Work & Productivity

My Frugal Work From Home Setup

This week finally answered a question I’ve asked myself for years. Could I work from home with my existing Linux hardware and contribute with a team of Mac and Windows users? Well, the answer was yes.

My desk at home with a LInux kernel poster above
A Linux kernel poster above my desk. You can’t tell from this photo but the artwork is a portion of the kernel printed as art.

My Desk

Clockwise left to right my desk is ready for calm productivity

  • Three stacked trays hold an assortment of paper and pocket notebooks. No apps! I take notes the old fashioned way.
  • An ASUS 27″ 1080p monitor, large enough that I can set back several feet and comfortably type or read.
  • An HD Webcam from ThinkPenguin for Zoom calls
  • Assorted items: Phone (mostly ignored spam calls), a router, Tweek FunCo Pop! and a Cylon Raider, the Tardis, a custom mug for my pencils and a Frixion pen.
  • $20 Creative speakers
  • Rocketbook Fusion reusable notebook.
Ubuntu 19.10
My nine year old Sandy Bridge i5-2500K has no problems with the latest software.

Software & Hardware

Although I’m using Lubuntu 19.10 for my Work desktop I also have stock Ubuntu for my Personal desktop.

Lubuntu Desktop
Lubuntu Desktop

Work / Life Balance

A frequent suggestion I kept seeing while researching working from home was to create “hard lines” between work & personal time. Bloggers love to talk about how they set up a home office they never enter after work hours. Well, that just isn’t practical. My wife is also working from home during this crisis, space is limited.

To that end not all hard lines have to be physical, So I installed Lubuntu 19.10 on a spare 14 year old 5600 rpm hard drive just collecting dust in my desktop… and yes, I back it up daily.

Using an Ubuntu variant I still benefit from the same workflow just in a different look and feel. If I want to access work or personal documents I have to reboot into a completely installation along with a different look and feel. This creates just enough of an inconvenience to keep me focused on one while avoiding the other.

Current Status
  • Listening to: Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
Work & Productivityaside

Working From Home

Today was my (almost) first full day at home and working remotely. I did head to the office for about two hours for a quick meeting.

A few notes on my day

  • Lubuntu is a fantastic get work done Linux distribution
  • Forgot to check WordPress site health before coding. Had I done that I would have saved two hours of debugging good code.
    • A PHP module that resizes images automatically wasn’t installed which meant my custom post type that generated a cropped image didn’t work.

Zarah and I are both working from home

She’s got the bottom floor and I got the top floor of the house. It’s almost as though we’re coworkers again. Something we haven’t been since college.

The breakroom sink (kitchen) has dishes so I need to get better about cleaning up after myself before I get reported to HR.

Remote happy hour

Jeff, Zarah and I are about to log onto facetime for a quick happy hour beer.

Current Status
  • Listening to: "I Confess" by "The English Beat" on "Special Beat Service (Remastered)"
Work & Productivity

Working From Home with Linux During COVID-19

The COVID-19 situation here in the United States has resulted in several non-remote employees suddenly finding themselves working from home. Naturally there’s a ton of posts about this around the web but I realized that there’s almost nothing for a desktop Linux user like myself.

In 2020 just about everything is web based; Workflows are synonymous. Much of this post is about creating hard lines between personal time and work time using the Linux hardware I already have, nothing more.

Use a separate user account for work

It’s imperative to create hard lines between work, and our other files. To accomplish this on a single desktop I decided to install the latest version of Lubuntu. Its a lightweight desktop offering a calm traditional workflow that doesn’t get in the way.

Much boring… no distractions.

To begin I restored my primary system’s Peppermint 10 files from yesterday’s Déjà Dup backup. This allowed me to gain access to my files, browser history, and accounts saving a hours of setup. Additionally I set my system to backup daily to a separate drive folder onward. This will insure I keep work separate from life.

Next, I removed all my personal files… Videos, photos, games, and anything else that could become a distraction. However, I did retain my music library because I’m at home and that means loud music.

Lastly, I installed all the software a WordPress developer should need. GIMP, Inkscape, fonts, git, LAMP and a few separate WordPress installations for testing new code.

Just one of my WordPress installations and git repository cloned… Ready for edits.

There’s web based access via Firefox to my employer’s Microsoft suite and various cloud services.

Miscellaneous Workflows

  • A web based Pomodoro timer to remind me to get up and take a short break every 25 minutes
  • My trusty Bullet Journal to rapid log to do items, thoughts, ideas and the day’s progress.
  • A beverage, usually black coffee or water.

That’s it, nothing complicated or over thought. If you take anything from this post just create a separate user account on your favorite Linux distribution and only include your work files within it. Keep everything else a reboot away. Fewer distractions will keep you focused on the task at hand.

Peppermint 10 desktop

When the clock strikes 5 p.m. I log back into Peppermint with my work files put safely away until tomorrow.

Current Status
  • Listening to: "Hand's Off…She's Mine" by "The English Beat" on "I Just Can't Stop It"