THE WEEKEND

I didn’t leave my apartment all weekend. I’m probably one of many people who did the same as well. Some people don’t seem to have adhered to the program though. On Saturday afternoon, a beautiful and sunny one, I saw a group of young people, sitting on the grass just off the sidewalk. There were about four of them, sitting right next to each other, as if on a picnic. What were they doing? Do they all live together or did they eventually leave and then go back to their respective homes? The mind boggles.

Maybe it should come as no surprise, but my weekend wasn’t that exciting. I spent it cleaning, cooking, playing video games, listening to podcasts, and watching YouTube. On the topic of podcasts, there are some that I’ve just started to listen to and there’s more than a year’s worth of weekly episodes to catch up on. In the “before times”, I’d maybe listen to four episodes on a weekend at best. In the last week, I was able to listen to nearly 30 episodes of one podcast and now I’m all caught up. Just started another one this weekend as well.

I cannot imagine how this would have played out had this pandemic happened in the pre-Internet days. People would be on the phone a lot more. Information would come from the TV and radio mainly. Part of me thinks that might have been better. There wouldn’t be idiots spreading misinformation or stupid conspiracy theories. The advent of the Internet means that morons have an incredible ability to contact other morons, whereby they all furiously masturbate over their wild stories and twisting of the real truth. How did we get here?

Well, Monday is the start of another week. Another weird week, where I pessimistically think there might not be a whole lot of good news. Good luck to everyone out there, stay safe, stay inside, and wash your damn hands.

DAY 376 OF ISOLATION

I’ve now worked from home for over a week. This is the longest I’ve worked from home continuously by a wide margin. I didn’t need anything from the outside world today, so I stayed inside all day and night. Out of all the days I’ve been working at home, today I was probably the most productive. That’s not really saying much though, all things considered.

During these last few days of surreal isolation I’ve noticed some interesting habits that I’ve developed. The first is that I’ve stopped letting my dirty dishes pile up in the sink. I’m not sure if it’s been a by-product of the necessity of being super hygienic and clean in these times but as soon as a plate and maybe three utensils make it into the sink, I’ve got the gloves on and I’m washing them. In the “before times”, I’d stack four or five plates on top of each other plus a bouquet of utensils in the sink before I’d even consider doing dishes. I might have also developed this habit because I just have a lot more time on my hands now. I’m home all day and I just have so many more opportunities to wash my dishes.

Since I basically see no one now, I will sheepishly admit that I might go a day or two before showering. It’s not like I’m getting sweaty and working out in my apartment (maybe I should), so going a day without showering isn’t that big of a sin. Also, this way I’m saving on soap, which might be a critical resource in the near future.

Well, it is time for bed. I wonder if this is anything like minimum-security prison.

THE BEAT GOES ON

Life has gotten tougher for most people now and I’m sorry we’re all going through this. I have tried to put myself in other people’s shoes and walked a mile in them. Other people are facing more challenges than I. I still have a job and my company has been wonderful in trying support its employees while we all try to work at home. In the last few days, they announced that most employees who are working at home are eligible to spend up to $265 CAD on office equipment or supplies to help them improve their work environment. We’re free to buy a new desk, chair, monitor, or even noise-cancelling headphones. That’s a lot of money to spend on us and I know many companies are going to take a massive hit on their bottom line next but they gave us the money anyways.

We’re schedule to work at home for about another two weeks and if I were optimistic, I would love to think we’ll be returning to work after that. There’s a part of me that thinks that’s not going to be realistic. We might be doing this for quite a while.

I wish I could do more for the people who are holding society together right now. That includes public health officials, governments workers from all levels, medical workers, people working grocery stores and supermarkets, delivery drivers, and basically anyone who is involved in keeping our supply chains running smoothly.

One day in the near future, I hope they’ll all get the recognition they deserve.

DAMN MICROSOFT

So, I discovered my recent computer problems have nothing to do with failing components on my end. A Windows 10 update that was pushed by Microsoft onto users is causing lots of trouble for a significant amount of people. I Google’d my problem today and found that many others were having the exact same issue. The issue even popped up on my laptop today. It was then I realized there’s no way both my desktop and laptop would have the exact same type of component failure. It had to be a software update.

