Dallin Crump

tech

For several months I made do with only a desktop. Now I also have a laptop (again). But do I really need both?

Having a laptop again has reminded me of how nice they are in terms of flexibility and portability. Yet I also like the desktop's power and ease of repairs and upgrades. But analyzing my tech use after obtaining a laptop, the only things I use my desktop for on a regular basis are light gaming (dedicated graphics) and data storage (2 TB HDD). Everything else – writing, communication, web browsing, etc. I prefer to do on my laptop.

I'm really feeling the need to consolidate and scale back on the technology I own, so I'm considering getting a laptop with dedicated graphics to replace both my desktop and current laptop. I already have several easy external storage options to take care of any data storage needs.

I would probably get a refurbished laptop with NVIDIA GeForce GTX graphics, as I don't need anything more than that for my gaming needs. Every so often I get back into more intense gaming, but eventually I step away from it again as I am reminded how addictive and time-consuming it is. Not having the latest and greatest dedicated graphics will be another way to help curb the addiction while still providing for some gaming once in a while (right now I only play Minecraft).

I'd sell my current desktop and laptop to offset the cost of the nicer laptop.

And I should probably go through all the stuff in my office, purge the stuff I don't need, and reevaluate the stuff I do use to determine if I can minimize it.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 87) #tech #intentionism #DigitalMinimalism

I recently wrote about the first smartphone I ever owned. But my very first experience with a cell phone was using an Audiovox CDM-4500 or an Audiovox model very similar to it.

Around 1999 my parents bought a single cell phone for the family that any one of us could take along when out of the house if we needed to easily call home or be contacted. I was attending community college at the time and remember taking the phone with me on several occasions and using it. Although we were discouraged from using it unless absolutely necessary because apparently the minutes were very expensive. I don't know how much they paid for the phone or the service.

So it technically wasn't mine, but it was the first cell phone I ever used. I thought it was amazing to be able to talk on the phone wherever I was. Little did I know how drastically cell phones would change over the next couple decades.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 86) #tech #retro

I've decided to end the experiment I started a month ago and stop running my own Mastodon instance.

It's obvious my relationship with social media is not a healthy one. And it likely never will be. So it doesn't make sense for me to run and administrate a Mastodon instance, which would obligate me to be on social media when I should be taking a break – or stepping away for good.

I had high hopes for ZCMI.social, and would still love for there to be a supportive, safe, faith-affirming space for members of my church to have a social media experience. But I am not the one to make that happen. Besides, the level of interest even among close associates who supported the idea was lackluster to begin with, and actual engagement on my Mastodon instance itself was practically nonexistent.

I have migrated my personal Mastodon account back to Fosstodon, where I have felt the most at-home on the Fediverse.

I have learned a lot from this experience and I don't regret it.

I don't feel like explaining all I have learned in intricate detail, but I'll sum it up by saying I have gained an even greater appreciation for everyone who has made and continues to make Mastodon and decentralized social media possible. I appreciate all the developers, hosts, admins, members – all who are trying to move us away from corporate-controlled, exploitative social media platforms that foment outrage and contention for profit, and instead create safe, engaging online communities that foster communication and understanding.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 85) #tech #SocialMedia

Someone in a Discord server I'm on forced me to look in a metaphorical mirror and made me realize how news and social media have negatively impacted my objectivity and mental health in recent weeks.

It was an uncomfortable moment, but a welcome one. I have gotten way too worked up over Elon Musk and his Twitter antics because that situation is at the intersection of a lot of issues I'm passionate about like #tech, #SocialMedia, #politics, #FOSS, #privacy, and others.

When I get too worked up over issues like this, my emotions get the best of me and I don't think clearly. I'm not as articulate or persuasive in my arguments. I get upset, argumentative, contentious. I feel anxious, agitated, frustrated. I lose control. And I don't feel good about myself or others when I'm like this.

Over the years, I've made some changes to keep from slipping into this state of mind and continue to participate on social media in productive ways, but it still happens and I don't like it.

