Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact
Yes I'm back -- but facing an armful of "technical difficulties" this morning
which is why Aardvark is rather late and brief today.
As I feared, my computer equipment did not take kindly to being turned off
for the few days I was away and I've spent the past three hours trying to
coerce broken hardware and lost configuration settings back into life.
My much prized US Robotics Courier V-everything modem died just a few minutes
after I logged onto the Net early this morning. Although I had a spare cheap
modem here, its installation was somewhat problematic -- requiring a massive
search for the accompanying wall-wart power supply.
Even once the required hardware was rounded up, I found that it didn't like
being called a USR by the dialer -- so I had to install it properly.
I won't bore you with the details of what a fiasco that was -- but suffice
to say that after discovering that the CDROM drive on this box had also
suffered an untimely death, my normally pleasant demeanour was long gone
and a few rude words were uttered.
I knew that I'd have some kind of problem when I turned on this gear again --
simply because most of it has been running for over three years non-stop.
As anyone with a background in electronic equipment will tell you, it's
much kinder on most equipment if you leave it running continuously rather than
turn it off and on every day.
In fact, have you ever noticed that when a TV, VCR, radio, or other piece
of electronic gear fails, it's usually a case of "it was working fine
last time I used it but I just turned it on and it's broken"?
Electronic gear seldom fails while in use -- it's almost always when you're
turning it on that the damage is done.
The main reason for this the effect of the repeated thermal cycling (heating
and cooling) that accompanies the repeated off/on/off operation that most gear
is subjected to.
Each time you turn it on, all the components gradually heat up -- and in doing
so they expand ever so slightly. This expansion puts a small amount of stress
on the microsocopic conductors inside the silicon chips that fill our PCs and
Likewise, when you turn things off, they slowly cool -- and contract. Once
again the components are exposed to physical stress that can eventually cause
damage to the conductors or the silicon substrate itself.
There's also the fact that at turn-on, very high currents flow in some parts
of the circuitry as the powersupply works extra hard to fill up all the
capacitors and deliver power to hard-drives, etc.
By comparison, once the circuitry in your PC is warmed up and running, the
semiconductors are exposed to very little in the way of damaging stress --
so long as they're adequately cooled.
Even modern hard-disk drives are likely to last longer if they're kept
spinning constantly rather than put through repeated stop/start cycles.
Computer fans however, are a different story. Most PC power supplies use
rather cheap and nasty fans which, if run continuously, will lose much of
the oil from their bearings. This means that once powered down and allowed
to cool, the fans may not start again next time the PC is started -- which
can cause major problems if it goes unnoticed.
I'd be interested to hear from readers as to what they do with their PC
gear. Do you leave your CPU turned on all the time and just turn off
the screen at night? Or do you shut everything down and turn it back
on the next day?
As mentioned above, my US Robotics Courier V-Everything modem is dead (RIP).
The modem I'm using at present simply doesn't cope at all well with the lousy
line quality here. It either hangs up or locks up about 5 minutes after
connecting. This is making the retrieval of the 400 or so emails that have
built up while I was away rather problematic!
As you can imagine, that is making life here very difficult and frustrating.
I'd like to hear from readers as to what modems they're finding capable of
handling Telecom's lousy lines.
If there are any modem distributors who think they've got a unit that is
equal to my trusty old US Robotics box then I'd be glad to review it and,
if it's as good as you say, I'll certainly let Aardvark's readers know about it.
I'm aware that there are many other rural Aardvark readers in the same
situation as me and I'm sure they'd like to know which modems can cope.
... is Good News?
Sorry, no news headlines today -- staying online long enough to round up the latest
from the various news-sites is currently a major problem. I'll start
extra-early tomorrow morning so normal service will be resumed then.
Have your say.
Want to link to this site? Check out Aardvark's
Did you tell someone else about Aardvark today? If not then do it