Dallin Crump

tech

(And plan to eventually switch to an Android phone.)

Back in May, I upgraded from an iPhone SE 1st Gen (2016) to an iPhone 12 Mini. But after the initial novelty wore off, I realized that, while it might be newer and more sophisticated on papery, it actually provided a worse overall user experience for me than the 6-year-old iPhone it replaced. So when my wife an son needed phone upgrades, I decided to make some changes.

I'll get this out of the way up front, the reasons I'm not interested in any iPhone since the iPhone 8 are simple:

I don't like Face ID. Your experience may be different than mine, but for me it only worked when I was looking directly at the device and when there was adequate lighting. So if it's lying on a table or desk off to the side and I just want to tap into a notification to read a quick email or text? I have to stop what I'm doing, pick up the phone, and look directly at.

With Touch ID, I could just scan my thumb or index finger, see what I wanted, and move on without skipping a beat. I rarely had to enter my PIN to unlock my old SE 1st Gen. But with my newer and “better” iPhone 12 I was entering my PIN all the time. It made me especially nervous whenever I had to do that in a public setting. What if someone was glancing over my shoulder and taking note of my PIN?

Bottom line: Face ID, for me, was a step back in both convenience and security.

I noticed no substantial performance gains (based on my use case). I know I'm in the minority, here, but I don't use my smartphone like most other people do. I currently have 36 total apps installed. To the extent possible, I prefer to do everything I can using a mobile browser. Social media, reading news, etc. are all done in Firefox. This means I don't have to install as many apps and I don't have to deal with the potential privacy, security, and resource-hogging problems that come with them.

I also refuse to install games or video apps. In addition to the problems stated above, they are colossal time-wasters and not something I want ready access to in the palm of my hand. I do watch videos via a mobile browser on occasion.

So I use my phone mainly for: church-related apps, multi-factor authentication apps, communicating via email, text, and instant messaging, occasional GPS navigation, light social media (via the browser), reading, checking the weather, snapping photos, and a few other things. My SE 1st Gen could handle all of it just fine and I'd still be using it if it had a fresh battery and if Apple wasn't killing mainstream support for it next month.

iPhone Roulette

When my wife and son needed phone upgrades, I saw an opportunity for me to downgrade to the kind of iPhone that's a better fit for me and to get each of them inexpensive newer phones.

They were both using an iPhone 8, and their batteries were failing. They got 3-4 years of use out of those things. Considering I bought them both as refurbished units and their batteries weren't 100% when we got them, that's pretty impressive. But the iPhone 8 will likely only be supported by Apple another year or two at most, so it seemed the right time to upgrade them both.

The battery in my son's phone was in the worst shape, so I looked for a replacement for him first. I found a great deal on an open-box iPhone SE 2020, which still had the shipping plastic on it and 100% battery health. This left me with his old iPhone 8, my old SE 1st Gen, and another SE 1st Gen that I kept around as an emergency backup device.

I sold the two SE 1st Gens on Swappa, and with the proceeds from those I decided to take my son's old iPhone 8 to our local Apple Premiere Partner and have the battery replaced. The replacement only cost $55 out the door. When I got the phone home, the fingerprint sensor wasn't working, so I took it back in and they ended up doing a full screen replacement that was covered under their repair warranty.

I've been using the newly refurbished iPhone 8 for a few days and it's great for what I need.

For my wife, I ordered her a new iPhone SE 3rd Gen (2022) and will be trading in the iPhone 12 Mini for credit towards it. She got her new phone today, and thanks to Apple's pleasantly painless phone setup process, she's already up and running and enjoying a familiar, but fresh experience.

ISO Android Phone

My iPhone 8 has a fresh battery, new screen, and 1-2 more years of support from Apple. That should be plenty of time to find a good Android phone to switch to.

Why Android? Simple: more choices. I want a fingerprint sensor. I want a 3.5mm audio jack (I hate using a dongle). I want the ability to install apps from outside the built-in app store. New iPhones provide none of those options.

At this point I'm not looking to run a custom ROM or get a de-Googled Android device. I'm looking for something that will get OS updates for at least 2-3 years and will run all of the apps I need stably and consistently. It's looking like Google, Samsung, or Nokia are going to be my best options at this point. But I'm still looking.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 15) #tech

I have always known the importance of keeping a personal journal or diary. But for four decades of mortal life thus far, my journal keeping has been sparse.

