Weapons of War: the Dust Bunny Epidemic
by, 10th June 2008 at 03:09 PM (4109 Views)
Dust Bunnies, my own private war, a war waged unseen by the staff or pupils of the school. Vastly outnumbered I am left to wage war on these often unseen and unnoticed foes. They seem native so the school, appearing from out of nowhere and colonizing the cooling components of computers and switches throughout the site. Once there they breed, quietly waiting and building up their number biding their time waiting for the opportunity to rise up against us.
The costs of this war go unseen as its affects are slow, cumulative and indirect. These costs may be unseen but can be easily heard, you can hear it in the PC that sits alone in a cold room with its CPU fan cranked up as high as it will go, or the lab that seems to get louder and louder as the year goes on. You may also find omens of its covert war when looking at the average power usage of the computers over time or noticing increased instability overtime. This instability is tricky as it can show itself in different ways, the random reset, the phantom half second lockup and the inexplicably slows to a crawl syndrome. It is made more difficult by the fact that it may even be a sign of something unrelated. Over time these costs in productivity due to instability, extra electricity to run the fans and lost concentration due to the noise make us even more vulnerable to the eventual uprising that is sure to come if measures are not taken.
To fight this inexorable march of the dust bunnies we must all take up arms. The primary weapons effective against their warrens are all based on their primary method of transport; air currents. In this category there exist several options after opening up the side of the case:
- Blowing into the case of the computer.
- A vacuum cleaner with an extension.
- Compressed air in a can.
- An air gun on an air compressor.
Blowing directly into the case to clear out the first loosely organized troops is a dangerous proposition. It does clear out some of the loosest dust but barely does any damage to the warren. This method also involves the most personal risk as when provoked the first line of enemy forces will attack, soil your cloths and try to cut off your oxygen supply. The enemy has no morals and will use biological weapons that it has at hand such as bacteria that can also give you a nasty cold that may have been stored up from last winter.
A vacuum cleaner provides a safer alternative to deal with the front line troops as it will catch them off guard and imprison them before they have a chance to attack. This also gives you prisoners to interrogate later. As a strategy it is effective to a certain extent and will remove the build up of loosely organized dust but unless you have a really powerful vacuum cleaner the well organized dust warrens will only be lightly damaged by this attack. Depending on the power of the vacuum there is also the danger of capturing innocent cables along with the enemy.
Compressed air in a can, a small tactical weapon is best used to clean out single machine infestations. This weapon has the power to cut through the well organized fortresses of dust in components such as the power supply and CPU fan/heat sink. In conjunction with a mask this weapon can be used to eliminate infestations but as a tactical weapon it only contains a limited amount of ammunition which is expensive to replace. These should be used in short blasts as the extreme cold generated by a continuous blast causes moisture to condense in the jet of air which is harmful to the civilian components involved. Continuous blasting will also form dry ice around the outside of the can which is quite uncomfortable if you are holding it.
Compressors are the next step up from canned air and you will need one if you are serious in your quest to keep the bunnies at bay. These handy devices are able to produce a much higher pressure jet of air than a can and so are far quicker at removing infestations. They also require the use of a mask if your machines have been heavily colonized.
There are other considerations with this kind of weapon as well because it can be configured in different ways. The largest part of the system, the compressor itself can range in price from NZ$80 (£30) to NZ$2500+ (£1000+) depending on the quality and features. A cheap compressor will do fine but they usually do not include the most important component when using them inside a computer; the water trap. Due to the way that the temperature changes when the air is compressed condensation builds up inside the reservoir tank. This can be disastrous when used in a combat situation as the extra water will not only cause casualties among the innocent components inside the computer, it will also allow the dust to form even more organized and nefarious warrens that must be combated. Luckily a water trap is a very common component for compressors and can be purchased at a good engineering store for around NZ$30 (£10). You can then purchase a hose, air gun, thread tape and appropriate attachments to clip the whole lot together to complete your own personal cleaning weapon.
You use this weapon in much the same way as the air can above aiming the gun directly into the fins of any heat sinks that have been colonized by the enemy along with a general blast to clear out the stragglers. You should be careful to hold any fans in the direct flow of the air still while you do this otherwise they will spin up and get in the way of the air blast. There is also a chance that the fan will generate electricity as it spins under external power again risking the components inside.
Alternative weapons can also be useful in certain circumstances but are often more time consuming. For instance a clean dry paint brush can also be very effective but it may not be able to reach all of the way into some heat sinks. You must also be sure that the brush does not hold any static charge beforehand as this to will cause collateral damage.
The Sad Truth:
Unfortunately this fight will be perpetual as there will always be dust and so the fight must be taken to them when they build up to much. There are ways to slow them down though. Placing computers on desks or simply raised off the ground is a big help, a location without carpet is another plus. Certain cases do come with filters in order to slow the colonization process. Fresh air from open windows can also help as some of the dust will drift outside to attack other targets and simply vacuuming the locations were there are computers from time to time also helps out but will never eradicate the problem completely.
As such the war must continue, to arms everybody, to arms…
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