1. 70
  1.  

  2. 36

    Can I just stress the importance of using your own domain for email?

    If you want to move away from gmail, go the whole hog and use your own domain name! That way you can switch email services as much as you like without having to change your email address.

    If you still love gmail and can’t move away from it, you can use gsuite with your own domain.

    1. 5

      That is fine but gmail often puts your emails in spam if you use your own domain or a mail server. It happens for no apparent reason (sometimes even when you reply to someone) so I think it is done on purpose.

      For this very reason I avoid using my own email address for important things like work related communication.

      https://www.tablix.org/~avian/blog/archives/2019/04/google_is_eating_our_mail/

      1. 6

        It happens for no apparent reason (sometimes even when you reply to someone) so I think it is done on purpose.

        But Google as a whole is very different than individual googlers. Google Chrome ads started appearing next to Firefox search terms. gmail & gdocs started to experience selective performance issues and bugs on Firefox. Demo sites would falsely block Firefox as “incompatible.” Over and over. Oops. Another accident. We’ll fix it soon. We want the same things. We’re on the same team. […] 2. When google wants to get a thing done, it is very effective. Mistakes happen, but when you see a sustained pattern of “oops” & delay from this organization - you’re being outfoxed.

        http://archive.is/tgIH9

        1. 3

          It helps a lot to have SPF, DKIM and DMARC properly setup. If you have a certain mail volume with gmail (that you could generate with passing some mails back and forth between your domain and a gmail address created for that purpose, but don’t look too spammy while doing so) from your domain, you can also use postmaster.google.com to see GMail’s opinions about your domain.

          Generally speaking, mail servers have arcane cargo cultish setups to reduce spam (most commonly it’s guilt by association by running your mail server in the wrong data center. Don’t host email at OVH), and gmail provides more visibility into their scoring than most.

        2. 4

          Seconding this. I tried out fast mail for a bit on my own domain, couldn’t really deal with issues related to calendar syncing and the like on Android (and some other QoL stuff that google does too well) so bounced back to Gsuite no problem

          1. 1

            What kind of issues? I’ve been using FastMail for years for contacts and calendar across Android, Sailfish en desktop and I’ve not run into any issues.

            1. 1

              For calendar syncing to work nicely I needed to use this app called CalDavSync (I didn’t want to use the Fastmail app, but a third-party calendar app), and it was a bit flaky (notably on reboots I would need to remember to re-open the app for the syncing to kick in).

              I feel like I had problems with shared calendars too. This could have been more due to “everyone else being Google”, which isn’t FastMail’s fault per se, but I’m not in the business of solving the calendar ecosystem, I’m in the business of living my life, and I was hitting issues.

              Though in theory there are standard protocols for a lot of this stuff, the stuff you gain from having everything be in the main ecosystem is … quite significant.

          2. 3

            I used to host my own email, but spam control was a constant pain in the ass. I was very good at it, but it took a lot of time. I eventually decided enough was enough and migrated to Google Apps for your Domain, now G-Suite.

            I’m now sick of Google, and I feel trapped. So while I agree that everyone should own a domain and control their email, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Google for hosting it.

            I’ve always been on the paid version of G-Suite, which has avoided some of the evil (no ads and maybe less tracking), but since I use my G-Suite Google Account as my primary Google identity, I feel like I’ll be stuck with it forever. Even if I successfully migrated myself, I’d have to migrate away my kids, spouse, and parents, too.

            I also really like the Gmail web interface and searchability, and to my knowledge, nobody else has anything remotely as good.

            If anyone is stuck in the same boat and has successfully migrated to Fastmail or another provider, I’d love to hear from you.

            1. 1

              I’ve been going the the same exercise as the article details for about a year. I felt very stuck as well. I switched to Amazon Workmail hosted on AWS.

              Workmail has its own interface but I plan on experimenting with various email front-ends via docker such as Rainloop at some point. I really like where things are at and I believe it provides a lot of flexibility with plenty of escape hatches to lower level aws services.

          3. 9

            As an alternative to the Google search engine, I suggest Startpage. They use Google’s search as their backend, but send none of your data to Google. It’s super convenient, and provides much better results than DDG.

            As for email, I’ve been very happy with ProtonMail. Been a user since their early invite-only beta and have had a great experience so far. They take privacy very seriously and they’re open source too!

            I can’t say much about web analytics, I don’t use any and I frankly don’t care. I don’t see why it should matter, unless you’re building a product to turn a profit.

