Heart Internet – UPS System? I don’t think so!

UPS MultiModule System
UPS MultiModule System

A few years ago, after an altogether unsatisfactory “dalliance” with FastHosts as my webhosting provider, I decided that Heart Internet were a better bet. All has been excellent until this last month or so. Recently I have been treated to a couple of prolonged service problems. Today’s has been the worst example – not only have all my sites been down due to a UPS problem but so has the entire email service to them.

What went wrong?

At first Heart blamed the problem on a DDOS (Distributed Denial Of Service) attack, but then suddenly changed the reason to an unexplainable problem during scheduled maintenance!

The maintenance was supposed to be the change of a “Voltage Monitor” in their Uninterruptible Power Supply, OK that sounds fine, but why on earth was the work done during normal working hours? As an experienced UPS engineer, I know that any decent UPS system would be resilient as an N+1 or N+2 configuration. That means that, as a minimum, the system would comprise enough UPS modules to support the load with 1 or 2 module(s) out of service.

As an example, let’s assume the entire load was about 1000kVA (approx 1000kW), A sensibly configured UPS would be 5 units of 250kVA (this is a minimum, there could easily be 6 modules, N+2), one/two online but acting as standby(s) should any other fail. This also allows for one/two module(s) to be taken out of service for maintenance should that be required.

It seems today’s failure happened when the entire system was switched to bypass (meaning servers were supplied by the mains) while the “Voltage Monitor” was attended to. That should never have been considered. A properly configured/specified UPS should have been able to remove one or two modules from service without compromising the entire system.

That of course assumes that the faulty item was not in the overall system monitoring component. If that had been the case, the work should not have been done during normal working hours and should have been done as “planned maintenance” out of hours and customers warned.

As it happened, the entire system appears to have been compromised during normal hours. Something interrupted the mains supply while the UPS was in bypass and thus the entire Heart Datacentre lost supply. Completely unacceptable under any circumstances!

How to solve the UPS problem?

A message to Heart Internet: Contact me if you want to know how to configure a proper UPS System, and, if this kind of failure happens again, don’t bullshit your customers…..

More Humax fixing…

FoxsatHD_Main_L

A few years ago I reported a problem with a Humax Freesat receiver which I successfully repaired. Well, until yesterday, the box has behaved itself perfectly.

The fault symptoms were very similar this time, a constant whirling display on the front panel with an occasional display of [APPL]. Humax Display

I also noticed something strange when I started to disconnect the box, the space below the TV has gained a load more cables and connections since I last had to look at it! It really was a mess.

Anyhow, all untangled now and the Humax fault was indeed another capacitor failure (not the same one though) so the details in the original post will help if you get the same problem.

All is now fixed, and for the princely sum of 54p (for the 680µF 25v high temperature capacitor from Maplin) and about an hour of my time – most of that spent untangling!

Looking to buy a new bike…

Ages ago, when we left Swindon, I gave my bike away on Freecyle. I’ve regretted that for a while now and recently decided to buy a replacement.

After a fair amount of investigation, I’d pretty much decided on a Boardman MX sport 2014 as it gets good reviews, looks good and wasn’t too expensive. Unfortunately of me, I discovered, they don’t make that model in a frame size large enough for my legs to keep pedalling whilst turning corners! My knees hit the turned handlebars..

To be honest I really wanted to buy a bike from an independent bike shop and not from Halfords, now it seems I have to.

I’m now looking forward to next week and having a proper look at the 2015 range from Scott at a shop here in on the Island in Newport.

Updates to follow…

Adverts and Popups

The internet is filled with webpages which are in turn filled with adverts – and a bit like spam, they seem to breed!

Most of my spam problems have now been controlled by setting filters as “tight” as possible on my normal email accounts and forwarding all the junk collected to a gmail account. I then collect my normal email and gmail normally as part of Outlook’s normal mail cycle so that all mail is collected centrally on my main PC and deleted from the mailservers. Any spam getting through after this is neatly mopped up by my old favourite, SpamBayes

When I’m out and about I still collect mail on the iPhone or iPad, but this time the POP collection process is set to leave mail on the server. It seems to work for me!

Anyhow, back to annoying popups and adverts; I’ve tried a lot of ad-blocking software (usually configured as a browser add-on or extension). They work but require updating from time to time and, of course, add-ons slow down the browser. While searching for solutions the other day I saw mention of an open-source solution called Privoxy and decided to give it a try. It’s still early days, but things are looking good!

This might get a little techy but I’ll do my best to keep it simple; Privoxy works at network level outside the browser and therefore doesn’t care which one (or 6!) you choose to use. Essentially, your browser now send requests  to Privoxy, it gets the page, filters out all the stuff you don’t need then forwards the nice clean, ad-free website to your browser.

OK, this does require a couple of small changes to your internet settings, but they are very easy to make. I won’t go into the detail here as the software authors have done a great job in producing all the info you need in a nice understandable manual – in fact everything apart from the small setting change mentioned just works straight “out of the box”.

Privoxy is available for Windows, Linux, Mac OSX, and quite a few other operating systems and once installed it allows you to route all your website requests through it.

For the moment I am using Privoxy on OSX, Windows and Mint Linux machines and all work perfectly – the next step is to “donate” a Raspberry Pi to this little project and put the software on that, which would allow me to remove the individual installations on each machine and route browser requests from any of them through Privoxy on the Pi.

There’s more for me to learn but things are looking good.

Whoops, I should have mentioned that Privoxy is free although, of course, donations are welcome.