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My New Work-From-Home Setup (Changed This Easter/Sunday)

Video download link | md5sum c505208eed2e0bfab27707477560abd2
My New Home Setup
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

THE video above is a new and very quick run-through, showing the changes made over the weekend and why I keep tweaking these things. In a nutshell, if you spend a lot of time in front of a computer, then investing a little time every week or every month optimising it for ever-changing workflows is worth the investment. Adding additional hardware is also more economic if you value time. Machines can be made or configured to automate/simplify many things.

Double-Masked, Double Purpose (or How to Compel Selfish People and COVIDiots to Respect Social Distance)

Video download link | md5sum 2bfa3534610e049b43e2f3576711375b
Masked and Isolated
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

ABOUT a year ago our government compelled people to think there was some magical “freedom day” and COVID-19 was no longer a problem. About 50,000 additional deaths later we can all agree it was a self-serving lie from the ‘ruling class’. They just wanted to “reopen” every business (read: bring workers back to their cages), even when it wasn’t necessary to do so.

After passing a number of oppressive new laws we’re meant to think that it’s almost “back to normal”, sans in insane inflation rates. And sadly, many people out there increasingly view masking as an extreme choice and they don’t even try to curb the spread of the virus despite its widely-known long-term harms. I know this from personal experiences of colleagues.

People who think COVID-19 is “old news” are just as bad as those who insisted it was “fake news”; they’re all COVIDiots. In the video above I explain an approach for keeping such people away. It ain’t pretty, but it sure is effective.

To me, the masks (two of them always) serve a double purpose; more important than the fact they might protect me from droplets (I’m well aware of the limitations and efficacy constraints when others aren’t masked) is the fact that people keep away. Looking a little eccentric leads to that but it also signals to people nearby that you do not want close contact.

Social Control Media Isn’t Social Because You Don’t Lose Real Friends (or Social Life) Just Because Some Site/Instance/Pod Shuts Down

I will soon make changes to my microblogging routine. Probably some time next month. Here’s the alta vista of it.

“Social Control Media” is a term I coined many years ago; many people, even Wikileaks, have adopted the term since then. When I say “Social Control Media” I don’t limit myself to Twitter and Facebook; it also applies to LinkedIn (Microsoft claiming to ‘own’ your identity), GitHub (Microsoft claiming to ‘own’ your work/code), YouTube (video), and TikTok (crap). More importantly, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out in Techrights, Free software- and freedom-based sites aren’t robust to many of the same issues (volatility, misinformation) and even if they’re self-hosted, decentralised, federated etc. their existence is transient. Some sites or software will cease to be maintained within 5 years or less (in the case of self-hosting, a new version of PHP, for instance, can break the software you self-host).

Static sites with simple files are generally a good idea if you intend to keep your data, not only through the Web but whatever protocols will exist and get popularised in the future. More importantly, never rely on making “connections” online; make them “in real life” as real friends don’t need the Internet to keep in touch. I’ve hardly used the Internet at all to keep in touch with real friends.

Next Friday JoinDiaspora will go offline after more than a decade. When it comes back online it’ll be “read-only”, available temporarily only for users to be able to export their data and move it elsewhere (to another pod). All the connections will be lost, even if posts and comments are going to be preserved, according to the promises from the project’s core team.

Maybe I’ll fondly remember those 3,000+ “followers” I gained in JoinDiaspora.

schestowitz joindiaspora connections

What about the 2,000+ “followers” of Linux (TuxMachines)? I hardly ever knew them.

linux joindiaspora connections

After thinking about it for over a month and having spoken to another person who has posted heavily to JoinDiaspora for over a decade (with many “followers”, too) I am pretty certain I’ll migrate both accounts to another domain, another pod. I’ve not decided which one yet, but it needs to be something that can last and keep alive for at least another decade. As I explained here a few days ago, I’ve already lost more accounts than I can remember. I don’t want to jump from one dying pod to another soon-to-die pod. As for self-hosting, it’s out of the question due to complexity (Diaspora became bloated; I tried installing it almost 8 years ago and it was already very heavy and complicated to manage).

For me, IRC provides a more reliable means of communication and it’s vastly easier — not to mention a lot cheaper — to maintain.

2 Years of Pandemic

About 2 Years Ago, in 2020, Everything Suddenly Changed

IT was not exactly planned that this blog (or “Web log” as I’ve called it since 2004) would publish so much on the issue of COVID-19. It just happened to be the case, especially because of the profound impact of this pandemic, and moreover because I don’t wish to put my personal views on this divisive topic in a site like Techrights or Tux Machines. I believe everything I’ve said and shown here was factual; some of it pointed out obvious misinformation from the mainstream media, a hypocritical instrument of projection (demonising those who dissent against a partly misleading or incomplete narrative). The corporate press isn’t lying all the time, but it habitually incites and this probably constitutes what politicians and social control media giants may deem “hate speech”. In any event, earlier today I posted about 130 photographs from our ‘Battle Station’ and ‘Corona Times’. My wife and I both work from home (we had worked from home long before the epidemic/pandemic even broke out), so the impact on us was almost minimal; the main impact was on our gym-going and the occasional visit to the nearby stadium (Manchester City Stadium).

