Working From Home - a Survivors' Guide

Let’s start to write one, collectively. I’ve started this on because information survives here. I think we should gather information because, although it’s prompted by the Covid-19 crisis, new people are always starting to work either at home or with geographically distributed teams, so can we please keep this topic to the process, techniques and tech of working with people who aren’t in the same place?

Afterthought: I’ll follow Jess’s example by collating answers and uploading them to a git repo, if I can remember how to do it.

Done: Everything below was copied to:

at 2020-03-18::20:45

Please make further changes via git.

The best system I’ve ever used was Apple iChat with video over the Google transport, when the Big G said they were committed to open standards and communication with Facebook. Unfortunately, they changed their minds and we got tribal solutions.

Last night I used Google Due for a 1:1 chat and it was better quality than our usual video chats on WhatsApp. We were using Android phones at both ends but I think it works on iPhones too and asks for a lot of permissions I don’t think it should need.

Video works best with headphones so you don’t get a feedback loop from speakers to mic, or noise-cancelling but that always seems to be proprietary.

I once had a very good relationship with a colleague using only the internal telephone system and access to a shared file system. We didn’t meet until after I’d left. He was older than I’d assumed and I was younger than he had. I think that was because we got on well, so a layer of age discrimination evaporated.

If you can, have a dedicated area for work. Try and keep that area for work, and only for work (or work-like things). Doesn’t have to be a dedicated setup. It might be a simple as a slight reconfiguration for work - eg sit up at the table for work, slump on the sofa in the evening.

Related to that, it helps if you have some kind of “commute” or going to work ritual. A friend of mine used to go out of his front door, walk round the side, and come in the back door. Another friend has an office at home with a little chicane of floor-to-ceiling bookcases - it provided a little physical and psychological buffer.

Watch your posture. Try and make sure your comfortable. Do get up and walk around for a few minutes every now and again. Have a look out the window.

All that said - real key to working at home is making sure your feet are nice and warm.

I’ve been known to work with a sleeping bag up to my waist for warmth. This Winter, I’ve been collecting large plastic milk containers on my window sill. Once 1 row was completed it got warmer. I think the heat from the radiator was going straight out through the window.

Microsoft Team has gone down today, apparently due to the sudden massive increase in home-working.

Dropbox Business has been advertising at me.

Google Drive is an obvious alternative.

Amazonians, what have you got?

What happened to those shared editors that let multiple people work on the same document at once? Handy for collective creation while talking ‘on the phone’. I think Google dived into this ‘space’ with their office products.

DocuWiki looks simpler than MediaWiki but it’s PHP based so I’m clueless.

Skype, Webex, Zoom, Hangouts.

Comments on what people are using and if it works for you would be useful.

I shouldn’t have given up on my open standards-based video ‘BrumHead’ idea so easily :slight_smile:

All the IMs! Which ones have people settled on?

Gnome Empathy says it supported:

“Google Talk (Jabber/XMPP)” - now Hangouts
"MSN, IRC, Salut, AIM, Facebook, Yahoo!, Gadu Gadu, Groupwise, ICQ and QQ. (Supported protocols depend on installed Telepathy Connection Manager components.) Supports all protocols supported by Pidgin.

  • File transfer for XMPP, and local networks.
  • Voice and video call using SIP, XMPP and Google Talk."

Video conferencing (copied from Brumtech Slack)

davidbristol 9:34 AM

If anyone’s looking for a quick off-the-shelf video conferencing solution, we’re giving Jitsi a go


It’s been quite painless to set up, and it also has apps for iOS and Android users, though the web version’s pretty good as well from what I’ve seen.

sil 9:37 AM

Jitsi’s not bad. Other alternatives are and which both work on the web without needing an app and are generally reliable, in my experience.


Graham Lee 9:40 AM

similarly, an open source thing that just uses the browser’s webrtc doodad

palava is simplistic video communication with your friends and colleagues from within your web browser. No registration or browser plugin required.

judes 9:56 AM

We’ve just had our morning meeting via Slack video - seemed to work fine.

Windows has built in Remote Desktop though the issues you’d likely have would be to do with the firewall (port 3389). Xfreerdp works a Linux client for Windows RDP servers, when I tested it briefly.

1 reply

[woo]There is a 1 user limit on some Windows licences, so it’s essential that you always log out or nobody else can log in (and I have to drive to Coventry in the middle of the night :slight_smile:
Other Linux RDP clients are available. I think there may even be an RDP server that Windows PCs that aren’t allowed to have software installed can use to access Linux.

rythie 12:20 PM

Dunno if this helpful to others but for our Linux desktop at work we offer VNC or X2Go. X2Go operates through SSH so is secure by default. X11vnc is good for single user Linux machines, since you get access to the graphics card.

Everything above here has been collated to:

Please add further suggestions there.

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