We are all in a once in a lifetime kind of situation, and unfortunately it is not a good one. Our lives are changing, our work is changing, and we can’t really know what comes next. When we are out of this crisis, the world will be different. Living in Germany right now, it is only fair that I quote Angela Merkel:
Since German reunification, no, since the Second World War, there has not been a challenge for our country in which action in a spirit of solidarity on our part was so important.
Even though she is focusing in Germany here, the problem is obviously bigger. Being a Brazilian living in Germany, I also keep an eye on what is happening in Brazil. It is curious to see the Pandemic in an earlier stage there, and hopping that the country deals well with it. And this is taking only two countries into consideration, the ones that are closely tied to me. Sad thing is, if you ask random people about how are things going for them, you have a huge change of getting the same kind of perspective, with two different countries: wherever they live, and wherever they are originally from. Or maybe from wherever they have family and friends of any level. This is global. This is for all of us.
Now, if you are anything like me, you don’t feel like doing nothing and waiting for it all to end. You want to help, to do your bit. And so I am doing what I can, which is surely not enough, but definitely better than staying put. Let’s go through a few things I am doing, from the obvious to some more specific to me.
I’ve been working from home since a few weeks now. I have to admin that I’m quite lucky here, since remote work is something that fits quite naturally in my job, plus I worked from home a couple of years already in the past. And the teams I’m working with at the moment all reacted really well with this new reality: just about everyone is actually working remotely, and sometimes feeling even more productive than before.
This is not important only to preserve your own health, but also to avoid spreading contamination. Imagine you are one of the lucky people that gets the virus and develop immunity to it really fast. Even then, you can transmit it even before you knew you had it in the first place. And one of the people to which you do transmit the virus could end up being someone not as lucky as you. Better safe than sorry here.
Unfortunately there are lots of people whose job won’t allow for, or even make sense at all, in a remote setting. To help increasing the safety of those people, if we can, we should work from home.
Stay at Home!
This is a continuation of the last point, and is something that all of us can do, to some degree, no matter what. Even if you have to go out and work, the rest of the time you can stay back. So, basically, you do exactly that: You. Stay. At. Home. Some people still have to go out to work, and most of us have to at least go to the market from time to time. Other that than though, you should be able to stay at home.
We are taking this very seriously in my family. It is not always easy, especially with small children at home. But it is the right think to do. The reasons are basically the same as before: even if you are not in a risk group, you shouldn’t help spread the virus. It makes me really sad when I see pictures of people still going to parks, for example, in big groups. It also explains why Germany had to forbid it. And in Berlin, for example, the restrictions have been extended for at least until April 19th.
Donate Computing Power
On the longer term, a cure and/or a vaccine is what we really need. There are lots of researches working on this topic out there already, but it takes time. I’m not a doctor nor researcher and thus cannot help directly with this. But there is something I can do: donate my desktop computer’s computational power.
There are probably a several different projects available for that. The one I use is called Folding @ Home (FAH). It allows researchers to define work units that are then distributed to, literally, thousands of people around the world. Normally, FAH is supporting research regarding Cancer or Alzheimer’s, among other diseases. Covid-19 is now part of this list.
Supporting Covid-19 is new though, so even if you look at the official list of supported diseases and don’t find it there, behind the scenes work units for it are being distributed, as long as you keep the default configuration of supporting research for Any diseases. This is a screenshot of what my PC was doing one of these days:
Since I have a reasonable PC at home, that I don’t use that often, it is an easy decision to contribute. And since I built this PC for gaming, it also has a Graphics card that can be used for FAH’s purpose as well. Just a small caveat. The client is quite easy to configure, but in my case it didn’t detect the my graphics card by default and I had to find some help in the forums. It was worth the extra trouble though, as it seems that GPUs are yielding way more computational power than only CPUs. At least if the points system is a valid way of understanding how much computation you are actually donating 😉
Finally, if you want more detailed information on how this whole thing works, this post from Hackaday is quite interesting and informative.
3D Printed Face Shields
Another way to do your bit is to help people that have to expose themselves, like doctors and nurses. In that direction, Prusa Research started an awesome initiative: to 3D print face shields. You can find more information here.
Since I have a 3D printer, I decided to collaborate as I can – i.e. by 3D printing such devices. Now, 3D printing is only part of the game: one must assemble the whole unit and figure out where exactly they are most needed and distributed them. This would be too much work for a single person and, after some search around, I found the Maker Vs Virus group. There, hundreds of people around Germany are gathering together, virtually of course, to connect all the dots – conversations are in German, though.
We are all in this together. There are loads of ways to help, but those depend on your specific situation. Look around, do some “googling”, and you might find some inspiration that suits you. We will get through this way better if everyone does their bit. It doesn’t require too much from each one, but the results of the community effort can’t be anything else but awesome.
Keep on fighting, stay at home and stay healthy.