Escaping $BIG_CORP's Grasp: Part 2

On second thought...

A few weeks ago, I embarked on a quest to stop depending so heavily on so few accounts for my online services. In short, I tried to remove Google from my life. I was mostly successful! But, somewhat unsurprisingly, some things ended up being more trouble than they were worth. More specifically, Nextcloud was a pain in the butt. It had a pretty giant footprint on my little server, it constantly encountered errors when checking for changes, and it just wasn’t that useful to me—I mentioned in the previous post that I don’t really use office software very much, and that hasn’t changed. So I’ve scaled back my rebellion somewhat, and I’m back to using certain Google services that I had replaced with Nextcloud. But before you raise your pitchforks, let me justify: I am perfectly happy to trust Google and any other giant corporation with data that is not valuable to me.

So then what data is valuable to me? Well, let’s start with what I don’t mind losing first:

  • Calendar: I just don’t have that much stuff on my schedule. If it’s lost, I can most likely reproduce it from memory. If I ever end up needing to keep track of a lot of dates, I’ll probably just learn to get good at Org mode.
  • Documents: It’s pretty rare that I write or receive a document that doesn’t end up in a Git repo. If I do have something important like a contract, I make sure to turn it into a PDF and save it to my file storage (more on that later).
  • Notes: They’re like less important documents, and we already discussed how unimportant most of my documents are.
  • Contacts: I’m not a huge emailer or texter, so I don’t really have that many contacts outside of Slack/GitHub/WhatsApp. Losing my contacts would suck but I think I could do a decent job recovering them by just reaching out to some friends/family offline.

So that leaves the following things that I consider important enough to keep control over:

  • Files: Everything from ID documents to my e-book library. This goes in AWS S3, and is synced to my desktop computer too.
  • Photos: Technically this is just a subset of my file storage, so it too stays in S3.

So if all I needed was a good way to keep files backed up and synchronized, why bother with something as comprehensive as Nextcloud? I ended up replacing it with a combination of manual AWS S3 usage and Syncthing.

I manage the large majority of my files and photos manually with the AWS CLI. Since these files don’t change much, this doesn’t add much work at all. The thing that gets updated by far the most frequently is phone photography, and that’s where Syncthing comes in. I have Syncthing installed on both my server and my phone, as well as s3fs on my server. When I take a photo on my phone, it’s uploaded to the server and stored inside the FUSE-mounted S3 bucket, automatically backing it up. Then I can access it on my computer with a quick aws s3 sync. It’s certainly a bit more work than Google Drive/Photos, but it’s worth it to me!

Another change I’ve made is to go from the official Bitwarden server to bitwarden_rs, a significantly more lightweight but still completely compatible alternative.

Having replaced Nextcloud and the official Bitwarden server with s3fs, Syncthing, and bitwarden_rs, my server has significantly less storage, CPU and memory usage. I’ve also eliminated snaps and Docker; everything is now managed with systemd!

At this point I feel pretty comfortable with my setup, and it’s unlikely that things will change for a while. If you’re considering trying to de-Google, I highly recommend it! It’s important to remember that any step forward is progress, and you don’t need to commit 100% to never using another Google service. Start by taking control of what’s most important to you, and leave the rest as-is if it’s more convenient!