Things to do at Microsoft when the power goes out


When the power goes out, the first thing you notice is how quiet everything becomes. The hum of the computers in the building stops. You hear... nothing.

Bask in its peaceful silence.

The next thing you do is turn off all the machines in your office, because you don't want to stress the power grid and network when the power eventually returns by having a hundred thousand computers all firing themselves up and joining the network at the same time.

Of course, another thing you need to do is find your way around. This can be quite a challenge if you're in a lab with no windows and no emergency lighting: It suddenly becomes pitch black! Laptop computers prove useful at this point. Fire up notepad and maximize it, resulting in an all-white screen. Use that screen as a flashlight to navigate through the lab turning off computers and eventually leading yourself out of the lab to daylight.

Next time, a story of an employee-induced power outage.

Comments (46)
  1. Anonymous says:

    "Laptop computers prove useful at this point. Fire up notepad and maximize it, resulting in an all-white screen. Use that screen as a flashlight to navigate through the lab turning off computers and eventually leading yourself out of the lab to daylight. "

    I’ve done similar things with cell phones too, although that was at nighttime.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Where would Windows be today is there was no Notepad?!?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Here in good old europe, there are open-plan offices. I can chat with my colleagues without leaving the chair. I have a good view out of the window. Cubicles are somthing, that I see in movies only.

    Can you explain my the advantages of this cubicles and no-window stuff?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Cubicles let you pack your workers more densly than other layouts, so the comapny saves money on rent.

  5. Anonymous says:

    C’mon, still using ancient AT machines that need to be powered off by hand?

  6. Anonymous says:

    While I haven’t seen specific studies (but would like too) I work in a small cubical bloc right now.

    IMHO cubicals block the view and to some degree, the sound of your coworkers so you aren’t visually distracted.

    A large room of all desks is very distractive.

    But I will also admit cubicals reduce the ability for worker to worker communication which while may sound good for productivity, can damage shared ideas. Offices amplifies this effect and grouping people into rooms of offices & cubicals is even worse. Then you create a "my sandbox" vs "your sandbox" enviroment. I’ve seen this effect first hand.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I second danb1974. My problem with power outages is that our server won’t restart automatically. We use plain usual desktop-like machines as servers and these won’t restart until you press the button. There’s even a BIOS setting to solve that but I never managed to get it to work.

  8. Hasani says:

    I was thinking why not use wake-on-lan but this is usually done from another computer so back to square 1. Maybe they should make wake-on-lan hubs or switches.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I use my PPC as a flashnight when I go to bed in the evening so I do not disturb my wife. :)

    I bet Microsoft has some huge UPC’s around the campus. :)

  10. Anonymous says:

    Cubicles allow some privacy so you can have a conversation without distracting the person sitting next to you. They also provide more desk/shelf space than just having a desk.

    As for the no-windows stuff, if you have an interior office in your building, you won’t have a window. (For example, on my floor, offices with windows are more or less reserved for faculty. Us peons get offices on the other side of the hall that don’t have windows.

  11. Anonymous says:

    >Laptop computers prove useful at this point. Fire up notepad and maximize it..

    I had to do that just last week at my house, when the power went out in my city =o)

  12. Anonymous says:

    Notepad is fine, but it doesn’t cover the entire screen. Microsoft should add a utility to Windows that causes the screen to be completely white. Call it MS-Flashlight.

  13. Anonymous says:

    There’s always the option of going into paint, creating a bitmap larger than your screen resolution that is all white, then selecting view bitmap. voila. full-screen white

  14. Anonymous says:

    Not sure if that is a word or not. In my partial role as server admin over the years, I frequently see extreme interest, bordering on fanaticism, on the subjects of UPS’s, server names, time syncronization, and group usage. Wow.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Bungie used to sell a nifty little LED flashlight with a Halo 2 logo on the side that you could charge by plugging into a USB port. I keep one of these in the back of my computer so that when the power’s out, I can just reach back and grab it and use the flashlight. Plus it has a Halo 2 logo so it’s cool.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Oh I am surprised that Microsoft does not have a battery of UPS. And some UPS’s can trigger the computer to shut down.