Here's your coronaRelative to stories that I hear, we’re very fortunate. Staying at home even more time than before means that we can have more quality time, cook better, and so on and so forth. The photos that we uploaded today span about 2 years and maybe they tell a bit of a story. We try not to give away or give up on our privacy, but these photos received ‘clearance’ from both Rianne and I.

Happy new year! Let’s hope things will settle some time soon (I think it can take a couple more years).

e.ON or ‘E.ON Next Energy Limited’ Possibly the UK’s Worst Energy Supplier

Video download link | md5sum 29054acc51742e85c3b317abfd2fec10

LAST year we unwillingly (but not unwittingly) became customers of ‘E.ON Next Energy Limited’ — to use the legal/registered name — after they had bought our longtime energy supplier, a company called NPower. Things have been hectic since then because the price hikes keep coming, without any reasonable or defensible excuses, the customer support is truly awful (customer disservice), they barely take any meter readings, and they severely punish anyone still not interested in a so-called ‘smart’ meter. The video above summarises the past week’s experiences that I had with the company, citing along the way conversations I was having with them months ago when we inquired about change of supplier. Judging by about 100 bits of feedback I’ve collected online, many other people have similar complaints if not much worse.

Someone urged me to file a complaint with the ombudsman and given the way things have progressed so far, maybe I will. The way I see it, they never got my consent (to treat me so badly as a customer); heck, they merely copied my bank details and other personal details from a supplier they had bought. The acquisition should have been blocked; instead, now we have loads of clients being obstructed and subjected to gaslighting.

To be fair, I was forewarned several years ago when a good friend of mine ranted about his supplier (he said it was “e.ON” — a company I had not yet heard of). Whether they call themselves e.ON or E.ON Next and use greenwashing buzzwords like “sustainable” or “renewable”, remember they’re a truly awful company you definitely want to avoid.

Greetings From Manchester

Nice to meet you, I'm not meat
He’s no meat, he has feelings

A year ago Rianne became fully vegetarian (we had both been gradually stepping in that direction for about 3 years already) and last month we got to meet some adorable highland cows and sheep at the outskirts of Manchester.

Highland cows and sheep
Rianne feeding the sheep

Highland cows and sheep
That calf is truly adorable and he was bullied by the sheep

On Wednesday we went for a long walk in nature (about a mile from home) and passed by the construction site (less than half a mile from us) where there would soon be a new facility for sports and entertainment, right alongside the famous Manchester City Stadium. Mock-ups below.

Massive new music and sports arena next to the Etihad Stadium
Looking from our home’s direction

Massive new music and sports arena next to the Etihad Stadium
Looking towards our home

National Government and Local Councils Give the Middle Finger to EU Citizens Long Settled in the United Kingdom

SEVERAL days ago I wrote about difficulties associated with applying to remain in the UK. You must have a mobile phone, you cannot settle the matter in person, there’s nobody to speak to etc.

Here is the screenshot I showed of the support number they gave:


That exact same number is noted in many other places. So I’ve attempted about 12 times to phone Home Office regarding this. That was yesterday. Just to make the inquiry. But that number, which is widely advertised, never worked. And the response to it varied between 3 states (silent or two types of tone, depending on when you phone them). I thought their phone system was down and they later admitted this to me (when I finally spoke to them this morning). “Essential” service…

As for the Council, they did not respond at all since Saturday. I expect they will just ignore my very detailed E-mail. When dealing with Manchester City Council the experience was largely the same. They hardly give a damn…

The Home Office number was down all day or all afternoon yesterday. Now it’s back. Waiting on the line took ages, with me being in a queue (no ETA, no number in the queue stated) for a very long time. That in itself is bad enough, not to mention how options (even if carefully listened to and then selected) for how to route the call do not match what’s relevant as per the site where this number is advertised (as shown above). With only a few weeks left it should be expected that they will treat this as a high-priority thing.

After 20 minutes waiting in line I finally got to speak to an actual person, whereupon the Home Office told me that indeed their system was down yesterday (no calls could be made), and that moreover the number in the site is not correct and for the wrong department. Incredible. Truly incredible. Sheer incompetence. The correct number, they’ve told me, is 0300 123 7379.

So I phone that up. And guess what…

They don’t have a place in the queue, you cannot even wait and the queue and may need to call another time. So basically there is nobody to speak to. At a time such as this one has to wonder what went through their minds when they decided to turn away callers with queries, such as issues going through the process.

This leaves me having a pessimistic hypothesis affirmed. The government (both national and local) hardly cares about EU citizens, even those who are highly skilled and have been settled in the UK for ages. To them, we must be seen like a “burden”… I believe that the term for that is systemic racism.

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