I am changing email accounts yet again (confirmed)

This is just for my primary email account, which is used mostly for receiving newsletters and such. I have various others I use for various other things, but they get little in the way of messages. They mostly just sit idle in Thunderbird, just the way I like it!

My recent(ish) email history:

  • After years of using my ISP email, I switched to Gmail back when it was still in beta (to be fair, it was in beta for a very long time). The oldest messages are from June, 2005–nearly 20 years ago! This was so long ago that Google did not yet have a reputation for killing off apps, nor was it known for being an ad monopolist harvesting the data of its user base in order to serve them “personalized” ads and engaging in lots of other questionable shenanigans. I keep the account active, because there’s over 22,000 messages in it and some of it might, possibly, be useful. I do a periodic export of the data.
  • When I decided to move from Gmail, I went to HEY. HEY was kind of goofy, didn’t integrate well with other apps, but did some neat things with email. I also liked the UI. But the leadership of its parent company revealed themselves (as I’ve noted before) to be Musk-supporting tech bros, and I had no interest in sending them my money. I cancelled my yearly subscription and moved again, to…
  • Outlook! I already had a sporadically-used Outlook account, so the move was easy in the sense that the account was already there. Over time, I moved over the various newsletters and things. More recently, it has been revealed that Microsoft, intent to be a kind of Google Jr. when it comes to data harvesting and advertising, “shares” your email with literally hundreds of “partners”. So, just as bad as Google. Maybe worse!
  • After sampling both Fastmail and Proton Mail, I opted to pay for a year of Proton and see how it goes.

Now begins the task of moving the bulk of my mail over to Proton. I suspect my approach will be to do this very gradually, to minimize the drudgery. I’ll report more on actually using Proton Mail soon. So far, the UI is pretty clean, but it is mostly just email, not really trying to break no ground. But it doesn’t share my data with anyone (unless they’re not telling, which would make me sad).

Should I change email yet again?

A few years ago, I switched my primary email from Gmail to Outlook. My thought process was:

  • Google is the avatar for privacy-violating, data-harvesting “you are the product, not the customer” among the big tech companies. I didn’t want Google to oversee, prod, pry and otherwise harvest my email in exchange for, “But hey, it’s free!”
  • I chose Outlook because I already had an outlook.com account I was nominally using.

The switch took many months, but now virtually all of my email goes to my Outlook account. My Gmail account is largely vestigial at this point, though I do keep in active, in case I need to log in and find something from the Before Times.

You might see where this is going if you look at the first bullet point again. Under Satya Nadella, Microsoft has started turning into Google Jr., with an emphasis on ads, data collection/harvesting and everything I disliked so much about Google.

For example, this, when you use the new Outlook email client (which will eventually be mandatory across all platforms):

That 772 number varies by region (it can be even higher). I can duck some of this by using Thunderbird as my email client, which I do, and I’ve generally been happy with it.

But better yet may be using an independent company for my email, one that treats customers as customers, and not data to be mined. This means paying, of course, which is the primary disadvantage. I did this once before with HEY, and I found it a bit weird, but it brought some innovation to the email space. Then the owners of HEY revealed themselves to be Musk-championing tech bros of the worst sort, so I had to kill HEY. This was a bit painful, so I’m reluctant to do it again.

On the other hand, I write very few messages. Most of my email is in the form of newsletters, updates and things like that. This makes moving my account less painful than it otherwise might be.

The two options I’m considering are:

  • Fastmail
  • Proton Mail

Both can integrate with Thunderbird, both have web clients (Proton’s is prettier, the Fastmail client is more just functional), pricing is similar, though Fastmail offers more storage (30GB vs. 15 GB). Proton offers additional privacy-focused services, though both emphasize privacy and security.

I am currently undecided, but doing a trial of each right now (Proton’s is technically costing me one U.S. dollar for a month).

I’ll have to decide one way or another fairly soon, so I’ll have an update in a few weeks. Whee!

Substack makes the latest chapter of The Culling easy!

NOTE: This post is updated semi-regularly with any relevant news on the mentioned newsletters.

Substack has been in the tech/media news lately, for all the wrong reasons. Their position on moderation can be roughly summed up as:

  • Sex is bad
  • Incitement to violence is bad
  • Everything else, including actual Nazis, is OK!

