Friday, May 23, 2008

I love it when a plan comes together.

An Australian company sent down a computer to monitor how much power we actually use down here. They will use the data they collect to help them plan a wind turbine project that will make our base more ecofriendly. I believe the Kiwis are helping pay for this as a form of paying the National Science Foundation back for letting them use our runway. Others might suggest that letting the Kiwis use our runway should be our way of paying them back because we all live in the Ross Dependency, which is the piece of Antarctica claimed as New Zealand territory.

Our shop stock to fix or replace the 500 computers we have on base.

When this computer was setup, they used Linux, serial ATA, and a 235V power source. I guess that when it was installed down here it still had an 'Australian' plug. They used a converter and plugged it into a 110V outlet. The power supply blew out and, just like Pandora's box, once you let the smoke out you can't put it back in. I believe they needed to use a transformer to change the power passing through instead of just a converter which just changed the plugs. The even easier solution would have been to switch the power supply switch from 235V to 110V. This is a common problem for international travels. We had a number of people blow their laptops out on Semester at Sea for the same reason.

The Information Technology and Communications warehoure (4 unseen rows , one for the PC Shop).

As the resident PC Tech, it was my job to come up with a way to fix it. Otherwise, the project would be set back five months. We don't have any power supplies that had serial ATA, 24 pin, and 4 pin connectors. We have some of each, but not all three connections on one power supply. I tried dropping the hard drive into another machine we had that did have serial ATA connectors. It turned on just fine, but unfortunately it was a Linux OS and the kernel panicked because the OS didn't know what to do with all the unknown devices. I wasn't comfortable enough with Linux to rebuild the kernel with confidence, so I went to plan B.

Plan B was to fix or rewire the power supply. We tried to fix it, but that didn't work so we had to rewire it. There are only three to five types of wires coming out of a power supply. We would just need to cut the connectors off the bad power supply and splice or solder the individual wires to their matching voltage wires on the working one. The working one didn't have enough wires to replace all the connectors on the old one so we chose just the most important connections to move, the three I mentioned above. I'm not comfortable with electrical wiring so I let our power plant manager James take care of it.

The new power supply.

After James did a fabulous job fixing up the power supply, I had to rebuild the case because we were a wire short. Kind of a pain, but not a big deal since we had a spare chassis parts in the shop. It was just a matter of finding the right one. Once that was done, we fired it up and the computer worked fine. Work order closed.

The fixed computer.


  1. wow, that's an complex work order. nothing you can't solve, though.

    "go go power rangers!" :-) or should i insert the captain planet theme since your station's going ecofriendly? "by your powers combine, i am captain planet!" lol

    oh, see i am delirious from lack of sleep. today is the big move day but i just wanna crawl back to bed. zzz