Computers can get angry and display nasty messages to you

Computers don't like to be interrupted. They get angry, resentful and display nasty messages.

In this day of "rolling blackouts," it's almost certain that eventually our computers will be affected.

Actually, as we've learned, we can live with this with one exception. Anything we might be working on that hasn't been saved will be lost.

What does this really mean? When a blackout occurs, our computer shuts down. When the blackout is over the computer can be restarted. We get a nasty message about "improper shutdown," and Scandisk starts. We then have to wait until Scandisk finishes and everything comes back to normal. This is an inconvenience but nothing serious.

However, if we are writing the great American novel and haven't saved the last chapter, we will lose all that hasn't been saved. This could be serious.

Unfortunately, with rolling blackouts, we never know when they will occur and shut down our computers. So, what do we do?

If we are at our computers, we learn to save regularly. In fact, many programs have automatic save features. Sometimes they are a little complicated to use, but going to the Help menus will tell how to use them. But they only save after so many minutes. If the computer shuts down before this, we still have a problem.

An Uninterruptible Power Supply, or UPS, can save us from this problem.

Computers get their power from being plugged into a wall socket. The wall socket is connected to the power company. If a blackout or other interruption occurs, we lose power and the computer shuts down.

An Uninterruptible Power Supply plugs into the wall socket and then the computer and monitor plug into it. It is a box between the power company and the computer.

For home use, we really aren't too interested in what is inside this box. We only care that in the event of a power failure, the UPS is there to supply power to the computer for a sufficient period of time so that information can be saved and the computer can go through an orderly shutdown.

Actually, what is inside the box is an electrical circuit that takes wall power and charges a battery. In the event of a power failure, the battery connects to another electrical circuit that supplies power to the computer for a long enough time for us to save our work and shut down the computer.

Newer UPS's come with computer software that automatically save whatever is being worked on in the computer and then shut everything down. You don't have to be at the computer when a power failure occurs. You can be in the kitchen getting that cup of coffee while still composing the great American novel. This is a nice feature for home use.

There are a great number of Uninterruptible Power Supplies and sometimes figuring which one is correct for you and your computer system can be a task. There are volt-ampere, watt, runtime and a bunch of other ratings. Most UPS's have surge protection and many have autoshutdown software. Most home UPS's sell in the range of $100 to $300.

If you are concerned about losing data, I would suggest that you visit Greg Gilles or other knowledgeable Associates at Microcenter and work with them to get the correct UPS. Otherwise, don't worry about an occasional blackout.

If you have further questions about Uninterruptible Power Supplies, or other computer topics, visit "Coffee and Computers" at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. 'C' Street, any Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. Bring your questions or just come in and visit. Incidentally, Coffee and Computers will take a vacation May 25 and June 1. We will meet this Friday, May 18, and again June 8.

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.


Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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