Dallin Crump

Full-time Clark Kent. Moonlighting Superman.

For the first couple weeks of the year I used an unconventional Android phone – the Unihertz Jelly 2E – as my daily driver smartphone. While it's a delightful little phone and great for what it is, I'm back on my trusty iPhone 8.

Back to iPhone

I loved the small form factor of the Jelly 2E for many reasons – mostly because it kept me off the phone when I didn't need to use it. But the main reason I'm back on an iPhone is the software. A few apps I wanted to use simply would not run on the Jelly 2E, probably because of its unconventional screen size (3”) and hardware.

Also, I've been using an iPhone as my daily driver for so long that my digital workflow is just more efficient on iOS. Yes, lock-in is a factor. FaceTime and iCloud calendars, for example, have become indispensable tools for communicating and coordinating with my family. None of them are planning on going Android anytime soon, and me being the only Android user means I have to use less efficient workarounds (I can't FaceTime them, they have to send me a link for a FaceTime. And I have to rely on a third-party app (DAVx5) to sync my iCloud calendar and contacts with my Android phone). And there are other examples besides those two, like managing family settings, content sharing, and subscriptions is easier, or in some cases necessary, on an iOS device.

But these specific examples just point to a broader issue.

Convenience

In recent weeks I've written about how I worry that some things have become too convenient – that when we allow machines to exclusively do meaningful tasks for us that require us to be intentional, we lose something important. We need to be careful and intentional about how we use technology. It's more convenient to send a text or an email, but sometimes a hand-written letter or card is the best way to convey sincere thoughts and sentiments to family or friends. We can read just about anything on a digital device, but sometimes We need to hold and read a physical book. Video calls are fantastic at bridging time and distance to connect people, but they are not an adequate substitute for meeting in-person.

But we must balance the convenience equation. If there is such a thing as too much convenience, there can also be such a thing as too much inconvenience.

I shudder to think about how many cumulative hours I have spent fretting and thinking and tinkering and fiddling with the technology I personally use. True, I have learned much and have been able to gain a great understanding of how that technology works. But I learn quickly. And it doesn't take much time before I'm no longer learning and all I'm doing is fretting and tinkering for distraction or entertainment or whatever.

I have to stop this. Because, as I've been painfully reminded this month, this mortal phase of our eternal existence is precious and it can end without warning. I have spent too much of my life alone, tinkering with gadgets or staring at a screen, when there are more important and meaningful things to be done.

The technology I use should be the means to an end, not an end in itself. The technology I use shouldn't be what is most important in life, it should help me do what is most important in life.

Viewing my situation from this perspective – assessing where I am in relation to where I want to be – I need to make some changes. I need to make the technology I use more convenient, not less, so that it can get out of the way of what I truly value (or what I should value, but have been trying to distract myself from valuing).

Time to Get a Mac

I am making the commitment here and now to use an iPhone and Apple software like iMessage, FaceTime, and iCloud Calendars for the foreseeable future. I'm done “phone hopping”. To streamline things and minimize the need for workarounds and tinkering, I am getting a Mac (probably an M1 MacBook Air, but I haven't decided yet).

I have written about frustrations I have with Apple. I have called them out more than once for certain business practices and decisions. But I am willing to make a compromise for the convenience, consistency, and reliability of Apple products and services. I do so knowing that it will free up time for more important pursuits.

These pursuits include but are not limited to:

  • Spending more time with family.
  • Focusing more on my faith. More time in personal prayer and study. More time devoted to my church responsibilities.
  • Going back to school. I have been extremely blessed and fortunate to have a successful career without earning a college degree. I took a couple years of community college but now it's time to finish what I started.
  • Making more friends IRL. I have lamented the fact that I don't really have any friends in my neighborhood. I know plenty of good people, but nobody I would consider a good friend. I need to change that.
  • Working on family history. There's a lot to be done, here. Photos to scan, materials and mementos to sort through and organize, records to update on FamilySearch.org. I've been avoiding it for too long. If I don't do it, it won't get done, and precious family information and memories will be lost.
  • Practicing my clarinet. I want to at least get back to the level of proficiency and confidence I had in college and try to play in a community orchestra or band. This alone will require at least 30-60 minutes of daily, consistent practice.

