back to article There ain't no problem that can't be solved with the help of American horsepower – even yanking on a coax cable

Is it October? Already? It feels like we still haven't moved on from March. Put such discomfiture to one side in favour of a Friday treat – a tale of brute force and ignorance from those that are forever On Call. Today's story takes us back to the mid-1970s, "the Triassic age of computers," as our reader "Chuck" put it. "The …

  1. Chris G

    That is a nice example of the difference between an engineer and sn installer.

    1. Stoneshop

      the difference between an engineer and sn installer.


      One evening, some two decades back, we were upgrading the firmware on the FDDI hubs strewn around the site, a veterinarian pharmaceuticals research/production plant. Topo was a double ring, so one hub being rebooted should not have affected any of the other hubs. Still, it turned out it did as with a number of reboots a couple of the other hubs started complaining about the loss of one ring.

      So, two of us grabbed the keys to the buildings and their data cabinets, a pair of walkie-talkies and flashlights, and set off into the night in the general direction of where the problem was. Now a break in a fiber could really be anywhere between hub A and hub B, although it probably wouldn't be somewhere halfway in a multicore run in an underground duct, as it would be very unlikely a disturbance would have taken out just a single strand. So we started with checking the patch panels and the leads to the hubs.

      Nothing immediately obvious, so checking the connectors was next. And pulling out one of them the cause of the problem glaringly presented itself as the fiber just dropped out of the connector body.

      It turned out there had been a couple of new CAT5 patches installed the day before, and apparently one of the installers had dropped a screwdriver or something on the hapless fiber connector below, somehow breaking the fiber in such a way that it came loose inside of the connector body after which that installer monkey just pushed it back in.

      The next day facility services were instructed to put plexiglass covers over the fiber patches in all data cabinets.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Mr Sceptical

          Never work with children or animals?

          That said - I've often wished for a trained weasel or something strong and agile enough to pull a cable through a difficult run!

          Penguins are probably only suitable for aquatic cable runs... >>

          1. Caver_Dave Silver badge

            Re: Never work with children or animals?

            I knew someone who had a Polecat that would do it for a whole Mouse. The trick was to send a pull string through with the Polecat, as it one only worked once a day!

            1. Coastal cutie

              Re: Never work with children or animals?

              That must have been a rather smelly solution

            2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

              Re: Never work with children or animals?

              There's a reason such strings are called a 'mouse'

            3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Never work with children or animals?

              Aren't a polecats just for overhead cabling?

          2. jake Silver badge

            Re: Never work with children or animals?

            A friend uses his ferrets occasionally. Tinned sardines as bait (YMMV).

            While we're on this topic, a good tool for lobbing cable over hanging ceilings is a crossbow.

            1. Joe W Silver badge

              Re: Never work with children or animals?

              I recall the story of a clicker trained rat, also with a pull 'cable' (or rather a pull twine).

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Never work with children or animals?

              I vaguely remember a story, possibly on here about a chap doing that with a crossbow and hitting the fire sprinker?

              Was it you, Jake?

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Never work with children or animals?

                No, that wasn't me. The bolts I use for this kind of thing are 10 inch long hollow alumin(i)um rods with about 775gr (1.75oz or 50g) of #10 lead shot epoxied into the front end. I wrap the front inch and a half or so with (inside to out) closed cell neoprene, open cell neoprene, and cotton gauze (it's what I had on hand the first time I made them). Looks like a giant Q-tip, but bounces off of even thin walled duct-work without puncturing it. Just barely accurate enough to occasionally drop into an open 2x4 ceiling tile from 60ish feet.

                I've never intentionally fired one at a sprinkler head ...

                "Primum non nocere."

            3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: Never work with children or animals?

              Recall an (apocryphal?) story about a ferret being used at CERN or some such place with long conduits.

              Slingshots with attached fishing reels are routinely used to loft antenna support guy ropes over tree branches. Try not to drop the fishing sinker through your (or anyone else's) car windshield.

              1. es30

                Re: Never work with children or animals?

                "Recall an (apocryphal?) story about a ferret being used at CERN or some such place with long conduits."

                You may be thinking of Felicia, Fermilab's pipe-cleaning ferret.


                She even managed to inspire a <i>Jeopardy!</i> answer.


            4. VicMortimer Silver badge

              Re: Never work with children or animals?

              There is an actual product for that, and has been for many years.


            5. Donn Bly

              Re: Never work with children or animals?

              I used to use a practice rubber baseball that had a hole drilled through it with an eyebolt to which I would tie a pull string. It was the PERFECT size and weight to throw somewhat accurately.

              1. Man inna barrel

                Re: Never work with children or animals?

                My father worked in radio astronomy. He found one of the major weak points was connections between the dish antennas and the lab, so he always soldered the connectors himself. But that did not entirely solve the problem. On one observation run in the middle of the night, the signal went off. Rabbits had been nibbling the cables.

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: Never work with children or animals?

                  "Rabbits had been nibbling the cables."

                  One word: Hasenpfeffer.

                  Worked at The Dish at Stanford ... is there an echo in here?

                2. phuzz Silver badge

                  Re: Never work with children or animals?

                  I remember hearing from some civil servants from Cheltenham, that the cables at one of the NSA's bases in Britain (probably Menwith Hill, but I can't remember exactly) had been chewed through by "British bunnies".

                  They seemed to think it was hilarious.

            6. David Woodhead

              Re: Never work with children or animals?

              A friend uses his ferrets occasionally. Tinned sardines as bait (YMMV).

              I do so much hope that YMMV means 'your mustelid may vary'.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Never work with children or animals?

                I wondered if anyone would catch that ... have a beer :-)

          3. rototype

            Re: Never work with children or animals?

            I did once hear from a fairly reliable source that Boeing used to use ferrets to run their cables through the narrow cable spaces on aircrafts.

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: the difference between an engineer and sn installer.

          Did he have the Martian accent (or whatever that was) to go with the look?

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: the difference between an engineer and sn installer.

          Remember, you don't own the cat, the cat owns you.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: the difference between an engineer and sn installer.

            "Remember, you don't own the cat, the cat owns you."

            The old saying is "Dogs have masters and cat's have staff". My little princess is having a kip on her back behind me in the office. She does that when it's warm.

        4. Chris G

          Re: the difference between an engineer and sn installer.

          The coil of stiff nylon or fibre glass used by electricians is called a mouse in the UK, so I guess a cat is a step up.

          A friend of mine in the UK specialises in building extensions, he had s similar problem running a cable quite some distance under a floor.

          He solved it by borrowing an RC 4x4 toy from the house owner's son, tied some cord to it and after two or three goes got it to the right spot.

          1. Rob Daglish

            Re: the difference between an engineer and sn installer.

            Mouse? I usually call it fish wire?

            1. Qumefox

              Re: the difference between an engineer and sn installer.

              it's called a mouse when it's a standalone object, be it living or mechanical, that is used to pull the cord/wire/whatever through an enclosed space. We used to use compressed air to blow a "mouse"(not an actual live mouse) with a pull attached through conduit.

              1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: the difference between an engineer and sn installer.

                "We used to use compressed air to blow a "mouse""

                That works great in fresh conduit, but can be futile when there is already a bunch of cabling in place. Be kind to the next person and always make sure you pull through another pulling line. I know the last crew was top notch when I see beautiful looms and a pull rope left in the conduit. I'll also tell the customer that the last guys were really good and made my job super fast and easy. They may have paid for that attention to detail and I think it's good for them to hear that they got their money's worth. I like customers to be happy and feel good about life when I present them with my invoice.

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: cats [and rats]

          I sent my fancy rat to do the same. Knotted her a lovely little string harness and called her through with a bit of chocolate.

        6. Rob Daglish

          Re: the difference between an engineer and sn installer.

          I've seen this done with a small terrier type dog before. "Dave" tied the pull cord to the dogs collar, shoved it into the attic space above the corridor, while "Rick" stuck his head in from the other side and called his dog back. A surprisingly useful trio...

          1. Nunyabiznes

            Re: the difference between an engineer and sn installer.

            Smoky the Yorkie pulled cable through a pipe in WWII.


        7. keithpeter Silver badge

          Re: the difference between an engineer and sn installer.

          @Symon: cat showing considerable interest in a new space sometimes means that traces of 'little visitors' have been detected...

        8. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: the difference between an engineer and sn installer.

          - Rewiring a house -

          A mate of mine was trying to save some money in his new house. He was removing the existing carpets himself before moving in. Also fancied installing Ethernet at the same time. To do so he had a few floorboards up in each room. In the second guest bedroom he found an odd stray cable. Pulling on it he found a microphone hove into view from the dusty darkness. The other end went into the master bedroom in the next room. The cable terminated in a jack plug which was disguised as an aerial socket on the skirting. He surmised that the previous owner either listened to or recorded anyone staying in the guest bedroom. He said he'd removed it because "That's creepy".

        9. Old Used Programmer

          Re: the difference between an engineer and sn installer.

          When PacBell needed to run a fiber line across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, through a cable tray along side one traffic lane and faced with lifting every cover for about 5 miles... One bright lad came up with the idea of using a toy RC tank (minus turret) to pull about 100 feet of pilot line at a time. He got a substantial reward from the company for the six-figure savings on the job.

        10. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

          Re: the difference between an engineer and sn installer.

          Use the right tool for the job:

          Use a Cat to pull the CAT5/6 cable

        11. Stevie

          Re: the difference between an engineer and sn installer.

          Wot, no fish tape?

      2. Kernel

        Re: the difference between an engineer and sn installer.

        ".... it would be very unlikely a disturbance would have taken out just a single strand."

