The shotgun approach



  • Like anyone that's serious about his equipment I have a UPS to support the PCs I use. It's an APC BR800I which can support up to 540Watts worth of equipment.
    A few months ago it started showing a greatly dimished amount of available battery time. I changed the battery but the available battery time remained the same. I unplugged everything except a 17" CRT and an old 1.4 AMD with a 400W Zalman PSU. According to the UPS software (PowerChute) I was at less than 30% load (156Watts) and had about 5-6 minutes of battery. Seeing as the UPS normally offers about 17 minutes at half load (according to their site and from past experience) it was time to contact the local support. This consists of a forum-like webpage where you post a question, get a reply and so on and so forth. I had the misfortune of dealing with a technician who employed a novel approach: Throw lots of random replies at the customer until one of them sticks. In fact give different mutually-exclusive answers in the same post. Kinda like using shot to hunt game so you have a bigger chance of landing a hit.

    I informed him of the problem and my current setup. His first suggestion was that the battery time was normal because my power supply was at 400W plus around 100W of the CRT which took us close to the UPS' maximum 540W. Apparently the 30% load reported by their software was irrelevant. And so was logic in general seeing as he was telling me that a BR800I (at around 200 euros) was barely adequate to support an obsolete 1.4AMD and a CRT.

    His second "solution" was that my PSU was employing APFC (Active Power Factor Correction) and since this UPS is not recommended for PSUs with APFC, that was the problem. I should buy one of their Smart UPS series to solve my problem. If you've never heard of APFC, it's a technology to make a PSU more efficient with the downside that it might cause problems with certain UPS models. From what I gathered from a little research I did, if you had this problem then your PC wouldn't work with your UPS at all. I'm not sure if this only happens when on a battery but you get the idea. Needless to say my PCs had been perfectly happy with my UPS for some time now. You'd think the difference in symptoms would tip him off.

    His third solution was to "calibrate" the battery. To do this I had to click on a certain link in PowerChute which he pinpointed to me after I asked a couple of times. Apparently he was reciting from some vague memory. I found the exact link, clicked on it and was promptly transported to APC's site where I could "purchase a new battery".

    In the end I finally solved the issue by locating the actual place in PowerChute where I could tell the program that I had a new battery. I'm not sure whether taking so long is my WTF alone or the UI design of the program contributed to some extent but it would have been nice to go through the basics first (did you click there when you changed the battery?) before venturing into the realm of the surreal.



  • @DOA said:

    In the end I finally solved the issue by locating the actual place in PowerChute where I could tell the program that I had a new battery. I'm not sure whether taking so long is my WTF alone or the UI design of the program contributed to some extent but it would have been nice to go through the basics first (did you click there when you changed the battery?) before venturing into the realm of the surreal.
    It would appear you talked to a salesperson, not a technician, whose job is to convince you that YOU did something wrong and then make you buy shit to make up for it.



  • @DOA said:

    Throw lots of random replies at the customer until one of them sticks. In fact give different mutually-exclusive answers in the same post. Kinda like using shot to hunt game so you have a bigger chance of landing a hit.

    I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing; when somebody has an unknown problem with something I wrote, I tend to send them a list of possible problems/solutions, even if they overlap, and tell them to try the solutions until one of them works. Granted, I don't try to sell them anything, but I don't think the general approach is wrong.



  • @rbowes said:

    I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing; when somebody has an unknown problem with something I wrote, I tend to send them a list of possible problems/solutions, even if they overlap, and tell them to try the solutions until one of them works. Granted, I don't try to sell them anything, but I don't think the general approach is wrong.
    I agree. it's just that the symptoms in this case had nothing to do with most of the answers. It'd be like someone calling you because his screen is showing everything blue and you telling him to reboot the modem and check his printers in the control panel. I'm pretty sure it was some clueless automaton reading off cue cards. Maybe I'm naive but you'd think it'd be easy to train someone in troubleshooting a UPS. 



  •  In my experience using an ups from APC to protect your computer is the equivalent of using windows as your operating system. Not necessarily bad, everybody does it but there (better) alternatives.



  • @DOA said:

    I'm pretty sure it was some clueless automaton reading off cue cards. Maybe I'm naive but you'd think it'd be easy to train someone in troubleshooting a UPS. 
    That's typically the case, sadly.



  • @DOA said:

    In the end I finally solved the issue by locating the actual place in PowerChute where I could tell the program that I had a new battery. I'm not sure whether taking so long is my WTF alone or the UI design of the program contributed to some extent but it would have been nice to go through the basics first (did you click there when you changed the battery?) before venturing into the realm of the surreal.

    There's nothing worse than PowerChute failure...

    There, got that out of the way. Would have been frist but had to wait until I got home since our IT monkey at work has subtly broken the intertubez - no outgoing e-mails, unable to log-in to many sites, three days and still broken [TRWTF]



  • @cklam said:

     In my experience using an ups from APC to protect your computer is the equivalent of using windows as your operating system. Not necessarily bad, everybody does it but there (better) alternatives.

    linux_haha



  • @chikinpotpi said:

    snip
    Oh, man, that gets better each time you post it!



  • @DOA said:

    Apparently the 30% load reported by their software was irrelevant.
     

     Might be able to save yourself some time in the future by picking up a Kill-A-Watt to confirm the software's load reports.



  • @Arenzael said:

    Might be able to save yourself some time in the future by picking up a Kill-A-Watt to confirm the software's load reports.

    Agreed. 400W PSU + 100W Monitor != 500W. Those are max ratings, not continuous draw.



  • @AbbydonKrafts said:

    @Arenzael said:
     Might be able to save yourself some time in the future by picking up a Kill-A-Watt to confirm the software's load reports.

    Agreed. 400W PSU + 100W Monitor != 500W. Those are max ratings, not continuous draw.

    Oh, don't worry, in the past I've put put two PCs, a screen, a router, a DSL router, a watercooling pump and my 5.1 speakers on this UPS and all that got it to about 70% load so I knew he was full of it on this one before I had finished reading the sentence :)


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