Category: personal

A book years in the making

A book years in the making

This is @Sasha and her most valuable project to date:

A book. But a book is not simply a lot of words or a pile of paper. It is memories, emotions, worldviews, and a lot of work to put them all together. Her book is a story that spans over 15 years. But these years are hardly what most people experience on this planet.

She was born in Russia but at age 8 had to move to the United States and deal with a new world. New language, new culture, new people; her mom, her bother, and some pets. Her father went back to Russia, and that affected her a lot.

A mountain of changes to absorb as a kid which led her to a world of drugs and anger.

She details these struggles which at times feel like hard to believe stories – a 17 year old girl selling drugs in New York, crazy mushroom trips and adventurous thefts.

But she managed to pull herself together and change her life for the better. She was not impressed by the imaginary borders humans create and call countries, so she went on flying like a free bird :). From Canada to Mexico, Australia to Europe, Russia to Thailand. 15 years of adventures with almost no money. Because money won’t stop Small Sasha :).

A way to discover the world and yourself.

When you get to experience so many cultures and places, you can understand much better what humans are, and what makes them who the are.

The places she saw and the people she met are extraordinarily described in the book, in a way that you feel like you are there. No photos needed. You’ll laugh, wonder, or feel uncomfortable reading some of her uncensored experiences.

It is a galaxy of stories that she had to put together using notes from the past, photos, and her own memories stored in the mushy pile of cells we call the brain.

She managed to compile this massive story in a way that it is super fun to follow, but also to get a feeling of how she grew a mind in all of these years.

That mental growth and her experiences, made her realize how fucked up this society is and how much we are destroying this environment and the creatures in it.

She started to volunteer for some organizations over the years, eventually getting closer to the project I made, TROM. And so here we are, a book later, spending our lives together.

I cannot describe how wonderful this book is, how emotional and funny. So much fun, but also a lot of reality check for many people who are going to have their values challenged.

She crafted this book so much, that at times you feel like Carl Sagan, David Attenborough and George Carlin contributed to the book :).

A wonderful read! A massive CONGRATULATIONS to Sasha for the immense work she put into this. I know too well how for the past 4 years she worked so much on this book that it almost put our relationship under a big question mark. I never saw anyone putting so much effort into anything. It was too intense!

But now it is OVER. Finally! I thought I will never see this happen. Wow!

After so many years of work, and almost no money, she is putting the book for free on her website https://www.bigworldsmallsasha.com/ in digital format, despite us not having much money to make a life for ourselves on this planet. But of course, if you want to support her (us) you can buy the physical copy too. Or donate if you can.

I helped design the entire cover and I am quite proud of it :).

Go read it! I know I will read it again. This time the physical copy, in a hammock somewhere in nature.

Sasha you fucking did ti!

PS: The book was made with trade-free software. LibreOffice, Krita, Inkscape.

Navalny

Navalny

No surprise that Alexei Navalny died….unfortunately the situation in this world is not like a movie, where the bad guys are defeated. It seems to me like we’ve built a society that encourages villains and give little chances to anyone who wants to do anything in a more just way in this society.

Navalny had a huge following and was able to pierce with his campaign through the thick and foggy blanket of propaganda that the Russian government is so good and persistent at. And Navalny may not have been a saint or may not have changed much in Russia, who knows considering the level of corruption that infected all governments around the world, but for sure he was attacked, silenced, and eventually killed (directly or indirectly through a lot of abuse).

Many journalists have been imprisoned or even killed, and now we can see these publicly and so clearly. It is naive to think that pretty much anyone who challenges Putin drops dead or in prison, and this has nothing to do with Putin. But probably these wannabe dictators do not even mind to cover anything anymore.

We are noticing the modern public beheading of those who challenge the status quo. But these modern dictators do not have yet the courage to admit that they did it. They only make it very obvious that they did.

Russia seems to have become an authoritarian regime, the old school one. And this is increasingly concerning. Silencing the protesters, killing the political opponents, and infecting the media with terrible propaganda.

“make no mistake” (to quote the chief of USA), the other tribes are flavors of the same medicine. USA, EU, and the rest, are abusive in their own way, and have killed, and still killing, many innocent people. Russia is just worse. So don’t let the degree of “doing bad things” take away form the fact that the other tribes are also abusive. USA may not kill the political opponents, but it is damn good at giving no chance to any radical change in the good direction of their tribe.

Anyway…. it is a sad and scary world. Humans, what a deplorable species.

I am making the documentary about Navalny freely available on our Peertube https://videos.trom.tf/w/b17jsjV11KhxvvnfMusaEy and will be featured on the homepage. See how obvious it is that the guy was targeted and almost killed not long ago. Terrible.

Are we ever going to be an “intelligent human species”, floating in space on a marvelous ball of wonders that we can take care of? Exploring the in and outs of it? Or are we going to continue as tribalistic and primitive creatures, exploiting and killing?….

Why TROMnews is important, and why no one uses it

Why TROMnews is important, and why no one uses it

We have a brand new TROMnews website – https://tromnews.com/

By @Tio

The plugin that we’ve used for TROMnews for the past many years stopped working so we had to find a new one. When that happened I was sure I will have to let go of this website, simply because I need to focus on other things, especially personal stuff. If I were to get at least half the financial support that we need for TROM, then I could focus on these projects more.

But anyway, after talking to Sasha I realized that the website is indeed important, despite the fact that I am sure not many are using it. We will talk more about that. But first:

TROMnews is more work than you may think.

The idea is to pull news/videos/photos/etc from many online sources and coalesce them all into a website that makes sense. But choosing the sources, finding and RSS feed for them, and all that, is not as easy. Plus, some do not have an RSS feed so I have to use other services to create it on the fly. Also, the way I pull the RSS feeds is not arbitrary. For example I cannot grab all of the videos from a Youtube channel since that would include the absolutely retarded “shorts”, so I have to tell the RSS to only pull the videos that are at least 2 minutes long. And so forth….

I ended up with over 200 sources: from websites to Youtube, from subReddits to playlists. I want to make sure we pull a featured image for each (or most posts), and to not overwhelm everyone with whatever I pull. Like I choose to pull from the subReddit “Sky Porn” only the images that have over X amount of votes. This way we make sure that add only a few a week, but the good ones. The amount of X in this case depends from subReddit to subReddit – I test these to see what’s the best value.

Now you get 200 feeds that each can pull several items every hour or so. A server may struggle with so much stuff. And so the old plugin disabled many feeds daily, and I had to reactivate them to make them update…one by one, manually.

On top of all of this, I had filters for many of these feeds as to what posts can pull or exclude, based on keywords. Just to make it more relevant.

I use TROMnews daily, and so are a few friends. But I bet no one else uses it.

I want to stay in touch with what is happening in the world, but not the world of politics (the nonsense world), I want to know about science, tech, and the natural world mostly. I can so that via an RSS reader on my local machine, but my goal with TROMnews was always to provide a tool for others to stay informed and sane.

I started this project exactly 10 years ago. Because I feared that if people are idiots and feed their brains with bullshit then we have 0 chances to ever change anything in this world. Humans live inside of their brains, and if what’s inside is bullshit, then they are bullshitters and we live in different worlds altogether, despite being on the same planet, inside the same reality. How can we build the future together?

If some think that gods made them, others that money is real, or that climate change is an invention, then we are fucked. And such a website makes it easy to keep your brain sane.

For me no other website is enough to use it as my news source. From BBC to PBS, or Scientific American, and so forth, they are plagued by politics and promotional articles. It is a mess.

Anyway, I spent many years trying to find the best sources, and subcategories on some good news websites that were still relevant, and I wanted them all in one place. This is why I use TROMnews. It is my main, and many times only, source of brain-food.

10 years ago when I released it I had some big hopes for it, because people were still able to choose stuff for themselves. Like they were intentionally visiting websites. Nowadays the vast majority of people are on maximum 5 platforms (Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Youtube, or Instagram). And they are all fed whatever these companies want.

A vomit of ads and retarded content. And people stay, and eat. Scroll through an endless stream of whatever they are fed with.

Sick.

So I know that I cannot make people use TROMnews. And I do not care anymore. I and a few friends use it. Plus it is a very interesting website. That’s enough for me.

The new website needs more work, but it is a bit more “interesting” in my view.

Before the website was simply displaying the same kind of cards for all categories and that’s all. A bit boring. Even I was not that motivated to read the news – too many of the same cards, too many news. Now the homepage looks like a news website, highlighting every category.

We even have a Recommended Documentary section that automatically pulls from VideoNeat. πŸ™‚

Every page is a bit more unique to emphasize whatever category is showcasing. Here’s a cool photo I just found on TROMnews:

Freaking spider! πŸ™‚ – that’s what I love about TROMnews – it is a bundle of interesting stuff, ranging from important news, to wonderful photos or super interesting videos. It is my place, and I am not giving up on it :P.

The advantage now is that I can have a lot more control over the individual items. I can probably add a proper search and even allow others to subscribe to our own feed. So that you can subscribe to our TROMnews NEWS. How cool….

I still need to add the Dark mode and tweak it for mobile screens, but also monitor it to make sure it all works well. I came across a bunch of issues with the auto-updating of sources so let’s see if it is able to keep up with updating from over 200 rss feeds.

