Ask Hackaday: What Should We Be Doing During Coronavirus Lockdown?

There’s a lot of good in the world and that includes you. Humanity has a way of coming together at crucial moments and we have certainly reached that with the outbreak and spread of the novel coronavirus. At this point, most people’s daily lives have been turned upside down. We can all have an impact on how this plays out.

It’s scary, it’s real, but we will get through this. What we need to focus on now is how we can behave that will lead to the best outcomes for the largest number of people. The real question is, how can we help? If you’re stuck at home it’s easy to feel powerless to help but that’s not true. Let’s cover a few examples, then open up the discussion in the comments so we can hear what has been working for you.

Hunker Down and Stay Home

The Hackaday readership is based all over the world, so do follow your local directives, but for a very large and growing number of countries the word is to stay home and thereby slow the spread of of the COVID-19 virus.

But to keep civilization running there are still many people that must go to work in critical roles like health care providers, food delivery and grocery, pharmacy, police and fire, people keeping the water and power running, and many more. We should do our part to protect their health by maintaining social distancing and quarantine practices. In that interest, it’s really important that you take great care of yourself and your family during this time.

Making a plan is your best friend in this case. Being stuck at home and constantly reading news of the outbreak is certain to affect your mental well-being. Put together a schedule for yourself and your family that provides the kind of stability you had during normal work/school/family life. Include time to unhook from the news and read a book, try out in-home exercise options, visit by phone or internet with friends and family, and do things that are silly, that make you happy, and keep you healthy so that you feel good and make it bearable to continue to stay home.

Elliot Williams has a great example of this. He’s returned some of the normalcy of a daily schedule for his son (and the rest of the family) by building an activity clock for a kindergartner who can’t yet tell time. What other good ideas do we have in the “make cabin fever more bearable” category?

Conserve Resources

To my previous point, the better you can conserve your resources the less often you need to visit the store. I’m incredibly thankful for the people risking their own health to deliver food to stores, stock shelves, and work the checkout. Let’s all give them a helping hand by using their services as efficiently and infrequently as we can.

Whip up an inventory system for everything you have on hand and try to match it up to a menu plan. Figure out how many days each meal will last (leftovers are my fav) and this will let you know how long you can go between trips to the store. While you’re at it, make note of when items will spoil and work to use them completely before they do. This may sound small, but it has a huge impact if everyone does it!

Check Websites of Your Local Health Care Systems for Ways to Help

I’m sure this varies greatly from location to location, but I found out last week that our local hospital system has a Volunteer Services Team. The reason I found out about it is that the team put out a call for “sewing savvy volunteers” here in Madison, Wisconsin. Have you already guessed why they’re asking?

Yes, sadly the local system is already running out of protective masks for the hospital workers. Wouldn’t it be amazing if tailors from throughout the community were able to sew masks when the health workers are in dire need? That’s the plan and the volunteer services team is getting an approved design and instructions out to people in my area who have sewing machines.

Last week we saw that Prusa put out a plan for 3D printable face shields (usually used along with masks), we’ve also received word that hackerspaces are standing up organized efforts to help like this one at TXRX Labs in Houston. Things efforts seem perfect for the Hackaday crowd, but the key is to get in contact with the right group from your local health provider and contribute to a coordinated effort.

Connect with Your Parent-Teacher Association

It’s possible that students out of school will not return during this school year. But those kids are growing up every single day and they deserve the best education that we can give them. This is a huge challenge for all involved, and every bit of effort helps here.

The Parent-Teacher Association (or equivalent in your area) is an administrative body whose purpose is to facilitate coordination between the teaching system and the families of the students. Our community is highly skilled in computers, networking, and working remotely. Reach out to your PTA and let them know you’d like to help out. Can we be the volunteer IT services so many school districts and families need right now?

Hitch Your Computer to the Research Hive-Mind

It may seem small, but adding your computer’s extra processing power to the Folding@Home effort could have a big impact in research into stopping COVID-19. It’s kind of like mining bitcoin, except you’re mining research data about how the folded proteins inside the virus work.

