The lights went out around 12:15 last night. Some people talk about how nice it is to relax and do nothing while the power is out, but for me, losing electrical power is like losing a limb.
When the power failure hit, I was sitting in front of the computer working on a couple of things I wanted to finish by tomorrow. I’m staring straight at the monitors, so the first sign of a problem was when things got a little dark in the periphery of my vision and something started buzzing and beeping in the computer rack.
I looked up, and the lights had gone out. The noises were coming from the UPS, which had cut in like it’s supposed to, keeping me from losing anything I was working on. Even my internet connection was still up because the cable modem and router are also protected by the UPS.
With the power out, the UPS battery was draining fast, so I had to shutdown the computers before the UPS ran out. I bought myself some time by shutting down my old computer first. I don’t do much with it, so I just clicked Shutdown, and it took care of itself. I had about 25 windows open on my main computer—including windows running inside a VMware virtual computer—so shutting it down was a much more involved process.
Once I had both computers shutting down, I grabbed my iPhone and used it as a flashlight to find my way around the house.
I was momentarily puzzled when I got to the living room. The room lights were out, as is normal at that time of night, but there was a bit of a glow, and lots things still had indicator lamps on. I had assumed the power was out, but maybe it was just my office. Had I just over-reacted to a blown circuit breaker?
Nope. The power really was out. The diffuse light in the room was coming from my wife’s laptop, which had switched over to its batteries. The other lights in the room were coming from the cable box and Tivo by the television. I have them both running off a small UPS so that a power glitch while I’m out of the house doesn’t wipe out an evening of television.
I stepped into the kitchen and grabbed a real flashlight. A glance out the window confirmed that the whole neighborhood was out.
I made my way back to the office and found the power switch on the UPS to kill the damned beeping and prevent the battery from going to the bottom of the cycle. I didn’t bother with the UPS for the Tivo.
Finally, I made my way back to my wife’s computer and put it in standbye mode to conserve its battery. Then I pulled out my iPhone and (after tweeting about the problem) set up an alarm to ring in the morning to wake me up in case the power hadn’t come back.
Almost immediately, the power came back on.
I went back into my office and started the UPS and both computers. Then I went into the living room and flipped on the lights. Nothing happened. Which makes sense, I realized, since the lights are computer-controlled from my old computer, and it probably hadn’t finished booting yet.
Once my computers were up, I thought it would make an amusing (or at least readable) blog post, so I started writing this message. About half way through, the power failed again.
So I shut down the computers again and went to sleep.