One More Insanely Over-engineered Piece Of Gear: My UPS

Hey there!

I used to work at AOL, and in August of 1996, everyone at the company learned a very painful lesson.

It’s one that I pay attention to to this day. And the item in my setup that best exemplifies this lesson is a very large, very heavy box sitting in my closet.

You should strongly consider one as well.

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Hope this helps!


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hey there it’s David H Lawrence the 17th
and today I want to talk to you about
yet another insanely over-engineered
piece of my my gear my the what are the
tools that I use to create these videos
to do voiceover to teach to do acting
auditions all that sort of thing and
it’s one of those things that you never
think about until it’s too late
they say there are two types of people
in the world there are people there’s
one set of people that have cried very
very big tears over being the victim of
a power sag or a power surge or you know
plugging their their gear into something
that was unprotected and got fried or a
hard drive that crashed or any of these
you know crazy things and the other
group of people in the world are people
who are going to eventually cry over
that because it’s only a matter of time
before disaster strikes so before I tell
you what I did and why I did it and how
it’s happened I want to go back to 1995
August of 1995 I believe maybe 96 but I
think it’s 95 I was working in America
online I headed up a team that was
creating new areas on AOL at the time
and we were exhibiting at the old Mac
world conference in Boston and as the
middle of August sweltering day we’re on
the floor in this convention center you
know people are walking up to us we’re
giving them disks because that’s what we
did go install AOL and all of a sudden
we can’t use our computers to
demonstrate AOL because AOL isn’t
responding to us my initial thought was
oh somebody got into the the network and
the thing in there you know because in
those days people were making fun of AOL
AOL that’s when AOL sucks com was really
popular but it turns out that there was
no problem with the connectivity in the
hall AOL had suffered a massive outage I
mean it was
everything went down it was like the
other day with Facebook yeah everything
went down and it was a front-page story
on USA Today the next day and on the New
York Times and Washington Post and
Chicago Tribune and it Illustrated just
how tenuous the servers and the
infrastructure had grown and been built
it was kind of like a little bit of a
house of cards at AOL they were based in
Vienna Virginia they hadn’t made the
move out to their new headquarters yet
and they had all their servers in one or
two buildings and there was a power
outage in the area they didn’t have any
backup and it led them this whole thing
and it it led them to put their servers
in various locations kind of the
precursor to the cloud where you’ve got
servers in in Virginia servers in
California servers in England and Mexico
and they’re all over the place and if
one goes down then another set of
servers can pick up the slack because
the information is mirrored in all of
the different places that they have
servers that’s what they did after this
happened but another really big thing
happened it proved to the world that
online services on America Online in
particular were no longer just the
bastion of tech dudes and dudettes you
know when I was on CompuServe in the 70s
and 80s or on genie or prodigy or I was
working with our mainframe computer the
univac 1108 and the Wang computer and
the PDP that we had in our high school
in the 70s that was definitely geek
territory only right the average person
didn’t even know we had a computer in
the high school let alone how to use it
and you know obviously that’s changed
today everybody’s got personal computers
and you know it’s pretty commonplace but
it showed the world that America Online
was right up there with television and
radio and the electrical system it was a
utility not a novelty
and it had to be protected it had to
have backup units and it had to have
distributed data and distributed access
and it was right after that that
broadband became really popular so that
made it even more important okay so that
was a really illustrative tale for me
I’m like you know huh that’s crazy now
how are they gonna fix this how are they
gonna protect themselves and the lessons
that I learned working for the company
at the time this was going on we all
were made aware of what they were gonna
do to fix all this really helped pay it
forward for me when I set up my
situation much you know my studio how I
was gonna protect myself know in two
thousand one two and three I was doing
the morning show on the East Coast and
the nighttime talk show on CNET radio
and I was doing it from my second
bedroom first in Washington DC and the
second bedroom was gloriously outfitted
as a as a broadcast facility and it was
awesome and then later when I moved out
here to Los Angeles
here in in Hollywood I owed fitted the
same thing now when I got out here CNET
built me this beautiful studio and they
put in racks and racks of equipment I
would connect up with a satellite uplink
