Software Spring Cleaning

This week I decided to practice some tech-austerity, which meant uninstalling programs I rarely use, apps on my phone I can do without (especially the crapware that comes bundled with the phone) and weeding out memory-hogging browser extensions. Here's what the results looked like:

Samsung is notorious for bundling along completely useless crapware with all their devices. Thankfully, I'm using a rooted phone, and though I'd already gotten rid of some of the obvious suspects like Samsung Apps, Social Hub and Samsung Email/IM, a few unsuspecting TouchWiz elements were still lying around. I went ahead and removed pretty much anything that didn't seem familiar, including the stock TouchWiz launcher. (I accidentally ended up deleting the clock app, but I managed to restore it, thanks to a backup) I'm using Holo Launcher now, and I can't stress enough how totally awesome and lightweight it is. I've also got this resolution to not let the number of installed apps exceed 10. A bit harsh, but it's a fun experiment, inline with the whole 'austerity' thing.

I absolutely love Firefox, even though Chrome's probably much faster. A couple of rogue add-ons were causing Firefox to leak a huge amount of memory, to the point where even opening a new tab or scrolling through a web page was a sorry affair. I reset Firefox to its default setting which got rid of all the bloat (whilst retaining my history and bookmarks), and now I'm running an almost-mint condition browser, with just the Read-It-Later add-on. Needless to say, it's back to being snappy and has replaced Google Chrome as my default browser! A similar rule applies here, and I'm trying to limit the number of add-ons to just five. (This includes the two add-ons for Unity integration that Ubuntu ships with, so I'm only allowed three more)

I started off by removing stray packages on my system; packages that were probably installed as a dependency but staying on even after the original application had been uninstalled.

sudo apt-get autoremove

Next, I went through the list of applications that I have, which included 4 music players, 3 video players, 3 Twitter clients, 3 browsers and a whole bunch of text-editors. I picked the best of each lot (except in the case of browsers, where I retained Chrome alongside Firefox, 'coz you know...) discarded the others and even cleaned up my autostart scripts:

Instead of loading all your necessary programs (like Dropbox, Synapse or Jupiter) on system startup, write down all those commands into a Bash script, and have Ubuntu load that script instead. The advantage is that you can specify a delay using the sleep command, and have those services startup after the desktop has loaded, instead of slowing you down during the boot process. I managed to knock off about 30 seconds from my boot time, but your mileage will vary.

The cool thing about decrappifying your devices is that not only does it free up space, but it usually results in a performance boost as well. Especially in the case of my underpowered phone, which is noticeably snappier.

Or maybe it's just a placebo.


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