DeGoogling my Life Part I: Moving emails, contacts and calendars from Gmail to Outlook

It’s not me, it’s you…

Technically part one for me would have been moving to DuckDuckGo and trying to rely a little less on Google for services like maps and cloud storage, but this was the big one for me. An email account — well, actually several accounts spread across Google’s business suites, really — I’d had since the very early days of Gmail.

Earlier this month, after several years, I made the decision to remove hundreds of notes, business details, album details and lyrics and general information from Evernote over privacy concerns and my annoyances with the company limiting the amount of devices that Evernote could be installed on with their free subscription. I was unwilling to pay $120 a year for a bunch of text files simply so that they wouldn’t consistently be stored in a server by a company that has a history of surrendering data to authorities (not that I had anything to hide) and a company that would extensively delay removing your personal information from their systems when users requested. 

It was difficult and I found it really hard to replace it, downloading several alternatives and reading through pages and pages of privacy policies. Eventually I went with Microsoft’s OneNote. I’m not 100% converted but for now it will do. It’s worth pointing out that many services do not support migration from Evernote as Evernote allegedly makes it very difficult to leave painlessly. 

In 2004 I moved from Hotmail to Gmail  – which at the time was an invite-only service – and I loved the storage, spam filtering and overall use up until today. I realised that moving from Evernote was a bad idea, if I was to stick with Google. Several times over the past few years I have noticed that Google would ban me for periods of up to 24 hours due to my usage of enemy companies. For example, when adding Gmail accounts to both my desktop and laptop computers Thunderbird or Outlook mail clients, I would be smashed with security notices on all of my devices and then despite assuring my account was safe; I would still be locked out. This was bad for personal and business reasons as you can imagine. I was an avid user of G suite and Google’s business platforms for over a decade and whilst I enjoyed the “security” of such features, it was wrong to be shut out of my accounts – especially when I was paying for them. I also was caught out using “untrusted” authenticator applications on my Android devices. Microsoft Authenticator and Bitwarden would both lock me out. When I raised this with Google, they suggested that it wouldn’t happen if I removed the Google accounts from those authenticators and opted for Google’s versions instead. 

Umm…hang on a minute I deleted those photos years ago, but you kept the metadata? Err thanks I guess.

Edward Snowden revealed a lot of information that many refused to take seriously – either by ignorance, lack of research or “It’s okay if I have nothing to hide” mentality.  Gmail monitors your content, email messages and combines that information with what they find in the rest of your linked Google Accounts. Even Fitbit is owned by Google now with very little information provided on how that could affect your personal data stored on the Fitbit servers. Google produces a profile about you: what you are doing, what you look for on the web, what you’re watching, who you’re speaking to etc. and then uses this information to advertise to you and share this among their partners. 

I knew of this for many years – it’s what most “free” services do to maintain their free status, but it has certainly gotten worse over the past 5 years and it was quite scary to even find that using a password I had on my account several years ago was still stored and triggered a security notice that I couldn’t use the password as it had previously been used. 

I’ve previously complained about how Google’s automated (and sometimes non-automated) systems have blocked my music on YouTube from MY OWN profiles due to copyright complaints – some of which even stating my music was owned by companies like Warner Brothers and BMG – and I have also found that using Google Drive storage to send tracks to friends and music associates has also landed me in trouble. Music I have written, published and maintained 100% ownership of. When raising this with Google, I have been given generic responses and been told that there was nothing I could do but they would look into it. At one point I even received a copyright strike against my YouTube account – one that took months to get rid of! 

I can’t TRULY escape Google as I have several Android devices and required connections to the company but I swallowed the dread and decided to begin “DeGoogling” after reading this GitHub repository and considering the unlimited data retention Google had over my thousands of personal emails.  

I don’t see myself moving from YouTube and many of the services Google offer just yet, which is part of why Google is so successful at being difficult to move away from but removing information like contacts, calendars and emails is probably the biggest step. 

I personally chose Outlook after reviewing several different mailbox/calendar/contact services – even thinking of just running my own mail server or converting to using my business account emails. So why Microsoft? Surely they’re hardly better than Google for privacy? Well I do agree that they’re not exactly perfect – but they have been getting better. Their acquisition of GitHub and slow adoptions of Open-source contributions have proven that over the years after the bungles with Microsoft’s insane telemetry and data collection techniques when Windows 10 launched. In 2017 they pushed to change their image with a better source of what they were storing on their users.  

