back to article Cabling horrors unplugged: Reg readers reveal worst nightmares

Blame cloud, blame DevOps, blame the increasingly prevalent trend towards managerial OCD, but server installations are becoming tidier. The influx of suites and external suppliers, such as Amazon and Microsoft, means that as tech's become “transparent” the back room's become more presentable. But you can’t blame tech’s …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Headmaster

    No photographs...

    ...but once a computer in the sales office (yep, the same one where the guy swivelled on his chair and kicked the power cable out) sometimes couldn't connect to the PDC - i.e. no network?

    The guy had a fan under his desk, and every time I went to look I turned it off, and *hey presto* connection.

    Anyway, cut a long story (and investigation) short. On his partition was a calendar pinned on the wall with a drawing pin. The pin had penetrated a Cat5 cable behind the false wall. Turn the fan on, the calendar flapped, wiggled the drawing pin, and somehow shorted out/made noise on the cable at random times.

    It took me months to sort that one out.

  2. gerdesj Silver badge
    Windows

    Cable party?

    In the last picture: The blue cables should be split into two. One lot follows the current path (run to far left, up and flow in left to right) the second lot should go straight up and flow in from the right to left.

    *Tsk*

  3. Stoneshop Silver badge

    Insufficient room to swing a cat

    Quite enough, if it was a reasonably sedate cat that didn't mind a few nasty cracks on its head.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Insufficient room to swing a cat

      Insufficient room to swing a Cat-5...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Those arent even close

    Back in the dot-com days there was a lot of cash flowing to people who really didnt know how to run IT and I'd occasionally end up working overnight on firewall upgrades with a 2am-4am change slot. This typically meant I'd have a couple of hours in the data center with nothing to do so I'd take a little walk and see what kind of tech was floating about.

    The worst I have ever seen was back in 2001-2002 (I forget exactly which) in an Exodus data center in London. I saw a 4m x 4m rented cage with racks around three sides facing outwards and the cabling ran point to point between the servers.

    It looked like some form of modern art installation take on a Gordian knot suspended in mid-air at the center of the cage. I suspect the racks themselves werent that stable given the tension on some of the cables.

    I also know a friend who worked in a hospital about the same time where a comms cupboard got *very* hot - to the point that the sleeves on the cat5 cabling became soft and fused. The way he tells it there was one point where 20-30 cables essentially became a brick, but the shielding and cores were fine it was just impossible to repatch without cutting the whole mess out.

    I've also personally seen a data center where when you lifted the suspended floor there was a 2 inch clearance below the floor before you hit a cable mass that looked like a snake scene out of an Indiana Jones film - there may or may not have been cable trays underneath but it really didnt matter as again the cables had simply been run point to point under the floor (and I'm told by the guy who eventually fixed that one that many of those cables had also helpfully been cable tied to the supports for the floor.

    Anonymous as there is an off chance that some people might be able to attribute these to the clients I worked with based on dates.

  5. Chris King Silver badge

    Amateur Hour

    Don't forget that cabling horrors can happen OUTSIDE the comms racks too...

    One site I had to deal with contained a bunch of startups who didn't want to pay the standard rate for a proper Cat5 network point installation. One enterprising soul tried to use 8-core BT CW1308 (that's right, 4-pair telephone cable) and when it didn't work, he said "Well, it's twisted pair just like Cat5 isn't it ?"

    Another one got the right cable, but didn't bother with trunking - they stapled it to the wall, and then committed another crime against networking... They terminated it to a proper outlet, but stripped back about 9" of the outer insulation.

    1. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Re: Amateur Hour

      Crazy, also expensive, because of the smaller demand, CW1308 (especially the relatively unusual 4 pair) is considerably MORE expensive than cat 5 in most cases!

    2. Vic

      Re: Amateur Hour

      "Well, it's twisted pair just like Cat5 isn't it ?"

      I got called out to an emergency. Several computers couldn't access the network reliably - or at all in one case.

      "Have you had new cables put in?", I asked. "No" was the reply. Until one guy admitted that yes, he had re-cabled some of the network because the old cables were getting scruffy.

      Pin1 went to pin1, pin 2 to pin2, etc. But no-one had told him about which pairs had to be twisted together, so he'd just grouped 1&2, 3&4, 5&6, 7&8. I had to stare at the connectors for a few minutes to make sure it wasn't me misunderstanding...

      A few minutes of retermination, and the network sprang into life.

      Vic.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Our friends across the pond love point to point cabling

    Came as a bit of a shock, first time I had test one of our systems with a US customer. That said.... No unbundling required, when having to fix a cabling issue or replace a faulty cable.

