Last week I mused about how some instruction manuals ("guidance documents" in p&p-speak) are wonderfully accurate, really useful, and may even have helpful pictures. I guess the quality of the documentation depends to some extent on how much you pay for the product; and, hopefully, how dangerous it can be if you get using it wrong. But, in terms of "can be dangerous", a colleague recently reported that she had an example of just the opposite.
She's had the builders in for what seems like the past year building a "deck" that measures about 800 square something-or-others. I asked if she was building a scale model of the Titanic, but it turns out that it's a garden feature type deck that goes twice round the house, and probably fills hers and next door's garden as well. Anyway, she decided to top it off by purchasing a nice big gas barbeque so she can throw a deck-warming party. However, it seems she was somewhat perturbed to discover that the instructions are totally incomprehensible, except for the parts that are completely wrong. As she said, "A bit worrying for something that's supposed to reach 800 degrees".
But best of all, according to the documentation, it comes "complete with four catsers". She said she'd spent ages sorting through the box and all the packaging, but could find nothing with fur, sharp claws, and whiskers. So I decided to do some research for her on the Internet (which is, of course, always completely accurate) and I am pleased to report that I have the answer. According to a definitive resource, a "catser" is the opposite of a "mouser". It's a large, and usually angry, black rat that chases and eats cats. I’m pleased to say that I got an invite to the deck-warming party, but I think I'll maybe give the first one a miss, or pretend I'm vegetarian, just in case she actually found the catsers afterwards.
Anyway, talking about things that get hot, why is it that stuff seems to get hotter as it gets older? OK, so I guess this happens with lots of things (I'm no spring chicken and I do tend to get very warm after ten minutes brisk exercise, such as typing fast). But where I'm coming from here is with an ADSL modem. The previous two I had were installed by the phone company and had integral mains transformers, so you’d expect them to get a bit hot. Especially as we get lots more volts for our money here in England than they do in many other countries.
These modems seemed to have a working life of about a year, and when the second one failed I couldn't face another fight with the phone company so I decided to purchase my own; making sure it had an external mains power pack. For the first couple of years it ran at a nice comfortable "just warm to the touch" temperature. However, suddenly it's started to fail regularly through overheating. Now I have to keep it on one of those laptop cooler things, and have a desk fan roaring away in the server cabinet as well.
If I could get the lid off, I'd vacuum it out like I do with the servers – but how much stuff can there be in an ADSL modem to get gummed up? A friend told me it was probably "thermal runaway" (I did manage to resist telling him that I keep the server cabinet doors locked, so it can't get out). Maybe he's right. At a certain temperature it just loses its self control and transforms into a microwave oven. But the ambient temperature here has not been above about 15 degrees Centigrade. Maybe they sent me a version designed for use in Alaska by mistake. Of course, if I had one designed to work at the kind of ambient temperatures we get here in English summers (it sometimes gets so hot you have to take one of your cardigans off) it would probably freeze up in winter.
Never mind, I've got the perfect solution. I'll swap it with the barbeque. After all, the modem has really good instructions, definitely no catsers, and is just reaching the right temperature now for cooking burgers.