for those of you who might try this on your own, if you're going to delete your Google account sooner or later, make sure that you have well backed up all that data that you downloaded!)

Here is a list of the most important services that I've gotten from Google, along with the service I'm switching to.


1. I have replaced Gmail with Protonmail

I started using Protonmail full-time for all my email several months ago. The Protonmail web application's UI is attractive and brilliantly usable. I have only one serious complaint about Protonmail: no undo-send feature (yet). Otherwise, I don't miss Gmail (or Inbox, which I'd been using mainly in the last year or more) at all.

Protonmail is secure and private in ways Google doesn't even want to be. My email is encrypted end-to-end, and it's easy for me to send password-protected emails for an extra level of security. (If you want to try Protonmail, please use me as a reference. I think we might both get a small break if you do.) With Protonmail (even with the free account) I never see those creepy ads that Google shows you after you mention something that might tie in with one of its "sponsors". I mainly get my email on a computer but Protonmail has an excellent iPhone app, too.

The big problem created when you want to change email services isn't finding a new one. The big problem is what to do with your old email. Some services will allow you to import email, but many don't, or make it hard enough that it's not possible as a matter of practicality. I imported my old Google email messages into Apple Mail. I hate Apple Mail but I use it now only as a tool for searching old email messages. And truth is, I don't have to do that often.

Note: Back in spring 2015, I wrote a long article entitled, "Searched for something better than Gmail. Didn't find it." You don't have to read it. The title says it all. But that was then and this is now. I definitely think Protonmail is better than Gmail now, in the ways that matter most to me.


2. I have replaced Blogger with Posthaven

This one was a bit tricky. I'm not a full-time writer, certainly not a full-time blogger. So I don't need a blogging platform that's designed for commerce. I want something that is easy to use, pleasant to write in, and that publishes my articles in a clean and attractive format. Doesn't sound like a lot to ask, right? Well, you'd be surprised how very few platforms actually met my requirements.

I had been using Google's Blogger. For years I have felt that Google did not have its heart in Blogger the way it had its heart in other projects like email, documents, or stalking its customers on the Web. I've used WordPress.com occasionally but I don't care for its limitations. The real power with Wordpress comes when you get the software and run it on your own server, and I simply don't want to do that. So I had to look father afield. In the end, after I'd tried out more than a dozen blogging platforms, Posthaven was the easy winner.

From a design perspective, Posthaven is not as sexy as Wordpress. Only a handful of ready-made themes. Posthaven does allow you to create your own themes and fifteen years ago when I was doing web development and working with CSS regularly, I might have accepted the challenge. But I don't want to work that hard now. So I've accepted Posthaven's limitations here and try to view this limited menu of visual options as a blessing, which it truly is. One of the problems I had with Wordpress was that I was tempted to try every new template that appeared.

Good display of images is important to me and Posthaven handles images just fine. But my blogging is and has always been mostly text. Posthaven handles the kind of writing I do much better than, say, Tumblr. I'd be a little happier with Posthaven if it supported Markdown, but otherwise, Posthaven is terrific. It promises to be here "forever". That's good enough for me. I plan to stick with it.


3. I'm replacing Google Photos with Flickr and ImageShack

I've used Flickr for about as long as I had used Gmail, and although I had a lot of photos in Google Photos, the truth is, this isn't such a big deal. Flickr is vastly superior to Google Photos. It displays my photos beautifully, allows me to control access to my photos and my copyright, and equally important, provides a social environment where I can share my best pictures with others in a variety of interest groups. I'll have to figure out what photos that I'd like to display online are missing from Flickr and upload them there, but dropping Google Photos isn't such a big deal.

ImageShack on the other hand is something new for me. I'm liking it so far. Not sure how I'll end up using it. I do think I'll be storing there images that I use in blog articles. 


4. Moving my word processing to Dropbox Paper (among others)

I stopped needing Microsoft Word years ago. Even editors at the publications I was writing for started using Google Documents. It's a good app, but I am finding Paper, the writing and editing app from Dropbox, meets all my needs beautifully. If I need anything fancier, I can crank up Pages.


