The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts tagged backup

It’s Monday, June 21st, and the power is out as I write this.  Thankfully, Friday June 17th, I had just installed a pair of APC Battery Backups I had picked up on a gift card from Best Buy (a 5 year anniversary gift from work – thanks guys).

APC Smart Battery Backup under the Lightning Maroon's Tank

Of course, I had looked into generators, but Best Buy doesn’t sell them.  So an uninterrupted power supply, or UPS, aka battery backup, was the route I needed to go.  Of course, the Apex controller can actually be set up to detect a power outage using a separate power supply as well as the power supplied through the EnergyBar 8.  You put the EnergyBar on the backup, and you plug the other 12 volt converter into a regular GCFI & Surge Protected outlet.  If power to the converter is lost, the Apex can detect it and trigger an alarm condition, which can take appropriate actions.

In my case, the intended programming would shut off power to the MP10wES (which has it’s own 30 hour battery backup it would run off of separately).  It would also shut off power to all the lights (although some folks will suggest that the lights are actually better at providing O2 than running the tank dark with a Skimmer for example).  I was going to keep power running to the skimmer and the main water pump.  The heater would be on, but I’m thinking I could program it to us a different temperature range when on backup, allowing perhaps a couple degrees drop before the heater would try to kick in.

The plan was to use one battery backup in the office to drive the router and the cable modem.  Our laptops all have built in batteries these days, which meant the backup wouldn’t be necessary for that.  The practical upshot here is that the internet, provided by cable, is presumably independent of the main power to the house.  In other words, power could go out, but internet could be on.  Keeping the router and modem up and running would theoretically keep the internet connection live.  THIS, in turn, would potentially permit the emailing of a power outage alert, as triggered by the Apex.

Of course, this scenario created one other issue – keeping internet on at the Apex.  I had initially used a powerline adapter to provide internet, but based on manufacturer specifications, these cannot be run on even a simple outlet strip, let alone a GCFI or surge protector.  And DEFINITELY not through a battery backup.  At least one person commented here (or somewhere else) about the additional risk to the Apex by having it’s internet coming in over the powerline.  So the powerline internet had to go, and in it’s place, a Netgear WiFi Range Extender was set up.  This range extender provides internet to the Apex over an Ethernet cable, while also being able to run on a battery backup.

So the other backup would drive the Lightning Maroon’s tank, including the skimmer, the pump, the possible use of the heater, the Apex itself, and the wireless bridge / range extender.  Through this seemingly convoluted series of steps, I could detect a power outage, trigger an alert to be emailed out, and I could adust the Apex settings to maximize the length of time that the aquarium could run on only essential equipment.

After doing some reading and research, I discovered that our aquarium pumps present a peculiar problem when used on a battery backup.  Without getting too technical, an inexpensive battery backup produces a square waveform of electrical current, and this can fry out our aquarium pumps.  In order to run our water moving pumps on a battery backup, it requires a much more advanced “true sine wave” battery backup.  Of course, these types of backups aren’t so often used for home use, and they are considerably more expensive.

I have to say now, APC’s online customer support was freakin’ OUTSTANDING.  I have never been shown such in-depth customer service before from such a large company.  A 1 business day turnaround seemed standard, but the level of detail they went into in trying to help me find the right products for my needs went above and beyond.  They took a very long detailed explanation of the situation, even asked me to help them come up with some power consumption estimates, and then directed me to a line of scalable products that I could use and showed me how long things should run.  It almost sucks that they did all the sales work and Best Buy just collected the profits!

In the end, my router and cable modem got a Cyberpower 425VA APC UPS – the standard “run of the mill” type battery backup.  The Lightning Maroon’s setup got a APC Smart-UPS 750VA Battery Backup.  While not the running time I had hoped for, and not scalable like the ones APC suggested, it was the one I could afford with my Best Buy cash.

So how did it all work out?  Well, I have yet to get the 12 volt power supply from Neptune Systems – only ordered it last night.  When the power went out this morning, I had to manually pull the plug on the MP10.  Having there router still powered via their backup, I was able to log into the Apex through my laptop and adjust heater settings, turn off certain items, and overall manage things pretty well.   The power was out for 80 minutes, and when it came back on, the backup was at 23% remaining power.  Interestingly however, I want to say that fairly quickly after the power went out, the battery was only at 80%.  I wonder if the heater had been running – that’s a big 100 watt draw right there.  Still, for that length of time, the tank ran, unaffected by the lack of normal power coming in.  In other words, it was like the power outage never happened.  That, to me, is a big win for this setup, and is money well spent.  Even if this UPS only buys me 2 hours of pump time, it’s still 2 hours I otherwise wouldn’t have had.  And remember, I still have roughly 30 hours on the MP10 as well.