  17. Anonymous says:

    While it is true that on ATX machines, in the event of power failure they do not come back up unless so specified in the BIOS, if you have a ton of machines at same time even wanting just the stand-by power (soft power off), it could cause problems.. Not sure about this though.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Another good thing about notepad or IE about:blank — we wanted to email an mri to somebody so we hung it in front of about:blank and sent the digital picture of that.

  19. Anonymous says:

    "There’s always the option of going into paint, creating a bitmap larger than your screen resolution that is all white, then selecting view bitmap. voila. full-screen white "

    That’s kinda Rube…

    Start–> Run

    about:blank

    F11

  20. Anonymous says:

    Place I used to work at had these plugged in around the datacenter. When the power would go out, they’d light up, and you would use them as flashlights to go around flipping switches. 12 bucks cheap.

    http://www.homedepot.com/prel80/HDUS/EN_US/diy_main/pg_diy.jsp?CNTTYPE=PROD_META&CNTKEY=misc%2fsearchResults.jsp&BV_SessionID=@@@@0093804392.1127236593@@@@&BV_EngineID=ccdiaddfkfdjdflcgelceffdfgidglm.0&MID=9876

  21. Anonymous says:

    A solution working without a laptop: a wireless optical mouse. Has batteries and gives you a red light, strong enough to find your way around.

    And yes, it is blinking :-)

    About cubicles: I have worked in Europe for a bit more than 6 years and in the US for a bit more than 8. Now I have my own (small) office, with door and everything (I am not some kind of manager, everyone does).

    What worked best for me was small office, 2-3 peoples. Enough to bounce an idea on someone.

    And enough to be quiet.

    Better than a big place with 100 ppl, and better than alone in an office.

    My felling is that cubicles are really about saving money. I have read studies showing that your own (window) office increases productivity for creative activities (and programming is one of them).

  22. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like a real life game of Half-Life!

  23. Anonymous says:

    ChipH, did you visit that link? It’s a listing of HUGE (30,000+ watt) generators, log cabin kits, and a wine cellar.

    I assume you were trying to point us to some kind of flashlight…

  24. Anonymous says:

    "Notepad is fine, but it doesn’t cover the entire screen. Microsoft should add a utility to Windows that causes the screen to be completely white. Call it MS-Flashlight."

    It’s called Internet Explorer. Open it up, browse to about:blank and put it to full screen mode (F11).

  25. Anonymous says:

    When the power goes out, I bet Robert Scoble could go all Splinter Cell with his camcorder’s night vision.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t emergency lighting a requirement in the US? (It’s always been present in all the offices I worked in in the UK.)

    As for the "doesn’t Microsoft have a battery of UPSes" — didn’t Raymond pretty much answer that yesterday?

    http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2005/09/19/471240.aspx

  27. Anonymous says:

    But what do you do when MSDN downloads site goes down???

    Nothing it seems. Lately every time I go there for what I think is a quick download it’s not working. After lunch they’ll post that it’s down for maintenance. Maybe tomorrow it’ll be working…

  28. Anonymous says:

    Have I mentioned yet how I hate marketing-department-driven JSP pages?

    Try this URL instead.

    http://www.acehardware.com/sm-eveready-rechargeable-flashlight–pi-1292395.html

  29. Anonymous says:

    Find a comfy couch. Lie down. Go to sleep.

    In our office most people have a couch in their office, so finding one is pretty easy.

    The worst thing is when the power comes back before you’ve had the full 20 minute power nap.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Yes, power outages can be annoying. Especially when the UPS powering the servers goes "ugh" and dies. Of course, while they were powering everything back up at the university they got hit by *another* 5-minute powercut. The servers were not happy about that.

  31. Anonymous says:

    When the lights go out, don’t forget to watch out for Grues…

  32. Anonymous says:

    I used to work in a defence environment. The first time the power went out in our new AUS$100,000,000 (literally) facility, all the electronic card key doors locked & we couldn’t get out!

