My digital journey thus far
My first time using a computer was when I was 8 years old. My sister had discovered browser games, and my family probably wanted to distract me with something. After this initial introduction to electronics I didn’t think much about what I was actually using. I searched for games, I played them. This must’ve gone on for months, when I somehow managed to download the #1 videogame classic of my life: Cave Story. In case you don’t know this gem, it’s a really cool free and open-source platformer developed in Japan. It being actual software that used actual resources on the PC, it far surpassed any browser game. My sister quickly regretted showing me how to use a PC, because I didn’t speak English yet at that time, so I’d constantly bug her to translate stuff for me.
Interestingly, videogames combined with English classes and me nagging my sister made me more-or-less fluent in English by the time I was 15-16.
Now at school, I’d talk about videogames, right? So naturally I found friends who were also playing videogames. From there it was an endless spiral of using Windows 7, downloading free MMORPG-s (Metin 2, anyone?), pirating other games, getting computer viruses, chatting on Skype, and of course getting more and more immersed in technology. Just by trying to download and install illegal software (I’m not proud of it, but in my defense I was young, broke and dumb), and afterwards trying to mod games taught me a lot about how Windows worked. Or more specifically, how it didn’t. It perplexed me from a young age, how I couldn’t do the things I wanted on my own PC.
Also a huge shoutout to Sony’s PSP, it is the most iconic device of my childhood.
My “Google Phase”
Now bear with me on this, but I used to be a Google Fanboy. I used to annoy people with the greatness of Google, the same way I annoy people with the greatness of FLOSS now. I earnestly believed that Google’s products were the greatest on Earth. How could I not? Everything I worked on would instantly be backed up into the cloud, and I’d be able to continue editing right away on any other device. When I accidentally stumbled upon the page where you can see all the places you’ve been to, my reaction actually was “wow, so cool!”.
It was magic. It was sci-fi. It was the future.
I saw the future of all computing in super smooth cloud technology. I’d scoff at people struggling with desktop applications, because all you needed was already there in the cloud. For free (I didn’t put emphasis on “free” as in “freedom” back then). I didn’t see the dangers to democracy, or the infringements on privacy. All I ever cared about was the convenience, and my belief that I was using the best solution there is.
This went on for many years. I’d say I was a Google Fanboy for 4 years, up until the point where I started to notice the many problems of Google. I had reached the 10GB maximum capacity for Google Drive. I said okay, since the service is so great, I might as well buy 100GB of cloud space. For some reason my debit card didn’t work. I got some kind of weird ominous error that I tried to resolve for days. That’s when I realised that
one of the biggest and richest companies in the world, my heroes at Google, didn’t have dedicated 24/7 support. In fact, they barely had any support at all.
Or at least not in 2018. Trying to get a hold of a live person would send you on a wild goose chase over hidden phone numbers. I read an interesting blog post back then, where a lady told her story of the nightmare of talking to Google support. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find it again.
However, you could only go down this utmost inconvenient path, if you were in the US. They had 0 support for Europe, which simply meant no 100GB of space for me.
After this I quickly stumbled upon more and more issues with Google, I became more and more aware of privacy, and finally I decided to completely ditch all Google Services (I’ll write about these topics in later blog posts). It was an incredibly hard decision to make, because my entire workflow depended on Google Drive and Gmail. Or so I thought. In the end it turned out that the hardest part was changing my email address with every third party service where I had registered with my Gmail, before deleting it all.
In a nutshell,
Google refusing to accept my perfectly valid card, opened my eyes to reality.
Sometimes I wonder if I had stayed a Google Fanboy, if I had been able to just buy those 100GB-s of space…
The eternal fight with Microsoft
Unlike Google, I actually have always hated Microsoft Windows. It was slow, buggy and limited. I had virtually zero control over my own PC, even in the Pro edition. Again unlike Google, I was actually always looking for a way to finally ditch Windows for a Linux distro. I’d get so mad at Windows from time to time that I’d install a random Linux distribution. I’d always have to go back to Windows though, mostly because of bugs and videogames.
This also went on for many years, until one faithful day Windows 10 got an update. After the update my start menu looked something like this:
Ads. Ads everywhere. And if that wasn’t enough, Windows actually regularly installed software from the Microsoft Store without my permission. Even after turning this “feature” off, my several-hundred-euro OS would keep plaguing me with unwished-for ads and applications. At this point I just snapped, and decided to ditch windows for Pop!_OS (After some adventures with Debian, OpenSUSE and Fedora). I haven’t been using anything else since then… except…
Fall from Glory
It was time for me to finally upgrade my PC, if I wanted to keep playing high-quality videogames. My power supply was also making weird loud noises, so I’d switch that out since I’m in the process of messing around with my PC anyway. So, of course I researched the best solution for me. Well, let’s just say it turned out more expensive than expected. Just upgrading the processor and the RAM as originally planned wasn’t possbile, because the newer generation processor need a different socket than currently available in my motherboard. The small upgrade quickly became 600€+.
That’s when I started thinking about buying a console. It’d be effectively cheaper, and it would still run all the games. For some multiplayer action with friends I could still use the old PC. First I naturally thought about the superior Sony Playstation 5 as my prime candidate. But then Microsoft decided to buy Bethesda, and I became more curious about the new Microsoft consoles, specifically the Series S. Compared to the PS5 it is much smaller and a whopping 200€ cheaper. Then I researched more and more, and in the end, this is what I came up with:
|huge monolith||small box|
In the end, the biggest factor for me was the fact that next-gen games cost 70-80€. This meant that I’d only be able to afford 2 games per year. I wouldn’t use the console much like this. So the budget solution: buy the Series S and subscribe to the Game Pass. With a one-time payment of 300€ and a yearly expense of around 156€ the cost efficiency was the best out of the 3 options of upgrading the PC, buying a PS5 and buying a Series S.
But to be able to also use the Game Pass on my PC, I had to install Windows.
The idea of having Windows on my PC again was infuriating, but I couldn’t find a way around it: the Microsoft Store only works on Windows. As such I decided to use the PC exclusively for gaming. For everything else I had my trusty Dell Vostro laptop with Pop!_OS running on it flawlessly.
As you can see, there are always ups and downs when using technology, and in the end we compromise to be able to feel comfortable with what we got. In the future I’ll write in greater detail about these topics, as I’m also going to start my series of articles about ditching big tech. Having omitted a few details in this post, like my adventures with the Raspberry Pi, and my grievances about having a Google-free phone, I might write about those in the future as well.