Tag Archives: Computing

Tales of a lucky escape and a worthwhile purchase

Ker-boom!I have always been a bit blasé about thunderstorms.  It is not my fault!  I grew up in an area prone to them and as such have become desensitised to their awesome fury.  I know the dangers are real, I have respect for their power, but at the same time I look forward to the light-show more than fear the possibility of damage and destruction.  A resident of Los Angeles probably feels the same way about minor earth tremors – whereas I would be scared witless by them.
A while back I replaced my aging ADSL modem/router in an attempt to fix drop-outs in service that I was experiencing.  The replacement did not really fare any better and eventually I traced the fault back to an under-spec line filter.  I kept the new modem/router as it had features useful for VOIP, but I was slightly annoyed at myself.
Recently, we experienced a heavy electrical storm.  Remember how I said I was blasé about storms?  Well, when the lightning is so close that there is no distinguishable gap between lightning and thunder, and you here arcing on the power lines, even I tend to duck and utter expletives in shock!  The roly-poly-cat took fright too, and wouldn’t be comforted by someone who was visibly shaken.  It has been my experience that electrical equipment doesn’t get damaged in storms as often as you may believe.  Most equipment just keeps on keeping on!  YMMV!
Of course, this time was different.  The new modem/router lost the Internet connection. I could still “see” the device, it could still report line attenuation and signal to noise ratios, but using it to access the Internet was beyond its post lightning strike capabilities.  So, it was time to drag out the old modem, which was now reserved for “emergency backup duties”.  Sure enough – it worked and so did I. (I had been working from home at the time)
The silver lining to my grey thundercloud turned out to be that the purchase of the newer modem had been necessary after-all. Whilst the new modem had not cured the dropouts until I upgraded the line-filter, the old modem still suffered from them – even with the new line filter.  So, I declared that the new modem was a “worthwhile” (if somewhat short-lived) purchase.  That night, having soldiered on through numerous drop-outs, I decided to have a closer look at the new modem.  It was worth the effort!  It turned out that the lightning strike had simply erased the settings of the new modem.  Having re-established these, I performed my lucky escape!  And everyone lived happily ever after!
Living without surge protectors in an area prone to thunderstoms may seem risky or careless to some people.  I do not know much about high-voltage, but do know that the close proximity of unprotected and protected wires on most “domestic” surge protector boards is likely to be insufficient to prevent arcing between them.  Still, when a horse points at an open gate and says “next time I’m bolting” I pay attention.  I have since bought myself an eight point surge protector, complete with phone line and coaxial cable shielding.  I will let you know, if lightning strikes twice. :-)