Small publishing: interruptible power supply

posted in: Publishing | 1

The thing about being a very small business is that there’s frequently no one else available to wear any of the hats. Since I flew back from Anchorage a week ago, I have been—among other things—serving as my own tech support. The primary computer began to shut down randomly and unexpectedly. It would turn itself off and the monitor would, of course, suddenly go black. This is the computer on which I do layout and keep the books and from which I write
the checks . . . just about everything except e-mail and web-surfing.

This sort of malfunction severely reduces productivity in the one-person office.

Sometimes it would shut down just as I’d sent a document to the printer. That’s suspicious. But sometimes it would shut down when the computer was on but no work was being done . . . and no programs other than the standard start-up array were running. That’s very curious, and complicates the job of tracing the problem to its source.

While I was plugging a different printer into the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) as part of my personal troubleshooting process (after I’d stress-tested the CPU with a dual dose of Stress Prime 2004 and it had performed sturdily for an hour), the electricity SNAP/POP arced in a big way, produced a great blue spark with yellow edges, dimmed the lights throughout the basement as well as the two other computers’ monitors, and pushed two other UPS units into beep-beep battery-backup action (supporting my e-mail/web computer and my daughter’s system). I thought the jolt was going to blow the house power, but it didn’t. Whew. (Of course, I got the plug back out of the outlet ASAP, unplugged everything from the wall, and QUIT that round of troubleshooting. I wonder if the experience had anything to do with the fact that I went to bed at 11 last night and didn’t fall asleep until 4:30 this morning?)

Let’s skip a bunch of the back-and-forth between me and tech support for the UPS manufacturer, which has happened by e-mail. I could have phoned, but I figured it would take less of my time, in total, to work by e-mail, even though the volley back and forth happens more slowly. I did go buy another UPS, somewhat reluctantly, in order to get the primary system back into operation. The new unit seems to be doing just fine. I have experienced no system shut-downs since it was installed.

Going back to the problem UPS, I performed the test procedures outlined by the support technician, all of which went fine. None of them required me to plug the unit back into the wall or subject any of my equipment to being attached, which I was not about to do, no way. . . . I’ve worked enough with electricity to know when to pay attention to an arc and keep my distance. Everything I was asked to do was a self-test, battery power only, not on house current, no load in place. Yes, fine, fine.

So the technician wrote back this morning, "I understand your concern. There is no issue with the unit. There is a short circuit in the load connected or it may short circuit in the wall outlet. I suggest you to check with some other wall outlet and contact a certified electrician if the issue persists." The phrase "I understand your concern" has been part of each communication. I’m not sure that’s true.

Dead end.

So I called my favorite electrical contractor.

"Let’s check the UPS first," was the initial suggestion. Several attempts to run the electrician’s drill through or off the UPS failed. Nothing worked, whether the supposedly no-issue UPS was plugged into the grid or should have been running on its battery. The power transfer rates measured 14 volts (not much) on the battery-backed-up outlets and 0, that’s zero, on the surge-only outlets. Professional diagnosis: "This thing is toast."

We also tested the household current just to be sure. "You had some work done on these circuits before you put in this equipment, didn’t you?" Yes. According to all measurements, it’s still more than fine. The house needs a paint job, but it’s got the necessary power to get the work done.

I’ve written battery back-up tech support again, and I hope the situation is resolved quickly now that we have specific data.

When my daughter came home from work she brought the mail, which included a book another independent publisher had sent me. I’m sure the package left its source in good shape. Here’s what it looked like when it arrived:

Foursquare

The delivery confirmation sticker’s still in place, and delivery probably got confirmed. Yep, that’s right, it’s here. Here’s another shot, from a bit closer:

Slantways

That’s kind of what I feel like. I do note that I think I’ll be able to read the book inside just fine. I don’t think it’s been ripped apart.

What I accomplished today: when I got the phone call from the electrician saying help would appear within half an hour, I did rearrange 1350 pounds of books in the garage because I wanted to make sure we could reach the circuit breakers easily. You always need easy access to the circuit breakers when you call an electrician. . . . (Another thing I did was flip the correct, badly labeled switch to power-down the office on my first try. You always need to mess with the circuit breakers when you call an electrician.)

The good news about book-moving is that we’re halfway ready to receive the cartons containing the second run of Arctic Lace, which will ship from the printer on the 20th, just nine days from now. Pub date was eleven days ago and all the wholesale suppliers are out of stock. I have one copy of the book here, and it’s not only spoken for but personalized for the recipient. I’ll be extremely glad to have more books, and it’s great to be close to having a place to put them.

And when all of today’s extra tasks appeared unannounced on my schedule I was almost, almost finished with my travel report on the Alaska State Yarn Council‘s Yarn Expo. Later tonight, while my daughter watches "Lost," I plan to give myself the gift of completing that story: doing final editing of the text, final processing and labeling of the images, final sequencing of the captions.

Ah. Sweet progress.

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  1. Kris

    You have once again survived a day that would bring most folks to their knees, if not hiding under the bed talking to the dust bunnies! I gain strength and determination from each blog you post. Thank you.

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