After re-affirming that they would not actively moderate content on their platform, and only offering to remove a few newsletters specifically brought to their attention, a number of prominent newsletters opted to leave Substack, with most moving to Ghost, which, unlike Substack, is not a platform, just a company that provides a blog/platform service and that’s about it. Others went to Buttondown1My own piddly newsletter, recently renamed Doodlings and Noodlings, is debuting on Buttondown this very month, Beehiiv, other hosts or moved to self-hosting.

My stance on this situation is:

  • Substack is free to choose whom they host on their platform
  • I, likewise, can choose to not have any paid subscriptions on Substack, since my payments are helping to fund a lot of hate. See here for details: All the garbage I found on Substack in 1 hour
  • I also can choose to move my own newsletter elsewhere, which I have done

I’ve gone a step further now, by unsubscribing to all free Substack newsletters. In every case, I have written a polite message to the newsletter author letting them know why I have unsubbed. I’m hoping some of them will switch to other hosts, but at this point I think the ones who haven’t are probably leaning more toward not moving. And that’s their choice–as is mine to unsub!

I’ll update this post with any word back I may hear from these newsletters. The two I most recently unsubbed to are:

  • Austin Kleon (paid)
  • Experimental History (free)

UPDATE, January 29, 2024: Apparently I subscribed to a lot of Substack newsletters! 😛 Here’s more I’ve unsubscribed from:

  • Design Lobster (free–no pay option exists)
  • Links I Would Gchat You If We Were Friends (free–no pay option exists). UPDATE, January 29, 2024: The author wrote me back to say she has been in touch with Substack execs and is looking into moving to a different platform. Good to hear!
  • The Status Kuo (free, paid option exists)
  • GameDiscoverCo (free, paid option exists). I didn’t email to explain why I was unsubscribing, probably because I doubt they will move.
  • I’m Fine I’m Fine Just Understand (free, paid option exists). This one is weird, because it’s a comic about a person transitioning and Substack famously already had an exile a few years back for hosting openly transphobic writers. I also didn’t explain why I’m unsubscribing here.

The Culling: iPhone Live Photos

UPDATE: Despite only being in the Live Photos folder, iCloud managed to select and delete more than 100 non-Live Photos, so I had to recover them. Glad to see Apple's tens of billions in profit is going into making iCloud such a seamless experience!

The number of times I have used Live Photos as intended–to make a cute animated video or something–is zero. Well, not zero, because another use is to select a different frame as the key frame, and this is something I’ve used a few times.

I have over 12,000 Live Photos dating back to 2017. This is not a good percentage.

The real reason I leave the feature on is silly–to mute the irritating fake iPhone “shutter” sound when you take a photo. I’ve railed against this particular design choice before.

A more reasonable solution might be to just use the mute switch on my iPhone 12 to silence the shutter sound, and all others. After all, it’s the 21st century, I don’t need my phone squawking at me like I’m some caveman only capable of responding to audio cues.

While I ponder being sensible and changing my ways, I noticed my Apple One™ plan, which grants me and my partner a combined 200 GB of storage, was getting close to full. What to do?

All of my iPhone photos are automagically backed up on OneDrive, with its much more capacious capacity, so I could safely turf them from iCloud. I figured I could keep them on my phone, since it still has plenty of room, but Apple doesn’t give you this option. Delete from anywhere and the photos (live or otherwise) get deleted everywhere.


But like I said, they are already backed up, so I went to icloud.com and deleted all 12,000+ photos. As it turned out, this took awhile, because you can only delete up to 1,000 at a time and there’s no way I could find to just automatically select 1,000, so I had to adjust a few times, but eventually got it down to zero.

It freed up an impressive 50 GB of storage.

I now must decide if I want to turn off Live Photos altogether. I probably should. Probably.

The Culling continues: Amazon edition

After years of having Amazon Prime, I finally cancelled it today. The process was not terribly difficult, but I did have to wade through several “Please don’t go, look at all the stuff you get!” pages to get to the point where I could actually cancel. I’m afraid their plaintive pitch persuaded me not! I did elect to let my current membership expire on renewal, rather than get prorated the few bucks back by cancelling right this moment in a fit of pique.