It's time for another news and social media fast. So here are the changes I'm making starting today and continuing through the end of the year:

  • Log out of Discord, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Mastodon on all devices (these are the only social media platforms I use)
  • Refrain from checking news sources. I will block specific news websites on my devices if force of habit gets the better of me.
  • Strengthen real-world relationships
  • Pray and meditate more
  • Read more
  • Write (blog) more
  • Enjoy holiday festivities
  • Focus on being present and living in the moment

When the status quo isn't working, it's time to change things up. So here goes!

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 84)

I read a fascinating article about a group of teenagers at a high school in Manhattan who have formed a “Luddite Club”. They focus on freeing oneself from social media, smartphones, and other addictive technology.

The term luddite has its roots in 18th century English weaver Ned Ludd, who supposedly lost his temper and broke two stocking frames. In the early 19th century, textile workers protesting industrialization appropriated his identity and called themselves “Luddites”.

The modern meaning of luddite is one who is opposed or resistant to new technologies. It's usually meant as a derogatory term.

But these young people have embraced it, rallied around it to support each other as they try to be intentional about the technology they use.

They've faced some challenges, though. In a hyper-connected world where everyone is assumed – even expected – to have a smartphone, it's hard being among the few who don't use one.

I feel for these youth. I had the privilege of living my high school years in the late 1990s, where the only access I had to a computer was the school computer lab until my senior year (1999) when my family finally got our first home computer. Basic cell phones hadn't been widely adopted yet and smartphones didn't exist. The best ways to socialize online were through email, computer-based messaging apps, IRC, and online forums. But you had to be physically sitting in front of a computer to use any of these services.

Things have changed a lot since then. And I don't think they've all changed for the better. I'm very encouraged that there are young people out there who also realize this and are trying to do something about it.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 82) #tech #intentionism

For 3-4 years after the first iPhone came out, I used a flip phone and an iPod Touch. Then I decided I wanted to try a smartphone, but didn't want to spend a lot of money. So I bought an LG Optimus V.

It was released in 2010 and had the following specs:

  • Display: 3.2”, 320 x 480 pixels, 180 ppi
  • OS: Android 2.2 (Froyo)
  • CPU: 600 MHz
  • Micro SD Slot
  • Rear Camera: 3.15 MP, 480p (no front camera)
  • 3.5mm Audio Jack
  • Battery: Li-Ion, 1500 mAh, user-replaceable
  • Comms: WiFi with hotspot capabilities, Bluetooth 2.1, GPS

It was no iPhone, but it was a good little phone for what it was and it served me well while I had it.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 81) #tech

Another phone I've been looking at to help reduce my smartphone use is the Unihertz Jelly 2e.

It's small. Very small. Extremely small. Its dimensions are 95 × 49.4 × 16.5 mm. It has a 3-inch screen! And it would make messaging, social media, video viewing a pain, which is what I want. But it would still give me access to the apps and basic functionality I need, especially when I'm traveling.

I work from home and most of the time I think I could get by with a “dumphone”. But I traveled for work earlier this year and having a smartphone was practically essential. With some serious planning and preparation I might still be able to get by with a dumbphone while traveling, but with the world increasingly revolving around smartphones, some things can be difficult to do without one. Like using rideshare services, finding specific locations and getting directions to them, etc.

In fact, I have a specific example from this work trip of how my smartphone came in handy and perhaps even prevented me from missing a flight. The A and B terminals are long at the Salt Lake City airport. They sit on either side of the tarmac and there is a long underground tunnel that connects them.

I always arrive early to give myself time to get through security and find the gate and initially my departure gate was at the far end of the A. But the gate changed. I got a notification through the airline app notifying me of the change – the gate was now at the opposite end of the A terminal. There was no audible announcement about the change. Without the app notification, how long would I have been sitting there before I noticed the flight and city had changed on the display at the gate?

I walked all the way to the other end of the terminal to my new gate. But soon, I received another notification that the departure gate had been changed again. This time, it was at the opposite end of the B terminal, which required walking back to the midway point of the A terminal, taking the underground tunnel to the other side of the tarmac, and then walking to the end of the B terminal to the new gate. Again, there was no audible announcement of the change. How long would I have been waiting before I noticed the gate had been changed again?