        You'd be surprised how often this happens - it's not at all unusual to have damage to just a few of the fibres in a cable that has been grazed by a spade or digger bucket, especially in older cables which have a steel strength member in the centre rather than kevlar. I've even seen a situation where only the fibres in one of the six slots of the core were impacted by the damage to the cable - 4 fibres out of a total of 24 in that particular cable.

        1. Stoneshop

          Re: the difference between an engineer and sn installer.

          You'd be surprised how often this happens

          I know, but in this case the cabling between buildings was in concrete sewer pipes (no, NOT dual-purposed), so, while it was on our minds we didn't consider it a very probable cause.

    2. Bowlers

      The other side to IBM cables.

      IBM mainframe parallel channel cables produced different problems to stretching.

      A customer site who had been using IBM mainframes since the early seventies had, by the nineties quite a collection of redundent cables under the 2 foot deep floor. They ran 3 or 4 CPUs on the same foor and had over the years changed 4 generations of mainframes, each new installation needed to be up and running before decommissioning the old one. Not all the cables could be reused or removed, so over the years they built up until in places the floor tiles would need careful adjustment (jumping on) to to fit. When Fibre Channel were added to MFs the cables were more delicate making routeing difficult. It was decided to remove all the redundent cables so a few 'no downtime' weekend slots were arranged with the customer for CEs to be onsite for the work.

      For the uninitiated in IBM MFs, parallel cables had 2 types, older 360 era as thick as a mans wrist and later 370 ones ladies wrist size (OK some ladies). The connectors on each end were hand size and there were 2 cables per channel, 64 channels per MF (maybe more on later MF I forget).

      Our first weekend pulling cables went rather slowly as we were trying to remove the cables for later re-use (they were expensive). Having identified each end one guy pulled and another threaded the connector through the mass of live and dead cables, lifting and replacing floor tiles as we progressed. Having a run of removed tiles alongside of a few tons of MF could be dodgey, stories of collapses on the social media of the day (pub sessions) were whispered. After 9 hours, 8 CE's sweat had produced little result so it was decided for our next attempt we would cut off the connectors to speed up the job and sod the cable expense. Later we had to identify the longer/heavier cables (100-200 feet) and cut near the centre and pull out from each end. After 3 WEs of this and many cables still to go, management decided 9 x 8 x £double time could impact on their bonuses so they recruited cheaper labour, box shifters, delivery drivers etc.

      Next WE 2 CEs familiar with the site and 5 or 6 helpers had a familiarision session on floor tile etiquette (don't let anything above ground change position), how to identify the cables we want removed and avoid the old 360 looking but slightly thicker ones as they are Tape CU to Drive etc. What was not emphasised enough was if more than one cable twitches when someone yanks the end do not cut until you're sure it's the right one; equivalent to the measure twice cut once maxim.

      The inevitable happend, twice plus a tape drive. In the end we got away lightly from a customer point of view, losing access to a printer and the tape drive and one path to a tape library were recoverable.

      And I did earn a few bob that month!

      1. Trygve Henriksen

        Re: The other side to IBM cables.

        I have made it a rule that any time I visit one of the locations I'm responsible for, I always check the Server room for wires that can be removed. Some of them are from the 90s, so there's a bit of a crow's nest still to get rid of, but I'm slowly getting down to the subfloor...

        1. Horridbloke

          Re: The other side to IBM cables.

          There is no subfloor. It's just cables all the way down...

          1. DS999 Silver badge

            Re: The other side to IBM cables.

            Hopefully that datacenter was in the basement then, otherwise the building is destined to collapse!

      2. jelabarre59

        Re: The other side to IBM cables.

        A customer site who had been using IBM mainframes since the early seventies had, by the nineties quite a collection of redundent cables under the 2 foot deep floor.

        The old Z-Series (or whatever IBM is calling it this week) test lab in Poughkeepsie was like that, and it didn't take near as long to get that way.

      3. Stoneshop

        Re: The other side to IBM cables.

        A customer site who had been using IBM mainframes since the early seventies had, by the nineties quite a collection of redundent cables under the 2 foot deep floor.

        That's why the (erroneously specified) 3ft floor at the site I was the resident engineer for was really nice to have. Even with cabling strata going back to the mid-Pleistocene, when PDPs roamed the Earth, you could move about at leisure with just the two tiles at each end of the cable to be taken out or rerouted being lifted.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The other side to IBM cables.

        That's one of the reasons the BBC moved out of Television Centre.

        Bundles of cables a foot across that were probably completely unused, but nobody was sure enough to cut them.

        In the end, they moved out of the building, nuked and paved the entire install and then rebuilt TVC1, 2 and 3.

        The rest is flats now, sadly

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Some recent BBC News Web site reporting of closing the 1960s purpose-built "Broadcasting House" in Cardiff is very unsentimental about its suitability for purpose as of 2020.

          The new building, which may or may not be called "New Broadcasting House", apparently has wall-to-wall "IP" for every broadcastable device. And from the pictures, funky multi colour LED lighting.

          Let's hope that the funky multi colour LED lighting does not in any way interfere with the wall-to-wall IP and the broadcasting. But we'd have heard by now... or then again, perhaps not?

          1. jake Silver badge


            "The new building, which may or may not be called "New Broadcasting House", apparently has wall-to-wall "IP" for every broadcastable device. And from the pictures, funky multi colour LED lighting."

            No doubt installed down to a price by the lowest bidding contractor. And also no doubt all controllable by the "smart" phones of the Directors (or equivalent). Or by J.Random Skiddie in Murmansk.

    3. Blackjack Silver badge

      I had the opposite problem, they had made the Internet cable too freaking long, replacing it with one way shorter solved the problem.

  2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

    Another Pharma Story

    So I'm there early 2000's, my names not Steven & its ages ago....

    New Computers going into a custom suite & beyond that a glass wall & doors into a lab full of pharmaceutical testing equipment, all enviroment factors tightly controlled & the door if open longer than the time it takes to walk through sounds an alarm.

    Then an installer breaks the new pristine unused & by extension expensive isolated area by drilling a hole to run a cable through the glass*. While I am installing PC's & one of the senior Lab guys notices that something suddenly isn't quite right i.e. why does that alarm keep going off!

    *I don't recall if he decided to go via the drywall or had the wit to have (Or fetch) a drill bit for going through glass.

    1. Muscleguy

      Re: Another Pharma Story

      Same sort of bit you use for bathroom tiles, the glaze on them being very glass like. The trick is stopping the bit sliding all over the surface. You have scratch a small start hole in the right site to be sure (worked out by trial & error). Don’t go too fast on the drill either.

      1. Down not across

        Re: Another Pharma Story

        The trick is stopping the bit sliding all over the surface.

        Bit of masking tape works wonders.

  3. KittenHuffer Silver badge

    Closest I've had to that ....

    .... would be a PC that dropped off the network. I finally traced the fault to a Cat 5 cable that had been severed by a workman (Electrical or HVAC, never actually identified them) where they'd decided to be helpful and fix the problem by reconnecting the wires using a 'chocblock'.

    For some people BFI is the default option. You can normally identify this sort by the fact that their toolkit comprises of five different size of hammer, and little else.

    1. Giles C Silver badge

      Re: Closest I've had to that ....

      An electrician working on my house chopped through the aerial cable and choc blocked it. My TV stopped getting a picture after that... I ended up replacing the entire cable as it was 40 years old...

      1. benjya

        Re: Closest I've had to that ....

        Almost exactly the same. Having doors blocked off, I explicitly pointed out to the builder that a phone cable ran right by the corner of the doors and to avoid it. He said fine.

        Later that day at work, connected back into home, my home connection suddenly becomes incredibly unreliable. I get home and find a screw going right into the cable. Perhaps more surprisingly when I removed the screw it started working again (I'm guessing it was shorting the two lines rather than actually having broken them).

        I told the builder and he was furious with his guys as (he said!) he had shown it to them and been very clear!

        1. chivo243 Silver badge

          Re: Closest I've had to that ....

          Builders pffft! I left explicit instructions to be alerted should the power need to be shut off in my house. F$CK@rs powered down the whole house, with my two node ESXi powered up. They were fired after that phase of the job...

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

            Re: Closest I've had to that ....

            Which phase was that then?

            Brown, orange, and yellow or black, red, and blue (208V).

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Closest I've had to that ....

              "Brown, orange, and yellow or black, red, and blue (208V)."

              There's a difference?

              1. Montreal Sean

                Re: Closest I've had to that ....

                "Brown, orange, and yellow or black, red, and blue (208V)."

                They got both.

              2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

                Re: Closest I've had to that .... There's a difference?

                Ask an ex-boss of mine, he famously decided to fuck around with 3-phase, fortunately his glasses saved his eyes as you could tell by the tiny scars around them.

        2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

          Re: Closest I've had to that ....

          Vermin media installers....... told the idiots that I did'nt know where the power lines were in the walls

          1 decides to drill through the wall from front room to cupboard under the stairs...

          BANG out go the lights.

          Stupid fekker went straight through the power feed to the lighting distribution box... was lucky his lights didnt go out

          1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

            Re: Closest I've had to that ....

            Pfft I'll see your lighting circuit and raise you an entire house!

            When VM were installing my "fibre" line (which turned out to be coax), while digging the trench up the drive they managed to sever the mains wire going from the street to the house.

            1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

              Re: Closest I've had to that ....

              I gues 'coax' doesent have the same marketing power as 'fibre'

              1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

                Re: Closest I've had to that ....

                "Copper fibre"

          2. Rol

            Re: Closest I've had to that ....

