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June 21, 2001
Don't Let Your Work Fall Victim To A Power Struggle
By Sherril Steele-Carlin

By now, we're all familiar with the rolling blackouts affecting California. While those of us who don't live in the "golden state" may thank our lucky stars, there are still quite a few power problems that can affect computers and all home electronics big ways. These power problems can also affect your freelance income in big ways, too. If you can't work on a project you may lose it to someone who can complete it without power delays. If that's not enough, your computer can also be damaged by a power surge or spike.

Power surges, rolling blackouts, and power spikes can occur anywhere, for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest causes in the summertime is thunderstorms. Most experts recommend turning off your computer at the beginning of a storm. Unplugging it is also a good idea - if your house takes a direct hit, the lightening can travel through the house into your electrical sockets, and fry all of your electronic equipment. Most power companies won't take responsibility if this happens in your home.

In the article "Preparing Your PC for Power Problems," in eWork's Exchange, Michael Miller, has some suggestions for freelancers and home office workers worried about blackouts and power surges. "His advice for blackouts: 'Turn off your computer when a storm or blackout approaches. As long as your computer is shut down normally, everything will be okay. If your computer is off when the power goes off, what's the harm?'" Miller is a home computer networking consultant and author of Complete Guide to Fixing Your PC.

Many home computer users are also turning to Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS) to keep the power surges at bay. These devices act as "batteries" to give you a few minutes of power, even after the power goes off. In that time you can save your documents, and exit the computer without losing valuable data. These devices can cost less than $100, and are a necessity if you live in an area where power problems occur. Surging and spiking power can damage hard drives, power supplies, and the components in a split second, and these devices also protect against these power problems.

California's power woes are spawning a flurry of interest in power products to help cope with spiking power and rolling blackouts. One company, Inouye Technologies of Canada, is capitalizing on power problems with a new device called the Synergistic Power Line Conditioner. They say the product is "a much needed power conditioner capable of dealing with the sudden power spikes associated with the rolling blackout crisis in California. The SPLC power conditioner also has the ability to clean electrical current interference between appliances. This delivers cleaner, more efficient power, and extends life and enhances electrical product performance of computers, copiers, high-end video, stereos, etc." A few years ago, most people probably would not have seen the need for a device like this. Today, it seems like a necessity for anyone who makes their living with computers and electronics.

Don't expect that cheap power strip to do the work of a UPS. According to eWork, "most low-priced power strips don't include adequate protection, so you should spend a little more for a high-quality device." The power strips don't regulate power, and can shut off just as rapidly as if there were a power outage, damaging your machine. I personally had a machine "fried" by using a cheap power strip, and it wasn't a pleasant experience. When this happens, all your data is lost, and your computer must be repaired. If you don't have any recent backups, your work may be gone forever, and no freelancer wants to think about that.

Power woes don't seem to be getting any better, in fact, they may be getting worse as the hot summer months approach. Preparing now for any sudden power problems can be one of the best things a freelancer can do to protect their work, and their careers.

Sherril Steele-Carlin is a full-time freelance writer from Reno, Nevada. She's published numerous articles in print and online publications. She's also the author of the new e-book "How to get a Life by Living and Working in a National Park."
Visit her web site at

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