Frequently Asked Questions

2021-08-18 @Blog

I’ve long yearned to produce a FAQ page for those fairly compound topics of no terse explanation - topics that drain much energy to repeatedly address. It only remains to assert whether I can plausibly defer to a section of this page in practice.

Contents

Why I don’t care for touchscreen phones

A touchscreen phone implies an Android/Google or an Apple phone/omni-potent-computer combination in the overwhelming majority of cases. I’ve no desire to stroll about with such a device in my pocket or on any easily reachable part of my person.

Specifically, I’ve no desire to combine a mega-purpose computer with a phone. My preference lies with a simpler button phone respecting the few traditional functions: call, SMS, and (entirely optional) a calculator, calendar, memo-pad, an MP3 player … what a mobile phone used to entail.

By no means do I care for any of these features to interface or synchronize with the cloud. I don’t wish to carry the internet on me at all, never mind the very occasional convenience in soliciting Uber. I often opt to leave the phone at home.

In a smartphone I see lobotomized society and a form of enslavement. I’d rather undertake the extra effort, if so considered, to sustain whatever connection I can with the physical environment.

But don’t you operate on an Android Tablet?

Yes, once repurposed into more or less a personal computer.

Abstract the telephony aspect and most culprit features and stock applications, and I can use a larger-screen Android product (a tablet) as I would a light-weight laptop.

I type on such a device at the very instance, interfaced via a BT keyboard and operated mainly within a terminal, Linux-emulated environment. I’ve eliminated most of the Google apps, being possible even with a stock OS. (With a custom ROM, it becomes easier yet: simply don’t flash the gapps package.)

Hence besides the touchscreen that mostly remains in stasis thanks to the keyboard, philosophically, the tablet little resembles the Android device one generally carries.

Do we not exercise free will in the choice to use some technology, be it all-powerful?

Yes, but I don’t care to spend the energy in the discipline and refraining from abuse. I’d rather not have the option.

And concerning smartphones, from a handful of 6-12 month periods of carrying one around, although I would largely keep it in my pocket and opt to interact with the non-smart-phone-immersed beings, or stare into space, I still felt it’s presence.

I find this all-purpose-computer/phone/touch-screen combination aesthetically unpleasant. It houses spyware, opaque security practices, and myriads of parasitic apps and services that I can feel bubbling like toads, dry skin and hair follicles in a witches cauldron.

Why I don’t use the popular messenger applications

On the one hand, they distract me from the kind of lifestyle I wish to maintain. As for the other, far longer rationale:

The ‘popular’ platforms are closed, centralized, security opaque, all your data assessable to the provider, who normally happens to be one of the few leading giants.

Furthermore, these closed messengers normally confine you to one application, one set of hardware, one top-down maintainer.

Beyond business, I see no reason why the chat ecosystem headed down this diverging path from Email, the only inherent difference being that one is synchronous and one isn’t. Consider:

We ‘email’ one another. I wouldn’t say I’ll ‘gmail’ you, correct? Never mind that Gmail reflects a significant share of email usage.

But imagine if Gmail users could only email other Gmail users? Or if they were confined to only the Gmail site or application? If non-Gmail correspondences could not interface with the Gmail ecosystem?

Email is an old, open and distributed protocol. Yet in theory, one major provider could leverage and confine it, imposing these hypothetical limitations. Would that not seem objectionable?

In chat, the XMPP protocol had existed way before the Whatsapp/Facebook/Google messaging - since at least 1999 in fact. It’s the synchronous analog to the asynchronous email. XMPP is an open, distributed, platform-oblivious, client-oblivious, server-oblivious protocol.

Anyone can host XMPP services on a variety of server software. Myriads of mobile/desktop/all-OS clients likewise avail. Most importantly, any XMPP user can engage any other XMPP user, never mind where hosted. An XMPP ID (jid) is formatted just like email: user@domain. Logical, wouldn’t you say?

Whatsapp leverages a modified version of XMPP, yet one completely confined it to it’s own ecosystem. Same situation pertained to the Google messaging platform until at least some time back. Similarly with Skype. I think Slack also enables the XMPP protocol. Yet all of these providers constrain and centralize what otherwise would be an open and distributed interaction.

I maintain an XMPP account on my own hosted server. If you want an account, just send me a note. Or choose from among the other hords of providers offering free accounts. Then we can chat.

[Notwithstanding. Even if we lived in a parallel reality where chat remained largely distributed and independent, I’d still refrain from too active of usage, preferring the asynchronous email and phone calls. So yes, I have an XMPP account, a terminal client installed on my stationary computers, though I don’t exactly keep too attentive to the activity there.]

Why I don’t use social networks

Social networks constitute a simply far too great of a distraction for me. I’d used Facebook during the period of 2006-2013, yet well remember the frame of mind: too much needlessly dissipated energy, too much impertinent stimuli.

In theory, we all exercise control in how we leverage a tool. In practice, the tool ends up owing us.

In the latter period of my FB era, I hardly logged on. Even a 30-second presence tended to steal too much attention and trigger a danger of a far longer and malignant train of thought.

Plus, I see no grace in offloading my communication, photography (which I don’t really practice) and contact management to one of the leading giants; or to even some third-party, open-source network. I can run my own site. I can reach the individuals I need by old-fashion means. I can host and serve content independently; without distractions.

Yes, self marketing becomes a challenge without social-networking presence. If and when that challenge turns into a roadblock, then, and not prior, might I reevaluate the course of action. But for casual, non-business related purposes, social networks … Forget it.

What is the status behind my different languages?

The state of affairs hasn’t extensively varied in a few years since I wrote this essay.

I can speak/read/write/listen to content more or less freely in English, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish and Polish.

When I don’t engage one of these for a lengthy period (over a year), it becomes slightly sour. To recuperate, I need but immerse myself for a few days. Or sometimes for a matter of an hour.

Besides for active speaking, the one single and easiest means of ‘engaging’ the language for the sake of maintenance, I always found to be the listening to casual video (ie YouTube) content for as little as 15 minutes daily a given language.

Beyond, I’d also initiated and abandoned a series of other language missions.

Why I strongly prefer paper books

Because I prefer anything analog when the electronic variant poses no notable benefits. On the contrary, I find quiet advantageous the interaction with a paper book:

Why I don’t drink alcohol

I find highly attractive the idea of always relying on your natural, unhampered faculty.

Why I don’t occasionally drink concerns the wasted energy and cognition on any of the appertaining issues:

It’s far simpler to always produce a ‘no’ and that be the end. Also, next to the above, I consider any marginal health benefits or perils (of alcohol) of far lesser concern.

Why I avoid Cloud tools and CMS systems

They foster dependence on the internet, the web browser, and as often the case, subscriptions.

They consequently instigate more powerful hardware and upgrades. I like the idea being able to use the old and the repurposed.

Why would I offload my data to a third party when I can manage the task myself?

Many such services, ie note taking and management, journaling, email, calendar, data backup, synchronization, encryption, chat, are easily replaced by self hosted, basic or offline solutions, often via resource-light CLI tools.

I recently discovered a SaaS solution (with a portal and account setup) to help divide expenses (ie travel) between participants. Seriously???

What are my hobbies?

Too many and varied over the years. Some cross with ‘interests’, that is, not demanding active hands-on interaction.

How to contact me?

It’s funny that not having presence on social networks or mainstream messengers causes some to construe me as not easily or conveniently reachable.

Yet anybody with a search engine can locate my web site along with the connect page with my email address, which also doubles as my XMPP (chat) username.

And if you have my mobile phone number, possibly use it per the originally conceived functions: to call or send an SMS.

Questions, comments? Connect.