            Lastly, a question. What about mobile? I’ve found it nearly impossible to go Google-free on mobile. As an Android user, the entire ecosystem is so tied in to Google Play Store and Services that apps nowadays just refuse to work without Play Services. It’s absurd. I have tried solutions like Micro-G, but they’re hacky at best and tend to break every other day.

            1. 5

              I can’t say much about web analytics, I don’t use any and I frankly don’t care. I don’t see why it should matter, unless you’re building a product to turn a profit.

              Even if you are selling a product, I have never seen the need to do more than analyze server logs.

              As for email, I’ve been very happy with ProtonMail.

              I host my own e-mail. I have been running my own mail server since around 1998. It used to be easy but it is getting harder and harder, purely because of spam. Frankly, it is now such a pain that I would love to out-source it but it is prohibitively expensive to do so. I have multiple mailboxes - at least one for each member of my family, and a few friends too - spread across multiple domains, which is ridiculously expensive at $5/month each. All of them are currently hosted by a single VPS at $5/month for the lot.

              1. 6

                I’ve given a shot at hosting my own mail server as well, and honestly, it isn’t worth the effort. For similar reasons as yours, the spam and too much sysadmin work for me to bother with. But yeah, outsourcing at your scale is probably not going to be cheap. What’s your setup like, are you running something like Mail-in-a-Box? Or Dovecot with Postfix?

                I have been running my own mail server since around 1998

                Your server is a year older than I am. :)

                1. 3

                  What’s your setup like …?

                  I use OpenSMTPd and Dovecot. Both are excellent. Neither cause any sysadmin work beyond the initial setup.

                  I have used all sorts of things for spam filtering. Greylisting with OpenBSD’s spamd was very effective - i.e. blocked a lot of spam - but resulted in too many false positives and unacceptable delays. Whitelisting using SPF records helps a bit but only after the fact (and constantly updating it is a pain).

                  Some spam still gets through so I need SpamAssassin as well anyway. SA is pretty good but its spamd (not to be confused with the other spamd) fell over a few times for me. This led to mail outages.

                  I’ve looked at dspam and rspamd but neither appeared to offer anything more than SpamAssassin for my use case. Since I have a small number of users, Bayesian filtering has never been very effective. I found the distributed checksum services - razor, pyzor and DCC - much more useful and SA supports them all.

                2. 3

                  which is ridiculously expensive at $5/month each

                  I haven’t started paying (yet) but I believe Zoho are $1/user/mth, which seems quite reasonable.

                  1. 1

                    That’s a good price. I wonder how good they are at spam filtering?

                    1. 2

                      Not quite as good as gmail - mostly they’re a bit over-eager. It has gotten better with time as I’ve marked things as ‘not spam’. It’s maybe one or two false positives a month now (after 6 months or so of use).

                      I forgot to mention earlier that they have a free plan, which works perfectly well so long as you’re happy to use their apps (it doesn’t support POP/IMAP). They do let you use your own domain but the functionality is somewhat limited (no catch-all, only one domain etc). I could happily get along on the free plan, but am going to start paying anyway.

                      1. 2

                        IMAP is a hard requirement for me. But their pricing is very good anyway so that’s not a problem. Their spam filtering sounds OK but not great. I might give them a try sometime - thanks for mentioning them.

                  2. 1

                    They take privacy very seriously and they’re open source too!

                    They are not open source. I would still be skeptical even if they are open source

                  3. 4

                    I must say I’ve had the opposite experience on Android. I’ve been using Lineage with no GAPPS for 18 months now and it’s been fine.

                    The only micro-g element I use is unifiednlp for location, so I can get a good GPS signal. Not had any trouble with that since installing it.

                    For me, apps that don’t work aren’t worth my time. 99% of what I use is from F-Droid, the rest is Whatsapp (which works fine on its own) and the occasional game from the Humble Bundle app.

                    1. 4

                      I’ve been without Google Play on my phone for about the same time.

                      Started with CopperheadOS until that blew up then switched to Rattlesnake stack to build AOSP. It uses terraform to deploy a build environment to AWS for you. Don’t much like relying on AWS, either, but I used to build Copperhead myself and really struggled to find enough space for it. AOSP is a huge mess. I think it took a week to do the initial checkout and would take me 3 days to build it. AWS can build it in a few hours and costs me less than $1.50 a month.

                      I haven’t needed Google Play or even mico-g. F-Droid has a replacement for every app I had on stock Android.

                      1. 1

                        Now I feel like a noob flashing lineage zips lol

                    2. 3

                      I used to use startpage, and found it to be incredibly slow to respond to my search requests. I stuck with it, because I liked it. My main impetus for switching was that Google returned shorter summaries in Firefox than in Chrome – probably something to do with my choice in font sizes, and startpage didn’t have that problem. Plus at the time I felt it gave better search results than DDG.

