How my digital autonomy journey began

It all started with my first laptop, an old Samsung RV415, hostname Vertov. It had stopped working for basic tasks, and while most people would simply buy a newer laptop, I could not just dispose of Vertov. He had been with me through most of my undergraduate studies and made it possible to play the soundtracks at 1408. He was my companion on my first international trip, and we cooked countless recipes together. Vertov had too much history to be just another tragedy of planned obsolescence.

Hardware revival

The first idea that occurred to me was to make as many hardware improvements as possible. After an extensive research, I found some interesting components. I replaced the HHD with an SSD and doubled the amount of RAM with a new stick. However, opening the laptop completely to do a deep cleaning was somewhat challenging, and I had to struggle a bit with the plastic clips on the case. Nevertheless, everything went well, and I managed to change the thermal paste on the CPU as well. Even though I am used to doing this on my desktop computer, this adventure taught me a lot about the specifics of laptops.

Vertov

In the midst of Vertov's revival procedure, I began to understand that the slowness he was experiencing was a much broader issue than it initially seemed. After all, why had he started to get slow? It might not necessarily be a hardware issue. Also, why was his processor soldered to the motherboard? This made any modification practically impossible. Even after the hardware improvements, Vertov still had some difficulty performing simultaneous tasks. It became evident to me that, in addition to the hardware, part of the slowness was due to the programs themselves, which were becoming increasingly heavier with features that were not even necessary for my use.

GNU/Linux rediscovery

Coincidentally, in a conversation during this same period, a friend ended up mentioning that he ran Debian on his main computer—he had recently bought a desktop computer with the same specifications as mine. This mention brought back memories from high school when I and another friend installed Slackware. At the time, we had no idea all that it represented. Ultimately, I convinced myself to install "Linux" on Vertov, hoping to continue using it. The first choice, as a remembrance, was Slackware.

Slackware

After installing Slackware, Vertov gained a new lease of life, and I was able to learn and discover countless things. Windows had been weighing him down, as its requirements grew over time, demanding stronger components. Since Windows seemed to be the only existing operating system option, Vertov would have become obsolete. I soon realized that being restricted to this proprietary operating system would always force me to dispose of my hardware, even though I was satisfied with its features. At that point, I began an intense learning process about the FOSS movement, GNU/Linux, and its entire philosophy, which gave me the freedom to have a free operating system. This was the start of my journey from being a regular user to becoming an advanced one.

Digital autonomy

From that moment on, I began to actually control my computer and its programs and not the other way around. I started using Window Managers and even TTY as writing environments, which were noticeably lighter and free from distractions for my use. I discovered GNU Emacs and its incredible org-mode, which completely transformed the way I interact with computers and texts. I also started using RSS to organize and consume content instead of subjecting myself to arbitrary algorithms. Over time, I deepened my practical knowledge of UNIX/Linux, to the point where I started my own homelab. Now I was taking more than control over my hardware or software itself, I was starting to take control over my digital life as a whole.

All of this happened because, at a certain point, I refused to give up Vertov due to planned obsolescence. Not to mention the reuse of a perfectly functional equipment that would become e-waste. There is life beyond the windows.

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essays   computing  

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