  7. Darryl

    The server room that I inherited at my last job was as big as a decent office. There were four racks lined up side-to-side for seven servers and a bunch of old 24 port 3Com switches. The reason four racks were needed was because, instead of buying rack mounted servers, they bought towers and put each on a custom made metal shelf screwed into the rack. Also on each shelf was a standalone UPS dedicated to that server. Cabling the building was handled by the on-staff electrical dept. and even though the supervisor was a master electrician who was also certified in comms installation, the guys working for him just dealt with industrial electrical installations. This resulted in most of the drop ceiling tiles in the room being long gone, and Cat5 lines, fibre, and phone lines dropping in all over the place - some of the Cat5 terminated with an RJ45, which was plugged straight into one of the antique switches. After some arguments with the fire inspector, who insisted that there needed to be ceiling tiles, I attempted to bundle some of this nightmare up and work it into four or five common drop points so I could get most of the ceiling reinstalled.

    And don't get me started on cable ties or zip ties or whatever you want to call them. I think I must've cut at least a few hundred out of there before I could move anything.

  8. x 7

    its all very well laughing at untidy cabling..........but generally speaking untidy loose cables are easier to trace and work on. If you've got 100 leads all cut to length and tied together you've no chance of trying to visually trail a cable from A to B. Even if you cut the ties the bloody things are often too tight to separate without unplugging them all

    If they're loose, hanging and trailing you can physically see whats going where and can easily plug and replace or move without any risk or hassle.

    Tidy cables are for anally retentive inbred twats who've inherited a OCD cleaning complexes from their mothers (or elder "sisters" where closely inbred)

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      You can also trace them more easily if the colour coding is - picked up whatever cat5 was in the discount bin that day + different hues produced by fading and years of dust

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Research

      What cable id's and patching schedules are for.

    4. calmeilles

      That's why each cable needs to be uniquely labelled both ends. And every run have a few spares just in case.

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Steven Jones

      Wrong spec co-ax

      Oh yes, got bitten by that one. Workstations at the end of the cable (near the terminator) worked, those in the middle did not. I checked the cable and it was the wrong spec and the cable guy expressed surprise that it actually mattered (he'd laid about 50m of the stuff).

      nb. on a side issue, co-ax cable was invented by one of the unsung heroes of electrical engineering and physics, Oliver Heaviside. A self-taught physicist and mathematician, he was one of the chief developers of vector calculus and it is he who is responsible for the modern formulation of Maxwell's famous equations (Maxwell had 20 formulas and 20 variables whilst Oliver Heaviside's formulation reduced this to 4 formulas and 4 variables). He developed transmission line theory and is responsible for many of the terms used in electrical engineering, like inductance, impedance etc. A huge debt is owed to him and for much of his life he was treated as an outsider from the scientific mainstream.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Wrong spec co-ax

        > he was one of the chief developers of vector calculus .... He developed transmission line theory

        Bastard !

      2. calmeilles

        Re: Wrong spec co-ax

        Oliver Heaviside. A self-taught physicist and mathematician

        And one of two physicists who predicted the existence of the Kennelly–Heaviside layer.

        1. x 7

          Re: Wrong spec co-ax

          Heaviside layer.????

          More bloody posts about Cats?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Wrong spec co-ax

            Looking at the ven diagram for this one, we have people who know musicals, overlapped with people who know cabling (reading this article), overlapped with people who know about the Heaviside Layer (possibly itself an intersection of radio amateurs and physicists) giving a population sum total of about half a dozen UK residents. Funny nonetheless, but limited audience :-)

            1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

              Re: Wrong spec co-ax

              >Funny nonetheless, but limited audience

              But ones that can't go home -even though we already are :-( luckily we all have NoScript. )-:

              I could be finished by Six #O#

        2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Wrong spec co-ax

          Calmeilles "...Heaviside. one of two physicists who predicted... the Kennelly–Heaviside layer."

          Well, who was the other?

          LOL

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Wrong spec co-ax

            Calmeilles "...Heaviside. one of two physicists who predicted... the Kennelly–Heaviside layer."

            Well, who was the other?

            It was Arthur.

    2. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Re: BNC connectors

      Don't forget that the centre pins of 75R and 50R BNCs are slightly different too, can't remember the exact details, but I do remember that on some brands, physical damage to the socket can occur from the wrong impedance plug being inserted. Bet that kind of 'hardware virus' would've made it funner... :\

      1. Archivist

        Re: BNC connectors

        For BNCs the pin diameter difference is an Urban Myth. The 50/75 ohm impedance difference is due to the amount of PTFE dielectric inside the connector. Compare a plug of each type to see the difference.

        Of course cable with a given dielectric will have a different ratio of inner to outer diameter between the impedances, but you'll have finding two different cables with exactly the same dielectric construction to compare.

    3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      75-ohm coax...

      75-ohm RG-59 is typically a slightly larger diameter than 50-ohm RG-58.

