As if I have much free time, I’ve been trying Affinity Photo lately, looking for a cross-platform photo solution unlocked from Apple’s iCloud/Photos. So far, so good. I may also try ON1. Another aim is to avoid subscriptions (sorry, Adobe Lightroom). 📷

I finished Xenoblade Chronicles 3 last night, beating the final boss and rolling credits! Final playtime: 112h:56m.

But I’m still playing! There’s more world to explore, side quests, and time to spend with the main characters. I’m still immersed; the game is that great. Plus: there’s DLC. 🎮

A little Quincula Lobata, I think. On a Texas farm. 📷

This tiny Rubik’s Cube is fully functional. 📷

Here’s some nice new color in an otherwise dry Texas field. 📷

Decoupling From One Computing Platform

Being the tech geek that I am, one of my quirks is that I go all-in on a single computing platform. Until I don’t. As I wrote earlier this month, the pendulum swung from Apple to a smorgasbord of apps and services from various developers. And of course, ones from Big Tech are hard to avoid. The trick is to not end up all-in anywhere, be it Google, Apple, or Microsoft; it’s paramount to prevent platform lock-in.

Dull, meet shiny

Sometimes, I change my tech setup because I get bored. Though apps and services I’m using are tried and true, they feel stale. Then I’ll see a fresh tech tool and find testing it to be tempting. While this happens with software, it’s most obvious with hardware, like when I sell or trade a perfectly working smartphone for…a newer perfectly working smartphone.

Do I need a new laptop? Nope. Do I want a new laptop? Yep.

Problem, meet solution

Other times, I switch because of some nagging issue with a current solution and finally discover a better option. Example: this month I ditched Apple Notes for Obsidian to solve the long-standing discomfort of all my notes being kind of stuck inside Apple’s special app. Obsidian gave me what I wanted and also what I think is needed, notes that are discreet files in folders, simply referenced by the app.

I’m also aiming to apply this same basic principle to all my photos, like I did years ago. Instead of letting iCloud and Apple Photos (or Google Photos) keep my pictures within their special libraries, I want my photos to be free in the computer’s file system. They can be either on Mac or PC, and any image editing app can edit or reference them. That’s file freedom and flexibility.

Fantasy, meet reality

The biggest reason why I’ve been personally decoupling from Apple’s ecosystem lately is because it’s not so practical; it’s better to be flexible. There are just too many other people using other platforms. Sticking to only one platform kind of segregates me from others. Sometimes there’s compatibility issues.

One example of this is the fragmentation, and friction, people feel when communicating via text messaging services. I don’t think that mess will ever be cleaned up. Some folks are on iPhone, some are on Android. Yeah. Just the way it is.

A better example is in my own home; no walled-gardens at all. Our house is open to all the tech. My wife is not swayed by fancy new gear, and she’s never been all-in with any one computing ecosystem. Her mail, calendar, and office apps have been spread across Microsoft, Apple, and Google for years. Likewise, her phone is from one company while her laptop is from another. My kids are in the same disparate boat too. My family uses Chromebooks and Windows PCs while I’m the odd man out, using a MacBook.

Though I can be an Apple fanboy, I must still troublshoot Windows when Microsoft changes a setting or if my kids' homework isn’t being backed up. And though I’ve relied on Apple Photos to manage my pix, my family doesn’t use the same luxury. As I.T. man of the house, I get to ensure that the iCloud for Windows utility is working so they can access all their iPhone snaps without a hassle.

I think instead of saying “fragmented,” it’s better to say computing setups are varied. One must diversify, be flexible. It’s easier to do that by using cross-platform apps and services, accepting the fact that one will sometimes need to rely on multiple providers or solutions. This may feel less synergistic, but it’s simple in a way because it removes bells and whistles and focuses on the basics.

For me, it feels freeing to be released from the confines of only-Apple software. I’m afraid to admit that I had limited myself from some apps, even if they were superior, simply because they were not “Designed by Apple in California.” For example, I now enjoy Microsoft’s To Do app instead of Apple’s Reminders, preferring how it handles daily tasking.

