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Termination: Creepy Crawlspaces — AV.technology

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30 August 2016

Text:/ Graeme Hague

I live in a part of the world where the internet can collapse on any given day. For years Telstra told us, ‘Don’t worry, the NBN is coming’. Well, the NBN is here, however it’s fixed wireless and our humble abode is supposedly in a transmission shadow. According to The Map — the sacred document of all things NBN — we’re not eligible for a connection. What The Map doesn’t allow for is that our house (at one end) is five metres above the ground. The skillion roof adds a further three metres to the equation, then if yours truly does my best, Titanic movie ‘I’m the king of the world’ impersonation at that end of the building I can see the NBN tower — I have the coveted line-of-sight.

This was illustrated by the bloke who fixes television antennas in town and is also NBN’s local installation contractor. When he was on our roof making sure we could get a decent picture for the footy season, he said, “Did you know you can get the NBN here?”.

FALLING OFF THE MAP

If you ever want a surefire way to lose an hour of your life, try calling NBN and attempting to explain that despite The Map, despite its website GUI, and despite everything the Labor Party is claiming, the local guy who does the NBN installations says, I can get the bloody NBN. It just doesn’t get through. It’s the NBN equivalent of ‘Computer says no’.

Meanwhile, the old wire-in-the-ground Telstra system that we didn’t have to worry about — and we’re still using — is turning into a puddle of copper, and several nodes around the town have spontaneously combusted after people posted cute cat videos on Facebook.

When the internet dies here the first thing to do is phone a few mates and confirm it’s a global problem (‘global’ being the entire township of 4000 people). If the issue seems localised there are several possible causes and they’re all potentially my fault. Since Telstra finally (after four years) reburied the phone line to our house it can’t be the donkeys chewing through the cable anymore, but from the junction box to the separate points through our home the AV and network installer was… well, me. It’s likely that any faults in the system could be attributed to, let’s say, questionable workmanship.

CABLE CONFESSIONS

I have two bad habits when it comes to installing cables. I reckon I’m not alone. The first is paranoia about cutting a cable short and neat, only to stuff up the actual connections and not have enough wire left for a second attempt. So I tend to leave loops of extra cable hanging around — my insurance against dodgy terminations (something my editor has endured on this page for years). The second habit is to install cables temporarily until I’m sure everything works with the intention of tidying things up later. Yes, there is gaffer tape involved. 

You can’t rush into these things and it’s hardly my fault that five years after I temporarily installed phone and internet outlets around the house — leaving large loops of cable hanging down under the floor and gaffered to joists — that my latest internet outage proved to be caused by two Great Danes redistributing my phone line in a zillion pieces all over the property.

Fortunately (and thanks to Telstra’s previous attempts to prevent the donkeys eating the phone line being to dump 200 metres of cable at my door and say, “You bury it and we’ll connect it”), I had the wire to fix things. But while one end of the house is five metres clear of the ground, the other more important bit is only 20cm high. It’s a crawlspace. It’s a crawlspace under the house.

SKIN CRAWL

And we all know what lives in crawlspaces under houses in Australia: Monsters. Snakes, spiders, poisonous millipedes… there are hundreds of critters in Australia that can kill you with a single spit and in a bizarre twist of evolution they mostly live in the same crawlspaces where AV and network cables have to be installed. How the hell did that happen? If it’s not under the floor, it’s in the old ceiling where most people store dead bodies and house unwanted children.

Obviously, I survived the ordeal. Only because my personal courage is only exceeded by my wife’s Facebook addiction and it had to be fixed. Now.

It’s got me thinking about AV installations from hell. Have you ever found yourself, Indiana Jones-like, thrashing through a wall of cobwebs and venomous death adders to add a new zone to the background music system? What immediately comes to my mind is the Queensland farmhouse that kept a very large carpet python in the ceiling as a form of rodent control and nobody bothered to tell the electrician. 

If anyone ever complains that tradesmen never move fast, apparently you should have seen that bloke come down the ladder.

Graeme Hague invites you to share your worst AV install nightmare scenario. Email him via the editor chris@avapac.net

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