I got Covid and I wouldn't recommend it

Two years and 44 days after the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, I caught it. I haven't felt this sick since at least January 2013 (probably longer), and I therefore spent an entire week lying on my couch. Which is ironic considering that, as I lay there "looking half dead" (not my words), Germany was scraping almost all protective measures.

What happens when you get sick right as the country is ready to move on? In my experience you get sent back and forth between different services who haven't yet noticed that there's a pandemic going on, you rage against "Corona test centers" who don't test sick people, and eventually someone takes pity on you and takes care of it.

My first difficulty was the PCR test: quick tests are not accepted by my employer, my girlfriend's employer, nor my soon-to-be-ex-doctor's office. But getting a PCR test while sick is bafflingly difficult: the test centers suggested by the 116117 Patient service only offer quick tests, and the multiple other test centers that sprung up these years don't accept customers with symptoms. The only choice is a 20 minutes ride to the nearest Hospital, meaning you need either a car (have fun driving while sick!), a driver (ideally someone who is willing to get sick by being in contact with you), or a moderately-full public bus. Fun fact: do you know which kind of people takes a bus on a working day during working hours? Answer: Old people! Have fun at night wondering how many of them you'll put in an intensive station next week.

I then tried to use the Corona Warn-App to tell anonymous people they should get tested, but that didn't work either. The app doesn't let you self-declare as sick, offering only the possibility of scanning your official code. The problem is that I started exhibiting symptoms on Wednesday, got my PCR results on Friday, and yet as of this writing (one week later) the results are still not uploaded and probably never will be. I said it before and I'll say it again: when security researcher Bruce Schneier said that contact tracing apps have no value, he was right.

And finally, the sickness certificate: my soon-to-be-ex-doctor has not yet learned that they are allowed to extend certificates per telephone, but won't see me in person either. I tried calling the 116117 people again for a referral, but they entered a loop and got me nowhere. I guess no one asked them for a doctor before? I next gave the health services of my employer a try, but they were as useless as always. And as I started going through a list of other possible doctors to call my girlfriend lost her patience, took time off work, and went to my soon-to-be-ex-doctor's office in person to get me the stupid certificate.

People, it's been OVER TWO YEARS since we canceled Karneval the first time, and yet we are still in the same spot where we started. I know that Germany is a bureaucratic place, but that's not the issue - if anything, the fact that there is a protocol to follow is a bit of a consolation. But when EVERY.SINGLE.STEP of that protocol is broken, it really makes you wonder what else might be FUBAR and waiting for you to discover it.

So you want to use my PC

So you want to use my PC? Sure, no problem, it's right there. But real quick, before you start, there's a couple small tips that you should keep in mind.

If you turn it on and nothing happens, that means the KVM switch is listening on the wrong input. Just press the black button behind the screen to switch it back. Can't find it? Maybe it fell down - it has a short cable and sometimes the other cables pull it back. Or maybe it's underneath all of my drawing stuff. Either way, search for it behind the desk and press it. The screen should turn on.

You may also notice that the computer chair has been relegated to the side and that I'm using a regular wooden chair instead. You can use the fancy one if you want - after a couple weeks it may cause some completely unexpected health issues, but on a short enough scale it's fine.

Now, this computer runs Linux. Technically it runs Windows too, but the screen for choosing a different operating system goes away before the monitor has time to turn on, and we lost too much time to spam the arrow keys anyway. But that's probably for the best: given that I haven't booted Windows in a long time, that Windows loves mandatory updates, and that the computer has a mechanical hard drive, there's a good chance that you would have to wait at least an hour before being able to use it. Why haven't I upgraded to an SSD, you ask? I have considered it, but Windows won't let me for complicated reasons. So Linux it is.

You may see a bunch of text scrolling by. That's fine. If the text stops scrolling for a long time you may want to consider pressing the NumLock key several times. I'm not entirely clear on the details, but something about interruptions and IRQs sometimes keeps the PC from starting if it doesn't detect activity. And since the NumLock key doesn't do anything bad, it is the safest key to spam-press.

Once you've made it to the login screen it is going to ask you for a username and password. That one should be easy - I have been using the same combination for over 20 years, so you probably know it already. Need a hint? It's in the same league as my network name plus my favorite number. It's not exactly hunter2, but it's close.

You may have a bit of trouble reading the letters on screen. Don't worry, the screen works fine - I just keep my brightness and contrast real low, and even the smallest hint of natural light turns them invisible. You could adjust the brightness using the monitor's crappy touch controls, or you could do what I do and close the curtains. I'm not going to tell you which one is right, but I am going to vouch for the one that has kept me glasses-free for more than 25 years of extensive computer use.

If you want a graphical interface, type startx and my Mate Desktop Environment will start. Ignore the error about sticky notes - I have been meaning to fix it for some time, but there's always something else and it doesn't bother me anyway. But before you type anything, a word of caution: the interface is in English, but the keyboard is German and the key mapping is Spanish. That means that regular keys are where you expect them to be (except for Z and Y, which are inverted), but if you want to type a single quote you need to add a space afterwards or you'll get an accented letter otherwise. If you have a password with more than just letters and numbers then you may want to type it in a text editor first and copy-paste.

You probably need a web browser, in which case the Firefox icon is right there. But you probably don't want that: the script blockers almost guarantee that whatever website you are trying to open will not work. For those cases I recommend using the super-outdated Chrome browser instead - the icon is right next to the Firefox one. It won't play Netflix because I didn't install the DRM stuff, but everything else should work fine. If you want audio, remember to plug the headphones first. And that reminds me: I have set the browser to auto-delete all history when closing the browser. So don't close the window until you're done, or you'll have to login again. I hope you didn't close the text editor with your password!

Now, I'll be honest with you: at this point most people give up and resort to their phones. And it's okay, I get it. That's what happens when you keep your tools exactly like you want them to be and suddenly you are asked to share. But most people tend to blame Linux for it, which I think it's unfair - if anything, I'd like to see Windows offer even half the flexibility to do things my way.

Now, let's talk about that WiFi password. But first, one question: do you know how to type the "¿" symbol on your keyboard?

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