5. I'm replacing Google Voice with Skype

This one was easy. I have used Google Voice for business for a couple of years. Before that I'd used Skype. Skype has gotten better, and Google Voice hasn't. There are other VOIP services that sound excellent and I might end up with one of those if I'm not happy with Skype. But I'm familiar with it and it seems to be all I need for now. I won't miss Google Voice. 


6. I'm replacing Google Calendar with my own Works & Days app

This hasn't been a problem at all, since it's been a year or two since I made much use of Google Calendar. I've now moved to my own app for calendar and task management. My app interfaces with macOS Reminders, so I can quickly set up reminders as I need to.


7. I was already using DuckDuckGo for search, for the last couple of years

Of course, I don't use Google for web searching and you shouldn't either, unless for some odd reason you like the idea that Google is tracking your every move. I've also made a personal effort not to use "Google" as a verb meaning "search the Internet."


8. I've dumped Chrome for Safari, Opera and (in Windows 10) Edge

I don't use Chrome now either. Since I updated the other day to macOS X v10.13 "High Sierra", Apple's Safari appears to be the best browser for macOS, and in Windows, I have started using Microsoft Edge as my default since they recently started supporting 1Password. But I keep Opera in the mix, too, especially for the built-in VPN. I used to have very high hopes for Brave, but after a year and a half, it's still not quite ready for prime time, so I use it now and then, but I cannot see it becoming my default browser.


*


I don't think I'm saving money, indeed, it's possible that I'm spending a little more now than I was when everything was included in my $5/month Google account. But I'm now able to pick the app I want for each of my needs. I'm in charge of my own data once again. It's very liberating.

Breaking up is hard to do

At lunch today, I watched a few minutes of an old Seinfeld episode in which George and Elaine are both trying to break up with their current partners. Elaine discovers that the secret her new boyfriend is hiding from her isn't that he has a wife (although he does) but the more embarrassing — and from Elaine's view, the more disqualifying — secret that he is poor. When she learns the truth, she buys her way out of the relationship. Things are trickier for George. The prototypical nebbish, he tells his girlfriend he's breaking up with her and she says no. As he explains it to Jerry, “My arguments in favor of breaking up didn’t persuade her beyond a reasonable doubt.” So George takes up with a woman from his office — someone he doesn’t like but who he thinks likes him — hoping that when the first girlfriend discovers his infidelity, she will get angry and leave him. Instead, he ends up with two girlfriends. 

As the song says, breaking up is hard to do.

My story's not as amusing as George's or Elaine's, but there are similarities. I've been partnered, technologically speaking, with Google for a very long time. In the last couple of years, though, I've started to realize that Google owns me, and this makes me very uncomfortable. For me, Google hasn’t just been email: it’s been word processing and spreadsheets; blogging; photos; social networking; contacts; calendar; notes; bookmarks; file storage; video; and more. And all that for not one but both of my primary domains, my personal domain and my work domain.

I’ve also come to regard Google as — well, I’ll pull my punch here and just say that Google is not a force for good in the world. Certainly not as big a source for good as Google imagines it is. Google’s power is nearly absolute, and it is corrupting the world in a lot of ways.

So I want out. I tried to do this two years ago and it was just too difficult. But this time I'm completely serious.

I keep waiting for my computer to start talking to me. “I’m sorry, Dave, but I’m afraid I can’t do that.” But so far, it looks like I might actually make it out of here alive. If I do, I’ll have more to say in later posts. And yes, if I knew how to link to just this clip without using a service owned by Google, I'd do it!


Where have you been all my life?

As part of the ongoing 'Purge Google from my life' project I have been looking for a new blogging platform. Even if Blogger weren't owned by Google, I'd want to dump it, because it hasn't been very good for a long time. So I've been trying out blog services and I've reached a few conclusions.