I also lack the ability to filter the feeds based on keywords, but I can live with that… What I’d like is the ability to showcase from where an item is. Like who posted this or that, as it was before. I can only do that if I buy the pro-bro version… So if I get enough financial support for TROM I will make TROMnews a bit better.

Oh, when I was searching for a replacement WordPress plugin for TROMnews I came across many RSS Aggregators. And all, without exception form my findings, are geared towards making more money. Of course…. Who is using them like I do, to pull science/tech/interesting news for all to see? No ads, no bs…

But I was aware of this, it was always the case. People use these plugins to pull stuff from other websites into their own, to then inject ads and make money. In turn destroying the internet, which has become a garbage bin made of vomited and re-vomited content. And now it is getting easier:

The same plugin that I use, has a “pro” version that can integrate these “chat bots” to not only import the full content form other websites, but automatically rewrite it so that search engines cannot detect it as being a duplicate.

Welcome to the Internet 3.0. The complete fuckery, a tsunami on nonsense.

TROMnews is a little spot of sane stuff. I hope some people appreciate it.

Being trapped in the bullet train of nonsense and ugliness

Being trapped in the bullet train of nonsense and ugliness

Even I forget that I released a massive documentary some months ago…and that I worked so hard on that. I honestly forget about that quite often and deep down I feel a bit frustrated and sad that I do not do more. But maybe I just forget that I have put so much effort into that and perhaps that drained me of energy. Of course I am crazy busy with the driving license now and am doing other things in the background for TROM, but I need to remind myself that I’ve done a lot to scream, and I will do more, but I cannot be always like a machine that never stops. So I need some more time to get myself back on track and create new things, scream more and in different ways, and so forth.

I am trying, but the world in which we live is like a bullet-train of nonstop things happening. Most of them are idiotic and ugly. So most people are trapped in this race. Myself included many times. That’s why I forget about the documentary.

Wars, disasters, debates, problems, noise. Too much noise. And not much progress into any saner direction.

I ponder sometimes if I should stop trying, and live a quiet and simple life and not give a shit. I don’t know…it is hard to imagine that “me”. I started my “online activism” back in 2007 or so. That’s a scary 17 years ago. And the world has only gotten worse. So why continue I ask myself….

Maybe I just need to recharge myself this year and change my personal life quite a bit. To then have some new energy and motivation to do more, and newer. But also different.

It is also really difficult to try and manage all of these projects and the stuff that I do, with 20% of what I need financially in this trade world…if at least I had enough support to keep me afloat, I could have the confidence of doing more, and doing other things too in this direction.

For now I will be busy with the retarded driving test for the next 1-2 weeks. Then if I manage to pass the exam, it should be easier. I will have to wait a few months for the practical test (driving) but I am quite sure I can take that one. So let’s see how I organize myself and the TROM projects for the next months. I will post updates on my Friendica if course.

#romstuff

Adam ruins the social networks conversation

Adam ruins the social networks conversation

Video:

In this video Adam Conover argues that people cannot leave Twitter because everyone is there and Mastodon is hard to use. He thinks that the best is to transform Twitter into a nationalized, gov-owned public good platform.

Well…

He may be right that people are not going to leave Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and the like since “everyone is there”. Which, let’s be honest, is an indirect way of saying that humans are mindless sheep who will go to the popular party regardless if they are fucked in the ass all day. So let’s not brush this aside. Humans are mindless idiots, at least most of them. And busy for that matter. That should scare the shit out of us and to make us try to find a solution for that, not a solution for Twitter and the like.

Second, Mastodon is not the fucking “fediverse”. The fediverse is a big network made up of many different platforms. It is like calling the mail, GMAIL. As if it is only Gmail. Also, if Mastodon is hard to use, and for that matter other platforms like Friendica and so forth, then humans must be true idiots because it takes you a minute to understand how these work. They are as “complicated” as Twitter, Facebook and the like. The people who think that using Linux or a federated platform is “hard”, are those that need any little excuse to not change their habits. When people start to use new platforms like Zoom, TikTok and the like, they put up with whatever new interfaces they have to navigate, just to use them because “these apps are trendy and everyone uses them”.

Lastly, a gov owned social network is not like a gov owned educational network like PBS….PBS produces specific content that it controls. A social network is made up of the content that people produce….if the gov would control that, it would be censored like hell. Terrible idea!

The solution is decentralization. Else you have a giant company or gov that decides what we are allowed to post. Therefore, small instances of locally-moderated groups of people, that create a giant network. Welcome to the Fediverse.

Now let’s continue to educate people about it rather than dreaming about the gov taking over a multi-billion dollar ad-based company and making it usable and free for all of us.




It’s no secret that Elon Musk has absolutely tanked Twitter, so why haven’t we all left? Despite the site becoming an apocalyptic hellscape, there’s a surpri…

YouTube

A lesson about why “free” is not free

A lesson about why “free” is not free

This November Facebook is rolling out a subscription model for EU. Their options: pay 10 Euros a month and you will not see ads on Facebook, or as they say it:

People can refuse to pay a subscription and continue to use Facebook for FREE while seeing ads.

Let’s quickly unpack this shitshow.

For the past 10.000 years humans have used a practice to move stuff around the globe: trade. You take care of my sheep, I give you cheese. In time it evolved into specialized work, the notion of debt (trade for it later) and the invention of “currency”. A worthless resource that humans imagine to have value. Such as gold, shells, coins, etc..

You do not have to build houses for others in return for some clothes and food, you will get a currency in return for your work. In time humans started to lose track of what is really happening in this society of trade and then believed that they work for the currency itself. Like you work for money. Despite the fact that not a single human works for money, they work for what money gets them (food, comfort, access, power, etc..).

Therefore, from economists to regular workers, journalists or historians, everyone got tricked and confused by the ways the trade practice mutated over the past thousands of years.

Nowadays it is even more confusing because one can trade their attention (watch ads) in return for accessing some digital content. Or agree to let their data being mined in return for other services. Therefore a currency is often not needed, but the practice of trade is the same as it was 10.000 years ago.

So today humans somehow think that if something does not cost money (or other currencies) that something is FREE. This is almost like saying that someone is not dead unless it has a death certificate.

If we were to understand this simple fact of life, we could cut through a lot of the crap that is raining down in today’s society. We could easily ask the question: What Am I Trading? Like: what do I have to give in return for using Facebook?

And the answer is simple: you need to give them your attention (watch ads), your data, and your currency to either pay to reach your followers and so forth, or pay for a monthly ads-free experiencing.

As you can see in no scenario Facebook is free. NONE.

This is what TROM is trying so hard to make visible: the invisible part of our society. The fact that TRADE is at the core of how this society works, and how this force of trade is making us all complete jerks, charlatans, and abusers. We need to understand what the problem is, in order to come up with any solution.

Understand first!

Astrophotography with the Pixel 4A

Astrophotography with the Pixel 4A

The Pixel 4A 4G is a phone that you can buy for about 100-200 Euros second hand, and it is an amazing device to take photos of the night sky. Most of the time you point and shoot and do no other edits. Like here’s a photo directly from the phone:

Very challenging with the Moon in the center stage, and yet it did great.

Another one from the terrace:

But when the light is weird it cannot do a great job:

I mean it is a very good photo but here it is after I manually edited the RAW one from the phone:

You can eve see a bit of the Milky Way there.

Another sample. This one it did very well:

But then I went a bit insane and edited (perhaps too much) the RAW file (because yes the Pixel also shoots in RAW):

The amount of stars is INSANE! But I feel like I made it too artificial…

Next one is a sample of a photo with yellow light pollution:

That I tried to fix using the RAW version again:

I know I made it a bit too blueish…but I think it is better than the original one. In that photo you can even see the Andromeda Galaxy:

That’s WOAH! Amazing!

Tonight we went out to take some photos before the Moon would ruin it. Here are some of the photos we took. My favorite of the night:

This is straight out of the phone. Zero editing. I LOVE it. So much that it is now the Wallpaper for my phone. Quite funny…the wallpaper that the phone took :D.

The rest of the photos are a bit edited by me but not so much:

Here are the original ones directly from the oven phone:

I think it is mindblowing to be able to do these photos only with my phone. And this is only the beginning! I have a telescope and a mount for the phone, so I will try to point it at say Andromeda or some nebulas or the core of the Milky Way and photograph through the phone. The main issue is that I have to make my telescope track these objects else they will move too fast even for the “smartness” of this camera. I cannot wait! Fuck yah!

You know I’ve seen many photos of the night sky that are 100 times better than mine. And for one they do not excite me nearly as much, simply because the ones you make are personal. You made them. So you are really enjoying them!

But second, this is about going out, seeing the night sky with your own eyes! Talk to each other, observe, be amazed. Learn more about what objects are out there….what other worlds. That’s the fun part! So I really love that there is almost no effort in taking these photos with the Pixel. I am using the Pixel Camera in Night Mode. Once it detects that it is still enough, it goes into Atrophotography mode and you simply press the shutter button. It takes usually 4 minutes to do these photos.

It’s been a while since I updated the photo gallery on my website, but now I will more often!

You know I tried to edit the above photos, their RAW files, quite a bit tonight but I feel like I should not spend too much time on that. Because it may take the fun away. In any case, if anyone is interested I am using Raw Therapee and Darktable for editing. Both trade-free.