Like it or not, the default assumption today is that everyone has a smartphone. The world is catering less and less to people who don't use them.

So maybe instead of going for a “dumbphone”, I could go for a smartphone that is different from your average phablet. A phone that makes me want to use it as little as possible, but still has all the functionality I need.

The Jelly 2E just might be that phone. And at the current price of $160 USD, it's not a huge risk to try it out.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 80) #tech #intentionism

I've been following the Light Phone project for a few years. I've come close to buying one on a couple of occasions, but always talked myself out of it at the last minute.

I've been wary of smartphones for a long time. I love all the things they can do. But I also hate all the things they can do. Despite all the convenient and productive things that can be done with them, I think most people would admit they are addicting.

Over the years I have made slow but steady progress towards more intentional smartphone use. I don't have games or video apps installed. I use social media in a mobile browser rather than use dedicated apps. I try to keep the number of apps installed to a minimum. A few months ago I started keeping my phone in my home office at night while I seep instead of right next to my bed so I can't just mindlessly grab my phone when I have the impulse.

But during the average day I still reach for my phone when I want to distract myself. Because I know I can. There's always something to do. Check the weather. Read the news. Look at photos. Whatever. It's a habit in which I have been entrenched for more than a decade. I want to break it. And I think the Light Phone or something like it could help me do that.

I was fascinated by the latest post on the Light Phone blog about Buxton School, a private boarding school in Massachusetts that recently implemented a campus-wide smartphone ban. They partnered with the folks at Light Phone to provide students and faculty with Light Phones instead. The results were promising. Read the blog and watch this video for more details:

Buxton School Goes Light from The Light Phone on Vimeo.

Reading about and listening to them talk about their experience, it seems like the people at Buxton School are starting to recapture something I think we've lost in a smartphone-centric society. Social networking without social media. Being present. Living in the moment. Embracing boredom and using it to spark deep thought and creativity.

I'd love give the Light Phone a try and see if it helps me do that, too. Money is tight with the holidays upon us. But maybe I can find a way.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 79) #tech #intentionism

The Fediverse was abuzz today about a report that Apple will be allowing third-party app stores on the iPhone. But reading the fine print, it's obvious this is not an altruistic gesture on Apple's part.

Apple is making this move in response to the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA). In other words, they're doing it because they're being forced. It's either that, or they can't sell iPhones in the EU. Despite their ridiculous claims that it will “destroy the security of the iPhone”, they are willing to compromise that principle because it is secondary to the thing they value above all else: profit.

Unfortunately for anyone who values the freedom to install the software of their choice on the hardware of their choice, Apple will likely make this change only for iPhones in Europe. They will continue to lock down their phones as tightly as possible everywhere else it is legal to do so – it's more profitable for them.

To further illustrate that Apple is willing to put profit above principle, consider the compromises they have been willing to make to sell iPhones in China. Despite their marketing claims of privacy and security, they have provided the Chinese government with the ability to use iPhones to surveil Chinese citizens. It's the cost of doing business in China, and Apple complies for the same reason they comply with the EU: profit.

And again, it really comes down to this question: who truly owns an iPhone? You? Or Apple? I'll save you the trouble and give you the answer: Apple. You use an iPhone at their pleasure. You have the features and capabilities they allow you to have. You cannot install the operating system of your choice. They can allow third-party app stores or force you to use theirs exclusively. They provide OS updates for a certain amount of time, and when they stop, there's nothing you can do about it. They have the power to render your phone completely useless or use your phone for surveillance or other malicious activity without your knowledge or consent.

That's a lot of power for a company. And they have shown they're willing to use that power in whatever way is most profitable for them – regardless of whatever values they may espouse in their marketing materials.

“But Dallin,” you say, “what about the new Advanced Data Protection feature Apple just rolled out? Doesn't that at least show their commitment to privacy and security?”

This is a good move, yes. Many years late, but better late than never. And apparently Apple's Craig Federighi claimed this feature would even roll out to China. But I have a hard time believing the Chinese government would allow this unless they had some way to circumvent it. We should probably assume they do. And if they do, what's to prevent others from doing the same?