I am in no way suggesting that you too should pick a Microsoft service, but you’ll find with the “Cutting Google out of your life” list that I mentioned before, there are many secure alternatives that can do a better job and keep you safer in the process. There’s a good list here on how to keep Microsoft out of your personal life too. 

Some things to get you started if you’re navigating away from Gmail –and Google in general—: 

  • You can grab an archive of all your data through Google’s Takeout service. 
  • You can easily keep your Gmail address and have any emails from it forward to your new email by setting up Email Forwarding as described here. 
  • You can set up an autoresponder to let people know that you have a new email address (and even let them know that you’ll still get the email they sent as it’ll forward on) 
  • AlternativeTo is a really cool website that gives you various other applications, sites and services you can use with an active community giving their views on Pros and Cons of each. 

Here’s how my process went: 

  1. Created a new email address @outlook.com (I actually already had a Microsoft account, but Outlook lets you have a bunch of different aliases) 
  2. Set Gmail to forward any incoming emails to the new address 
  3. Installed Outlook on desktop, added Gmail account to Outlook Desktop. 
    1. Downloaded all emails from Gmail (because I wanted to have them all in my @outlook.com email account – if you just want to store them all on your computer, you can use Google Takeout) 
    2. Exported Mailbox to .PST file 
    3. Imported Mailbox .PST file to the @outlook.com email and synced to keep all emails from @gmail.com 
  4. Exported Google Calendar and Contacts and Imported via Outlook web interface (it’s worth noting that Google Contacts will export to a CSV file that it claims is for migrating to Outlook, but I had several issues with said file. When exporting to a standard CSV, however, I had less issues) 
  5. Set up all of my Filters and Labels (Outlook calls them “rules” and “categories”) that I had on Gmail again (as far as I know, Outlook will only migrate the folders, but will not set up any filters you’ve created before) 

Android Devices: 

  1. Replaced Gmail and Contacts (sync) with Bluemail which uses ActiveSync 
  2. Installed Outlook for its calendar and calendar widgets which operate in almost the exact same way that the pre-installed Google Calendar application does. 
  3. Cleared the cache and data of the Gmail and Calendar applications (and while I was there I denied the app its required permissions) 

So what next? Well I use Firefox with a bunch of handy extensions such as uBlock, DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials and EFF Privacy Badger but I occasionally have to resort to Google Chrome for various reasons, so that can be next to get the boot.  

The most irritating part will obviously be going through all of my accounts and changing the email address from my Gmail to my Outlook – but it’s satisfying to know that the shift wasn’t as difficult as I thought. I would recommend at least an afternoon to do it if you’re migrating like I did and attempting to maintain all of your data in your new account. 

Overall, the divorce was something I feel I should have done a while ago. Sorry Google, but unless you take a good look at yourself and care a little more for the privacy of your loyal users, I can’t see folk concerned like I was sticking around for much longer regardless of the monopoly you have. 

 I successfully managed to keep all of the emails from my business  accounts (that were running through Gsuite) by using Google Takeout then  importing the .mbox files into Thunderbird and using the add-on ImportExportTools  to export all of the emails as .eml files. This way I could simply drag  them all to the new accounts! Roughly 39000 emails are now backed up as  well as available in my accounts! 

Checking in!

A photo of Stanley, just for attention. There was really nothing else one could put here.

It has been a while since I have been this busy (a.k.a not being a lazy shit)

I’ve been designing and working on a desktop/mobile application which will be revealed soon. I’ve also finally decided to push forward with the second album – the sequel to Surviving on Borrowed Time. I had written and recorded last year – and now the completed (in my opinion) tracks are off to Alan at IvoryFlyer in the Isle of Wight. I think he did a great job of the last release so I have entrusted him to take on the sequel as producer this time around rather than just mixing and mastering.

It’s a heavy album. That’s all I can really think of in terms of description.

The support has been incredible from everyone around the world. There are people listening in places I never dreamed of reaching and I’ve received some really cool feedback. I’m far from being known by the prog rock community, but those who have listened, purchased or pirated and contacted me have given me plenty of inspiration to keep going with the concept.

I’m also currently writing a screenplay for a video game that is in progress. Something I haven’t done before. It’s good to experiment with every little adventure.

Take care!

Surviving on Borrowed Time / Presentiment

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzugupRemwg

CASK ANNOUNCES NEW CONCEPT ALBUM “SURVIVING ON BORROWED TIME” TO BE RELEASED JANUARY 2020
HEAR THE FIRST SINGLE “PRESENTIMENT” NOW ON YouTube

Download the single and an acoustic re-imagining from www.caskcamp.bandcamp.com

This will also be the first Cask album to exclusively release in DSD format through Native DSD Music a week before it launches anywhere else!