This isn't my whole list, but these are some of the most important things on it. If I were to make a more complete list, things like “spin up and maintain my own NextCloud server” or “get a refurb Android phone and flash it with a custom ROM” or “try another Linux distro” would be way, way down the list.

I've used Macs and iPads in the past in addition to iPhones, so I know how well Apple devices work together and complement each other and how good they are at getting stuff done the way I want. At this point in my life, that's the kind of technology experience I both need and want.


#tech #intentionism #life

At the very end of 2022, I decided to try an experiment with an unconventional smartphone – the tiny Unihertz Jelly 2E. Here are my impressions and takeaways.

A refresh of the older Jelly 2, the Jelly 2E is the smallest smartphone I have ever used, sporting a 3” display. It may be small in stature, but it's a fully functional Android phone running Android 12 and it can mostly do everything other Android phones can do.

And when I saw it on sale over the holidays and was able to snag it for $144 USD, I figured I'd give it a try.

The 3” screen has a resolution of 480 × 854 pixels and is just fine for what it is. Everything is crisp and clear, just smaller.

The phone is small, but thick at 95 × 49.4 × 16.5 mm. The thickness is welcome – if it was any thinner it'd be very difficult to keep from dropping it. In fact, they even include a wrist strap if you want to use it!

It has a dual sim card slot – those seem to be more popular overseas. It's a feature I've never used, but always nice to have the option.

With 4GB of RAM I have never experienced any slowdowns, and 64GB of storage is more than adequate for my needs. But having the option to add a Micro SD card to expand the storage if I want to is quite welcome.

Phone calls are loud and clear. Even the speakerphone has worked well in a pinch.

The cameras (8mp front, 16mp rear) work fine and are not terrible, but don't expect iPhone or Pixel quality. I don't take many photos, so it's not a big deal to me.

The rear fingerprint sensor has been hit or miss for me. It works most of the time after a few attempts – only occasionally on the first attempt. Not a deal-breaker but noticeable.

In addition to all the standard features we've come to expect in smartphones like GPS, WiFi, front and rear cameras, etc., it also has a couple features that have inexplicably disappeared from so-called “modern” smartphones like a dedicated 3.5 mm audio jack, programmable action button, and even an IR blaster. I can't tell you how satisfying it has been to just plug my earbuds in or connect my phone to my sound system sans Bluetooth without having to look for a dongle.

The main reason I got this phone was to promote digital minimalism – to help curb the long-ingrained impulse to absent-mindedly pick up my phone and distract myself. And for the most part, it has worked.

It's definitely more difficult to type anything on the minuscule keyboard, so that alone is a huge deterrent to using it for lengthy emails, texts, etc. unless I'm truly desperate.

And I refuse to install social media apps on my phone, preferring to use a browser instead. Doing so on a phone that small is pretty agonizing, too, so with the exception of using mbasic.facebook.com a couple times, I haven't used social media on this phone at all.

But while my overall smartphone use has decreased, my computer use has increased to compensate. For example, rather than typing texts on my phone, I usually type them on a computer using the Google Messages web app (unless I am out and away from a computer). Same with my IM apps, emails, social media posts, etc.

The biggest gripe I have is that a couple a couple apps I've wanted to use have not worked. Skype just crashes immediately after launch. Gmail worked fine for a few days, then also started crashing immediately after launch. I switched to K-9 Mail and it works great. I expect there are more apps that might not work, as they are not optimized for the unconventional screen size and hardware, but thankfully there are alternatives to most apps that work just fine.

Another semi-gripe is that notifications don't seem to work for many apps. This might be due to my own lack of experience with Android 12 – I'm sure it's could be a battery optimization thing or some other setting. But it's only a semi-gripe because I usually disable notifications for most apps anyway as a digital minimalism hack. I prefer to check social media and other things on my own terms, not because that little notification tone went off. But I have missed some time-sensitive messages on instant messaging apps and that's a bit annoying.

