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Kicking Google out of my life, Part 2: Leaving Android is not so easy

An update on my ongoing quest to remove Google from my digital life. ChromeOS was an easy task, but Android is difficult to leave.

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Credit: Rob Bulmahn via Flickr

Two days ago, I declared to the world that I would be kicking Google out of my life.

It's not because I think Google is some evil corporation, hell bent on the destruction of all that is good and just in this world. And it certainly is not because the stuff they make stinks (it really doesn't).

The reason is simply that I have become too reliant on Google – on one (singular) company – for everything that I do in the digital realm. That fact scares the holy bejeebers out of me. Email, documents, contacts, schedules, pictures, back-ups, audio files of me saying the word "bubble" over and over again in different ways (it was for a thing… a story for a different day). If Google's servers go offline, if they go out of business, or (more likely) if they discontinue one of their services… I'm up a creek.

The average life-span of a Google service is 1,459 days. Which means it's not really a question of "if," but "when."

So I'm doing what any person with a flagrant disregard for personal productivity would do. I'm going cold turkey. Well, not quite cold turkey. More like "cold turkey over the course of 30 days." I suppose it's more of a "Google Detox." Whatever we call it, I'm documenting it every step of the way so the universe can snicker as my life gets progressively harder.

The first two days I set the simple goal of removing all traces of Google-powered software on my personal devices – no more ChromeOS on my laptop and no more Android on my tablets. This seemed like a logical place to start.

Well, I have good news and bad news to report. Good news first.

Replacing ChromeOS was, as I already knew, pretty simple. I ended up installing openSUSE (with Gnome Shell as my desktop) on my Chromebook Pixel. It works great, no issues, and there's no loss in productivity in any way (outside of the hour it took to perform the install and setup my system). Which suggests that I hadn't become as entrenched in, and reliant upon, ChromeOS as I had thought I had. Boom. Early win. Moving on.

To my tablets. Which… damn. This is a bit of a problem.

You see… I don't have a phone. Instead, I use a tablet with a Wi-Fi hotspot for making voice calls and sending texts. Until now I've been reliant on Google Voice/Hangouts for this functionality. (And, honestly, it's been a pretty great experience.)

Just like any non-Neolithic individual, I need to have some sort of portable device with me when I'm out and about. My two current tablets are, hardware-wise, capable of serving that telephony purpose quite well. Unfortunately, both devices (a Nexus 9 and an Nvidia Shield) are running Android. Which, as one or two of you might have noticed, is made by Google. And, unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be many other Operating System options (especially ones that aren't variations on Android) for these two particular devices.

Or so I thought.

It turns out the Nvidia Shield Tablet has a port of MultiROM, which allows installing a custom version of Ubuntu 14.04 natively. Supposedly it works fairly well. So I'm going to dive in tomorrow and try it out. If I brick it, I'll be a very sad little man. I love that tablet.

If successful – and if it runs as well as it looks (I'll let you know either way) – I'll get to turn my attention to the next item on my list… an item that seems quite simple, but frightens me to my very core.

If the tablet install proves unsuccessful I will need to enact "Tablet Plan B." An act of desperation. Figure out what the best, reasonably priced tablet is that doesn't run Android (or iOS or Windows… because… it's me) and buy it. And cry myself to sleep every night as I think of my Nexus 9 and Shield Tablet laying, neglected and lifeless, in my "stuff I don't use but never throw away" drawer.

One final thing for today. I'm going to be keeping close track of the cost of making this complete switch away from Google products and services. Both in terms of money and also time (check the chart below). That way, if anyone else is looking to do something similar, they can make a bit of an informed decision about how to go about it.

062615 google chart Bryan Lunduke
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