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Snap, Crackle, Pop goes the power cord

by Ben Hepworth on August 4th, 2011

Welcome to our office. This is my junkhole of an office that is in some serious need of some cleaning and organizing.

The craziest thing happened to me the other day. It was late and I was about to go to bed. Allison was blogging just to the left of where I sit. I had just put the kids to bed and finished up some work. I decided to sit down and play a video game on my desktop – something that I haven’t done in a long, long time. My desktop is dual boot Ubuntu & Winblows. Usually my Desktop is in Ubuntu, but I had it in Windoze tonight for gaming (the only thing Windoze is really good at). Allison was sitting next to me blogging, the lights were out, and I was engrossed in my game (the 11-year old masterpiece Deus Ex to be exact).

Then, out of nowhere, I heard a loud *POP* and saw a huge spark that was about 8 inches in diameter less than a foot away from my leg. At first I thought it was the Illuminati. It scare me so bad I screamed instantly out loud. Hey, I just invented new chat lingo “siol” … lol.

Allison immediately jumped up, started freaking out, and asking me about my status more frequently than a project manager. I couldn’t tell exactly where the spark had come from. My initial thought was that it was either from my Desktop or from my NAS device that I setup earlier this year.

All of the power went out in the entire room when the snap, crackle, spark happened. I sat there in a state of shock trying to figure out which would be worse to lose – the NAS or my Desktop. We trudged over to the breaker box to flip the breaker. The breaker box in our house wasn’t labelled very well and it wasn’t clear which breaker went to the office. I returned to the office while Allison cycled through the various breakers until she hit the office one. It came on. And back off immediately. Another spark flew, and the power in the room did not stay on. I climbed down under the desk and unplugged the printer, NAS, and my desktop from the surge protector that was “protecting” my devices. I then unplugged the surge protector from the power outlet.

After hollering at Allison, she flipped the breaker and the lights came back on in our office. I unplugged the surge protector from the wall and set it aside. I sat there for a good minute staring at my NAS hoping that nothing catastrophic had happened to it. I shot a quick glare over at the UPS I had picked up last week. The lazy bum was still sitting in it’s box on the other side of the office waiting to be installed!

APC UPS Battery Backup

After having calculated the NAS as the worst possible loss, I decided to try to boot it first. I plugged the power into the back of it and plugged the other end into a different power strip. I hit the power button, and to my surprise the device booted up just fine. My sigh of relief was quick replace by the fear now that my Desktop was dead.

I grabbed the power cable that was coming out of the back of my desktop’s power supply and began following it with my hand to find the other end of it. I found the end of the 3-foot power cable at about 1 foot.

Um…yeah. That’s not supposed to be like that. We haven’t gotten wireless electricity to work like that quite yet. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The power cord for my desktop was severed in half. I’m not just talking frayed, or cut with a pair of scissors. It was burned completely in half and melted. Allison and I stared at it in awe before finding the other half of it.

I scrounged up an extra power cable and plugged my desktop in. 3..2..1 – moment of truth. Voila! The desktop booted up just fine as well! I think I may be the luckiest man alive. I quickly shut down my computer and the NAS, unboxed the UPS, and ordered it to get it’s lazy butt out of the box and start pulling it’s weight around the house.

I asked my manager at work, who studied physics in college, if he had any idea what might have cause this. He said he wasn’t surprised – that sometimes a power cable rubbing against something, or getting rolled over by a chair can cause the cable to compress in a way that could cause that to happen. Um..ok – makes sense, but that’s still not normal. Neither is the wall being slightly warm to the touch for a while afterwards. Power cords don’t just randomly burn in half.

I swear, it’s always something new and exciting around our house. I don’t think I’ll be able to eat Rice Krispies for breakfast for quite a while now.

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