But I must be careful. By opening myself up to things outside of Apple’s walled-garden, I’ve already felt temptation to go too far in the other direction. Once I start using one app, like Google Docs, I find myself gravitating towards Gmail because of how it integrates in some ways. And Google Calendar is made nicer with the omnipresent sidebar that puts Google Tasks and Keep at the ready.

Or with Microsoft’s To Do, the vortex of Outlook tugs on me. I now juggle both iCloud Drive and Google Drive, but it sure would make sense for me to start using a Windows PC and just OneDrive…and then Office…and then I’ll be all-in with Microsoft.

Going all-in with any single computing platform is not the best, or most practical, answer. The bubble it creates will inevitibly burst. Someone will always compute differently. Even with social media, despite “everyone” being on Facebook, not everyone is actually on Facebook, especially these days.

Come to think of it, the most ubiquitous, cross-platform communication platform today is…email. No matter the email provider, everyone can email anyone. Likewise, the internet itself is the social network (Hi, Fediverse). It’s also the most ubiquitous computing platform for developers; web-apps are truly cross-platform, albeit not natively. The sticky part about the web is that, though it’s “everywhere”, it’s not local. Your stuff is in the nebulous cloud, not actually on your device.

Then again, it’s easier to decouple from one computing platform when you’re coupled to the all-pervasive web. Maybe there is a future for the so-called “Metaverse” after all?

What do you think?

Reply by email.

Good piece about browser password managers; they’re convenient but not as secure, feature-rich, or ubiquitous as dedicated ones.

Quoting Michael Crandell, Bitwarden CEO, from PC Mag writer Neil J. Rubenking:

“The limitation of browser-based password managers is that they work only within a walled garden. If you ever need to operate in another browser, or some environment where that browser doesn’t reach, you’re out of luck.”

Be careful about locking yourself into any single big company’s walled garden,” warned Crandell.

Avoiding platform lock-in is tricky but necessary.

As of last night, I’ve logged over 100 hours of playtime in Xenoblade Chronicles 3. It’s an exceptional RPG. Still plenty more to experience in its world while closing in on the main quest. 🎮

A road to somewhere. 📷

From long-time Windows expert, Paul Thurrott, talking about the default PC broswer:

Let me be very clear. No one—no one—should use or trust Microsoft Edge, it is to Microsoft what Chrome is to Google.

He promotes Brave. I’m enjoying Firefox from Mozilla.

Each year, I like to record when the first Texas Bluebonnets bloom in my yard. I noticed today that several budded this week. 📷

Loooong ago, I used LastPass. But over time I came to depend on default password managers from Apple or Google. Then I tried Bitwarden. Much good to say about it, especially that it’s cross-platform, outside of any particular computing ecosystem. Also this:

We believe that being open source is one of the most important features of Bitwarden. Source code transparency is an absolute requirement for security solutions like Bitwarden.

- Bitwarden

No time for patience. 📷

Testing iCloud Photos on Windows (PC). Learned:

  1. iCloud for Windows app works flawlessly, showing all my files and photos (over 16,000) in the Windows File Explorer - I can sort by “Date Taken” (unlike in Finder)!
  2. Windows Photos app integrates iCloud Photos flawlessly.
  3. Can edit .heic; save as jpeg.

Horizon 📷

Enjoyed an article today relating to Minimalism (something I lean into more when life feels overwhelming). I think this piece overall is about contentment. Here’s a line I liked:

…happiness is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.

- Attributed to Socrates

So as the adage goes, “Less is more.

