Entries tagged with “Electronics”.


APC – Power Event Definitions, Causes and Effects.

Sags:

Also known as brownouts, sags are short term decreases in voltage levels. This is the most common power problem, accounting for 87% of all power disturbances according to a study by Bell Labs.

    CAUSE -

    Sags are usually caused by the start-up power demands of many electrical devices (including motors, compressors, elevators, shop tools, etc.) Electric companies use sags to cope with extraordinary power demands. In a procedure known as rolling brownouts, the utility will systematically lower voltage levels in certain areas for hours or days at a time. Hot Summer days, when air conditioning requirements are at their peak, will often prompt rolling brownouts.

    EFFECT -

    A sag can starve a computer of the power it needs to function, and cause frozen keyboards and unexpected system crashes which both result in lost or corrupted data. Sags also reduce the efficiency and life span of electrical equipment, particularly motors.

Blackout:

Total loss of utility power.

    CAUSE -

    Blackouts are caused by excessive demand on the power grid, lightning storms, ice on power lines, car accidents, backhoes, earthquakes and other catastrophies.

    EFFECT -

    Current work in RAM or cache is lost. The hard drive File Allocation Table (FAT) may also be lost, which results in total loss of data stored on drive.

Spike:

Also referred to as an impulse, a spike is an instantaneous, dramatic increase in voltage. Akin to the force of a tidal wave, a spike can enter electronic equipment through AC, network, serial or phone lines and damage or completely destroy components.

    CAUSE -

    Spikes are typically caused by a nearby lightning strike. Spikes can also occur when utility power comes back on line after having been knocked out in a storm or as the result of a car accident.

    EFFECT -

    Catastrophic damage to hardware occurs. Data will be lost.

Surge:

A short term increase in voltage, typically lasting at least 1/120 of a second.

    CAUSE -

    Surges result from presence of high-powered electrical motors, such as air conditioners, and household appliances in the vicinity. When this equipment is switched off, the extra voltage is dissipated through the power line.

    EFFECT -

    Computers and similar sensitive electronic devices are designed to receive power within a certain voltage range. Anything outside of expected peak and RMS (considered the average voltage) levels will stress delicate components and cause premature failure.

Noise:

More technically referred to as Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI) and Radio Frequency Interference (RFI), electrical noise disrupts the smooth sine wave one expects from utility power.

    CAUSE -

    Electrical noise is caused by many factors and phenomena, including lightning, load switching, generators, radio transmitters and industrial equipment. It may be intermittent or chronic.

    EFFECT -

    Noise introduces glitches and errors into executable programs and data files.

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The Problem With Power.

The Problem with Power

We live in the Information Age where countless data is created, transmitted, and stored. We live in the Electronics Age where numerous electric-powered machines aid in business and household tasks, as well as entertain and inform us.

The reality of living in this time of technological innovation is that the power to run these machines can’t keep up (at least not yet). In many locations around the world, electricity generation, transmission and distribution have not evolved at the same pace as computer and communications equipment. What was built years ago for powering factories producing manufactured goods is struggling to adapt to provide continuous, sufficient-grade power to sensitive electronics processing valuable information.

What Is a Power Event?

Sags, surges, noise, spikes, blackouts…what really happens to connected devices when they experience a power anomaly? A lightning strike is a frequent example, although it is just one of countless problems that can strike your equipment.

Imagine lightning has just struck a nearby transformer. If the surge was powerful enough, it travelled instantaneously through wiring (AC, network, serial, phone lines and more) with the electrical equivalent force of a tidal wave. For PC users, the surge could have travelled into your computer via the AC outlet or phone lines. The first casualty is usually a modem or motherboard. Chips go next, and data is lost.

For info on different types of power problems and their effects on electronic equipment, click here.

Lightning Facts

The utility responds to overvoltages by disconnecting the grid. This creates brownouts and blackouts. If the voltage drops low enough, or blacks out, hard disks in computing machinery may crash, destroying the data stored on the disks. In all cases, work-in-progress stored in cache is instantly lost. In the worst case, password protection on the hard drives can be jumbled, or the file allocation tables may be upset, rendering the hard disks useless.

The Costs of Downtime

In the Information Age, data is quite valuable. It is the livelihood of businesses across the globe, whether in the form of financial transactions or online purchases or customer demographics or correspondence or spreadsheets or any number of business applications.

The Internet has emphasized that availability equals viability. If companies do not have reliable solutions for the continuing operation of their equipment, they lose money. If one company’s Web server goes down due to blackout, customers are apt to click over to a competitor’s. If mission-critical computers involved in manufacturing are damaged by a surge, inventory runs behind and schedules are missed. If electronic noise penetrates sensitive testing and measurement machinery, delays are inevitable.

