5 open source activities while you work from home

Work-life balance is important whether you're working from home temporarily or it's your usual mode of earning a living.
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Person in a field of dandelions


The mythos of the remote home office or the exciting archetype of the digital nomad are as appealing as they are dangerous. It's great to be able to avoid a commute, to be able to stay comfortable at home while getting lots of work done, and to be master of your own schedule. But along with those liberties, you inherit the responsibility of remembering to be a normal, functioning human being. Believe it or not, the two aren't mutually exclusive. You can do both, but you have to work at it. Here are some ideas on how.

Plant something

Seeeduino in the garden

You may have an abundance of little ones to care for during the day, and if you do, you should read our article about fun open source projects for kids and parents. If you don't, or if you're just keen to try caring for something that's quiet, then you might find it satisfying to plant something.

I used to think gardening was something you did as a way to establish a routine: each morning, you wake up and tend to your plants before you start your day, each evening you might pull weeds, and so on. Now that I have a garden, I realize that it's more like a low-stress puzzle. Learning to tend to plants is a little like learning to program. You learn the basics first, you learn to debug (literally, in the case of aphids), and then you learn how to optimize growth and maybe even how to automate plant care.

If you're not attracted to gardening, there are plenty of other outdoor projects that are useful in getting you outdoors with a purpose and encouraging you to go back out for more.

Go for a walk


The phrases "go for a walk" or "get some fresh air" are so common that they seem trite, but that doesn't make the result any less valid. Getting outside your usual workspace is vital for clarity and drive, but sometimes going outside feels a little pointless. You can only walk around the block so many times before the journey loses excitement.

If you need a goal for ambling around your neighborhood, you can download a handy app called StreetComplete. It's a quest-based app that presents you with points of interest in your area with incomplete Open Street Map data. You can help crowdsource better open source maps by verifying and providing information through the app. Suddenly, that aimless meandering you don't really want to do is a fun quest for you and your family.


Mini stapler

Being in an office can present exciting challenges, whether it's because you're in a dynamic industry or in a petty fight with a colleague over ownership of a stapler. When you work from home, your daily routine can get pretty, well, routine. If that's the case, it might be time to diversify.

If you've been meaning to get involved with open source, now's a great time for it.

If you suspect you might be artistic (or even if you're convinced you're not, but you have something you want to express), then maybe it's time to finally learn how to create some digital imagery.

Or maybe you're curious about programming. It might be easier than you think and given enough free time, you might even end up with your own game written in Python.

Make some music

Music keyboardas

Artistic expression is important, whether you're working from home or living with someone who's bored at home. The great thing about music is that you don't need to be musical to make some really cool noise. In fact, you can make some wild sounds on a Raspberry Pi, if you have one lying around.

If you happen to be musical, though, you can have a go at a digital audio workstation like Qtractor or Rosegarden. For inspiration, read about a professional composer and the music festival he created.


Old computers

I don't like it when good things go to waste, especially computers. Read about refurbishing old computers and really old computers, and then rummage around in your attic to find one for your own experiments.

Meet the challenge

Being stuck at home for long periods of time, whether it's for a few weeks or the better part of your career, can be challenging. However, open source is a vast landscape of opportunity. Explore and find the parts of it that appeal to you. You can build a hobby, and maybe even a career, out of all the fun things you can do with other people's toys.

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Seth Kenlon
Seth Kenlon is a UNIX geek, free culture advocate, independent multimedia artist, and D&D nerd. He has worked in the film and computing industry, often at the same time.


Some places in the world I hear are restricting any outside activity, including walking. I've heard stories from co-workers where venturing more an 50 or so yards from the house can end up in real fines! Take care everyone .... and if you can't walk far from your home perhaps try gardening, or some other close-to-home activity that focuses your attention intently in one place.

Believe it or not, I started considering to do the yard work ... and I hate yard work! But, it needs to be done, and gets me out of the house. :)

Work-life balance is important ... especially for tech workers, it is far too easy to just immerse yourself 24x7 into computer work, and that will lead to burnout.

Maybe if you have to remain indoors and need something to do .... write an article for opensource.com!

Good point, James. Getting outside is not as easy for everyone whether it is based on their living situation or country's guidelines.

I have noticed that yards are looking mighty fine during this period, haha!

And great tip on writing for Opensource.com if you are stuck indoors ;)

In reply to by JamesF

I'm one of the original developers of the open source real-time operating system RTEMS. I have been posting Covid Code-In updates and small tasks that benefit the project and can help pass time. We track these as small tasks in our ticketing system and they are similar to what we would use for Google Code-In. These are specific small tasks that just typically fall through the cracks. For example, fix a warning, add a test, convert a wiki page to an entry in the regular manuals, etc. Nothing which should take very long but is useful.

We all need to stay healthy and social distance but this is an alternative.to crossword puzzles and binge watching Netflix. :)

Thank you for this clickbait article.

Download MuseScore and check out OpenScore. Find a piece on IMSLP and transcribe it anyway and push is back to MuseScore.

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