Linus Torvalds’ Advice on Working From Home during Coronavirus Lockdown

While many of us are self-isolating indoors amidst the coronavirus outbreak. ZDNet had a special feature discussion with Linus Torvalds on his opinions or thoughts on working from home during the Coronavirus lockdown.

If you didn’t know already (how could you not?), Linus Torvalds is the creator of Linux and Git as well. And, he did all that while working from home. Here’s a video from 2016 where Torvalds shows his home office:

So, in this article, I’m going to share some of my key takeaways along with his responses from Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols‘ interaction with Linus Torvalds for ZDNet.

Discard the fear of missing human interaction

Torvalds mentioned that when he first started working from home years ago, he was worried about missing human interaction that included going to the office, interacting with people, or simply going out for lunch.

Interestingly, he did not seem to miss any of that anymore- he preferred his time at home without human interaction.

Of course, isolating yourself from human interacting isn’t the best thing – but it looks like that is a good thing for now.

Take advantage of working from home

Work From Home Torvalds

Just like we at It’s FOSS operate completely remote, you can do a lot of stuff without actually being at an office.

Not to forget – you can pet your cat as much as you want and I have 6 of them, I know it’s difficult (*giggles*).

And, as Linus Torvalds mentioned, the real advantage of remote work is “flexibility”. You do not necessarily need to sit in front of your desk working from 9-5 or more. Technically, you are free to take breaks in between and do whatever you wish at home.

In other words, Linus suggests avoiding re-creating an office at your home – which is worse than going to an office.

Efficient communication is the key

Torvalds Home Office

You can choose to have several meetings (video conferences or audio calls) in a day – but is it really necessary?

For some, it might be a big deal – but you should try to minimize the time spent on a meeting by clearing things up in brief.

Or, as Linus recommends, it’s best to have email lists to keep things on point and that’s how Linux kernel runs.

James Bottomley, Distinguished Engineer at IBM Research, and a senior Linux kernel developer, also adds a suggestion that you should re-read your text to make sure that you’re sending precise information that no one will potentially skim through.

Personally, I prefer texts over voice for the very same reason. It saves you time, fact.

But, keep in mind, that you need to convey only the necessary information in a proper manner without overloading the information that you send via texts/email.

Track your time

Flexibility doesn’t necessarily mean that you can work less and lurk on social media platforms, unless that’s your job.

So, you need to make sure that you are making the most out of your time. To do that, you can use several tools to track your time on what you use and the duration of it on your computer.

You can even write it down on a sticky note to make sure you reach your goal of spending the allocated time for work efficiently. You can opt to utilize RescueTime or ActivityWatch to track the time you spend on your computer or smartphone.

Play with your cat (pets)

Torvalds Penguins

Not to discriminate against other pets, but that’s what Linus Torvalds mentioned.

Just because you are at your home – you have a lot to do while you schedule your work or try to efficiently utilize the time.

Linus insists that whenever you’re bored, you can head out to get essentials if necessary or simply play with the cat (or your pet).

Wrapping Up

While Linus Torvalds also mentioned that no one will be judging you when you’re at home, his suggestions seem to be on point and could be very useful for people who struggle with working from home.

Not just for the coronavirus outbreak – but if you are planning to work from home permanently, you should keep these things in mind.

What do you think about Linus Torvalds thoughts here? Do you agree with him?

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  • well, my corporate knowledge manager who never has written one line of code or contributed anything of relevance ever has suggested me drastically drifferent things…….

  • I have found after working at home for long periods over the past 20 years that it is important to keep a schedule. Being comfortable and having pets and food around in the privacy of your home is wonderful. But, it is easy to focus on work too much and forget about necessary routines. The stronger boundaries you set in your home working environment, the more likely you will stay a well rounded human being. As a computational chemist I can forget to eat, walk, bathe and sleep if I’m deep in a challenging project. Don’t become a work zombie in your own house! ;)

  • You should also consider that many corporations use electronic monitoring to make sure that your eyes are glued to the screen 8 hours a day and that you are working on projects, not reading itsfoss.com

  • I work for the federal judiciary in the US, where they seem to have the mindset that they have to pay a lot of money for their software, and it has to suck. Heaven forfend they should use quality open-source products that are inexpensive or free.

  • After reading several helpful articles, including this one on tips and software suggestions, as well as attending a Webinar for Remote working of employees during the Covid-19 virus Pandemic, I was very surprised to read today on The Register, UK of the exorbitant additional costs for many if not most companies attached to using Microsoft Windows desktops.

    ref.article here:
    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2020/03/20/surge_in_home_working/

    Not having been a Windows user in corporate environment, I was totally unaware that the task of Remote Working, or Remote Access as is common in UNIX/Linux (*nix) environment, requires special software tools and configurations for Windows Desktop users working remotely, and the information I sent out recently to many small business and organizations – mostly under 50 total workers/employees on such tips and suggestions, presents a significant challenge in additional costs for Windows use that was here-to-fore not even contemplated in most of the articles on topic.

    This dilemma makes an excellent case for small entities to
    re-evaluate their desktop choices in favour of excellent modern desktop Linux distributions, or as a second but substantially less worthwhile choice Apple MacOS based devices.

      • Remote workers in corporations do not determine whether Apache Guacamole or any of the other Geek* tools you mention are deployed in order to obtain a secure remote worker environment.

