Week #2 of working remotely

So here we are at the tail end of two weeks of working remotely. I had to make a dash into the office late Wednesday as our building would be closed until further notice due to the stay at home order. I figured it was better for me to have the machine here than it collecting dust in an empty building.

Oddly, there were far more people on the road than I expected. Maybe they were out and about doing the same thing, grabbing machines and necessities from their place of work, which could be confused with looting. Rest assured, I totally had permission to get my own machine from work.

Other than the laughable toilet paper situation, I find things to be going quite well. We are communicating regularly through Slack and use Zoom to have team meetings. This was already the norm since we've had people working remotely for various reasons for a couple of years.

I have to say, the morale is still very high, people are still getting work done, it hasn't all turned to doom and gloom, or a why bother attitude. That is good to see.

From my perspective, I am testing the same way I have always done. I have the same tools at home as I did at work. And now I have the same machine again. Problem is, I don't actually have room for it. I would have to turn something off to put it in place. Not sure that's possible.

I have noticed a lot of software companies dropping prices, extending trials, and making accommodations for people to work remotely. Unlike Wells Fargo, or people selling sheets of toilet paper on eBay, not everyone is out to screw over the public in this time of need.

Who knows how long the current situation will last, but we are operating under the guise of this as the normal for at least 6 months. Even when we do decide to head back, that office will need to be scrubbed. There was already dust piling up because we obviously didn't want the cleaning crew in there either.

Hopefully everyone is coping with the new normal. I haven't noticed much of a difference. I still work with the same team members, and still talk through Slack. I would even Slack people who sat next to me because I didn't want to totally interrupt their flow.

I have noticed one thing. Some people are working more now than before, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but you still need to keep boundaries. Just because our machines are on longer than they used to be, and we are in fact home, doesn't mean we need to work 10, 12, or 16 hour days. The schedule remains the same. Starting at 8:30am vs. 9am because you don't have traffic is fine. But, being "logged in" at 10pm is no good. Now more than ever, people need to take a break and separate work life and home life.

Block off time to spend with your kids. The sun is out, the birds are singing, the trees are blooming, take a break and go outside for a few minutes. Get yourself some exercise, and no, pacing doesn't count. Have a virtual lunch through Slack. Stay safe, but don't allow yourself to get cabin fever.

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Wells Fargo is run by F-ING IDIOTS

Please allow me to go on a rant for a moment. Not only am I customer of Wells Fargo, but not for much longer, but I know several people who work for the banks, Wells Fargo included.

Despite an order for non-essential professionals to stay home, Wells Fargo has stated all their employees are essentials and requires them to come into work as scheduled.

This is utterly ridiculous and they should be ashamed of themselves for treating employees like this and putting them in danger. This is totally unacceptable.

I haven't been in my office since March 13th and we were told last night to get anything we needed out of the office and steer clear of the building. There was no reason for us to enter before and now we can't.

We are a company that makes $40-50 million per year in revenue, and we have figured out a way to work from home and isolate ourselves from danger. You would think a company that clears $2 billion a year might have enough intellectual capacity to pull off the same feat.

Wells Fargo Demands Call Center Workers Come to Office Despite Coronavirus

And to further show just how rotten Wells Fargo has become as a company, this mental defective used to be CEO

'Some may even die, I don't know': Former Wells Fargo CEO wants people to go back to work and 'see what happens'

This is about as stupid as it gets. I'm ashamed to even be loosely associated with this company.

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Neil Parfitt – Someone who is actually using a Mac Pro correctly

There has been a lot of talk about the Mac Pro since it came out. Most of it drivel. There's been admonishment that it's too expensive, it's too powerful, no one has a need for a machine like that. Meanwhile, people like Linus and Jay, build $20k computers, who's sole purpose is to play games, with (multiple) $3000+ video cards and declare what they've done is awesome.

Despite this, the Mac Pro is an amazing machine, and several companies have already rushed to make Windows based systems that compete. Linus is practically screaming with joy as he snaps 2TB of ram into a machine so he can open tabs in Google Chrome. A stupid experiment, but the hardware shows other companies are taking the technology of the Mac Pro very seriously.

Ironically, it was Linus that pointed me to Neil Parfitt, who actually uses a Mac Pro for work. Real work. Not just someone on YouTube who happened to get one so they could unbox it on camera and swoon over the black keyboard.

Neil is an audio professional, who works on Hollywood movies and television (not YouTube videos), and the Mac Pro isn't the most expensive piece of gear in his audio setup.