Here are a few statistics that quantify the true costs of systems downtime:


[source: Network Computing (http://www.networkcomputing.com), March 5, 2001]
and
[source: META Group, Inc.,"Quantifying Performance Loss: IT Performance Engineering and Measurement Strategies", November 22, 2000
Clients of META Group, Inc. can read the full Delta Summary here: http://www.metagroup.com/cgi-bin/inetcgi/jsp/displayArticle.do?oid=18750

  • "Electrical interruptions will cost U.S. companies some $80 billion this year (2000)."
    [source: Worldwatch Institute (http://www.worldwatch.org)]
  • “Server downtime costs $108,000 a minute in lost brokerage operations.”
    [source: Contingency Planning Research (http://www.contingencyplanningresearch.com), a Division of Eagle Rock Alliance (http://www.eaglerockalliance.com)]
  • “Server downtime costs $43,000 a minute in lost credit card operations.”
    [source: Contingency Planning Research (http://www.contingencyplanningresearch.com), a Division of Eagle Rock Alliance (http://www.eaglerockalliance.com)]
  • “Server downtime costs $1,500 a minute in lost airline reservation operations.”
    [source: Contingency Planning Research (http://www.contingencyplanningresearch.com), a Division of Eagle Rock Alliance (http://www.eaglerockalliance.com)]
  • “Server downtime costs $1,200 a minute in lost telephone ticket sales operations.”
    [source: Contingency Planning Research (http://www.contingencyplanningresearch.com), a Division of Eagle Rock Alliance (http://www.eaglerockalliance.com)]
  • “Half of U.S. corporations rate their internet downtime costs at more than $1,000 per hour.”
    [source: Yankee Group (http://www.yankeegroup.com)]
  • “9% of U.S. corporations rate internet downtime costs at over $50,000 per hour.”
    [source: Yankee Group (http://www.yankeegroup.com)]
  • “Power outages interrupt operations at 72 percent of U.S. businesses.”
    [source: Contingency Planning & Management Online (http://www.ContingencyPlanning.com) and Ernst & Young (http://www.ey.com), 1997]
  • “Power problems (surges and lightning) were the number one cause of desktop computer loss in 1999 and 2000.”
    [source: Safeware, The Insurance Agency Inc., (http://www.safeware.com)] a member company of Assurant Group (http://www.assurant.com)]
  • “33.7% of U.S. companies have had business operations interrupted because of lightning storms.”
    [source: Contingency Planning & Management Online (http://www.ContingencyPlanning.com) and Ernst & Young (http://www.ey.com), 1997]
  • “31% of computer outages are the result of power failures.”
    [source: Contingency Planning Research (http://www.contingencyplanningresearch.com), a Division of Eagle Rock Alliance (http://www.eaglerockalliance.com)]
  • “Power disturbances account for about one third of all server failures.”
    [source: IDC (http://www.idc.com)]
  • “* Two-thirds of Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group (SVMG) member company respondents were directly impacted by the rolling blackouts.
    * The average blackout lasted 90 minutes in duration.
    * More than 100,000 workers at SVMG companies were left idle.
    * Immediate financial losses for Silicon Valley are estimated at the tens of millions of dollars, accounting for major effects like employee downtime, lost product and data, and the expense of retooling equipment.”
    [source: Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group press release (http://www.svmg.org)]
  • “According to a national survey conducted for Iomega Corporation by Bruskin Research, 57 percent of the Californian computer users surveyed fear loss of computer content due to a blackout or power failure. The survey indicates that 45 percent of computer users nationwide are concerned with losing power due to power problems.”
    [source: Iomega Corporation (http://www.iomega.com)]

In order to prevent costs involved with downtime or damaged equipment, businesses and even home owners require solutions from a vendor known for its reliability.

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South Korean researchers have found a new way to make flexible, stretchable electrodes that could lead to electronics that fold or could be worn.


Ford is planning major upgrades to its Microsoft-made Sync in-car electronics system, CEO Alan Mulally announced in a speech at the Consumer Electronics Show.


Image representing Yahoo! as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Yahoo and Intel hope products to be shown at the Consumer Electronics Show in January will mark the beginning of their Internet-fueled expansion to the world of TV. Yahoo and Intel built their success upon widespread use of personal computers, but the two companies hope products to be shown at the Consumer Electronics Show in January will mark the beginning of their Internet-fueled expansion to the world of TV as well.