      Typically 0.242" vice 0.195".

      It's a sufficiently large difference (24%) that I think it's fair to say it's obvious.

      Even in isolation, without reference to the other.

      There are other cable types of course, but these are the most common.

      1. Vic

        Re: 75-ohm coax...

        There are other cable types of course, but these are the most common.

        I repaired a CCTV installation in a club one afternoon. The terminations were crap - to the point of some of the BNCs on the cameras not even being crimped.

        It looked like a quick job, so I priced it according to the two cameras I actually inspected. Turned up with the stripper tool already calibrated for the cable.

        And then I found out that every other camera in the place had a different cable type to the ones I'd looked at - and to each other, mostly. The place was a mess.

        I didn't earn much from that job. But I did end up getting quite a few drinks bought for me by a very grateful club boss...

        Vic.

    4. Down not across Silver badge

      Of course, to most people they look and behave identically, and so are easily swapped for testing, or when a longer cable is required. All of this causes occasional, spurious, and very difficult to trace errors on both the computer networking and video side of things.

      And then you get someone who thinks its OK to extend the reach by running single coax from T connector to the NIC...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    another cabling horror

    I unfortunately no longer have the pics from this recently moved DC, around 150 m2, and each and every freaking cable (LAN or SAN) going hung to various pieces of the roof ...

    All of that because my predecessor was pressured to death to move the whole DC ...

    Took me months to sort out this mess ...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not toooo bad!

    Guess I was one of the few people looking at those pictures and thinking, "actually, that's not too bad really"?!

    Where I once worked had a centralised host computer with lots of serial connections to local and remote green-screen terminals. All connections went through muxes that basically provided soft-patching, and then either on to a patch panel* and then on to local terminals, or into voice/data muxes and then into KiloStream(TM) modems to the remote offices. Part of the problem was that things got changed and moved about a lot, and part of it was that the serial muxes were spread over a few cabinets. And there was no underfloor anything... so to visualise it... it looked like a bunch of cabinets are barfed up a lot of grey spaghetti onto the floor. The floor was all cable... you could not avoid walking on cable. And cables were not labelled!

    *actually, the patch panel was luxury... before that, it was just cables disappearing up through removed ceiling panel and then snaking their way to the various offices in the building.

    Funny thing is though, it did all work. If there was a problem with a cable, you could relatively easily find either end of where it should plug in and add yet another cable to replace it. Pulling the old cable out was often not an option though... largely due to the weight of the existing cable.

    Where the internet is represented on network diagrams as a cloud since the admin can only really assert that things go in one place and come out another, I often felt that that network should've used a knotted, tangled mess of cable to represent it's own hidden mysteries!

    Anonymous because... it seems like a good idea really!

    1. Vic

      Re: Not toooo bad!

      Guess I was one of the few people looking at those pictures and thinking, "actually, that's not too bad really"?!

      No, I was with you there. I've seen much worse.

      I worked in a "server room" a few years back where there was no sense of "ownership" of any of the racks - people would just slot their kit in wherever they though it would fit[1]. And, of course, that usually meant running cables between racks to link up their units. Would that cable go through the assorted switchgear we had for that purpose? Would it go through the roof drops? Would it buggery.

      Extricating any piece of kit from any rack would usually involve recabling somone else's project[2] because they'd strung wires straight across your server, with insufficient slack to be able to get the cable out of the way...

      Vic.

      [1] All those thermal problems that are running through your head right now - yes, they all happened.

      [2] In the early days, I'd make efforts to find out who owned the kit in question to make sure that unplugging their cables wasn't going to cause a major headache. Then we had a major power cut to the site, and absolutely everything wnet down[3]. Once power was restored, nearly half the units in the room were never powered up again. I soon realised that most of the stuff in there was total crap that wasn't being used any more...

      [3] There were UPSes on quite a lot of the kit - but the outage was long enough to exhaust the batteris. Nothing in that room had diesel backup (nor needed it).

  12. Nate Amsden

    the opposite

    some pretty amazing cabling jobs pictured here

    http://izismile.com/2016/01/21/these_images_will_make_computer_nerds_everywhere_very_happy_23_pics.html

    1. Nate Amsden

      Re: the opposite

      sorry if the link was a dupe of the reddit/imgur thread if it was. I don't use reddit or imugur. or facebook or twitter or most of the rest of the internet except el reg.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not a nightmare. Yet. But where I am now the "highly skilled" fitters (or whatever brain-shy knuckle draggers they sub-contracted out to) managed to cable the entire floor of the building but left no office plan where the ports were connected. The cables themselves in the office were not terminated into floor panel sockets, they were just deployed as flying cables to be plugged straight into a device and the only identifying marks on the cables were written on the cable using a biro, most of which appear to have been worn off the moment anybody plugged the cable into a device.