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A principle is “a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.”

We all have deeply-held principles by which we live our lives. Some of those principles may be innate – a part of us as long as we can remember. Some principles were taught to us by our parents or families. Other principles we adopt throughout our lives as we learn and grow.

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I enjoy reading biographies, especially of people who have overcome tremendous challenges and done something good and meaningful with their lives.

Most recently, I have read a couple of memoirs by Duane “Dog” Chapman, famously known as Dog the Bounty Hunter.

As I was reading these books, for some reason I kept pondering the idiom:

Can't see the forest for the trees.

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The device I currently keep on or near my person, both at home and on the go, is a first gen iPhone SE smartphone. First released in March 2016, it's a nearly 6-year-old phone. At the time of this writing, it runs the latest version of iOS and still receives updates from Apple. It does everything I need a smartphone to do, and almost everything I want one to do. While I have tinkered with different smartphones here and there, I keep coming back to my little iPhone. I know it's not going to be usable forever, so I've been thinking for a long while about what will take its place.

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This post is being written entirely on an iPhone SE 2016. Why? Because it’s possible.

Possible? Yes. Ideal? No. Ideal would be a full-size computer keyboard with good key travel and tactile feedback. In the absence of that, my thumbs have always preferred the distinctive and satisfying experience of typing on a BlackBerry physical keyboard. In particular, the four-row keyboard found on the Q10 and Classic models, or even the Android-powered KEY2. If I wanted to, I could type for hours on those phones for the sheer joy of it.

But, alas, those phones are long gone, and I have reluctantly and begrudgingly joined the ranks of the glass-typing masses.

To be fair, my thumbs have adapted quite well to the iPhone keyboard, considering my personal preferences. I insist on typing each word in its entirety without the aid of auto-correct or auto-complete. I don’t use swipe-to-type and only really use word suggestions for emojis. I don’t want some computer algorithm completing my thoughts for me. More often than not, I waste too much time correcting inaccurate auto-corrected and auto-completed words. Best to leave them off and trust my brain and thumbs to do the writing.

Despite my dislike for typing on glass, it certainly is a much more pleasant experience today than it was 10 years ago. And I’m using a 6-year-old phone (that still gets software updates from Apple)! My first smartphone was an LG Optimus V. It ran Android 2.2 and had a 3.2” screen. That was pretty rough!

Just having the ability to write anything of decent quality as well as publish it wirelessly to the web from a pocket-sized device is still a pretty amazing thing.

Amazing. But still not ideal!


#100DaysToOffload (No. 9) #tech

I've been using Mastodon – a free and open source, decentralized social media platform and a compelling alternative to corporate-controlled platforms like Facebook and Twitter – regularly since June of 2019. Mastodon is part of the Fediverse – a collection of inter-connected apps developed around ActivityPub, an open, decentralized social networking protocol.

In 2019 a company I have been following called Purism launched their own Mastodon instance – called Librem Social – as a part of their Librem One suite of ethical web-based software services. I signed up for a subscription because I wanted to show my support for any company trying to offer viable, non-exploitative alternatives to popular services.

Purism hasn't done much with Librem One since they launched it. I expect it didn't catch on as much as they had hoped it would. Since then, they've focused on their hardware and haven't mentioned hardly anything about Librem One. But I appreciate them maintaining Librem One as long as they have.

Admittedly, I didn't renew my Librem One subscription after the first year. I tried their email, chat, and VPN services, but didn't find them compelling enough to keep using them. Librem Social, however, has become my main personal social media account.

On more than one occasion, I have considered moving to a different Mastodon instance. But there are several reasons I keep using Librem Social.

Librem Social-Specific

Here are two reasons specific to Librem Social.

Disabled Local and Federated Timelines

Most instances of Mastodon allow you to see Local and Federated timelines. The Local timeline is a feed of all of the posts from all of the accounts within your same instance. The Federated timeline is a feed that shows all of the posts across all instances – at least the ones that support posting to the Federated timeline. Not all of them do.

Librem Social has disabled both Local and Federated timeline support on its instance of Mastodon. I see this as its biggest strength and it has been a good thing for me. It means I am not at risk of being blindsided by a deluge of random, unsolicited content that I never wanted to see. From day one, I have had to intentionally seek out content by searching for it. I search for hashtags, keywords, and phrases related to my interests. I have been able to find and follow people across many different Mastodon instances that I find interesting in some way or another.