The two companies have attracted several significant manufacturing and content allies in the attempt to bring new smarts and interactivity to a part of the electronics world that has remained a more passive part of people’s digital lives.

Intel and Yahoo showed off Net-enabled TV prototypes in August, but the companies’ technology will be presented in more finished form at the electronics show within products by Samsung, Toshiba, and a number of new partners that have signed on since the debut.

What exactly are they trying to achieve? For Yahoo, it’s establishment of the Widget Channel, a software foundation that can house programs for browsing photos, using the Internet’s abundant socially connected services, watching YouTube videos, or digging deeper into TV shows–and through which Yahoo will be able to show advertisements. For Intel, it’s a foothold in an industry whose microprocessors have typically been cheaper, less powerful, and less power-hungry.

Yahoo is confident the products will catch on, in part because it’s set “very low” licensing requirements, said Patrick Barry, vice president of Yahoo’s Connected TV initiative.

“We do not see it as a niche offering in a few high-end models. We see this as moving into the mainstream. In 2009 we’re going to see good penetration into the product lineups of the consumer electronics companies,” Barry said. “Beginning in 2010, I think, you’re going to see Internet-connected consumer electronics devices dominating the lineup.”

But for both companies, TVs are terra incognita. “We emerged from the ocean of the PC,” Barry said.

An anthropologist’s view
Despite years of effort, the idea to put media-centric PCs in the living room hasn’t caught on widely. But Intel, stung by its poorly received Viiv brand, has been taking the challenge seriously.

It even dispatched its top anthropologist–yes, the chipmaker employs anthropologists–to carefully study how people use TVs. In other words, Intel is trying to adapt to reality, not foist its ideas on an unwilling market.

Some people like to watch TV, but anthropologist Genevieve Bell, director of user experience for Intel, likes to watch people watching TV. Specifically, Intel concluded that unlike the PC, TVs are social. People watch it together, and what they watch turns into what they talk about. Another difference from PCs: it must be simple and reliable, she said.

When bringing the Internet to the TV, “You couldn’t just turn it into a PC,” she said.

And it’s pretty obvious why those not in the TV market would be angling for a piece of the action. People in the U.S. spend about 5 times more time watching TV than using a computer, Bell said. Globally, it’s a factor of 25; unusually, the TV and PC time is at parity in Israel, perhaps because of communication habits, she added.

More ads
For decades, people have been accustomed to advertising-supported television. The Widget Channel technology opens up some new horizons for Yahoo, though Barry said the company isn’t going to rush to plaster sponsorships over the new interface.

“We have a lot of support from the advertising community, but we’re focused on the consumer now,” Barry said. “What you’ll see initially is us trying to fall all over ourselves trying to make the consumer happy. The advertisers understand that.” He wouldn’t comment on when advertising will be launched with the technology.

Although Yahoo will eventually show ads, it won’t have a lock on them. Barry said: “We are not going to be locking down anything from a walled garden perspective, including monetization. We get a nice advantage, knowing the ins and outs, but we will not limit the platform to being addressable by us.”

There are many opportunities for ads, including the dock that can be shown across the bottom of the TV screen and in pages that fill the screen.

The Widget Channel technology is based on the Widget Engine software Yahoo got in 2005 with its acquisition of Konfabulator, and it lets programmers write a wide variety of applications. Course corrections
Intel learned from initial testing of the TV technology, Bell said. For one thing, the company found that people didn’t like the Widget Channel controls appearing on the left edge of the screen, one option the companies had demonstrated. Instead, people prefer the bottom, where they’re accustomed to seeing text already.

For another, she said, people expressed a powerful desire for a big button to make the software go away in one fell swoop–no menus or arrow keys or complication–so they could get back to watching TV when they wanted. That big button is also used to activate the Widget Channel.

And nobody wanted yet another remote control.

To help chart its long-term course, Intel gauged consumer sentiment in part by asking what people thought the future of TV would look like. People’s answers generally fit into a few categories:

• Something that would provide relevant information in real time, such as the weather right before heading to a sporting event.

• Something that would connect them to other people they care about, a variation of social networking.

• Something that would let them participate more with what they’re watching, for example by figuring out where a show’s cast members already had acted, or finding, rating, and sorting content.

Few, though, wanted a full-on Web browser, nor a keyboard to clutter up the room.

Yahoo sees the same fallow ground as Intel in the market.

TV innovations that have succeeded focused on screen size, image fidelity, and flat-screen technology, Barry said. “But the consumer electronics industry has not really explored the…connectivity that the Internet provides.”

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