                      I’ve since switched to DDG – DDG results for me in the last 6 months have been better than what I typically get on startpage. On my phone I feel DDG gives better results than Google, too (on Google I get lots and lots of the same results on every page, and Google can’t seem to decide whether to give me 10 results per page or infinite scroll – it’s different every time). But IMO the main advantage of DDG over startpage is that it’s already available as an optional search engine on most devices, without having to install or configure anything extra.

                      I still occasionally fall back to startpage with !s, but I admit I’m guilty of relying too much on !g when I don’t find what I want.

                      1. 1

                        Same here pretty much. I just switched back to DDG because startpage was ‘too busy’ or ‘unavailable’ one too many times.

                      2. 1

                        What about mobile?

                        Is iOS off the table?

                      3. 7

                        Browser: Firefox (+ uBO + Privacy Badger + Cookie AutoDelete + Containers)
                        Social + Chat: librem.one
                        Phone: Purism or /e/ OS
                        Email: Fastmail

                        1. 7

                          Switching from Chrome to Firefox is another step I’d recommend.

                          1. 5

                            I’m maybe 80% de-googled (and de-Facebooked), with:

                            • Firefox
                            • DDG
                            • Zoho (mail with my domain, and contacts)
                            • Android without a Google account (I know this is flawed, but didn’t have much luck with microG)
                              • Aurora and F-Droid to sideload apps
                              • DAVx to sync calendars and contacts
                              • Newpipe and podsync+podcast republic to watch youtube
                            • Signal (chat)
                            • Mega (cloud storage)
                            • Site passwords rather than Google or FB OpenId, stored in pass
                            • Quarterly family email newsletter (to share things with family and friends I don’t chat with often)

                            I still use Google for:

                            • Docs. I have a few spreadsheets that are heavily scripted that I can’t be bothered migrating, and TBH zoho docs is rather lacking. I plan to move back to the “good old days” of local files + cloud storage
                            • Maps. OSM didn’t really work out that well, though it was OK
                            • Calendar. Maybe once I migrate my wife to Zoho for mail we can switch our calendar over, but we have a lot of time invested in it currently.
                            1. 5

                              Try the maps.me app. It uses osm data and has offline support

                              1. 1

                                There’s also this fork available on F-Droid, sans the binary blobs in the regular Maps.me app. I’m using OsmAnd - still early days but it seems pretty good (available for Android and iOS, open source).

                              2. 3

                                I think when in comes to a very specific tech, Google Maps cannot be matched. Actually, I would straight up pay for the service Google Maps provides if they asked for it.

                                1. 1

                                  What specifically is it that you’re missing from, I’m assuming, OsmAnd?

                                  1. 2

                                    Personally, navigating to a street number and routing around traffic were the big ones.

                                    1. 1

                                      Routing around traffic is absolutely something OsmAnd won’t do today. It would imply data gathering and privacy infringement I assume they’re not comfortable with.

                                      Navigating by street number though works well where I live. Though that will vary across the world and time.

                                      1. 2

                                        I believe Apple Maps do traffic routing with anonymized data gathering. I would that that you’d only need to know what the average speed of a given section of road is, which doesn’t require knowledge of individual location data.

                                2. 2

                                  Maps. OSM didn’t really work out that well, though it was OK

                                  I’ve been happily using Here Maps instead of Google Maps, as OSM is not quite good enough when it comes to car navigation.

                                  1. 1

                                    WRT. Google Docs you mighty want to give Collabora/Libreoffice Online a try by getting access to or installing a Nextcloud or Owncloud instance and installing the app. It is coming along nicely and is now able to run a complex spreadsheet which it børked at only a few months ago.

                                    [1] https://apps.nextcloud.com/apps/richdocuments

                                  2. 2

                                    With Google tying Android closer and closer, I am starting to wonder if it’s not better going with Apple phones. Even though on paper less free, it feels my data is not part of the price I pay. Have been using Android phones since Samsung S2.

                                    1. 3

                                      Going from Google to Apple does not solve the problem of having some overlord deciding what you can and can not do on ‘their’ device. The trust some people proclaim in Apple’s good intentions is flabbergasting as Apple is a decidedly profit-centred company which is only a change in management or plan away from using the data they’ve been harvesting for years.

                                      The solution is the same as the one that worked to break free from Microsoft-dependency, i.e. free software on open hardware. The more open the hardware, the easier it will be to get something like Sailfish, the project formerly known as FirefoxOS or just plain Debian with some mobile bits running on it. In other words, open hardware specifications will help us get there.