            The pork that wired my rented flat, put a screw straight through the power cable feeding the cooker. When the consumer unit constantly tripped out, instead of locating the fault, he considered the consumer unit was at fault and changed the earth to sub station to earth to ground, with a very short metal spike stuck into concrete.

            Every time it rained my electrics would trip, so I got a proper sparky in to look at things. Seems the entire flat was only earthed once rain water had seeped into the earthing rod hole, and at all other times was a death trap. The sparky was amazed that I hadn't been killed.

          3. ShortLegs

            Re: Closest I've had to that ....

            I'll top you all#

            A sparky taking out an entire SF base in Kilkeel, Northern Ireland 1986.

            Steve D using a light pick (drill hammer) to cut trench run across vehicle hard standing. Tom, the surveyor, assures there are no utility lines in the area.

            10 mins later. loud bang. All electrical power to base is lost. Steve is holding the pick, looking a tad shaken; he's just driven the pick through the mains power...

            Call out civvy sparkies to fix it. Much work later, Boss sparky reconnects mains line, and power is restored from the sub-station. Junior sparky inside, poking the mains box with one of those cheap screwdrivers that has a bulb inside the handle. Now, I'm no sparky and know little about electrickery, but even I know that's not a good idea

            "Mate, you might want to stop doing that, power's back on"

            "Oh, O'ill be alroit"


            Junior sparky is now lying on the floor 20ft away, left arm very black from hand to shoulder. And is very dead. And the power has dropped. Again.

            Race against time now between another sparky, an Act of God, or a PIRA mortar attack.

            1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

              Re: Closest I've had to that ....

              Junior sparky is now lying on the floor 20ft away, left arm very black from hand to shoulder. And is very dead.

              The junior sparky or just his arm*?

              *Been there done that, only in my case it was a CRT discharging itself through me after the TV had been powered on very briefly for about 3 seconds.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Closest I've had to that ....

                Why do you think they call it a flyback?

            2. rototype

              Re: Closest I've had to that ....

              We had a good one in the 90s - the mail order company I was workig for were doing rather well and had decided to extend their warehouse a bit to cope with all this stock they're happily selling (that's another story).

              At the time the ssytem ran on an HP Unix Fridge whose 2 19" racks pretty much filled our little server room. We were located in anothe office across the hall with the boss in the next office to ours. On the day in question one of our number was having his appraisal (review) in the bosses office.

              The builders were digging trenches with a JCB. Now they did everything theuy were suposed to do, the plans for the building showed that the electric cable went along this end of the building and the water went out the other end - allegedly. Cue JCB digging a trench about 1/3 the way between the 2 corners, now what could possibly happen?

              The first we saw was the screens on our PCs went a bit squiffy (this was the era of CRTs - the picture something like a Picasso painting for a few seconds). 'Hmmm, wonder what's going on' I say and wander into the server room - 2 feet inside the door and BOOMM!!

              Next, cue the boss & the guy getting his appraisal dashing in expecting to find me with a charred screwdriver or the like. Turns out the UPS protection circuits on the Unix box did their job admirably and protected the main system by blowing themselves to bits. Turns out those electric and water conduits weren't where the plans said they were but instead were in the exact position the JCB was digging, and he caught both of then with the bucket at the same time.

              We managed to get the UPS fixed under the 24/7/4 service contract (and that included shipping a new one from 50 miles away, no mention was ever made about the JCB drivers trousers though.

              Ah, happy days.......

        3. Muscleguy

          Re: Closest I've had to that ....

          I had the OpenReach guy in doing a net install for Talk Talk. He tested the ancient phone socket (replaced by a Telewest (turned into Virgin, eventually) one next to it. Didn’t work and we couldn’t find where it came in (I reckon from next door).

          I noted the cable disappeared into the lower part of the front door frame and the penny dropped. When we got a new double glazed front door (and a lot of windows) I asked them to be careful of the Telewest phone cable running up the wall and over the top, down the other side. They were but I expect the phone cable went west.

          Next door gutted the place and did an awful lot of very noisy work, like removing the stairs so likely took out the rest of the cable then. The Openreach guy did a good efficient job of running a new cable from the post in the middle of the bunch of houses.

          I now have internet which is perfectly adequate for online tutoring and costs less than half of the extortionate amount Virgin charges. I don’t play online muliplayer games while streaming music with automatic web file backup with 4 teenagers in the house. It’s just me now so no need for all that, supposed, speed.

          I kept having to turn wifi off on this old Powerbook to get things to work with Virgin’s router. Haven’t had to once since changing to the TT router. So it was the router.

          Now I just have to redo all my registrations and logins, like here to my other email addresses as the 20 year old one will cease to be in 90 days or so. I did the important ones first. Working through the rest as the emails come in to remind me. The places which force you to make a new account to change the email address (looking at you Asda) must have an awful lot of moribund accounts cluttering up their systems.

          1. irrelevant

            Re: Closest I've had to that ....

            One of the reasons I bought my own domain, 1996 or so.. I was already on my 2nd ISP, and realised that using their included email addresses wasn't going to be a long term solution. The Mrs came with a hotmail account, for much the same reasons. I've lost count how many times we're swapped ISP since then...

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Closest I've had to that ....

              "The Mrs came with a hotmail account, for much the same reasons."

              You realised she wasn't going to be a long term solution?

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Closest I've had to that ....

          Not always accidental

          back in the mid 90s in this particular country town, the newly emerging ISPs were engaged in bitter rivalry. Not content with beating each other up if they caught an opposition worker outside the pub, the one I was associated with was getting tek screws through his shopfront phonelines where they exited the building. Probably because it was his guy assaulting the other guys.

          1. Rol

            Re: Closest I've had to that ....

            I don't know if they still do it, but the Virgin guy would rip out the BT line when installing Virgin and the BT guy would rip out the Virgin line when installing BT.

            Obviously this makes swapping back a bit more involved and a bit more costly to the consumer.

      2. Dwarf

        Re: Closest I've had to that ....

        I've seen a BT re-install to replace an old cable and on inspection afterwards realised that they fed the cable through a wall and through the middle of the trunk of a very large shrub that was affixed to the wall immediately behind it. The got a call-back to do it properly and the second installer was astonished it had been left like that.

        Not sure if the shrub liked its extra ventilation or just wanted an Internet connection.

    2. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: Closest I've had to that ....

      The guys replacing my barge boards, soffits and gutters were most assiduous in working around the television aerial, sadly less so about clouting the satellite dish with their ladder. It looked fine, but was sufficiently out of shape to drop a whole mux. Ah well, the new one is nice and shiny.

      They were wonderfully creative swearers, these lads from Armagh, which brightened up more than a few online meetings as I worked from my office while they did they hammering and drilling.

    3. Steve Button Silver badge

      Re: Closest I've had to that ....

      Same thing here. Except the muppet who severed the cable was ME, and it was the phone cable into my house which runs up the wall behind a wysteria bush that needed trimming. I soldered it back together rather than using a choc block, and it's been fine ever since. :-)

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Closest I've had to that ....

          Why can't the Yanks pronounce the letter "L"? The word is "Solder" not "Sodder". GRRRRR!

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Closest I've had to that ....

            Because the word is from the Middle English soudure would be my guess. Not our fault you lot corrupted your own word along the way.

            1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

              Middle English ?

              Soudure is French. And when did they do soldering in the Middle Ages ?

              1. H in The Hague

                "And when did they do soldering in the Middle Ages ?"

                I think we may have been doing that for millennia. Some of the ancient gold and silversmiths and other craftspeople used processes very similar to those employed by their modern equivalents.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Beat me to it. But here's the Wikipedia article, which mentions the ancient Sumerians joining their swords using soldering about 5000 years ago.


                  1. Glen 1

                    Wouldn't that make it Sword-ering?

              2. Bryan Hall

                Stained glass?

              3. katrinab Silver badge

                They had water pipes I think? Probably made of lead in those days, hence "plumber" comes from "plumbum" which is the Latin word for lead. They need to be soldered together.

            2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Closest I've had to that ....

     says soudure is derived from Latin solidus or solidare and the modern form is a re-Latinisation of the C15th.

          2. Andy the ex-Brit

            Re: Closest I've had to that ....

            Here's one with a British accent for you... although he pronounces "solder" very oddly. Soda? Is he trying to sound like a Yank?


            1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

              Re: Closest I've had to that ....

              If Big Clive pronouces it that way , thats the way it's pronounced!

            2. Gene Cash Silver badge

              Re: Closest I've had to that ....

              Holy crap, it's Big Clive! He's awesome! Cool sparky from the Isle of Man! I've been a fan of his for ages.

              Have a look at the MBC (Manx Beard Club) gathering vids.

          3. erikscott

            Re: Closest I've had to that ....

            I think it's a regional thing in the US. In the deep south you might hear "soul - der" or (rarely) even "soldier". I think that last one is just a general lack of reading ability around here.

            1. Jeffrey Nonken

              Re: Closest I've had to that ....

              If you like that, then you're gonna love how some of us Murricans pronounce the letter "t".


              Glottal stop FTW!

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Closest I've had to that ....

      I find the drift of this thread worrying. Right now the road is being dug up to replace our connection to the water main.

      1. short a sandwich

        Re: Closest I've had to that ....

        Beware they don't bruise the mains with the thrust borer and leave it in a pool of water as my contractor did. It was a long wait for the local electricity supply company to turn up and re-connect us to the grid.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Closest I've had to that ....

          Fortunately the water main isn't quite as far over the road as the electric main.

          Excavation revealed a second, more recent water main that isn't on the contractors' plans and which they suspect Yorkshire Water don't even know about. It must have been at least 30 years old, however, as I don't remember it being laid.