    Wonderful. Fecking wonderful. It's all OK until something goes wrong or somebody wants to move the office around a bit.

    The knuckle draggers' attempt at AV cabling was even worse...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "The cables themselves in the office were not terminated into floor panel sockets, they were just deployed as flying cables to be plugged straight into a device and the only identifying marks on the cables were written on the cable using a biro,"

      To balance that story out a little, our company has done a job very like you describe. You, as IT probably wanted a proper job with wall and floor plates etc. But the customer PHB signing off may well have been one of those who thinks that wall/floor plates are an expensive luxury and insists on corner cutting. In our defence, we did label everything properly but if I'd had my way we'd have walked away from the job.

    2. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Did you say flying males on solid core

      Doesn't comply with the Cat5 spec so you can reject the lot, surely?

      You got a Cat5/6 test result sheet, right?

      - Of course not. Nobody does those :(

  14. AustinTX
    Linux

    Illuminati Online

    Bad enough when it's a company's network that looks like spaghetti... how about when it's an actual Internet Service Provder? Behold Illuminati Online circa 2000:

    https://imgur.com/a/flhlT

    Yes, THAT Illuminati Online. Originally the BBS of Steve Jackson Games, the USA secret service decided to seize the entire contents of their office on the pretense that they were training the public how to hack teh internets. Actually, they were designing a role playing game. You know, roll 2D6 for 11 or higher to see if you'd "hacked" that server, durrrrr. SGJ never got their shit back. Years later, SJG miraculously won their lawsuit and launched the ISP with the money.

    And check out the old 2000 website:

    http://io.fondoo.net/

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Illuminati Online

      You could have illustrated the point to Steve Jackson thusly...

      Page 63. "You have reached the Starship Jupiter's comms cabinet. In front of you are thousands of wires. There are red ones, blue ones and green ones. One of them must control the security grid defences protecting the bridge. Unplug it and you will be able to enter the bridge and regain control of the ship before it hits the planet. Quickly now! Choose a cable, but choose wisely - pick the wrong one and unplugging it will damage the life support system.

      If you choose a red cable turn to page 234.

      If you choose a blue cable turn to page 137.

      If you choose a green cable turn to page 345."

      On pages 234, 137 & 345.

      "If you chose the left hand half of the bundle turn to page 378 (etc)"

      And then just "You follow the cable into the corridor service duct. Turn to page ..." again and again until finally, after 50 pages...

      "The cable disappears through a hole in the wall. You open the adjacent door and follow the cable through to the other side. Turn to page 63."

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Illuminati Online

        I think that's what iso9001 requires as documentation for a regular office network

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Illuminati Online

        Wrong Steve Jackson

      3. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Re: Illuminati Online

        Is the the Impossible Mission that Tom Cruise got killed on?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Picture 2

    Picture 2 - I have something pretty similar in the comms room at one of my client's depots.

    Small-ish office space, only two racks, but the floor was flood-cabled and they all terminate on patch panels in one cabinet. But for some bizarre reason, the switches and router are in the second cabinet right next to it. So there is a great thick, thigh-sized bundled of cables squeezing out of one cabinet into the next. Madness!

  16. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
    Joke

    Evil plan...

    1. Check the location of the wiring from the EXIF data

    2. Contact copper thieves in each location

    ...

    4. Profit!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cat5 horrors? How many of these kids had to wrestle with IBM grey channel cables? They were like handling 20 metre anacondas especially at bulkhead connectors where there could be a solid mass 10 cables deep. There were rectangular connectors at each end that caught on everything not to mention that there was a right and wrong way round for them, getting a cable installed the wrong way round caused weird intermittent problems that could take ages to diagnose.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Paint the whole world with a raindow.

    Trying to trace a cable across a mixed office/sorting/production line building covering 6 stories.

    The cable disappeared into an overhead cable trunking (mixed with power and telephone cables!!!)

    It was vaguely red.

    No red cable in the server room.

    Started tracing it through the overhead trunking - which was helped by the fact that half the trunking covers were missing and everything was just hanging between the cross-members due to it being massively over-capacity.

    20m in I found it had been patched into a vaguely GREEN cable.

    No green cable in the server room.

    Went back and carried on tracing the cable.

    Another 40m in, I found the green cable patched into a vaguely BLUE cable.

    Server room is FULL of effing blue cables.

    I did manage to trace it, but my efforts were in vain; you see the cable trunkings were fed into and up a lift shaft, with NO fire-breaks; and just after my triumph, a welder working on a lift repair managed to set the lot alight, burning out an estimated 100 miles of power, phone and comms cables.

    Kay & Co, the home of bad wiring.

    1. x 7

      Re: Paint the whole world with a raindow.

