This month’s T-SQL Tuesday is being hosted by Tamara Clark. The subject is a #SQLCommunity time capsule. As Tamara describes it: “I want to build a time capsule, maybe we all escape to a new planet, maybe the earth just withers and dies, or maybe this is just an exercise in being positive. Tell me what few items or bits of information you’d like me to put into the #SQLCommunity time capsule.”
This is a pretty wide area, that gives everyone plenty of possibilities for topics. This is good, since I think it will encourage more people to participate. In my case, I am going to discuss a few random observations about WFH technology and how it relates to the #SQLCommunity. This will be my contribution for T-SQL Tuesday #129 – Time Capsule.
Working From Home
Because of the current human malware situation, and the bungled response to it in some areas, the world has changed in many ways. Unfortunately, some of these changes will be long lasting and some may be permanent. Whether we like it or not, we are going to have to try to adapt to some new things.
One example is working from home. Many people in the SQL Server community may be working from home for an extended period, perhaps much longer than they initially expected. If you are in this situation, then I have a few thoughts about the technical aspects of effectively working from home.
Being Comfortable and Productive
If you are going to be working from home for an extended period, you should do what you can to be comfortable. This starts with having a large enough desk and a comfortable chair. The Office Depot special chair you bought many years ago is not what you want. My wife and I (and many people I know in the SQL Community) have been very happy with Secret Lab chairs. Whatever you get, a good chair is a smart investment.
If possible, you should try to have a work area that is separate from most of the rest of your house, so you can concentrate and work without being disturbed, and without disturbing other family members.
Work from Home Technology
I think many people who work for larger companies often have a company-issued laptop, that may or may not be modern and fast. If your laptop is older or slower, try asking for a newer, faster machine. If that isn’t possible, see if you can do anything to improve the performance of your machine (with the approval of your company). This could include adding more RAM, and upgrading your storage to larger, faster flash storage.
Personally, I would also consider buying or building a desktop machine to do much of my daily work with, only using the company-issued laptop when absolutely necessary. It is very easy have a new desktop machine with far superior performance and capacity than any laptop. Laptops make a lot of compromises to be light and portable. If you are not travelling or commuting, why should you be limited to a laptop class machine? Regardless of what machine(s) you are using, try to have multiple external monitors if possible.
If you are going to be working from home for an extended period, you should evaluate and do what you can to improve your network and internet connectivity. A worst case scenario is using an ancient Wi-Fi router that was supplied by your ISP to support your entire household. Getting a brand new Wi-Fi 6 router will probably be a huge upgrade, even if most of your devices only support an older Wi-Fi standard. If you are stuck using Wi-Fi only, you may be able to get a better USB Wi-Fi adapter than is built in to your laptop.
If possible, try to use a wired ethernet connection to your work machine(s). Even with 1GbE, you should have more bandwidth than all but a very strong, close Wi-Fi 6 connection. A wired connection is also more secure, and anything you can connect to your wired network will reduce traffic on your Wi-Fi network. Finally, make sure to update the firmware on your Wi-Fi router and restart it periodically.
Audio and Video Quality
If you are going to be communicating with other people using online meeting software, then you should take a look at what you are using for a microphone, speakers and camera. The built-in microphone, speakers and camera on most laptops is not very good, but that may be all you have to start with.
Studies have shown that people will tolerate poor quality video more than poor quality audio. A wired USB gaming headset with an included microphone would be a step up for audio, but won’t be that great if you are going to be on camera. A higher quality separate microphone with some decent in ear headphones is another improvement.
Dedicated web cams all but disappeared earlier this year, but I have seen stock improving lately. A good 1080P or 4K web cam will be much better than the built-in webcam in a laptop. Another video upgrade is a mirrorless camera with clean HDMI output that you can connect to a capture card that connects to your computer. No matter what type of camera you have, good lighting makes a huge improvement in video quality.
It is also a good idea to protect your computers and electronics with a good surge protector or ideally, a good UPS. This can protect them from electrical surges, brownouts, and actual power outages. Brownouts and outages are becoming increasingly common in many areas.
The overall message for the time capsule is that due to the human malware situation, many people’s lives have changed. Many of these changes may end up being permanent, so it is a good idea to try to adapt as much as you can.
If you have any questions about this post, please ask me here in the comments or on Twitter. I am pretty active on Twitter as GlennAlanBerry. Thanks for reading!