The Mystery of Port 11

One of the hallmarks of school network infrastructure is that it’s often installed by contractors who specialise in delivering, shall we say, less than average value.

Either the school has so little money to commit to infrastructure projects that they end up with the bottom of the barrel, or the contractors will simply pull one over on the school as they often lack staff with sufficient skill to properly evaluate the finished job. I have yet to find a contractor I’m happy with, so as was the policy at my previous school, I undertake as much infrastructure work as possible in-house.

This week I finally got fed up with not having a list of which room each network port was in. The vast majority of it was installed before my time, so large parts of it were still a mystery. Some of it still is. There is a mysterious port 3 in one of the network cabinets that disappears into the ceiling, and apparently never leaves. My Linkrunner reports it is 41.7m long and has nothing connected to the other end. I have searched the entire building and cannot find port 3 anywhere; the numbering jumps from 2 to 4 between adjacent rooms.

Port 11, in the Humanities block, is a mystery that has now been solved. This building is the newest in the school, and the only one with a map handily left by the contractors showing where each port is. Or at least, where each port is supposed to be. They didn’t really test most of them either, but still, it’s the thought that counts. Port 11 was marked as being on the rear wall of the cookery room, but the entire wall is covered with fitted cabinets and a network port was nowhere to be found. After a thorough search of the area, including the other side of the wall, I sat down and pondered the fate of my errant extra port; a rare delicacy in a building notoriously short of networking, and one I didn’t want to overlook.

Then I spotted two holes in the corner of the suspended ceiling, right above the cabinets. Holes exactly the size of cable trunking. I lifted a ceiling tile to investigate…

Port 11

Ah. There it is.

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About The Angry Technician

The Angry Technician is an experienced IT professional in the UK education sector. Normally found in various states of annoyance on his blog. All views are those of his imaginary pet dog, Howard.

13 responses to “The Mystery of Port 11”

  1. sparkeh says :

    Bizarrely I have had exactly the same experience. One of the ports on the patch panel always had a piece of tape over it, presumably placed there when my predecessor had given up the search for the Holy Grail that was port number 2.
    On an unrelated errand I was (to the caretakers infinite annoyance) removing roof tiles when I was clonked on the head by the errant port. And there was much rejoicing.

  2. p858snake says :

    ah… the benefits of having builders then electrical (if lucky data “specialists”) then room furniture/outfitters sorting out building design and construction.

  3. ScottishTech says :

    Oh, yes… Been there.

    With a brand new build. As in the paint was still wet in places when I was responsible for migrating every bit of computer-related gear from our old school to the new one.

    As well as finding patch points stashed above the false ceiling – well out of reach of their intended wallmounted components, I was also faced with the helpdesk call of connecting the landline coin-op public phone (and emergency phone number in case the shiny Cisco IP phone goes legs-up) up to the junction box where the landline joins the building.

    Above the ceiling was an unmarked CAT6 point. Cue assorted poking about assorted ceilings trying to follow the thing so that I could at least determine which cabinet it terminated in.

    Wouldn’t y’know it – it’s the main cabinet. With several hundred points in the cabinet.

    That was a fun time plugging batches of 24 into a switch to see if I eventually got a link light. Harsh words were uttered.

    So you can imagine my delight upon finding IT suites with labeling like:

    A/01/10
    A/01/12
    A/01/32
    A/01/14
    A/01/11

    GAAHH!!!

  4. FrustratedTech says :

    One former contractor used to connect up new network points to switches in the relevant cabinet by borrowing a patch lead from another port. Could always tell when they’d finished a job because some unfortunate member of staff in the same building would call the helpdesk to say they had no network connection. Occasionally, they’d put the borrowed cable back in the wrong place leaving two points dead (the new one and a random existing one) and one unused point connected up with no way of easily working out which one it is.

    The one time they did use their own patch cable, it was a faulty one!!1!

  5. CerroCosoTech says :

    My most recent interaction with an electrician/data “specialist” is where he was supposed to run Cat6 cable through a section of the campus that is being renovated. The conversation went something like this:
    “So I’m going to be running the Cat5 cable from point A to point B?”
    (my eyebrows went up)
    “You mean Cat6 right?”
    “Uh, yea, Cat6. Anyway, I’m going to run it from point A to point B?”
    “That is correct. Keep in mind you can only run Cat6 to a max of 100 meters (roughly 330 feet).”
    A concerned look came over his face as he asked, “Really? Only 330 feet?”
    At this point there is concern about his “specialist” ability. He stopped me again later in the week and queried, “Max is 330 feet right?” Needless to say, I lost confidence in him.

    I’m glad to see I am not the only one in search of the Holy Grail. I really like when a cable goes from a device directly into the wall (no jack and no label) and disappears into the black void, never to be traced to the nearest IDF.

  6. Ric_ says :

    Almost a year ago, one of our buildings (basically a single classroom an a small office) was ‘refurbished’. This room contained a single data point which was not meant to move.

    Long story short, the architect that we seem to use for all manner of projects for no reason (but that’s a different story) decreed that all services must now reside above the suspended ceiling and my data point was moved.

    We have looked several times for this point, yet its location still alludes us. Maybe we’ll have another go at finding it today… since all you guys have given me some hope that disappeared points can be found!

  7. ScottishTech says :

    All patch points are to be ABOVE the ceiling?

    Egads!

    That sounds like a nightmare in terms of practicality, health and safety and general common sense :)

  8. ScottishTech says :

    I was also going to ask AT if he was sure that was port 11 since the label is blank – then I noticed the microscopic label at the top of the box :)

  9. Zak says :

    on a completely unrelated note to this post, thought you would have seen this, but made me chuckle:

    http://www.channelregister.co.uk/2011/06/06/hp_essn_honcho_quits/

  10. Ric_ says :

    @ScottishTech: When you consider that this conversation immediately followed the conversation where the very same architect had questioned my placement of a projector screen (it was where he INSISTED it had to go!) and then asked why we needed a breakout box on the wall for the projector, $Deity only knows how I managed to walk away without slapping him all over the place!

    • ScottishTech says :

      Patience, I suspect. And chanting – lots of chanting. And possibly pictures of said architect on a dart board.

  11. Richard Arblaster says :

    You’ve got love so called “experts”. If in doubt just ask, not just plough on regardless. :)

  12. Larry says :

    When I did network/phone cabling I insisted I did ALL of it. My boss asked me to hire someone to do the “menial” work of cable pulling. A few days after I told him no he introduced me to my new “assistant”. Fine I thought, I’ll give him a REALLY simple job. The job was to run CAT5 from our server room, above a newly hung pristine, unobstructed false ceiling to a wall-plate about 100 feet away. He said he was experienced so I showed him where the tools were and went on my way. About an hour later I get a call from the boss about some kind of accident. I shit you not! This idiot had wrapped a bunch of cable around an empty spool he found and was throwing it through the ceiling! His last toss landed the spool on top of a florescent light fixture causing the lamps to shatter!! Fortunately the shields kept the glass inside the fixture. There were people working in this room and someone could have been injured. After that insanity boss never so much as asked how long a job would take.