I also took Sasha’s Sony a6600 camera to see how it compares with the phone. For sure it can take a lot better photos since the sensor is a lot bigger. But it is not that comfortable to take it with you and set it all up. I kinda fucked most of the photos I took but this one is good:

Unedited. I tried to tweak the RAW file but the above one is already good. We can even see Andromeda with a bit of color :).

I will try to do more photos with that camera too, but am telling you nothing compares with the comfort of the phone for this. However the sony camera may take such better photos if I eventually will get used to using it, that I may put up with the discomfort of it.

Next I will try some longer timelapses. The Pixel already creates some that are just 1 second long but I will find a way around it. Till then, here are some that I made:

The Smartphone World and how I cope with it

The Smartphone World and how I cope with it

My first mobile phone was one I was allowed to use for a limited amount of time. It was one my father had from his workplace. No colors, heavy, big. This is how it and I looked back then:

It was the very early 2000. It felt strange to have your parents call you when you were out. It felt like you had an umbilical cord attached to them. But phones were a cool new thing so we kept riding that wave.

Everything evolved very fast in the mobile phone world. An explosion of forms and colors appeared.

My first personal phone was the memorable Nokia 3310.

Everyone had these. They were every resilient and the most popular among teenagers. We would buy new “skins” to customize them, write songs out of the keypad sounds (yeah, here’s how), and message each other using that weird keyboard…

It was back then that the phone became not a tool to keep in touch with others, but part of your own image in this society. And I am SURE that marketing had NOTHING to do with it!

I became a bit obsessed with these gadgets. My uncle had a store selling these, so I could grab the latest and the coolest. My first color phone tho is one I bought from a friend. It was the Nokia 7650.

I was shocked at how cool it was. Colors! Camera! Sliding up and down. Wow!

I am sure I recorded a bunch of videos and I have none of them because they were of a horrible quality.

I went through a lot of other phones, mainly because of my uncle’s shop, but the most memorable was the N-Gage one.

I could play games on that thing! Wow! How amazing! But of course even I was starting to realize how kinda useless these are. Yeah you can play games and record videos, but the quality of them was terrible. Yes you can keep in “touch” with your friends, but fuck it is more interesting to meet in person!

At last you could still service these phones back then. Changing the battery was easy, and they were usually resilient even tho they were made out of plastic.

In college I settled for the Nokia 6600 because I found it to be more useful:

Big screen, comfortable keyboard, that nob in the center was useful for navigation. I used it for quite many years actually. I was able to add files to it (from documents to audio/video files), customize the look and even install some “apps”. Probably had this phone from 2008 to some 2013 or so.

This was the beginning of the “smart” phone. The access to the internet was open, the “apps” were invading, the companies were preparing the forks and knives to come for our brains!

The iPhone took over the world with its touchscreen, and the other companies followed. Now the shapes were only rectangular, the screen was huge, the keyboard was digital. The Internet was part of the phone.

My first “true” smartphone was a spanish brand, a Bq Aquaris:

That was around 2014 I think. It was thin and had a “great” camera by those years’ standards. But I was unsure what to do with it. I was taking photos and recording videos and that’s pretty much it.

In 2016 or so I had some saved money and I wanted to also start a video series for the TVP Magazine, so I decided to buy the latest and shiniest: Samsung Galaxy S7. It was a fortune, some 500 Euros. I thought I can use it as a smartphone but also as a camera, so I can do my videos with it.

4k camera, 2k screen, multi-core, waterpfoof, thisorthat-proof, cool-approved. It was indeed a very good phone and in fact I have used it since then.

I took it to the pool so many times and did a lot of recordings underwater. I washed it with soap regularly after coming from the beach to get that salt and sand off of it. I never cracked its screen and overall I kept it in pristine conditions.

In normal conditions the phone took really great photos:

And even in low light with the “pro” features of its Samsung camera I managed to take some really cool shots:

uRn6QjF

But I did not make the videos that I wanted to make…for all sorts of reasons…And I realized something else: you do not own the phone…

The more I used it and the more I started to understand how this society and the internet work, the more I started to hate this phone. You see, there are basically 2 kinds of phones in today’s world:

1. Apple phones.

They are loaded with Apple’s shit and are locked down in that environment. Usually you have to pay a lot of money for these devices and you can’t just have an Apple phone…you have to have an Apple computer and now an Apple watch for these to work with each other. Try having an iPhone and a Windows/Linux computer and then you’ll see the hurdles when for example you want to sync your gallery across devices and stuff like that…

2. Android phones.

Google injects their own shit into Android, but then other companies such as Samsung (that sell their own phones) take the Google Android and add another layer of shit on top of it: the Samsung apps! And the phone carrier who sells these phones, say Verizon, will add even more crap of their own on top of this. If you think that’s all….some companies like Facebook can have partnerships with any of these motherfuckers and they will add their own apps preinstalled on these devices.

In all creating multiple layers of shit. A big turd cake.

Your phone is not yours.


So my S7 came with a ton of these crappy nuggets of shit. From Google Drive to Google Hello, Google this, Google that. Google assistant everywhere….their own crap Chrome browser full of nonsense. And their payment option: the Google Wallet…But Samsung had their own Samsung Pay…and their own Samsung browser….and so forth. I was also surprised to see Facebook being pre-installed. Or Whatsapp and the like.

In all honesty in the first 2 or so years of use I was not as bothered by these. It was my lack of understanding this big layered turd and the fact that I did not use the phone so much. But it started to sink in when at one point a Samsung update pushed Instagram, Netflix and a bunch of other apps into my system…they installed them themselves! WOW! And none of these apps I could remove. Not Instagram, not Facebook, not the Google apps, not the Samsung apps…

It was then when I realized that in fact I have no control over my phone. What stops them from installing and uninstalling apps on my phone?

Over the years I tried to disable some of these apps and clean up my phone. I was one of the first to use F-Droid and apps like Newpipe (replacement for youtube), so I really tried. I wanted to make my phone a device that I can trust and use, and feel like it is mine. But I realized that it was impossible….

You need these apps! You need this phone!


The truth is that there are some things in this world that you cannot escape. At least it is fuck hard to. Like having a credit card is a must, or a phone number, and nowadays your bank app to confirm payments or transfers, or some messaging apps for your work or whatever…

The phone is becoming an essential part of you being a citizen of this society. Unfortunately.

So for example I need my bank app in order to do some payments with my credit card. Else I simply cannot do any. On the other hand I do find it extremely useful to be able to pay with my phone in this trade-bullshit society so that I do not have to carry my card with me all the time. I was one of the first to use the mobile payment via Samsung Pay where I live, so much so than when I was paying with my phone back in 2016 people were shocked in the supermarket to see that. One time the cashier called her colleges to see me do that. It was so new, and yet today it is so common.

I also use Google Maps for navigation and finding info about places (when is open, see reviews, etc.). I also need a browser to access the internet and pretty much all of them are based on Google’s browser…I need to install some apps and the only place is the Google’s Play Store that they 100% control. Sure, unless you know how to install F-Droid and all that.

But the point is that you need a smartphone today and some apps, else you are fucked.

But how can I accept this phone to be with me all of the time when I felt like it isn’t mine? Not to mention the data it collects for all of the shit layer creators of the big turd cake.

The Ads!


On my Linux computer I can block ALL ads. It is so easy fortunately. But on my phone I can only block some. For the past 5-6 years I struggled so much to keep the ads away on my S7. I tested so many apps that try to block these ads. But because of how this phones are setup you can’t really block ads easily. For websites you can use a browser with an adblocker but most people use the “apps”, they don’t visit websites anymore. And most of these apps are infected with ads.

Well, don’t use these apps!

I agree…we should try to avoid these apps as much as possible, but there are some that even I (who does not use the phone much) want to use and cannot find alternatives.

Such as Surfline or Windy to keep a detailed look at the wind and waves – I live near the beach and that’s useful if you want to go with the kayak, or for a snorkel, or dive and so forth. I also use GuitarTuna to tune my guitar, or some astronomy apps…. I can’t find any trade-free alternatives for these on F-Droid.

Pause.

Trade-Free (TF) vs Trade-Based (TB).


Before I continue I need to explain this for those who are not familiar with these terms. For the past many years I have explained how our society is based on trade. All of that capitalism talk, and money, and data collection, and so on, are in fact fancy terms to describe a practice that’s at the core of our society: TRADE. I give you this ONLY if you give me THAT.

A supermarket will ONLY give you that chocolate IF you give them some currency (money). In the same way that Facebook will ONLY give you an account IF you give them your data and attention (watch ads). There is no other choice in both cases. Therefore these are trade-based, not trade-free.

A trade-free app, say one that let’s you edit your photos, is exactly that: an app that let’s you edit your photos. The people who made that app made it for that purpose. They do not want your data or attention (so they won’t add ads inside the app), or they do not want your currency (they don’t make you pay for it or hide features unless you pay for it). It is a PURELY FREE app.

Back to the smartphone-story.

The smartphone has become a trampoline for trades.


Tell me if you know any app in the Pay Store that is trade-free. So it has no ads, it doesn’t cost money, or doesn’t block features unless you pay! I do not think there are any….or maybe they are, but they must be so so so so rare.

Therefore the phone has become a marketplace where people trade their data, time, attention, and currencies, in exchange for silly entertainment. It is a disgusting world that I started to hate so much.