          This is no surprise as a previous electric fault revealed our connection wasn't where the plans showed it to be and some years ago it was discovered that what the gas engineers thought was the gas main was abandoned and ful of water whilst the real gas supply came across adjacent property from different road. What the GIS says and what the ground says seldom seems to coincide.

          1. ShortLegs

            Re: Closest I've had to that ....

            >What the GIS says and what the ground says seldom seems to coincide.

            Same NI tour as previous post in thread. We've now moved to Woodburn. Now Woodburne was hugely larger than Kilkeel, at least 8 times the size, holding RUC headquarters, civilian staff, vehicles, heli landing area, and a Marine Commando company. Oh, and us, a section of grungy Sappers. Spend a few weeks digging holes *here* then moving them 3ft to the right *there* because, well, surveyor said so. Digging one trench, by the scoffhouse, we come across a black plastic pipe, maybe 2" diameter.

            "Its ok," says Tom the surveyor "its a disused electrical mains conduit. Just cut through it"

            Right. Yeah... after the "no utility lines in the area" escapade in Kilkeel, and the resultant case of auto-darwinism-by-electrons, none of us felt inspired enough by the words "disused" and "electrical" in the same sentence to go near the pipe. So the surveyor grabs hold of, and pulls. And pulls, giving it full on 9 Sqn aggression in bagfulls. It isnt enough. Tom takes a light pick to it. I have a photo from above of him just as he touches the piping.

            Whoosh and Tom flies backwards, ends up 20ft away. Out of the scoffhouse comes Dave S, the sloppo, food-beater in one hand, "whats happened to me water?"

            That 2" pipe was the mains water supply for the entire base... one can only imagine the pressure, enough to propel a large bloke 20ft back.

            Tom had pulled

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Closest I've had to that ....

              I've been past the place a few times in recent years. A monstrous place. My old outfit ended up in that complex, fortunately a while after I left.

            2. Dyspeptic Curmudgeon

              Re: Closest I've had to that ....

              I never realized that winning a Darwin award was actually a competitive event. After the first awardee had removed himself from the gene pool, I am surprised that anyone in the unit would even attempt physical destruction of an unknown pipe.

              My suggestion would have been to put a couple of wraps of det-cord around the offending pipe, and retire to a safe distance, and then retire the same distance again just in case the pipe was actually carrying natural gas, or propane, before touching the battery terminals. (Note that I said it was my *suggestion*. If someone said 'here, you can touch this off' my answer would not be 'no' but 'hell no'. The downsides are far greater than the upsides for the actual miscreant. )

              "Oi'l be a'right" is almost as much a signature last dying statement as 'Oh yeah? Watch this.'

        2. ICPurvis47

          Re: Closest I've had to that ....

          Had the opposite of that, when NTL came along and dug up our street to lay the cableducts for the internet connections, they managed to collapse the side of the access to the stopcock outside our front gate when they backfilled the trench and rammed it. Some time later I wanted to replace the indoor stopcock as it was leaking and wouldn't shut off completely, so I opened the cast iron lid of the outdoor stopcock, to be met with a solid layer of clay. I dug down through the clay, hoping to be able to reach the cock and turn it off, but halfway down I encountered the outside of the concrete lining of the pit, lying across the hole above the cock. Both ends of the pipe section were buried in the clay either side, so I had to call the water company out to replace the whole issue, stopcock and liner, before I could turn it off and replace my own internal stopcock.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Closest I've had to that ....

      BFI? Sorry, tried looking up, but come up with British Film Institute or Bureau of Fearless Ideas

      1. Martin

        Re: Closest I've had to that ....

        BFI - I'd never heard it either, but I bet it means Brute Force and Ignorace. I'm certainly going to use it in the future.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Closest I've had to that ....

          Thanks Martin

        2. Tim99 Silver badge

          Re: Closest I've had to that ....

          Back in the day, the approved version was BFBI - Brute Force and Bloody Ignorance.

          1. the Jim bloke

            Re: Closest I've had to that ....

            My introduction to the term was BFMI - Brute Force and Massive Ignorance, Doesnt matter which you use, you can still build a pyramid...

        3. Rob Daglish

          Re: Closest I've had to that ....

          or as we say round here, if in doubt, give it a clout...

          1. Bill Gray

            Re: Closest I've had to that ....

            ...and if it breaks, it needed replacing anyway.

          2. Hazmoid

            Re: Closest I've had to that ....

            I used to work for a company re-assembling agricultural equipment that had been welded in China, pulled apart and then spray painted and then packed in containers for delivery to Australia.

            Our standard saying was, "If it doesn't fit, get a bigger hammer, if it breaks, it needed replacing anyway."

        4. DryBones

          Re: Closest I've had to that ....

          Probably "Big F-ing Idiot"

          1. rototype

            Re: Closest I've had to that ....

            "If at first you don't succeed - Use a bigger hammer"

    6. BenM 29 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Closest I've had to that ....

      Aeons ago - I ran a building controller network - set up using an RS432 or something ring (it was a while ago) suddenly found I couldnt talk to one of the devices.

      Tried everything remotely (1200 Baud modems FTW) that could be done and, sadly, had to attend site (an art college.... shame about the cable routing through the roof space over the studios... I was young!!)

      Nothing wrong with the cable in the buildings, however whilst crossing the site where they were building new blocks, I noticed a footing trench across the cable run.

      Unsrprisingly, upon peering into the trench, I saw the ends of the cable and, on closer inspection, mashed condiut on the spoil tip. 1-0 to the JCB I guess.

      The digger driver (who was sat in his cab) even had the audacity to claim it wasn't him!

      N.B. the cable run was clearly marked on the plans the groundworks guys were working with...but some architect decided he wanted a trench there anyway.

      1. Hairy Wolf

        Re: Closest I've had to that ....

        Back Hoe. Apparently the number one cause of telecomunication cable faults.

      2. Bryan Hall

        Re: Closest I've had to that ....

        In the Air Force telecom community we called them on-base terrorists.

      3. renke

        Re: Closest I've had to that ....

        > the cable run was clearly marked on the plans

        unmarked cables can be fun, too. a colleague of mine was in his former life (late 80s, early 90s) a civil engineer and his crew cut a totally unexpected cable in the building pit.

        some minutes later the whole area was flooded by patrol cars (both German police and US MP ones) - they "found" a secret NATO communication line.

        1. Gene Cash Silver badge

          Re: Closest I've had to that ....

          they "found" a secret NATO communication line.

          Ah! The best application of "unplug it and see who bitches"

      4. the Jim bloke

        Re: Closest I've had to that ....

        Just before digital cameras became a thing I used to carry disposable cameras around for opportunistic photo snapping.. Someplace - probably an old shoebox - I have an old style photo of an excavator operator standing sheepishly in the door of their cab with a ripped out electrical cable caught in the tracks and ripped out of the ground as the machine trammed.

        (The operator was a trainee, which was the only reason they felt any embarrassment)

    7. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Closest I've had to that ....

      fix the problem by reconnecting the wires using a 'chocblock'.

      I'm not seeing the problem

      1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

        Re: Closest I've had to that ....

        Hopefully for most of you this will be a 'suck eggs' type of comment.

        (Unshielded) Twisted Pair cabling works by twisting pairs of cables together so that between the two wires electromagnetic interference cancels out over each half twist. Each twist you take out of a pair of wires gives a place for electromagnetic interference to be induced in your data stream. My experience of UTP CAT 5 was that even taking an inch or two of twist out of a pair was enough to degrade the signal so that the port on the end was 'dead'.

        The culprit had exposed and then untwisted about 3 inches either side of the chocblock. That particular cable was deader than corduroy!

    8. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Closest I've had to that ....

      I once traced a bunch of network cables, trying to work out a) what they did, b) whether they were the culprit in some networked PCs that could no longer connect.

      I literally traced them by hand, back under floors, through cellars, up stairs, through roofs, into conduit, down corridors, etc. and ended up the other end. But still... dead cables.

      Opened up a bunch of conduit that was 10+ years old, and had been painted over every year since (so you could date it by the strata/colour of the paint. Inside one stretch of conduit, 10 cables go in, 10 cables come out. Opened up every inch of the conduit to see if the cable was pinched.

      Not pinched. Cut. Not just cut, but cut, then pulled 6 feet apart. Then left in the conduit like that.

      One end, numbered cable in a bunch. 500m away, same-numbered cables in a bunch. In between, en-route, 6 foot gap of sliced cable for no reason whatsoever.

      But, obviously, that couldn't be the reason that the networking had gone down recently. It had just been like that for years and someone was too lazy to label the cables, remove them, or cut the ends off to let people know.

      No, the office in question was down because the same networking guy had put a 10Mbps 5port network hub under the incredibly expensive parquet flooring, powered from a Heath Robinson power point under the same flooring, then wired it through a radiator cover to make it look like the cables were structural when in fact they just came from an old hub hidden under a floor that you could not take apart.

      Obviously one day the power arrangements changed, and the office went offline. Then you get the "why can't you just put it all back online instantly now that you know the problem?" Because I have a bit of professional pride and I'm not going to just replicate that situation with a Gigabit switch even if I could. So we had to get cabling contractors in to wire it all in properly - without lifting the floor.

    9. catprog

      Re: Closest I've had to that ....

      For me, the story is the underground mains line to the house being broken by a crane.

      The put their stabilization pad thing right on top of it and cracked the conduit. Three days later after being dug up we found the main cable welded together and still smelly.

    10. rototype

      Re: Closest I've had to that ....

      We had one case in the 80s where the cleaners managed to snag a telephone cord withtheir floor polisher and rip it in two (the connector stayed in the socket and the phone stayed on the desk), they very helpfully repaired it - by tying the two snapped ends together!

