My UPS died.
"Died" is a bit of an exaggeration. It still works very well as a surge protector. The problem is, if the power fluctuates enough to trip it into "battery" mode, it gives a mournful squeal and my monitor goes dark. And the computer goes with it.
In the past couple of weeks we've been getting a lot of rain. There was a four-day period wherein the power failed for a while every day, and I think that's what killed it. The first time the power died, I had enough time to save up and shut down. Same with the second and third time. But it finally got to the point that I couldn't run my AC and laser printer at the same time, because when the fuser in the laser printer turned on, the UPS would go "SQUEE!" and my computer would shut off.
It's six years old at least; probably all it really needs is a new battery, but I have never gotten around to looking for a source for replacement UPS batteries. And I don't want to go spend money on a battery only to find that the charging circuit is what went out. (I suppose I could remove the battery and hook it to my automotive battery charger to test it. Hey...!)
That raises the number of dead UPSes I have to three. (All APC.) I keep meaning to see about getting new batteries, and haven't yet. (What I should do is put all of 'em out for garbage.)
But I won't run a computer without one. So today I went over to Best Buy and bought a new one.
I was unimpressed with the APC units they had; they were all the "glorified power strip" kind. Those work very well, but they don't suit my tastes. I was set to buy one nonetheless when I saw the Best Buy brand "Geek Squad" UPS sitting there.
It appealed to me. First off, it's built like a "traditional" UPS is--switch on front panel, all sockets in back, etc--and second, it had the highest power rating of any of the UPSes they sold.
What sold me on it, though, was the display.
You can press a button on the front panel and it'll tell you what the line voltage is. If you keep pressing it over and over again, it cycles through a whole bunch of things like power frequency, estimated run time, current load, etc, etc--it's amazing. It shows you how much charge is remaining in the battery, too.
It says here that my computer is using 0.2 kW of electricity and the UPS will run it for 17 minutes. Awesome.
It also can protect a device that connects with a coaxial cable (say, for instance, a cable modem) and one that connects with a modular telco connector (modem, or DSL modem; possibly Ethernet as well, though I'm not sure). It has both USB and serial ports, and it comes with auto-shutdown and monitoring software. I haven't connected the UPS to the computer so I have no idea how well that works, but I will; I like the idea of my computer being able to auto-save and auto-shutdown in the event of a power failure when I'm not here.
Price? $130 with tax, for a buttload of techno-bling. Not bad.
I'm serious: if you don't have a UPS between your computer and the power outlet, you are doing a stupid thing. Go get a UPS. Not just a surge suppressor, a UPS. Get one with a guarantee, one that says they'll fix or replace your computer if a power spike damages it. They are cheap these days and you won't find a better deal on any kind of insurance than that.
I always tell people that. Get a UPS. Do not operate your computer without one. It is cheap insurance.
Yes, you can get a surge suppressor with the guarantee for much less than the price of a UPS. Yes, it'll be fine most of the time. But don't do it. A surge suppressor will only protect your computer from voltage spikes. A UPS will also protect your computer from power sags, brownouts, and such, and it'll give you time to save what you're working on. So you won't have the screen go dark and only then remember that you last saved about three hours ago, and all the work you've done since then is GONE. (Been there, done that, in the old days, back when any UPS cost $500 or more.)
And that's all I have to say about that.
* * *
But the rain situation--crimony. We got over three inches of rain in a 24-hour period this week.
It's been a banner year for corn; the weather has been perfect. When I drive out to the supermarket and see the corn fields, I feel like I'm driving past a corn orchard; the stalks are 7, 8 feet tall. I can't remember the last time I saw corn that tall.
So everyone's going to have a bumper crop of corn, and the high demand for corn will ensure that the farmers make some good money despite the bumper crop. That's good. Of course, the high demand is due to the increased subsidies for ethanol production, which is a waste of time, money, and effort IMHO (because it won't do squat to actually "reduce our dependence on foreign oil") but at least it should help keep the costs of food down. One can hope.