But overall, this phone has been a delight to use and a great conversation starter (mostly people laughing and looking at me like I have two heads, but coming around as I talk to them about it and explain my reasons for using it). I love that a device so compact can do so much and do it as well as it does. If you are looking for something to help curb your smartphone use without giving up the important and useful features of a smartphone when you truly need them, give the Jelly 2E a try.


#tech #DigitalMinimalism #intentionism #smartphones

I got a lovely Moleskine paper daily planner and have been trying to use that to plan out my days and weeks. But it may be a little too inconvenient.

If it was just me planning and keeping track of my own stuff and not having to take anyone else into consideration, I could totally go all-in with paper planners. But the challenge is coordinating schedules with my wife and son.

We have used iCloud calendars to track appointments and events. We each have our own calendars, but we have shared them with each other so we can all see what each of us has going on. Every Sunday we get together and review our calendars together and talk about the week ahead. Whenever a change is made to an event or an event is added to one of our calendars, the others get notified and they can see the change reflected immediately. This system has worked well for us for several years.

I have been maintaining both my paper planner and my iCloud calendar this week. But if I stop updating my iCloud calendar, that means my wife and son will have to account for my own calendar events themselves in our weekly calendaring sessions, and I will have to somehow account for important events on their calendars in my paper planner. It also means that we would need to orally communicate any important changes or updates to our calendars throughout the week.

We could have a family paper planner or calendar, but then that means recording events in multiple places and running the risk of one of those places not being accurate. Things could fall through the cracks and there would be more opportunities for miscommunication. Could we make it work? Sure. But it creates more work for all of us without really adding any value.

In short, my using a paper planner while my wife and son still rely on electronic calendars decreases flexibility and impedes our ability to communicate and coordinate our schedules.

I don't think it makes sense for me to stop updating my iCloud calendar, but it also doesn't make sense for me to maintain both an electronic and paper planner at the same time. So I think I'm going to halt my paper planner experiment.

Another quirk that factored into this decision is that my paper planner doesn't have enough time slots each day for my schedule. It has slots in hourly increments from 8am to 8pm. But I wake up at 6am and go to bed at 10pm. I want the ability to account for all of my waking time if I desire down to 30 minute increments. I'm sure I could find a paper planner that would be exactly what I'm looking for, but it's a moot point. I've decided to keep using an electronic calendar, and they are much more flexible in that regard.

I want to continue to focus on planning better, and I do believe there are benefits to writing things down on paper in terms of organizing thoughts and planning things. So instead of using a dedicated paper planner, I will use a regular notebook to jot down events to remember, draft daily or weekly schedules, as needed, and then input things into my electronic calendar as the final “source of truth”.

Discuss...


#planning #tech #intentionism #LessConvenient #DigitalMinimalism

I'm glad tomorrow is a company holiday. I could use the extra day to prepare to prepare, because I want to make some significant changes for 2023. One of the changes I have made is to rearranged my home office to be more conducive to my goal of being more intentional with the digital technology I use.

Before, I had two tables arranged in an L shape to form a single “desk”. Now those tables are separated. One table is for all the digital technology I use – the “Online Table”. The other table is the “Offline Table” and strictly for tasks such as research, study, planning, writing, and meditation – anything that doesn't require me to be looking at a screen.

With the Online Table, I have purposely tried to pare down and consolidate all the digital technology I personally and exclusively use so that it fits on this single table. I now have only one display – my trusty old Dynex 32” 720p LCD TV. This is the only display my desktop PC is connected to. The TV is connected to a KVM switch so I can also use it as an external display for my work or personal laptops, if needed. I adopted a single monitor workflow a couple years ago, so no worries, here. My laptops are stored in a vertical dual laptop stand beside the TV when not in use. I also have a small audio receiver and two speakers, a dual SATA USB 3.0 HDD/SSD dock, and a wireless keyboard and mouse. All of this fits on a single table.

