Aug 132020
 

Working from home (henceforth “WfH”) has cropped up in my Twitter feed lately and this is my “response” to some of the issues raised.

Now don’t get me wrong – there are all sorts of issues related to WfH – some people can’t, some people don’t like it, companies are getting offices for “free”, some companies not realising that they need to provide equipment, and that health and safety requirements apply to the home worker too.

And probably a whole lot more.

But some of the complaints seem to be coming from people who have never even looked at WfH advice, or who have ignored that advice.

If your work life and your home life seem to be merging, do something about it. Clearly distinguish between work time and home time with a “going to work ritual” and a “coming home ritual”. It doesn’t matter what they are as long as they clearly mark the start and end of the working day.

For example, I always take a morning walk to start the working day, and make a ceremonial cup of coffee at the end (I don’t usually drink coffee whilst working or I end up fizzing).

Find yourself slogging away at the computer non-stop? Well don’t do that then. You’re supposed to take a break away from the computer regularly anyway, so do so. Get up and wander around a bit – make a coffee, look out the front window to see if it’s raining, check the postbox, do some stretching, etc.

Stuck in non-stop meetings? Call a comfort break every hour then – even if you don’t need a pee. Do you really care if your co-workers think you have a weak bladder? Especially when they’re more likely to think you’re a hero for giving them an excuse for a comfort break.

Missing out on the social life of the office? Set up social meetings then – perhaps for lunchtimes when you can eat your meals “together”.

Lastly, ergonomics. That laptop you took back home with you in the spring isn’t the right equipment for a long-term workstation. Get yourself a decent desk, chair, monitor, external keyboard and mouse. That sounds expensive, and yes your employer should (at the very least) be helping out, but it needn’t be that expensive.

Into The Water; Stillness and Motion
Aug 062020
 

You do realise that most of you come across like particularly annoying toddlers throwing a tantrum because they let go of the balloon and it went away?

The scientific evidence for the efficacy of wearing masks is conclusive – simple cloth masks help stop the spread of droplets released when coughing (a common Covid-19 symptom), sneezing (Covid-19 hasn’t stopped hay-fever), or even breathing.

No, they’re not as effective as N95 masks, neither are they capable of stopping a virus running around on its own. But they don’t commonly do that. Viruses are commonly clumped into ‘water’ droplets and even the most basic cloth mask will stop most of those getting through – and it doesn’t have to be 100% effective (or ‘certified’) to be a good defense against the virus.

Masks are probably most effective at stopping the already infected from releasing huge clouds of Covid-19 infested water droplets wherever they go.

And even if you don’t believe in the masks, going to a place (a shop, public transport, etc.) where masks are required and refusing to wear a mask is the sign of a self-important little idiot. Either wear the mask or don’t use the relevant services.

Toward The Sea
Jul 112020
 

So I am currently messing around with a tiling window manager on my laptop – I prefer tiling window managers in general (I use Awesome on my main desktops). These are (in general) not “desktop environments” but just manage windows (and sometimes a “status bar”).

As it happens the window manager I’m messing with doesn’t come as part of a distribution package with a pre-prepared file for GDM3 to use. So I created a ~/.xsession file – something that has worked since display managers first arrived.

Didn’t work.

Turns out that I need to “hack” GDM3 to make a long standard bit of functionality functional again. As an aside (and especially to the GNOME people), all you had to do to keep this functional was detect if someone had a ~/.xsession file and then offer that up as a menu option. Not that difficult to do and even if it isn’t your preferred way of doing things, it’s a nice thing to do for us old-timers.

Anyway, to restore this functionality all it took was to create a file in //usr/share/xsessions/ called xsession.desktop with the following contents :-

[Desktop Entry]
Name=XSession
Comment=This session uses the custom xsession file
Exec=/etc/X11/Xsession
Type=Application
DesktopNames=GNOME-Flashback;GNOME;
X-Ubuntu-Gettext-Domain=gnome-flashback

Dead simple.

And yes I stole this and adapted it myself – I’m putting this up here so that I know where to look when I need it again.

Jul 112020
 

So the pubs have re-opened and our media is full of images of rowdy crowds busy drinking and blithely ignoring social distancing recommendations. And “more sensible” people are reacting by claiming that it was too soon to re-open pubs.

Well, … perhaps.

It was always inevitable that re-opening the pubs was going to be met with a bit of a major drinking session, but was it really as bad as it was portrayed? Whilst I do not have figures (and this anecdote only applies to one of many locations), I got the impression that Saturday night was much quieter than you might expect.

I live on a busy road that whilst does not have many drinking establishments (four plus four licensed restaurants), is often used by city centre drinkers on their way home. Saturday nights are usually quite lively, and special occasion Saturday nights can be quite rowdy. And this Saturday night didn’t seem as busy as an ordinary Saturday night.

What we do not see are the pictures of less controversial pub gatherings where social distancing is observed. Whilst the daft went out in droves on Saturday night, many people did not go out.

There are many different kinds of pubs – to give just two examples, there are the city centre “party pubs” and there are the quiet country pubs with a beer garden. And yes a pub can be more than one kind at different times.

Crowding into a busy city centre pub with lots of people on their way to getting quite sloshed is a relatively high risk activity; having a quiet drink with one or two others in a beer garden is a relatively low risk activity.

It is quite possible – indeed likely – that the daft people who went out on Saturday night are already participating in relatively high risk activities. So opening the pubs may only be increasing the risk of more infections only slightly.

And given the other side of opening pubs – business survival, jobs for those who work in pubs, and the ability of us all to pop into a quiet pub at the end of a long walk (or similar), why not?

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