I used to work here

I’d like to show you where I used to work.  I won’t name the company except to say that it was a small marketing firm.  First, my former cube:

My former cube

My former cube

The “Employees must wash hands” placard is something I found at OfficeMax that fit just perfectly in my nameplate holder.  The Company Controller would repeatedly remove it and put it in my mailbox.  I, of course, would put it right back when I checked my mail.  I had a sign a la Peanuts to indicate whether I was somewhere in the office (The Geek is IN) or out (The Geek is OUT).  The blue and orange poster was a promotional thing that Sun handed out on campus at the School of Business one day.  It’s a timeline of Sun as compared with the rest of the world.  The cross thingy is a thing I made out of Celtic knotwork fonts and a Kyrie translated into Quenya.  The blue captain’s mug in front of the keyboard was the mandatory promotional crap that the company handed out.  I only used it for water.  The dark blue /dev/mug in the back next to the French press was my standard coffee cup.  The silver and blue light panel to the right of the phone is a binary clock.  Above it on the bookshelf is a rubber chicken next to a can of Pitr Cola.  The laptop wasn’t mine.  I always had one or more laptops docked for maintenance at my desk since they took away the IT work area.

The office poetry kit

The office poetry kit

Christa gave me this one year.  The cow-orkers played with it more than I did.

The bookshelf

The bookshelf

Holds my geeky books, a rarely-used tape dispenser, a rubber chicken, a can of Pitr Cola, a basket full of nasty candy I didn’t want, an 8 port switch, and Schrodinger’s Cat.  Just barely visible is my Mug of Vi sitting on a broken CD-ROM tray.  I figured that since the drive didn’t work anymore, I may as well use it for what it always gets accused of being.

The comm closet

The comm closet

Since we didn’t go in there very often, the company controller decided to put the coat rack in front of the comm closet.  I was there to do some cabling work on a Saturday afternoon so there was no one else there.  My access card allowed me to go anywhere in the building with no time restrictions which was very handy for getting things done when nobody else was around to complain about it.  I have no idea why the green hat was there.  It’s been there since I first started there and it was there when I left.

What I came to fix

What I came to fix

Fifteen years worth of neglect lead to a comm closet that looks like this.  Good luck trying to troubleshoot horizontal or patching issues.  Much of the punch blocks were unused and leftover from the office’s previous tenants.  In the top lefthand corner is an abandoned 66 block.  The black box next to it is the fibre transceiver for the twin fibre backbone.  The orange hose coming out of it is the conduit for the twin fibre backbone connections.  Most of the 66 block on the lefthand side was unused except for a few crossconnects where the phone system interfaced with the IP network, like the call monitoring station, fax machine, front door intercom, etc.  The smaller 110 block next to it is for the current (April 2008) phone system.  The mess in the middle is the relay rack for the network.  On top are the horizontal patch panels and on the bottom are three 3Com 3200 SuperStack II 24 port switches.  The electrical box on the right housed some of the circuit breakers for the office.

The floor of the comm closet

The floor of the comm closet

On the floor of the comm closet were empty boxes, spare switches, defunct UPSs, brand new, never opened UPSs, new cables, used cables, and various other debris.

The old 66 punch block

The old 66 punch block

The vertical blue cables on the far left are for the current phone system.  The two columns of 66 punch block are mostly unused, being leftover from the previous tenant’s phone system.  A few deconstructed CAT-5 cables are punched down here to connect the phone system to the IP data network for analog faxes, call monitoring, and the front door intercom.

110 punch block for the current phone system

110 punch block for the current phone system

The company was using a non-voip PBX-based digital phone system when I was there.  The 110 punch seen here was used to patch the horizontal cabling to the cubes and wall jacks into the vertical cabling (seen below the punch block as a bundle of white CAT-5) to the phone switch in the data room.

The mysterious black box

The mysterious black box

This ominous-looking black box was a 100baseTX to 100baseSC transceiver.  Two fiber runs came into the back of the box through the wall.  These came from the data room.  One fiber run went out through the orange hose to the back of the 3Com switch tree.  The other was used as a failover in case we lost the primary.  Not much of a failover since one would have to open the box and physically unplug one connector and plug in the other to switch the connection.  Not to mention having to reset the switches to get it working again.