Here’s why I’m cancelling, in case other Canadians are considering (American Prime is a bit different, so I wouldn’t really compare the two):

  • Ordering far less often from Amazon
    • Harder to find what I want
    • To the point above, there is a vast sea of knock-offs and junk on amazon.ca now
    • Pricing is often just so-so
    • More stuff not covered by Prime shipping
    • That 2-day shipping? lol, nope! (Well, sometimes, but increasingly rare)
    • 11% off is not a deal, even if you say it is!
    • Everyone else is copying Prime Days now, often with better pricing
  • I can count the number of things I’ve watched on Prime Video on one hand. One was the execrable Moonfall, but that one’s more on me than Amazon, to be fair.
    • The upcoming move to charge more for “ad-free” Prime Video didn’t exactly make my socks roll up and down in delight, either
  • I never listen to Amazon Music, especially after the basic version was turned into a giant shuffle mode. If I want to listen to the radio, I can do that now, for free.
  • Never read anything through Prime Reading. My Kindle still doesn’t know that left-handed people exist, and Amazon is making token efforts at best to control the flood of AI-generated garbage sluicing into the Kindle store.
  • Took advantage of the Twitch freebies maybe twice? I don’t remember what I got.
  • The more information that comes out on how Amazon does business, the more comfortable I am in not sending money to an apparently Very Evil Empire

And that’s it! I look forward to buying local more often! Sort of.

The Culling 2022, Twitter edition

Tonight I deactivated my Twitter account. I have 30 days to change my mind, and then it goes away forever.


Casey Newton, in today’s edition of his Platformer newsletter, wrote the following:

…observing Elon Musk’s escalated attacks on a former employee and continued promotion of far-right ideas and personalities, over the weekend I found myself thinking: I just don’t want to be on Twitter anymore. 

It has all been bad, of course. From the moment Musk dragged that sink into Twitter headquarters, assured the assembled employees there that he wasn’t about to eliminate 75 percent of them, and soon did exactly that, Musk’s hostile takeover of the company has been ugly to behold.

Any acquisition is bound to cause turmoil in the lives of its employees, but Musk seemed to revel in it: laying off employees so indiscriminately that he was forced to beg many to return a day after terminating them; forcing a mostly remote workforce back into the office on a day’s notice; imposing impossible deadlines on those that remained; requiring workers to sign a digital loyalty oath promising to be “extremely hardcore”; putting workers through regular “code reviews” that have often served as a pretext for firing them; purging workers who were found to have been critical of him in Slack or on Twitter; installing beds in the office to encourage workers to sleep there.


More recently, he falsely stated that the company had “refused to take action on child exploitation for years” — an especially egregious statement given that he had just purged 80 percent of the company’s contract workforce, which included the majority of its content moderators. (We’ve reported that Twitter’s efforts here were indeed understaffed, but it’s not true that the company took no action.)

In recent days, Musk has increasingly advanced the narrative that Twitter was a den of corruption before he bought it. And over the weekend, he made his most disgusting smear to date. 

Here’s Dana Hull at Bloomberg:

Elon Musk posted tweets including an excerpt of Yoel Roth’s doctoral dissertation Saturday that suggested the former Twitter executive is an advocate for child sexualization — a baseless trope that leaves Roth susceptible to online abuse. […]

“Looks like Yoel is arguing in favor of children being able to access adult Internet services in his PhD thesis,” tweeted Musk, with an excerpt from the 300-page dissertation. “Gay Data,” the title of Roth’s 2016 dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania, is about Grindr, the geosocial networking service popular with the LGBTQ+ community.

To be clear, the dissertation is about how to keep predators away from children. But in an interview with Kara Swisher, Roth had dared to criticize Musk after resigning. And so this was his punishment: a smear pushed out to 121 million people, which led immediately to Roth being overwhelmed with death threats.

As if all of that weren’t terrible enough, Musk followed up by tweeting “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci” — a smooth-brained, Tucker Carlson-ass Mad Lib of a post that served to bolster the kind of anti-trans and anti-vaxx culture warriors that most people have absolutely no desire to hear from, ever. (Culture warriors who, I assume, made up a good number of the 60,000-plus accounts Musk recently returned to the platform after falsely saying he would first consult with a council of experts before doing so.) 