I managed to uninstall the faulty update on my laptop but the issue is a bit more complicated on my desktop. I can start the process but removing the update requires me to reboot my desktop, which currently is very unstable at this point. Technically, if the update is remove, rebooting shouldn’t be a problem but I don’t trust Microsoft at this point. As my desktop is a mission critical piece of equipment since I’m working from home for the next several weeks, I can’t risk the procedure until probably the weekend. Even it succeeds, there one last step I need to do. I’m actually running Windows on a spare mechanical drive instead of my SSD, so if this works, I still have to clone the drive back onto my SSD, and put my SSD back into my desktop.

Then the longer term issue is how long before Windows fixes that update with a real fix. Or do they even bother doing that? Is my desktop going to work just until I’m forced to update again? I don’t really need these computer headaches, especially when a computer is vital link to the world during this global pandemic.

MONDAY

I didn’t leave my apartment once today. I’m doing my part and I hope many other people out are doing the same. The only human interaction I had today was through digital means. I only had to speak a few sentences all day and that was first thing in the morning during my daily standup with my co-workers. Otherwise, I talked to no one.

I can’t really say I was very productive at work. Even before all of this, I wasn’t enjoying what I’m doing, so with all of this uncertainty going around, I’m not exactly motivated to put in a 110% everyday. I could write a very long post about that topic by itself but I’ll leave it for another day.

As for not leaving my apartment, I think my record for not leaving my home is 48 hours. When I was in grad school, I believe at least once, I would come back to my room after dinner on Friday night, and then not leave my room until dinner on Sunday night. I was working on a pretty involved assignment or project and just didn’t feel the need to even step outside my room once. I had all the food and drink I needed for two days, plus I had the Internet, and of course, I needed time to work on school stuff.

Let’s see if I can break that record this week.

CRAZY TIMES

I did pretty much nothing on the weekend. That nothing included not buying toilet paper unlike some idiots out there. I think I have about seven rolls left. Since I live alone, I’m probably good for another week or so. As I mentioned though, I limited my outside activities. I had planned on visiting a breakfast place but chose not to. I was also going to shop at T&T to get supplies for hot pot but I decided against it. I was also going to buy a new SSD at a local computer shop but those plans changed as well. I need to go into detail about that.

In my last post, I wrote about how my desktop computer chose this perfect time to stop booting into Windows. I originally thought it was a faulty SSD because when I cloned the disk to a spare mechanical drive, my computer started working again. I went to bed on Saturday night thinking this was the case. On Sunday morning, I woke up and tried to turn on my computer. I was met with this new error: “Reboot and Select Proper Boot Device”. Essentially, this means my computer can’t find a hard drive where it can see an operating system. Restarting the computer would just cause the same error to appear again. Going into the BIOS, it could see all my drives but it didn’t know one of them had Windows on it. I swapped between the spare mechanical drive and my old SSD probably a dozen times on Sunday, and it didn’t seem to matter, I got the same error again. I tried several different solution I found on Google and none of them seemed to work.

On one of my last attempts, with the mechanical drive in, I somehow got it to recognize Windows on it and my computer started Windows properly. It was at this point that I realized that I could not shut down my computer as I probably wouldn’t be able to start it again without some random miracle. I did a test and I can confirm that I can put it to sleep but a complete shutdown or a restart is not possible. I also recognized that Windows updates can cause restarts, so I’ve paused updates for 35 days, the maximum allowable by Windows 10.

Obviously, this is not a permanent solution as a computer normally needs to be shut down or at least restarted for many different reasons. I just need this computer working while I’m working from home for the rest of this month. So, what is the actual fix? I’m not sure at this point. I’m going on the assumption that both these drives are working fine, so my next logical guess would be the motherboard. Less likely, though I can’t rule it out, would be the power supply. Replacing computer parts is a hassle even during the best of times but in these uncertain days, it becomes even more problematic, especially since it’s so crucial to my job now.

We’ll see how far I can get with a computer that cannot be shut off. It should be interesting.

RESCUE OPERATION

In my last post I wrote that my desktop computer was failing to boot into Windows. Since Friday was a work from home day, I was forced to use my laptop to use remote desktop. I am so lucky that I have my laptop. I remember before buying it, I actually hesitated because I thought it was superfluous purchase. I already had a desktop and a cell phone and my thinking was that laptop was just going to be an indulgence that I wouldn’t use. It turns out my laptop has come in handy in so many situations that it was more than worth the money I paid for it. On Friday, it basically saved me from not having any way to work. It wasn’t ideal since one of my screen was the laptop’s 13″ but it was better than having no computer.