This is needle-in-a-haystack work that lets researchers identify which drugs may be effective and where to focus their efforts. If the FAH effort were to help bring an effective drug into use even just one day sooner, that would mean a huge number of human lives saved. Let’s do this!

What Do You Think We Should Do To Help Right Now?

It is really hard to stay home and feel like you’re doing anything to help. But of course, in doing so you already are helping to slow the virus! Can we do more?

How do you think we can have a meaningful impact on this crisis? Much effort is being focused right now on the health care response. What can we all do to aid in that? What are the other issues outside of health care that also need some attention to get things moving in the right direction? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

54 thoughts on “Ask Hackaday: What Should We Be Doing During Coronavirus Lockdown?

  1. One thing that I’m trying to find is a good video conferencing solution for myself and family. I found jitsi after a quick search, but I’m curious what others have been able to find & use.

  2. I’m wondering why something like a hunting blind descenting spray like the nanosilver with enzymes isn’t used on the out layer of masks? Seems the masks can last longer also and not be wasted since the decon method isn’t so corrosive.

    Also, I grew up with URI’s so am like… uhm… amazing what propaganda causation can drive and effect. To me and I’m sure many others, this is just another economic cycle, whether solar cycle or not, to drive the financial markets larger cyclical swings. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_cycle

    I’m sure like all econmic cycles… there is the social cycle aspect… hence why some use the term socioeconmics. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socioeconomics

    I think UW Madison has a social physics studies or at least research going on about the time Tech was driving more social responsibility and research for technology, also as I know they have at least three great physics facilities I’ve been to before.

    1. It is really challenging to make a filter for small stuff that doesn’t plug really fast.

      Making a nanosilver mask should be fairly easy, but making one cost effective that doesn’t get rapidly plugged by particulates, and yet filters well enough, this is not at all an easy problem.

      As an expensive DIY project to show off it might work well.

      1. Amazes me to this day how when I was traveling in my Prius, or even Dodge Ram exploring more, most the time and more off the grid… how I could spray down the inside of my outer lining of clothes (not my long underwear insides) and the clothes would never stink. Even the cab of the vehicles got a spray down. I do the same with my shoes and boots… and have my socks too. I don’t sweat and have XL-HED… though still I do get sebaceous secretions in some regions and leaky membranes with maybe a few sparse sweat glands like on the bottoms of my feet.

        Seems the solution can be sprayed on any surface that absorbs or at least distributes, so when dried, the nano silver or other oligodynamic effect materials is left in place to do it’s duty.

        Strange also, is the lack of discussion regarding bugs. Usually bugs spread diseases like rodents and I’m wondering why I’ve not seen in the media.

      2. UV/Autoclave, Ozone, Circulating Air and Pressure duster or Air Comppressor.. to force material outward. Bonus points if in a lexan box with the gloved arm holes. Very doable. Only limit is how much space you have in the box.

        I would keep it to sharpie labeled named masks yourself and your family.

        It wouldn’t be able to get a van and have a portable pet washing business for certain.

        Of course collodial silver and Nano silver works. Johnson and Johnson SOLD band-aids with silver in it about 10 years bad. Until they realized it cured things too fast and that that was hitting the Antiboiotic cream market aka Neosporin from Proctol and Gamble.

        Here is a REAL question. They have Nebulizers for Ventolin/Albuterol (when I was younger for Asthmatics & Chronic Bronchitis. ) Litterally distilled water and Albuterol suspension.

        The question would be how much is too much aka not turn into a Smurf is the only question otherwise there is zero problem.

        1. “The question would be how much is too much aka not turn into a Smurf is the only question otherwise there is zero problem.”

          If I recall from my researching… up your intake of high quality bio-equivalent (consider metabolite) Vit. D since you’re not going to be wanting to go outside in the bright sun much because your tan won’t be a whatever you were expecting. :-|)

          I also recall something to do with the particle size being over a certian size as well as dose over time causing the smurf syndrome Argyria.

          “UV/Autoclave, Ozone, Circulating Air and Pressure duster or Air Comppressor.. to force material outward. Bonus points if in a lexan box with the gloved arm holes. Very doable. ”

          Now I’m thinking can even 3D print a mold/jig for the specific masks to seat in to with a vacuum line for cleaning and decon for re-use.

