Simplifying My Technology Use

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify.

That is my mantra when it comes to using technology lately and really many other parts of my life.

This year simplifying my technology started when I got a used Google 2015 Pixel 2 Chromebook for Christmas, then replaced my broken iPhone 7 with a Google Pixel 3a phone and moved back to Blogger. However, one of the biggest changes is going back to a pen and paper-based running log again. These changes made me stop and really think about what I am attempting to accomplish with the tools I am using.



Since 2020 started I have experimented with new to me processes, different productivity ideas, Apps (which I still call software), read more than a few tech reviews, articles and blog posts to get ideas on what could work for me going forward.

Running Log


Sometimes I am finding the simplest and the best way to use technology is to just go old school. Though I still use my spreadsheet and post to Strava, there is something about actually writing down my thoughts about my running that makes my running more mine than publishing my exploits online does when I have to think about how a reader might interpret something that I wrote. 

Software & Apps


I have installed, tested (attempted to use), actually used, didn't like and deleted more than my share of apps from both my phone and laptop since the beginning of the year. Although I have found a few new to me Apps that I like quite a bit, that fit nicely into my tech life.

Before I started this process I often had 3-5 Apps that pretty much did the same things on each device and often they were not compatible. I have learned the hard way that if I have multiple apps that do the same thing it only results in confusion, lost data or time and more than a little frustration on my part. Using that knowledge, I focused on attempting to use one App (where I could) and tried to make it the one where I could access my data when I need it, no matter which device I happen to be using.

As a result, more than thirty Apps have disappeared from my laptop/phone and I have a feeling that there are a few more that will go away before too long.

Surprisingly on my Chromebook, I found that I usually preferred the Chrome OS versions of Apps I was using versus the Android or third-party versions. Frankly, I did not expect this result since many of the tech reviews that I read were just the opposite. However, they are not me and I do things differently than other people sometimes...well pretty often.

I did figure out that my computer use (yes, my phone is a computer) revolved around the below Apps:


  • Browser: Google Chrome
  • Search Engine: Google
  • Blog Host: Blogger by Google
  • Productivity Suite: Google Drive
  • Email: Google Gmail/Contacts
  • Photos: Google Photos
  • eBooks: Amazon Kindle/Google Books
  • Communication: Phone/Google Messages & Hangouts and Facebook Messenger
  • Calendar: Google Calendar
  • Music: Google Play Music
  • Social Media: Facebook & Twitter (website only)
  • Weather: AccuWeather

How do I use them?


Browser/Search Engine

I prefer to do most things on my Pixel 2 Chromebook through the Chrome browser, including wandering around the web way too much. After thinking about it, I decided to keep using Chrome and Google as my primary browser or search engine, although I can use now use other browsers and search engines on a Chromebook.  

That and since just about everything else I use is Google-based, if they are going to know everything about me, they might as well know everything.

On my phone, I rarely use the browser and rely more on Apps. An interesting phenomenon when I stopped and thought about it. I really don't use my phone for much more than taking photos, texting, as a phone, looking at the weather and news or eBook reader. Otherwise, a lot of the apps could actually just go away if I wanted to. I keep a lot of the apps on my phone more for just-in-case than a need.

Blog

Google's Blogger hosts this blog and currently, I am struggling a bit to figure out the direction it will go in the future. I don't want it to simply be a journal of my life or a daily running log. I believe it can be more than that and will figure things out as go along this year.

One big change is that my blog has also become my de facto RSS Feed Reader/Blog Reader and I am actually loving having it there. I just have to open my blog, go to my sidebar and all the blogs I follow are there in order of the latest update. Then I just click the link and I get transported to their blog. Simple, basic and works great for me.

Recently, I started listing the books that I have been reading during the year and finally have a place to store that information. I have tried several methods of capturing the book titles, but have never been all that happy until I put the list on my blog's sidebar. It works for me.

Productivity Suite 

Over the years, I have attempted so many different combinations of Google’s (and others) Productivity Suites and varied results. However, it always seems that in the end, I come back to primarily using what is now called Google Drive.