  4. Giles C Silver badge

    In a similar vein I had a call last week from an old employer. They were stripping out part of the building and someone sliced through the cable for the gps clock antenna so it stopped working (as this provides the time to the site it could be an issue).

    Apparently the same people also sliced through some analogue phone cables as well. Now based on the building there are about 20 fibre multi cores going through the same area if they had sliced through them....... the entire site would have been dead for a week or two.

    Mind you not on the cable stretching line but in a similar story. That building used to be wired with ibm type 1 cabling. We had a problem with a terminal not working once. The lead went from a panel to the controller wiring (about 2m) but wouldn’t work. We started on pulling the cable out from the bottom of the cabinet. A while later we had got to the building door (about 60m) and the cable was still connected at both ends. Someone had put a very long cable in as a patch and as the panel still went to the terminal near the door there must have been around 200m of cable involved. We pulled the lead out and swapped it for a shorter one, the terminal came to life immediately!

  5. John Jennings


    Cable routing along a skirting board/doorframe used to be a thing in small offices. Many times I saw cables skewered with a staple leg (there are 'correct' staples to do it) - but if mis-aligned, the staple goes through the cable.

    interesting effects - I saw one which would glitch when someone walked accross an old stock room with squeaky floorboards.

    1. slimshady76

      Re: Staples

      I've already written about my first foray as a SysAdmin back at the early 90s, at the Dean's office of my local Uni. The network was a small spool of coax cable stretched on a bus of 7-8 PCs and a Novell Netware server. No fancy tech trays near the ceiling ir dedicated wall mounts there, just a small metal tray (enough for one coax cable) running above the skirt board.

      It all worked awesome until someone would move the coax from behind the computer desks and it would become jammed beneath the cart wheels in the office chairs. Easy peasy, replace a length of coax, crimp the terminals and call the day off.

      At the start of the winter, the network went down and I couldn't for the mother of $DEITY find the faulty coax segment. Until I started crawling my way from the Netware server down to the first PC in the bus, only to find someone had pulled the cable from its tray and placed it over a gas heater. The minute the Dean's secretary came in from the chilly morning and set it on, the coax's core melted and the network went down.

    2. Rob Daglish

      Re: Staples

      I've seen BT (British Tack-it-on...) do this in a council office in a (big) converted terrace house. It was an educational experience being assigned to trail them that day...

      They were due to install an ISDN2e line sometime in the late 90s. We wanted it moved from the back office to the front due to a re-org, but for some reason wouldn't do a move but would do a cease/reprovide. 1st engineer turns up, decides he needs assistance. Two more engineers turn up in a 3.5 tonne box wagon to help. They then ran the wire from the existing NTE, stapling it to the existing 100x50 trunking. This meant they had to drill new holes in walls around 50CM thick, rather than use the ones that the network cablers had already made to run the network cabling inside the trunking through...

      At this point, it transpires none of them actually have a new NTE to terminate into, so there is a small discussion between them and their control room. The obvious solution (put a joint where the existing NTE is and reuse the original) is rejected, as the customer might interpret that as a "move" rather than a "cease and reprovide" so might object to the outrageous amount being charged. Eventually, 3 engineers ended up driving for 2 hours to meet another engineer who had an NTE, then two hours back to fit it in the new location.

      I told one of my colleagues this, and he scoffed, not believing that they would do such a thing, until the day they fitted a new line in his house - he'd cleared a route in the cellar (drill through wooden floor board, run cable to back of house, drill up, fit socket). He proudly showed it to the BT guy, who nodded, then proceeded to staple his cable along the top of the skirting board instead.

      1. irrelevant

        Re: Staples

        I was one of the first ADSL subscribers in our area (one of Freeserve's trial installs before full launch, 1999 I think) and thus got an engineer install. I'd already got a wired telephone extension running through the cellar to the back room where the computer was, so expected them to just do whatever gubbins was needed back there. But no, back then it needed a new master socket at the front, and another extension running the ADSL port to a special RJ11-only socket placed next to the existing telephone one in the back. At least he used the cellar route. I got the full 512Kbps, too. (But the exchange was only 200M away down the road..)

  6. jake Silver badge

    Single points of failure always do.

    I landed a contract to install two big, garage sized, Memorex tape backup robots at a large number-crunching outfit once. Before I bid on the job, the VP of operations gave me the grand tour. He was proud of all his redundancy. He had two power lines coming in to two separate rooms, with a motor-generator, a large battery consisting of dozens of telco-style lead-acid batteries, a generator, and monitoring systems for each room-full of gear. The 48 Volts was switched by a box at the corner where the two rooms met, brought into the main building via a 5" conduit, where it was switched to two separate computer rooms. Even the links between outlying offices were redundant T-1 and T-3 lines. There was a third "data center" that was dark, to be used for spares "just in case". It was designed to provide non-stop operations, and it did a pretty good job of it. Even the Halon had built-in redundancy.

    Until a semi-truck carrying some of my Memorex kit backing into the receiving dock went off course & cut the 5" conduit. The security cameras caught the sparks quite nicely :-)

    Two weeks after installing the tape robots, I had a proposal for a more geographically diverse version of the same thing on the VP's desk. I didn't land that contract, alas.

    1. Old Used Programmer

      Re: Single points of failure always do.

      The University of California at Berkeley (UCB, Cal) had a pair of leased lines to somewhere on the US east coast as backbone internet lines. They were paying a fairly stiff premium for independent routing. Then one day a farmer in New Jersey with a backhoe took out a fiber conduit...and *both* circuits went down.

      There was a long discussion between the provider and Cal about what "independent routing" meant and how much they were being charged to have it. The University got a *sizable* refund for time when the routing hadn't been independent.

      1. Olivier2553

        Re: Single points of failure always do.

        A decade or more ago, most of Thailand international traffic when down: all ISP had most of their different international connections running though a single sub ocean cable to Singapore (at that time, we were lucky to have a satellite link to Japan).

        When working on a project for the University of Laos, I tried to tell them that they should invest into independent routing between their two sites, at that time Vientiane was going through a lot of extension and building and not a month would pass without the cable being cut. I did not manage to get my point through.

  7. Alister

    Was working as a telephone fitter in the early eighties, and went to a client's premises to fit a wall-mounted phone extension.

    The client had decided where he wanted it, and helpfully marked the wall with a big cross in marker pen. It was in the middle of a bare external wall, with no electrical sockets or switches anywhere near it, so I was happy to fit it where indicated. (This was in the days before cable finders were a thing).

    So I marked out the bracket, drilled the first hole, no problem. Started drilling the second hole, big flash and bang... Oops!

    Turns out some electrician, in the dim and distant past, had run an electrical cable diagonally across the wall from top to bottom, and then plastered it in with no steel capping or anything over it.

    1. Mr Sceptical

      45 degree electricians

      I had the same thing in our flat - you could clearly see diagonal channels up the living room wall. God knows what the sparky was thinking (or not)...

      1. Tim99 Silver badge

        Re: 45 degree electricians

        What he’d do with the couple of quid he’d saved on cable; or the next job where he'd use the "saved" cable?

    2. Andytug

      Yep, got that in our kitchen

      When replacing it after we moved in, took the old wall units off, hmm, why is there an 8mm hole here in the middle with burn marks round it? Stud/wire detector out, wire (in metal conduit fortunately) runs diagonally from top corner to socket in middle of wall.

      Wall now has appropriate areas shaded and labelled in big letters, just in case I forget in the future!

      I am not a sparky but even I know wires should run vertically!

      1. Sgt_Oddball
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Yep, got that in our kitchen

        That reminds me of the horrors spotted when house hunting (Victorian housing area in the better part of city). I always made a point of inspecting the basement for the horrors that lurked beneath.

        That said one of the nicest cabling runs was on a place built 1750. Each cable was parallel to the consumer panel and then went 90 degrees before into the walls, all completely parallel with staples placed in neat diagonals. Shame it had a postage stamp for a garden and no study room.

        My own house had a creative sparky that used cable to hold the live cables to the floor beams. Never seen it done like that before (and my old man's a sparky, so I've seen a few creative installations before that he's fixed.)

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: Yep, got that in our kitchen

          When I redid the floor boards in an old house I drew on them the runs of the lighting circuit and wall sockets underneath. If it wasn't going to help me, I figured that the next poor person to do anything there would appreciate it.

    3. Roffaboy

      You must be English..

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Way to add to the conversation. What made you reach that startling conclusion, and why does it matter?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      diagonal cable runs

      I'll raise you this:

      Visiting a friend's flat in a former Soviet republic, the cable came out of the plaster in the corner of the room, spanning about 4" to the adjoining wall, there it went back into the plaster to a socket about 3" further along that wall. "Plans say the socket goes there, on that wall, I've only got this much cable..."

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: diagonal cable runs

        A friend's house in France: There were 6 different coloured cables in one light switch, a different set of colours in the ceiling rose and a further different set of colours cables in the switch the other side of the room.

        Testing the wires revealed a puzzling set of signals therefore as the ceiling was crap we just removed it and found multiple short pieces of cables joined using whatever came to hand and . Definitely not all connector blocks and where not used there was some evidence of a little insulation tape used but not on all of them - which led to some interesting circuits.

    5. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      When my brother moved into his current place, he ask me as a sparks to do some wiring upgrades before they filled the house and made access impossible. In removing a blanking panel off the fireplace I discovered a socket at the back *inside* the chimney. Tracing the cable it ran right up the centre of the chimey breast - right where you'd wallop a nail in to hang a picture.

    6. Muscleguy

      While waiting for our original Virgin cable install (to replace their dialiup) I pulled the TV stand out, pulled the downstairs power fuse and had the socket behind which had never worked (long wire distribution boards from other sockets powered the TV etc).

