Have you ever had one of those moments where you feel like one company has far too much control over your computing life?
I know. It's a pretty nerdy realization to have. But I'm guessing a lot of people reading this article have experienced it. And I'm just taking a wild stab in the dark here, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say the company most of you feel that way about is Google.
I do 99% (at least) of my work using Google hardware, software, and services.
My three primary computing devices are a Nexus 9 tablet (Android), an Nvidia Shield tablet (Android), and a Chromebook Pixel (ChromeOS). I do all of my work and play on those three little devices.
You know what? I love it. All of it. It all works astoundingly well (except for last week when Hangouts decided to start spinning its head in circles while spewing split pea soup). Convenient, reliable, enjoyable to use.
And that is really starting to freak me out.
This isn't anything new. Not to me and not to you. Many of us have struggled with this same thing – often with this same company – for several years now. One company having so much control over your data and your day-to-day life is just damned unsettling. No matter how much that company adheres to a "Don't be evil" ethos.
As unlikely as it seems, what would happen if Google disappeared tomorrow? What if Google decides to axe one of the services you depend on (it's happened several times)? Or, worse still, what if Google decides to do something with your data that you don't want? Even with a company that tries hard to not "be evil"... this sort of thing happens.
Despite this, I find the prospect of removing the "Google-ness" from my life absolutely terrifying. Right now, everything works! As soon as I switch over to other services, apps and platforms things are going to break. A lot. There's no way around it.
But simply being afraid isn't a good reason to not do something. Hell, in my opinion, it might be the best reason to do that very thing.
So I'm jumping in. Head first.
I'm giving myself 30 days to completely remove Google from my life. Completely. No Gmail. No Docs. No Google Play. No Android. No ChromeOS. And, perhaps most terrifying, no Google Voice or Hangouts.
Then, once that transition is complete, I am challenging myself to stick to it for at least 30 additional days after that point.
Most of this will simply impact me, which makes this process a tiny bit easier. But a few of these – including my use of Hangouts when I record a podcast – will impact others as well. So I'll need to find ways to convince my co-hosts on that podcast to use a different service just as easily and reliably. (No easy task… they're somehow more stubborn about things than I.)
Starting is pretty straight-forward. I'll replace ChromeOS with openSUSE (which I already know that I feel comfortable with and enjoy using) on my Chromebook. My Android tablets are a bit trickier. I'll need to see if I can find a way to get something – anything – running on them, in a reliable way, besides Android.
And, clearly, I'll need to set up a beefy OwnCloud server. That'll take care of some of the Google services I rely on so regularly (such as Gmail, Drive, and Docs).
But, and here's where I need your help and input: what about Google Voice, Hangouts, and Play Music? I have a few ideas here, but any and all suggestions are welcome.
As I go through this process, I'll be updating my blog here with what I did. Step-by-step.
Maybe it'll help some of you do the same. Or maybe it'll blow up, spectacularly, in my face – resulting in two full months of lost productivity and me quietly whimpering in the corner.
Either way…it'll be a fun adventure.