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The Night The Lights Went Out In (Pleasant Grove)

January 2, 2014

BEEEEEEP!

Uh oh. I blew the circuit breaker!

Fortunately, my home lab is right next to the circuit panel. The UPS batteries were keeping my screen and my servers up and running. But, if I didn’t get that circuit breaker reset quickly enough, they were going to crash in a bad way.

Flashlight. . . ?

Office! My home office is about 10 feet from the lab and I keep a flashlight in my office. Weird, that the office light doesn’t work. I didn’t think it was on the same circuit as the lab.

BEEEEEEP!

The UPS is challenging me to race it to the death. Let’s see. . . Here we go, got it!

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Let’s see which circuit? More weirdness. None of them are flipped.

Hey, is the power out up there?

Yes.

Oh. So, back to the lab. Now it really is a race. Can I get all my machines shut down gracefully before the UPS gives up the ghost?

Machine 1 is n Windows XP workstation. XP was one of the greatest and most stable operating systems ever written, and still my preferred general use Operating System.

Shut down!

Flip the KVM to the next one, a Windows 2012 test server. Where did they put the shutdown command on 2012? It’s that new Windows 8 style layout.

Control Panel?

No

BEEEEEEEP!

I’M WORKING ON IT!

CTRL-ALT-DEL! Yeah, they included it in the screen where you launch task manager.

Shut down!

That’s two!

Flip the KVM over to my Windows 2012 production server. But, first I need to shut down my Firewall box which can only be administered from a web browser on another machine. I already had the admin program up in my browser. Let’s see. . .it was under Management tools? Yeah, there it is.

Shut down!

Now to put this last server down gently.

CTRL-ALT. . . .BEEEEEeee. . . .

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Well, three out of four isn’t bad. It was only at this point that I considered my actions. Of the four machines that were running, the XP box was newly installed and had nothing important on it. It just so happened that it was the box I was using when the power died. I certainly didn’t need to shut it down, and not first. The second box was a test machine. It literally had nothing that couldn’t be deleted and recreated as needed.

No, the only really valuable and important computers were my file server and my firewall computer. Both would require significant effort to reinstall and reconfigure. And I left them untill last. Now, Windows 2012 is a very stable operating system and I was confident that it would come back up. And the firewall box was running a proprietary OS that was also unlikely to become corrupt due to a power outage. But, why did I do them in that crazy order?

I also remembered why I always kept a flashlight at my desk when I worked in an office building. It gets really dark in the middle of a cube farm when the power goes out. And it gets really dark in my basement lab when the power goes out!

On the positive side, the UPS batteries did exactly what they were supposed to do. They kept my servers alive long enough for me to shut them down gracefully and had I not wasted time finding a flashlight and checking the breakers and then calling upstairs and then doing them in the wrong order, I would have had plenty of time.

Our power outage happened just a few days ago when the kids were home for Christmas break. I headed upstairs to check on my family and discovered a positive benefit to our family getting board games for Christmas. None of the games was in the least impacted by the power outage.

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Settlers of Catan and King of Tokyo worked just fine.

A few hours later the lights came back on. Well, they came on and immediately went out again as is often the case. Another reason that my lab sits behind big beefy UPS/surge protectors. I’ve lost more equipment in brown outs, when you have a little or a lot of power all at once, than I ever have in a black out. When the power eventually came back on for good, everything rebooted successfully.

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It’s not a profound message, but it’s probably a good idea to have a flashlight at your desk, even if your desk is at home. And if you are going to run a multinode home network, it’s probably a good idea to rehearse what order you are going to shut down servers in the event of a power outage. At least if you are like me, it’s not something you want to be deciding as your UPS beeps incessantly at you.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

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One Comment
  1. This is precisely the sort of reason I keep a high-powered LED flashlight in my pocket at all times. You never know when the lights are going to go out, and even though I don’t work in a cube-farm I’ve found it more handy than not to always have a source of light instantly available.

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