On Friday night, I tried to diagnose my desktop and I managed to get it to boot into Windows about three times before it stopped again. Each time, I had about anywhere from two to five minutes before my computer would stop responding and freeze. During one of these times, I discovered that my Windows drive, which is on an older SSD, was at a constant 100% utilization. Windows would not respond after that, which I guess had to do with the drive being accessed or written to the entire time. There are a few things you can do to try to fix a Windows drive that exhibits that behaviour but it was impossible for me to get Windows to stay stable long enough for me to try those fixes.

On Saturday, I had an idea to attempt to move my Windows drive onto a spare mechanical drive I had lying around. The idea was that these 100% utilization problems mostly occurred on SSDs and if I could get Windows back onto a mechanical drive, it would at least boot and allow me to change some settings. Once again, my laptop saved me, as I used it to clone my Windows SSD to my spare mechanical drive. It took about 30 minutes to clone.

Once that was done, I installed the mechanical drive into my desktop. I was pretty sure it was going to boot but I wasn’t sure if Windows would use the drive 100% of the time. With fingers slightly crossed, I turned on my desktop, and lo and behold, it did boot into Windows, but it took almost five minutes to do so. I forgot how slow mechanical drives are and this spare one was a slow 5400 RPM one. Drive usage was normal and more in line with what I expected. At least, my computer was working again. I turned off one setting that I think might have caused the 100% drive utilization but I have no clue if this was the actual problem.

At this point I think I have three options: go back to using a mechanical drive for Windows (either stay with this one or get a slightly faster mechanical drive), attempt to re-install my old SSD and hope that the setting I changed fixes things, or buy a newer, higher performance SSD. I’m leaning towards the last option. SSDs have gotten somewhat cheaper since I bought my old SSD and the newer ones are faster and are more reliable (at least the Samsung model I have my eye on is). I don’t think I can go back to a mechanical drive for Windows again.

I’ll write an update when time allows.

DISTANCING

About two weeks ago, I had a short stint of working from home because my employers were worried about a potential case of COVID-19 infection for one of my co-workers. It turned out the test was negative so most people, including myself, went back to work. While I was relieved whichever co-worker of mine didn’t have the infection, the number of people testing positive were increasing in this province and continent were increasing daily, even as we were returning to the studio.

Relief turned into apprehensiveness as I wondered if our company should have changed their stance from working at home as an option to either a strong recommendation or a complete ordered mandate. It made me uneasy enough that I decided to work from home on Wednesday and today, Thursday. In North America, it seemed like things got really serious today with the stoppage of various professional sports leagues and cancellations of so many events. It wasn’t until very late in day that employees got an official communique from company leadership. For employees in North America and Europe, working from home was no longer just an option, it was now strongly suggested. Our locations in these areas will now go down to minimum staffing with only those who have critical business needs to be on-site. These locations will remain in this state until April 1, at which time I am sure company leadership will re-assess the situation. Interestingly, some of our Asian work sites which have been closed for many weeks now, are starting to return to work, following local government guidance as the situation there is stabilizing.

From a personal standpoint, I am glad the company is taking this really seriously. It’s a bit of bummer though because my crappy luck kicked in again and my desktop computer decided today to stop booting into Windows. As I look forward to working from home for several weeks now, my main computer no longer works and I’m not sure why. I can use my laptop to use remote desktop but the situation isn’t ideal. My desktop supports a 24″ and 27″ monitors for remote desktop, while my laptop will only support its own 13″ screen and my 24″ monitor. My desktop was also a Windows 10 Professional machine while my laptop is only a Windows 10 Home one. There are features on Win 10 Pro that actually make working from home easier.

I need to solve this problem somehow. I can either figure out what’s wrong with my desktop and fix it, continue to use my laptop and perhaps upgrade to Win 10 Pro, or buy a cheap, used business computer that already has Win 10 Pro installed on it. My luck is so bad.

We live in uncertain times. I’ve never seen anything like this before. I’ve lived through recessions as a kid and as an adult. I’ve been laid off and lost my job several times. Those were relatively easy waters to navigate. I have not, however, charted a course around a global viral pandemic. None of us should have to do that, yet here we are. Some people in the world have already faced this. They will have stories to tell and I hope they will tell them as wise, old people. As for us, in North America, I hope the next few weeks are mind-numbing and boring ones for us. May there be no excitement, just sheer boredom.