This is pretty much the norm for most freemium apps and services now. Most users simply do not understand these practices. The ones who do and highlight it are fighting a losing battle.
Speaking of anti-malware, there really aren’t many ethical options. Open source solutions like Clamwin are utter shite. Windows 10 users should stick to Windows Defender. Microsoft already collects your data in return for free Windows 10 updates, so you might as well make the most of it. Data collection aside, Windows Defender is pretty darn good, despite what many security experts on the web will tell you. They make money from affiliate links to paid security products, hence the complaints about Defender – a completely free product (not knocking others’ way of earning money, but this is something users should be aware of).
macOS and Linux distributions don’t really need anti-malware, as long as you install the system updates and stay away from shady torrent and warez downloads.
Besides anti-malware, a very important component of online security are ad blockers. They block a ton of domains that serve malware and adware. uBlock Origin is my favorite ad blocker for all major desktop browsers. iOS has good “content blocker” apps. Google doesn’t allow ad blocking apps in Android’s Play Store, but browsers like Brave and Firefox do provide ad blocking features.
I have never been much of a book reader (not something to be proud of), however I used to read a lot of online articles during the Google Reader days. Its shutdown affected my reading habit drastically as I just couldn’t get used to the alternatives like Feedly, Flipboard, QuiteRSS, Google News, and what have you.
A few months back, I came across this self-hosting RSS app called FreshRSS. I have been using it since, and happy to say that I love it. It runs fine on my shared hosting plan, has a simple UI, fetches RSS feeds reliably, has a dark mode, and has no nasty ads or upsells. It’s not perfect, and there are a few things I wish it did differently, but in today’s age of increasingly bloated and complicated software, there’s nothing really to complain about. If you have a domain and hosting plan lying around, I’d recommend you to give it a go. You can also check out some good alternatives like Tiny Tiny RSS and Leed RSS.
This was in the news last year when many users reported that disabling app usage access for Google’s “Digital Wellbeing” feature noticeably improved their phone’s performance.
While I don’t have Digital Wellbeing on my phone (low end Lenovo P2 running LineageOS 16 and pico GApps), I did find a few other apps using this permission. And would you know, blocking them (particularly Google Play Services and Google Play Store) made my phone noticeably faster indeed.
On my phone, with near-stock Android 9 UI, this option is available at Settings > Apps & notifications >Advanced > Special app access > Usage access. Depending on your phone’s Android version and customization, you may find it elsewhere.
Note that usage access is necessary for some apps to function properly, so be prepared for a little trial and error.
If you use two-factor authentication on any of your accounts, as you should, do check out Authy. It can generate 6/7 digit codes for your accounts, just like Google and Microsoft Authenticator, but it goes one step further by encrypting your account details with a passphrase and syncing them across multiple devices.
2FA was a major pain when I used Google Authenticator, as I would frequently test new ROMs on my phone and end up having to my re-add 2FA accounts over and over again. Authy solves that problem entirely.
It’s not a good idea to use software that’s reached end of life, but it also doesn’t help to sensationalize the “death” of Windows 7 like it’s the end of the world. Here are some sensible articles on how you can continue to use Windows 7 for the time being without being too worried:
Note that Windows 10 has roughly the same hardware requirements as Windows 7, and it runs a bit faster in my experience. I have been using Windows 10 on my $200 Asus EeeBook for over four years without many issues (Intel Atom processor, 2GB RAM). There are also a bunch of fantastic Linux distributions to explore – give lightweight options like Lubuntu, Xubuntu, Manjaro XFCE, Ubuntu MATE, or KDE Neon a chance.
If you do choose to stick with Windows 7, however, your computer and applications will keep running just fine for the foreseeable future.