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Decisions: 2021 Household Projects

As we come to the end of the year, I’m looking back across a range of substantial household projects. We rather famously lost power for a few days back in February 2021 during an unusually cold snap. This lead to some additional thinking about household projects, including the new air conditioner. Specifically, how best to adapt our home to operation without utility power? After all, the Great Texas Freeze of 2021 was not the first time we lost power for days. We were without power for several weeks after Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Generac Standby Generator Beauty Shot copy

The most common approach that we see around the neighborhood is the installation of a standby generator. These are permanently installed systems that startup and take over when utility power fails. Generac, Kohler and Cummins are the most common brands. They typically run on natural gas and I’ve seen systems from 14 kW to 32 kW hereabouts.

Standby Generator vs Air Conditioner

Given the position of our home on the lot, and the location of the gas meter and breaker panel, it’s not really practical for us to install a standby generator. It would be prohibitively expensive given the required location of the generator. We’d need to run buried pipe for natural gas, and conduit for electrical cable, a considerable distance. The cost of the installation is much more than the generator itself. The entire project cost is as much as a new air conditioner, for a benefit that that would only occasionally be realized.

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Augmenting An Ultrabook

Lenovo X1 Carbon and Docking StationWay back in January when I bought a Lenovo X1 Carbon (X1C) I was a bone fide corporate road warrior. The decision to move into an ultrabook was motivated largely by the desire to have less to carry.

More recently I’ve transitioned into a more stay-in-the-home-office role. Sooooo, I’m not carrying things around very much…but I am living with some of the compromises entailed by the ultrabook class of device. All of this has me wondered when it’s ok to spend a bit more to augment the X1C vs going in another direction entirely?

Allow me to share some of the things that have come to light about the X1C. These are not so much defects as practical realities attached to the ultrabook form factor. For example, there aren’t very many ports. To be more specific, there’s one USB 2.0 port, one USB 3.0 port and a displayport.

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A Reader Question About A Grandstream BT-200

Grandstream-BT-200Last week I received a question via email from reader Marshall Wilgard. It seems that he is having trouble with a Grandstream BT-200 desk phone.

For five years, I used a Grandstream BT-200 IP phone without any problems.  Six weeks ago, a loud hum appeared on the phone as soon as I picked up the handset.  About 10 days later, the hum vanished, for no apparent reason.  However, about 10 days after that, the hum came back, for no apparent reason.  Despite my rebooting the phone three times, the hum remained.  Then approximately 10 days after the hum returned, it vanished again, for no apparent reason.  My phone has had the latest firmware for more than a year, and my VoIP provider says the problem is not with it.

Hum like Marshal describes is usually an analog phenomenon, not something that I’d associate with firmware. It sounds to me like a problem with the hardware. Issues of hum tend to revolve around a problem with the power supply. Given the age of this phone I’d guess that most likely some kind of capacitor is failing.

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Powerless At FAT: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Last week I had occasion to spend several days in Fresno CA. Their airport code is FAT. But FAT is not PHAT. In fact, it’s powerless.

Like many places in the country Fresno is busily enhancing their airport. The terminal from which I arrived and departed looks like a brand new building.

The terminal had all the traditional conveniences; public restrooms, a few places to eat & drink. Of course it had seating for all the waiting passengers. It has free, but very slow, internet access via wifi. What it lacked was sensible access to AC power for people using their personal electronics.

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Rant: American Auto-Makers Still Need a Clue

[Begin music: Beach Boys, “I Get Around”]

Recent projects have had me in Chicago, Milwaukee, Washington DC and Nashville. Suffice it to say that over the past few months I’ve rented cars on several occasions.

[Change music: Max Webster, “Battle Scar”]

Most typically I book what the rental companies call an “SCAR.” That’s their code for a “Standard Car” but I’ve come to believe that it also describes the relationship between domestic auto makers and the auto renting public…scarred.

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Telecom Continuity Strategies in the Cloud Era: SOHO Edition

As you likely heard on April 27th Northern Alabama suffered a spate of violent storms, including a number of large tornados. Many thousands of people were impacted, including long term loss of power and network connectivity. Digium was amongst the many, many businesses impacted by the events of the day.

I must commend Danny Windam, CEO of Digium, for making excellent use of the corporate blog to keep the Asterisk community informed about the companies operational status. Some time having elapsed since the unfortunate events of that day Digium has since returned to normal operations.

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