29 February, 2008

In praise of POTS

As in Plan Old Telephone Service

In this age where a growing minority (according to some reports now the majority – at least in the USA, several developing countries have bypassed land lines and gone directly to cellular) of folks have abandoned traditional land line telephone service in favor of either cellular or VoIP. While there are compelling economic reasons for such a shift there are a few things to consider particularly if you live in a more rural area and subject to prolonged power outages.

This winter has made some of these apparent, for the VoIP customers if you don’t have power, unless you have a UPS on your cable modem, router & VoIP gateway chances are very good that you won’t have phone service, especially if you are trying to use a wireless (not cellular) handset & base station, and even then the cable may (or may not) last as long as their UPS. Same applies to Cellular service, chances are – again if you live in a more rural area the local towers will shut down a few hours after the power goes out unless they have generator backup which is not common for cellular towers and how do you charge your cell phone?

Other things to consider;
Both Cellular and VoIP have interesting results when you dial 911
Both systems are subject to service affecting glitches that may not be related to the service

Returning to the humble twisted pair of copper telephone line, while you won’t get a guarantied data rate for your modem other than the line being broken about the only thing that will disable a POTS line system is more than 80% of its handsets being off the hook at the same time, besides uncommon mass voluntary usage exceeding the limit the only event that can disable a well designed POTS is a major earthquake.

And as recent travels in flyover country have shown, not every where has WiFi.

Neglecting my blog

Once again its been busy time for whatever it is that I do for a living, since the calendar flip I’ve been to France for a few days, two trips to Indiana, landing at Newark and dealing with the NJ Turnpike at 1am the day of the worst snow to date, dodging rampaging 18 wheelers and attempting to avoid crossing the GWB (twice) arriving at the hotel before 3am and no one at the reception desk, so I popped a Bigfoot and made myself comfortable, for some reason the clean up crew objected a while later and managed to wake up the desk clerk who checked me in for a nice 3 hour nap. This week started with a trip to Long Island for a few days then down to Miami during the black out for a day, bringing the cold down from NY, throw in several day and over night trips within CA and its been a busy two months.

Latest Skeptics Circle

Is up over at Conspiracy Factory

01 February, 2008

Zen and the art of Muscle Car Maintenance

With apologies and deep respect to Mr. Pirsig.

The beast (as announced below) has been here for 3 months now and as proven to be yet another avenue for irregular Zen lessons

First, it lost all but the headlights one rainy (of course) night, after visually inspecting the fuses and confirming that the wiring was intact to the tail and interior lights decided to replaced the light switch (which requires removing part of the dashboard) only to no avail, then after carefully “ohming” out the various sockets determined that there was indeed no problem with the wiring, then in almost desperation checked the fuses with the ohm meter and there it was, a very normal intact looking fuse that had been working just fine was in fact was an open circuit.

A few days later it wouldn’t start in the morning – no click clack, not dead but nothing happened when the key was turned to the start position, not having time to investigate took the truck and that afternoon when I tried it again it started right up, so I tried it again several times with no problems and it ran fine for a month or so.

Then a few weeks ago making an evening mercy run to the pharmacy for son the rock god in training who was suffering various symptoms – after grabbing the indicated drugs, proceeded to hop back in the beast only to have it not start, starter motor would not turn – O.K., that’s why I pay for AAA, call them up and a while later the tow truck shows up and proceeds to try the various methods to get it started (jumping the power) nope (rocking it on neutral and throwing the transmission in park) nada (finally jacking up the front and whacking the starter with a small sledge hammer) zilch.

O.K., tow the beast home, of course the weather for the next week is cold and wet so I don’t get to it for a while but did locate a new starter and first day not raining went to check it again, same results, plenty of battery power but the starter was not engaging, visually inspected the wiring to the starter and (try not to make the same mistake more than a few times - but then, I’m a slow learner) checked the relevant fuses with the ohm meter this time and they are all good.

As son is still not up to par I jack the beast up and proceed to remove and replace the starter – trust me, it’s a lot easer to type than actually performing said tasks, with limited access and awkward contortions mange to get the existing one out and the new one connected the first day, 2nd day I finally mount the new starter, jumper the power to check flywheel clearance, button it back up and drop it back down on its wheels – and it still doesn’t start.

O.K., search the web

find some tips

one says check the ignition switch and proceeds to give erroneous instructions on how to access said switch (ain’t wiki’s wacky?) indicating that the steering column needs to be dismantled – after another trip to the auto parts store (after several calls to find the ignition switch and the special tools required) and discovering the brittle state of the turn signal switch, find out that the ignition switch is not where the wiki said, after finding a decent manual for the beast determined that model year it was relocated further down on the steering column and all you need to do is drop the column (two nuts) to access the switch.

After reassembling the steering column and steering wheel (which I’m going to have to do again once the new turn signal switch arrives) drop the column and finally access the ignition switch only to discover that two of the connectors were only half seated.

The camel has slipped out of the tent – for now

Regarding the subject of the previous post - due to the minor but national firestorm kicked off by the initial post over at The American Thinker, the state has backed down and has removed the mandate for PCT from the 2008 California building standards – however the announcement goes on to say;

“The Energy Commission strongly supports demand response strategies, and believes that the programmable communicating thermostat offers a valuable tool to dampen peak electricity use. Demand response strategies are an important alternative to building costly new power plants that only operate during peak demand times of the year.”

So look for it to come back in the next year or two