Kalm Before the Storm

Even with the hot humid weather we were still able to get a lot of work done around the house this summer. You think you’ve got plenty of time to get ready for winter if you wait for the cooler Fall weather, but that’s not always a good plan. Rain can slow down some of the outdoor work, and usually something always comes up that you might not have expected.

This season has been the strangest that I can remember. Just getting ready for cold weather is enough of a challenge. Throw in all the strange events of the last 8 months, and it changes the way you go about even the simplest things like going to the hardware store. Lumber seems to be a hot commodity, and practically everything seems to be a little more costly if available at all.

There’s no travel vacation this year, it’s just stay home and work around the house. (certainly not looking for a reason to go to a big city) Since my work shed is doubling as my work from home office, I figured I better make sure it’s ready to handle any bad storms and stay warm and dry while I’m trying to get some work done. It’s not something new, but it has become a little more important than previous years when I didn’t work day and night out in the shop in some very cold temperatures. It was reasonably cold during the lock down, but we had missed the real bad weather and coldest temperatures of the beginning of the winter. Late December to early February can get well below freezing. This is the reason hooded sweatshirts are an essential part of the daily dress-code. If you drink coffee out of a thermos, you probably own a few hoodies.

All this prepping for whatever comes this fall – either from more Covid-19 related restrictions, social unrest, economic troubles, layoffs, general chaos and turmoil could be even more critical if the weather gets too extreme. These are all bad individually, but mix them all together and things might get more intense than usual. Two hurricanes heading into the Gulf at once – probably not normal, but these days apparently anything can happen!

This summer’s hard work feels more necessary than ever. It’s nothing new for many of the people who’ve had a lifetime of experience dealing with freezing rain, blizzards, windstorms, deep freezes and hot muggy summers. You just do it, because you know it’s going to start getting cold and wet again just like every year.

You learn to rely on what works best for your situation. When it comes to reliability for my computer systems I don’t even try to depend on anything other than a LINUX build. Sure I’ve got a few Windows 10 machines on hand, but I don’t use them for anything other than for reference if I suddenly need to use an application which doesn’t play nice with Wine.

I tend to favor Debian or Ubuntu based Spins or Distributions because they tend to be stable – usually, at least the LTS versions.

Overall I get more work done with LINUX machines – mostly because I’m more comfortable using them. This is just what works for me. To get ready for another possible round of lock downs I wanted to make sure I had all my older machines patched, up to date, and in reasonable working condition. Spare laptops are a necessity. If you can keep an older machine useful as a backup by installing a lite distro build that allows you to get some tasks done in an emergency than you’ve augmented you preps to include some technical aspects. Having the ability to use your cell phone as a hot-spot for Internet access if or when you’re primary communication links fail can be critical to continuity. If you’re not sure how this will affect your setup give it a dry run now when your not under the gun so to speak. You may find that your cellular connection signal is a little weak and could use a booster, or possibly you’re in an area where connecting to a local tower could get difficult if everyone else in your immediate area is also trying to connect to the Internet via the local tower. Maybe you need to have two different cellular providers in case one gets overloaded.

There’s always the satellite option for some, but often not practical if other less costly options are available. If you’re no longer in a shared office then you effectively are the office and should investigate what you need to do to be more independent or self sufficient. A lot of people are discovering that they have to depend on themselves to be productive while working at home or quarantined. People will become very creative with their new office or work setups.

As a frequent user of MX Linux XFCE Distro (because it works), I was very interested in the latest KDE edition. In fact that’s what I’m using right now. The KDE desktop and utilities along with the MX tools selection provide me with almost everything I need to be productive in one well crafted system. The Plasma desktop and KRunner (built in launcher similar to the Windows Command Line tool) can speed up a lot of tasks and simplify locating applications. For multitasking this works well for most of the activities I jump back and forth from. It’s much easier for me to be productive if moving between applications and tools is simplified. This version of MX with KDE feels very responsive and looks great. Usually a system tends to lean more one way than another, but this does both equally well. The whole system seems very solid, and that’s what I depend on to get through most projects. I’m not wasting time fixing the system or contacting some tech support. I’m usually on my own, so I need to have a dependable system that allows me to concentrate on my work.

I have a little more comfort in the security of my computers while running Linux than I do when using a Windows OS. Since malware and other computer related attacks seem to have only ratcheted up during what must seem like an opportunistic situation for security weaknesses with many people working from home, Linux seems well suited for sidestepping many of the popular headaches. No system is perfect for all situations, but now would be a good time to see what OS security design works best for you. If you are running Windows 10 make sure you keep up with any security patches and have a robust Internet security or antivirus solution to protect your system from any unwanted compromises.

It’s also not a bad idea to have a spare power supply handy that actually works with your computer. They do fail occasionally, but if you can’t repair what you have or find another one – you could be in a jam until you do. I know my phone is capable to act as a basic flashlight, but when I’m out in my shop or out on the road I keep a regular flashlight handy. It will not only get cold soon, but it will get dark, and be dark most of the time. No need to run down my phone battery unnecessarily.

If you do find yourself stuck at home during much of the winter, and you don’t have Netflix, or cable working where you are – for whatever reason, you might find that having a few DVDs of some of your favorite movies or shows could provide a little relief from the stress and cabin fever that tend to creep in after many days of being cooped up drinking too much coffee and working 24/7. A couple good books, access to a terrestrial radio, or over the air TV (if you have an antenna and can receive a signal) can also be a nice alternative to being plugged into the Internet all day. I’m not opposed to social media, but I’m sure there’s such a thing as too much.

As we get closer to the US election there will be more propaganda, fake news, opinionated noise mixed in with a heavy dosage of sensationalism. The yearly flu will make it’s rounds. It will be more scrutinized and referenced on trend charts with menacing graphics to the point where most people would probably be better off just shutting their televisions and news feeds off. In any case, at least think about what you might want to do to have a nice relaxing – yet productive and safe Autumn.

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