Trying to encouraging competition by avoiding Amazon, Google, AT&T

One of the problems with big American businesses is that there’s very little antitrust enforcement, so we have a lot of industries where two or three companies dominate the market. (this is an issue that Elizabeth Warren is passionate about) I’m trying to change my habits to try to avoid patronizing the biggest of the big companies when I can.

This is more of a way for me to feel better about where my money is going than a way to actually change things – I want the government to step in to break up/prevent monopolies and oligopolies! But it’s better than doing nothing…

Amazon -> Target – Especially now that we have two young kids, we’ve starting ordering more and more household-type items online. We’ve mostly bought from Amazon for these things, but it turns out Target has a lot of the stuff we need. Target is, you know, also a giant company, but I still feel like it’s a little better to buy from them when we can?

Amazon -> Barnes & Noble – David and I read a ton of e-books, and while I wasn’t super-early on the Kindle train, but *looks back at Amazon history* I’ve had one since 2010. For a while I was sad about being locked in to the Kindle ecosystem, but it took me a while to realize – I never use my Kindle hardware anymore, I just read on my phone! So I’ve started to buy Nook books instead. Again, Barnes & Noble is also pretty big, but I’m sure they’re smaller than Amazon in the e-book market so that’s something. (are there smaller e-book companies that are viable?)

Google -> Bing – This one was easy – I use Bing for my default searches now. You may laugh at me, but honestly it’s only one out of every 10 or 15 searches I have to try Google as well. (usually programming-type searches) I’m a Microsoft fanboy so I’ve been doing this for a while now. I still do use Gmail, though.

AT&T -> T-Mobile – This is a little tricker, especially now that T-Mobile is trying to merge with Sprint. But even if they do merge they would still be clearly in third place behind AT&T and Verizon, and the AT&T and Time Warner merger will create a monstrosity. I’m not thrilled about T-Mobile spending a bunch of money at the Trump hotel to try to curry favor with the government, but I do like their whole Un-carrier campaign. (especially since now they include taxes and fees in their plan prices!) We do still have AT&T internet service at home because we have fiber to the home and it is much faster than the competition.

built a new computer!

My desktop computer is now 8 years old, and has been getting a bit slow, so I decided to bite the bullet and build a new one. This time I was going to install Linux from scratch to hopefully get rid of the weird Linuxy issues that were building up.

And I’m declaring it a moderate success! The website is back up and running and most of the important things are working. I ordered the parts from PCPartPicker (here’s my build) although I didn’t do a ton of research – for example, I didn’t realize that the SSD is a fancy M2 thing that really does look like a stick of gum! (or, more boringly, a stick of RAM)

Due to kiddos roaming the house I couldn’t leave any parts out while they were around, so my plan was to slowly put it together over a series of evenings, then take a day of vacation to copy files over and get it set up. This also minimized downtime which was a minor goal.

Stuff to remember for next time:

  • One advantage of putting the hardware together beforehand was that I could make sure I had everything. For some reason, the hard drives I ordered didn’t come with SATA cables – luckily the case came with a few and I scrounged a few others up.
  • The biggest hardware things that I think will make a difference are more RAM (8 GB -> 32 GB, although maybe RAM speed makes a difference too?) and CPU speed.
  • Because I was able to get dramatically bigger hard drives I was able to just install a clean Ubuntu on the new system and then copy everything over – /home just went over the existing stuff, everything else went in a parallel place that I could copy over as needed.
  • I predicted that getting the databases copied over (I have stuff in Postgres _and_ MySQL :-\ ) would be the hardest part and I was 100% correct. Part of the problem was that I somehow forgot the difference between databases and tables which I think cost me an hour! But my plan was to upgrade the old machine to have the same versions of Postgres/MySQL so I could just copy the files on disk over. This was not a good idea, and I should have just used pg_dumpall and whatever the MySQL equivalent is – would have gone much smoother!
  • When “upgrading” my old computer to try to do this I managed to break things badly enough that it wasn’t able to connect to the network anymore. While this was good motivation to get the move done (akin to Cortes burning his ships), it was just another reminder that I’m getting crotchety and just want my computer to work right.
  • cp --archive is exactly the command to copy stuff between drives (assuming the user IDs match up), although there was some weirdness with files that start with a period that I never quite figured out.

My 2018 in review

I started writing these “year in review”s back in 2014 because I had trouble remembering what I did over the whole year. Because of the clustering of major life events that was this year, this wasn’t so hard this year. Most of my accomplishments were:

  • Finished building our new house
  • Moved into said new house!
  • Fixed up old house and put it on the market
  • Bought a car, a plugin hybrid minivan that gets excellent mileage!
  • Kid #2 was born!
  • Sold old house!

So that was a lot! I did have time for a few projects:

And finally, non-project stuff:

Happy new year, and here’s to a less hectic 2019!