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December, 2006:
This diagram depicts the life blood of my home office; its essence. I really do need for it to keep on working endlessly without a hitch. Should lightning destroy it or should my wife disassemble it due to an obsessive compulsion to scrub and/or paint my space, I would be at a near total loss. The latter did in fact occur once while I was away. The agony of trying to remember how to reassemble it drove me quietly screaming up the walls and nearly terminated our unbreakable bond.

It has been a few years since then and I think I just about have it back to the way it was, though I have replaced a few items and added a few more. Should such a catastrophe re-occur, I may become disoriented for awhile but at least I will have this map to guide me back to sanity.

Of course the chance of a lightning strike nearby is probably of greater concern. Even with all those surge suppressors, a powerful strike could find its way through them, especially as the suppressors age and wear out from the constant assault of unnoticeable dips and spikes that occur over time. That is why it is suggested that we replace them every 3 or 4 years, relegating the older ones to the work bench or the bedroom clock.

However, the best suggestion ever is to unplug the devices during storms and while away. Until now, that idea unnerved me so much that I just did not do so. Those plugs are down under desks and behind things. To get at them means getting down on my knees and reaching between and under those things, perhaps with a flashlight in one hand. Meanwhile most of the devices attached to those plugs are up above and out of sight. Even if I can do a 180 with my neck, the wires are running up behind big heavy unmovable desks so that I cannot be quite sure which wire goes to which device.

Then God forbid that the wrong things get shut off the wrong way. We all know that a computer absolutely must be "Shutdown" properly. I also know that my multi-function printer gets weird if it has been unplugged without notice. Then there is the external hard drive. Once I actually did negligently unplug its USB cable from the computer without getting permission from the "Safely Remove Hardware" icon. As a result, I lost access to all of the carefully laid out partitions, folders and files that I had installed on the thing. Under certain circumstances I can see that they are still there but I cannot get at them. So my backup drive remains unplugged and useless. However I have since discovered and utilized a couple of better methods for backing up, so I am okay there.

Now that I have this map, I can use it to determine what can be quickly unplugged and what requires proper procedure.

The important thing is to make sure that critical devices are plugged into the Battery side of the surge suppressor/UPS strips so that they are not adversely affected by brownouts and so that I have time to shut everything down properly during a prolonged power failure (more then a minute).

The brownouts are more insidious then one might think; though usually unnoticeable, they are happening all the time. Electronic devices usually absorb them but hate them. Even TV's and refrigerators can wear out over time because of the constant fluctuation. What the UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) does is accept whatever power the "grid" sends it to keep its battery charged and then, almost as a separate function, supply a steady flow of 120 volts AC to anything plugged into it. I only plug what I need into the battery side, such as my computer, monitor and (if it were still working) the external drive (a power failure during a backup can spell disaster). I include a low wattage lamp so that I can see what I am doing when the other lights go out. Anything else would drain the battery unnecessarily when time is of the essence.

By the way, I stressed the "grid" because the UPS will not work with your average inverter, such as the AC outlet provided with newer vehicles and with the less costly solar installations. You can plug a computer into them but not a UPS. On the other hand, it probably will work with a 4000 watt (+/-) backup generator.

Concerning the better backup methods I mentioned, they are USB sticks and online storage. The USB stick (aka: flash drive, jump drive, card, key, pen, chip, etc.) is generally a short plastic bar that plugs into a USB port. Spring for a 1GB capacity or better. You can drag or "Send To" any file, any document or picture to the stick. I also download and install portable applications to my USB sticks so that I can run them from any computer without affecting that computer, but that is not the critical thing here; being able to copy your Quicken file to the USB stick is (though you might want to encrypt it first, to play it safe).

Click: closeup of a USB drive, cables, ports and a hub The portable aps that I use are RoboForm2go to store all of my passwords and fill in the blanks as needed online, and FileZilla which allows me to upload stuff to my web site/storage from anywhere. I also keep a copy of my entire "Favorites" folder on the stick so that I can click on them from anywhere.

Keep in mind that you can use your digital camera for this also. It contains another kind of flash chip, but you can put any file on that chip; not just pictures. Likewise, you can pull the chips from older retired cameras and copy directly to them as long as your computer or printer has a slot that they will fit into. You can carry that chip or stick around in your pocket though I usually slip mine into a tiny bubble wrap pouch first, and I don't mix it up with my keys or pocket knife.

The time to be really gentle with the stick is when you plug it in; that is where they wear out from being pushed in at slightly odd angles. Otherwise, as apposed to real "drives", there are no moving parts to wear out. Oh yes, people do accidentally hit them which can also mean sudden death, and if they are plugged into the rear of the computer, they can be snapped off when you tilt the machine back. If this can happen to you, use an extension cord. I keep 2 of these USB sticks going; one on my desk and another in the glove compartment of my car (in case the house burns down), interchanging them whenever I think of it.

You can probably purchase these flash drives locally but you may get a better deal online from a place such as I buy my computer and camera memory chips there also.

For $7 a month you get 35 Gigabytes (35,000,000,000 bytes) of storage at Then you can upload everything that matters for permanent safekeeping. It would probably be a good idea to have a high speed internet connection for this. It would also be a good idea to compress the file(s) or folder(s) first, either with a compression ap such as WinZip or with the uploader itself such as CuteFTP (FileZilla will upload but I'm not sure it will compress). One other nice thing about WinZip is that it can copy a large file such as my Microsoft Outlook life-line into smaller manageable chunks which can then be uploaded individually. Also, while compressing, it can encrypt the file so that nobody else can look at it without the password (which can be stored in RoboForm).

If you would like a similar diagram of your setup, contact me and I will give you a price. I will even make it available to you on my web site if you don't have one of your own (ie: at Lunarpages). I will need a list of every device you use, photographs of your entire setup from various angles and pics of specific personal items that would not be available online (like my lamps). Such devices should be placed against a solid white background when you take the pic. Then send them to me by email or on a CD.

These are the items depicted in the diagram:

Blackberry Pearl cell phone

Fujifilm camera & dock

Belkin surge suppressor

Wal-Mart shredder

Maxtor external drive

Uniden 5.8GH phone (1 of 2)

Hewlett Packard speaker set

Cyberpower surge suppressor/UPS

table lamp

Emerson clock radio tape

Gateway MX6421 notebook

Logitech cordless keyboard & mouse

Buslink 8" TFT LCD TV

Packet8 VOIP adapter

Staples surge suppressor

wall lamp

outlet to dedicated circuit

Hewlett Packard monitor

Toshiba IK-WB11A wireless webcam

Compaq Presario SR1620NX

Terayon cable modem

Belkin Pre-N MIMO router

APC surge suppressor/UPS

Brother MFC 420CN printer

GE HEPA air purifier

Motorola signal booster

The heater is not connected to this circuit.