Making the Most of Life Under Lockdown

Well it’s been just over two weeks for me now living in a lockdown state of mind. It might not officially have been that long, but for me it became apparent when I listened to one of the first press conferences and the imperative that in London in particular all non-essential travel had to stop, and where possible we should begin working from home.

So having spent Monday 16th March in the office, from the next day I was working from home. It had in fact already been decided that my team would start “WFH” from that Wednesday anyway, but with my laptop to hand, I started a day early.

The first week was fairly frustrating for me, but not for the obvious reasons. A couple of weeks earlier, I’d been in Scotland, and while there, I’d fallen and sprained my wrist as I tried to break my fall. I’d been wearing various supports on and off for the previous week or two. But I’d carried on going for walks whilst in Scotland, and had followed that up with a work trip to New York where I’d also done a fair bit of walking.

It was pretty uncomfortable just typing until my wrist healed.

So key for me was to get my home office (actually, one end of my living room) sorted out a bit better. To help my wrist, I ordered a keyboard and mousepad gel wrist support set, and that seemed to do the trick. I also decided to treat myself to a new keyboard.

My home computer set-up means that I have a 15″ laptop plugged into a 24″ monitor. I use them in a dual-screen set-up, and then have a second 24″ monitor that ordinarily I’d use for things like plugging in a Raspberry Pi or my work laptop.

My current main keyboard was a smallish Logitech wireless model. I liked the keys, but it wasn’t full size, and a decently spaced keyboard is much better for you. So I bought a Microsoft Surface Keyboard which feels absolutely lovely. It’s Bluetooth and is just a joy to type on – at least now my wrist is much better! (I confess that I hand’t quite clocked that the Microsoft Modern Keyboard is basically the same keyboard but with a fingerprint reader for Windows Hello. I’d have liked that functionality, although it may not have been worth another £35.)

The other thing I’d been meaning to do was raise my laptop up a bit, so that the screen was at the same height as my larger “main” monitor. I bought a stand from Amazon, and it’s great since it can be raised and lowered to your preferred height.

I’m lucky that I’m not the kind of person who is ever short of things to do. There are always things that need doing around my flat, or boring things that I’ve been putting off for months or even years.

Over the first couple of weeks, these are a few of the things I’ve been trying to sort out:

Tidying up my cables.

We’ve all got a stash of USB cables and power cables somewhere or other. Sorting them out and storing them sensibly. I use a loads of IKEA Samla boxes to organise things. I use this technique for folding cables:

And we all get a kick out of folding cables…

Ripping CDs

I know I probably seem like I’m out of the stoneage, but I still quite like the idea of actually owning my own music rather than just renting it. And while much of my CD collection has been ripped, there are those lesser used CDs always kicking around somewhere. In my case, some spoken word audio, and a whole bunch of CD singles, often promo copies, accumulated from my time at Virgin Radio.

Getting Through the Magazine Stack

I always seem to have a massive stack of magazines that need reading. I still like the printed work, despite having a number of digital subscriptions. Undoubtedly the lockdown is going to cause me issues because aside from WH Smiths, I have no local shops that have any kind of range of magazines available. If you want something beyond either the Radio Times or Take A Break, you’ll be struggling. I suspect that the supermarket is going to be my best bet.

Anyway, in the meantime, I had copies of everything from Cycling Plus and Rouleur through to New Scientist and Amateur Photographer to get through. And I can proudly say that I’ve been through the lot of them! The recycling bin will be thanking me doubtlessly!

Now, it is true that I still have a significant number of issues of The New Yorker, with their famous 15,000 word articles, still to be read. But one step at a time!

Do I begin to shift more to digital subscriptions in the future? Perhaps. I do have one for The Economist and The New Yorker is still on the cards (although it can be frustrating to subscribe from the UK). But then I’d miss the printed Malika Favre covers.

Backing Everything Up

I’ve written about my backing up strategy at length in the past, including a major issue I had when I set things up wrongly not too long ago!

Because of my cloud back-up issues, and the overall cost of it, I’d reverted to largely relying on my NAS drive. That’s a Synology device that holds two 8TB Western Digital hard drives that had been “shucked” from two external drives bought when they were on offer.

But that’s not really enough. So my plan was to back up the NAS drive onto another 8TB external drive (another WD 8TB My Book). To do this, I’d use the Synology app Hyper Backup. It’s a one-way backup, and I can leave it doing it’s job in the background without a PC.

However, I’d ideally like to get a cloud backup too, and that’s where Backblaze comes in. For $6 a month, you can backup your PC and any connected drives to the cloud.

There’s a big but though. They don’t let you backup NAS drives – or indeed any kind of networked storage. So although I have my NAS drive mapped to a letter on my machine, it’s not backed up by Backblaze.

My workaround is that once I have my external drive fully backed up, I will leave that plugged into my PC where it will be a local drive, and can be backed up. I will simply need to switch it between NAS and PC every subsequent time I want to do a further backup.

Initially, both Hyper Backup and Backblaze will take ages – probably weeks in Backblaze’s case, to get fully up to speed. But you know what? I have time.

That’s everything so far, but I have lots more to do in the future. Off the top of my head:

  • Process those photos you’ve been meaning to process. I’ve still got pictures from last year to finish off.
  • Digitise all my Mini DV tapes – I have a lot! (And where they get backed up is another question entirely)
  • De-case my remaining DVDs and Blu Rays. I have a lot and many are already filed, but many more need filing. This is mostly a cost thing, since the storage cases I used aren’t especially cheap.
  • Clear out the loft. I can’t even begin…
  • Thin out my clothes. I still have too many. Marie Kondo indeed.
  • Books. Er… read them?

And that’s all before you get to the boring stuff like painting my living room, fixing up my bathroom or kitchen, and so much more…

And I’ve not even mentioned any crafting/maker projects of which I always have many on the go.

There’s no-one else here to get in the way, which is probably both a good thing and a bad thing. And I don’t have direct dependents. So I’m fortunate in some respects.

Watch the news, but not too much of it.

Listen to lots of podcasts.

Don’t read idiots on Twitter – always sort your timeline to show you reverse chronological order

I’m watching lighter fare at the moment rather than darker stuff. But that may change. Right now, of course I’ve watched Tiger King on Netflix, and I’m loving season 3 of Westworld. But I’ve finally gotten around to going back to season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel which is perfect watching right now. And I’ve still got season 3 of that awaiting me.

And getting outside once a day is important. I’m going out in a minute. I’ve not been riding my bike out yet, aside from to get to the supermarket. But I have set up my indoor trainer and will get to grips with Zwift if it kills me!

Say safe everyone.