I don't trust Apple. I don't trust them to always do what's right for the customer. I expect them to always do whatever pleases their shareholders, which may or may not be what's right for the customer. I don't want a company with those values to have as much control as Apple has over the technology I use.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 78) #tech

Spoilers ahead!

I'm currently obsessed with the Star Wars TV series Andor. Writing, directing, acting, cinematography, music, story – all brilliant. It resonates with me on many levels. I'm watching the first season for the second time and paying close attention. In Episode 7, Announcement, a conversation between Andor and Maarva got me thinking.

Andor is trying to convince Maarva to leave Ferrix with him.

Maarva: I'm staying.

Cassian: But it's... it's not safe.

Maarva: I know all that.

Cassian: I can't be here. You said it yourself, “It's all come undone.” There's an Imperial barracks on Rix Road.

Maarva: Good luck to them.

Cassian: You wanna live under that?

Maarva: It's happening everywhere.

Cassian: Well, we'll find a place they haven't ruined yet.

Maarva: I'm already there. That place is in my head. They can build as many barracks as they like, they'll never find me.

Cassian: What's left to keep you here?

Maarva: The Rebellion.

Cassian: What?

Maarva: Ferrix has been hiding long enough.

Cassian: So now you're taking on the Empire?

Maarva: Laugh if you want to.

Cassian: Who's laughing? This is madness.

Maarva: No, it's not. It's overdue, and probably doomed, and I'm too old, and I don't care anymore. For 13 years, every time I walk down Rix Road, I turn off before I get to the square. I take the long way around so I don't have to think about Clem hanging there. Then yesterday, I heard about this attack at Aldhani. Have you heard about this?

Cassian: What about it?

Maarva: Well, Bee played me the news. Do you know what I'm talking about?

Cassian: Yeah, yeah, the garrison at Aldhani.

Maarva: I heard that, I put on my best coat, and I walked across the square with a smile on my face. If there are heroes brave enough to take on a whole Imperial garrison, I'm brave enough to stick it out here. I... I don't expect you to understand.

Cassian: Aldhani was just a robbery.

Maarva: People are standing up.

Cassian: Yeah, and getting killed for it.

Maarva: But there's work that will need doing.

Cassian: Yeah? What is that?

Maarva: Whatever it takes. I've been lying around waiting to die long enough.

Cassian: You can't beat them, Maarva.

Maarva: Not if I run away.

In the context of the show, the stakes are much higher than they are in my current reality. But the principle Maarva is trying to teach Cassian rings true for many different circumstances.

Social media has been on my mind a lot lately (and the past several years). I think of how it is being used to exploit and manipulate people. To spread misinformation and hate. Being a peacemaker by nature and one who avoids conflict and toxicity, I have almost completely stopped using the popular social media platforms for anything but a few Facebook groups and the occasional faith-related post.

And now we have a wealthy, power-hungry man (Elon Musk) who has swooped in to purchase Twitter, revoke much of their content moderation standards, including their COVID misinformation policy, and reinstate most accounts that were previously banned for violating those old moderation standards. I haven't used Twitter regularly in years, but the latest news reports claim there has been a notable increase in hate speech and misinformation on the platform.

I have been using Mastodon for the past few years and have witnessed the dramatic surge in people leaving Twitter for the Fediverse over the past couple months. And until very recently, I wondered why anyone who disagrees with what Elon Musk is doing would possibly want to stay on Twitter at this point.

But after watching this episode of Andor again, I think I get it. Even amidst the wave of fascist, racist, hateful, and other toxic content on Twitter, good people I know are staying. They continue to post thoughtful, positive, fun, uplifting content. They continue to post what they believe in the face of all of it. The chance of making a difference for good seems pretty slim right now if good people stay. But there is no chance if they leave.

And what is the result of running away? What is the result of ceding the public square (and for better or worse, Twitter is still an influential space in the public square) to hate and misinformation? And how long can we keep running until there's nowhere else to run?

Maybe instead of running away from Twitter, good, decent people who have had enough of this nonsense should be running towards it.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 71) #TV #tech #SocialMedia