That Pay Store is a load of crap. You do not know what is an ad and what is an app. At times they are one. You are forced to log in with your Google account to even access it, and Google then tracks you and “recommends” you more vomit-inducing-apps and ads.

And kids are now growing up in this environment. They are used to watch ads in every app, to pay to access, to prostitute to gain more points in a game, to overall accept this circus as if it is normal. It makes me puky!

I feel like the smartphone is a trampoline for stupidity overall, because of the trades it slingshots into people’s brains.

Think about it: the ONLY reason why we see this fuckery is indeed because of trade. Because Google wants more data in order to make people click more ads, since Google gets currency for that process from other companies. People and companies who make apps are incentivized to make whatever the shit to keep you engaged in order to collect more data, more of your currency, attention. To get something from you. All of them want you to be GLUED to that fucking device!

Today this device that we call a “smart” phone is in fact a remote control for trades that in turn creates a lot of idiots. When you have a population of workers, who spend 8h or more a day doing things that probably they do not like doing, and they come home tired, then they are easy targets for these companies. Almost like flies without wings. They are easily trapped in the vast digital land of bullshit….

Because they have no more energy left to focus on anything more interesting and complex. It is easy to endlessly scroll on TikTok and watch silly videos, and it is reinforced when making silly and stupid videos is also a low effort game. A loop of crap.

You are not a human using a device, you are a consumer using a consumer device. Long are gone the days when the phones were used as phones, to keep in touch with others. Changing the skins for a Nokia 3310 to impress your classmates has transformed into a dangerous game of your image and identity being trapped into the little device that you are holding with you. All day….all night. A device that is not yours to begin with.

So I hate so much this world of zombies who are now depleted of time and thoughts. Who have a remote controller in their pockets that controls them. I hate the dependency on the phone and how it turned people into distracted idiots.

I HATE IT!

I can talk nonstop for days about how much I hate the smartphone world, from the stupid vertical videos to accepting an intimate relationship with these nasty companies, but I want to turn this into a positive direction. Imagine that….

Android without the crap!


When I bought my laptop it came with Windows, but of course I could easily install Linux on it, and so I did. That’s how now I control my laptop and it is my friend, instead of a trampoline of bullshit. No ads, no trade-based applications. So nice, so fast, so useful, so reliable!

But you can’t really do this on phones. Hard to explain why and my friend Roma does a great job understanding all of this and explaining it (so contact him πŸ™‚ ) but it is basically a fuckery about the closed down hardware that they use and licensing. So it is extremely difficult to make another operating system for these smartphones.

But a few did it.

Not creating it from scratch but using the Android OS and tweaking it to remove the cancer of Google and the like, plus add some tweaks to it to make it more private and secure. There are a few of these and you can count them on one hand. On a side note you can search for “mobile operating system” on our Trade Free Directory to find them. Quite handy!

For the past few years my S7 started to not work well anymore. The main home button rarely worked to press it, so going “home” on my phone was an uncomfortable experience. The camera would go out of focus all of the time and the only way to fix it was to smack my phone until it focused. So it was a hardware issue. And the battery was terrible. Even if I were to do nothing on my phone it would discharge on its own in less than 20 hours. Using it, even the way I used it (almost not at all), would drain the battery in 3-4 hours. It was terrible.

I was aware of these Decrappyfied Androids but I didn’t want to test them on my main device. You see the truth is that I barely use my phone. I mainly use it to see what time it is, to check the weather, navigate at times, and keep in touch with 3-4 people over Signal. I rarely take photos, but I do use it to pay. I don’t remember last time I used my card or cash to pay. However even I felt uncomfortable to experiment with these OSes on my main device. What if it stops working?

Luckily Aaron sent me his old Pixel 4A 4G a week or so ago and I thought that this is my opportunity to delve into the world of alternative smartphone operating systems.

The screen is very cracked in one corner but is not that noticeable when it is on.

It already had GrapheneOS installed, an OS that Aaron was using for some time now. I remember him telling me about it and him being excited about it. Truth is I didn’t quite understand it and I was not as curious at that time. Perhaps my hatred towards the smartphone-world is what blinded me.

GrapheneOS seem to be one of those that put privacy first, even at the expenses of usability perhaps. Out of the box the OS looks quite dead – black and white.

Yeah this is how it looks like out of the box!

Sure you can customize it a lot, but for newcomers this looks quite dead and scary. These OSes try to contain Google via all sorts of means. Like stopping the communication of Google services with the Google servers, or adding a layer on top of them so that Google does not know who you are, and so forth.

Because the truth is that if you are to only use Open Source apps, and the ones that do not track you, then you will find it hard to use a smartphone.

You will have no banking app, no healthcare system app (another one that I use), transportation app, or access to better maps…paying services that you may need, messaging apps that you may be forced to use, and so forth. It is truly unfortunate, but this is the world we live in. The fucking healthcare system here in Spain is free for all, but can’t fucking make an app that works independently of the motherfucking Google Pay Store…

Terrible!

Anyhow, GrapheneOS did not scare me, but looking at the list of devices that they are supporting I realized that they do not support the Pixel 4A 4G anymore…

Actually it is sad to see how few devices are supported. This is because these people depend 100% on Google. If Google drops the support for some of these phones then these people need to do it too….in a sense if you do not keep on buying the new phones every 2-3 years, you are left out with a device that will not receive any updates anymore even from these TF OSes.

So I decided to try another one: CalyxOS. CalyxOS was providing support for my model and promised to upgrade to the next Android version. So that was great:

Later found out that perhaps they will do what GrahaneOS was doing and only provide “extended” support for my model, but well… Anyway, I’ve heard about the Calyx Institute for a few years now and they seem to do some cool stuff.

The installation process was quite simple if you follow the guide carefully. This is the first time I am installing an OS on a phone and it was really cool to see it boot into the CalyxOS.

What’s so cool about CalyxOS?

They have a firewall that allows you to easily block the access to the internet per apps basis. This is handy when you cannot block the ads for some apps and these apps do not need an Internet access in order to work. Simply go to the firewall and disable the internet access for these apps.

They also provide trade-free VPNs. Two of them. We also provide the Riseup VPN via our TROMjaro. This is really handy in order to avoid censorship and mask your IP address.

They use microG which is a replacement for many Google Services. In other words they are going to protect you from the Google cancer. As much as they can, while allowing you to use their Pay Store.

Aurora store is an interface for the Pay Store much like Invidious is for Youtube. So without the crap. You can connect to it either in an anonymous way (click a button when you open it) or even connect to your Google account. Whatever you prefer.

On top of this you have the great F-Droid where you can find only Open Source apps.

So basically you have 2 App Centers. Which is fine I guess…

Stop. Open Source is not enough.

Let me address something. Many people focus on the battle between proprietary software vs open source software, as if that’s where the issues emerge from. They think that proprietary software is bad since you cannot control it and cannot see its source code, share, modify etc.. They are right, but no one makes proprietary software unless they want to trade it. Else what would be the reason to stop others from using your code? Why would I refuse to open my code unless I want to own that for trade purposes to either make money off of it, or stop others from using my work and make money out of it!?

So the issue starts because of trade again. And to prove that, the Open Source software is the same pile of garbage when people trade it. F-Droid has a ton of trade-based software. Software that is Open Source but limits you – they force you to pay, or register, and what-not in order to unlock more features that are perhaps proprietary blobs added on top of a demo-like Open Source code that they promote via F-Droid.

That’s why Trade-Free Software (TFS) is a much better approach because it deals with the incentive. If you make a TF piece of software then it means you do not ask the users for anything in return, and thus you are not motivated to lock it down. Very likely a TFS is also Open Source. While if you trade your Open Source software you can insert ads and trackers (to grab people’s data and attention) and hide features behind paywalls.

Trade Free Software > Open Source Software

So I would really love to see a Trade-Free Software center much like we have for TROMjaro.

When you search for an app in TROMjaro’s Library you know for sure it is not a bullshit app. It is what it says it is. If it is a photo gallery, then it is a fucking photo gallery with all of the features it provides. No data collection, no ads, no pro-bro features for the “paying customers”.

I wish this “movement” of trade-fee would catch on, to slice through the turd cake that this world has become. Until then you have to still navigate carefully even when using the F-Droid app center.

Back to CalyxOS.

They install some apps like Signal, Tor, Bromite (Chromium with an adblocker), and a few more. What I love is the ability to backup your phone to WebDav or Nextcloud. I made an article about how I bought a cheap Hetzner Storage Box and I backup 4 laptops there via WebDav. So I was able to easily do that for the phone too. It means that in theory when you reinstall CalyxOs you can bring back everything (or almost at least).

Calyx is quite nice from the Get-Go and it feels like a “normal” Android experience except the Google or other crap. It is nice and simple. They also support a few more phones than GrapheneOS does and overall I managed to install a bunch of apps and customize my phone experience. I got so trapped and excited about my phone now! πŸ™‚ A rare thing for me to say.

So how do I manage my phone-life now?


For one, I am so relaxed to know that Calyx got my back, and that the tumors were removed from the OS itself, at least most of them!

Ads, still a problem!