    2. I think I have heard, that the virus is not that sensitive against metals like copper or even silver. And the virus is a tiny partikel, a nanopartikel by itself (100nm). Even virus containing droplets could be tiny. So you have to get two tiny particles to meet each other. Liquids, sometimes containing extra surfactants (detergents) are much more effective.

  3. I’m just sitting here in my leather chair, watching the medical supplies run out and fondling my jar of leeches saying “Soon you shall eat my darlings, SOOOOON!!! Muhuhahahaaaaaa”

  4. I was thinking of something that not many people realize they need yet **pulls down savior engineer halo around neck, twists a loop in it, moulds a nubbin on the end, rubs nose on it** nose scratchers.

    NASA put them in astronauts helmets, people now having to wear face shields for long periods may appreciate them, and they could stop a lot of people touching their nose with possibly contaminated hands or gloves.

    Anyway, we could start brainstorming some ideas about simple and cheap versions of those. What to use for a disposable or sterilisable “tool” end that meets the nose? Also need testing and feedback on proposed solutions.

    1. How about those wooden sticks? Tongue depressors. If you like, invent some way of making the end a bit scratchier. They’re almost free, and endlessly available.

      They could either be disposable, or soak ’em in alcohol for a while between uses.

      1. I think those could be somewhat in demand at the moment, so don’t want to strain availability of those. Damn it’s like playing a game of “which supply chain to screw up next”

        Not seeming to get anywhere with the rotation problem of putting something around your neck (Also not best for safety if it could catch on anything.) I mean there’s ways and means, adding more bits and complexity and compromises to the user, but that’s not where this needs to go, few parts, simple parts, cheap parts…. I’m now mentally kicking around shoulder mount possibilities.

    2. Right, switching from neck mount to shoulder mount thinking was much more productive.

      Mark 0.1 nose scratcher, office supplies edition:

      1 binder clip, 1 disposable teaspoon, rubber bands, paperclip or safety pin.

      Binder clip size isn’t all that important, but it should be a fairly strong one. String as many bands together as fit round your arm, hitch them through one of the “legs” of the binder clip, pass under armpit, hook on other “leg” with paperclip or safety pin (Or twist tie or split ring if that’s all you can find, or even squeeze the leg together so you can get an end out to slip the band over) clamp handle of spoon in binder clip. Figure out which way round suits you, bowl forward seems to work for me. Apply heat and twist handle if you want different orientation. You may find according to the shape of your shoulder and how bulky your clothing is under your arms, that it will slip to upper arm rather than shoulder, still seems to work, spoon angle might need adjusting.

      Variations… Other ways to fasten might include just duct taping it down, or using safety pins through clothing instead of bands under the arm. Other things like utility velcro straps, wire tidiers, even cables ties (ensure you have a method to release them) may work. If working with kids, sharpie a beak on it, give it paper wings and call it your plastic parrot or something. If you’re tryna get kids to stop touching noses, make it a craft project and say parrot needs nuzzling for love all day or something.

  5. While I am not a fan Adafruit (technical basis), I am a fan of Limor Fried and Phillip Torrone (societal basis). The above link to their Covid19 ‘response’ is interesting. These types of business people may well be the only thing that prevents the coming recession from becoming a deep economic mess.

    But do not look to help from old geezers such as myself – we have been (literally and figuratively) told to just go away and find a place to die. My engineering peers are a bit shell-shocked from comments received from younger members of the companies that we consult to or are employed. A software engineer of 62 years told me that she was taking 10 to 20 days off to decompress and determine the risk of staying employed and surrounded by younger hostiles, or just retiring early and ‘heading for the hills’.

    But with any luck, this will all pass; and all will be forgotten until the next debacle/crisis.

    1. In my country there’s a saying: “who does not have old folks should buy them”.
      Nothing can replace a lifetime experience.
      Sure, there is a fine balance between experience, the comfort of known ways of doing things and the rigidity that settles with (sometimes not so) old age.
      On the other hand the young ones have the stamina for trying new things, the time to learn by faiing and the boldness to go away from the known paths (with a lage percent getting eaten in the forest or dying of thirst in the middle of an ocean – figurately speaking).
      It looks like the “properties” of different ages can spark conflict. I want to think of if as the best opportunity to create a composite material tool, a super brain storm.

