I hope everyone and their electronics came through last week’s storm unscathed.
Hindsight being 20/20, it seems a perfect time to talk about gadgets and power outages. As an IT worker who also works from home at times, power outages are a major distraction. Outages, how do I hate thee, let me count the ways:
One: Power surges
I’m assuming you have power surge protectors between all of your electronics and the wall. If you don’t, you probably know after last week. If you were lucky enough to have no surge protection and no damage, I promise, it was just luck.
A decent surge can kill a LCD TV. Even if you have surge protectors, give them a once over after an outage. Most of the cheaper surge protectors will only stop a couple of strong surges. That’s why we get them for $20 to $40. Still, in my experience, it’s worth it to stick with the cheaper models.
Two: Lost work
My computer is always at 100 per cent charge, right? I’m sure yours is as well. I’m sure you never nip out to the coffee shop for a change of scenery and work there for an hour or two. Oh and if you are on a desktop, even better. The power goes and so does whatever you were working on. Be it a spreadsheet, a design or your taxes. A lot of programs will try and recover data from sudden shutdowns. But do you really want to leave that responsibility up to a bunch of programmers you don’t know? I thought not.
Three: Lost productivity
Power is officially out. My windup radio/flashlight that my oldest son gave me a couple of Christmases ago informs me to expect a six-hour outage. Yay, it’s like a snow day! Ha, wrong again. I may be sitting in Newfoundland but my client is anywhere from New York to Vancouver. They may or may not shed a tear and my little snow storm. Working under a tight deadline plus an extended outage equals a sad programmer.
Did I mention my laptop is good for another few hours? But the Internet is out.
Four: Why do I have so many clocks?
The stove, the microwave, DVD, stereo, alarm clock, coffee maker … Am I that forgetful? Do I dare close the blinds or will I just fall asleep like a parakeet under a blanket? Why do I need all these clocks?! We all know if I want the time I: a) glance at my computer clock b) check my phone.
Five: Is it chilly?
Two words: sleeping bag. Even if you aren’t an avid camper, an Arctic sleeping bag could save your life. If you have alternate heating sources like a propane burner or fireplace, be certain you have a carbon monoxide detector and actually read the manual for the heater. You should probably have a CO detector anyway.
There are of course plenty of solutions technology could offer to safeguard you and yours during a power outage. The cost can roam upwards of thousands though. Little things like a generator, etc.
Instead, let’s focus on the basics. An Uninterrupted Power Supply goes between your computer’s plug and the wall. The cheaper ones will only buy you a couple of minutes, but it’s enough time to save your work and shut down gracefully. Mentioned above, a windup radio and flashlight. Batteries are just another potential point of failure.
In a real work emergency, you may need extra power and Internet. If money is not the issue the day your lights dim then tethering is the answer. You may end up calling customer service to help you get it set up, since you can’t Google the answers, but your cellular can be your gateway back to the Internet. For power, I have an inverter in my vehicle where I can plug in two standard plugs with ground and a USB cable. I have another with just USB connections. Follow standard safety here in terms of exhaust and ventilation.
Did you have some tricks up your sleeve during the last winter power outage? Let me know in the comments section at http://thewesternstar.com and stay safe!
Jon Reid is an IT professional working in Corner Brook. His column appears every other Tuesday in The Western Star.