Again, it just works for me. No matter what device I am on or who’s tech silo I am supposedly in, I can access my documents, spreadsheets and other Google products that I use. Also, I can share my work easily with others, which is a huge feature for me. One thing that I have added is the Notes extension for Drive and stopped using Keep, OneNote, and other note-keeping Apps.

Email

Gmail is my email client of choice and I have had it since Google first allowed the general public to use Gmail. It does have a few quirks, but after using almost all of the other major email apps/software or websites, I keep coming back to Gmail - it just works for me (notice a theme here). Although I do prefer the web-based version over Android's version on my laptop.

Photos


A great place to keep and be able to find your photos, but for me, it lost some of its functionality when Google stopped allowing direct syncing to Drive. Especially since I primarily use my laptop to post to social media websites, it can be inconvenient to upload the photos.

I now use Microsoft’s OneDrive as another backup for my photos, which is probably a smarter way, just in case I get locked out of my Google account at some point (you never know), I will still have my photos and once they have synced I can easily upload them to either Facebook or Twitter.

eBook 

I read a lot of books and have purposely read a wider variety of genres this year and Kindle works the best for the way I get books. Although I do have a nice selection of all-time greats on Google Play Books. This meant that this one of the few areas where I have two apps that do pretty much the same thing. Yes, I decided to keep both apps on the laptop and phone, so I can read when I want.

Communication

I am finding that I text a lot more than use the phone in today’s world. It is just simpler and easier to text someone than it is to call. Especially, since most people do not answer their phone now (thanks SPAM calls), wait to see if they answer, leave a message if it is important, talk things over, which takes longer than a quick text because you also have to be sociable. Texting gets things done quickly and efficiently most of the time. You do lose a lot of personal interaction, but the advantages seem to be in texting’s corner at this time.

I do use Google Hangouts - not often, but enough so that I want to keep it on my devices. I also kept Facebook Messenger on the phone because I do have friends and contacts that do use it to keep in contact with me. Though on my laptop I only access it through the Facebook website.

Calendar

I keep my schedules and todo list in Google Calendar and the wall calendar by Mary's desk. I don’t bother with a separate todo list anymore - it doesn’t work for me. Putting things I need to get done on my calendar is the only way I keep things straight sometimes and I do not have to search in a separate app for what I am supposed to be doing. If Google Calendar ever disappeared I would probably just move back to a paper and pen calendar.

Music

I like that I can easily upload my purchased CDs (yes, I still do that from time-to-time) and then create my own playlists in Google Play Music, without having to pay $10 per month for a subscription fee to not listen to a lot of music because I am busy doing other things than being on my phone with earbuds in my ears. Just about the only time I use the music app is when I am at the gym or later in the evening when I am writing.

Weather

I use the AccuWeather app, after trying about ten different ones, this one seemed to be the one that best met my needs. With the strange weather that we get in today's world, I like to know what is going on and this App does it better than the rest, I just have to put up with the ads that pop-up a bit too often.

The reality is that


Over the first part of 2020, I have changed almost everything that I use for hardware and software, compared to what I have used for the past few years. Thankfully, there have been surprisingly few hiccups or me going WTFO in the course of attempting to get something done during this time.

I attribute that to how easy to use and well-integrated most of Google's offerings are, along with the familiarity that I do have with their products having used them as an educator and an admin type at a local college.

You notice that I didn’t talk about Social Media much at all. That is a different post and a completely different beast. However, I only use social media sites in a browser and do not download their apps to either device. It slows down their use quite a bit.

It will be interesting to see what tools I am using in six months and how many things I will be doing differently. Knowing me, probably just a few things. :-)

This post was written for and first appeared on One Foot In Reality.

Comments

Andy said…
Good thinking. As much as I try to stay out of the Google vortex, I do use some of their products. Pretty much impossible to avoid it.
While doing an OS update on my phone, I swear it said it was updating 415 apps! No idea what all of them are.