An IT guy’s vacation and a symphony of failures

Crater Lake
What a vacation photo might look like

I’ll probably be back at the keyboard plogging away by Mondy, playing catch up at the moment after my house of IT and gadget cards collapsed while I was gone. Thought I’d detail some of what happens to an overly connected person the instant they left the state.

TL;DR – vacation story I’m passing off as Pocketables related

Should preface this with I’m an IT guy for my day job, Pocketables writer for my night job, handle renting and maintenance of nine rental units, and a parent with two children that I took to Oregon on vacation. What follows is pretty much what happened.

Day before the outbound flight

We had everything packed, kid’s IDs with us, ride lined up, all we had left to do was slap a couple of movies on an iPad and an Amazon Fire Kids Tablet. I picked four movies, two for each, and set Plex about converting them and went to bed because I had to be up at 4am.

The day of

I woke, threw the iPads into the bag of entertainment. Cameras arrayed throughout my house so I could check in at any time, alarm set to death blare, we were off with the help of a neighbor.

Got on the plane outbound to San Francisco and none of the movies worked. Uh… none had copied over. OK, whatever, I had backup plans.

By the time I landed in San Fran where we had a three hour layover I had five missed calls from my employer who forgot I was going on vacation and was wondering if his email was working as he hadn’t heard from me. Layover ended up being around 4.5 hours due to a cracked lens and a five minute repair on the plane taking an hour and then losing our spot in line.

Kids passed out on the runway, airline attendant made us wake the 2yo up to put her in a seatbelt, this lead to about 20 minutes of crying on the runway, we didn’t take off for 30 minutes. Fun times. They had us on deck for a loooong time.

As we landed in PDX I got the news that power was out in my neighborhood. This should have been no issue as I have a UPS and the computer at the house handles power loss correctly. It was out long enough, or it was the lightning strike that happened on the other side of the street, but that was it for the upstairs UPS. It shut itself off and started screaming for help about two hours after I left.

I contacted a couple of friends who know the basic ropes and asked that someone go and verify the burglar alarm still worked as I did not know how long it actually worked without power. I also wanted my computer on so I could get back to my Plex library as I hadn’t bothered to copy kid’s entertainment and wanted to stream my vast collection of Pinky and the Brain and original Muppet Babies for the kiddos.

One of them straight up forgot, no big, other could help me out the next day.

July 4th, 2018

One of the things I do as part of “IT Guy” at work is take phone calls for the work burglar alarm as I can check cameras and cancel it while talking to them in the usual event that it’s a tenant who screwed up.

July 4th, 4am Oregon time I got a call that the burglar alarm had tripped. I got another call from a tenant who didn’t remember his code three minutes later. Another tenant walked in an armed the system on themselves setting off the alarm about an hour later. By the time the non-usual workers were done they’d managed to trip the alarm 8 times. For contrast I usually get one call a month..

Fireworks set it off the ninth time that night, and somewhere around 1:30am Oregon time (11:30 tn) I got the last call that there was a temperature alarm. I told them to not contact me about the temperature alarms for the next week as there’s literally nothing I can do.

July 5th, 2018

My phone message at work says if it’s emergency to contact me. Some people take that if I haven’t responded in ten minutes it warrants emergency status so I got woken up at 5:15am by some people who needed an IP address. At 6:12am by a vendor who wanted to talk to me about something a week earlier than I had scheduled a call with him.

I shot an email into work and mentioned that I needed a blast announcement to not call me before 10am CST because I was in PST and besides being on vacation I was getting annoyed at being woken up in the middle of the night.

I’m at the Oregon Zoo and I get a call from the alarm company, this time it’s my alarm company, my burglar alarm has gone off. I immediately get a call from one of the friends who was going to handle it and we cancel police action. She hadn’t called me before walking in, and had to come face to face with an uncommonly loud burglar alarm.

She finds the UPS in a locked up state, power button won’t cycle power, I have her unplug it and plug it back in, the UPS starts working, everything seems to be good. Alarm armed, she heads out, I get off the phone.

Somehow when she walked in she managed to turn the knob that locks the door or turns it into a dumb handle. She checked just on a whim and belted the alarm again, nearly had a nervous breakdown. The alarm is ridiculous and more on par for movies and lumber yards.

