Archive for August 8th, 2010

My Thoughts On Last Night’s Shed Break-in
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By Johnny Rollerfeet's Echo Chamber - Last updated: Sunday, August 8, 2010

Since it doesn’t appear anything of significant value was stolen when my shed was burglarized early this morning, I cease being worried and start contemplating the nature of the criminal element in my neighborhood. If a person has committed to a life of crime, and they’re taking it seriously, I doubt that breaking into sheds is a market with a lot of appeal. So, whoever invaded our shed has probably not chosen crime as a primary occupation…yet. They are certainly amateurs.

Reconstructing the crime — as best I can from the evidence provided — they pried with a lever near the latch between the double doors that face my driveway. The hasp and combination lock held strong and the inside edges separated the pressboard door and trim from the solid wood that squares the door and holds the latches that keep it all closed tight. When those popped apart the two magnets that comprise the sensor on the nuisance alarm would have come apart, too, setting it off.

When we installed the shed earlier this year, I looked for battery powered door alarms, and they exist but are very expensive — particularly in relation to the cost of the shed itself. If you need an alarm that can be set with a delay (so you can set it from inside the shed, then get out before it goes off) they can cost as much as the power tools I’m trying to protect — $120 to $350. However I found a “pool” alarm for $20 that is designed to alert parents if kids wander into a gated pool area. It came with a button to press that gives you 30 seconds to get through the gate before it activated. It was cheap, durable, battery-powered and easy enough to adapt to the frame of the door. Because it’s designed for the pool area, the housing is sealed watertight with the battery inside.

Imagine the criminal(s) standing outside the shed with the muffled pool alarm going off inside. Frantic to silence the alarm, they grabbed the top edge of the door that was still locked but hanging loose, and they yanked on the door until the screws came out of the hinge on the right side. That would take a lot of exertion and even in the relative cool of the night the criminal would be soaked with sweat due to the Texas summer heat. The alarm would no longer be muffled. It was very loud and annoying. They followed their first instinct and grabbed the alarm and pulled it off the wall, separating it from the wire that connected to the sensor. Of course, like any decent alarm system that only ensured the alarm could never be turned off again.

So there’s the sweat-soaked criminal standing in my driveway next to the shed with the door ripped off the hinges holding a watertight alarm sealed in an unbreakable plastic housing that is playing an ear-shattering noise.

I work for a major computer company — you won’t have trouble guessing which one — and after only being in bed for a couple hours I was paged at 2:15 this morning when half of the console that controls our IVR inexplicably went offline. (IVR stands for Interactive Voice Response, as in “Thank you for calling…please speak or enter your account number.”) The IVR console is hosted on a Linux machine utilizing an Apache web server. The server responded to pings. Apache was offering an error page instead of the console. I could log into the server with SSH but I could not access root privileges. So, nothing could be done remotely. Those last five sentences consumed over two hours of troubleshooting (which I’ll be glad to bore you about in person) but in brief: I was not happy by the time I sent a request to have someone physically go to the data center to reboot the server manually — around 4:30am. I was seriously contemplating how I ended up in the IT field and if I had made the right choices that put my career here at this time.

So there’s the sweat-soaked criminal standing in my driveway next to the shed with the door ripped off the hinges holding a watertight alarm sealed in an unbreakable plastic housing that is playing an ear-shattering noise. Since I would have heard the alarm or the dog would be barking, it had to either be between midnight and 2:00am, or after 5:00am (when I finally made it back to bed) and the criminal was probably contemplating how he ended up in the crime business and if he had made the right choices that put his career there at that time.

He left without taking anything other than the alarm. He’s either considering working in a different market, or maybe leaving the crime business altogether.

p.s. I’ll be installing a security system from X10 this week. I remember buying home automation gadgets from them a decade ago. They aren’t high quality (and their web design is like AngelFire with pop-up spam), but they are reliable enough and cheap cheap cheap. For $100 shipped I’m getting 2 keychain remotes, 2 door sensors, an extra siren and the security console (which flashes lights and can call your cell phone.)