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Do you have Foxtel ...

The power saving power board people have been around … yet another piece of equipment fails due to their poor training.

There is an Australian government program which allows electricity users to receive standby power saving power boards in exchange for the carbon credits the devices are estimated to deliver. Unfortunately, the training given to the people who deliver the boards is poor. The only question they appear to ask is “Is that device for Foxtel?”, and that is the only device they plug in to an outlet that stays on all the time.
Unfortunately, computers, satellite receivers and PVRs should also be left on … all for different reasons:
  • Most computers don’t work too well if you just yank the power cord out repeatedly; both OS X and Windows prefer to shutdown cleanly
  • Satellite receivers tend to need to receive updates to their crypto data fairly constantly or they stop decoding
  • PVRs and video recorders don’t make scheduled recordings well when turned off at the wall
These are only examples but they illustrate the potential difficulties of adding a device that interrupts power without thinking about the consequences1.

So what ought to be a good idea has an unintended consequence causing at minimum inconvenience and at worst damage to equipment. Most of these consequences could be avoided through better training of the installers and ensuring that time is taken to consider the installation carefully and completely … but that would reduce the profit - especially when the costs of fixing these problems are shifted on to third parties. Perhaps the question for the rest of the support community should be how did Foxtel get special consideration in the training for this program?

1. My personal fear is that devices doing firmware updates will get interrupted. Although there are safe procedures for doing flash updates (e.g. dividing the flash in 2 and updating 1 side at a time with a complete image or using a flash loader that attempts a reload if the checksum fails or a watchdog timer fails), these seem to be less than universal in consumer equipment. Although it could be argued that the manufacturers have been negligent - bricking hardware to save a little standby power appears to be a false economy.