  33. Anonymous says:

    TC,

    I heard somewhere that it’s a requirement from the fire department when the power is down, all electric locks on emergency exits must be able to unlock itself or manually open the lock from inside.

    Obviously that the place you work does not use one of these.

  34. Anonymous says:

    I think in buildings that have emergency lighting it’s needed in hallways and entryways/lobbies. They figure you can get out of the room you’re in with the light shining in the door. (At least that’s what I see.)

    Ah… my first power outage with the laptop… I hear everything turn off behind me but the screen still shows what I was reading. It takes a few more seconds than usual for me to look around and figure out the power’s gone out.

    Speaking of power outages, does anyone know of a utility to shut down a laptop after 10 minutes or so of losing power and no keyboard/mouse activity? (I think I’m going to dig up the feature request URL and submit this.)

  35. Anonymous says:

    Oh, I did a power outage myself. It is enough to hit a glass of orange juice and watch in despair as the juice flows into the power outlet under the desk. The next thing you hear is the beeps of UPS in all the offices around. It is quite hard to explain…

  36. Anonymous says:

    the first thing you notice is how quiet everything becomes.

    > The hum of the computers in the building stops. You hear… nothing.

    The switch from a Boring Beige Box x86 to a Mac Mini as desktop computer provided me with the same experience, without the power outage.

  37. Anonymous says:

    NO! You’re serious? Even with Microsoft there’s a risk of power outages?? Damn, i think i’ll switch to Mac….

  38. Anonymous says:

    deuZige,

    Don’t panic. You won’t switch to use fan just because the manufactoring company of air conditioners have risk of power outages, will you? :)

    Talking about power outage and air-cons, I once worked in a building that’s inner rooms’s ventilation totally dependent on the air-cons. Then one day the power downs, and I feel that I can’t breath there. :(

    After that, someone jokes oxygen bottles must make it’s way to be one of the standard equipments there. XDDD

  39. Anonymous says:

    deuZige, I think Aaargh! is saying that he didn’t need a power outage to experience the same quietness; he just switched to a Mac Mini. (I don’t believe they have fans.)

    I don’t think he’s saying that Minis don’t switch off during power outages, as that’s rather ludicrous.

  40. Anonymous says:

    "Cubicles let you pack your workers more densly than other layouts, so the comapny saves money on rent."

    Yes. But you lose that money back in lost productivity. See Joel’s article: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000050.html

  41. Anonymous says:

    On the subject of flashlights, there’s no reason to purchase classic bulb based flashlights. Go LED, it’s not expensive anymore. In fact last year I found a headlamp with with removable shaft that doubled as a flashlight, LED based, $8 USD.

    Lately I’ve been fascinated about those new "shake to charge" LED flashlights because no replacable batteries are used, just shake the flashlight to charge it up. I used on in the store and it had a decent shake to light lifespan ratio.

    These things are perfect for a survival kit or camping/hiking where you can afford to have a battery go dead.

  42. If a Mac Mini could build all of Windows in under 18 hours that would be sweet.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Raymond, now that you typed that joke, all of the Mac theorists are going to post conspiracy theories on how Microsoft is using a Mac Mini to compile Windows.

  44. Anonymous says:

    Wednesday, September 21, 2005 12:06 AM by Puckdropper

    > does anyone know of a utility to shut down a

    > laptop after 10 minutes or so of losing

    > power and no keyboard/mouse activity?

    If you’d be satisfied with putting the laptop into standby or hibernation instead of shutdown, the feature is built into several recent versions of Windows[*]. Go to Control Panel – Power Options – Detailed Settings and you can set different timeouts and actions to be taken depending on whether it’s running on battery power vs. AC power.

    [* The feature doesn’t always work, e.g. if Windows XP has refused to hibernate for unknown reasons, or if Windows 2000 has refused to standby because you had a working CD drive in the swap bay instead of a dead battery in the swap bay. Nonetheless the feature is built in.]

  45. Anonymous says:

    Windows are compiled? I thought Windows descend from the heaven above.

  46. Anonymous says:

    Except it’s not sold as one.

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