      It was an overcast, gloomy day, when I poked the socket innards with an insulated screwdriver there was a flash and the lights went out. The stupid berks we bought the house off had put the socket there but run if off the standard lamp socket along the wall from it, on the 5A lighting circuit.

      I removed it from the standard lamp socket, found a space in a connector on a joist it was a perfect length for and which they had ignored. So it now looks like it was done properly. Oh yes I drilled and chopped out the wall and put in a double socket instead of the single to do the job properly.

      Later on I hard wired a modern standard lamp in and the standard socket worked just fine as it should do.

      BTW every stop chock thing in the plumbing has failed when I needed it off to do some plumbing. I thus have a selection on hand for next time.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Detached garage in the first house we bought in NI. Wiring in garage but with no direct connection to supply. The previous owners had managed this by taking a supply from the kitchen as and when needed with a long flex with a 13 Amp plug on each end. One end plugged into a socket in the kitchen and the other into a socket in the garage.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Where I come from ...

          ... those have a name: Suicide Cord. Often used to connect a generator to a house supply through a dryer or oven plug, thus driving both 110V legs of the household. Not recommended. In fact, in most jurisdictions it is extremely illegal because you can back-drive the public grid, thus putting linesmen into danger if they think ("know") that the power is down. This HAS killed people. Do NOT do it!

        2. Mast1

          Should have known better....

          I started my working life fresh out of school in a north-west London research labs of a once-famous ELECTRIC company (similarly named but different companies on both sides of the pond). Old-fashioned industrial building. Labs could be sub-divided by benches stick out at right angles off the walls where the mains socket were. I say "benches" because there were two in my lab, daisy-chained. Occasionally we moved the benches around (installed in pre-history), so having a "male" and a "female" end on the power cords was too much like hard work if the benches went back the wrong way, and a hard-wired male end could get damaged in a move. So we had two female ends, ie sockets on each end of the bench, connected by a 13A plug to 13 A plug on a short, detachable "suicide cord". At least someone had made a little brass clip that wing-nutted down over the plug. In my enthusiasm to move an end bench, I suddenly realised I was holding a live (240V) 13 A plug...... And this was after the "Health & Safety at Work Act" of 1974.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          My Father in Law used to do that, until I saw him doing it,

          Removed the cable+2 plugs and put in a safe connection to the garage.

          I don't think he saw the problem with his cable, even after I explained it to him.

    7. Robert Carnegie Silver badge


      I hope the fatal case I remember reading about is this from 2004,

      Because otherwise it is happening much too often.

      "Politics" because the married daughter of Member of Parliament Jenny Tonge was killed due to diagonal-ish kitchen wiring installed by "unnamed builders" "not according to best practice guidelines". And because her husband had screwed a shelf in past cable that shouldn't have been there. Some time later, the screw became live.

  8. Barking House

    Beware mystery cable runs

    It is the late 1980's I am asked to visit a customer campus that is experiencing strange ethernet issues. I turn up at the campus that has two buildings that are separated by about 20 feet at their nearest points. I quickly confirm that they really do have an ethernet problem, to the point that is almost unusable. Do the normal troubleshooting questions, anything changed? / Is there any physical activity on site etc etc

    Get a negative from the IT boys, so in the end it was up with the DC floor tiles and start to examine the transceivers (As the back bone was 10MB Thick Ethernet), found the transceivers and all looking good. But strangely the Ethernet cable seemed to go out of the DC wall. Ask the IT Manager where the cable is routed, he tells me that they dug a trench about 6 months ago to the other building to connect a small server room to the backbone. Had to convince them to get someone to dig up where the cable had been buried - Unbelievably they had just buried the cable in the ground and was looking very much the worse for wear !

    Apart from the electrical issues (Electrical Potential issues) connecting two buildings with a cable which in itself could cause issues, the cable which was very much not intended to be buried in the ground outside and started to breakdown the outer coating which had caused the failure.

    Advised them to get new cable, keep it in the DC and invest in proper connectivity solution to connect their buildings on the campus.

    Customer complained that no-one told them that they could not use the cable outdoors and that we should take some of the responsibility and compensate them - But thankfully someone with a modicum of knowledge quickly shut that down on the customer side.

    For me what was amazing is that it actually worked good enough for about 6 months !

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Beware mystery cable runs

      Just to piggy-back on this one ... They do make what purports to be direct burial network cables. My advice? Always run them in properly installed conduit anyways. Trust me on this.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Caver_Dave Silver badge

      Re: Beware mystery cable runs

      Had to run 1Gbps Ethernet over 80m to my brothers office. Could not afford 'proper' conduit, but 100m of buried grade plastic water pipe worked perfectly. And I purposely put no warning tape over it :-)

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. keith_w

        Re: Beware mystery cable runs

        did that for 2 or 3 meters between 2 construction trailers. the ones across the construction yard were connected via microwave.

        1. Rob Daglish

          Re: Beware mystery cable runs

          Mate of mine early in his apprenticeship was asked to cut an old blue alkathene water pipe out. Turned out someone had used it as a conduit for a 240V 32A ring main cable...

    3. irrelevant

      Re: Beware mystery cable runs

      I had need to run a couple of network cables under a footpath into a portacabin. Only about three feet, but they wouldn't countenance stringing then across up high, which was somebody's first suggestion. I just ran sone 50mm drain pipe, left it with the cables in and a length of cord, just in case I had to come back.

      Couple of months later I did need to go back.. found some joker had added a mains power cable to the mix, using my pull cord, obviously, and hadn't bloody replaced it..

  9. Chairman of the Bored

    Cable fights back!

    Supposedly my firm had an installer suffer an eye injury because he was looking down a conduit while a buddy blew a fiber down the tube.

    Didn't witness it myself, but the mandatory training did gain another entry.

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Blowing fibre.

      Hint: Don't use a compressor. Use a decent shopvac. Really. It works better.

      1. cdrcat

        Re: Blowing fibre.

        Air compressor fits the ABF gun better:

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Blowing fibre.

          For microfiber, sure. That's not what we were discussing.

          Horses for courses.

      2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: Blowing fibre.

        Not if you are blowing out the buried water lines for the lawn sprinklers, before winter comes along......

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Blowing fibre.

          We were discussing fiber, not water. And besides, I've found that a wet&dry vac does a better job in many cases than blowing the water out, especially in systems with many branches. What works even better is a drain installed at an engineered-in low point. Inexpensive self leveling rotary lasers are gawd/ess's gift to the cognizant DIYer.

      3. the hatter

        Re: Blowing fibre.

        Nothing sucks like a VAX.

  11. Jellied Eel Silver badge


    Ever had to deal with a "solution" that involved a pick-up truck and a leaden foot?

    Yup. One evening, I was bimbling off to get some food. Route took me along a popular cable route to a large BT exchange. Noticed an outside plant crew had plonked a couple of cones in the road, lifted some duct covers and weren't wearing hi-viz or any of the usual stuff an OP crew would have. So called the police and BT, who turned up and nicked the cable thieves just as they were lashing the cables to their van ready to pull them. Sadly cables had already been cut.

    So we were moving a large datacentre into new buildings. DC in one hall, people in an office next door. Cabling needed to be run between the two in the new ducts installed for the job. Contractors said 'done' and pointed to the neat coil of nylon cord left at one end. There's an art to using draw cords to pull cables so you still have a draw cord in the ducts.

    Same site, some time later and the risers between the machine room on one floor and the ops room below were full. So contractors hired over a weekend to cut a hole in the concrete slab so we could run more cabling down to ops. There was quite a bit of cable under the floor, so contractors moved some out of the way. Coiling slack fibre into a neat skein comfortably exceeded said fibres bend radius.

    Different employer, different sites, on different sides of a river. Contractors hired to do directional/mole drilling across the river to make a new duct. All going well until mole went through a gas main, then a power cable. Fault detection was aided by the jets of flame. Think that was a 6-figure repair job.

    And many more. Drilling through building walls to make entry (not in the Hatton Garden sense) and hitting buiding's water mains. Finding unexploded bombs or long forgotten buried fuel tanks. There's a reason why excess construction charges can be, or seem to be excessive. Thanks to affordable digital cameras though, it helped me explain to clients why their service was going to be delayed.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: soo...

        Who is it on here that said that any story is instantly funnier if it includes the phrase "flames shot out!"?

        Flames heading rapidly along a pipe to freedom can make a distinctive noise, which I guess can save eyebrows. But one of those occupational hazards, hence why it's good practice to check a pit with a gas detector, not a lit roll-up ciggie*.

        Another fun job was trenching in the vicinity of Holborn. Kind of an odd place to dig given it's on a kind of split level, ie Holborn Viaduct or buildings near there having split-level ground floors. So I was checking on the progress, and the field guys said "Well, we've hit a plague pit". So first thoughts were hoping they weren't planning on heading back to the office. Got archaelogists quite excited though as it was a brick burial vault rather than direct burial pit. After we'd planning an alternate route and finished the paperwork, I got to pop along to the site for a look.

        * Also on things that go bang, there was a call from some researchers trying to figure out why US ducts went <bang> more often than European. Which given the mass of typical cast-iron covers, could easily give passers by a bad day. Conclusion was probably a combination of aging infrastructure & leaking cast iron pipes, and spilled petrol/diesel from vehicles.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: soo...

          "But one of those occupational hazards, hence why it's good practice to check a pit with a gas detector, not a lit roll-up ciggie"

          It happened before my time but the scars were still there to be seen....

