21 February 2006

When the lights go out ...

Boo! Don't play with the torch!

What do you do when the power goes out? Sometimes it is just for a few moments but other times it can be for hours or, worse yet, days!
Being out of town, we use rainwater and the power tends to fluctuate too. So here is what we do to handle black-outs.
1. Check that you haven't tripped the power yourself. If not, call the power company. If everyone assumes someone else will call, the power company may take a while to realise the power is out.
2. UPS - Uninterruptible Power Supply. Computers need a regular supply of power to operate and to maintain data integrity. Often power straight from the socket can fluctuate enough to cause damage to hard disks and cause greater wear on compnents. A UPS not only regulates the power to within safe limits above and below the standard, it also acts as a surge protector (in case of lightning strikes, etc) and the battery backup allows you to safely close down the computer. This has saved our data and files many times.
3. A non cordless phone. Cordless phones do not work without power. We have an older phone in the cupboard for use in blackouts, and the cordless phone base station is plugged into the battery backup part of the UPS.
4. Torch/Flashlight. A working torch needs to be easily obtained in the dark. Our torch is a gyro dynamo powered torch which does not need batteries and the light is generated from LEDs. We keep it right next to the computer so we know where to get it. (It also helps sorting out the tangle of cords and connectins below the desk!)
5. Cooking options. We have gas and electric cooking and a gas barbeque. That way we will be able to prepare hot food without power.
6. Water. Being outside town our water is derived from rainwater tanks. In the US we had a well. Either way, once power was off we couldn't use the faucets, or flush the toilets. We have ensured that we can get water directly from the tanks without power using a gravity feed faucet. At least that way we can flush using a bucket.
7. Minimise opening the fridge and freezer. The cool cannot be replaced without power.
8. Rediscover non electronic entertainment. This is the most fun part.

The reason we have posted this today is because our power went out for a few hours. I was working from home and was able to save my data in progress because my desktop had battery backup and the laptop had its own power.

Once I had saved my documents and shutdown the desktop, I worked on the laptop whilst it battery lasted. Then it was filing and cleaning up. Then the power came on.

!! The power just failed whilst I was writing this post!!
As the post is in blogger and the internet went down with the power, I saved all that I had typed by copying the test to notepad - from the "Edit HTML" tab.
Then before the battery died I quit all the programs and shut down.
Unfortunately. the power came back on and then failed about 10 minutes later and again it did the same. This meant the battery backup had run out and the computer crashed twice. Something on the hard disk failed and it wouldn't start up.
To fix? I tried starting in safe mode but it didn't get that far. So I booted with the Windows XP setup disk and entered recovery mode and ran CHKDSK /F. This found the bad sectors and fixed them allowing a normal reboot and all was well.

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