The Offline Table is where I will keep a paper planner, notebooks, writing utensils, books, and other related materials. It is where I will write letters, brainstorm ideas, study scriptures, and generally “disconnect” from technology.

These tables are physically separate from one another for both symbolic and practical reasons. This is just one of the many changes I will be making in the coming days and weeks to help promote a healthier relationship with technology.

Discuss...


#tech #intentionism #DigitalMinimalism #HomeOffice

I've been trying the “one blog to rule them all” method of blogging for a couple years now – posting about a variety of topics on a single blog. But I've been thinking about starting an additional blog with a specific focus.

I want to make some changes to my life with respect to how I use my time and how I interact with digital technology. I thought it might be good to have a blog dedicated to documenting my experiences and things I am learning in these areas.

I came up with a couple different ideas.

The Digital Minimalist (digitalminimalist.org) – This blog would be limited in focus to digital minimalism – the intentional use of digital technologies and stopping the addictive behaviors in which many have become trapped. Topics could include strategies for intentional smartphone use and good non-digital alternatives for performing specific tasks.

Less Convenient (lessconvenient.com) – This blog would be broader in scope than The Digital Minimalist. It would include digital minimalism but would also explore the concept of the often ignored and unseen negative consequences of using technologies and engaging in behaviors that are supposed to make our lives more convenient. For example, the pervasive use of automobiles for transportation in North America has had some serious negative consequences in the way we build infrastructure, environmental impact, and public safety. It would promote the value of doing certain things in a less convenient, more intentional way.

Of course, I could just continue posting about these things right here on my personal blog.

Right now I'm leaning towards the Less Convenient idea. I feel like digital minimalism is getting a lot of attention these days and Less Convenient would have a lot more potential ground to cover in addition to that.

Discuss...


#writing #DigitalMinimalism #intentionism

On January 1 of this year (2022), I decided to take up the 100 Days To Offload challenge. The premise is simple: publish one hundred posts to your blog within one year. I publish this, my one hundredth post, with one day to spare.

For a good part of the year, I had all but given up on it. I started out pretty strong, then lost steam and didn't post for months. I was ready to throw this endeavor in the metaphorical (and massive) “Things Dallin started but never finished” bin in my mind.

But for some reason, I decided to push through. There were many times when I was drawing a complete blank and couldn't think of anything to write – interesting or not. But I somehow I got it done.

One thing that helped me is my decision earlier in the year to keep a journal again. Thanks to the magic of IFTTT, I capture my blog posts as journal entries via the Day One mobile app. So I had some addition incentive to write something every day to ensure I continue my daily journal entry streak (148 days and counting).

Another thing that has helped me in the final stretch these past two weeks has been my news and social media fast. The more distracted and riled up I am, the less focus I am able to maintain on writing. News and social media are huge sources of distraction and anxiety for me. I won't say writing has been effortless during this fast, but the ideas and motivation to write have been much more attainable.

One thing I wish I had done differently is to post consistently throughout the year instead of procrastinate and have to post once or more per day just to squeak by. I'd like to be able to put more time and thought into some of the things I write about rather than just brain dump each day and not really have a chance to dive deeper into things that really interest me. It should have been two to three posts per week rather than one or more posts per day.

Regardless, the most rewarding thing about this experience is the satisfaction and self-confidence that come from finishing a task that has been long and at times difficult.

This has been an amazing experience for me, and I hope to continue to build on this momentum and keep writing. That's why the title of this post is a question. Perhaps I'll repeat in 2023?

If you've ever thought about taking this challenge, I highly recommend it.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 100) #writing

I drove over 1800 miles in the past week, and I feel like I witnessed a lot more aggressive and careless driving than usual.

Maybe it's just my perception, maybe I was just paying attention more than I have in the past, but driving from Northern Utah to Phoenix, Arizona and back I saw quite a bit of craziness on the road.