I tested a few of these Operating Systems and they cannot remove all ads from apps. But they should at least try to add something system-wide to try and stop them. Unfortunately Calyx does not have this. After trying so many adblockers (from adaway to personalDNSfilter or the freemium blokada) I settled for Rethink. A bit more complicated to use but you can enable so many ad-filters and seems to work very well.

You have to go to the DNS section, then select the Rethink DNS:

Then select the RDNS Plus, and then the Advanced and select a bunch of filters and then that’s it.

Well then you have to go to the battery optimization for this app and select to not optimize it, so that it always stays on. Also select from the Rethink app’s settings to start on boot. I can still see some ads for some apps…but as I said, I think it is impossible to block them….and I will not use any app that shows an ad if I have an adblocker already. Period! If the adblocker cannot block it, fuck that app.

I need to stress out how IMPORTANT it is to have a system-wide ad and tracker blocker! It is a must!

Apps via Aurora and Droid-ify

Hard to tell which one is which, but that’s good I guess. I am trying to use F-Droid as my first alternative as much as I can. But it is very easy to install ANY android app via these two managers.

Weather

Surfline and Windy for the sea and wind – these are trade-based….but I cannot find any better ones than these…However I am using the Geometric Weather for the “general weather” which is quite trade-free and looks great:

Browser: Mull!

Because it is Firefox without the BS and you can install basically any Firefox extensions. So I installed Ublock and Privacy Badger. And now I feel like I have control over it like I do on my desktop. I even added SearX as the search engine.

Now I am sure that the ads and trackers are nuked out of every website I visit, even youtube!

Maps!

I use Magic Earth for navigation. It is better than Google Maps, I can finally say that after a decade of searching for an alternative. I am not going to do a review for it now, but it has a ton of features: offline maps, great voice assistants, and a fantastic navigation system that is more accurate than Google’s.

As I said you cannot escape Google Maps since that fucker has so much data about every place and that’s useful…so I found a way around it. GMaps WV. This is basically Google Maps wrapped in a protective layer so that it won’t spy on you. It works as good as Google Maps itself. The downside is that the navigation does not work. BUT, remember Magic Earth? Well when I find a location in GMaps WV and I click share it will open it in Magic Earth and it jumps to that location. So I can easily then click “start” in Magic Earth and navigate! Search on GMaps WV and navigate in Magic Earth!

Nice! Now I can use the power of both without being spied on. Biking, hiking, car-riding, they are all covered by the above!

Nextcloud connect!

If you do not have a Nextcloud account, you can use our TROM Files then install the Nextcloud app from F-Droid and connect to it. You can choose folders to auto-upload from your phone to the cloud, so you can in theory use this to backup your files too. But what’s cool is that you can install for example the Nextcloud Notes (what I did) and have it as an independent Notes app on your Phone and your computer, all connected via the main Nextcloud account. Nextcloud is so powerful I highly recommend using it. Imagine you have access to LibreOffice directly from our TROM Files with Dark Mode as optional:

Among other apps I use SimplyTranslate (TF), LocalSend (TF and so useful), HopToDesk (TF – in case I need to control my phone from my laptop or vice-versa), and the amazing KDE Connect (TF – to control the media on my laptop; so useful when we watch documentaries on the projector form the laptop, it acts as a remote). Syncthing is used to sync the photos and videos between my phone and laptop and I use NewPipe as a TF Youtube interface.

Oh and my banking app to pay with the phone. Luckily it worked because something like Google Pay does not work on any of these TF OSes I think….

And that’s one downside, some apps (maybe rarely) will not work on these custom OSes.

Be mindful about that!

To the the sky!

When I got the Pixel 4A it came with a surprise: the Google Camera for the Pixel has an Astrophotography mode. It means that when you hold your phone still on a tripod, and it is night, and it detects all of that, it automatically goes into this astro-mode and can take amazing photos of the night sky. So amazing that I am amazed! πŸ™‚

More on that in a bit, but basically I am using Sky Map, SkyView Free, Nightshift, Phases of the Moon, and Stellarium to track the objects in the night sky for my next adventure (astrophotography) and my old hobby (go out with the telescope – I have to do it more often….). All of these apps are Trade-Based unfortunately…I cannot find any relevant TF apps for these….and it is such a shame…

Now, back to the astro-mode on the camera. For this, we have to talk about the Cameras. The FUN part!

The Software is more important than the hardware


These are zoomed in photos with the Pixel, in very dim light, hand held. Click to enlarge:

With OpenCamera – best TF camera app.

With the Pixel Camera app in auto mode.

With the Pixel Camera app in night mode.

The difference is huge. The OpenCamera photo looks like it was taken with those early 2000 phones. And yes I tried many settings for that app and cannot get better results than that.

I just now realize how crucial the software is for these phones after testing at least 20 camera apps. Not one gets close to the Pixel Camera. Again, mind you, this is THE SAME EXACT PHONE, but different camera apps.

What can I say….Google does a fantastic job at processing these photos. And it is all so easy to use. Actually the camera and the Pixel Camera app really impressed me. The way it takes photos looks quite close to how the scenery looks in reality… Here are some photos I took:

Mind you these are photos that I took without much effort at all. Grab the phone, take a photo. The photos really look amazing. Yeah, truth is in normal conditions pretty much all phones take great photos. But the processing the Google does is indeed making a huge difference in dim and low light, not to mention the astro-mode….Man look at these photos:

So many stars and I took these photos when there was almost a full Moon, therefore the worse conditions for astrophotography. I cannot wait to do them in full darkness and do them properly. I’ve seen some photos made by others with this phone and app and they look astonishing. I cannot wait to start and do more. I was already going to test the waters of astrophotography before even knowing that Aaron will send a phone, but now, with this phone, it makes it all so much easier. You’ll see, I will post my adventure on my blog! πŸ™‚

As a side note with my S7 I had to do a lot of setups with the phone in order to take photos of the night sky. The ISO, exposure, colors, etc…

The battle of the cameras!


For the past 7 or so years I noticed a trend in this world of phones: the “battle of the phones”. Youtubers and bloggers comparing the phones in a battle-like-style where they focus on minuscule things like how many atoms is this one thicker than the other one; zoomed photos in low light, tap to open an app on multiple phones at once and see how many light-seconds difference was between them….bla bla bla. It is a cult I swear. A cult of idiots who want to make money out of the views they generate for stupid and simplistic content. Yes there are some differences between phones, but they are really not important for the vast majority of uses.

Remember my S7 and the awesome photos it took of the night sky?

That was 7 fucking years ago. I wonder if the same camera could take advantage of that Google Pixel software how would they look like? If the software makes so much difference, you wonder what makes these phones obsolete? And likely it is the software. My S7 is in an almost perfect shape, besides that home button and the camera focus that I may have broken over time. But the screen is as good as my Pixel 4A. 2k, OLED, no difference!

The hardware on most phones can deal with any bloody task anyone has.

What I am trying to say is that the new phones are as good as the old phones, and it is mostly a progress of the software. A progress only applied to the new phones, to sell more.

Imagine if a phone like that S7 would receive updates today and be improved in terms of software….instead of people throwing their phones after 2-3 years of use, we could keep on using them for a long long time….

A lot less waste in terms of phones being thrown into the garbage, and a lot less waste of time and resources. People should do other things than creating the same phones every few months….

To give you another example. Sasha has a huge phone, and funny enough it is yet another one of Aaron’s old phones…is not like he buys phones so often but he gets phones from others too. I think this one was from his uncle, because yeah….as I said, people buy new phones all the time. Her phone is a Huawei M20 Pro:

It is HUGE. Look at it compared to the S7. And it has 3 cameras because it is so lame to have just 1 nowadays. The cameras are indeed better than the S7, but not by a lot, and only in some ways. The Pixel has only 1 camera, so what is the purpose of so many cameras? Wide lens and Zoom.

I went with Sasha for a hike and we saw some beautiful Iberian goats. Bheee. They were very far so we could barely see them with our own jelly-cameras, the round mushy balls that we have bulging from our skulls. So we decided to use our phones and grab some photos.

Her camera can zoom in like nuts…so she took this photo that doesn’t look terrible:

My Pixel only has a digital zoom and yeah the photo is not as good if you enlarge it:

Tho considering that most people use smartphones nowadays, on a small screen the difference is not that noticeable. We can try to get even closer to the horned-animals via the cameras:

Huawei goes as close as that. While on the Pixel I would have to manually crop the photo to zoom at that level.

Yes, sure, we can see a “clear?” difference. Huawei is better at taking these super zoomed-in photos. But for one look how good the Pixel still does despite having only digital zoom. And second even if Sasha’s photos look better, they still look like shit when you try to get these shots, so I do not think anyone is going to use these super zoomed in photos for anything anyway. So what’s the point?

There are however instances where if you zoom in at reasonable distances the photo is indeed nice (click the photos to see them in full quality):

Again Huawei:

And the struggling Pixel:

In dim light the Pixel did better when zooming in. This is Huawei without zoom:

Here is Pixel:

And zoom in at max with the Huawei directly from the camera:

Then tame it down to a more reasonable zoom:

I did the same for the Pixel and zoomed at max with the camera:

Pixel does better.

