A mundane snapshot of stuff on my Phone

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I’ve been absent from writing longform posts lately (or shortform for that matter tbh) for a number of reasons. To ease me back into it I’ve decided to do a short series of “Mundane Snapshots” which will essentially consist of elaborated lists of stuff I’m up to at the moment. The purpose is essentially to re-carve out the time I want to spend writing / blogging and make writing a habit agin.

To start with, I’ve decided to just talk about the state of my phone. Modern phones are quite personal; they know a lot about us due to the usage data we give them. For most of us, we likely have a commercial OS such as Apple’s iOS or a Google-centric variant of Android. This is true of me too, although over the last 18 months or so I’ve been working really hard to try and remove my reliance on Google and proprietary services in general, so I thought it would be nice for me to take a ‘snapshot’ of my phone and its installed applications to reflect on my current relationship with it.

Installed Apps

  • Accounting Scrapbook: This is a dev version of an application that I built for my PhD. There are plans to release a modified version for general usage via F-Droid soon.
  • Amaze: This is my file browser. I installed this as it was fairly simple, had a nice material design, and was a good FLOSS replacement for ES File Explorer which is proprietary.
  • AntennaPod: No joke possibly the best podcast client I’ve ever used. As it does what you’d expect, I use it to subscribe and listen to podcasts. This is probably the single app that I use the most on my phone.
  • AnySoftKeyboard: A nice FLOSS keyboard. When Google started trying to force the GBoard on me I got concerned about what information it was sending back up the pipe, so I found AnySoft to replace it. Installed via F-Droid, it’s a nice and very beautiful FLOSS replacement but not without flaws; there’s no swipe-to-type so I had to retrain myself to use a regular ‘tapping’ style and when I go too fast I mis-spell stuff and add in extra full-stops into the middle of sentences instead of spaces. What is nice, however, is that it has a modular design so I can install foreign-language keyboards to speak with my Icelandic buddies without a dedicated Icelandic keyboard app.
  • Budget: Technically this app’s full name is Budget with Envelopes and I found it on F-Droid. It’s a simple budgeting app where you create collections of money and then add or take from them, and it displays a total at the top as well as keeping a log of transactions. I originally downloaded it whilst researching for Accounting Scrapbook and will probably bin it when I finally get around to making an alternative that works better for me; but for now it’s great. I have an on-again-off-again relationship with the app in terms of usage and will often go through a 3-month phase of logging everything, before taking some time out.
  • Google Calendar: Grumble grumble. I’ve not yet found a decent alternative to using Google Calendar without shelling out some dough, and atm it’s not a massive priority to do that. I’m debating integrating Cal-Dav stuff into Brimstone to set events up, and then gradually move calendars over to be hosted via Brimstone and interacted with using the Android Open Source calendar application.
  • DuckDuckGo: This has been my default search engine for a long time. When I made the switch in-browser, I also ripped the Google Now / Google search app out of my phone and installed DuckDuckGo via F-Droid. It still has the same interaction of “Hit the home button and swipe up” to instantly bring up the search, and has a lightweight built-in browser which is Tor compatible. I generally use it 50/50 as a raw search engine, and also as a browser which has JavaScript enabled as I disable it in my main browser.
  • F-Droid: My app store. An absolutely divine app that reminds me of the first time I opened the ‘Ubuntu Software Centre’ back in 2008. I use it to search for apps that meet my needs; ie if I don’t have a specific app in mind. Sometimes I also do have a specific app in mind and want to get the F-Droid variant (e.g. Telegram). I update the repos often and look forward to updated from F-Droid all the time. I adore it.
  • Forecastie: A lightweight weather app and widget. I’m terrible for not checking the weather so I decided to find a FLOSS app that did it for me. I enjoy it but don’t manually check it that often. Usually the night before training.
  • Gallery: Full title is Simple Gallery. I got concerned that the stock gallery was still somehow sending my data to Google as it was also pulling down info from Google services. I haven’t removed the Google Services entirely so wanted to ease myself in. I found it on F-Droid and it’s been a great simple gallery app that does everything I need it to; copying / deleting / cropping / rotating / sharing (also viewing, obviously).
  • Google Settings: A bare minimum of my apps rely on the Google Services Framework and it’s my understanding that this is the app that encapsulates it. I hate it living on my phone, but I need it for calendar and Contacts sync atm alongside muh banking app.