It starts with the unboxing of the rack mount edition, and why he chose that config. He then goes into the multiple pieces of hardware that need to fit inside the Mac Pro. His goal is to replace two Mac Pro 2013s with 12 cores and 128GB ram, with a Mac Pro of 28 cores and 384GB ram.

This isn't about playing games. It has nothing to do with frame rate. There are no Cinebench scores.

What he documents is a fascinating journey of putting the machine together, installing a massive amount of hardware, getting the Mac Pro into the rack cabinet, and hooking it into the system with all the other audio hardware. He comments on both the good and bad things of the process.

Neil uses a Mac for sure, but he's not being a fan boy. He points out several places where Apple's setup for audio professionals is not set up for audio professionals. There are obstacles to be overcome and this machine needs to be set up and working for his real business and putting together a score for a real television show, not some 10 minute video on YouTube.

Honestly, this is some of the best tech documentary I have seen in a long time. He's not running around with a Red camera, or using a robotic arm, or waxing poetic about how shiny something is. Although he does make a few comments about the case clicking into place. I can't fault him though, it does sound cool.

When you see the rest of his studio gear, you will quickly realize, this Mac isn't about vanity, but performance. And it's merely one tool, in a very expensive collection of tools, that make up his workflow.

If you want to see a Mac Pro used correctly, by someone who knows what they're doing, and see a high powered machine used for something other than games and frame rate, check out what Neil Parfitt has going on.

I can't wait to see the full workflow in action.

Neil Parfitt – Unbox and commenting on the Mac Pro rack mount edition

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The introverts guide to surviving the quarantine

So, you find yourself stuck inside with very few options of going out that don't result in torches and pitchforks. All your plans for frolicking outside during the warmer spring days have been thwarted. Sporting events have been cancelled and the latest shows are shutting down. What is there to do?

In a word? Plenty.

There is an abundance of enjoyable ways to spend your time whether you're in the house with your kids, or spending this time in true isolation.

When it comes to things to do, first and foremost, don't forget to exercise. Working from home is a challenge under the best of circumstances. You still need to get up and move around. The small amount of exercise from walking to the office, going up the stairs, trips to the break room, were all beneficial.

Fear not, you can easily meditate and do yoga without leaving the house. You can lift weights without going to the gym. And I ride my bike in a trainer without leaving the house.

If you don't have weights you can easily order some kettle bells, resistance bands, or a medicine ball. It doesn't have to be extravagant to be effective. You can even order an assault bike or rowing machine right to your door. I know because I've done it. Ok, that is somewhat extravagant.

[Books:]

There is absolutely no shortage of books available. You can jump over to Project Gutenberg and Librivox for hundreds of public domain titles full of adventure, mystery, ghosts, and dangerous criminals. I highly recommend Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson, H. Rider Haggard, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, Jane Austen, The Bronte Sisters, and Jerome K. Jerome, just to name a few.

For more modern titles, Amazon and Audible jump to the top of the list. There are tens of thousands of modern titles as well as titles from independent authors. Kindle Unlimited is a great choice for sampling dozens of authors.

There is also plenty to choose from in the fan fiction arena. You may have to do a little searching, but it's absolutely out there.

[Movies:]

Clearly it's Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. Then there's YouTube, Apple TV, Disney+, etc, etc, etc. Lots of rubbish on YouTube these days, but once you get a line on something, you should be good for awhile.

[Music:]

Music is by far the easiest to come by. There is streaming on Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio and Apple. It's all online these days. I'm not even sure you can buy a CD anymore, can you?

[Games:]

Don't forget to take a break and enjoy some entertainment. There are thousands of games available. And unlike years gone by when you needed to go to a store and buy a CD to play something, all you need to do is download them.

Steam and GOG have an enormous catalog. There are the classic city builders, dungeon crawlers, first person shooters and casual games. Not mention all sorts of interesting combinations of the above.

It started with tablets and that is still a choice. Mobile gaming is huge and may be easier on the budget. The Apple Store and Google Play have games galore that you can easily pick up and put down when you need a break.

You may not be able to watch or play any sports at the moment, but there is plenty happening online. I'm sure there are hundreds of thousands of Rocket League games being played today. Not mention online racing, online adventuring, online FPS.

If you are feeling bold, there are tools to make your own games. You can go for full on toolkits like RPGMaker and Lua. Or you can pick up text based alternatives in the Choose Your Own Adventure style with Inky and Inform.