      "burning out an estimated 100 miles of power, phone and comms cables."

      but that was GOOD, surely? It meant you had a clear run to start from scratch and do it properly

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Paint the whole world with a raindow.

        Are you joking ?? The "A" team always got the shit jobs, the "B" team (three times the staff, 1/10th of the workload), always took the prestige jobs - and screwed them up.

        All the senior time servers/wasters were on the "B" team, one old fart kept referring to MODEMS as MO-DELS; and none of them were useful for anything more complex than a 2 way light switch.

        Besides, I got sacked not long after, for refusing to sign off on 1/2 million pounds worth of dodgy office equipment one of the directors had ordered (and it not only didnt work, it couldnt do the job he had bought it for even if it had worked).

    2. Nigel 11

      Cable Tracing

      Guys, buy yourselves a cable tracer! (aka "Tone and Probe" kit)

      Plug the signal generator thingy in at one end, Wave the probe at the patch panel outlets or the cables protruding from them until you hear the warbling tone loud and clear. That's the other end.

      With 100BaseT you can even trace a cable without breaking the datacomms for more than a few seconds, You inject the tone on the 7/8 and 4/5 pairs which 100BaseT does not use. 1000BaseT uses all eight wires, but much hardware will downgrade itself to 100BaseT if you disconnect 4/5/7/8, and most users won't notice the slowdown). You use one of those 2:1 network splitters as the injector. (You know, one of those thingles that connects 4/5 to 1/2 and 7/8 to 3/6 on the second outlet so you can run two 100BaseT Ethernet channels down a single Cat5e premises cable. Naughty but occasionally nice, compared to a two-week wait and a three-figure bill to install a printer).

      Why? Well, there are nightmare undocumented spaghetti wiring tangles. And then there are anally retentive tightly bundled and tied installations that look like works of art, except that someone put the wrong numbers on the ends on one or more wires. Both problems easily solved.

  19. David Roberts

    Thin co-ax

    IIRC should be one long run, with T junctions by each PC with a short run of cable to the network card.

    However it is so simple to reconfigure that people were finding a T connector and side run, then sharing the side run using another T connector...which branched into another T connector.....and tree structures all the way down. Followed by indignation when the network didn't.

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: Thin co-ax

      IIRC should be one long run, with T junctions by each PC with a short run of cable to the network card.

      Not quite. The T-connector needs to be plugged into the NIC.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: Thin co-ax

        I remember: Nightmare with T-Pieces where someone has fiddled with either of the through connections. Trying to find out where the disconnection was with a long run of cabling going through several locked offices was no joke. I always used to insist on EAD sockets which prevented that from happening.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Thin co-ax

          Judicious rewiring of the mains plug so the chassis ground was at 240V would be the BOFH solution to people fiddling with connectors

  20. Jim Howes

    No cabling disaster compares to the wiring disaster that is inner-city Dublin

    Seriously, we here in the UK are used to seeing BT Openreach created cables spanning spaces between pole and cable, and these things are generally (unless kelly, or some of the other contractors have had anything to do with them) reasonably tidy affairs.

    Then I went on a trip to Dublin.

    I have no idea who manages irish telephone cables, but some of the example birds-nest cabinets shown in this article look absurdly OCD-neat compared to ordinary building telephone wiring in Ireland's capital. From windows that can't be opened because they are in the way of the most direct path for a cable, to ten cables taking the same overall route (but ten different intermediate routes) across a wall, I couldn't find words to describe the impending disaster that is dublin telecoms wiring.

    I've never worked for BT, (despite somehow ending up on the committee of the local BT staff social club) and have only ever been responsible for cat5 cabling, but seriously, what the hell is going on in Dublin? (Apart from the Guiness and whiskey, which are quite accepatable distractions, when I'm there on holiday, but probably not if I had to do a wiring job there)

  21. Giles C

    I've come across a few in my time, now I always spec 800 wide cabinets after trying to cable servers in a 600 wide too many times.

    Also insist on the following layout in floor cabinets when we re-wire sections

    Patch panel

    Cable management

    Switch 48 port

    Cable management

    Patch panel

    And repeat as required

    Flood patched with 150mm cables.

  22. PhilipN Silver badge

    All hail

    For perspective : A while ago I was looking into home telephone wiring systems to try something imaginative and I came across various explanations online.

    One of them, with photos, declared that back in "those days" the wiring done by a well-trained (they all were) telephone engineer at all locations were close to works of art. Seeing the photos, I had to agree. Good quality kit (natch) but crystal clear layout and barely a millimetre of excess cable anywhere. For connections, every wire stripped to precisely the same depth.

    The bloke who did such installations had probably been doing it for 10 years and would probably be doing it for another 10 years but it was impressive.

  23. jzl

    Software

    At least you hardware guys have something to show when you're asked by the boss why a small change is taking forever.