every night and one of the things that I
wanted to make sure we put in was
something that is still here today I
don’t have any of the satellite gear I’m
not on the radio anymore like my I have
a rack unit that’s a two-column rack
unit and it’s mostly shelves you know
you can put rack shelves and you’ve seen
them if you’ve seen scenes in you know
techno thrillers where they show you
know just rows and rows of servers you
know with all those blinking lights
every one of those is a standard 19 inch
wide rack system and the different
things that they put in there are a
certain number of units high one unit
high two units high three unit eye et
servers are usually two or three unit I
if there’s just a little side note if
they’re thinner they’re called blade
servers because they’re so they’re like
blades cutting in anyway I digress I
have still to this day a massive UPS
uninterruptible power supply that the
power for my condo goes into and then
the power supply is what this particular
room all of the outlets are plugged into
so that does two things number one if
the power goes out this massive power
supply keeps me up and running with all
the lights in them the the computers and
the audio and and everything for two
days for two days it’s got that much now
you’ve probably seen smaller UPS’s they
kind of look like little blocks and it’s
a single battery and it’ll keep you
running if the power goes out for a
couple of hours you know if you’re just
plugging your computer into it but this
is an industrial-strength thing and it
lets me go for a while
the other thing that it does as would
one of those smaller units that you’d go
and buy at Best Buy is it conditions the
power and I want you to consider doing
this because it the power that comes
into your house or your office unless
it’s condition it’s kind of jaggedy you
know there’s peaks and there’s sags and
that’s actually important to the
equipment that you’re using a peak can
overpower your equipment a SAG can do
damage even worse because it’s not
enough power I mean it’s more
complicated than all that but know that
it’s dangerous to plug your stuff right
into the wall right a lightning strike
could kill you and lightning strikes
happen everywhere right so what happens
when you run your power through a power
a UPS an uninterruptible power supply is
that the power that’s coming out of that
that you actually plug your your stuff
into is very even it’s very conditioned
there are no big spikes and there’s no
sags because it’s actually coming off
the batteries in a very very easy and
constant approach so that’s kind of a
side benefit to it
so this power supply is a 1500 watt
Toorak unit structure with eight big
batteries that have to be replaced every
couple of years because you know they’re
constantly being charged and they’re
constantly being depleted by my
equipment so eventually they they lose
the capacity to hold a charge and they
have to be replaced and it’s like I
think it’s like 300 dollars every time I
have to replace all eight of these
batteries and they look like little car
batteries little motorcycle batteries
and they all fit in a row in the rack is
very heavy as Max smart will attend a
test because he takes care of that for
and you know to have that as a
protection against some of the crappiest
weather that we’ve had here in Southern
California and you’ve probably had as
well if you live in the Midwest there’s
been these crazy winter storms
you know hurricanes in the south I mean
there is no place on earth that is
spared of bad weather so if you want to
protect yourself you know I talked
before about protecting yourself by
backing up your hard drives and my
insanely over engineered rotating hard
drive system for backups if you really
want to protect yourself at the very
least get a 50 to 100 dollar UPS you
know a PC is one of the big companies
that has them Belkin has them mine is an
APC that’s I think that’s something
power corporation I don’t know what it
actually stands for but they’re they’re
a very respected brand at least get one
of those at Best Buy and plug your most
critical gear into that and plug that
into the wall and then you’re going easy
err on your equipment and there’s a
potential that if the power goes out you
can keep going so that’s really all is
nothing other than that just like I want
you to be safe I want you to be
confident that you can do your work and
if something happens you got you got a
recourse maybe you have something that
you’d like to suggest something that
you’ve done that really makes things
safe for you
you’ve got things backed up or you’ve
got things with a power structure that
you can rely on or you’ve got a spare
camera or a spare microphone what is it
that you do to keep yourself safe or are
you basically going wow I didn’t know
any of this stuff I’m not I’m not
protected at all I’m gonna go get this
oh let me know in the comments below cuz
I’d love to know in general what people
that view this video what their
situation is so let me know right if
you’d like to subscribe to my channel go
ahead and click on my head there if
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they’ll know what to do I’m David H
Lawrence xvii please be safe thank you
for watching these videos and I will
talk to you tomorrow.