  • Habits: I started tracking habits a little while ago and it’s a really neat little app. Uses some fancy maths I don’t quite understand to produce a ‘Habit Strength’ and is incredibly flexible with how I go about organising and setting up my habits. A perfect app that I enjoy so much here’s links to it via F-Droid and Play Store if you haven’t made the leap to F-Droid yet.
  • HSBC Mobile Banking: Pretty self explanatory. One of the few apps I am going to struggle to replace as it relies on the Google Services Framework. No idea why. I use it to shift money around accounts and pay bills. When going fully FLOSS phone, I will likely either keep a spare phone with the app on and no sim attached, or switch back to the physical securekey token and use the web interface.
  • K9 Material: An unofficial fork of the popular K9 Mail client. It handled PGP keys and encryption. It does everything I need and handles multiple mail accounts etc. Is good.
  • Markor: A lovely little app which allows me to take notes in Markdown format, and also maintains a local copy of a Todo.txt file. I use it sparingly at the moment but it replaced Google Keep and sometimes I need a shopping list.
  • Messaging: The stock SMS app for Android. I don’t actually use it, but I can’t seem to disable it or hide it from view for some reason :-/
  • MuPDF Mini: I occasionally download PDF files to view. This lets me do that. At the moment I don’t interact with it much at all, but there was once a period where I had to view PDFs a lot on my phone and I think it’s handy to have.
  • NewPipe: A client-side YouTube scraper that lets me watch YT videos without explicitly tracking me through an account. It also provides me the option to download a video or just its audio and I use this feature the most. It also lets me maintain a client-side list of subscriptions which is awesome to check if any of my favourite channels have uploaded new content without needing to sign into the site. I understand Google probably understand that it’s me, but I enjoy that there’s an extra loop for them to jump through.
  • Odyssey: Material design, lightweight, music player. What more could you want? I use this a fair bit to listen to music, but I mostly listen to Podcasts atm.
  • Open Camera: One of the first apps I replaced. It’s a full-featured camera that nontheless has a wonderful light interaction. I mostly use the white-balance feature as sometimes I take pics outside or in the house. I’m not really a photo oriented person so most of my photography is of mundane things that I want to send to others as a “Look at this thing”.
  • OpenKeychain: Lets me maintain a keychain of PGP keys, add others’ keys, and sign stuff. I like it.
  • Orbot: Tor connector. Most of my browsing is run through Tor, just to keep folk guessing I think.
  • Orfox: Tor-oriented version of Firefox. It’s a tad out-of-date now and what I really should do is get the latest version of the Firefox app and just configure it to be the same, but it’s handy just to have it pre-packaged. I use it a lot, mostly to sign into my Brimstone install at Mrshll.uk and read the news or post stuff.
  • OsmAnd~: Maps application. I finally made the jump from GMaps to OSM on the phone. Been fine. Very rarely have I needed to use GMaps services. OSMAnd specifically has come a long way since I last had it installed and it does routing very nicely now compared to how it used to. There’s still an issue with the flow of interaction in choosing the start point and destination, but otherwise this app is golden. Offline maps was pioneering.
  • Red Moon: A red-shift application like f.lux that makes my screen darker and lighter and redder depending on the position of the sun. Combined with my low brightness setting, when shifted red it’s hard to read the screen so I invariably just use my phone less. I like that.
  • Signal: Currently got the GSF-dependant variant but I’ve heard there’s another option available. It’s my default SMS app and I’ve convinced a few close peers to use it for that sweet encrypted chat. Love it.
  • Telegram: Basically the bulk of my social interaction is through Telegram on my phone. I’ve fallen out of love with the app for a few reasons lately, and will try to switch to using only Signal soon – but a lot of people switched to Telegram to chat with me and as such I feel obliged to stay. I got the F-Droid variant which apparently does stuff differently.
  • Wikipedia: I look stuff up a lot. This is installed via F-Droid but it gives a tracking warning so I’m a bit suspicious at it. I use it in bursts, usually in the evenings before reading a book.
  • Yalp Store: This app is a nice way to ease yourself out of using Google Play store. It basically provides access to Play Store apps without needing to sign in via a Google Account. This means I can update stuff like my HSBC app and Signal whilst I figure out my next moves in removing my reliance on the Play store.
  • Stock Android Apps: Calculator, Contacts (Google variant), Phone, Settings

Well, that’s it I guess. Hope that wasn’t too boring to read. It was fun to write.