    I've seen just as much spaghetti in code form before.

    That said, still glad I don't have to do hardware.

  24. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    I got a call-out...

    ...to a company in the City whose entire network had gone down. Their IT bod had gone on holiday and they had looked through the Yellow Pages to find me.

    I arrived on site and was shown the comms room, which looked a bit like one of the "before" shots in the article. Whilst rummaging around in there I discovered I had an audience. A steady stream of people poked their head round the door wishing me good luck. I was a bit puzzled by this until I was told that I was not the first, not even the second, but about the third company that had taken on this seemingly impossible assignment.

    As it turned out, I was in and out of there within about an hour, with no need for any ancillary trouble-shooting kit.

    The problem?

    Someone had taken a patch cable from a switch and plugged it back into the same switch.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: I got a call-out...

      >Someone had taken a patch cable from a switch and plugged it back into the same switch.

      The ping time was good though

    2. Dick Emery

      Re: I got a call-out...

      Talk about giving you the 'run around' :)

  25. This post has been deleted by its author

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Webmaster horror

    I was just a simple webmaster with no network or systems background when I inherited a webserver ensconced is a rats nest like the first picture here.

    Not a single cable was labeled and I dreaded having to try to access the box through all that clutter.

    Invariably a wrong nudge could dislocate one or two cables, and it would take hours for some network guy to figure out what was wrong.

  27. Agincourt and Crecy!

    Only one cable but....

    A while ago I was a UNIX admin for a well known bank on the UK high street. We had a Share dealing system that used IBM ESS as its storage. From time to time there were off errors tat seemed to be storage related but we never got to the bottom of them. That is until the day I was in the data hall working on something else and noticed the consoles for the system spewing out lots of IO errors. Curious, I ambled over to the storage and found the cabinet open and a cable coming out from it. Closer examination revealed a 4 way 13 amp extension plugged into the PDU of the array and the offending cable was plugged into this extension. Following the cable led me to a cleaner, who had for many months been plugging his vacuum cleaner into the 4 way extension in order to vacuum the floor tiles! I was never wholly convinced that spiky vacuum noise was the root cause of our issues, but they did go away after we banned the cleaner from opening rack doors to plug his vacuum cleaner in.

    1. Hans 1 Silver badge

      Re: Only one cable but....

      Same experience here, though it was a printer server that got unplugged where I worked...

  28. Dick Emery

    Cables that go nowhere

    I used to admin a office in London and had racks that were pretty much inaccessible. They were partially hidden behind lots of clutter and what you could get to was a knotty mess. Many of these cables actually went nowhere because the prior admin could not be bothered to unplug one when not used anymore. They all went underneath the flooring and were unlabelled. Trying to trace a fault or changing a desk location was a nightmare. There were also ethernet hubs dotted around the offices which made it double difficult.

    1. Klose

      Re: Cables that go nowhere

      Yes. These cables are my nightmare! Can't work without a patch panel.

  29. BlackKnight(markb)
    Mushroom

    the next day

    cleaned up many a comms room thats looked like those photos. take a simple switch stack replacement add on 4 hours of repatching and cable management being carful to reconnect every connection only to come back a week later to see half a dozen 5-10m cables hanging down the front again. Then there was the time a colleague went into a comms room, day after he'd finished a replacement to see a single 10 meter cable just hanging down the front for a 1 meter patch.. the phrase that were uttered that day and immortalised in email were hilarious.

    The excuse was always "but we didnt have any" our answer, "come and see us, we have draws full" We would always leave behind a box of appropriately sized cables but still get these 10 meter monsters for the shortest patch possible.

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: the next day

      One of my clients heard they'd landed a b-i-i-g contract (building a well-known landmark in suburban London) and they quickly relocated the company to a warehouse close to the site. Everyone pulled out the stops to get moved in within a matter of a couple of days - my bit was to do the Ethernet infrastructure cabling. The only company that let them down were BT who were to install just one line (for a fax machine) to a location in the offices on the first floor. They pinched one of my cables which was dangling ready to be cabled into the patch-panel cabinet and stuck a BT socket on the other (upstairs) end of it. They were told in no uncertain terms to come back and re-do it properly using their own cable from street to socket.

  30. Herby

    Neat wiring doesn't fail

    An old adage told to me in the late 70's by a telco guy. Applies here as well.

    Then again I've heard talk about wiring in a telco central office. The main central cross connect was a wire bundle that went across the room and was over 3 feet deep. The procedure "normally" was to yank out the de-commissioned wire before wiring its replacement, but after the build up you couldn't do it any more. Then there were rat infestations where the insulation would be eaten, and they they made up poisoned impregnated wire to prevent it, and every had to wear protection to do wiring. The mass just grew and grew. I was told it wasn't a pretty sight.

