Preparing for lockdown: How to keep yourself (and your family) entertained

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When we first came up with this one, we were far more concerned with Eskom and load shedding. The COVID-19 coronavirus was little more than a noise in the distance. If we were thinking about it at all, it was somewhere along the lines of ‘It’ll never happen here and, if it does, it won’t be a big deal.’ So much for that idea.

So, as we batten down the hatches and empty every grocery store in sight (but politely — we’re not panic-buying at all, promise), it’s also time to look at ways to occupy your time at home. There’s no traffic, you’re going to find yourself running out of work (assuming you’re working), or perhaps getting a little cabin-fevery. Here are a few ways to keep yourself busy — with the added bonus that all of these tips are perfectly suited for when (not if) load shedding makes its way back into our lives.

The Basics

Ready Player One

No matter what you’re planning to do when the lockdown is on or the power is gone, it doesn’t make sense to sort it out after the fact. Make sure devices are charged, downloads are down, and updates are installed before the enforced time at home. It never hurts to be prepared. Also, download Eskom Se Push. You might need it.

Take your tablets

You don’t want to be at a loose-end should the power suddenly go out while you’re forced to be at home. Grab yourself a tablet or smartphone, fire up Netflix and pop on over to the Available To Download option. Here you’ll find everything that can be viewed offline. If Netflix made it, it’s here. There’s a wide selection of other content but not everything is licensed for offline viewing. You may have to watch some stuff when the WiFi’s working as it should. The horror…

Platform diving

You can download Netflix on a range of platforms – everything from Android devices (running Android 4.4.2), iOS devices (running iOS 9.0 or later), and even Amazon Fire devices (from Fire OS 4.0) if you’re the type to import your devices. Laptops are also an option – but you’ll need Windows 10 version 1607 or later, as well as the latest version of the Windows 10 Netflix app.

Get Smart

If you’re watching a series, make sure that your Netflix app has Smart Downloads enabled. It won’t matter when you’re not connected to WiFi but if you’ve completed an episode, Netflix will delete it and download the next one in the series. You may plough through everything you downloaded during a shedding episode but Netflix will sort you out for the next time without any further intervention.

Control, Alt…

Don’t forget to make space by deleting movies you’ve already watched. Head to Downloads, tap the pencil icon and then select depleted media files and the garbage can. Done. Of course, if you’re only streaming (at reduced quality, most likely), you don’t have to worry about this right now.

Hand of Pod

Offline upskill

Podcasts are an amazing way to pass the time and they’ve got the added benefit that you can download a bunch in the event of electrical weirdness. You can use Spotify to access your faves (plus, they’ve got a 30-day Premium trial available for new users) but Google’s Podcasts app (Free) is an excellent choice too.

Going down

Making sure you’re prepared for anything could be simpler — but not much. Choose a podcast, select an episode and then tap on the arrow. Download a few more episodes and you’re set for hours – or choose Joe Rogan’s podcast and download a single episode. It amounts to the same thing.

Seeing Spot(ify)

Going off

Spotify’s also for music, and you can host files on your device if needed. Provided you’ve got Premium (R60pm). If you find a playlist you like, you can download it for later. And don’t worry about artists getting their dues – when your device goes online, the 386 times you played Achy Breaky Heart (Grime Rap Mix) will be credited correctly.

Make a plan

You don’t have to reap the fruit of other people’s labour. Spotify’s playlist function will start suggesting tracks as you add a few to your custom playlist. It’s the work of a few minutes to create Songs To Sit At Home To, and then a few more to download it so you can access it, come what may.

Switch it up

Nice one Ninty

Nintendo’s Switch console was a delight when it was first revealed and it’s even more so now. A powerful handheld gaming machine packed with quality games is the perfect way to spend the newly-anxious nights.

Feeling Indie

Check out some of the smaller games on Nintendo’s online store, especially on weekends. That’s when sales tend to happen and there are often real gems available for almost nothing. Bastion and Transistor first, then spread out from there. And if you can get a first-party Nintendo game at a discount, grab it.

Storage wars

Supplement the Switch’s (rather dismal) internal storage with a microSD card. Crank it up to 128GB if you can and be aware that it still won’t be enough. But if you’re in the habit of buying games online, you’ll be grateful that you took the time to upgrade the storage space.

Feel the power

Stay on top

You’ll want to pair a power bank with any of these entertainment options. Watching video or streaming music, even without an internet connection, chews batteries quicker than if you’re browsing the internet. Even hungrier? That’d be gaming. The plan is: you can keep your devices on for longer (and more conveniently) if you’re connected to a power bank rather than a wall socket.

Full capacity

Opt for a power bank in the 15,000mAh to 20,000mAh range – if there’s more than one device in play that’ll let you top up all of them. They’re also handy in case Eskom throws a hissy and turns everyone’s power off at an inopportune moment.

The Three Amigos

Netflix

A killer catalogue of original content, a wide selection of movies and series and the ability to download much of it on a mobile device make Netflix a prime contender for your attention in the dark. Just remember to renew your downloads prior to an outage. Netflix has a trial you can sign up for as well — 30 days is longer than three weeks. Just saying.

From R100pm | netflix.com

Showmax

South Africa’s home grown streaming service offers content you can’t get anywhere else and you can also download anything available on the service – only to Android and iOS mobile devices, naturally. You’re limited to 25 items at a time, but that’s enough. Now is the best time to try their 14-day trial out.

R100pm | showmax.com

YouTube

You know who never runs out of content for you to watch? YouTube. And you don’t need to pay a subscription service to view stuff offline. It takes a lot more curation (because there’s a lot more content) but you can save videos from YouTube to watch later. The tricky bit is making sure what you want is available. And if the power’s working, the trick is: deciding what to watch.

Free | youtube.com

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