How I do my Computing: Part 2

Caleb Dias - December, 2019

Picture of old computer lab

I’ve made some changes in how I do my computing since publishing my previous article almost one year ago. I’ve restructured my digital life to be minimal – close to nonexistent – for the sake of privacy, and detached freedom.

My computer

I no longer use a single computer that I call my own. Instead, I do all of my computing from public computers using a Tails flash drive. Tails is an operating system that routes all outgoing traffic through the Tor anonymity network, thus keeping my physical location private. I only have about 500MB of personal data, which fits in a small encrypted partition on the same flash drive.

Tails is Debian GNU/Linux based, but does include non-free firmware to be compatible with many computers, and thus is not 100% free software.

What I use computers for

I strongly believe that with the dawn of the modern computer, we have grown to rely so heavily on them for just about everything. Tasks like sending letters, reading maps, reading books, and figuring things out without a search engine are almost antiquated. It’s time to reassess our usage.

As such, I rarely use e-mail anymore, but keep one inbox available in case someone wants to send me an GPG encrypted message or file. I only check my e-mail inbox on rare occasion. I still use Thunderbird with Enigmail as my e-mail client.

I no longer use instant messaging, but do have an account at Jabber.org (the first public XMPP service). I just can’t bring myself to delete it. My username is pretty cool, too.

I no longer browse the web. Instead, I only visit websites when I must. I use the Tor browser on Tails, and keep Javascript disabled.

I use nano to edit text.

I avoid SaaS as a rule, however I still host my website on Gitlab.com, and my e-mail provider is Riseup.net. Other than those, I do all of my own computing.

Telephone

I no longer have the home phone setup I’ve described in my previous article. For the sake of simplicity, I decided to only have a prepaid cell phone.

My current cell phone is a Sonim XP3800 – a 4G LTE flip phone that runs a modified Android OS. It is by no means a Free software based device, and I definitely do not recommend proprietary software to anyone. I use it only to make phone calls and nothing else. To that end, I compromise in my use of Free software.

I keep my phone turned off or on airplane while traveling. I believe this is sufficient to avoid most location tracking in my case, though it is still technically possible for a phone to be infected by malware that makes the phone pretend to be off. Or maybe the phone’s proprietary OS does this by default. While I don’t think I am a victim of this type of digital sabotage, removing a phone’s battery(s) is the only way to be truly sure it’s off.

I would love to go phone-free in the future, and am working towards that goal.

Social media usage

None at all, and proud of it. In any case, there are ethical social media options out there such as Mastodon or GNU Social.


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