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Power Outage Strikes Again

As hundreds of transfer students and students from abroad arrived on NJIT's campus Wednesday, they were met by a power outage that shut down the computer system and emptied some buildings.

The outage was due to a failure in the Newark power grid feeding NJIT's Guttenberg Information Technologies Center (GITC) and Central Avenue Building. Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) reported that power was out from just before 6 a.m. August 27 to 6:15 p.m. the same day.

Using generators and by running heavy-duty extension cords out the fifth floor windows of GITC, the computer center staff borrowed enough power from adjoining buildings to bring part of the computer network back up. E-mail was out all day.

But the available generators were designed for emergency lighting, not for running computers, said computer services' Dave Ullman.

"It's 'dirty power,' with voltage spiking from 70 volts to 120 volts," he said.

When the PSE&G outage began, "uninterrupted power supply" batteries kicked in and warned system users their computers were shutting down in 10 minutes, says NJIT information systems analyst Matthew Hoskins.

"We had a smooth shutdown of the system; so far no one seems to have lost any files," Ullman said.

Generators to run the NJIT system would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, said Ullman.

It's been a tough two weeks for Ullman's department. First came an international computer virus attack, followed by the blackout that affected much of the nation, then a second attack by more computer viruses. In addition to Wednesday's partial blackout, Ullman's department faces the prospect of more computer-related problems once classes start, he said.

All students arriving with personal computers will have to have their PCs checked to make sure they the appropriate software "patches," to prevent the spread of the recent virus outbreaks.

"If we don't, their computers will spread these viruses like a kid with a cold through a Kindergarten class," Ullman said. ---Gale Scott