Archive for June, 2008

Moving forward with HFC-227

As many of you know, the company I work for is moving to a new building in just under a month. My responsibilities on this project primarily relate to information technology issues. However, IT is more than servers, switches, routers, and phones. I’ve also been involved with physical security, backup electrical power, and fire suppression.

We have a small on-site server room. Most of our mission critical gear is contained at a colocation facility nearby, but that doesn’t mean we don’t care about keeping the local server room online. In fact – our strategy depends on it. We’ve covered power availability with a central UPS and a diesel generator. But how do we keep an equipment fire from taking us out for weeks or months?

Initially we installed a pre-action system. Pre-action sprinkler systems are for use when accidental activation is undesired (like server rooms). Ours is a double interlock pre-action system. This basically means that a combination of fire-related events must take place before water is discharged. Not only will you be dumping water on very critical (and expensive) hardware, but it can take a while for all of those fire-related events to happen. A ten minute fire in a server rack could ruin everything we want to protect. So enter HFC-227 (more commonly known as FM-200).

HFC-227 is a gas that has the ability to extinguish fire when released into a space at a 7% concentration. The best part is it safe for people and electronic equipment. It can also put out a fire much faster than any water-based sprinkler system. Sprinklers protect the facility. The gas protects the equipment we install in the facility. HFC-227 was the first non-ozone depleting replacement for Halon 1301. Our system will be installed prior to our move in late July.

The video below is a demonstration of an FM200 system being discharged.

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Strategic Fundraising Inc. (a/k/a SFI)

My home phone has been blowing up with phone calls lately.  The caller ID information says “SFI” with a phone number of 763-392-5981.  They call multiple times per day, they never leave a message, and they hangup if you answer.  And all of this when my phone number is listed on the national do not call list.

So who is behind SFI?  It is a company called Strategic Fundraising Inc out of St. Paul, MN.  The owner is Dan Rice, and his wife Christine Rice.  Their home address is 11152 14th St. N, Lake Elmo, MN 55042-9707.  Their home phone number is 651-337-0300.  I emailed Dan and Christine today (with copies to their various corporate VP’s).  I essentially told them that until they stopped calling my home, I would email them every time I got a phone call from their company.

It didn’t take long before I got a response from their VP of Information Technology, Mr. Dan Latvala.  I thought you might like to see his response to my inquiry.  He offered to help remove my number (which I do appreciate), but I’m not sure I like the fact that they consider themselves exempt from obeying the national do not call list because of who their clients are.  Here is his full response …

“Sorry for the disruption.  The majority of our clients are political or non-profit entities, so they are not required to purge numbers from their lists that also exist on the National DNC list.  We do honor all consumer requests to stop receiving phone calls from us, however, by keeping an internal DNC list.  If you would give me your number or number(s), I would be glad to add them to our internal DNC list and personally make sure that you don’t receive additional calls.”

So I replied and thanked him for the offer of help.  But there still was the issue of why they don’t leave messages and why they hangup if I answer.  So here is his full response on that topic …

“There are two situations when our predictive dialers will “hang up” on a person.  The first is if it detects (or thinks it detects) an answering machine.  The second is what is known as an abandoned call.  Our predictive dialer attempts to keep the number of seconds between calls low for the fundraisers, so it dials based on the recent answer rate in the campaign.  This means that once in a while when someone answers the phone we don’t have a fundraiser to connect so the system just hangs up.  I know this is irritating; I find it that way as well.  It helps that I understand what happened, though.  Abandoned calls happen fairly infrequently, though.  Usually when a hang-up occurs it is because the system thought it detected an answering machine.  Since it is a computer, it isn’t always correct.”

So let me see if I understand this.  Your computer dials out.  I answer the phone.  If there aren’t any “fundraisers” available to take that call, then your computer hangs up?  Somewhat irresponsible to inconvenience the American public just because you can’t staff your call centers with enough warm bodies to keep up with the number of calls your computer system makes.  If it irritates you too, then why don’t you fix it?  You are the VP of Information Technology after all.  Is this the best your company can do?

Once you solve this problem, I urge you to utilize the National DNC list on behalf of your customers.  Even if they aren’t obligated to use the DNC – you should do so on their behalf.  Keeping up your own list can’t be any easier than utilizing the national DNC.  I don’t mean to pick on Dan Latvala.  He did, after all, respond quickly and agree to help me get my phone number off the list.  For that I am very thankful.  But Dan Rice, the owner of SFI, needs to read this.  Stand up and take action – don’t ignore the spirit and purpose of the National DNC.

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TV in America

What Neilson has to tell us about TV viewing in America …

1. The average home has 2.5 people and 2.8 television sets.
2. The average home receives 119 channels (we only watch 13%).
3. A TV is playing in the average home for 58 hours each week.
4. The average home watches about 32 hours each week.

So why am I writing about this topic?  After being out with friends last night, I came home and turned on the TV.  My picture had a very green tint to it.  Turned the TV off and on again, but the tint was still there.  After a couple more reboots, the problem went away.  My TV is rear-projection LCD, so like a data projector – there is a bulb that can wear out after so many lamp hours.  My set is over 3.5 years old now, so I thought I would see how many hours were on my lamp.  This involved entering the hidden service menu and navigating around (thank you Internet instructions).

While I was researching how to check lamp hours, I found all sorts of people talking about how many bulbs they have been through.  This surprised me since the bulb is rated for 10000 hours.  That works out to 416 days (assuming you ran your TV 24 hours a day).

Now I’m going to butcher the Neilson numbers a bit, but in fairness – I only have one TV that is used for watching programming.  My second TV is used exclusively as a computer monitor.  Let’s assume my TV is on for the average 58 hours a week.  The bulb should last about 172 weeks (or 3.3 years).  So how many hours are on my bulb?  The answer is 8553.

So my TV averages about 45 hours of “powered on” time a week.  That doesn’t mean I’m always watching.  Like the Neilson numbers prove, we leave our sets on a lot when we could be saving electricity.  My biggest problem is falling asleep with the TV on.  Maybe that tells us something about the quality of programming – or perhaps I’m just tired.  Either way, we can all do better.

So I have ordered a spare bulb.  They run about $175.  Not bad if you only have to replace it once every four years or so.  And the best part – my TV (not the bulb) is covered by extended warranty until late 2009.  So if my green screen turns out to be something other than the bulb … I should be in good shape.

How many hours is your TV turned on each week?

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