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The CAT-5 of Nine Tails

When I say "tomorrow or later today", clearly I really mean "the day after tomorrow or, hell, whenever I get around to it".

Courtesy of bob13's co-workers and predecessors at Corporation That Shall Remain Nameless To Protect The Guilty, I bring you:

Things Not To Do While Installing Your Office LAN
also known as Things That Will Cause Your Contractors to Curse Your Name Even As They Rack Up Billable Hours.

So chantillary, bob13, Hailey, and I went down to bob13's office on Sunday, at about 11 AM, to help him rewire the networks in the recently renovated cubicle maze. It was when he first guided me into his office, inhabited by a switch bank and patch panel that looked like something out of Legend of the Overfiend, that I began to reconsider my initial assessment of this as a relatively straightforward task.
  • Thing #1: When covering a gap of less than one meter with network cable, use four-meter-long cables to do it. Because not only is network cable made of esoteric, un-cuttable material of alien origin, all that slack cable takes up no space at all.

  • Thing #2: Your switch rack has handy little cable guides between each level, and convenient little holes that let cables run, relatively unobtrusively, from one rack to its neighbour. Ignore these completely. When you need to move a connection for some reason like, say, some asshat user not wanting to have extension 666, it's far easier to trace a cable through a dangling Gordian Knot of 2-300 than it is to do so through a bundle of 20-40.

  • Thing #3: Jaunty-sounding notes attached to cables with paper clips are a perfectly valid substitute for sticking to your goddamned color-coding system.

I'm sure my venom is enough evidence that I was assigned to deal with this monstrosity, though I got reinforced by chantillary after our 2pm lunch break. On the bright side, our sheer incredulous rage at each new wrinkle kept me from getting too bored. As did the food, both our ordered-in lunch and our dinner break courtesy of BP's. And my own internal (mostly internal. Sorry, chantillary. :D) musical accompaniment. Mike and Hailey mostly had to deal with finding and connecting each cubicle's assigned set of cables. Assuming they hadn't been destroyed or misplaced by the renovators.

What's that they say about assumptions?

Hailey had to leave about 10pm, and the three remaining of us were almost done our respective tasks by that point. My recollection of time had grown rather fuzzy by this point - I am not actually sure when we finished replacing all the telephone cables and discovered the last and most maddening cockblock to our finally escaping this thankfully lucrative ordeal.
  • Thing #4: When your installer makes a mistake setting up your PBX, it is a far better use of your time to rewire, by hand and to no existing standard, fifty two-meter lengths of CAT5 cable to work around the error, than it is to call the installer and get them to correct it. And don't bother telling anybody else you work with either. Who would ever need to know?

So, when we unwittingly replaced the "magical fucking fairy dust cable" (bob13's term) or "Bizarro World CAT5" (my term) with normal cable, we also killed an unknown proportion of the 150+ phone lines in the office. Unknown meaning, of course, that we had to test each one individually to find out which ones needed to be re-replaced. The others did that while I finished replacing the Ethernet cables, and then we brought the phones back online.

By this time it was 3 AM and we had been there for 16 hours (not 14 as my addled brain had counted). I don't think we finished everything we wanted to get done, just enough to get the office back to operable status. bob13 took chantillary and I home before going back to his office. No doubt he has had an interesting couple of days dealing with the fallout. As long as they have involved getting us our cheques and/or messily executing the cow-orker responsible for the above decisions and distributing his worldly goods among the four of us, I will be a happy man.



( Walk among 2 shadows — Cast a shadow )
May. 3rd, 2006 06:11 pm (UTC)
A Sunday in Hell
It was an interesting new standard of CAT5 cabling. I like the term mirrorcable. where if you line the plugs up side by side they form a mirror image. And if you put them end to end, they match. And if that's not enough to give you people out there a clear idea as to the hell we endured: 1pi one went to pin 8, 2 to 7, 3 to 6, 4 to 5, and so on.

And then there was the loverly job of cable stringing that the telco did. When we had to put 80-100 feet of cable back up into the ceiling (actually Hailey and Mike did that), all the leftover connected cable being from the long runs. The short runs were too short, especially after Mike pulled them back to get the slack needed for the cable stack.

And then there were the 22 cables that Hailey had a fun time tracking down. 22 cables for 8 cubicles at 3 cables per cubicle. If you think that the math doesn't add up, you're right. You'd think that the telco installer'd realize that, but no.

Had it not been for the 53 mirrorcable connections (I know, I counted them)we'd've only had about an hour's work left when Bike noticed that his phone wasn't working at 11pm. So, at that point, it took us an additional 4 hours to track the broken phones (some of them in locked offices), and fix most of them. But since young Chigbo was busy writing down numbers as Mike and I traced them from the telecom panel to the patch panel, it should only take us about 3 hours, after the telco guy comes back and fixes the 5+year old error, to get everything back to where it should be. And maybe Mike can order some 1.5m cables. Because it sucks having to use a 2m cable when the 1m cable is 1.5cm too short.

As for your musical accompaniment, don't worry about it. I was just concentrating on the task at hand, and cursing the asswipe who'd strung the cables through the cable run slots at the back (and pinching the nerve at the back of my thumb between the bone and the metal casing, then running it back to give me that little extra frission of overstimulation and pain [much like whacking the funny bone, but not as funny]), so I thought that your singing under your breath was you saying something to me. But just think, with your $320, you can now afford to get an IPod (or at least a 512mb USB thumbdrive MP3 player).

May. 4th, 2006 03:45 am (UTC)
As a sidenote, one of these days I really should tell you my story about seeing Legend of the Overfiend in the theatre.

( Walk among 2 shadows — Cast a shadow )