This might be the perfect opportunity to bust out with a virtual online D&D session!

[Forums:]

Now is a great time to get involved with a project and find others of like mind and interest. There is no shortage of community driven forums to discuss topics whether it be art, science, games, coding, crafts, machine learning, book reviews, and dozens of other topics that don't even come to mind at the moment.

[Chat:]

Just because we are isolated doesn't mean we can't talk to each other. There are plenty of meeting places like Discord, Twitch, YouTube streaming, TeamSpeak and others.

[Tripping the Wikipedia:]

Get from one end of Wikipedia to the other by following links. Pick a topic, something broad, then start digging in. Follow the links for products, people, acquisitions, and other related items and see where it takes you. It's quite entertaining to look up some of the foundations of the computer industry. There are lots of interesting twists and turns.

As an example, work your way through AppleSoft, Xenix, John Romero, Douglas Adams, Photoshop, VisiCalc, Ultima, Diablo and Rocket League.

Point is, there are still plenty of avenues to explore for entertainment and communication. There are projects galore out there. There is help to create music, art, code, writing, podcasts, and hundreds of other things. All you have to do is look and ask. Don't get hung up on the idea of being isolated or working from home. Still plenty to do from the comfort of your own home.

There is one thing to keep in mind though. You don't need to wonder if you're alone in this. We're all alone in this together. We're all isolated together.

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Let the quarantine begin!

Like a slew of other people, I am now working from home and most likely will be for a few months. It's really not that big of a disruption, since I have almost the same set up at home as I do at work. If anything, I have more machines at home.

Since we do deployments at off hours, sometimes on the weekend, I've been in the habit of synching my work machine so I can pick up where I left off when I get home. This has included putting files on Dropbox, iCloud and GitHub. For example, all my DevonThink notes get pushed to Dropbox once a week so I have the same info in both places. Other items like test plans, templates, and testing data are dropped into iCloud since those will be used on the Mac at home. Github of course keeps all the automation code. If you haven't already done so, get synching set up.

When I switched over to using Mac machines, I took the time to get to set up my home Mac the same way I have my work one. It is also a 12 core machine with 128GB of ram, so there shouldn't be a difference in how they perform and accomplish tasks. And if that's not enough, I have a couple of booster iMacs if needed. Those have actually come in handy for screen sharing and attending meetings. They are a little more stripped down, so they are distraction free and better for that sort of thing.

No surprise they have the same software. Obviously, my home machine has more installed, but it has all the same apps, test tools, code tools and VPN connections. About the only thing I've had to do is update a few apps since I'm not always running Postman and it falls behind a little.

Point is, if you haven't done so already, get everything in place so you can work remotely for an extended period. I'm quite sure that will be the new norm shortly.

So far very little has changed. It's not as convenient to peer over my monitor to talk with the devs, but they are just as responsive through Slack.

The biggest change has been gaining almost two hours to my work day since I'm not stuck in traffic. I am making use of the time by going over training videos on Udemy and YouTube. I'm back in a refresher course on Groovy for automation. I've learned a lot in the last two years, and realize I could learn to do things the right way. So what better time than now to get myself pointed in the right direction before taking on a new project.

This also gives me the fantastic opportunity to ride my bike with consistency. Not outside, oh nay nay. At the end of the day, I simply walk across the room and get started. I can ride the bike and be done before I would normally be home. That is pretty awesome even if the circumstances surrounding it are less than ideal.

That brings up another point. There is A LOT of doom and gloom going on out there. People are panicking, raiding the store shelves for toilet paper, and acting like this is part of the end times.

But, let's keep our heads. This too shall pass. It's easy to steer clear of this mess. Sure, it's a dash inconvenient, but it provides plenty of other opportunities. No excuses for not exercising at home. Plenty of time to study new ideas and technology. Plenty of time to work on hobbies or start one. There is no shortage of new books to read or listen to. No time like the present to write that code you've been putting off. It's even a great time to look for a new game, or break out a board game. It's certainly a good time to set up your home office.

And if you find yourself a bit lacking in the hardware department, fear not. Jump over to Woot to pick up both Mac and Windows based systems. They had some solid deals running, and for the time being, they will still be delivered without issue. That might not be the case much longer, so get yourself set up for the long haul.

Things are a bit goofy to be sure, but nothing last forever. There is still plenty to do, and some new and interesting ways of doing it. We now have more daylight hours, and a few extra hours by not sitting in traffic. I'm sure something useful can come from that.

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