Shortly after the Mystery of Port 11, came the tale of Port 8. I first came across Port 8 in our Theatre. Then I came across it again in one of the music practice rooms. The two being in the same building, this was clearly Wrong. With a capital W.
Only one of them was live. This building has very few network ports, and to save money, the cheapskate contractors only sprung for a 16-port patch panel, which is full and has every port patched. So where is the additional port?
Did you spot where it is? Here’s a closer view:
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… Read More…
If there was one thing I could rely on in my last school, it was that no problem was ever down to the infrastructure cabling.
The school’s network cabling had been done in house for years before I started there, and it was there that Bond taught me the fine art of Cat5e. I don’t remember us ever having an infrastructure cabling problem, except for the time it was chewed through by glis glis.
That meant that when I moved to my current school, I immediately decreed we would not be using contractors again any time soon, since I could take care of it and know I was doing a good job. This in turn led to me becoming intimately acquainted with several loft areas of the school over the summer, and more importantly, the purchase of my first Fluke Microscanner kit. At nearly £600, it was an expensive purchase, but worth every penny; I view it as an essential for anyone who takes network cabling even half seriously. If you can’t trust the cabling, you can’t trust the network.
Which is why I have subsequently become infuriated by the fact that the contractors who previously installed network cabling at the school clearly did not have one.
In fact, they did not appear to have a testing tool of any kind. It turns out that I should have decreed that any of our previous cabling contractors who ever showed their faces again on site would be repeatedly stabbed in the eyes with an IDC punchdown tool. I’ve already had to re-terminate patch panels in two separate buildings after discovering that they hadn’t been terminated properly, a fault that not only demonstrates utter incompetence, but is also impossible to miss if you use even a basic continuity tester.
I am the Angry Technician. I am a professional, and take my job seriously. That is why when I install cabling, I GODDAMN TEST IT.