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Chapter 9 Power Supply The year was 1977, the Chevy Vega was a 1973.

. It was a replacement for the flying Ford Pinto that my classmates may remember. The Pinto was a low, mean, ridiculous version of a muscle car look-alike. Like many nerds of my generation, we took what we had and made it look like something Detroit had built while on LSD. To further weird things up, I wasnt satisfied with a huge air-dam in front, lowered suspension and enough bolt-ons to fill 2 shopping carts at AutoZone. I attached imaginary wings to my mini-pony. I know they were imaginary because after taking the car off the cliff (a sobering experience) I distinctly remember wiping my face off (literally) with a shop rag while staring at the steaming heap of post-flight metal and thinking shit, it really doesnt have wings. Out with the Pinto, in with a Chevy Vega. Not only did my parents name me Francis, but my dad must have had a vendetta. Not one, but two of the worst cars ever designed. And as I lay in my hospital bed, it was all I could do to reach out my hand and accept the keys and the payment book. From flying mini-pony to failed pony poop. I guess I was just lucky my dad didnt like the Gremlin. The Vega, in retrospect had one redeeming quality. John Travolta would eventually be cast in the movie Pulp Fiction playing a character named Vincent Vega. That was its redemption. Way too little. Way too late. I rebuilt, repaired or replaced every part on this early gas-saver repeatedly. I should have replaced it with parts from a 1967 Mustang.

When I was done, I would have been the proud owner of a 1967 Mustang. And this brings us to a discussion about voltage. I remember one starry night, walking home from Ojai California to Ventura. About 10 miles as the crow flies, but none were flying at 3:00am. The car has stalled by the side of the road once again. My work-around was simple. I would get out of the car, open the hood (where I had a huge foot long screwdriver stashed) and jump the poles of the starter motor with the blade of the screwdriver. Vrooooooom! The engine would roar to life. Well, not roar actually, but it would usually start; except on this starry night. You see, despite all my best diagnostic intuition, it wasnt the starter that was at fault, nor the voltage regulator, nor the alternator, or the Ralph Nader. It was the battery. In modern vehicles, the electrical system is a 12 volt direct current system. It is usually powered by a lead-acid battery that puts out a continuous 12 volts DC replenished by the alternator. Notice that I said usually. On rare occasion, a battery can appear healthy, might even work (if you jump the leads on the starter with a screwdriver) but is suffering from a low voltage condition. Eventually if there isnt enough voltage.the car? She wont run. And you may well find yourself with your thumb out at 3am hoping for a ride that doesnt ever come. As sensitive as a 1976 Detroit POS may be, a computer is ever so much more sensitive to variations in current. The resulting conditions of a low-voltage state can be equally quirky.

When you pull apart a common household pc, you will see a couple of obvious large components. One is the motherboard. It is green and has a lot of little Lego parts sticking out of it. The other is shiny and chrome and has a couple yards of wire coming out of it to power the green motherboard. I recently illustrated the low voltage condition to myself when upgrading my own desktop. I had started working with video and needed more horsepower. Says I to myself heck, Ill just upgrade the green thing and I did. With slide rule in hand, and pocket protector in place I marched into my local parts store and walked away with a new motherboard, processor and memory; confident that I was just moments away from breathing new fire into my old system. A few hours later, new parts in place, I was ready for the count-down. The timer reached 00 and I threw the switch. A soft hum emanated from the power-supply as the fan spun up to speed and current began to flow from the power-supply to the green thing. Eyes wide, in the soft glow of my desk lamp I peered anxiously at the screen waiting to see if the telltale boot-screen would appear. Low and behold Success! At the end of the next week I began to look like a Chia Pet gone terribly wrong. Little bald spots were obvious without my cap, a testimonial to the voltage sensitivity of the device. Because, while the computer gave every outward sign of working, it was struggling with low voltage from the power-supply. It was a clear case of demonic possession. The system would start, then re-boot of its own accord. It would glitch, hiccough, fart and weeze. The cutest little whiffs of smoke would curl from the case and waft lazily to the ceiling. For a

week I battled the monster. Finally, I read the manual. Come to find out, the new parts that I installed were far hungrier than the old ones. They required a new voltage level that the old power supply was unable to produce. In the end, it required a few more trips to the parts store, and the resulting new system was an entirely new one. It now sits proudly next to the old one which has been put into service as a media server. The parable of the Pinto (more alliterative than the parable of the Vega) is a fable about power. If you dont have the right power coming in, you aint gonna get the right result. You will in fact, be stranded some starry night on the country road in a Chevy Vega. So why should the FTU operate any differently? It doesnt dear user. In order for the system to work optimally the system has been designed to consume a specific amount of power. If you under-power a computer bad things will happen. In fact, if you over-power a computerbad things will happen. A calorie is a unit of energy. It approximates the energy needed to increase the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1 C. These little

units of energy are needed by the FTU to function. Unless there is a constant flow of current, without variation or fluctuation, the system will be fubar. So let us examine the units of energy required by the FTU and see if our power-supply has been delivering clean, constant power. Lets begin with our day yesterday. Let me see, the FTU came out of sleep

mode and we went downstairs to begin the morning sub-routine. First, we inserted two cups of warm brown caffeinated fluid. Then, when we were done with our morning twa-lette, we pushed down hard on the accelerator and went for our morning jog. A few miles later we returned to the docking station without so much as a twinkie or a hoehoe or a ding-dong for fuel. Still wired out of our gourd, we continued running our system at full tilt until mid afternoon and then it happened. The voltage dropped significantly. The FTU sent emergency signals to the peripherals. The display began to waver, and the HD was hitting random sectors, returning a bevy of error messages. Solution? Increase the voltage. How? Another cup of coffee of course, and an energy bar that contained more additives and alien ingredients than a moon rock. And still, the system marched on; until about 5:00pm when the claxon sounded. The system had been running dangerously low on voltage and I knew it. The only solution was to fill up the tank, the spare tank, the extra tank, the auxiliary tank and the backup tank. You get my point. Constant, continuous voltage at a steady rate of delivery. Not 5 cups of coffee in the morning and enough preservatives to resurrect Ronald Regan. Lets take a serious look at the power supply before we continue. We must understand and appreciate the power requirements. If you want peak performance, you have to fuel the system carefully and faithfully.

If you hear another lecture coming on, check your mEmail. You have already been told by your wife/husband/doctor/culture that you have to watch what you eat. This section of the manual is not giving you any

new information. This section is designed only to raise your awareness and set your GPS on the right path. Garbage in. Garbage out. Unless you want to be stranded some night on a desolate highway with nothing but your new Chia hairdo and a screwdriver, put the twinkie down. Consider instead, the incredible edible egg. Make a plan for providing constant, clean power. Then stick to it. Youll be surprised at the difference clean power makes.