punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

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Behind the scenes of Baltimore

I spent much of today in Baltimore on a contract job.

I was working on a site that has voice and data installed, and I needed to again dig around an ancient (by US standards) building. I spent part of the day sitting cross-legged on a filthy floor, looking at modern blinky lights in a setting that didn't really seem like it was the place for such clean and refined equipment. Those of you who do telco work in cities have seen countless places like these (and ironkite, I haven't forgotten you). I guess I get spoiled coming from AOL, where we did nothing on some site we didn't own. Everything all lined up and clean with adequate lighting, bundled wires, and conduit.

The place I was in I think dates back to the late 1800s. I have done work in this building before (it's on Calvert Street), but on the lower floor, where I had to snake network cable underneath a raised floor that wasn't raised because it was a computer room, it was a 1950's version of covering up the previous century's uglies: old cloth-covered electrical cable, some proprietary plug system, and the granite masonry remains of support walls from the previous office (which I was told was once a bank). The raised floor was carpet squares over slate. Each tile weighed like 30 pounds.

This time I was working the second floor which had just been redone. It was apparently a floor added at some point after the building was originally constructed, because the huge arched windows of the lower floor came up to knee height of the new offices. Kind of weird, like the opposite window arrangement of a basement. The "redone" part was also a little odd because while they did a fairly good job with the drywall and trim, the original ceiling was obvious meant to be in a much larger room because the decorative work on the stone support beams was very large and ornate (and covered with lots of a layers of paint, the most recent being white). I bet at one time it looked very nice, maybe a Louis the XIV style, or perhaps mahogany trimmed with gold leaf. Maybe it could have been marble; does paint stick to marble? Anyway, I felt like I was on a SUPER raised floor. Below me were some abandoned offices that were once used to film Head of State a few years ago. Their conference room is very nice: the knee-high window shows down Fayette Street and frames the famous Phoenix Shot Tower. But the glass conference room door is the kind of door one finds on street store fronts or mall entrances. But for the most part, the office parts looked nice and new.

The telco room, on the other hand, had a giant industrial fan that ground on gears that had probably been around in World War II. It filled the room, both in presence and sound. Also in the room was inexplicably a closed circuit TV on a file cabinet showing nine pans of all the entrances. I am not sure why a travel office needs closed circuit TV for the entire building, but perhaps everyone in the building has one for safety reasons. The walls were broken and filthy, and the uneven floor was spotted with almost a century of rust stains and paint spots.

I did my work, which involved fighting with an Kubuntu Linux distro that randomly changed network settings, a Netgear wireless SOHO router that cheerfully picked up all the other wireless routers and access points throughout the building (12 networks showed up, only 4 of them secured) and then refused to be configured because the default address was the same on all the other wireless routers, a Windows 2003 DHCP server (yuck), and a company called ATX who had had no real grasp on what IPs were assigned to anything... and their DNS was down, if they gave me the right IPs, which they didn't for their default gateway, and their default gateway was the same as the default Netgear router anyway. What a mess. But I got the VoIP and data to work, web was up, and my client was happy.
Tags: baltimore, tech, work
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