                                      While you’re waiting for something like this to grow - or while helping to build it - you can get Google off your Android device and use it in any way you please. I’ve used Google-free Android from the moment I started using Android (about 8 years ago) and can vouch for the fact that this works just fine. Combine it with your own server running mail, web. VPN and kitchen-sink and you’re set for the near future.

                                      1. 3

                                        Going from Google to Apple does not solve the problem of having some overlord deciding what you can and can not do on ‘their’ device.

                                        That’s true. But it is overlord vs. overlord + steals all your data.

                                        the data they’ve been harvesting for years.

                                        What data have they been harvesting? Most data processing is on-device.

                                        I’ve used Google-free Android from the moment I started using Android (about 8 years ago) and can vouch for the fact that this works just fine.

                                        YMMV, I used open source Android builds for a while (in the Cyanogenmod days) and there were a lot of random bugs that affected basic phone functionality (from spontaneous reboots, from not being able to call). Upgrades fixed one set of problems, but introduced a new set of problems. It was a very frustrating experience.

                                        I agree that an open platform with open hardware is the answer. However, sometimes people have to pick their fights, and if you need a phone that just works all the time, iOS is the far better option from a privacy and security perspective at this moment in time than (Google) Android.

                                        Another aspect of it is that running a completely open source build gives a certain amount of isolation. A lot of friends/family use messages that don’t work without Google Play services or whatever Apple push notification system is called. You are excluded from contactless payments, which are becoming more prevalent in many countries. Etc.

                                        I can understand the choice to forgo all of that, but you also have to be realistic: it is not for everyone.

                                        1. 1

                                          it is overlord vs. overlord + steals all your data. / the data they’ve been harvesting for years.

                                          Both harvest data, Google is in the business of actively (ab)using that data. Apple also uses it and has been accused of selling data alt. allowing data to be sold w.r.t. music choice [1]. Apple collects location data, it gave special permissions to the likes of Facebook to collect data over the range of their applications (Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook etc). [2 et al]

                                          …It was a very frustrating experience.

                                          The level of usability varies greatly between devices and builds, users of some devices will have the frustrating experience you mentioned while those on other devices will wonder what the former are complaining about as their Google-free experience is way better than the Google-encumbered one - better performance, lower power consumption, far less network traffic and the (potentially false) feeling of not being tracked and milked at every opportunity. When planning to embark on this journey it is worth choosing a device with a larger developer community.

                                          running a completely open source build gives a certain amount of isolation

                                          Well, the OS is free software, the applications come from F-Droid and as such are free software with as few obnoxious blobs as possible (preferably none). Google Push Notification is not part of this but it isn’t needed either as can be seen by e.g. Telegram working just fine on Google-free Android. It might be that Whatsapp doesn’t work (I never tried as I don’t want to feed that monster either) but… you’re not using that anyway as it is part of Facebook, right? If your friends and family insist on you using FB/Whatsapp/etc. you can either try to get them to see the light, suck it up and install the apps or … (there is no real solution here other than patience and perseverance).

                                          If you have your own server you can install XMPP (Prosody, Ejabberd or something similar) and use Conversations [3] and try to get - at least some of - your family and friends to use it. Another alternative is Delta Chat [4] which should work with your existing mail server and IMAP daemon (it does work with Exim and Dovecot) for an instant-messaging interface to SMTP and IMAP.

                                          To conclude I can only confirm that it does take some effort to rid yourself of the shackles the likes of Google and Facebook and, yes, Apple want to put on your private life. Freedom has it costs, no matter whether it is political freedom or freedom from privacy-leeching parasites. In the political realm wars are fought to gain freedom, seen in that light the costs of digital freedom are minor I’d say.

                                          [1] https://9to5mac.com/2019/05/25/apple-itunes-lawsuit/

                                          [2] https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/01/apples-hypocritical-defense-data-privacy/581680/

                                          [3] https://conversations.im/

                                          [4] https://delta.chat/

                                          1. 1

                                            The level of usability varies greatly between devices and builds, users of some devices will have the frustrating experience you mentioned while those on other devices will wonder what the former are complaining about

                                            Well, I had a Nexus 4, which was as mainstream as one could get at the time for alternative OSes.