General Purpose Theme

Some instances of Mastodon are narrow in their theme and focus. Others, like Librem One, don't have a specific theme or topic – they are just general purpose. My interests are pretty eclectic, so I don't want to feel like I'm pigeonholed into posting about specific stuff all the time.

For example, I interact with a lot of good folks from from the fosstodon.org instance. Sure, they can and do post about all kinds of things aside from FOSS (free and open-source software), but the name of the instance still has that implication and that is their main interest and focus.

I like that Librem Social is a bit more generic in scope.

Mastodon In General

The rest of my reasons are likely true of most Mastodon instances, not just Librem Social.

Chronological Timeline

The main feed is in chronological order. No annoying algorithms causing different posts to show up at the top of your feed every time you reload. I never miss a post if I don't want to, and they are always in the same order.

No Tracking, No Ads

It's certainly possible that some Mastodon instances track their users in some fashion or serve ads, but I would bet that most don't.

And what a refreshing experience it is to not be accosted with endless ads in a social media timeline.

Community

I have met some genuinely good, caring, thoughtful, intelligent people on Mastodon. Some of them share my interests. Some of them don't, but are quite good at expressing themselves in a way that I find interesting or make me want to learn new things.

This has been possible because Mastodon is about allowing people to interact and share their thoughts. It's about building communities, not about exploiting and monetizing people.

Conclusion

I have deleted all of my other social media accounts except for Facebook and LinkedIn.

I keep Facebook because I use it to participate in a few important groups, including Church and family groups. And I keep LinkedIn because it is the best way to keep in touch with professional contacts, network with others in my same area of expertise, and find good employment in my field. But I rarely post to my own timeline in either of them.

Librem Social is now my preferred social media platform, and I hope Mastodon continues to grow and evolve. So far, it's the closest thing to my ideal of what social media should be. I think it has tremendous potential.


#100DaysToOffload (No. 8) #socialmedia #tech #intentionism

Taco Bell recently announced a new taco subscription service.

This evening my family had delicious homemade tacos for dinner, so naturally the topic of the taco subscription came up. I remembered seeing a headline about it somewhere, but none of us had looked into the details. So we started speculating what the taco subscription might be like based on what we know about streaming subscription services. Here are the results:

  • If you are willing to pay more, you can get a fast food subscription bundle that also includes KFC, Pizza Hut, and The Habit Burger Grill.
  • You can set up taco profiles for each member of your family.
  • You can set up parental controls in case you don't want your kids eating tacos that are too spicy.
  • If you pay for the cheaper plan, you get tacos with ads printed on the shells.
  • As you eat more tacos, your taco eating habits are tracked and analyzed. This is so they can suggest the best possible tacos according to your tastes and serve targeted taco shell ads to you.
  • You can only eat your tacos in approved locations.
  • The kind of taco you have been eating every day might disappear from the menu with or without warning. It will then appear on the menu of TacoTime or Del Taco.
  • Some tacos are not available all at once. You can only get a piece of the taco during one visit, then you have to return another day to get the next piece.
  • Some tacos may be incomplete. They can be cancelled before they are finished.
  • You can take your tacos with you to eat later, but you must keep them in a special container that you have to purchase separately. If you don't eat your tacos within 24 hours of picking them up, they disappear.
  • There is an older subscription option where you can receive tacos in the mail. You can only have 1 or 2 at a time, then you must send the containers back to receive the next tacos in your queue.

#100DaysToOffload (No. 6) #tech #humor

As of today, BlackBerry has shut down services for their phones running the BBOS and BB10 operating systems, which means they lose most of the core functionality that has allowed them to be usable phones long past their prime.

There are lots of news articles, blog posts, and social media posts about it, so I will try not to get too wordy here. Suffice it to say that I am and always will be a BlackBerry fan, and I dearly miss my beloved physical phone keyboards.

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I go through these phases where I try to acquire things that I once had – or always wanted to have – in the past. Even if I got rid of those things for a good reason, even if I felt like parting with them was the right thing to do, I sometimes regret having let those things go. This is probably why – although I will always aspire to be one – I will probably never truly be a so-called minimalist.

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