    2. Where do you live? Who has told you to go away and find a place to die? In the UK we’re telling people over 70 and people with respiratory issues to self isolate as much as they can, because we don’t want to lose them.

    3. Where in the hell do these people work?

      First, given the number of people working from home, you’d think that a software engineer would be at the top of the list.

      Second, the young people at pretty much at the low end of the risk pool. What do they have to be hostile about, or are they angry that they can’t hang out in coffee shops or at the beach right now?

      Keep in mind that adversities like this reveal who we truly are inside.

      If I every hear some idiot make comments like this to our older coworkers, they will be sufficient exposed and perhaps reported to HR. I wont stand for it (I also have a manager title, so it may carry some weight).

  6. i was thinking about printing some face shields, but my printer decided to shed its micro usb connector and ive thus far been unable to re-solder it. in retrospect a classic type b would probably be better for a machine that vibrates a lot.

    1. What have you tried, the “roll a huge blob over it” thing? Sometimes when you can’t get that to work, you can get a bit of solid core copper wire, and wind it round the bit of a 25W or so iron and bend a bit out and snip it at an angle for a really small tip to fiddle with fiddly stuff. Also might wanna save an inch of the solid core as a strap to go over the top of the connector and solder down to ground plane each side for a bit more mechanical rigidity. For all I know I’m teaching grandma to suck eggs here, so tell us more about your problems if you need suggestions. Guess you could just snip then end off a regular USB cord, solder that on and leave it trailing the regular plug and use an A male -A female extension to hook up to it if there’s not enough slack.

  7. Remember how people said “it’s just a flu bro.”

    Or how about I was being a sensationalist? I prayed you were wrong remember that?

    Or how about that editor, How is that 2% you thought you said.

    And now advice on what to do? Swap out your air filters in your HVAC, (its allergy season). While you are in there INSTALL the UV/AUTOCLAVE/Sterilization lamp so your don’t cycle the same spores, pollen, mold, bacteria and viruses.

    More clever? figure out how to use Ozone as part of the air purification system.

    Install a UV bulb under your car seat where the air circulates from off your shoes!

    How about vacuum your house/apartment/rental not just roomba, but manually undust your fans, vents, intakes, bookshelves.

    Put that printer to good use and print out recipes for food, for canning, for checklists.

    Do a checklist of what you have on hand in your car and in your house.

    Water? Fill and tarp down the bathtub.

    Food? Do a caloric calculator on how much you have and how much you spend.

    Electricity? Parallel car batteries with a UPS or a DC to AC inverter. What about a generator? Gas with no ethanol.

    Heat/Cooking? Summer is around the corner refill your propane tank. And get another one.

    Read a book, Mastermeme, draw/paint.

    Clean.your.room!

    1. Amazing how cheap some of the industrial strength ozone makers can be found for. I had to invest in two, one for backup, when I decon’d the house I’m working on. Be careful with ozone though…, it’s not the lab ICP strength stuff, industrial strength ozone generators are really dangerous to work with and the ozone and how knows what persists for longer than most would realize… so provide ample time to exchange air before returning and cover up with a mask when required. Good thing is the odor is obvious.

      Some specific oils for other pests, and some even work for pathogens too, are handy to diffuse afterwards also or even conventional sprays.

      1. I built an Ozone generator (still have it) when I was growing “tomatoes” indoors. 10 years back.

        I took a neon beer / open sign broke the glass to access the terminals.

        I then took on side of the terminal for the neon and affixed/wound it to chicken wire and aluminum/steel mesh I then hot glued it to a piece of lexan leaving about 1-2 inches all the way around the lexan free (I’m sure MDF or wood would work as well) I repeated the same with the other side.

        So metal mesh, insulator, metal mesh. Yes super dangerous so I set it up in a cardboard box with large air holes and styrofoam holders to keep it from moving around.