          Gas leak in a tunnel, not sure what gas. Someone from the forensic lab went out to investigate with a detector. Only tested at one level and pronounced it clear. "Look I can strike a match." I've met the RUC sergeant who had the wit to say "Not until I get out".

          1. iainr

            Re: soo...

            Back when I was a kid in the 1970s gas was coal gas made in the gasworks opposite our house. Coal gas was, i think, not as explosive as natural gas or else I don't think they could have got away with what happened: We had a gas leak in our kitchen, you could smell coal gas miles away, gas engineer arrives and agrees he can smell gas. Proceeds to crawl about under the sink in search of the leak. My dad had been a plumbers mate at times asked him if he'd need soapy water "och no I think we'll be fine" and lights a match. there was a pop, a small explosion and a jet of flame coming out of the pipe where the leak was. Having resoldered the joint a second match was liberally applied to the joint to ensure it was now gas tight.

          2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: soo...

            Gas leak in a tunnel, not sure what gas. Someone from the forensic lab went out to investigate with a detector. Only tested at one level and pronounced it clear. "Look I can strike a match." I've met the RUC sergeant who had the wit to say "Not until I get out".

            Working with field engineers, I learned to respect tunnels. Regular cable pits are safer given they're shallow and you can't get in them, but can still give plenty of suprises. Done properly, each duct should be stoppered with gas seals.. Then remembering to check the pit, then check again once seals removed.

            Deeper tunnels were as you say, more FUN!. When Urband did a deal with Thames Water to run fibre in their sewers, I got to go visit. So suited up in full PPE with BA and the water guys armed with detectors. As well as the risks from gas leaks & methane from sewage, there was also additional challenges from businesses and people pouring random chemicals down drains. Apparently hair dressers could be a challenge with bleach/peroxides & solvents poured away. Luckily most of the time they ended up diluted.

            I also got to go visit some NY utilidors. Much of the same risks, but an additional bit of PPE was a long willow wand. Procedure was to sweep that around the tunnel ahead, and if it suddenly got shorter, there was a high-pressure steam leak. Dowsing for steam I guess.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: soo...

              "there was also additional challenges from businesses and people pouring random chemicals down drains"

              We had a problem with the Belfast sink* (in Belfast) leaking. I had a few goes at tightening up the fixings with no success. Eventually the penny dropped. It was the sink we used to dispose of reagents used to prepare samples for pollen analysis. For soil samples this involved boiling with hydrofluoric acid.** It was an old building so the sewer pipes would also have been glazed; I wonder what it did to them.

              * For those who don't know, glazed earthenware.

              ** Sporopollenin is amazingly resistant to all sorts of things.

            2. TSM

              Re: soo...

              > an additional bit of PPE was a long willow wand. Procedure was to sweep that around the tunnel ahead, and if it suddenly got shorter, there was a high-pressure steam leak. Dowsing for steam I guess.

              Shades of CMOT Dibbler's patented dragon detectors.

      2. Muscleguy

        Re: soo...

        Aged 8 i had a burn hole in my pyjama top. I was on the other side of the breakfast bar at breakfast. A flame shot out of the toaster through the hole around the cancel button and burned a hole in my top. The toaster was toast. Bad ‘70s manufacturing. At least nobody was touching the thing to get electrocuted by it.

    2. Giles C Silver badge

      Re: soo...

      Regarding draw cords, my attitude to this sort of work, is a simple one. Make sure system is left as you would expect it to be.

      If you need a draw cord to fit your cable, replace it so the next time it is there for you or whoever comes after you.

      Same as if working on a mechanical system ensure refitted bolts are copper greased so they come off in a few years, the next guy will thank you for it.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: soo...

        the next guy will thank you for it.

        More importantly, the "next" guy might be you again.

        1. Giles C Silver badge

          Re: soo...

          In a lot of cases it is.......

        2. Andy the ex-Brit

          Re: soo...

          Speaking of the "next guy", my brother was building a house, and having done a lot of improvement project and struggling to run wires, he went to the construction site one weekend and ran a piece of 4" or 6" pipe behind a wall from basement to attic. He figured he might want to run network one day in the future (this was before wiring houses with Ethernet was common.)

          The house had a heat pump system with an additional purely resistance electric heater for very cold days. The resistors were in the attic, powered from the basement where the electrical entered. The builder apparently ran one gauge too small cable to them, and found this out only on final inspection when all the walls and ceiling were fully finished. My brother figures he saved that builder $10k by letting him run the replacement cable through his conduit.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: soo...

        "Make sure system is left as you would expect it to be."

        That depends on what you expect of your predecessors. Leave it as you'd wish it to be.

    3. David Roberts

      Re: soo...ah, moles

      Talking of moles, contractors used one to run a new water main down our street.

      Shortly after that the house drains started backing up.

      After much unsuccessful rodding we called out the water people, who told us if it was our fault they would charge us.

      Camera down the pipe and oops!

      Water pipe had gone straight through the soil pipe.

  12. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    One thing I've always noticed is how difficult it is to get decent workmen.

    Take, for example, my house. A few years ago, the upstairs lights failed. I got several electricians to look at the problem, as I thought it would be a potentially expensive job, so wanted multiple quotes.

    One electrician decided the whole house needed re-wiring. Now, admittedly, he is right, and ideally, I'd like to have the whole house re-wired and put in an Ethernet network at the same time, but I don't have the money required to do that. He quoted over 5000 pounds, as he also decided to quote for running a lighting circuit to the loft. Now, I agree, in an ideal world, we'd have one, but I am shortly going to get someone in to build a loft extension, which will require electrical work up there *anyway*, but he wouldn't remove it from the quote, despite me telling him that we were looking to get a loft extension, and they'd likely rip out anything he fitted.

    Most didn't bother to retun my calls, or quote, but another electrician did quote. He explained exactly what was wrong, in clear english (basically the insulation in some of the wires had aged), quoted just for replacing the lighting circuit, and replacement consumer unit (we only had an old fusebox), and tested the other circuits (to ensure they were safe). He gave us an excellent deal, and when given the job, turned up with a couple of mates early the next Saturday. The work was finished by early afternoon, and we haven't had a problem since. In fact, the only reason I have not called him back for further electrical work is when I tried to, his mobile wasn't working, and when I looked up his company online, all I found was a bankruptcy notice.

    Even his work wasn't perfect. One night, I got home and none of the upstairs lights were working. I went round doing everything I could, and got nothing. I reset the circuit breaker. Nothing (although it hadn't tripped either, so I had to trip it and reset it). Then, I noticed a small switch at the base of one of the walls upstairs. The previous owner of the house had electric heaters (Economy 7 I think). While these had been removed when we installed central heating, one of the switches had been left. I noticed it, and noticed it was switched off. So, not really having much to lose, I turned it on. The lights came on. The electrician had ripped out most of the cable in the upstairs lighting circuit and replaced it, but he had just re-used that bit.

    It's a pain, and the kids have been told to leave it alone, but I suppose on the bright side, we have a kill switch for the upstairs lighting now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Regarding the extraneous switch - if it's a regular light switch, that would be pretty easy to remove:

      1. Turn off breaker.

      2. Remove cover from light switch. Use voltmeter to verify power is off.

      3. Remove light switch.

      4. Attach incoming wires to outgoing wires, matching colors. (Wire nuts are used in the US for this, not sure about the usual procedure in the UK.)

      5. Install a blank cover in place of the light switch cover.

      6. Turn breaker back on. Verify everything works.

      1. MadonnaC

        Or, as it usually goes...

        1. Turn off breaker

        2. Dig flashlight out of toolbox (I know I should have done it sooner, but I had to wait for the kids to go to bed)

        3. Unscrew light switch from mounting

        4. Realise that green/red/back wires have been used interchangeably, and the black and white paper covered wires aren't going to be any help

        5. Screw light switch back on, and turn breaker back on (optional search for why breaker will not stay on now)

        6. Get quote for light switch removal

        7. decide it's too much, and hit the switch to break off the lever so it's now difficult to move

        8. Have one of these ->

      2. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Oh gods, wirenuts...

        Illegal this side of the pond, thankfully. Their failure modes are fatal.

        Over here you use a junction box or choc block.

        As it's already in an enclosure, you just need the appropriate size blanking cover and choc block.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Oh gods, wirenuts...

          When wirenuts are installed to code, they don't fail.

          We use j-boxes, too. You'll often find wirenuts in them. See "to code", above.

          Chock-blocks are subject to galvanic corrosion, and can be a fire hazard.

      3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        I just posted a link to a fatality story where the coroner said words against "do it yourself" electrical work, probably illegal now anyway if not a qualified professional. What you say sounds straightforward, but best not.

        (Confusingly, actual DIY which occurred had not been the fundamental problem.)

        I know a house where one hanging light is hanging a bit looser than is properly nice. It's screw mounted in ceiling material that appears to be cardboard imitation MDF. Or rather it isn't mounted exactly.

        What I hope is a temporary solution is to remove the lamp shade so that there is less weight on, well, the cardboard.

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      Just replace the switch with a junction box and blanking plate.

      Job done.

      1. cdegroot

        I didn't have a blanking plate when faced with the same conundrum, so quickly taped some ducktape over the switch. It'll be gone when I remember to grab a blanking plate from the hardware store which, knowing me, will be another decade or so.

  13. aregross
    Thumb Up

    I used a radio controlled 4WD car to run cable (10Base-T) through a ceiling once. The ceiling tiles were those asbestos ones that were glued in place so I busted one out of each end of the room and was able to run all the cables and then glued the panels back in place.

  14. Ken Smith

    Gas Pipe

    Myself and a colleague, who is African in colour, were drilling a rather large hole in a wall to run a bundle of Cat5. Nearby was a goods lift that made a hissing sound when it operated. Just as my colleague took a short break from blasting away with his STS drill and he heard this "hissing" sound. My colleague literally went white thinking he'd hit a gas pipe!

