The Rat cranks up a power play

As the heat of summer and the wrath of electrical storms bedevil the East Coast, and while the threat of rolling blackouts continues in the West, the Rat has been hard at work planning for a totally ampere-free workplace.

All the uninterruptible power supplies in the world wouldn't solve California's energy crisis and neither, it seemed, would current political appointees.

Despite his best efforts, the cyberrodent couldn't pry loose any funding for power-generating equipment at his humble data centers on either coast. Faced with a mandate from his acting agency chief to prepare a contingency plan, the Rat began brainstorming ways to keep networks humming.

This led to some interesting after-hours research in the Rat household. Armed with no budget other than his own vast personal mental resources, the wired one set about building prototypes that he hoped to fund through beneficial-suggestion bonuses and foreign-currency speculation.

One plan evolved out of the Rat's research into the hand-cranked Freeplay Radio, designed for use in areas where electricity and batteries are scarce.

The Rat reasoned that PC users could boot up their systems by rapidly turning foot pedals attached to the power supplies. But in early tests using the oldest ratling as a guinea pig, so to speak, he discovered that more than an hour of pedaling caused the system'and the user'to go into sleep mode.

Next he tried inserting piezoelectric panels into keyboards to provide desktop power. But he found that extremely forceful typing was required to generate enough electricity to keep the hard disk spinning.

On the bright side, throwing the piezoelectric keyboards against the wall in frustration generated enough power to keep a server up for almost 20 minutes.

Having ruled out self-powered systems for the short term, the Rat turned to alternative outside sources of electricity. Taking advantage of the cover provided by planning for the World War II Memorial, the blue-thumbed one set up a prototype wind turbine on the Mall. Initial results looked promising. But then power levels fell precipitously between Senate hearings, and the prospect of the summer recess doldrums caused the Rat to abandon the idea entirely.

His efforts to retrofit escalators at Metrorail stops with giant treadmill generators were thwarted, too. Mrs. Rat refused to let him build a full-scale model in their dining room.

So the furry one decided on another approach. 'We can halt trash pickups and make landfills next to each agency office,' he told his boss. 'Eventually, the decay of the trash will create methane, which we can use to generate hydrogen for fuel cells.'

'I've got an idea,' his weary superior countered. 'Why don't we just give everyone a lighter and a candle, and advise them that in the event of a power outage, they should find their way out of the building and go home?'

It took a while for the Rat to digest this. 'I suppose that would work,' he grudgingly replied.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected].


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