        Aimed the fan at the cardboard. Turned on the fan and plugged in the transformer. Instantly the room was filled. I got a light coughing fit from how strong it was. I set it on a timer to run 2 minutes every 6 hours.

        I noticed after 3 days it burnt the leaves of my “tomatoes”.

        Ozone really is hyper aggressive toward everything organic. Obviously it needs a dedicated space and well ventilated. I would say it would it does wonders running it in with a mini heater box wear you put your shoes and mask. It does an amazing job deodorizing a car that smells like fast food and cigarettes.

        I honestly don’t know how aggressive it is toward leather and vinyl.

      2. That remebers me of the old “Höhensonne (“mountain sun”) UV lamp, I adapted to PCB making. A 75W quartz-mercury arc lamp. It had an IR heater which also worked as ballast resistors for the Hg bulb.
        I removed it and used two parallel fluorescent tube ballast chokes instead. The lamp smells like it generates much ozone and/or NOx, so much that I left the room when I used it.
        But originally it was designed that you sit in front of it and irradiate yourself with UV and IR (or only IR). There were two glass filters which you could move in front of the lamp with a wheel like control knob. On the wheel a recommended (or minimum?) distance to the lamp was indicated: I think it changed from 0,75m to 0,5m when you applied the filters.
        I used this lamp also successfully to erase EPROMs but I would not like to sit in front of it. I think the UV must act germicidal also. (UVB or UVC)

  8. Donate to your local homeless shelter or appropriate charity. The economic ramifications of the lockdown is going to kill more already impoverished or newly-impoverished people than the virus could ever hope to do. We lucky few are having a hard time with “self-care” and cabin fever, but for most people the lockdown is not a somewhat restful/somewhat creepy home vacation or a time-out. It’s a struggle with death. I have lots of friends who immediately lost their jobs, paid weekly rent, and are now instantly homeless without even the luxury of running out the end of the month. Just straight to the street, and shelters are often shuttered because of lack of funds and hands because of the lockdown too. I have other friends who have had interruptions in their medications because of supply chain complications. They are likely going to die even more quickly.

    Viruses aren’t the only thing that is going to be killing people. Probably not even the primary cause of death.

      1. I don’t see communism, when somebody says that the measures against the virus can be partially more deadly than the virus itself. Similar to an allergic reaction or shock which can cause a person to die from a bee sting. Ironically part of the way this virus can harm your lungs is by causing a destructive over reaction of your immune system called “cytokine storm” where the resulting inflammation worsens tissue damage in the lungs. We have to take care, that we do not the same to our economy.
        And if somebody decides to donate, why not?

    1. Those are good points. Here in the UK many people have been condemning the government for not putting a lock down in place sooner, but I think it was wise to delay it. Getting the virus spread around a bit and getting medical services up to full capacity and then locking down (and with any luck maintaining the same number of new cases per day) should allow us to get through the whole population in the smallest, yet safest, amount of time.

    2. Just had a statistical wondering moment… if the use of silver currency being more common for a generation prior to WWI, the War and the Pittman Act contributed to the Spanish Flu of 1918 in the U.S. and maybe elsewhere?

  9. If you’re a sysadmin or otherwise inclined, you can set up a Mumble voice chat server. (https://www.mumble.info/) I set up one for my local gaggle of geeks on a $5 VPS and it’s helped people with the isolation. I realize there are options like Discord too, but sometimes making these little community things helps encourage people that otherwise might not join. Another of my friends is setting up an Unreal Tournament 99 server. This is a great time to put nerdy skills to use!

  10. Of course most radio amateurs will continue doing the same old homebrewing, digital and voice modes, and antenna experimentation without any discernible interruption to their routine.

    In fact, most would relish a few weeks to finally get stuff done without all those annoying social engagements that have to be attended.

  11. How about vacuum your house/apartment/rental not just roomba, but manually undust your fans, vents, intakes, bookshelves.

