And… no power!

Cape Town disappeared off the electricity grid at around 11:00 today.  We’re powered by some fairly sizeable generators (when you’re in the ISP business, you can’t let a measly city-wide power outage break your stride), but it was interesting following the reports of the outages and the rumours surrounding it while it was all going on.

And I’m going to start by dispelling the most common one: Koeberg (our nuclear power plant about 40 km up the West Coast) did not do a Chernobyl/Fukushima on us.  Although most of Cape Town went down (in particular, the CBD, Cape Flats, Southern Suburbs and South Peninsula went down), the northern and West Coast areas (Bellville, Durbanville, Table View, Bloubergstrand et al) stayed up.  Trust me, if something ever happens at Koeberg, those guys are the ones who will be the first to know about it – one way or the other.

According to several reports on our local news sites, the issue was with the Eskom supply line from the Muldersvlei area.  From what I’ve heard, there are two supply lines: one was down for maintenance, and while this was going on, the other one tripped.  This isn’t first-hand information, and the South African press is slightly notorious for getting facts wrong, so I’d take this with a slight pinch of salt – that being said, it’s entirely plausible to me.

As I type this, power to the CBD has been restored, we’re off the generators, and other parts of the city are either back online or are being brought up.  I should be fine for World of Warcraft raiding tonight then.  (I hope!)

For those interested in the geeky side of the power failure: Andrew Trench put together a map of the power failure as it was mentioned on Twitter.  It’s quite interesting viewing, and just shows one the impact that social networking has had on our lives (if the Arab revolutions earlier this year weren’t proof enough).

The week where everything just breaks

You know, sometimes you just get those weeks from hell – weeks where everything just crashes and burns, you feel like you’re swimming upstream against a raging torrent… that kind of thing.

Well, last week was one of those.

First off, last week Saturday, I got back home from our department teambuilding (quad biking at Melkbosstrand – which was so made of awesome, I want to do that again!), flicked on the bedroom lights, and… nothing.  “Well, that’s great, the bulb has gone” thought the protagonist.  “Since I don’t have a spare, let me steal one from elsewhere in the flat.”  So, I did that, and… still nothing.  At this point, I decided to let things be, since I was heading off for boardgames night (and it was my turn to supply the boardgame), did a quick e-mail check, and noticed that my IRC client had been disconnecting and reconnecting since just after I left for the quad biking.  Thinking “well, I need to head on out, I’ll take a look when I get back”, that’s exactly what I did.  Off to boardgames night I went.

I returned home in the early hours of the morning, and tried flicking on the kitchen light.  Nothing.  Noting that my PC was still on, I tried fumbling around in the dark for my flashlight, eventually located it, and took a look at the circuit breakers.  Noticing that the circuit for the lights had tripped, I flicked it back on.  Kitchen light came back on.  Armed with hot chocolate in hand, I returned to my room, flicked the light on – and the entire flat was plunged into darkness.  Back to the circuit breakers I went, and noticed that while none of the lights in the flat worked, the trip switch for the lights had actually remained up.  At this point, I realised that I had a serious problem on my hands and turned off the trip switch manually.  Realising that I couldn’t do much else at that stage, I went back to my computer, noticed that the ADSL was still very intermittent, and decided to get some sleep and tackle it in the morning.

The next morning, fighting intermittent internet, I managed to get the number of an electrician to come and sort the lights out.  They arrived an hour later and spent another two up in the roof trying to figure out what the problem was.  As it turned out, the wiring to my room ran through an old metal pipe, and the insulation had decayed due to age.  Live wire touching earthed metal pipe – you can guess what it did.  It actually tripped one of the power phases down at the meter box (and took some other flats out with it).  After the problem was found, it was simple enough to rewire and get my lights back – although that’s now left me with the matter of R1,100 that I’m still trying to claim back from the landlord.

With the knowledge that my flat wouldn’t suddenly spontaneously combust, I started investigating the intermittent internet.  Within a short period of time, I discovered that the voice service on the line was totally dead, the upload part of my ADSL seriously degraded, and the download part still fine.  That was definitely a line fault, and during a quick burst of connectivity, I managed to log the fault online with Telkom.  Telkom isn’t known for their service though, so I thought that I would be without internet for a while.

They phoned me the next Monday at work, asking when it would be convenient for them to fix the issue.  Tuesday morning was agreed on, and sure enough, the technician popped over right on time.  After one hour investigating the flat’s telephone wiring, he decided that the problem lay between the flat and the exchange (which is only around 200 m away).  Off he went, and an hour later called me on my now working landline informing me that the problem had been solved.

But wait, that’s not the last thing that broke – just to add to a week of breakages, I managed also to pick up a slow puncture in my car, and that was another morning disrupted to get that fixed…

On the plus side, my code didn’t break…

Door smash!

A bit of background information to start us off – our offices are split over three floors of a four floor building.  Each floor has glass, access tag controlled doors guarding them, like so:

An office door, perfectly happy with life.

An office door, perfectly happy with life.

And this brings us to the door guarding the Development Department.  It’s had a bit of an unhealthy history of not opening properly and flexing just a little whenever it was being opened, although none of us really were concerned about it – we just used our tags to open the things and move through.

Today however, the door decided that it was sick of the perceived abuse that it had suffered, and let us know in spectacular fashion:

An office door, decidedly unhappy with life.

An office door, decidedly unhappy with life.

No humans were hurt in the act of the door performing seppuku, but that does leave us with the problem of getting the thing replaced over a weekend…