I have a lot of shit in my house that wants to/needs to talk to the Internet and to other devices in the house. No really. A lot. 4 desktop computers, 2 tablets, 2 dish receivers, 2 ReplayTv dvrs (possibly going away soon), hd-dvd player (don’t judge), PS3, Wii, slingbox , NDS, 2 Roku boxes (yes, I know I can use the PS3. I’d rather have the Roku), a Squeezebox (possibly just got superseded by the PS3), and a printer…in a pear tree. Not to mention access for my friends who come over with their laptops.

Whew. That’s a lot of shit. In a house built in 1977 with zero network jacks (of course not). I had a cobbled together smash up of wired (snaked around doorframes), wireless, wired with a wireless bridge (for shit that didn’t have the decency to be able to connect wirelessly), and ethernet-over-powerlines which worked surprisingly well.

Sick of all this mess, wanting as little stuff on wireless as possible, and wanting gigabit speeds throughout the house, I decided to install some network drops. The ideal situation would be to have the modem and main switch up in a closet somewhere out of sight. Wonderful, says I. Then a realize that closets don’t have fucking power outlets. And I would be damned if I was going to call an electrician to put power where there really should be no power and have to use a stepladder every time I need to trouble shoot something. So, the main switch would go right where the current modem and router lived: a small end table 6 inches from the DSL-cum-Uverse jack.

For a couple of weeks, I researched cable, jacks, plugs, switchs, routers, and tools; then agonized over price. Finally, the cable arrived, I had all the bits I was going to buy, and we were ready!

4/11/09 9am: Get up, get dressed, start cutting small holes in the walls where I wanted my drops: 1 each behind the living room tv, the garage, the master bedroom, my office, and the central spot in Tico’s room, now known as the network closet, whether he wanted it to or not.

4/11/09 9:45 or so: Tico ascends into the attic for the first andf most difficult of drops: the garage. See, we converted the garage into a room (insulated and ac’d!) some years back and the desktop and laser priter out there were living off of a semi decent wireless signal. It was not always reliable and I was sick of it. A drop was needed. And I decided to put it along the wall that seperates the garage from the kitchen. Whee! Guess what I found when I cut a hole? Insulation. “But interior walls aren’t supposed to need insulation!” you cry? Yeah. Unless the room used to be the garage. *sigh*. No big deal, we have fish tape. piece of cake.

OVER AN HOUR AND A CONTINUOUS STREAM OF PROFANITY LATER: We’re still working on that goddamned garage drop. Why? The drill bit is NOT LONG ENOUGH to go through the top “plate” of the wall. Ever build a wall? Horizontal piece on top, vertical pieces attached to it (studs), horizontal piece below. Top plate is generally composed of 2 2×4’s, but since my house was built in 1977, it seems to be made of fucking railroad ties. Tico finally got through, dropped the tape, fished the cable up, then went over to where the other end of the cable would go (his room). AND RAN INTO THE SAME MOTHERFUCKING PROBLEM! This time, no spot would work. All were too thick (and somehow there was DRYWALL DUST on the end of the bit????). I said “okay, rest, I’ll go to Harbor Freight.” HAHAHAHAHAH! No drill bit was long enough. And that’s when it dawned on me: This hole needed to be big enough for 3 cables to fit (the office was going to be a straight pass though), so I bought a set of paddle bits. Brought them home, explained to the poor guy doing all the shit work, and sent him back up top. First time, perfect hole. Now we had to get the end of the cable back down. Send fish tape, tie ribbon (lovely Christmas ribbon! Hey, work with whatcha got.) to end of tape, send tape up, attach cable, pull ribbon and cable. Coolness.

4/11/09 12pm or something: Thinking the worst was over, we installed the living room jack. FUCK VAULTED CEILINGS. Tico claimed he could see all of the attic and that this drop should work fine. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. First, he starts drilling in the wrong spot. When I tell him, he curses and moves over. I let him know where he’s supposed to be by tapping on the ceiling. He taps on the ceiling as well to tell me where he is. If we weren’t the ones doing it, it would have been hilarious. But since we were, it was ass. He sees where he needs to be, but he cannot get there. He can, however, get to my closet (shares a wall with the living room). I say “fuck it, drill a hole in the ceiling and I’ll handle it from there.”

