punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Down in Baltimore... deep in wires...

Yesterday, I was down in Baltimore... and I mean down. Under a floor.

I was under the assumption that I would be doing some wiring and basic network setup, but what I wasn't prepared for was heavy lifting and dealing with some of the most antique hardware I had ever seen still running that wasn't in a museum. There were snap-lock token ring data connectors, X.25 lines, and a lot of homemade wiring. Some of the equipment was ten years old, and still somehow running. Now I knew why they had to upgrade. I also had to work mostly alone, and while I did get some logistic help, most of the grunt work was mine alone. To say I am sore is an understatement.

The floor lifted up, which is odd for a normal office, but I could see why. This building was old. "Established MDCCCLXI" it said on the front of the ancient frontispiece, which is like 1861. The "new floor" was suspended over the "old floor" which used to be the floor of an accounting office. The wires that snaked though there were both ancient and numerous. Most of it was simply cut off from any source when new occupants moved in. Most of it was power conduit, old cloth-covered copper phone wires, and some wires I don't even know WHAT they were. I was half afraid I'd be electrocuted working under there. "Under there" was only about 6 inches deep, but some of the floor panels were held on by bolts of screws that had long since been rounded off or stripped. I had to do a lot of blind feeding, and pray I didn't get bit by vermin (I saw evidence of at least a few mice), shocked by an exposed live power cable, stabbed by sharp exposed things, or have my fingers crushed by the 40 pound floor plates.

After I had measured the LAN cable, I added like 10-20 feet so I'd have some breathing room... and I still came up short! Part of it was obstacles I didn't see under the floor until I actually opened it, and part of it was just a mystery, but the owner said, "Oh, that always happens." Because of this, I have to go back later and extend all the wiring using another hub.

I also found out that I wasn't supposed to let anyone know I was doing this because "if the union found out..." Apparently, the owner told me, when he tried to do some work under the floor, the union workers in the area got mad, and he didn't want to have to deal with them again if he could avoid it. I was supposed to have help, but one guy couldn't so anything until the DSL was installed (and until later in the day, we thought it wasn't, but AT&T said it was "up and testing clean," but was unable to tell us WHERE they installed it...), another person has to set up the computers (on top of her normal job), and they owner just came from the hospital, so he wasn't able to help more than show me where things go and offer me tools and friendly advice. At least he was really nice and understanding, which did go a long way.

Also, on top of all this, my watch broke as it got caught in something. Me without a watch is like losing an eye: I have no internal clock, so I become disoriented, and have no concept of how much time has passed. So now I have to get a new watch.

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000300.html
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