        In fact, if you had read the linked Register report, you would have known that Microsoft requires companies with substantial increased remote worker access – as in this case of Covid-19 pandemic to subscribe to (costly) additional services for that purpose.

    • I totally agree. I worked with multiple MS OS from DOS through all variations of Windows for over three decades. Last month, Win10 blew up in my face [once again] after messed up [forced] patches, like for so many others worldwide. It caused a huge uproar in Microsoft’s user forum.

      I always dreaded the efforts I expected switching to another OS systems. Yet, this big blow up [twice within a few days] was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. :)

      I downloaded downloaded Ubuntu’s Desktop version 18.04.4 LTS, and kicked Win10 off my PC. Installation as well as finding equivalent replacements for multiple Win apps went surprisingly smooth. I work with Ubuntu for almost 3 weeks now, and never looked back. :)

      Those few tools who really needed Win, run on my PC via CrossOver from Codeweavers. It needed a digital disaster to finally make the switch to Linux, but I’m a happy camper now.

      • Good News Hans,
        I had been a Consultant in Technology for more than twenty years, specializing more in UNIX/Linux (NIX) small business and hospitality applications, so I was fully aware that in last several years, a well setup modern Linux distribution was equally as productive, but more reliable, secure and powerful, and a better value than any Windows iteration.

        In fact, I just recently “educated” a Staples salesperson that one could run Microsoft Office365 with Linux and several office applications like Quickbooks as well (if one absolutely had to) via CrossOver or in a virtual Machine, so there was no loss of familiarity with regular software tools.

        Unfortunately there still remains a closed mindset and truckloads of ignorance in general community, even in technology sales entities like Staples, BestBuy and others.

        • Poor QuickBooks compatibility and the inability to run my tax preparation software are the primary reasons I can’t switch to Linux. Trying to run QB on Linux is still absolutely beyond my many small business owners. I wish it weren’t so.

          • Quickbooks is available on Linux, only as “Server” vrsion that still requires access from Windows PC. And very expensive!!.
            My quickbook clients were extremely please when I switched them to X-Tuple Postbooks with Quickbooks integration extension.
            Postbooks is automatically single/multi user, uses any client – Windows, Linux or Mac and included CRM, full reporting with Ad-Hoc report generation and more.
            A lot less than 3 user Quickbooks license.

            As long as an Auditor or Accountant can use Quickbooks to extract all transactions from one of the great choices of Accounting software that runs on Linux, there is no magic or necessity for Quickbooks “requirement”.

      • Last week I replaced Windows on older Vaio notebook for my 12-years old nephew to create programming environment for him. It turned noisy almost not-responsive environment into a bit noisy but quite well reacting coding environment.

        I switched to Linux 8 years ago and would not turn back. The only problem is to have well working MS Office (Word, Excel and Powerpoint) – even CrossOver did not help me much.

        The beauty of Linux (desktop) for me is: things are working as they should, no marketing mess pressing on my after each update, ease of installing programs I need.

        And if you are spending a lot of time on terminal and accessing remote Linux servers, then this is definitely the way to go.

        • Hi Jan, I do have a solution to your Microsoft Office problem. Many people don’t look to the European market. There is software company with versions, 100 percent compatible with MS Office and kept always up to the latest MS Office.

          Their product has separate versions for Windows, Mac, and for Linux. I used their products parallel to my MS Office since [their] version 2012, and can confirm it’s 100% compatible.

          When I switched to Ubuntu Desktop, I went for their Linux version and continued flawlessly with all my existing data.

          They offer even a full version for 30 days trial.
          Company is called SoftMaker.
          Their URL is https://www.softmaker.com

          Link to office overview and features:
          https://www.softmaker.com/en/softmaker-office

          Direct link to [trial] downloads is:
          https://www.softmaker.com/en/applications

          The Linux section has a link to installation and requirements. I recommend to go through there.

          Reason:
          – Listing of all tested Linux versions.
          – Offered download links for 32bit versions.
          – Offered download links for 64 bit versions.

          Versions are available as:
          – .rpm package for RPM-based systems
          – .deb package for DEB-based systems
          – .tgz package for other systems

          That goes for both 32bit and 64bit. :)

          That will solve your problems. :)

          I run Unbuntu Desktop 18.04.4 LTS and the 64bit .deb file was easily installed.

          BTW, the program setup gives you the option to run it with the modern top navigation (rolling bar) or with the classic pull-down menu. Both work parallel within the same setup. :)

          Download link for user manuals are at SoftMaker’s home page. Manuals offered to download are in PDF format.
          URL: https://www.softmaker.com/en/manuals

          – TextMaker = Word
          – PlanMaker = Excel
          – Presentation = PowerPoint
          – BasicMaker = Macro creator/recorder
          modeled after Visual Basic for Applications(VBA).

          Hope that helps. :)
          Hans

          • Hans, thanks a lot for your advice. Next time, I will have to deal with larger MS Office document work (mostly some standardization document for telematics), I will try.

          • Hi Hans,
            You mention “BasicMaker = Macro creator/recorder
            modeled after Visual Basic for Applications(VBA).”
            I have a few Excel (Office 2003) macros that I have written to do various jobs for me. Do you know if Softmaker will run existing Excel VBA macros as is, or whether I would need to re-write them?