But of course who is hunting for that awesome shot of a deodorant in a dim light room using the phone camera? πŸ™‚ A more decent comparison is this: a photo of the island with Huawei being hand held and no zoom – it was so dark we could barely see the island:

Huawei could also barely see it :). And it was taken with the phone’ nigh mode. Pixel did a ton better (same: hand held and no zoom):

But honestly who is taking these photos of things that you can’t even see with the naked eye? Because even if you can see the island with the Pixel, I will never use this photo for anything…it is still crap quality.

Lastly, a realistic scenario of a hand held photo of a darker scene at night. Something many people will photograph for sure. Both phones were in the Night Mode, so you had to hold your phone for a few seconds.

Huawei:

Pixel:

I am truly impressed by the Pixel how good it takes these low light photos.

So yes you can improve the hardware on these phones too, but it is blown out of proportions. I bet very few people need to take these super zoomed in photos or in super dark places….these are the things that Youtubers focus on in order to get more views because in these extreme cases you may see some differences between the phones so they can use that to explode it into nonsense comparisons. And of course these videos are so easy to make…. And when you see Pixel doing these great night shots, it is mostly (if not entirely) a difference in software….something that could be improved on all phones. No need to throw these phones away and buy new ones or add more and more cameras. We would need software improvements… If only humans were motivated to do that….

Back to the S7!


Now that I could experiment with the Pixel and I would use it as my daily driver, I said why not try to install a TF OS on the S7. I came across /e/ OS (bloody weird name). They support over 200 phones, which is already mind-blowing. Luckily the S7 was one of them. The installation process is top-notch. They have a special app you can find on Linux that will guide you step by step, with photos and all of that. You can’t do it wrong! Unless you are a complete idiot :D.

And voila! eOS on the S7:

Rocking the Android 10 instead of the 8 that it got stuck with since 2018. No more Google, no more Samsung, no more bullshit! Felt so refreshing! Almost like it was a new phone!

It took a lot longer than CalyxOS to install, but it was not difficult at all.

My sister had the exact same model and her phone bricked 2 weeks ago. I said what if I open it and grab the camera and the home button, and maybe the battery too? I never opened a phone so I had to learn how to do it. Heat the back of the phone with a blow-dryer and then with a playing card try to unglue the back from the phone.

And so I did it:

This is an insane way of having to open up a device. It should be easier. Screws anyone!?

But anyway after a few hours I indeed managed to replace the camera and the battery. To replace the home button you have to take the screen apart and that is super difficult with these phones so I decided not to risk and destroy the phone.

And here it is, the Samsung Galaxy S7 without the Samsung in it, or any other crap, and with a working camera and a much better battery:

Now I am thinking if I should install eOS on my Pixel too…it is great o have a system-wide ad/tracker blocker, to integrate with Nextcloud from the get-go, to even have Magic Earth installed, to be so clean and nice and to support over 200 devices… Also to have ONE single App Manager is fantastic. Together with ranking these apps for privacy inside of the Manager itself.

Yeah, eOS looks quite great.

I really dislike that they made it look like iOS and you are unable to add widgets on any screen. And I am not sure how well the backup app (SeedValut – btw developed by CalyxOS) works on their system. And I cannot live without backups man :D.

The only downside is that the camera is now kinda bad. As I mentioned several times before, the software is essential in order to take good quality photos. And since I cannot find the Samsung Camera app anywhere, any other camera apps takes bad quality photos.

So now I have a “brand new” Samsung Galaxy S7, with a shittier camera :D.

Back to the Pixel!


I thought is easier to show you the phone and talk a bit about it, so watch this video where I also have tourette and cough many times πŸ˜€

Here’s a short video I did with a Pixel that has the stock Android and is full of Google tumors:

Overall I really like this phone with CalyxOS and because it was free I like it 10 times more. Indeed I depend on the Google Camera entirely, else the videos and photos would look crap, but at least in CalyxOS I could easily disable the internet access for both the Camera and the Google Photos app that the camera depends on. So all of the processing and that, happens on my phone.

Thank you so much Aaron!

Conclusion


Waste of materials.

All of these (plus this one) are the phones we have at home, on top of our own phones that we use daily. Which means we are 5 people and have 12 phones in this house…

Six motherfucking phones that we do not use! One is my old S7 and I just now have replaced it with the Pixel I got from Aaron. Another S7 is my sister’s and it bricked, but basically many things like the camera, buttons, etc are still working – so what can we do with it? The iPhones were given to us by other people, but being iPhones and locked down we can’t use them so we will give to other people. Actually the last iPhone in the photo is quite dead and the one before it cannot update anymore (thanks to the Apple-environmentally-conscious company).

Yes that’s a new thing from Apple now on their main homepage…. yet they make new phones every few months and incentivize people to buy them via the pesky ads that have infected us all.

Then they stop providing software updates for the old phones and you cannot install many apps from their “store” because your system is not up to date. On top of that you may find it impossible to fix any hardware issues with these old phones (may not find the parts anymore, or will cost more to repair than to buy a new model).

Imagine how many people have these outdated phones at home….there must be in the hundreds of millions. And when they dispose them is not like the Earth will eat them and poop trees.

So the conveyor belt production of phones, coupled with the invasion of ads everywhere, have created a catastrophic situation of wasted resources and pollution.

If Apple, Google and the rest want to be “sustainable”, then it is simple: make good phones that can be easily repaired and upgraded, and provide lifetime software support.

Waste of brains.

Let’s be honest, most people give no shit about who the fuck made this phone, about the data collection or even ads. When people see their phones with Whatsapp, TIkTok and Instagram pre-installed they cheer, not get angry. They use these apps a lot. They consume and are being consumed. And overall the phone is so small and full of crap that you can’t really use it for more than endlessly scrolling through nonsense, spiced with ads and data collection.

I wonder if people have thoughts nowadays….

Useless features

My phone films in slowmotion at 240 frames per second. Here’s a video where I showcase how throwing a darts arrow in a weird way makes it eventually rotate in the proper way because of how it is designed:

That’s very cool. But filming in slowmotion is a feature that I will probably never use. I remember when I got my first slowmotion camera – a cheap one from Lidle some 14 years ago. I filmed for a week or two, all sort of things in slow motion almost burning down my house because I wanted to see how flames flame in slowmo :D. And then I forgot about it. And most will too!

How many times you felt like filming in slowmotion? Or zoom in like crazy for a shot? Or take photos in extreme darkness?

These “features” that the phone companies add, are mostly useless for most people. They use these as marketing strategies, of course.

But you love the astrophotography feature you cunt! Isn’t it?!

Yes, but this is a software-related feature mostly. These are features that should not require any hardware change. Such features I understand and accept as useful. But adding more cameras, or other hardware components, that most people won’t use, only adds up to the waste that’s being created by divorcing people from their old phones.

We need no new phones.

Using these Trade Free operating systems we can put a new life into our old devices. And we can do that for hundreds of devices.

It is not a perfect ride at times as I’ve seen with my S7 that basically has a shitty camera right now due to the fact that there is no camera app adapted for its hardware. But the more support these devices get in terms of software, the more chances for us to create a similar world to the one of the computers where I can use any 20 year old laptop with the newest Linux it!

I would never buy a phone, especially a new one. But eventually I think it is worth to sell your phone if it is not supported by any TF OS, and buy a cheap second hand one that is supported. So that you detach yourself from the big turd cake. I highly recommend the Pixel 4A 4G that I have. You can find it second had at about 100-150 Euros. It is a great phone considering the alternatives.

Ideally we should share these things…and at one point we will release a sharing platform for that purpose.

Will these Trade Free Operating Systems be reliable in the long term?

CalyxOS will likely drop the support for the Pixel 4A in a few months time because Google drops the support for it. But that’s fine. I am ok with using it for a few more years without any updates. I used the S7 for at least 3-4 years with no updates and rely on Android 8. Plus I can always switch to /e/ OS because it is likely that they will support these devices for longer.

So yes, I think they are reliable and perhaps more such TF OSes will spark over the next years.

A battle to clean the shit

In the end all of the energy and resources put into these TF OSes, and TF software, and even this article and the time I spent to deal with the phones’ situation for the past week(s), is all about cleaning up the shit. Nothing more.

No innovation, or discovery, or learning something new. It is to clean up the big pile of shit that humans have created in the digital space. To stop these companies for spying on us, from stopping the ads from burning our eyes, and tricksters to make us pay for useless shit.

Imagine of this was a saner society…this article and all of the effort I talked about, would not exist. They will be directed towards creating something new, instead of fighting against these cancerous practices.

But now that we live in the shithole society much like a wingless fly being trapped in a vast cow turd, we have to find our way out of it. If you have some dormant phones-at-homes either install a TF OS on them and use them, give them to your friends, or sell them and buy second hand phones that are supported by these TF OSes.

But more importantly, make sure to tell everyone about the fucked up situation that revolves around these “smartphones” and why it is a side effect of this trade based society that incentivizes these types of behaviors: from “companies” to “consumers”.

The best backup tool?

The best backup tool?

Disclaimer: I only have used this for less than a week but I plan to use this for years to come. My excitement compels me to write an article about it.

Backups. So useless 99% of the time, but when you need them, that 1% of the time, they are crucial. I lost TB of files, twice, by mistake, and I had no backups, so that made me be extremely cautions about securing the survival of my digital files. And the files of my family.

The challenge: 4 laptops, around 3TB of files, and hundreds of thousands if not millions of them. From tiny files to tens of GB in size. I need them to be backed-up daily in at least 1 safe place. Sounds easy? Well…may not be.

