Divorcing Google

As of late its hard not to be disappointed with Googles new attitude to its customers, it’s a real disappointment that they no longer hold to their original mission statement. What with forcing customers to use “social media” whether they want to or not, and shuttering useful services again to funnel people into making life easier of ID thieves, its no longer a surprise that an increasing number of people are parting with Google.

At the end of the day its actually not too hard to configure a cheap VPS to give you all the important cloud tools that you need to ease you away from Googles cloud.

Here’s a list of things you’ll need

  • An android phone you can flash with a Google-less rom – many custom roms such as CyanogenMod (tho lets wait and see them go the way of google) don’t include the google apps for legal reasons – which is ideal for our needs…
  • A VPS with an IMAP server (many offer an IMAP server which can installed from a control panel) if you don’t have cardDav (contacts) or calDav services – we can easily add them.
  • time, patience, and a zip of your data from google.

I’d recommend using the Evolution suite to help set up and verify all your services as although its rather heavy weight an unwieldy you can at least verify mail, contacts and calendar all from one place…

Assuming your VPS doesn’t have a cardDav/calDav server available from its control panel you’ll need to install one.  I’d recommend you give radicale a try, nice and slim without fluff it provides both cardDav and calDav.

From here on in for any examples I’ll use the user name auser

I found the easiest way to ensure some clients can defiantly see a cardDav and calDav server is to make some dummy data files.

touch /etc/radicale/collections/auser/calendar.ics
touch /etc/radicale/collections/auser/AddressBook.vcf

depending on your client you will need a URI of

http://bedroomcoders.co.uk:5232/auser/AddressBook.vcf
http://bedroomcoders.co.uk:5232/auser/calendar.ics
http://bedroomcoders.co.uk:5232/auser/

some will only need the last URI as they can query the server and pick up the available databases where as some will need explicitly pointing to a database…  Now when I say database really we are just talking about flat textfiles, but in effect they are a store of data.

Have a good read of the doc for radicale it’s a snip to setup – depending on the reliability of your VPS you should be able to just kick it off and forget about it, but if you need to be really sure of it you may want to make a bunch of runlevel scripts… ( I do find that the odd server without runlevel scripts gives you a good idea of the reliability of your VPS)

Once you are sure you have IMAP (most VPS usually come with webmail) and your DAV services running and verified with Evolution, you can move on to your android device…

When reflashing you android device you will first need to format /system from recovery as well as wiping user data (formating /data), this should give you a clean start without a whole bunch of google apps you don’t need and a noticeable boost in battery life as a result! You need to look out for “roms” with separate a “google apps” zip

One big gottcha with the android email app is that if offline it will look like its sent an email but seemingly just loose it – really poor show! – I need to check out IMAP/SMTP apps to look out for one thats a tad more careful…

Speaking of apps I cannot recommend fdroid enough (lxquick it for the url) as well as side loading the the fdroid app its worth looking at the site.

While the good people fdroid apparently do some basic auditing of code (as I understand it) setting privacy guard on by default for cyanogenmod and using a firewall should serve to protect you from any rare rogues… and you know what in the long run you’re probably safer using even precompiled open source code compared with googles app store – where there is NO auditing and NO public eyes on code…

I found droidDav a very good tool, which when I get some spare cash I’ll probably donate to, basically it provides you a google type “account” which uses cardDav and calDav to sync with the respective android apps. Its bright enough to query the server and so you don’t need to point it at any specific files.

So that’s it then all divorced from Google then, well for me not entirely at least for the life of my Nexus 7 tablet – I’ve removed the gmail app and left just enough on it so the google framework works so I can still use google play, I’d have liked a copy of GTA SA in perpetuity, but then as things are going before long I’ll have a Linux based tablet or some such that can emulate a PC good enough for my original PC copy of GTA SA….

5 thoughts on “Divorcing Google”

  1. I have somewhat similar interests – running my own CardDav/CalDav servers instead of syncing my Android with Google; the server currently runs on a PC though and in my opinion a small ARM board would be highly preferable. Which is why I find it really strange that there seems to be _nothing_ (and I _mean nothing_) out there on running one’s own Dav servers on non-PC hardware; there are mentions of some OpenWRT packages – the rest is a few inquiries vaguely answered with “well try recompiling some stuff mate” and, well, noise. And I find that rather surprising since my Google-Fu is generally quite good – is it possible that literally no-one else is interested in running some Dav on an ARM?!? Because if so, then screw it: getting the PC server to just work was horrible enough – I’m no gcc guru and I’m certainly not willing to pore months over a command line before finally admitting defeat on some ARM board…

    1. Generally if and its an unusual if you need to compile your own server it’s typically fairly easy with autobuild or cmake or some other automagical build script, there are a number of DAV servers in arm Debian repos, or rent a vps and install a server on Ubuntu…

  2. I too have been “divorcing Google” and it took me a little time to find a key piece, a project called either nogapps or microG. Basically some open source components to replace some of the functionality of Google Mobile Services (GMS) also known as “Google Apps”. Project announcement was at http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1715375 with a project website at https://github.com/microg

    While not currently under development, BlankStore allows access to free apps from Google Play Store using the old Market API. “Network Location” fixed a problem I was having with a couple of free APKs crashing on start when they tried to determine where the phone was. And it had the side benefit of helping the GPS to lock much faster, especially after I gathered my local mobile cell phone tower information and contributed it to http://opencellid.org (and then downloaded and built a new database). Finally, “Maps API v1” allowed the traffic app produced by my local state government to work properly.

    fdroid is great, and I use it for apps when ever I can but there are still some I really want that are only on Play Store. Fortunately BlankStore fixes that for me.

    DAVdroid http://davdroid.bitfire.at/what-is-davdroid is a bit lacking. In transferring contacts from the Address Book on my Mac it sees groups but does not deal with them properly. Also I’ve got my CalDAV server setup to that I have write access to my calendar but read access to my wife’s. The Calendar app on the Mac deals with that perfectly but I haven’t yet found a CalDAV sync app for Android that sees the other accessible calendars and droidDAV is no exception. At least DAVdroid is going open source so it is likely to be improved.

    1. Just a thought would a user account per calendar be although a little inelegant a work around for your issue…

      Its what I intend to do with the wife and my shared calendar.

      Nice write up of your experience thanks for sharing!

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