Saturday, March 29, 2008

Wire day (Data Cable-2 Feb 02)

The big day was Saturday. The day before the Superbowl. I had one day, maybe a day and a half to get the cable installed.

There were three main runs, one bundle ended near the master bedroom, one on the west side of the house, and one in the basement. I only had time to pull the upstairs cable, the basement run would have to be pulled on site.

Once again I acquired cheap labor from my friend Mark and my loving, patient wife. The logistics of this work required many people doing light work instead of few working hard. I hinted around at work.

“Hey, Network guys!! Remember that time we wired up that closet for that new hospital tower? Man that was fun. Boy I wish we had something else to wire! Say, you know what would be fun…?”
“Hey there, Project Managers, I know you guys like projects ha ha…”

I suppose it wasn’t surprising that nobody jumped at the chance to drive an hour on their day off to work for free. Not all was lost, however. A coworker’s son, Alex was looking for work and was willing to strap a ladder to the top of his car, drive an hour and a half to help for about 20 bucks.

So we started pulling cable. Things were going well. Some interesting notes for the day:

  • Mark’s not a fan of heights.
  • Alex, a hard worker, likes to pass the time talking.
  • Make sure you haven’t threaded your cable through some impossible path accidentally.
  • Toward the end of a 10 hour day, chocolate covered hostess donuts are good, but the donettes are outstanding. One bite = much chocolaty goodness.

Hiding the cables was tricky, we pulled the cables beyond the needed length and then loosely staple, them up inside the wall where they are out of view but within reach when we tried to grab them later. This actually was easier than it sounded and after some testing we were able to determine right length and tension for maximum stealth.

The main floor took most of the day and as the sun was starting to go down we moved down to the basement to run the cable down there. This wasn’t a complicated run but we did have to pull all of the lines individually, add 40 feet, then pull them up to the cabinets upstairs. Time consuming but not complicated.

We also drilled holes for the shades for all of the window shade cables. Originally we had tucked these cables behind the wall studs, but the more I thought about it, I thought it would be a huge pain to recover these unless I had drilled holes for them.

For the most part things were running smoothly. We had a couple of instances where we had to back a run out and run it over or under some obstacle. There was one instance where we had pulled 30 or 40 feet, tied it up, and started neatening it when we realized we had run it under an electrical cable. Untieing it was really a depressing thought, it would be faster but a lot harder to do. We chose to completely dissasemble the electrical outlet and move it around the cable.

A minor setback and we moved on.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Big Preppin' (Data Cable-1 Feb 02)

Writing about pre-wiring the shades was taxing, actually doing the work wasn’t that bad.

It went so much better than I expected, I started thinking I should expand my wiring plan.

I had originally figured I’d add a wire or two to a few jacks and that would be it, but now the possibility of adding two data lines to every data location became very alluring. I knew it was going to be a lot of work so I set out to do as much prep as possible.

Pre-measuring, cutting, and bundling the wire for an easier pull through the house was the plan. First, I’d need wire.

Lots of it.

When I ordered the shade wire I also ordered some nice cat-5 cable and then I managed to get six boxes of lower quality cable that were slightly used but had close to 1000’ in each box.

Interestingly, the price of the wholesale cable was slightly higher than the same length at Home Depot. This bummed me out until I actually started to use it. The jacket of the “pro” stuff was higher quality and seemed sturdier during the pulls. We’ll see if that carries into the actual termination.

So there I was with about six thousand feet of cable. Now what?

While running the shade cable I realized a truth that had eluded me prior. Related to the “Hole Don’t Move” rule, this was much more inclusive and elegant. Like a unifying theory that ties together the rules for very big things and very small things, this truth was all-encompassing and absolute.

I call this the “House pretty much don’t change shape, size, or length or width” rule.

Armed with my newfound enlightenment I measured from a central spot to each jack once and then had all the information I needed for the rest of the job. Part of the problem was that it was still cold out, but the big monkey hanging from the ceiling was that I really wasn’t supposed to do any of this.

Guardian was going to come in after the walls were up and they would be ready to terminate one jack per box, but I was going to have at least three lines at each box. Even the dimmest of wiring guys would see that three was more than one.

He’d just sit there for a while, staring at the “not-one” cable trying to sort out what to do next.

This isn’t good, he’d think. This is definitely NOT one cable. Paperwork’s all wrong. "All wrong!!" he'd scream.

Then he’d hear the voice and shudder uncontrollably, “It puts the cable in the jack, or it gets the hose again…”

When he regained consciousness he’d phone the main office and tell them that there was a “situation” and they’d have to send Hank out. Hank would figure out what had happened, file a report and the Fulton police would raise the price of the house.

Well, perhaps not, but I’m sure they wouldn’t be pleased about it and Paul would catch some heat. Paul’s a really good guy and I didn’t want to complicate his life.

I’d have to figure out how to hide the wires, allow guardian to do their work, and retrieve the extra wires after the house closing. More on that later, for now, I had cable to measure.

Cable measured, cut, wrapped, categorized, and labled we set off to install.