  15. keith_w

    In the late '80s or '90 or '91 2 of my co-workers came back from an IBM Token-Ring video course which had covered the failure modes of T-R. They decided to check the fail-over when 1 one of the inter-closet connections failed as it was supposed to fail over to reversing itself. So they yanked out one of the connections which immediately caused the entire network to fail as it had already been running on the fail over.

    1. skeptical i

      re: token ring

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Could have used a pickup truck for a fiber pull back when I were a PFY. Job was to connect a coms cabinet in a newly purchased building back to the main DC. The buildings were maybe 100 yards apart. First pull was underground rated 6-strand singlemode in 2" conduit buried between the buildings.. That went well.

    The conduit terminated in a pull box in the new building. Networking cabinet (actually a 2 door utility cabinet like one the janitor used for cleaning supplies) was at the other end of the building. Easy, except: 1) old building, so lots of direction changes to route through walls. 2) interior was run through 1.5" smurf tube, not pvc. 3) for some ungodly reason, the boss didn't spec a bulkhead in the pull box, and we had to pull the underground cable through the smurf tube.

    When the other PFY and I started the pull, the smurf tube ripped off the wall. We had to play tug of war, one of us holding the smurf tube, one tugging the pull cord.

    After an hour of fighting, the end of the cable appeared. We got a couple of feet through and suddenly the pull lanyard on the cable snapped off. Small miracle it didn't break before the cable poked out the end.

    Same customer had miles of twinax in the walls and ceilings. We ripped loads of that out in a different allnall-nighter

  17. Sudosu Bronze badge

    The mythological wire stretcher

    A couple decades and a career ago I was a Journeyman Sparky and part of the daily routine was training the new apprentices.

    This training consisted of things such as tightening the wheel bolts on a cart, or the hinge on a ladder in order to add some resistance to help get them in shape.

    We also helped them with their search and identification skills by telling them to "Go back to the job box and grab me a..."

    "bucket of Ohms"

    "snipe" (often specified by color)

    "wire stretcher"....which according to the article is actually a thing, though no one ever returned with a sample...though I do recall doing some massive wire pulls with a forklift if that counts.

    Now, I have to run out to the store to get a can of compression and some blinker fluid for my car.

    1. Giles C Silver badge

      Re: The mythological wire stretcher

      One of my friends is in charge of a fabrication workshop. He told me that sending the apprentices down to stores for a long weight or grinder sparks is now forbidden as it may hurt the apprentices feelings.....

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

        Re: The mythological wire stretcher


        "One of my friends is in charge of a fabrication workshop. He told me that sending the apprentices down to stores for a long weight or grinder sparks is now forbidden as it may hurt the apprentices feelings....."

        No it is'nt , I quite often get rid of an annoying operator by doing that...

        1. Giles C Silver badge

          Re: The mythological wire stretcher

          Depends where you work, where he is if he tried that he would be on a caution...

          And no I am not naming the company

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The mythological wire stretcher

      What, no striped paint?

    3. ColinPa

      Re: The mythological wire stretcher

      Someone who worked in a hospital, sent a grunt to get 10 meters of fallopian tubing

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. whoseyourdaddy

    Ah, the former employer with a breathtaking volume of

    ... abandoned parallel printer cables above the ceiling tiles.

    You can't cut them to length, so they rolled the excess up and left it sitting on the ceiling tiles. Over the years, the tiles would start to bulge downward in the middle from the weight of the cables. My predecessor apparently gave up and returned whatever multiplex box they tried to share an HP pen plotter.

    As a bonus, this was also an L-shaped building with a 1.2kv green utility stepdown transformer on each end. Thicknet trunk in the ceiling running the length of the building in the Chicago suburbs. Which made thunderstorms interesting.

    Lighting would strike a light fixture in the parking lot and the brief earth ground difference between the utility feeds would inject a whole lot of energy into that poor network. Vampire taps had to be replaced in the ceiling and a few Sun Sparcstation motherboards with the AUI connections blown.

    Oh yeah, this was also the company where I had to buy extension cables with only ONE socket on the end as my coworkers would see the empty socket and plug in their desk fans and at one time, a coffee pot, blowing the APC UPS.

    Had to convince the corporate "lords of the ERP Micro-Vax" into letting me replace that mess with 10-baseT and a DEC network bridge as the sacrificial lightning protector. A year later, they pulled the whole ThickNet out and put in shiny new DEC network hubs and 10-BaseT.

  20. evangellick

    Operators behind glass terminals shouldn't throw insults

    Only one thing to say and that is receiver sensitivity. Contrary to the belief of the omniscient keyboard jockeys, sometimes it is that socratic paradox of the "Cable Monkey" that saves the day. The de facto expert by being physically present at the errant installation or having the presence and presence of mind to think about the problem before dispatching the entire spares for EMEA to site and hauling everyman upto the Prime Minister onto conference calls.

    At the basis of telecommunication is electromagnetic radiation and as dear Claude Shannon defined in his information systems model there is a sender and a receiver that the quality of the message is dependent on the noise in that information system. What seemed to elude many a keyboard-bound technical expert was that the signal of the message if too great at the receiver can be as detrimental as the signal being too low at the receiver. That is where the monkey magic is introduced and an attenuators are added to the media to ensure that the signals are within the operating limits for the system and presto the system works with an air-gap in the optical path or an added 50 metres of cable.

    In my varied career this provided the egg for the faces of many of the smart arse tyrants of the TTY and problem managers. The fact is we are all blinded by our roles to the wisdom concealed by other people's trades. It is after all practice and knowing what we are doing; leaving that can be done to those best placed to do it.

  21. Andytug

    Floor tiles can be fun too..

    Temporary patching for a roof replacement (don't ask....), 25m patch cables run under the walkway, blockage discovered. Pull up tiles both sides, me one side mate the other, can't even push a rod through. Pull up all the floor tiles, and discover a whole floor box under them! Someone obviously saved money by not re-locating it when they decied that was going to be the walkway.....

  22. bernmeister

    Opposite problem

    The closest I have had to that is where the terminal had been moved after the cable installation survey. The terminal was mounted on the bottom of a large C-Band satellite dish so nothing could be moved. It turned out that the ground where the dish was mounted was to soft so the installers moved it to somewhere dryer without telling anybody! The end result was that the installers left the cable 5 metres short of its destination and scarpered.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Opposite problem

      Earlier this year Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum from BT "installed" a fibre connection to our new office.

      Their installation consisted of:

      • Stuffing the fiber end point in an old carrier bag
      • Without end caps on the fiber ports
      • Hiding the end point in its bag under a cavity floor
      • Providing a photo of a different site as evidence of installation
      • Running the cable too short to reach the rack without it going diagonally across standing space
      • Never testing the end point because there was no power (site was being worked on at the time, full power was available even if it required temporary extension cables)
      • Never configuring the local exchange end.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Opposite problem

        Look on the bright side, if the Tweedle brothers had made the installation visually perfect, it would have taken years instead of months for BT to even admit there was a problem.

  23. big_D Silver badge


    Shouldn't that be the Rexx of the species?

  24. Olivier2553

    A bit bigger than a pick-up truck

    It is not uncommon to see a rope attached to a truck (like 10t model), going up the electric poles and pulling the future electric cable (those pretty thick ones, 15 or 20 meters high up at the top of the poles, each spaces 100m apart, so it must be in the 10s, if not 100s KV). But they are using pulley on each pole when pulling the cables.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Your installer has pulled my wife's wedding dress into the wall."

    In New York in the 80s I had a job repairing damage caused by our companies Cable TV installers. On one occasion the installer had drilled into a cupboard rather then through an external wall. The drill bit got caught around the fabric to the wife's wedding dress which had been hanging there and it had balled up on the bit. He'd then tried to pull the drill back out and had pulled so hard that a considerable amount of the dress had got completely wedged inside the wall. I never found out how much we had to pay to settle that one.

  26. willi0000000

    hence the term thinwire?

  27. tweell

    Pulling fiber with truck

    A large site I was given responsibility for had just been connected at great expense with multimode and single mode fiber to every building. I was given the task of upgrading the data and comms from the old thicknet hubs and Cat3 Nortel phones to gigabit switches and VoIP. No problem, said I, and bought a lot of Cisco kit.

    When it came time to connect those new switches, the fiber links were shite. I quickly found the test readings provided by the contractor had no connection to reality. I asked a maintenance buddy who'd been there while the fiber was installed, and he told me the company had pulled the cabling with a truck. They only had three guys for the job and quickly fell behind schedule. After their powered spool went TU, they used their vehicle to pull the fiber. Adding insult to injury, over half of the ends were bad as well.

    The company boss had gotten a liking to Bolivian marching powder, so all the profits went up his nose and the company declared bankruptcy right as I found out how we'd been shafted. I got my boss to fork out for a scope, fiber end kit and tester, then spent a month replacing bad ends and testing. We eventually managed to find enough good strands to make things work.

    I got a new job after that, as the Big Boss didn't trust contractors any more. Until he retired, I ran a team that put in every wire and fiber we needed.

  28. prof_peter

    A lifetime ago I had to run cables for DEC VS100s, which were graphical displays that connected to VAX 750s. (these were the ones the X windows system was developed on, but I disclaim all responsibility for that...) The machine room was separated from the terminal location by about 100 feet of fairly full conduit, and I swear the cables were coated in the sort of sticky rubber that they use on rock climbing shoes. I think there was a lot of Kevlar or something on the inside of the cable, because we never broke one.

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