Be dark

I’d like to think that some of my lyrics paint a picture for those listening, reading, interpreting…

When writing a song, I often have a vision of what the song could mean to the person sitting on the train, the person I’ve given a copy of the album to, the person scrolling through various YouTube videos trying to find a new artist to listen to.

My lyrics were mostly always morbid. Maybe if I were just a little more experienced at the time, I’d have been penning words for an emo band during the big emo days.

When I was in high school, I loved doing English. I chose it as my elective subject and would often be tasked with writing short stories or poetry. Teachers would usually grimace and scold my poems for taking the theme of end times and jealous lovers murdering their spouses over misunderstandings, favouring fellow students who would write pleasant poetry about how beautiful the world is and how much they love their families. I could write that too, but I aimed to be different.

I must have been about 6 or 7 when I was called into the school counsellors office to discuss the teachers concerns over a short story, I wrote about a murderer who had taken the Chief investigators family hostage. When reprimanded on possible inspirations from watching too many inappropriate movies (which I insisted was not the case. Thrillers and horrors often bore me) I would simply quote my Nan “that boy has got a wonderful imagination”

It wasn’t about being dark, edgy and offensive for the sake of proving I was harder than others nor were it to shock and entertain. I just believed that there was enough lovey dovey out there but not enough dark evil stories with twists and turns. When it came to music, art and poetry; I insisted on being different. Why paint a beach when you can paint a graveyard? In high school I was scolded for drawing a pirate ship battle where legs and fingers had been blown off. I’m terrible at drawing and painting, so I let the smudges and splatters of red paint cover up my dodgy drawings. Rather than be commended for having my own artistic style, the very essence of art and the objectification of art was squeezed into a simple line I remember my art teacher saying word-for-word “your style is dubious and your attitude towards art is disrespectful. This is not art. This is just gore and you’re showing off”

Cool.

Music class was always the same. People would write songs about peace and love and the things they enjoyed. I’d write “emo” stuff like “Your funeral is the best one I’ve been to. Every other person I never even knew” which was intentionally a combination of edgy and humorous. I was taking the piss, which made it even more irritating when my mental health would be questioned. When I had to perform the song in front of the class, some students were disgusted and shocked which was great but those who ‘got’ my ironic lyrics who’d laugh and grin as if they were witnessing some over-the-top video game played in front of them made it even greater.

I didn’t have conservative school teachers or peers. Just ones who weren’t used to somebody taking art and making it unpleasant. My graphic design exam involved me taking Da Vinci’s Last Supper and spicing it up by including all sorts of aliens and famous criminals on the table with Jesus. Thankfully my digital arts teacher loved it and said something along the lines of “it stood out in its own way when presented next to the other submissions from other students”

Anyway, my point is really simple: don’t let your legacy be tainted and changed by those who don’t see it as appropriate or fitting their system. You’ll only regret it. If you’re into dark, morbid, evil shit then use it creatively.

TunedLoud Reviews Life is a Terminal Illness

Read the verdict here

Track after track, on “Life is a Terminal Illness”, Cask certainly proves himself to be a master composer, arranger, lyricist, performer, engineer, and virtually every other role that applies.  “Life is a Terminal Illness” is likely a recording he’ll be remembered for, a milestone in his career, the moment his many roles and skills merged into something larger and all-embracing.

I Broke the “Don’t Master Your Own Music” Rule

Speak to musicians, producers, recording engineers and especially mastering engineers – – or simply look on the internet – – and you’ll hear pretty much the same unanimous suggestion.

“Don’t master your own music” 

There are plenty of genuine reasons for this. A fresh set of ears are incredibly beneficial. You’ve written and recorded a song and you’ve either mixed it yourself or you’ve sat in on the mixing sessions. Your ears have been somewhat conditioned to the sound and maybe you don’t know it, but you are fatigued with the song. Do you ever listen to another artists song and think about how you would have brought the guitar up a little or expanded the chorus vocals?

I was adamant on Life is a Terminal Illness being my perfect solo album. I wasn’t happy with anything I’d ever released before and I needed this one to be the one I wasn’t ashamed to put my name on. In case you missed it: I’m a perfectionist.

I sent the first big track I’d recorded “See What Tomorrow Brings” to a revered mastering engineer in the U.S. and I explained that the album wasn’t going to be polished and professional as it’s a raw expression of what I recorded in my own studio. Some parts of the record were analog and some digital. I explained how I was opposed to the loudness war and wanted to keep the dynamic range reasonable.