4/11/09 2pm, I guess. I’m annoyed and hungry, Tico’s annoyed, hungry, pissed, tired and itchy: Final attic drop, the master bedroom. This room shared a wall with both master and hallway bathrooms (I have a small house). I look in the hole I made and see….something metal about a foot away…and a cross beam. Oh. Fuck. But I can hear the fish tape tapping its way down like a blind pedestrian (because a blind driver would make more sense?). This cross beam thing is not flush against the drywall so it shouldn’t have been a problem. Yeah. It took over 20 minutes to get this stupid drop to happen. Just a comedy of errors. But it happened.

4/11/09 2:something: Tico comes down from the attic, flips it off and I send him to the showers while the (shitty) punchdown tool, a bag of cat6 jacks, a cutter, and I get better acquainted.

4/11/09 3:30pm: I figure out what to do with the cable in my closet. The hole I made in the TV wall is conveniently near the bottom of my closet. I punch a hole from the closet side (okay three holes. Move EVERYTHING from the wall of the closet so you can see what the fuck you’re doing) and snake that bad boy through.

4/11/09 4:30pm: I have made exactly 3 of the 8 jacks I need. Fuck making jacks. My fingers hurt. I wake up Tico and we go to the grocery store, home to dump the groceries, Mooyah Burger, and Dragon’s Lair.

4/11/09 7pm: I make more goddamn jacks and try my hand at making cables. Fuck making cables. My jacks work, my cables didn’t. Whatever. [Edit: Holy shit, there was a trip to Fry’s in there are well for short lengths of cable because I gave the fuck up.] I make my drops look all pretty with plates (damn near professional looking job) and handwritten labels (this might come back to bite me in the ass). I never got around to buying all the spiffy switches and router because that was about $420. I could not bring myself to click “checkout” from newegg. But I discovered that between upgrading this and that and having LAN parties, I had enough switches to get by. I even had a SPARE gigabit switch. A SPARE! Who has spare gigabit equipment? Someone just gave it to Tico. I think it was Kent (thanks, Kent!). So, now I have a Gigbit main switch, and two 5 port 10/100 switches (one for the bedroom and the living room). I plug shit in and voila, it works. IT WORKS!


4/12/09 noon or so: Realize that I hadn’t made the last jack in my office look pretty. Install plate and move on.

So, what have we learned from this experience:

  • The attic sucks ass. Don’t go up there unless you absolutely have to, and even then, see if you can pay someone to do whatever it is you need done up there.
  • The attic door was built in 1977. It’s one of those pulldown things. They suck. The beams around it are either failing or were poorly constructed. The ceiling around the door bows and at random times, Tico said he could hear a *pop* and was convinced he was coming down the hard way.
  • Corded Tools > Cordless Tools. We have two battery packs for the Ryobi tool set. We need more. Battery died on the flashlight AND the drill. Fuck.
  • Both corded and cordless drills LOVED sucking in the blown insulation into their motors. Fear_of_fire++
  • Making jacks by hand: sucks ass. Like I said before, my fingers hurt. Perhaps my punchdown tool was not the best.
  • Making cables by hand is an exercise in frustration.
  • Insulation is itchy. Even the blown in stuff. Wear long sleeved shirts or suffer.
  • 1970’s home construction is far superior to current construction. Where else would you use fucking railroad ties in an interior wall?
  • Workmen who come to your house and work in your attic treat it like a goddamn trash pile! Fucking shit! Tico found beer bottle caps, assorted other trash and an open pocket knife. See, some past installer didn’t have a long enough drill bit either and his drill kept hitting wood before punching through so he grabbed his handy dandy pocket knife and GOUGED OUT THE WOOD in a funnel shape to make it work. Then graciously left the knife–still open–in the attic for Tico to find. With his open palm (no injuries). It’s a nice one, too. His now.
  • Concrete floors are no fun to kneel on. My knees hurt to the touch. How do kids crawl around all damn day?

Equipment bought to be used in this much needed but tiring adventure:

Shit I already have:

Equipment I want to upgrade to:

Props to:

  • Mick West for his informative website for doing this crap.
  • @pakazmir for recommendations on hardware (which I still haven’t bought) and cabling.
  • Kent for the gigabit switch
  • @aelerelean for doing all the shit work.