About five years ago I got interested in free and open source software (FLOSS) and online privacy in general. The problem was that almost all software that I used at that time was proprietary. I had an iMac with OSX and besides that I worked a lot with Google apps (Gmail, Blogger and Google Docs most notably). From that point it felt as pretty daunting task to switch completely to FLOSS. Where to start? Just installing Linux on my iMac seemed far to large a step. How to migrate all my documents and learn to work with a OS and all these apps that were new to me. Instead I decided a to gradually replace my apps with FLOSS alternatives until I finally reached a point where I could easily replace the OSX operating system with Linux.
I started with the low hanging fruit and the lowest hanging of them all is the web browser. So Chrome was replaced by Firefox. Next was the mail client so I replaced Mail with Thunderbird. At that time I started to work with graphical applications so I chose Inkscape, GIMP and for my 3D CAD work Solvespace, FreeCAD and OpenSCAD. I installed these apps on my iMac still running OSX and took my time to get familiar with them.
For my simple video editing tasks I kept lazily working with iMovie for a long time. I tried OpenShot but it kept crashing but after I while I discovered Shotcut which I found a better replacement. More recently I discovered Avidemux which is simple and works on lightweight systems. Next was Darktable instead of Photos to organize the thousands of photos that I have.
To replace Google proved to be even more difficult. Google is everywhere. The easiest one is Google Search. I first replaced it with DuckDuckGo. DDG is not FLOSS but at least it’s not Google. Currently I’m experimenting with MetaGer which is free and open source software. Google Maps was replaced by Openstreetmap and to upload my content I exchanged YouTube for PeerTube. This was all pretty simple. Next was Google Drive and this proved to be more difficult. I figured the best was to replace Google Drive with NextCloud. But instead of having someone else running NextCloud for me I found it appealing to have my own server. But I don’t know anything about installing and maintaining a server. Then someone mentioned Yunohost to me. Yunohost is an operating system that allows an idiot like me to setup and manage a server in a very simple way. Installing it went flawless and installing NextCloud on top of Yunohost encompassed little more than a few mouse clicks. After this I could say bye bye to Google Docs.
In the mean time I felt confident enough to replace OSX with Linux. With all the preparation that I had done it was an almost painless transition. I downloaded a Linux distro, put on a USB drive and installed it on a PC (not the iMac). Next I could install all the FLOSS apps that I was already familiar with and I was up and running in no time.
I’d like to call this method Peeling the Onion. Where the onion is the problem. Remove the outer most peel first and working my way to the inside. I work pretty much exclusively with FLOSS now and I couldn’t be happier with the result. I feel more in control of the software and and my data which is a very satisfying experience. Yes, some of the software is little bit rough around the edges and not as smooth as some of the proprietary software I was used to but I feel that I’m at the helm of my PC without a giant cooperation driving me into a direction that I don’t want.