I'm at the Cobblestone Pub in the small town of Cobble Hill on Vancouver Island. We have digital signs running in the pub and the adjacent cold beer and wine store called, appropriately, the Cobblestone Cold Beer & Wine store.
The digital sign in the pub is over the main food service area.
It's a great location. Patrons look at the screen every time they look up from their meal.
That bad news is the sign is broken. The computer is powering up - but it's not loading like it should.
This is an issue I've see hundreds (if not thousands) of times before.
So, why isn't the computer starting like it should? Well, in a word: Power.
Currently the bar has, literally, hundreds of things plugged into their power circuit. They have screens, speakers, POS terminals, lottery terminals, laptops, wifi routers, fans, coolers, heaters, boilers, washers, lighting, you name it.
When that circuit loses power - like when a storm rolls through town - the spikes and drops in the circuit are extreme. Computers are the most vulnerable - by why?
To explain what is happening in layman's terms, you need to think of a computer as being like a record DJ. Computers are spinning a hard-drive, just like a DJ.
Imagine you took away the energy drink that's keeping the DJ amped up.
Instead you put the DJ on a water diet.
The DJ would get sloppy. They would get tired. They would not operate as required. The records wouldn't be spinning like they should.
Computers, when they get insufficient power, can't spin their hard-drives. They can't write the files to the drives correctly. They get sloppy.
So - today - in geek-speak - I'm "re-installing the operating system".
I'm putting all the music back as it should be on the record.
The DJ will have good enough music on the record so everything is all cool again - JUST until the next time the power sucks and the DJ starts getting sloppy.
I'm putting a band-aid on a bigger power sucking problem.
Really what this client needs to do is get a UPS (Universal Power Supply), which is what was of course recommended when they first bought the computer. All installations in commercial locations should have a UPS.
A UPS is basically a battery. It gives the DJ the juice needed during times when all the other things plugged into the power circuit are drawing too much power for everything to run right.
(It should not be confused with a surge protector. Surge potectors protect again power spikes, but do NOT protect against low-power situations).
The problem is that most businesses prefer to run stuff until it fails than fork out the money up front for a $100 UPS.
Moreover, I can't say I blame them.
If I bought a toaster I would expect the toaster would make toast for years.
A computer should be like a toaster. Problem is - they aren't.
So, what are the options?
1: Install a UPS, or
2: Keep paying for service calls, or
3: Don't use computers.
Ok - so what do I mean by saying "Don't use computers"?
Well, a better solution is to use cellphone technology. Cellphone brains are built way more stable than computers. I should know- I've now spent a couple years of my life working with my team on perfecting a cellphone technology to run digital signs rather than computers.
I'm actually at this bar today to test the "old" computer way versus the "new" cellphone technology way.
Here's the results:
1: Old Way: Two hours to re-flash the operating system. A tech would charge around $300USD for this service time.
2: New Way: In just 5 minutes I plugged in the cellphone technology (we call them the ENS Cubes) and I'm up and running in just minutes. Cost of around $200USD.
So, either you can train your team on how to re-flash the operating system when power sucks (which it will continuously until such time as you follow through and get UPS), or upgrade to using the ENS Cube.
For myself, I'm just happy to no longer be personally fixing power issues. It's the end of a headache that I've had for years.
I'm off to enjoy the sunshine - it's been 2 hours longer in a bar, on a beautiful day, than it should be.
Best wishes. Jeremiah.