Android

How To Ditch YouTube

Ditch YouTube

YouTube is a the primary video sharing site on the Internet. It is full of helpful tutorials, commentary, funny videos, and strange content. For most purposes, its hard not to use YouTube. If I’m repairing my ’04 Expedition, where do I turn first? YouTube. Putting new flooring down? YouTube. Following the election? YouTube. Watching turkey fryer explosions? YouTube. You get the point: YouTube hosts a wide variety of content and its likely the only place that many videos will be hosted.

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The Best Google Photos Alternatives

Google-Photos-banner

Google Photos has long been the preferred method to backup photos on Android. Google Photos offered unlimited high quality photo storage while limiting original or best quality photos to the storage available. OG Pixel benefited from free full quality photo backup forever. Subsequent Pixel users were offered free backup with an expiration date.

Google announced on 11 November 2020 that it would be changing its storage policy. Google claims that it hosts 4 trillion photos with an additional 28 billion uploaded every week. Sizzling storage, Batman. That’s a lot of photos. In a move that shouldn’t really surprise, any new photo uploaded after 1 June 2021 will count towards their storage limit. High quality photos uploaded before then will not count towards storage limits. Full quality photos currently count against that limit. Google has also made it easy to see how long existing storage should last.

Google Photos

Best Overall; Best For Android; Best For Current Google Photo Users

If Google Photos and the Google ecosystem work for you but you need additional storage, consider signing up for a Google One plan. Plans start at $20 a year for 100 GB (the going rate). By discontinuing free unlimited photo storage, Google hopes users get onboard with Google One.

Google Photos does offer excellent search capabilities. Google’s AI learns to recognize faces and objects extremely well making it easy to search through numerous photos. Editing in the mobile app or on the web is simple. There are also smart one click enhancements that will make almost any photo look better. If your main goal is a simple to use photo management service that can easily sort and search all of your photos, Google Photo is the way to go.

Google One can be shared with five other people. Unfortunately, the free 15 GB each user receives is sucked up by the One plans. For example, two users would have 30 GB of free storage between them. When both users are part of the 100 GB plan, they only have 100 GB total. Other services layer free storage on top of paid plans. Google includes it so a $20 / 100 GB plan is effectively 70 GB for two users or as little as 10 GB when all six users join a plan. Yes, that’s 90 gigs of free storage between six users and 10 gigs for $20.

Amazon Photos

The Best Google Photo Alternative

Part of what makes Google Photos so great is the AI: the ability of Google Photos to automatically identify different faces, group them together, create albums, and make it easy to search across countless photos. Amazon Photos rivals this ability with its own ability to identify different faces and group places together. Similar to Google, Amazon creates keywords that can be searched too. Even in my initial test with roughly 50 photos, Amazon accurately identified seven different people and populated keywords like glasses, smile, baby, tree, and dog.

  • Amazon Photos delete

The included photo editor has the standard options to crop, adjust, and add text. Various filters are available.

Photos can be shared in custom groups. The recipient is not required to have Amazon Photos to access or download the photo or video. Media can also be shared via a custom link.

The Family Vault makes sharing photos even easier. Up to five people can be invited to participate in the Family Vault (of course, they don’t have to be family). Photos can be selectively shared in the Family Vault with an option to automatically include all uploads. There is a single button to remove all of your photos from the Family Vault.

Amazon Photos includes a Hidden Items section. Photos and videos stowed away here will not show up in the Family Vault (or anywhere else) by default.

Deleting photos prompts for a location. Do you want to just delete from Amazon Photos or from your device? Or both. It is very clear what’s happening when a photo is deleted. Upon clicking delete, Amazon Photos will warn that the item will be permanently deleted after 30 days.

The Amazon Prime membership includes unlimited full quality photo backup and 5 GB of storage. That storage can be used for videos or files in the Cloud Drive. Prime membership runs $119 annually or $12.99 monthly. Other benefits includes faster shipping and Prime Video.

Additional storage is available. 100 GB is $20 annually, 1 TB for $60, 2 TB for $120, and so on. The prices are comparable to Google although photos won’t count towards that the storage limit on Amazon.

Amazon Photos is available on Android, Fire tablets, iOS, Mac, and Windows.

Apple iCloud

For Apple users, the iCloud is a no brainer. Apple’s iCloud integrates better with Apple products than anything else. Photos are automatically uploaded from iPhones to iCloud for safe backup. Unfortunately, iCloud is limited to iOS, Mac OS, and Windows. iCloud includes 5 GB for free with 50 GB costing $12 annually, 200 GB for $36, and 2 TB for $120. The 2 TB plan can be shared.

