Blind Cabling

My house is an odd mix of cabling oddness. The previous owners had both digital cable (for Internet service) and two satellite dishes, split ~9 ways (for hdtv). They also, at some point, had Verizon FIOS installed with both a phone and ethernet drop installed to this little nook in the living room. There is an incredible nest of coax cable in the attic, which I plan to (mostly) rip out one of these days.

The two telco drops from that original FIOS install were actually fairly accessible in the attic, so when I had FIOS installed, I asked the tech to patch in that phone line, but leave the ethernet alone since I wanted to run cat6 throughout the entire house. The FIOS tech was really amiable and creative, so he fished the coax run from the fiber patch area in the garage, up the wall, across my attic and down an existing attic to basement opening in to the storage room where my router lives. I meant to ask him to pull an extra lead down so that I could re-use the same drop some day, but I had to do something new-homeowner-ish while he was installing it, and I forgot.

We also put a desk in that little living room nook. It's my wife's primary work space; the household iMac and our home phone share it. Our iMac has been chugging along on our 802.11g network, but that has several throughput-releated downsides since all of our media data (music, tv, movies, etc.) live on a network share. My two other machines, both in the basement, were far easier to patch (drop ceilings, easy access to both rooms, etc.)

This week I have an abnormal amount of personal project time, so I thought one of my first tasks should be to see if I could somehow get this ethernet drop added to our wired network. Figuring I could somehow use the same route our FIOS tech used, I came up with three :

  1. Pull the coax back up to the attic with an attached lead, attach the cat 5, pull it back down. This has some risk... if the lead breaks or detaches when I'm pulling it up, I'm boinked.
  2. Try to drop the cable using the existing opening. This has a little risk also, but I don't lose anything by trying.
  3. Bore another hole into the "floor" of the attic and the "ceiling" of the basement next to the existing one. Risk? Oh gosh, I can't imagine it'd be a bad idea boring a hole right next to my primary power conduit for the house. Very little risk. facepalm

Sarcasm aside, I really like option 3. It gives me an excuse to create wiring capacity in my wall for later running about a half-dozen sets of 2xcat6/1xcoax, which has been the eventual plan. From my attic, though, it's really hard to tell what's a couple of inches to each side of the existing hole through several layers of ceiling/floor boards. The conduit is 2 inches in diameter, and the hole is about 2.5 inches wide. With the existing coax in there already, I couldn't shine any discernible light source either upwards or downwards in a way which gave me a clear view of the interior of the run. It's too bad, too, because it sure would be easier long-term to snake some 2 inch flex conduit up through a new set of holes and be done with it.

Option 2, then, seemed like the interim winner. I crawled over to the conduit run the other day and saw that I could see about 1/4 of an inch of light at the bottom of the run in the basement, if I stared hard enough. That was enough to motivate me to take a shot at it, so I set out to tackle the next problem, how to guide the wire down without it curling, wire fish being out of the question from a power-conduit-integrity perspective.

I MacGuyver'd myself a lead:

  1. Drinking straw split down the middle
  2. Metal countersink punch, taped mostly inside one end of the straw with electrical tape
  3. Cat 5 + nylon twine taped in the other side

I ran the cable down and when I felt it stop pulling1 I guessed that I had hit the end of the run. The resulting view from the basement was promising: I could see the end of my lead and pulled it through the rest of the way using a very long pair of needlenose pliers.

Cable terminated, I drafted this post on my wired mac, enjoying media throughput at about 4-6x stronger than it was on the WLAN2. I'll have to revisit my ideas for cabling the entire house. For now I'm considering using what I have right now as-is, and putting a punchdown block with a cable split, phone breakout and a gigabit switch up in the attic so that I can minimize the work required to traverse the floors. It means I'm splitting cable twice rather than once, which breaks a geek rule or two, but I'll have to move on.