    Now if I can get the short in the mains line to the bathroom that keeps popping the breaker fixed (it is intermittent)m my wife will be much happier. (*SIGH*)

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: Neat wiring doesn't fail

      The procedure "normally" was to yank out the de-commissioned wire before wiring its replacement, but after the build up you couldn't do it any more.

      Cut the connector off both ends. It's easy to pull a dead wire through a bundle if it doesn't have a plug on the end. Not absolutely sure you are cutting the right wire? Get a cable tracer (above). Cables tied? Cut off the nylon ties and replace with velcro ties, one at a time.

      OK I have never tried any of this on a three-foot bundle. In theory it works.

      1. GreenJimll

        Re: Neat wiring doesn't fail

        > OK I have never tried any of this on a three-foot bundle. In theory it works.

        I have - sometimes it does work, sometimes it doesn't. Depends if some joker has put "joiny blocks" inline in cables buried in the bundle. That's hours of fun for the whole family.

  31. Sword2012

    A long, long time ago...

    Worst case I've ever seen in my career was in, let's say, a highly secure governmental department...

    I was called in to find out why microphones kept producing sparks, and why so many were failing to work...

    I found that the stage had been recently rewired by an electrician and, instead of using XLR connectors on the mics, Speakon connectors on the amps and speakers, and a mains connector for the movable lectern light, he'd used 3-pin mains connectors on everything!!!

    Of course, none of the connectors was labelled, which meant that the output from an amplifier could potentially power the light ("Disco!"), but that the mics could be plugged straight into the mains. Hence the sparking as the coils popped each time a new mic was used...

    I rewired everything the day before a handsome young lieutenant, the cream of England, was due to give a speech to the government on additional funding for the Navy, and was recce'ing the room while I was working.

    I still find it hard to believe that he could have given his life for Queen and Country, just by giving a ****ing presentation...

  32. Slow Joe Crow

    I'm thanking my lucky stars right now. I work for a large company that uses proper cabling contractors so our data center racks have properly punched down and labeled patch panels and neatly labeled cables. That is the good, on the bad side as we moved to denser servers our cabling got so big it was blocking airflow under the floor and we had to convert to overhead racks.

    The labs on the other hand can get very messy very quickly and start to look like some of these pictures.

  33. testpilot

    Back in the days of analog amateur radio (although come to think of it, Morse code is essentially binary), my station sported three full-height racks including a massive 1 KW transmitter (American legal limit) with evilly-glowing tubes...sorry, valves...and even eviller Hg-vapor rectifiers in its power supply. Everything was strung together with the usual (night)mare's nest of everything from lamp cord and doorbell wire through shielded audio wire to heavy 50 Ohm coax...not to mention heavy high-voltage lines, flexible cooling air ducts, and copper plumbing for the transmitter power supply's water cooling. Of course, everything except the plumbing was black.

    A visiting fellow "ham" from the UK, gazing at this with wild surmise, took his boffin-grade pipe out of his mouth long enough to remark, " y'know, I really don't understand why back Home we still call this 'wireless'..."

  34. MacGyver

    No Downtime and for no money.

    I've seen all of those and worse, but we can't really blame the current unlucky guy that inherits those nightmares. We've all worked for the "no downtime ever", "no, we have no money for cable, ends, or velcro-straps", "no, we have no money for labels for the 1998 label-maker", and "no overtime to do it on Sunday either".

    We all know it was most likely the boss or his cousin/brother that "knows about computers" that got it to that state in the first place.

    Everyone wants it done right, but no one want to pay for it, so it never gets fixed.

    I had a boss send a pick of a rack we "control" in a small building once. It was in a sorry state, so I told him it would be a minimum of 2 hours of complete downtime for the building and that if he wanted them all to be the same color and length in would cost $3,000. Turns out the rack was just fine the way it was all along. Imagine that.

  35. GreenJimll

    Comms rooms are not cupboards

    I've seen (and probably contributed) to cabling nightmares over the years. One mess that springs to mind though was in a newly built gym. We had a lovely dedicated comms room, with two full height racks - one for the patch panels and our switching, and one for some sports governing bodies who were located in the building (they'd put their equipment in that rack and then cross patch into the patch panels in our rack as they moved around offices, etc). It wasn't the patching that was the real problem (at the time - it probably is now due to "organic" growth): it was that the facilities management guys gave a key to our comms room to the folk running the gym.

    I got called in to patch in some extra sockets, and upon opening the comms room door, a load of weights rolled out, followed rapidly by an exercise crash mat falling towards me. The gym folk had mistaken "comms room" for "general storage cupboard" and filled it with spare gym equipment. I had to empty this all out into the corridor to get to the comms racks to do the patching.