Flickr

Flickr was the go to photo service for years. At one point, Flickr offered 1 TB of free photo storage. Like Google, Flickr eventually found that to be unsustainable. Today, Flickr limits free users to 1000 photos or videos. Flickr Pro is the paid service that includes unlimited photo backup. Pro is available monthly for $6.99, for three months at $18.99 (that’s $6.33 a month), and annually for $60 ($5 a month). Flickr is available on Android and iOS. Pro users have access to the Flickr Uploader that works with iPhoto, Dropbox, and Windows.

Mega

Best For Free Storage

Mega starts out with 50 GB of free storage, more than any other service listed here. That’s enough to hold roughly 16,000 photos. For those fleeing Google Photos looking for a quick free alternative, Mega is the best option. Mega’s lower tiers of storage are slightly more expensive while the higher tiers become much more lucrative. Mega is available on Android, iOS, Linux (DEB/RPM), Mac, and Windows. A more thorough review of Mega can be found on Linux Friendly Cloud Services in 2020.

NextCloud and OwnCloud

Best For Self Hosting

NextCloud and OwnCloud have been lumped together because their purposes are so similar. Both allow home users to easily host a personal server. Mobile apps are available to backup phones. Unlike every other single service listed, your photos, your data, your videos are never hosted anywhere else but on your own server. This is the best solution for privacy and security. NextCloud and OwnCloud are explored more in Linux Friendly Cloud Services.

OneDrive

A Microsoft product probably seems odd on Hacking The Hike, a website that actively promotes free and open source software. Microsoft’s OneDrive deserves a mention here given its versatility. OneDrive gives out 5 GB for free storage with 100 GB running a pretty standard $2 a month. OneDrive becomes more interesting with Microsoft 365 Personal and Microsoft 365 Family. Both 365 plans include Microsoft Office Online. The Personal plan includes 1 TB of storage while Family includes 6 TB total that can be shared with six people. Personal costs $70 a year and Family is $100.

If Microsoft Office is important to you, then consider subscribing to 365 to take advantage of Office and the included storage.

Piwigo

Like NextCloud and OwnCloud, Piwigo can be self hosted for complete control and privacy. For those looking for cloud based storage, Piwigo offers that too. For €39, Piwigo offers unlimited storage for photos only for one year. Discounted rates are available for two or three year plans. Enterprise pricing includes support for all files rather than just photos. Enterprise plans start at €45 annually for 50 GB. Piwigo is available on Android and iOS.

SmugMug

SmugMug is double dipping on this list. This service actually owns Flickr as well. The SmugMug “Basic” plan is $55 annually (or $7 a month) with the most expensive plan “Pro” hitting $360 annually. Feature wise, the plans are very similar. All of the plans include unlimited photo backup and 1080p video storage up to 20 minutes each. Pro accounts have access to more customizable websites, a helpful feature for aspiring photographers hoping to monetize. SmugMug has apps available for Android and iOS.

Snapfish

Best For Printing

Snapfish is a printing service first and cloud storage second. That’s not to discount Snapfish. It offers unlimited cloud storage with “active” use of its services. For those that want to print photos, Snapfish may be one of the more promising options. For the price of shipping, Snapfish includes 100 free 4×6 prints every month for mobile users. Snapfish claims shipping starts at $1.99. Photos can also be picked up at local drugstores like CVS and Walgreens. Snapfish is available for Android and iOS.

Snapfish lacks the basics many other services offer. There is no option to edit photos. There’s no sharing. There’s no family accounts. Its strictly a place to dump unlimited photos as long as prints are occasionally ordered. Snapfish does integrate with Google Photos, Instagram, and Facebook. Photos can be pulled from those to be printed through Snapfish.

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Camp Differently with Hipcamp

Camp Differently with Hipcamp

Camping in an established campground is fun and convenient. There is usually electricity and running water. Shower houses are nearby. Most have a metal ring ready for a fire. Growing up, this was the only way to camp. I discovered backpacking late in my teens and I loved the feeling of adventure. As a dad with kids, I’m after something in the middle. I had a shower thought one morning, a brilliant light bulb shattering epiphany, why isn’t there an AirBnB for camping?!

Well, actually, there is. So much for my brilliant idea.

Hipcamp

Hipcamp is exactly what I envisioned: camping on private property. Each campsite is unique and special. Hipcamp is more than just a campground booking service. It connects campers with unique land and experiences.

Disclosure: The Hipcamp link contains a referral code.

Just like reserving a site at a traditional campground, Hipcamp offers a wide variety of options and the means to filter them. I punched in this weekend, searched nearby, and found options starting at $30 per night.