After this experience went so well, and I couldn't see the shadow of the drop swaying much from the basement light source, I think the run's location itself is pure luck - it's probably a 3-4 inch-wide space in an interor wall between studs either near a wall's end or a corner. I don't think option #3 up there is even feasible in the same spot. There are probably other spots I could do this, but to make myself confident that it's possible, I'd really need to tear out pieces of one of the first floor walls to see what I was working with, (which may have been how they did the existing run in the first place).

And that, as anyone would imagine, has incredibly low WAF.

  1. and could kinda see it against the hole in the basement, I think maybe

  2. which doesn’t make mathematical sense, but several file copy tests tell me to shut up

Mar 18th, 2009

The Task of an American Writer

The task of an American writer is not to describe the misgivings of a woman taken in adultery as she looks out of a window at the rain, but to describe four hundred people under the lights reaching for a foul ball. This is ceremony.

Mar 17th, 2009

Down with Generic Resumes

One popular strategy for job hunting is to build a nice generic resume (or have some resume agency build it for you), then blast it out to all the employers that you can find. If you think about it for a moment, you’ll realize that this is about the worst strategy you could adopt.

A former colleague of mine hits the nail on the head with this one. As a hiring manager, I need you to sell me on yourself within 5-10 seconds of reading your resume. It should scream applicability. It should scream "fit". It shouldn't scream "Jack of all trades".

There's a time for a skills-based resume – when making a career change, for instance – but that isn't the same as a generic resume. A skills-based resume should still utilize your previous position, but when you describe your accomplishments, they should be phrased in a way that shows the applicable career-shifting skill, rather than the domain-specific skill.

Mar 16th, 2009

Book A Month - March 2009 (again)

I've been bad. Rather than getting along with finishing up The Confusion, (which I really want to do, really!), I let myself get sucked into another graphic novel. I mentioned to the friend that loaned me The Watchmen that I'd always been interested in reading V for Vendetta as I loved the movie.

Wow, was I shocked at the disparity! In as much as The Watchmen pledged allegiance to the original, V For Vendetta went its own way. There are entire major plot lines that were re-thought, entire character arcs dropped, historical elements shifted to be "less British", etc. I found this jarring, but after the first hundred pages, I had the same reaction I have whenever I read an original after seeing an adaptation for film - I end up thinking the book's way better. With V for Vendetta, it wasn't as strong a reaction, but what sealed it for me was the ending. Evey's final scene was far sweeter than just standing there watching fireworks, as she does in the movie. It was a pledge that the struggle for freedom didn't end with the death of the patient in room five. I liked that.

Anyway, now I have to watch the movie again, just because the story is so fresh in my mind.

Mar 16th, 2009

(I am) Speaking About (the new) Dragon (blog)

Recently, the Dragon Naturally Speaking team at Nuance launched their own blog – Speaking About Dragon. I can't resist reading (and sharing) a well delivered blog and based on the type and frequency of their posts as well as the resulting dialog, it seems like the Dragon team is finding this new social media outlet to be really useful. They also launched a Facebook Fan Page a few days ago, and it's getting off to a fair start.

Starting organic conversation with "the masses" is fascinating to watch, both as a consumer and as an employee. It will be interesting to see if this market encouragement causes any additional forays into social media for the Dragon team or other business units here. I try not to blog or tweet too much about work, but our products really are quite awesome, thus the plug.

Is it a bad idea to say "My awesome speech recognition software, let me show it to you!" ?

I think not. And, in case anyone was wondering, no, this post was actually not dictated using Dragon Naturally Speaking. DNS does rock, to be sure, but I recently re-imaged my laptop and haven't had time to install it just yet. I'll get there.

Mar 12th, 2009

Book A Month - March 2009 (For Real)

I knew I was going to see The Watchmen this weekend, so since I somehow missed the boat on the entire Graphic Novel genre when I was growing up, I borrowed the original from a friend at work and read it before going to see the movie.

This post is not going to be one of those reviews that lists the things I liked vs. the ones I didn't. It won't be a post about what was missing from the movie. Suffice it to say that I liked the movie, but I loved the book. The story was far easier to follow in print, even with all of the pirate comics mixed in. I thought Malin Akerman was mis-cast as Laurie Jupiter, but the rest of the ensemble worked really, really well.