    After doing the job I went to the gym reception, asked if they had a key to comms room, took the one they gave me, explained that it was our comms room, not a cupboard and then told them that their spare gym equipment was neatly stacked next to it. The key came back with me and my then boss asked FM nicely to not give random building occupants keys to our comms rooms.

  36. Dafyd Colquhoun

    Staple guns should be banned

    Had a day's worth of fault finding with a TDR (an old CRT Tektronix one that weighed a tonne) because some dopey 'leccy had installed a new 10BASE-2 coax run using a staple gun in the Forestry Dept of the uni I went to.

    The problem was that the numpty had missed quite a few times and put the staple through the coax. So he pulled the staple out and redid the job over the top. Problem was that withdrawing the staple dragged the shield through the centre conductor and shorted out the cable. TDR found each short, and since laying new cable wasn't an option it was a matter of cutting back just enough cable to fit two new BNC plugs and then join them with a barrel connector.

    Had a weird one in the electronics lab too. This lab had 10BASE-2, but with the fancy floor connectors that allowed a cable to be plugged in that broke the circuit, diverted up to the PC, and then went back down again (totally superseded by 10BASE-10). The floor ports had little covers secured by a chain. Someone had used sink plug chain, the one with lots of little ball bearings. The balls would fall out, roll across the floor and down into a port, shorting out the special connector. Apparently took AGES to figure out the fault, but then all it needed was a strong vacuum cleaner to 'fix' it.

    I don't miss 10BASE-2 in the slightest. The best part of going to 10BASE-10 was the part time work I had making patch leads for the computer centre (they were too cheap to buy them). I still have the wiring pattern burnt into my brain!

  37. Black Betty

    Try a 6' x 3' x 6" thick' solid SLAB of individual red-white twisted pairs.

    It was the main telecoms room of an office building in North Sydney. I took a squiz when the Telecom bloke hooked us up after an office move.

    For thirty years, each new phone connection had got it's own brand new twisted pair between Telecom's connector strip and the building's. None of the older patch wiring had ever been removed, simply disconnected and left floating in the breeze. By the time of our move, the only thing that could be seen of the racking was the tips of the hooks the wires laid in. The newest were actually tied to older wires with scraps of wire.

    The ridiculous thing? Those old disconnected wires came out (sometimes in handfuls) like they were greased with owl poop. What probably started with laziness while there was plenty of space gradually morphed into NOPE! as the tangle became thicker and apparently no-one had ever been game enough to tug any loose ends.

    We tugged a lot of loose ends that day. I reckon I was shorted, but I still got well and truly shtonkered on my share of the proceeds.

    Sometimes though, there's something to be said for the simplicity of a bunch of keys and a length of jute twine. The results aren't really pretty, but they are quick.

  38. a_mu

    Co ax cable network and tv studios

    I doubt this will be read,

    But I'll put it here for posterity.

    Oh Yes, used to love the 75 ohm / 50 ohm coax days of Ethernet,

    And the great big 25mm diameter yellow cable with the self punching taps to fit ..

    But funniest I had was with a TV studio,

    yes they had decide to keep costs down and also use what they knew, they would use a coax Ethernet network.

    Give them their due, they did start off with colored sleeves on every cable, to distinguish 50 ohm and 75 ohm, ( did not last long ..)

    And I disagree with a comment above, 75 ohm and 50 ohm do have different size pins, especially on the big N type connectors. Yes its the plastic that gives the impedance, but they decided to use different pins for some crazy reason...

    Then , one night had the dreaded call, time critical, program MUST go out, network un reliable,,,,

    Stop gap managed to move the info over on mag tape, to the production machine, that yes , was having un reliable network.

    In the light of day, went to look at the problem, all worked well.

    that night ,

    it went very un reliable again.

    So did an all nighter, working through the problem.

    changed cables, connectors, cable testers, re configured software, all seemed ok.

    then , about 2 in the morning, it all started to work fantastical....

    Ah must have been that cable I changed, but it did not feel right..

    Next evening, down again... NOT best pleased studio manager...

    DONT get on the wrong side of them, ever .....

    This time I was ready,

    I'd managed to not only borrow / steal a few more bits of kit, TDR , and a big scope, second computer, a test computer, and was all hooked up ready .

    Oh yes, it was easy once I looked at the scope and saw the Video waveform on top of the Ethernet signals !!!!

    Yes in those days, TV went off around mid night, and was not back on till Tea time,

    When studio 5 turned its output to transmission, then hay presto, it injected video on to the Ethernet.

    Traced it back to a miss placed video patch into the patch panel above of the ethernet.

    Managed to get a nice job out of that, a re wiring so separate cabinets for video and Ethernet

    which all had to be done in the day time, luxury.

  39. Klose

    Cabling nightmare

    Can't imagine working without patch panels. Still remembered once I spent two days to manage the disordered cables.

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