    Yes, working this is grounded. But the philosophy of isms, or complete lifestyle solutions is not about the real faith of “John Galt” All true genuine faith is “within” that is where we are sovereign, lets remember to be grounded in this days, the water and tempest is going to get stronger, and we are not on the shores of an child of god we are on the high seas of adolescences and its temperature rising in the age of material comfort and now we are going back into the age of nutritional epic more and more . Its a destabilization on the progression of civilization for a interregnum or back to basics mentality. But records show it is sad that not even societies magnified ills, are both a part of growth without effort, struggle and conflict there can be no growth.

    1. Very nicely said. We spend our older years operating on auto-pilot and relying on the maid to clean our homes, nanny/day care/media/”teachers” to raise our children, using a cook, instant food, restaurants instead of actually cooking. (Aka most people don’t know how to boil a pot of water without it foaming over aka 1-2 drops of cooking oil). Our clothing goes to the dry cleaner.

      Overall, these last few generations we cared more about presenting our outward selves to strangers and others then carrying and taking pride in keeping our houses in order and the bonds of our families and loved ones.

      There has been so much that has be lost on trivialities and chasing the approval and abuse of vanity. That many are ashamed to look in mirror and be genuine in the self reflection and what histories they have lost.

      I suppose the beauty of this self-isolation and quarantine is even though the loneliness might be painful, people might have a real chance to become best friends with themselves and like who they are without casting judgement at others. This abundance of “necessity” shall indeed breed more invention.

      1. I do not see ANY benefit in beeing forced to do so.

        I am lucky to live in a time where we can live like we did until two weeks ago and I just hope that this state of restrictions ends the sooner the better.
        Like: If you had an accident, it is very good when the pain lessens. But nobody who is mentally healthy would hit himself on purpose just to feel the pain lessen afterwards.

        What is the benefit of cooking yourself when you do not like it that much that you can call it a hobby? I am also not interested in keeping my own cow or chicken. It’s good that we have supermarkets.

        1. Where do you want it to end? What parts of your life do you want to outsource to say “oh yeah this is good.” I would argue very consternly “you can’t have light without the darkness”. Where do you stop outsourcing any competency and connection. I don’t know your life choices nor do I care but. Personally, if I am involved I want my investment to be mutual. Want a back rub? Give a back rub.. or go to the masseuse. Want to make love with the person you care about or have a phuk. Go to a hooker. Want to create new life or just adopt… even easier just hire a surrogate mother to carry the fertiziled egg and baby to term you can be completely absent from any experiences normal humans would treasure.

          Now regarding the grocery store? (And k off if you are vegan) I like the meat fresh and not coated with preservatives to keep it red looking and end up buying meat from a very old dairy cow that once cooked is litterally beef jerk.

          I would love to have fresh venison and bringing it home myself is a blessing that I was competent to do what is need to be done to survive and thrive.

          Where do you stop outsourcing your life experiences?

        2. What is an accident? Or mistake? Personally I see all drivers as the enemy to my person, loved ones and property. I’ve been in more accidents because of the neglect and stupidity of others the I had broken a traffic law. If you have never been cut off in traffic then you don’t know what it means to be at the mercy of the stupidity of other humans. FFS they don’t even use thier turn signals.

        3. Remember Benjamin Franklin said “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”. I might be a tail end of Gen X but we came from a Commie country that destroyed not only family members but crushed the wills of the populace to never speak a word even when there was a chance to prevent bad things from happening.

          Personally, seeing people litterally bow there heads and ask for slavery and for the state to be their parents over their biological ones who taught them civility, kindness, understanding and compassion. To just “Obey, Conform, Oppress others” is disgusting. Plant a garden and raise some chickens you lazy Urbanite. Papa Stalin would have gunned you down for NOT pulling atleast 60 hours a week but at the same pace as everyone around you, the prison of Dilbert and being mediocre was the only and best blessing you could every achieve.

        4. March 28 2020.. “Millennials aren’t designed for lockdown” BWAHAHAHA cant.even.boil.water. I’m laughing, I’m coming, I’m cooking. And I’m about to coof. Really? Verity Johnson has the mindset of a 3 year old. This is why t.v. rots the brain and coddles people. Litterally doesn’t know how to soak beans over night in water. Litterally doesn’t wash the rice. Litterally surrounded by food and so lazy they would starve. That is the outsourcing… congratulations you are the sticks lasagna.

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