Local backups plus file sync.

I used to backup all of my files on external HDD’s that I kept in a shoebox attached with a lot of umbilical cords to my laptop.

I was syncing them with FreeFileSync since I found it easy to use. You have a left side where you can select directories you want to back up, and a right side where you can select where to sync.

But ofc you had to go through some settings and put on some rules about what to do with the deleted files and so forth. Plus you had to create a CRON job to automate the process.

Took me some time to figure that thing out. On top of this some files were not properly copied. This was hardly a backup solution. It was sketchy.

Setting this up for the other laptops was not feasible since you would need the FreeFileSync to copy files over the internet from their laptops to my HDD. Ttherefore I used Syncthing to basically sync the files from the other laptops (my family) to my external HDDs. When you need to sync hundreds of thousands of files like that, it is a pain in the ass. Slow, unreliable.

So basically it was difficult, slow, and I was entirely attached to my desk and the drives. No good!

I also tried DejaDup Backups and although super easy to use, it was never that reliable and too simplistic.

Borg, Vorta and Pika.

Before using these I tried a traditional backup method for those who wanna “pay and backup”. Simple as that. Mega. I was paying around 20 € a month for 8TB. Fuckers only provide 2TB or 8TB but nothing in between. I needed only 4TB or so…

Anyway, with Mega it is easy to backup, files were encrypted, they have a good Linux desktop client. I was doing that in parallel with the local backups. But it was not as reliable and would always backup, or sync to Mega. Not every X hours or daily, but ALWAYS. Plus I was relying on them and them only, and their website to go through my files and restore any. And took ages to decrypt my files in the browser to then access them….I felt uncomfortable to use Mega and it was a bit expensive. Plus I could not easily backup the other laptops to the same Mega account.

In all, it was not that great.

Borg. A new way to do backups.

Mega is designed for filesharing, but Borg is for backups. They must be good! But the truth is, a bit complicated. Now, to backup with Borg locally you need either Vorta or Pika, since I am not aware of any other tool for the job that is easy to use.

Pause!

I know there are many people passionate about computers who rsync and restic into ssh sources and daemon-kickstart their backups. I do not want that! I want an app with an interface that I can easily setup for me and my family. I do not do backups because is fun, but because I want to easily backup my files and restore them.

So with Vorta you open it and have to understand how and why they use “repositories”, else you are lost. Repository means….well…hard to explain but you have to select this:

Then choose a folder/drive on your computer where Vorta will create this repository, which is a bunch of files with rules, containing data about your backups. Once you understand this concept is easy. Select a local path then navigate the oldish Vorta interface to select what files you want to backup. Vorta also advertises their borgbase.com, their paid service:

And that does not sit well with me.

They also use this “Prune” notion to delete old backups. In all Vorta is quite messy I would say hard to navigate. For me at least.

But it gets the job done. Locally, from what I remember, it took a few days to backup my 2TB files because it is also encrypting them and compressing them. So good that 2TB may transform in less than 1TB in the repository. That’s fantastic!

The incremental backups are also fantastic and take only a few minutes. Therefore only the first backup is slow. To access your backups you have to go to “archives”, select one, then either “extract” it – which means you’ll be able to download all of it, or parts, somewhere – or “mount” it which asks you to select a folder on your computer where it will mount it all.

The “mount” part is what Borg introduced me to, and it is fabulous. It basically creates a folder where you can access ALL of your backed-up folders and files. These are NOT on my computer, they are “streamed” from the backups drive into a mounted directory:

Which means I can access how my computer files were 6 months ago, if I have backups for those, and navigate them and copy from it to my computer anything that I want, while being able to preview any file.

Stop for a moment to think how useful this is. It is like going back in time, via your file manager, and see your files. Resurrect the dead 2.0!

This is even more amazing when you backup to an online location.

Borg plus Online = Hard.

The same concept and gymnastics apply when you backup to an online location. Remember, I need to backup 4 laptops not just mine. So I decided to rely mostly, if not only, on online backups.

Online backups.

Look…I’ve heard that people say that you have to backup in 2 different locations and one should be local. But let’s be honest, most people do not do any sort of backups and they are fine most of the time. And backing up to an online location is damn secure nowadays. What can happen? The datacenter may be destroyed? Most datacenters have backups anyway so they can restore immediately, and overall it is so rare for this to happen. Almost never.

Second potential problem: these online providers may close your account for some reasons. But super unlikely. If you do encrypted backups and no one knows what you are storing, why would they? Yes they can close your account if you use their storage locations to store “illegal” files that you publicly share….but else…

So I decided to rely on online backups and also finally detach my laptop form the umbilical cords.

Problem numero 1.

For Borg to work you need to find a hosting that provides Borg backups. The server itself NEEDS to have Borg installed on their side too. Right now I only know 2-3 such provides. So from the get-go this is already very limiting. I chose BorgBase since they seem to be the cheapest and most reliable. But for some 4TB of storage you have to pay around 23 € a month. Mega is twice as cheap.

Problem numero 2.

Fucking SSH keys…

I won’t rant again about them, but it was always a pain to create one on my machine, then add to BorgBase, then add to the repo, then connect the two. At times it won’t connect. In short, it was always uncomfortable for me with the SSH keys and 4 laptops. I am still confused about them. I hate them!

BorgBase!

So I ended up setting repositories with BorgBase for everyone and backing up there, daily. Despite being a lot more expensive than Mega, it was a lot more reliable and I felt more comfortable using it.

But I cannot tell my girlfriend, sister, or parents to use Vorta in case they may want to restore something. Because it is too complicated. So I thought to try Pika.

Pika – great and unreliable.

This one is light years better than Vorta in terms of the interface.

Easy! Files to backup, files to exclude, Archives…

Even the schedule is sane:

I can give instructions to my mother over the phone and she can manage it no problem. I cannot say that about Vorta….

However…to connect to BorgBase is not something my mother can do.

So I have to create a new repository on BorgBase.com for my mother, copy the URL for it, add to Pika. Open the terminal on her laptop and figure out what’s the command for creating an SSH key. Create! Find out the command to display it. Copy the key. Go to BorgBase and add it to the Keys section. Then go to the repository I created for my mother on BorgBase and attach the key to it.

Only after that connect to the repository via Pika. I don’t like it, but I did it for everyone.

And guess what, at times this SSH key needs to be “unlocked” with a master password on your XFCE desktop and if you are not prompted for it when you reboot, then Pika is like “I cannot connect there is no SSH key I can use”. So for example on my sister’s laptop the backups with Pika failed multiple times because of this.

Am telling you the SSH keys suck balls πŸ˜€

The main issue with Pika. It is slow.

This is something that I reported to the developers. Pika was several times slower than Vorta to backup. So slow I had to use Vorta to do the first backup for everyone, before using Pika to pick it up on the incremental backups. I remember backing up a few hundreds of GB for my sister’s laptop and it was like 10% after several days.

If Pika wasn’t so slow, it would definitely be worth using it. But if you do not have to backup a lot of files, it can be ok. It is a reason why I added Pika as the default backup tool in TROMjaro. It is great overall!

Pika can also mount archives like Vorta and it can even backup to FTP/SFTP sources. And that’s the key for finding out the best backup tool!

Kopia – the best!

We have used Pika and Vorta for the past 2 or so years. Pika was unreliable at times for a few of us. And Borg overall limited in terms of hosting choices and a pain to setup. Plus expensive.

A backup tool needs to have a simple interface; to allow you to easily control what to backup and what to exclude; to allow you to manually delete old backups; to make it easy to schedule and to restore. Plus to support different locations: SFTP/FTP, WebDav, S3, local…

Kopia is an app I found a few days ago while I was trying to find out how the hell to move from BorgBase to a Hetzner Box which supports Borg.

Hetzner provides some really cheap storage boxes. Look:

For 13 € a month you can get a 5TB storage, half as cheap as BorgBase. Mega was 20 € for 8TB, Hetzner is 26 € for 10 TB. So Hetzner is almost as cheap as Mega. Plus look how many protocols it supports:

I tried for several days to make Pika/Vorta borg backups work with Hetzner, but because of multiple SSH keys failures I gave up. No more Borg, that’s it! Fuck those SSH keys!

So I tried Pika via SFTP to Hetzner. Connecting via SFTP is 100 times easier. You get an URL, a username, and a password from Hetzner. Add that to Pika and voila. Connected!

Problem is when I tried to backup my 2TB with Pika to Hetzner it took almost 2 days to backup 3%. Terrible. I had to try something else.

Ok, so what’s this Kopia?

Well it is open source, does encrypted backups by default and with compression, does not promote any hosting so it is independent, and it looks a bit oldish or Windows-ish. Those were my first impressions. I quickly found it in TROMjaro Add/Remove Software as KopiaUI. And it looks like this:

Not bad…And all of those are the protocols that it supports. Yes we see Google there and Azure, but well in case people wanna use these to backup….

So I like that it is so straight forward from the get go. I go and select WebDav since Hetzner supports it.

3 fields. Completed them and connected in less than 30 seconds to Hetzner! See that Borg? See that SSH key nonsense? πŸ˜€

And this was the first WOW, fuck I love it! moment. No more BS SSH keys. That’s it. Connected.

