Batteries Not Included

I finally got a new battery-backup power supply, so I had to shut down the server just to plug it in. Ooh I hate losing a good uptime, I was up 51 days. And I find it particularly galling to lose uptime just to replace power supplies. At least I had an opportunity to install some system updates, I’d been procrastinating because the updates required a restart and I didn’t want to lose the uptime. I was surprised to see I was still running MacOS X 10.2.1. I really should update Movable Type as well. I’ve been procrastinating on that upgrade too.

I got a new Belkin F6C120-UNV with a pretty good capacity of 1200 volt-amps. I’d been avoiding it because the ads all show a huge odd shape with tons of plastic, but this unit was just a nice little square metal box. It has a USB port to connect to a server for monitoring. Belkin’s battery monitor program “Bulldog 3” is MacOS X compatible, but the program can’t see my UPS. Apple System Profiler can see the UPS and read the USB ID. I don’t know what’s wrong, but it’s either a software glitch or else the unit is DOA. Remind me not to install new hardware on a weekend when tech support is closed.

On a brighter note, it looks like the battery backup has eliminated the ground interference that’s been plaguing me. Now I can get all my TiVo and DSS gear back in the cabinets. I can even get my printers running again, I had them unplugged and some of the interference went away. It turned out that interference came from a corroded old Isobar surge protector the printers were plugged into. It would generate interference as long as it was plugged in, even if nothing was plugged into it. I hated to throw out that Isobar, it was a really expensive unit, the best surge protector I used to sell.

And there’s the rub. I used to sell this stuff and I know what cheap crap it is and the big profits it generates. An average surge suppressor costs $5 wholesale and sells for $30. They were the highest markup item I sold, always at least 50% profit and usually 80%. Sometimes we’d sell people a surge suppressor with their computer and make more profit on the $30 surge suppressor than on the $2500 computer. We used to call this sort of high-profit item “point builders’ because it “built up points,” it increased profit over a base sale. I got sick of this game and just sold these items at a reasonable markup, or threw them in for free and absorbed the cost by charging a few bucks more for the computer.

Update: I got the USB monitoring to work after discovering the Belkin Bulldog installer is severely flawed. It must be run as root, the scripts do not sudo correctly. Belkin does not know how to write a proper installer for Unix.

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