                                            If your friends and family insist on you using FB/Whatsapp/etc. you can either try to get them to see the light, suck it up and install the apps or …

                                            There is more than friends and family. My daughter goes to primary school, there is a parents chat group, which is more or less mandatory if you do not want to miss out on social activities and all kinds of arrangements. Most people at work use Skype for video conferencing, I am definitely not able to convert them one by one, since they in turn communicate with gazillions of others who also use Skype. This was my point about isolation. Sure, it is possible to completely abstain from these services (outside work), but you will miss out on a lot of social activity. I don’t think it is a good situation, but it is also a balancing act. If one already makes other lifestyle choices with impact (e.g. being a vegetarian, using Linux in a Mac environment, etc.), you will pick your fights, you cannot be the outsider in everything or a nuisance to everybody (not saying that you are, it depends on your social/tech environments).

                                            If an OS outside Google Android and iOS is not possible, I am convinced that iOS is by far the best choice privacy and security-wise.

                                            1. 1

                                              If an OS outside Google Android and iOS is not possible, I am convinced that iOS is by far the best choice privacy and security-wise.

                                              No, in that case the best choice would be an AOSP-derived Google-free Android distribution running on a well-supported platform. It has several advantages over iOS:

                                              • it is possible to run a minimum install by only enabling the services you need - no such thing on iOS
                                              • it is possible to run a full firewall from boot, no such thing on iOS
                                              • it is possible to run only free software (apart from the ubiquitous radio blob), not possible on iOS

                                              All this only goes for those who have the technical acumen to get the device in the desired state or have access to someone they trust who can do so. It could work for a company or a family with a resident hacker but it is hard for an individual without (access to) the required knowledge.

                                        2. 1

                                          Cross posting my reponse from similar HN thread a couple of days ago.

                                          How much I like the idea of a truly open phone platform there are some obstacles:

                                          • Decent hardware available at competitive price

                                            • While I could make do with some degraded performance for a truly open phone concept, most people would not, especially if price point is similar to, or higher, than established closed platform brands
                                          • Must have apps available - needed for wide acceptance

                                            • My personal examples of must have apps:
                                              • BankID (Swedish e-id, needed for banks, taxes, government sites, payments)
                                              • Swish - Swedish app for personal micro transactions
                                              • Public transportation apps (buying tickets/timetable)
                                              • Bank application
                                              • Signal

                                          Without these apps, a open platform phone would be next to useless to me. And I am a big proponent of open platforms.

                                          And looking at how reluctant BankID were to even support older version android phones, I am not optimistic to them adding a completely new platform to support.

                                          I know people who were forced to upgrade from “old” phones because BankID no longer supported their Android version, and phones would not get newer Android version.

                                          1. 1

                                            You really cannot blame BankID to requiring new and updated software. It’s an extraordinarily sensitive application and reducing the potential attack area has to be paramount.

                                            1. 1

                                              No, not really. That is more an observation on the issue of having to replace a perfectly working device just because a required app no longer is compatible.

                                              But still it is a major hurdle for anyone wanting to use an open platform, if these “required” apps are not available. I am not really prepared to own a second device just for running these apps.

                                              In that light an iOS device might be the lesser of two evils, even if I like Android and it’s ecosystem better.

                                            2. 1

                                              Stuff linke BankID, Swish and the public transport apps could be handled by an Android VM running on-demand on the platform. The likelihood of BankID becoming available on a free platform is small, it used to run under Linux for a while but that branch has been discontinued as far as I know. Swish is very similar to BankID in this respect, banking apps are different but they tend to limit themselves to the big 2 (Android and iOS at the moment). Signal should not be a problem as it is free software.

                                              The Android VM can run on-demand and ONLY on-demand so that Swish and Västtrafik and whatever can’t track you through their apps.

                                              (I live in Sweden so I’m used to the conundrums around BankID, I had to get a new device when they stopped supporting Android 4.4)

                                          2. 2

                                            With Google tying Android closer and closer

                                            If you want a proper device LineageOS seems like the way forward. I’m currently using https://gerda.tech/ w/ a Nokia 8110 for a phone-only and no distractions kinda situation.

                                            1. 2

                                              The problem with Lineage is still Play Services - if you go with microG as an alternative, IME many things (particularly location based apps like Uber) just don’t work. If you use Play Services on Lineage it’s not clear to me that you’re in a better position that using stock Android.

                                              1. 1

                                                Yes, LinageOS might be a way forward, but still missing some must have apps that are only available for devices with Android+ GoogleServices or iOS atm. Se my reply to Yetanfou above.

                                                1. 1

                                                  Also on Gerda on a 8110, and while I have loaded a 32gb card with music. I am still looking for a better podcast solution to syncing to the sd card.

                                              2. 2

                                                An interesting article about the topic of de-googling one’s life can be found at https://restoreprivacy.com/google-alternatives/

                                                It is indeed an important topic when it comes to the control of the common/open space. And so is open source hardware, and open access to scientific publications. We live in interesting times.