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  1. Not specifically related to UPS’s. However, I was working tech support for AOL on that day. It was an exceptionally long day for us tech support folks. People absolutely lost their minds when they could not get online and as a result the phone lines went bonkers for the entire duration of the outage. The official outage was just over 19 hours. My day ended up being quite a bit longer than that. Fun times!

      1. Actually I was at the west coast technical support call center that they opened in Arizona in ’94. I was one of the first 30 people that AOL hired outside of Virginia. 🙂 I still have my employee directory from around that time with Steve Case’s direct number in it.

  2. Having worked at an IT equipment stalwart HPE (Hewlett Packard Enterprise) we had dual power feeds from two different power providers at the former Compaq Computer Campus in Houston. It was intended to keep everything up and running in the worst of conditions. Once the power sources got 90 degrees out of phase and it took down the entire 8000 person campus. So much for over engineering. Actually our 135 rack sales data center stayed up on it’s battery and diesel generator backup system. When it was time to leave for the day we noticed everybody had gone home because there was no power in the facility. We never skipped a beat and kept running and never noticed any problem.

  3. It’s *SO* much fun to watch you geek out!! 🙂

    Your voice is like a warm blanket…always look forward to these videos every day.

    Good times!

  4. Bringing back memories, David. I started with one of the first Atari 800s in 1979. It had a cassette tape drive. Fun.

    When you talked about Compuserve, Delphi and AOL it reminded me of getting online with a 300 baud dial-up modem. Compuserve had just opened to non-business accounts, hosting email and bulletin boards on the fledgeling Internet (long before the WWW.) I had a two digit Programmer ID (this was before user IDs.)

    When I moved to San Francisco in 1980 I joined a user group that met at Ft. Funston. We had Atari folks in all the time. I toured their HQ and met Sam Tramiel. I worked as a tech in a store that sold Epson PCs and printers, while I waited for a slot to open up on the PD.

    Eventually I became a network engineer for the city and retired in 2000.

  5. Are the surge protectors you get from ,say, Best Buy UPS’s? I didn’t think so. Maybe you should include UPS in your tech gear VO2gogo modules and your equipment package.

  6. I’ve used an APS power backup / conditioner for years. Now it powers my booth and I’ve had cases where I came out and talked to my wife who said “what did you do during that power outage” to which I replied “what power outage”. Can’t recommend them enough for peace of mind. 🙂 Thx, David.

  7. David, I followed your advice in 2015 July, after I had taken the ACX Mastermind class and bought from Amazon
    At $48.60 APCBE350 Back-UPS350VA. and plugged it into the outlet in the wall. A bit later I bought WD MYBOOK and plugged that into the APC.
    Everything has been going along fine, until bad weather/ dry / extreme cold, a couple of months ago and my computer kept playing up when I was recording narrating. Reinstalled Audacity but still had glitches. Didn’t know why. Just reinstalled, New Lame/ Audacity/ levelator and ready to get back to work and decided to clean my workspace while listening to your latest helpful tip for today.
    Looked behind my desk to check what I had bought all that time ago and found I had never plugged my computer into the APC. OK FOLKS. Call me an idiot, but I’m three years into this computer game and had no knowledge, and no natural computing skills, but grateful to all of you for all your help and advice. Also I have a tendency to learn by mistakes, If something doesn’t work, the vacuum I take it to pieces to find what’s wrong, but sometimes can’t put it together again. Computers are another kettle of fish. I’m hoping by Listening to you David everyday, I just may learn an awful lot.Thanks MATE. Linda ( Funny, but I don’t feel stupid. Finally it’s all beginning to make sense)

  8. I never knew about this. Thank you again for sharing. I am also passing this onto my daughter, a photographer, who (I believe) plugs her PC into the outlet. She has some amazing work it would be a shame to loose. Amazon, here we come!
    Thanks again!