I received the mastered file. It was a little too compressed, so I requested alterations. After a few days of toing and froing I accepted that I wasn’t going to be pleased with the result. I waited a few days and listened again. It was alright, but I still preferred the unmastered version.

I went to another, lesser known, mastering studio and received a better result, although it still didn’t please my ears.

I sat on everything for a few weeks and decided to create a reference master. I’m certainly no expert at audio mastering, but I have been the mastering engineer on several classical releases distributed by my record label and I have mastered friends’ demos to their satisfaction. I realised that what I was looking for was what I had done myself. I’m protective of my music. I don’t sit down and record on all this equipment I’ve worked hard to purchase to then have the result crushed into a loud mess. Why pay someone to ruin your music when you can ruin it yourself?

I realised that with a few simple EQ tweaks and careful use of compression; I’d achieved the sound I wanted. I believe in severe testing. Listen in as many cars as you can, on a high-quality audiophile sound system, then listen on an average consumer hi-fi. I listened through TV speakers, terrible headphones and my mobile phone. I even fed the recordings through a tube headphone amp back to a 24/96 recording interface and used this to reference what would eventually become the final version of the album.

Would I master my own album again? Maybe. But I still firmly believe that the album should be approached by somebody who hasn’t heard it before. Mastering engineers often have an ear that will straight away say “hey that needs to be a little tighter here and sharper sounding over there”. My problem was all down to trust. I trust very few people with my music. Those I have used and had success with are Matt Colton,  Tony “ Jack The Bear” Mantz and fellow composer Alan L. Williamson but at the end of the day, for this particular project, I broke the rules.

The final version of the single edit on YouTube

My Biggest Regret in Music

There are plenty of things I regret in music. I regret not safely backing up the original stems and early project files for some of the music I’ve released. I also should have taken more notes throughout the late 2000s and early 2010s of those recording sessions and even the guitar tabs and musical notations.

But my biggest regret? The first thing I ever released.

Why would I cringe at the thought of the first major worldwide release? One that charted in Mexico on the iTunes charts? One that had backing from a serious record label and studio?

Because it wasn’t what I wanted to do. 

The music was composed, and the lyrics were written by yours truly, but the overall release was tainted by a small number of people – – friends – – who wanted me to be a success. With silly amounts of pitch correction and oversampling, I had sold out before I’d even attempted to hit the mainstream.

The album failed (thankfully) and although there are still some links out there on the internet, the distribution ceased, and it has been deleted from all publishers.

The worst part was whenever I performed the songs live, I replaced the crappy synthesised instruments with my real playing and I used my real voice. People would compliment me and say they appreciated the fact that I’m not some fantastic singer and that I was not afraid to have flaws during my performances. I certainly don’t think I have a good singing voice, but I refuse to try and disguise it as radio-friendly and as slick as some voices are (or at least portray)

I escaped my solo stage name and began Cursed Legacy. Death of a Hero was everything I had ever wanted to release, and it was 100% independent. It was all me, the way I wanted it. I refused to work with others who would sway my production into their own. Lunar Isolation has been a huge challenge and bringing in a whole new band and producer was worth it as I finally had people in my musical life I could trust with the project, so I could step back and work on my own music elsewhere.

Life is a Terminal Illness is the best thing I’ve ever done by myself and I refuse to sell out. The album doesn’t have fancy studio work or shiny production and that’s because it is real. I wrote, performed and recorded it without the influence of those trying to make me something I’m not. I am very protective of my work. The album was mastered by a well-respected engineer in America. The dynamic range was decent, and the album sounded okay, but I opted not to use the master for the final release as I wanted the album to be represented as exactly how I recorded and mixed it. I broke the number one rule for mastering: don’t master yourself, get an independent set of ears to master it.

Don’t be a musician unless you will ensure it will always be YOUR music the way YOU want it.  

 

NEW SINGLE AND ALBUM REVEAL

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVyR6Gb9-Kw

LIFE IS A TERMINAL ILLNESS
OUT AUGUST 1, 2018

PRE-ORDER ON BANDCAMP AND GET SEE WHAT TOMORROW BRINGS TODAY:
https://caskcamp.bandcamp.com/album/life-is-a-terminal-illness

PRE-SAVE ON SPOTIFY:
https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/cask/dHSE

Stream the debut album “Play it Over…”
https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/cask/buEn