March 15th, 2006

Brad @ Burning Man

Almost Back in the Saddle

People got hammered by the other day's storms, and hammered hard ... to the north, south, east, and west of me here in St. John, Missouri. Here? I think we may have gotten an inch of rain over the whole couple of days. Every storm cell dissipated or split before passing over us. But that was a pretty massive storm system, one with more electrical activity on its fringes than I've seen in many years.

Which is why I'm typing this on a half-set up almost entirely new computer.

During some of the most impressive cloud-to-cloud lightning displays, I was logged into City of Villains. Everything is multiply redundantly protected, including a full-time UPS with state of the art power conditioning that I got back when I (mistakenly) thought that the apartment's crappy wiring was what was killing every component I put into a previous computer. So I thought nothing of it. Then I heard a tremendous crash from directly overhead, and the screen scrambled itself like I've never seen a Windows PC do before. And over the next couple of days it got less and less reliable, until it crashed and would not come up again. Motherboard fried, power supply questionable, memory questionable, processor probably fried as well. I'm left to speculate, since nothing else in the apartment behaved oddly and the power monitor built into the UPS never so much as hiccoughed, that it was induced current.

Quick scientific explanation: cloud-to-cloud lightning happens because huge negative and positive charges build up until they arc. When a storm system with such huge charges in it passes over you in a straight line, that traveling energy potential can result inducing an opposite negative charge on one end of a wire and a positive charge on the other end of it ... which, naturally, settles itself by flowing along the wire, to the tune of millions of volts with next to no amps. The thing is, I'm not used to induced current during thunderstorms being a problem on any cable less than a few dozen yards long, usually only on unshielded cables that are hundreds of yards long. I wouldn't have bet that anything in a PC was far apart enough for induced current to be a problem. But I'm at a loss as to what else about a cloud-to-cloud lightning strike 20,000 feet above my head could have fried that much of my electronics. Which reinforces my long-held superstitious belief, one I've found to be widely held among people who've worked with electronics, that lightning is a malevolent and semi-sentient force that does whatever the heck it wants, and the laws of physics be damned.

Unfortunately, the cheapest way to do this was to also replace the case and power supply, and the new power supply is about twice as loud as my old one, which is driving me bats. I may be able to get long with moving it under the desk once alienne and I are done getting the hard disks properly untangled from repeated crashes, Windows reinstalled fully because it wouldn't boot after this many hardware changes at once, and all of my software reinstalled and reconfigured. Until then, things are kind of a mess and I can barely stand to work next to the thing. If I can't get some space (and therefore noise filtering) between me and the new case, I may have to get some decent headphones and wear them whenever I'm sitting near it.
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Brad @ Burning Man

Am I Suffering from Over-Active Imagination?

Oh, I remember the one quick question I wanted to ask y'all.

Is it my over-active 1/4 Irish, pro-Sinn Fein imagination working overtime? Or is the American release of the movie adaptation of V for Vendetta, a movie that includes a scene in which the hero blows up the British Parliament, on St. Patrick's Day, a provocative act? If so, does anybody think it was intentionally provocative, or just accidentally provocative? Or am I making too much out of a coincidence?