There’s more, but you get the point (Platformer is great if you enjoy reading about how social media is affecting our world. It can feel a bit like doomscrolling at times, but Newton writes good stuff).

It’s reached the point where Twitter–which I rarely used before, anyway–has gone from being worth watching in a “flaming train wreck” kind of way to where having an active account starts to make you feel at least a bit complicit in what Musk is doing. I’ll still see and hear about Twitter news, of course. It’s nearly inescapable if you read any sites, blogs or newsletters that cover social media, but I’ll be doing it as someone on the outside, looking in, not as someone participating directly in the hellscape Musk is making.

Culling 2022 (bonus post): From many lists to one

Another recent culling decision was to move to a single reminder/to-do app, and the winner there ended up being Microsoft To Do. TickTick was a close second, and I could see myself possibly going back to it eventually.

The things I like about Microsoft To Do:

  • It’s free, with no limitations (free is good, no subscription was my real preference)
  • At first, the My Day feature bugged me, but I’ve come to embrace it. It’s basically a blank page for you to add things to and it’s easy to add daily stuff (which is also viewable elsewhere). It provides a way to focus, which I need.
  • The UI is unusually pleasant
  • Sync works fine, regardless of platform (PC, Mac, phone)

The thing I don’t like:

  • The name. Come on, they didn’t even try! And this replaced Wunderlist, which is an absolutely delightful name.

And here is a CGI cat writing a list in Stable Diffusion:

Culling 2022: The daily BookBub newsletter

Today I yoinked another newsletter, BookBub. I did this despite BookBub doing exactly what it sets out to do: Highlight sales on books in genres I’m interested in.

I did this for a few reasons:

  • As a general part of this year’s culling, winnowing out inessential things and clutter from my life
  • My book reading has fallen off a cliff this year
  • I have a backlog of books to read for when I climb back to the top of the cliff
  • The majority of the BookBub recommendations are for unknown authors and my hit/miss ratio with them has left me increasingly risk-averse
  • A corollary to that: Established authors rarely show up in BookBub deals

My inbox has gone from being essentially unmanageable (so many newsletters coming in that I just plain didn’t read some of them) to so svelte I can breeze through it in a few minutes.

I like it.

Here is a cat seizing the day. And the mail.

Even more 2022 pruning: No way, no HEY

Apologies for the terrible title.

I knew the people behind HEY’s email service had controversial opinions on running a business, and I mostly ignored them, because I found HEY does some genuinely interesting stuff with email. But after reading the latest piece from co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson I could no longer in good conscience continue to use the service. I’m paid up until April 23, 2023, so I have plenty of time to move stuff over to another email platform, likely Outlook as I already have an active account with the service, but it’s still going to be a big ol’ bother after having already done this once already moving away from Gmail.

But when you throw in with monumentally shitty people like Elon Musk, you are basically telling me you don’t want my business. So I am done with HEY. And I save $100 a year as a bonus. HEY, that’s pretty nice.

The Culling Continues: Blowing away iCloud Photos

While this is independent of the rather freaky story on MacRumors about corrupted videos and photos from unknown sources appearing on iCloud for Windows, I have still decided to ultimately turn off iCloud Photos. The biggest downside to this is I’ll no longer have photos taken on my iPhone automatically be made available on other devices, which is an admittedly nice feature.

Turning this off also means I’ll no longer have a backup of my photos on Apple’s servers (which may not be a bad thing if the above story hints to the stability and security of their infrastructure), so I’ll need an alternative. Here’s my plan, because I love a good plan and also lists:

  • Store photos in another cloud service. I have OneDrive, and it’s already automatically uploading photos from my phone to its cloud server, so this part is happening now.
  • Store photos in a NAS (local network storage). I’ve had a Synology NAS for awhile and have now set up the Synology Photos app to backup my photos from the phone. I’ll move the photos over in batches (I have…a few) until they are all in place, then will have the app on the phone set to only upload new photos going forward.

Once I have both of the above in place, I’ll delete the photos I have stored in iCloud and then turn off iCloud Photos. This will also make it easier to drop all Apple services save for Apple Music (I’m still paying for 200 GB of iCloud storage), and make it easier to move to a different phone in the future if I decide to do that.

You may be thinking I am souring on Apple–and you would be right! But that is a rant for another day.