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P(r)aying For Rain Water

After a hard summer last year of extended drought conditions, north Texas has been blessed (?) with double average rain amounts. This comes to us in severe thunderstorms and multiple tornadoes. Mother Nature has seemed to have left out nice long gentle rains from her bag of weather tricks. Like Morton salt, “When it rains, it pours.”

However it comes, the rain is welcome. The problem for me has been the electrical activity that an all but gentle rain produces.

We haven’t experienced a direct lighting strike again but we have endured power outages and lighting induced emf surges. The same emf fluctuations on the cable TV and the internet connection are probably happening too. The cable is protected underground but the TV cable box does get to acting weird occasionally.

Since our big lighting strike we had, I installed quality surge arrestors on all the electrical equipment in my home office, including the paper shredder.

I did NOT run the coax for the cable modem through even one of my three new surge arrestors. The protectors are all exactly the same and each has an in/out coax protection port. That was just because I didn’t have the (about $5.00) six foot of coax cable (with ends) available.

I do have a true grounded feed-through lighting arrestor on the side of my house just outside my window in my office where the data cable comes out of the ground. The arrestor is wired to a 10 foot copper plated ground rod I drove into the earth myself. It is less than 10 foot to my modem from there. I figured that was pretty good.

Well, last Tuesday I discovered grounding was probably not good enough protection, or so it seems. The coax data cable goes to a cable modem first. It is the ONLY thing the cable is directly connected to. The data cable modem directly feeds my wireless router/switch/firewall/LAN hard drive port box through a CAT5 cable. A separate second video coax (same service provider) comes in on the far side of my house.

Gloria was having problems that evening with getting slow internet connect service on her wireless Apple mini-MAC computer. In my office I am direct connected to the router. The WIN7 box was on line but sleeping and I was planning to update the Linux box to the just released Fedora 17 OS. Since the wireless part of the router possibly wasn’t working well, I powered off (reset) both the cable modem and the router. That is always the first thing I try. Next I tried to log into my router using my Linux box since it was the computer I was using at the time.  (A router is actually just a small computer directing network traffic.) I discovered it (the router) had forgotten the private admin password. I hadn’t forgotten as I have it noted in my written log.

My Linux box was connecting to the internet OK but it did seem it might possibly be a little slow.  I figured a power surge could have glitched the router password code. I did a total (push the secret button) OS reset of the router and was able then (still on the Linux box) to connect to the factory default router address and access the OS configuring program.  I of course had to totally reconfigure the entire router setup and install a new private password. I also decided to check the manufactures web site for any firmware upgrades as I was uncertain how good all the “bits” were in the present firmware.  The router was three minor versions behind so I downloaded the new code and did a router OS firmware update. The router and internet connection seemed to be working fine and as fast as ever. That issue is fixed.

It was now very late in the evening so I set the Linux box to run all night downloading the 1600+ files for its own Fedora OS upgrade. I knew a reboot the next evening (Wednesday) would initiate the full upgrade install to the Linux box. A check Wednesday morning about 5:30 AM revealed the download went fine. I shut off the Linux box to preserve the download until that night after work.

However… The that evening (Wednesday) after awakening the main WIN7 computer to do some stamps.com postage, I discovered it would not connect to the router at all. After an hour or so of frustrating testing I verified the on board (motherboard) LAN port had failed.  Also I discovered the 250 gig USB hard drive that was plugged into a port on the router was dead. The drive was spinning but the USB was not talking. I tested the drive by plugging directly into two computers, proving no USB from (inside) the drive itself. The Linux box and Internet connection were still working just fine. The Fedora upgrade was completed with no issues.

So, I had a scrambled router pass-code access and now two dead connected devices to the router, go figure.

I tried using a plug-in LAN PCI Linksys board (10/100) I had saved from scrapping an older computer in the WIN7 box. The card works fine in a 32 bit OS but LinkSys and Win7 (64 bit) will not provide a 64 bit driver for it. only a 32 bit. Several hours or so wasted before finding THAT out on the internet (using the still perfectly working Linux system). Next day I buy a $40.00 Intel PC Express LAN NIC at MicroCenter, slap it in an open PC-E slot on WIN7 computer MB and am pleased to see it and the router are now best friends. The new card is much faster than the old on-board NIC ever was. At least I have something good from all this effort.

I still have to buy a new USB external drive. I wish there was a faster connection to the router than USB, but it serves well as a location for a small backup drive. This time I might get a 1 or 2 TB and have space to do full backups. Yep, lesson learned, even back-up drives can fail. Actually the disk may be OK but I will have to rip it out of the external case and USB interface.

I have now taken all available evasive surge protection action I can think reasonable but have no definitive evidence of what exactly caused all the problems.

To top this all off, I had gone to the Dallas MicroCenter computer store Wednesday noon to purchase the new LAN Intel PC-E NIC and the same ongoing storms had killed the power in the store before I arrived. A salesman had to escort me using a LED flashlight in the dark to the far corner (from the door) to get the LAN card (and 6 foot coax cable). Then he had to do the billing on a piece of paper.  Today is Thursday, it’s still storming and the storms first started way back on Sunday… and the power is off again at the house…

What a Texas computer nerd has to endure just to get some rain…  😉

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