The 5 day blackout, holidays, vacation, house projects, and crippling snow storms that have kept my kids out of school for 6 days have certainly kept me and my family busy. We did have a generator, so I can't say we were suffering too much. Between getting our TV via satellite, (Direct TV), our Verizon DSL working once I powered up the router, VOIP through SunRocket, the only thing we were without was cell service since Cingular didn't seem to have backup power to their towers. The kids were busy with XBOX Live and seemed unaffected. There were times I wish we didn't have enough power to run their computer and games so they'd play outside. While we were prepared for the loss of power, we were pretty lucky as we didn't have any damage from fallen trees. The only challenge was trying to find gas to keep the generator working once we ran through our 2 day reserve. It's good to have backups and contingencies. The small investment in the generator and transfer switch made the 5 day power outage nothing more than a minor inconvenience. I spent most of the time helping neighbors providing power to their furnace, getting their generator hooked up to their house, or helping them seal up their roof from the massive trees that sliced through with no precision at all.
While it may interesting to hear about the personal trials and tribulations, it does bring up the point that an up front, comparatively small investment can have a major impact. While the generator wasn't cheap, and hooking up the transfer switch took some time, it was nothing compared to the expense and heartache our neighbors went through that weren't prepared. Many spent hundreds of dollars on hotels; if they found them. Lost hundreds of dollars in spoiled food. Spent all sorts of money to kludge together some means of heat in their house. Most just suffered through, waiting for the heat and electricity to come back at any time. Several friends were out for 7 days.
Reacting to the storm of course wasn't as simple as running to Home Depot to purchase a generator. Even if you could make it to the store, which some were running on generator, it was difficult to find roads that were opened due to all the downed trees and power lines. And of course, if you did make it, they were long since sold out. Even finding extension cords was a challenge. It was quite a site. I can't begin to imagine what others have been through in other situations.
While not sitting in front of my computer, I like to go snowmobiling with my family. In Washington, snowmobiling can be quite dangerous as the mountains are quite an example of the power of mother nature. Snow is deep, mountains are vast and steep, avalanches happen often, and it gets cold at night with frequent mountain storms. Most of the fun is when you venture off the groomed trails, traveling 20+ miles into the mountains on a machine that can fail, get stuck or cause severe injury. Even for the simplest, shortest ride I wouldn't even think about heading into the mountains without a buddy and my backpack full of gear including a shovel, avalanche beacon, and enough supplies to spend the night and survive. Carrying a heavy backpack isn't fun, but getting stuck, injured, or loosing a sled over a cliff turns a life threatening situation into a story to tell your friends. As my 11yr old son is learning, you can have a lot of fun without having to panic when inevitably something goes wrong. It's a cultural thing that is just engrained in the way we look at things. Now, I'm by no means perfect here. I still have a 2 wheel drive truck that I bought when I lived in TX, but I do have chains.
The power grid is designed to avoid these problems. Snowmobiles are built to blast through amazing obstacles. But, of course "stuff happens". Being prepared makes the unexpected a minor inconvenience. Applying the same discipline to your applications makes unexpected events minor issues to your users and the bottom line of your business.
Is your business, and your companies applications ready for the unexpected?
For the days I have made it to work, I've been busy working on our next set of investments in the client platform. All too often I hear questions if WinForms is dead? In my next blog entry I'll write about the "client" investments we're making. WPF is one of those investments, Orcas has others, but we're also excited about work we're doing behind what we're calling WPF/e, for now. Stay tuned. The thought that the client is dead, and the web has taken over, is just the narrow visibility of some. Those that see these two converging have a keen eye into what some would call obvious.