Everything working, she heads on out.


Plex had functioned properly I believe, but YouTube Kids had decided to take up all available free space on the iPad and for reasons unknown the SD on the Amazon Fire Kids was showing as read only until I rebooted it.

The Chargers that Wouldn’t

You can read about one of them here. The other disappeared. Really, no idea what happened to it. We’ve been dealing with a charger that quits unexpectedly and a charger that disappears.

The other job

Monkey Face Rock
Monkey Face Rock after climbing up the appropriately named Misery Ridge Trail

I got an email on the 5th indicating that a water heater had burst and my handyman was taking care of it. I’d turned over management of things to him for the time being as really, what was I going to do but call him?

One night I got a heads-up text that someone had contacted him for a busted AC. I remembered I had not sent him my AC guy’s contact info. I texted it to him and shot my AC guy a text telling him handyman was going to be contacting him. He asked for the tenant’s info and planned to go in in the morning. I got a text back from the AC guy shortly that he had to go right then due to a scheduling conflict. Score?

I talked to my handyman the next day, he’d not gotten a single text or voicemail for two days. iPhone on AT&T. Not sure who to blame, but he rebooted and evidently is handling three days worth of phone calls and texts.

AC we believe had been affected by lightning strike, heat kit/strips were running while the AC was running effectively cancelling itself out. May be other, but I’ve got a cool tenant at the moment and an inexpensive part being picked up this weekend.

The father-in-law’s computer

I’d planned to use my father-in-law’s computer for some Pocketables and work, but this was not to be the case. When I left the system in 2016 it was a pretty zippy Windows 10 system. Two years had turned it into a junker. After a 13 minute boot up I started removing software. He’d been a fan of AVG but somehow Norton Internet Security had made it on the system and a PC tuneup. I remover most of the virus scanners and noticed that none of them had picked up the adware bundles that were sitting there.

Installed Malwarebytes just to verify that the adware was it (it was) and rebooted the system to a speedy 12 minute boot. The thing was still running slow as molasses.

I asked him what his use of the thing had been for the last six or seven months and he said he’d turn it on, maybe do one thing, get so disgusted with how slow it was he’d power it down and walk away.

I popped open task manager after about a two and a half minute delay and yup, it’s a Windows Update going on in the background. We left the thing on for six hours and it finally got done (after a few reboots and finding out that there was another month’s update to install).

The Safety 1st camera assault

Safety 1st failsFor one of my other gigs I reviewed the Safety 1st WiFi baby monitor. The baby it was guarding this week was my house.

I started getting motion alarm after motion alarm. I’d watch them and couldn’t detect anything. All I can guess is that perhaps a cloud drifted by. I kept turning the motion sensitivity down and finally somewhere near just turning it off got it so it took a real trigger event to trigger it.

Then the app started crashing. I believe there was an update, it rendered it pretty much useless. I’d get notified of movement, then that the app had crashed, and then go through a long login and of course no movement.

An app update was pushed, I assume, because that went away after a couple of days to be replaced by nonstop notifications that the camera had gone offline, followed by the camera reporting it was online. I ended up disabling the audio notification after probably the thirtieth notification. Picture here was about day three of the assault I just decided to see how many notifications I could rack up.

I tested internally and there was never a time when the camera was showing disconnected from the WiFi, similarly there was no connectivity loss from my network to anywhere I could locate.

The Foscam fail

I don’t know where the break is, but my Foscam app started saying one of my cameras was not online, one is not connectable, and the other takes about two minutes to connect to. Verified from a computer that they’re all working. App is just shot or did not handle the incredibly low speed connections I was dealing with in Sandy Oregon.

Should I Answer? Hello? Should I?

I use an app called Should I Answer. It decided to stop blocking calls. My telemarketers are on East Coast time so the calls were starting at about 6:30am. It’ll still show me they’re a spammy telemarketer, but ring and not dump ’em. As I’m on call 24/7 even on vacation this becomes problematic.

Was it terrible? No.

Just a series of things that failed. Backups that failed. Systems that haven’t failed in years that failed within thirty minutes of me leaving town.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts

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