Both Arizona and Utah had their fair share of people who seemed to think they were playing Gran Turismo, but we hit rush hour along the Wasatch Front (the I-15 from Provo to Ogden) and that was the absolute worst.

For example, I wasn't going slow, by any means. I always try to go with the flow of traffic. But it didn't matter how fast I went, someone always wanted to go faster and was determined to make that point in dramatic fashion.

My car has adaptive cruise control, which means it can automatically adjust the speed to maintain distance between the car in front of me. In other words, when I have adaptive cruise control activated it won't go faster than the car in front of me. That's a good thing, because I don't want to crash.

On several occasions someone would determine that I was driving too slow, pass me, and immediately cut in front of me to teach me a lesson. Only to discover that it was the car ahead of me that was going too slow.

I recently read an article about Utah drivers being the worst in the nation. From what I saw on this most recent road trip, I can't disagree.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 99) #automobiles #travel

I'm at the tail end of the first family Christmas vacation we've taken in three years, and it's been great.

Mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related circumstances, we have not spent Christmas with my extended family since 2019. Being able to do so this year has been a wonderful experience and a reminder to me of two things: the importance of being together with family, and the necessity of in-person human interaction.

I tend towards introversion. I don't mind being alone. I am a contemplative person and need solitude, quiet, and deep thinking to replenish myself. My initial reaction to social occasions is to avoid them. But most of the time when I push through that hesitation and go, I do enjoy them to some degree. I enjoy them even more if those social occasions are with family.

I am blessed to still have one living set of grandparents. I am their eldest grandchild, and my son is their eldest great-grandchild. This is our second opportunity this year to spend time with them, and these have been special visits. Video calls with them would not be the same – they are no substitute for sitting on a couch together talking, feeling that tangible connection that comes just from being around loved ones.

This has been a lovely time. While I am ready to return to our “regular” life, I also wish I had more time. I wish I didn't live so distant from my extended family that I only get to be with them a couple times a year. Still, it makes those times all the more meaningful.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 98) #family #life #Christmas

I received an email yesterday that the Unihertz Jelly 2E smartphone I ordered on 12/23 has finally shipped.

The delay is understandable. Package delivery is always delayed around the holidays, but this year some intense winter weather has been negatively impacting air and ground transportation all over the country.

So I don't mind long shipping times. The only expectations I have for this phone are that it will work with my carrier and will make me want to use a smartphone less.

I'm excited to thoroughly try it out and share my impressions. Hopefully it will arrive before the end of the year so I can start 2023 off on the right foot on my journey to more intentional technology use.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 97) #tech #smartphones #DigitalMinimalism #intentionism

In 2017 I learned about and got really into the concept of minimalism. Not in the artistic sense, but in the sense of removing physical and mental clutter from your life so that you are able to focus more on what truly matters.

In fact, that summer I undertook what I now refer to as “The Great Purge of 2017”. I went through my entire house and got rid of a lot of stuff. It was glorious.

In addition to regularly assessing my physical possessions and getting rid of things I don't need, I try to evaluate things that are cluttering my mind and negatively affecting my mental health. In my case, most of those things have to do with the technology I own and how I use it.

I have made some good strides over the years, but now more than ever I feel the need to make some significant and permanent changes to my relationship with technology.

I have always been concerned about the potential negative consequences of technology making some aspects of our life more convenient. Whether we realize it, there are always trade-offs.

Automobiles, for example, have made our lives convenient in many ways. They allow us to travel where we wish whenever we wish. But I believe they have also negatively impacted things such as our environment and the way we plan and build our cities in North America. They are also not the safest way to travel and they can be a tremendous financial burden to the average family.

For years I've been thinking about this concept of the sometimes ignored and unseen trade-offs we make for a more convenient life, and not only do I feel a renewed desire to make more changes in my own life, but I also feel compelled to make a dedicated blog and maybe even a podcast about it to share what I am learning with others.

Stay tuned.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 96) #DigitalMinimalism #intentionism #life #tech

Enter your email to subscribe to updates.