Cal’s episode on reading hits me as I’ve spent most of my free time playing JRPGs lately. I’m also reminded of the simplicity and ease of reading a good book on my kindle. 🎙️📚

Internet connection. 📷

Some early spring wildflowers in Texas. 📷

Just learned: GIMP has an Apple Silicon version (gimp-2.10.34-arm64.dmg) and GIMP (FOSS/FLOSS) is on Mastodon, which means I can follow on 🤓

Hello World!GIMP project now gets a new official Mastodon account! 🥳We can see the info leaked somehow (we had not announced it and already got 150+ followers in 2 days) 😂.GIMP news will be coming here too, from now on!Note: illustration by Aryeom (edited from her original video "What ...

Yesterday, my wife added the shiny pillow covers I had bought her for Christmas. 📷

Leaning into cross-platform workflows, I’ve switched from MarsEdit to Obsidian for This “notes” app works on both Windows and Mac, supporting Markdown. It’s great to draft blog posts then copy/paste into browser post field. I keep an archived note with link to the post.

Cloud Computing Is About Convenience

I’m thinking about cloud computing versus the quaint old way we all used to just keep files in folders on our local drive. Do we really need to sync gigs of data in the cloud between devices? Is there a necessary utility to cloud computing, or is it merely about convenience?

I think in most cases, it’s the latter. In the past, our music, files, or photos lived on a desktop computer hard drive; we’d sync certain files (over a cable) to our PDAs, iPods, or phones as needed for being on the go. Or we’d copy the files we wanted onto a disk or thumb drive to use on another computer. Nowadays, cloud sync services basically do the same thing without the cable or the portable medium.

Three inconvenient cloud storage things

I like the convenience of the cloud, but there are things about it I don’t like. I’ll mention three.

One is the misconception that if my data is in the cloud, then it’s backed up. But that’s often not the case. Typically, files are stored “in the cloud” on a data server somewhere — and that’s it. My data is not on my local storage. Instead, I just see a reference (placeholder icon) to it. So all my data has one copy — the original — and no backup copies anywhere. Not good. If anything happens to that one copy, too bad.

Another complaint about relying solely on cloud storage is not having direct access to my data. It’s on someone else’s hard drive somewhere else. Unless I toggle an option to also keep a copy of my data on my local drive too, it’s beyond my reach without a persistent internet connection. So I must ensure that toggle is on because I can’t always guarantee the internet will be on. And unfortunately, many people don’t realize this.

The last problem is the tendency of companies to offer paltry amounts of base storage inside devices, forcing people to rely on cloud storage services — with subscription fees — in order to keep all files and photos somewhere. Why do many laptops today ship with a meager 256GB of internal storage? By now, the minimum base storage configuration on any laptop should be 1TB.

Local storage is underrated

I’m not advocating for everyone to quit using cloud storage; I still use it a lot. But I’m trying to be more mindful of how much I rely on “the cloud.” For-profit companies love for people to totally depend on cloud storage for everything. It’s like renting a remote hard drive and entrusting your entire digital life to a corporation’s server farm in an undisclosed location. Putting all your data-eggs in one basket seems unwise. It also incurs a pesky monthly subscription fee. Bleh.

Back in the day, you paid up-front one time for a physical hard drive (or computer) and simply put all your digital files on it. And if you were ever bit by data loss — drive failure — like me, then you also bought a backup drive “just in case.” So no monthly fees, and all your data was in at least two baskets, not one.

While computing companies may want to prioritize cloud storage, I think the best overall use case today is to make sure you primarily rely on local storage. Keep your data on your own device/drive. That’s the surest way to “own your content.” Then, as needed, sync a copy of your stuff via cable or to a cloud solution for easy access on your mobile device. Local storage should be the default while cloud storage is one option among others.

Your data should not live in the nebulous cloud behind a subscription payment and an internet connection. It should live on your own computer. And living in both places at the same time might be a good option too.

What do you think?

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As many will turn clocks forward one hour tonight, please let this be the last time this outdated practice exists. Abolish Daylight Saving Time. I don’t mind which way time lands – either sprung forward or fallen back – just stop changing it! Thanks🙏🏻

I think this gimcrack is a paperweight. 📷