It's been interesting walking around the office and discussing the move with other folks who saw it this weekend. Some liked it, some wanted their 3 hours back. So far, though, no one outright loved it. It was a successful adaptation, but to most, they were looking for a semi-faithful interpretation. I know why it wasn't, and I know about the ridiculous drama that has surrounded the decade-plus delay in getting this film to the screen. The film's ability to be "awesome" viewers who haven't read the book was far diminished, however. And, since it wasn't 100% faithful near the end, those who loved the book left wondering why the changes were made. I actually found the differences confusing, having read the last two chapters only five hours before seeing them on screen, but some thought that the modified ending was easier to understand on a wider level.

To each, their own, of course. I hear there's even more in the director's cut, so I'll have to acquire the DVD when it's released.

Mar 9th, 2009


Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness, concerning all acts of initiative (and creation). There is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin now.

Mar 2nd, 2009

Book A Month - March 2009 Update

No new book this month. I'm doing exactly what I said I'd do last month by taking twice the time to read, what is in essence, twice the book. Stephenson's The Confusion has proved itself to be quite the challenge. I'm certainly much more engrossed in the story than I was with Quicksilver. The more salient roadblock, though, is that it's been difficult to find chunks of time greater than 10-15 minutes in which to read. I will continue to push forward. If I'm able to complete this by month's end, I'll probably renew this effort with The System of the World for April and May. Here's to hoping!

Mar 2nd, 2009

Book A Month - February 2009 Kick-Off


I said that I was going to force myself to get through the rest of Stephenson's Baroque Cycle sometime this year. There's no time like the present, so I might as well get started now! Besides, since I pledged not to print anything I could read digitally, Cory Doctorow's Little Brother will have to wait as I'd need to either buy it or print my electronic copy.

It's a little disheartening to find reading a set of books by my favorite author to be difficult, but in this case it's actually downright tiring. I have 100% loved every singly other book that Stephenson wrote, but TBC is exhausting. The characters' storylines interweave and circumnavigate each other (and all of Europe and North America, for that matter) for the entirety of these volumes. I bold a sentence of an excerpt to solidify my point:

This “con-fusion” of two distinct novels (Juncto and Bonanza), alternating between Jack and Eliza’s stories, is a must-read for Stephenson fans. Though neither entry in the Baroque Cycle has impressed the critics as much as some of Stephenson’s previous work, The Confusion proves his narrative skills are still in fine shape. Casual readers beware: many critics feel the lengthy scientific and historical digressions, however well researched and explicated, tend to hold up the story. If the book suffers from an information glut or stylistic terseness, then it is the cracking plot and rich milieu of the Baroque world that set the ship right.

Anyway, since Juncto and Bonanza are, as noted above, yet increasingly inter-woven (he breaks up each book into several sections and shuffles them so that the timelines are actually in order, which I must admit is an odd shift compared to Quicksilver), I may stretch this read across February and March. I mean, leave it to me to pick the shortest month of the year to read an 832-page book, right? Who knows, maybe it'll be different this time around. I hope to be surprised!

Feb 1st, 2009

Book A Month - January 2009 (2)

Ok, so I didn't intend to actually read more than one book in a month, but since the first one was so short, and I had a couple of plane flights this month, here we are.

I've read several of Gibson's books. Each was just a little weirder than the one before, but I like weird, so that's not a big deal. What strikes me is that in each one there's at least one person who is totally dependant on drugs. Like, cracked out of their goard. I'm fine with that, too, actually... it adds an interesting "lack-of-control" element. Though, in the case of Spook Country, it gives one character a measured level of control over another.

I started reading Gibson because it seemed like the natural following to reading, at the time, all of Stephenson's novels. I had to take a short break when Quicksilver, the first volume of the Baroque Cycle, was released, but it's been nice to get back into Gibson again. I'll have to try to finish off The Baroque Cycle at some point this year.

Jan 30th, 2009