Horizontal cabling

Horizontal cabling

This PVC pipe carried the horizontal CAT-5 and UTP phone cables to the wall jacks and cube outlets.

Top half of the patch panels

Top half of the patch panels

These are the top two patch panels in the rack.  The backs connected to the blue horizontal cabling seen above entering the PVC pipe.  The fronts were patched to the 3Com switches below.  As you can see, most of the jacks are empty.  The company was going through a rough patch (still is as of January 2009) and so many cube sat empty, leaving their patch jacks unconnected.

Bottom half of the patch panels

Bottom half of the patch panels

The only thing interesting here is the green coiled cable.  It was a CAT-5 cable that was wired directly into a feed going to the wall.  Where it went from there was anybody’s guess.  It was obviously a data line of some sort since listening to it got you an earfull of modem noise.  I could never seem to get an ethernet sniffer to dump traffic on it even though it was wired for ethernet.  I wanted to just cut it off and shove it back down the hole in the wall but my boss told me to leave it.  “We might need it” he said.  I asked him how we would know when we needed it if we didn’t know what it was…

The switches

The switches

The three 3Com SuperStack II 3200 24 port ethernet switches. By this point, the fourth had been removed.  You can see the empty spot in the frame below the bottom switch.

The 3Com wireless access point

The 3Com wireless access point

The first-gen 802.11 wireless access point.  The thing was evil.  It barely worked and had little range.  Not to mention getting craploads of EFI interference from the rest of the equipment in the closet.  It didn’t help that it sat behind the patch panels, either.

behind the patch panels

behind the patch panels

The horizontal cabling that ran to the cubes and wall jacks for the IP data network was patched down here to the back of the patch panels.  It’s the same blue cabling seen above entering the PVC pipe in the floor.

tools of the trade

tools of the trade

My cable tester (left) and my ethernet link checker (right).  Sadly, they were only mine to use and not to keep. But they were nice tools.  Not pictured were the punchdown tool and noise emitter for the phones.

Step 1:  Start fresh

Step 1: Start fresh

I unplugged every cable that was connected to the patch panels.

Step 0.5:  Write down where this crap WAS connected

Step 0.5: Write down where this crap WAS connected

Yeah.  I forgot to note where those cables had been connected before I disconnected them all.  But the wiring SHOULD be well-documented…  Heh.  Or not.  The blueprints showing the horizontal cabling were from 1994.  Well back to the drawing board.  I had to figure out each one by hand using the cable tester.

A Bare Relay Rack

A Bare Relay Rack

What four hours worth of work looks like before you start.

The Cthulic Mass of Copper Serpents

The Cthulic Mass of Copper Serpents

The tangled mess of CAT-5 that was previously infesting the relay rack is now laying on the floor in a heap.

The IP data crossconnects for the analog phone equipment

The IP data crossconnects for the analog phone equipment

I first connected the cables that didn’t go to the switches.  Those connected the analog phone jacks for the faxes, intercom,etc.

The end result

The end result

Over the next four hours, I completely rewired the relay rack.  Every cable was routed through the cable trays and into the proper patch jack.  Cables that connected to the left side of a patch panel were routed down the left side of the frame and into the left side of a switch.  Ditto for the right.  Finally, I secured the bundles with velcro cable ties.

A Job Well Done

A Job Well Done

And a clean(er) floor!

And a clean(er) floor!

Interestingly enough, this is part of the reason I was let go from this job.  I volunteered to to all this work on a Saturday for no pay – just because I was tired of the mess.  The management didn’t appreciate me doing volunteer work for the company.  I’m not sure why but they did carry on for a week about me doing this.

Completely unrelated note:  my Linux webserver (http://excelsiorlodge.org) just passed 98 days uptime!   Yayyy!!!

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  1. #1 by Phillip on May 4, 2009 - 11:26 PM

    Jeezy creezy those cables looked like a mess. I thought that my AV system was bad but I guess not.

  2. #2 by Matt on May 5, 2009 - 10:06 AM

    mmm… clean!

    And for no pay? Well, I guess if you were really tired of the mess…

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