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Linux Writer Gets Ready For Disaster... Again

Disaster Redux

  • September 2, 2004
  • By Rob Reilly

Hurricane Charley roared through Southwest and Central Florida a little over two weeks ago. And even though the winds were down to 105 MPH in Orlando, where I live, it was dicey. That kind of energy destroys things.

So, now I find myself getting ready for another potential disaster, Hurricane Frances.

How will I send Linux stories to my editors if the power is out for a week, which it was? Likewise, with my broadband/cable connection, down for 14 days. How will I keep up with world events and email? I'll share some hard earned lessons with you in this story.

I'm not going to rehash all the common sense contingency plan type things that you most certainly have in place. You've planned, right?

What I am going to talk about are some of the little things that you might not have considered. Believe me, after a disaster, the little things can greatly influence your computing pleasure or pain.

Aside from destruction of your computer hardware, the two biggest headaches during and after a disaster, are power and network connectivity.

Power is the biggest headache, because without good old 110 volt service, none of your Linux desktops or Apache/Postgresql servers are going to be running. To get any work done you'll have to not only power those machines, but also your LCDs or monitors, your routers and your printers. That's just on your internal network.

Options for a business or home office could include a permanent setup, such as an LP gas powered Guardian, a standard portable gasoline generator or some type of inverter/battery arrangement. Adding in some lights or fans for comfort (the A/C won't be working) can complicate the matter.

Let's add up a quick example and see how much power we might need:

1 Apache web server 400
1 Postgresql database server 400
2 Desktop Linux machine 600
1 IPCop Firewall machine 200
1 Consumer wireless/router 50
2 Laser printers 100
3 Monitors 150
5 100 watt lights 500
1 Cable/DSL modem 50
1 Incidental powered devices 100
Total�����(watts) 2550

You could get a little 4000 watt consumer gasoline generator from one of the big retail home improvement stores. Better plan ahead, because I can tell you, after a disaster of any size, you simply won't be able to buy one. And let's not forget the extension cords (of correct capacity) and all those gallons of gas. Those little generator gas tanks hold 3 or 4 gallons and might be good for 4 hours. Multiply that by 6 days (without electrical power), like we had here in Orlando and you'll have to do 12 fill-ups and handle 48 gallons of gas. The big gas cans that I have hold 6 gallons and are very awkward to lift. I'll need at least 8 gas cans. Central Florida basically ran out of gas on day two, after the hurricane. Providing your own power is complicated and labor intensive.

Seems to me that if you can spring for a small standalone commercial generator system, it might be money well spent. Inverter/battery systems might work for a few hours, but you have to charge the batteries, somehow. Inverter/batteries aren't really what you would call continuous duty, but may work for very short term operations.

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