It’s no generator, but today, all these backup systems performed admirably.  Money, or in this case gift card, well-spent.

I got some feedback on my writeup of troubles with communications between my server and the Apex and it got me thinking.  The short – I’m already using DynDNS.com to create a virtual domain name that points to my dynamic IP address – it uses an updater that runs on my computer to check and update the IP address as needed.  Could this service also take an incoming request over port 80, and redirect it to a different port, i.e. 3500, while also directing the request to my dynamic IP?  It turns out I can.

You create a free “Web Hop”, i.e. site1.dyndns.com, which in turn points to site2.dyndns.com:3500.  Then, you use site2.dyndns.com on a “Host” service to point to the dynamic IP.  Since the redirect tags on the port information, it’s carried through on the dynamic IP handling.  It works brilliantly in the browser.  I thought, after 2 months of being stumped, I had a solution.  Of course, my server still fails to grab the content properly from my Apex – I assume it realizes or gets hung up either on the port redirection, or it has to do with carrying the authentication credentials through the webhop and host settings at DynDNS.com.  Oh, and I found out it’s going to cost me $25, or $155 a month, to change my host so I can make a request over a port other than port 80.  Or I have to find a different hosting provider altogether.  This singular aspect of accessing the data on my Apex controller from a webserver is enough to drive me insane.

The other bit of news – we had 2 back-to-back power outages today.  The first one I wasn’t awake for…noticed the clocks blinking when I woke up.  The second one lasted just under 2 hours.  During that time, the MP10 on the battery backup performed admirably.  Chances are the tank would’ve been fine either way – it wasn’t a long time to be without power.  Still, as I watch the Lightning Maroon swim around this evening, I’m feeling like I’m getting my money’s worth.  First power outage we’ve had since we moved to Duluth almost 2 years ago.  Feeling pretty smart that I invested in the MP10w ES + Battery Backup!

Always have a Backup

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Just some friendly advice.  While doing a water change on the Lightning Maroon’s tank on Thursday, I noticed the flow from the Nanocube’s return pump seemed a little “slow”.  I figured something was clogged up in the pump so I pulled it out to clean it.

Turns out, the impeller shaft must have become structurally weak, maybe cracked a bit, and become exposed to the saltwater.  It had begun to rust, and in fact, had rusted straight through on its lower end.  How the pump was even still running was a mystery to me.   When smelling it, well, let me say that it SMELLED like metal.  Strongly.

Of course, this was the original Italian Pump that the cubes came with…not like replacement parts are easily accessible here in northern Minnesota.  The fact that it was probably around midnight didn’t help either, given that other than the local Petco, my local fish shops close at 6 or 6:30 PM (I’m still baffled by that…used to Chicago where everything was open until 8 or 9 PM).

Thankfully, I’ve taken my own advise for years now and I always keep a spare pump (a Maxijet) and a spare heater (a Stealth) on hand for these tanks.  It only took a minute to replace the old Italian Pump with a brand new MaxiJet.  A big bag of carbon went into just to help hopefully pull out some of the “metals” if there was any contamination in the water, but I’m thinking I may have really “broken things” when I took it out for cleaning.  Still, I’ll be doing more water changes and frequent carbon changes to ensure that things are OK for the Lightning Maroon.

The $25 investment I made to have a brand new piece of equipment just lying around was obviously well worth it.  Now I just need to go get a replacement as I’m once again, without a backup!  The nice part is that since I have 3 of these Nanocubes on hand, I only need to have one replacement pump on hand to cover me for 3 tanks…the odds of 2 going out at the same time are unlikely.  The $50 it cost me initially for some “piece of mind” on the heater and water pump backups prevented me from having to post a very different “status update” on this project.

Nothing else to report right now…all Maroons in the house are healthy and doing well, but none are breeding.  I’m continuing to “pump” the big Labrador Maroon full of food to hopefully encourage a spawn.  We are still very much in the “waiting game” aspects of this project.

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