Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Uninterruptable Power Supplies: The Good, the Bad, and the Loud

The Redmond area is notorious for frequent power outages. The combination of above-ground power lines, tall trees and frequent wind storms is just a recipe for problems. Actually, the power doesn't completely fail very often but it often flickers just enough to make computers reboot.

I've had a couple different UPS models and although they work great at keeping the computer running, they all seem to have one really annoying feature: they beep loudly when they are running on battery.

Now tell me, if I'm sitting in a dark house, do I really need something beeping to tell me the power is out?

It's particularly annoying when it happens in the middle of the night and rather than just sleep through the outage, I have to trudge downstairs to turn off the UPS so I can get some sleep.

At work it's even worse. Every office has a UPS and the server room has several. The computers will all automatically turn off after a few minutes running on the battery but we still have to go around and turn off UPS to avoid the unbelievable racket the beeping makes.

The other problem with the beeping comes from my Golden Retriever. Years ago we trained her with an invisible fence system. Those systems work with a collar that gives the dog a little zap if they cross the boundary. But first, they beep if the dog gets close. So when the UPS beeps, our dog suddenly thinks she's about to get zapped and just goes crazy trying to figure out where the "safe" place is.

Does anybody make a UPS that just silently switches to battery as necessary without the need to remind me of the bloody obvious fact that the power is out and that won't freak out my Golden Retriever?


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