Hipcamp host options

Of course, each host site will vary on what’s offered and what’s allowed. There may or may not be potable water, showers, electricity, or even Wifi. Options will vary based on the type of camping as well. An RV site will have restrictions about the maximum length but are more likely to have electricity and water available. Tent camping sites might be as primitive as possible with virtually no amenities.

Hipcamp host activities

Like conventional campgrounds, many hosts offer additional activities. Properties often have small lakes for fishing, swimming, or paddling. Options will vary regionally. When looking at the Western US, I found climbing available. Coastal areas offer boating and surfing. Not all activities are located at the host site but they’re promised to be close.

Hipcamp paid activities and conveniences

Hosts can also offer paid services. The host above offers a Slip N Slide rental along with a propane tank purchase. Many campers will probably bring their own propane or kickball but its convenient to have additional options handy. Then again, we all forget things too. That’s a lot easier than hunting down propane for dinner.

Hipcamp terrain like beach, cave, forest, river

I was pleasantly surprised to see a cave available near a site in Illinois. Local terrain is listed with each site. Some I would expect like forest but caves, waterfalls, or hot springs are a welcome addition. Hipcamp is primarily available in the United States. Searching the map, I found some sites in Canada and Puerto Rico. Then there was a random site in Spain and France.

Hipcamp also offers mobile apps for on the go searching and booking. All of the above features and information are also available in the app. Searches are easily filtered with options like price, group size, or accommodations.

If you’re debating about where to take your next trip, try checking Hipcamp first. With the numerous campsites, activities, and accommodations, Hipcamp makes an attractive alternative to campgrounds or even hotels.

Hipcamp is always looking for more sites as well. If you own land and are interested in hosting campers, sign up. Hipcamp promises $100 in cash for signing up. Plus I’d like more places to camp.

12 Open Source Apps To Try

11 Open Source Apps to Try

While its easy to run open source software on Linux (its comes preinstalled!), it may not be so obvious on Android. There are free and open source apps available for just about everything on Android. Being FOSS though doesn’t make an app great. Like their closed source cousins, there’s a lot of mediocre apps available. These are my go to favorites.

F-Droid

If you want to explore open source on Android, start with F-Droid, an open source app store. Many open source apps can be found in F-Droid but not in the Play Store.

Lawnchair Launcher

This one is a close call for me. There’s a lot of great launchers for Android and some really interesting open source ones. Lawnchair has the right mix of customization, speed, and minimalism to make me happy. Hyperion comes in close but I’m not a fan of paid upgrades.

Tasks

Tasks syncs to do lists with Apple Reminders, Google Tasks, and CalDav servers. I’ve used it successfully to replace Google Tasks and Microsoft To-Do.

NextCloud

NextCloud is a free cloud platform that can be hosted locally. NextCloud extends far beyond simple file backup with additional apps available for notes, calendar, contacts, and more.

Bitwarden

Bitwarden doesn’t get the love it deserves. Its the only open source password manager that I know of with a local server option. Passwords and other sensitive information can be stored on your own local, private server or stored securely encrypted in the cloud. Bitwarden integrates into Android to replace Google’s Password Manager. Just to make things easier, there’s a Linux application plus browser extensions.

Slide

Slide is a slick Reddit replacement. The theme can be customized to an AMOLED Black (my favorite!) or whatever color you can conjure. Slide is also ad free by default. Navigation works by “sliding” between subs.

Firefox

With Google’s snooping built right in to Chrome, Firefox is a no brainer. With significant updates, Firefox is faster and lighter than ever. Some extensions like ad blockers work on the Android app. Firefox also comes in a Firefox Focus that automatically blocks ads and trackers by default. I stick with the beta. Its stable and I like seeing new features faster.

VLC Media Player

VLC is my go to choice for media players. It plays everything imaginable and does so well.

NewPipe

NewPipe allows users to access YouTube without a Google account and play content ad free. Videos can be downloaded locally.

Standard Notes

There’s a lot of note taking apps for Android but Standard Notes is probably the most flexible. It syncs to the cloud, complete with encryption, and can be accessed across multiple devices and platforms.

KDE Connect

This is an essential part of my Linux system. KDE Connect works with Android to show notifications like calls and texts on the desktop. There is a full blown text messaging interface for the desktop or messages can be responded to from the notifications. Its also an easy way to wirelessly transfer files between Android and Linux. KDE Connect will even turn an Android device into a touchpad for the desktop.

Tutanota

Tutanota is a free, secure, encrypted email service. I would be cool with that alone but their Android app is open source as well.

What are your favorite open source apps for Android? Let us know in the comments below.