Opening My Workflows to Break System Lock in and Tracking

For about 10 years now I’ve been a happy Apple user, though lately I’ve been less happy with at least some of their offerings. My biggest issue lately has been that I don’t like their laptop line at all. Even if I was to ignore the keyboard woes plaguing their butterfly keyboards, I don’t think that the performance to cost ratio is anywhere near in favour of the user.

For the last 18 months I’ve been using iOS as my primary work machine. It’s happily covered writing, web development, photo work, and video production. I love my 12.9” iPad Pro. This may be my favourite computer ever, but all is not roses here either.

My biggest issue is with the software on iOS, and even macOS to some extent. I’m not lamenting the lack of external drive access in iOS, I’m frustrated with that but have work arounds for all my general use cases. My problem is that much of the software on macOS and iOS locks you in to the Apple platforms.

A quick example would be Ulysses, which I’m writing this on. To take full advantage of the features of Ulysses you have to use their iCloud sync. Using iCloud sync means that you can’t access these documents easily on PC or Linux or Android if I wanted to use those platforms.

That’s my goal, to be move my workflow so that I’m operating system agnostic in my daily driver working tools. If Linux looks interesting, I want to be able to purchase a computer and set it up easily to do my work. If I think a Windows PC is something I want to review, I should be able to move my work there with little hassle.

Secondarily, I want to embrace more openness in my work across the board. While I was happy with G-Suite1 for a long time, when I think of Google now the words surveillance giant come to mind. Those words don’t feel nice to me. I want to move out of these companies like Google, and even WordPress.com2 via Jetpack and Gravatar, and into companies that focus on user privacy first and doesn’t worry about collecting data to do other things with.

Today I try to take stock of where I’m at so that I have a measure as I make progress on my road to being more open and platform agnostic with my work.

Things to Break the Lock in

My Writing Workflow

Currently I use Ulysses for my blogging and 90% of my client writing. It’s a great app, I have no specific complaint with it, outside of the fact that to get all of the features it can provide I must store my files inside it’s app specific database. When I head to my Mac, my files are there and the sync is fast, but if I want to start using a new text editor or move to a different OS, I’d have to migrate all my content out of Ulysses.

One step I could take is to migrate the content out of Ulysses’ custom storage and into Dropbox...or some other file provider. This would mean I loose these features in Ulysses:

At this point my thought is that I need to find a way to get my text documents into Git so that I could check them out on whatever platform I want to write on via a private repository. Leveraging Working Copy and iA Writer I can write and then commit my words to a repository on Bitbucket, then the words are available anywhere Git is available3.

A second benefit to this is that by having a file of folders on a hard drive I can get DEVONthink to index them as an external folder. This would let me leverage the AI of DEVONthink to find content related to things I’ve written, as I’m writing said amazing words.

Cloud Storage?

As an iOS first user, my main cloud storage provider is iCloud for obvious reasons. Dropbox is buggy on iOS, with it recently taking up 1.4TB of my 1TB iPad. I’m not sure how that happened, but when I deleted Dropbox and stopped using it as my main provider I suddenly had 950GB of free space on my iPad.

No, those numbers don’t add up at all, which proves my point that Dropbox is buggy.

I’m not sure what my options here are yet. As long as I choose to be an iOS first person I’m in iCloud. My other needs are to be able to share a folder of images to specific people so they can view and download the images they want4.

A Helm seems like a decent option here and while it’s pricey it would save me $27.99/month in Dropbox fees, which means it’s not expensive for long. I’ll also need to address the off-site nature of a cloud service if I use the Helm because it’s sitting at my house and that’s not redundant.

There may be other options, but that’s what I’m thinking currently.

Photos

Currently I import photos into iOS and then use Darkroom to edit them after I’ve done some sorting in the iOS Photos app. I love Darkroom and really don’t want to give it up, but I need to at least address getting my photos out into something more open.

Darktable seems to be the leading “open” alternative to Lightroom and Darkroom. I’ve tried it before and it felt...not what I was used to. Darkroom immediately felt like an awesome app.

Video Editing

For cross-platform video editing it looks like I’ll have to shell out some dough to get Davinci Resolve from Black Magic. It’s fully cross-platform so that’s good, but it’s $299 USD so it’s also expensive.

Right now I’m using LumaFusion for everything and I love the experience. Truth, I don’t really care about leaving iOS, it’s my desktop choices I want to expand so I’ll take a bit of a look here but LumaFusion may be where I stay.

Yes there are a bunch of “open” editors for Linux that work on other operating systems, but I’ve tried them and they were all terrible. In trying 5 of them I wasn’t able to produce a single video of the quality my 8-year-old can get out of Apple Clips.

Blogging Platforms

I’ve been on WordPress for over 10 years with more than 1500 posts sitting in my database currently. Unfortunately I feel less and less like WordPress is an ecosystem I want to be involved with. I think surveillance giant when I think of Automattic so I want to look hard at getting away from it for myself.

I agree with Daniel that WordPress has a “team smell” which I don’t want to participate in.

The front runner for my site is Statamic. I’ve got some steps to take to make my site as compatible as possible with Statamic before I move over but the idea of flat Markdown files to edit and blog with sounds great to me.

Email & Calendaring

I’ve been on Google Apps for years. Long enough that most of my accounts are free. Here The Helm looks like the option that best suits my needs for email and calendaring.

Web Development

On the web development front, I’m about as open as I can get. I code with Vim, tmux, mosh. I generally use SFTP via terminal to transfer files to the remote VPS I work on for client projects saving me a bunch of time over transferring files down to my computer then back up to a server.

To migrate this workflow all I need is a decent terminal that supports SSH, then I’m all on that remote server. This workflow feels like the smallest hurdle I’ll have to jump so I’m not really going to bother with any change until it’s forced upon me for some reason I can’t see currently.


  1. Or what ever Google is calling it these days. 
  2. I also think surveillance giant here with the Jetpack plugin and much of what WordPress.com/Automattic are doing now. 
  3. Frederico Viticci did a great walk through of his workflow in the recent iOS post so I’ll likely use this as a starting point. 
  4. This is for the figure skating club my wife coaches and 2 of my kids skate at. I take pictures of the club sometimes and want to make them available to parents.