You see they also use repositories and now I understand why this is great. Once I connected to my Hetzner WebDav, Kopia created some config files there and from that moment on it will update those files based on the changes I make via Kopia. I will explain later why this is amazing!

Ok, next step. They call backups as “snapshots”. Click and see this:

Select the folder/directory you want to backup. I chose my entire Home folder. From here on can be a bit more complicated but it is totally worth it!

Policies!

If they called these “rules” would have been better, because that’s what they are. So in Policies click edit on your snapshot that you have created.

Here you will see a lot of options but here are the important ones.

Snapshot Retention (how many backups to keep):

This can be confusing but most backup apps use this approach. I want mine to be kept for 30 days, like imagine the past 30 days I have a backup a day. Then for each week to have 20. So for the past 20 weeks, that can go back some 5 months, a backup a week. 12 a month means the same, basically I could have a backup from june, one from mach, or january, and go back 12 months. Took me a bit to understand what these mean….

Then Files is meant to be about ignoring certain files or directories:

I am still unsure if you should add the path with / or without, so I added both. You have to add this manually. Pika is far superior in terms of UI.

Next in Compression:

I selected the one that you see there. You have lots of options. Not for casual users, but well…make sure you select a compression so that the size of your backups is reduced.

Lastly: Scheduling. To schedule how often to take a snapshot.

Bellow all of those is a save button. Save it!

This was the hardest part. Once you learn to navigate that part a bit, that’s it. No more headaches. Trust me this is better than setting up Borg with SSH keys :D.

Now simply go to Snapshots and click: Snapshot Now to create your snapshot.

Keep in mind this app is actually quite simple and efficient. You only have Snapshots, where your backups are. Policies to edit the rules of how your snapshots will be taken, and the rest 2 are for Tasks to see what tasks have been made or, Preferences for a few settings.

It really is not much to it. And that’s fantastic! Except setting up those policies, all is easy.

Fast as hell!

2TB of data backed-up in less than 20 hours, and compressed to 1.4TB. Remember, same files, same server, took Pika 2 days to backup 3%. Would take Vorta a few days to backup to BorgBase.

But I was shocked at how fast it is. And it never crashed.

Easy to restore.

Click the Snapshots, then the “path” – basically your snapshot, and you’ll see them all:

Very easy! I also like the retention tags, the colorful ones.

Now say I wanna restore from the 17th of October. Click it and you’ll see a list of your directories and files:

What I suggest now is to click the top Mount as Local Filesystem button. And then browse:

And this does what Vorta and Pika do, mounting the backup on your system. Again, this is NOT on my computer:

This is from Hetzner but I can browse it as if it is on my computer. How fucking cool! And Kopia is much faster when it mounts them than Vorta for example. Actually Kopia is instant for me.

Icon tray that’s sane!

So simple. Choose to start it on boot, or connect to another repository.

Move it anywhere!

So after I backed-up 2TB of data to Hetzner via WebDav with Kopia, I removed all of the Kopia settings files from my laptop, almost like starting Kopia as brand new. Then I moved ALL of the repository files and backups (1.4TB) from Hetzner to another location on the same Hetzner box. So almost like being on another server. Opened Kopia and it was as if I opened it for the first time. No more backups or anything.

Added the WebDav credentials that would point to the new Hetzner location where the repository was, and in less than a minute Kopia brought back all of my backups and settings.

From this:

To this:

In seconds.

How cool!

This means that I can move the entire Kopia repository anywhere, including locally on a drive, and simply point Kopia to it and we are back on track in minutes! Tell me this isn’t amazing!

Imagine if I find a better alternative to Hetzner. I can move the repository from Hetzner to the new location and then point Kopia to it, and voila. All back!

I cannot do this with Borg. At least not easy at all.

Kopia + Hetzner

I will give you more info about how I set it all up. Remember, 4 laptops need to be backed-up.

In the Hetzner Storage Box panel you can create sub-accounts. These accounts have access to only the folder you give them access too. Like in the example bellow, Sasha only has access to the folder Backups/Sasha and cannot access the other folders:

When you create such a user Hetzner gives you a username and password. Save them. For example when I created the user for Sasha I saved the username (different from Sasha, unique to this storage box), and password. She needs those plus an URL like: https://her-username.your-storagebox.de.

That’s all. She can connect to it via Kopia WebDav in seconds.

Side-note: you also have a MAIN admin user for the entire Hetzner box that you can find in the panel. That user has access to all of the folders for all of the users. I used that admin user to connect in the same way to my Nextcloud account via TROM Files. Simply go to Personal Settings and then External Storage and add a WebDav connection:

Now I have extended my Nextcloud storage to 5TB :D. And I can access the entire box. That’s how I created the folders for the other users. So yeah, you can use the Hetzner Storage Boxes to expand your TROM Files storage to massive amounts.

So yeah, basically you can easily create new sub-accounts on Hetzner and give WebDav access to whoever you want. That’s how I now do the backups.

Hetzner also allows for automated snapshots of the entire storage box:

And these snapshots take very little storage space:

Imagine if by mistake you delete your backups from Kopia or who knows how. You can restore them via the Hetzner snapshots. Neat! Double the safety!

Conclusions.

13 € a month for 5TB, 4 different users with access to WebDav, plus Kopia on individual laptops.

5TB should be enough for many years to come, so it is totally worth it.

Kopia is not as nice looking as Pika, and their “Policies” can be a bit confusing, but else it is so to-the-point, fast, flexible, and reliable. And it is way more than what I presented. See here.

I feel much better now when I know that I can move my backups anywhere and still have them work with Kopia in less than a minute.

Plus doing all of my backups online makes me more free to use my laptop as a laptop. Fuck those cables, I got sick of using them for so many years. I need to keep a balance between security/safety and comfort/mobility.

Divorcing myself from this retarded society

Divorcing myself from this retarded society

I need to divorce myself more from the society/politics/conflicts part of our world. It is insane what it has become. When Russia put hundreds of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s border and were accused of preparing an invasion, they said that’s entirely false. Then they invaded, then they called the war against Ukraine as a “special military operation”.

They bombed hospitals and schools and residential or public spaces, killing so many innocent people…

UK, USA, and EU were “horrified” at these atrocities, while China was “on the fence” and Iran and the like were kinda cheering up for Russia and helping them.

Day by day, people dying, politicians lying. People were crying…

And now Israel drops thousands of bombs on Gaza, killing again so many innocent people. Creating a total disaster.


So much suffering, just like in Ukraine. And yet USA, UK and EU are cheering up for Israel.

Even helping them…

Suddenly there is no more genocide….

Israel says they only kill the bad people, despite the videos and photos showing the contrary. They say they are saints and are fighting against evil, because you see Hamas killed over a thousand innocent Israeli people and that’s EVIL, so they must go and kill thousands more innocent people….because that’s GOOD!

Not to mention what Israel has done to palestinians over the past decades….trapping them in an open prison basically…

Then Russia is like: Oh my god, this is genocide! Unbelievable! To drop bombs on hospitals and kill entire families. This is terrible!

And China speaking up against what Israel is doing, more than what Russia is doing. And Iran talking about “human rights”….

And Ukraine not putting any blame on Israel for doing what Russia is doing to them….

Add to the mix the Hamas and other groups that create a lot of misery and terror, and the values of the so called “Arab countries” that are full of shit, and the primitivism of religion overall.

Ukraine is also not an angel, or any other tribe for that matter. Politicians are lying, propaganda is a daily news, and people continue to suffer while at the same time we have problems like cancer killing so many people, tuberculosis that is treatable killing the poor by the millions; diseases, climate change, pollution….

But the thing is, many of these situations are still a result of our trade-based society. The destruction of our environment, enslaving people, making humans into consumers, and so on, are a result of this society.

But even when it comes to wars they are a result of boiling trade-interests on a high flame. Where politicians say all sorts of stupid things, create propaganda through social (ad) networks that also rely on trades, promoting nationalism and patriotism to get more votes, to then have these politicians rule over others, and have luxurious cars, do all sort of businesses, and gain more power.

In other words do you think the “head of states” really care about their tribe when they are almost always caught avoiding taxes, doing shady businesses, and stealing form their tribe?

They care about them and their families, but then they start to promote “patriotism” and “us the tribe” stupidity, to gain votes to be elected as “heads of states”. And they use these platforms that care mostly about you paying them to promote your posts. The cycle of vomit.

The thirst for power comes mainly from humans being trained to trade to acquire, because the more you have the more power you have, and vice versa.

And then starting wars is part of the power thirst and the need to get more “support” from the “nationals”.

A mix of rich people who lie and have power over others, and the others who are confused patriots, busy workers, and idiotic consumers. Going at war is easy.

Conclusion.

This is a totally insane society, full of lies and idiots. A horror carnival. And I think the sanest way for me is to force myself to ignore this side of our society. Ignore everything that any politician says (I already do this anyway), ignore these conflicts that I cannot do a thing about and are wrapped in propaganda and misery; ignore this society and focus more on the natural world.

I want to try and do astrophotography to reveal what my eyes can’t see. To go more in nature, to grow TROM and its many positive projects, to live a less stressed life, because the society is too retarded and chaotic to even make sense of it, let alone do anything about it.

#Israel #Palestine #ukraine #astrophography #war