FiOS Day 2 — post installation checklist

3128551594_2a367f7b7a_oWe have FiOS now. The installers from Verizon left at about 2:30 yesterday afternoon, with handsful of cookies from my wife and thanks from me. They started work about 10 am. In the four and a half hours (including a lunch break) in between, they:

  • Installed a new wall box (shown) to take the fiber from the street and convert its signal to TV, Internet, and phone
  • Ran phone, WAN, and coax into my media panel so that all existing phone, Ethernet, and cable hookups in the house worked
  • Leveraged the existing basement drop to connect the living room jack–the only one not already hooked into the media panel–into the media panel
  • Installed a new wireless base station
  • Ran fiber into the house and lit up the whole network
  • Pulled off the old copper line and house-side box

So: Now gone is all but the last remnant of Comcast. Their box is still on the side of the house, but the three splitters that were between their box and the wall are gone. The new TV signal goes directly from the fiber into my media wiring box and gets split once across the five live jacks in the house. No wonder the picture is better. The phone works well too.

On the other hand, I’m still working through some Internet issues. I couldn’t get my existing base station, an AirPort Extreme, to see the new base station, so I shut it down temporarily–taking my shared music drive offline. I also wasn’t able to get my two AirPort Express units, which provide networking for the printer and AirTunes to my living room stereo, hooked into the new network, but I suspect that’s easily fixed once I get a little dedicated time.

The punchline? Using the SpeakEasy speed test, I recorded up to about 19.5 Mbps down and about 4.9 Mbps up, at multiple times during the day. That’s comparable to the Comcast up rate but about twice as fast as Comcast down.

Media wiring project: data cabling

For those that have not been following my structured wiring project (and hard to blame you: it’s been going on since late 2004), here are the highlights to date:

  1. Moved into a 1941 house with no inside telephone wiring and put a temporary fix in place.
  2. Installed a Leviton structured wiring box in our basement and mounted a telephone switching block, a cable T, and punchdowns for Cat 5 wiring.
  3. Ran Cat 5, phone, and coax into the first and second floor bedrooms while the walls were open for our air conditioning project.
  4. Ran all the phone and coax in the house into the structured wiring box
  5. Hook up the new outlets in the kitchen

The major step left incomplete after all this activity was the data wiring. I haven’t had to do a lot of data cabling in the house thanks to 802.11. But with three to four laptops, a TiVO, a Wii, speakers, and a printer all on the same hub, it’s occured to me that lighting up the data jacks that I installed in steps 3 and 5 might be a worthwhile endeavor.

So last weekend I got my wiring tools out, opened up the box, and took a look. I saw my punchdown block but couldn’t figure out how it was supposed to work. But I finally realized that the punchdown block simply provided physical termination for the wire alongside a jack into which the actual data service could be plugged. So I needed to do three things: terminate the two Cat-5 runs from the bedrooms into the punchdown block; buy and install a hub to light up the punchdown block; and extend the short run from the kitchen to the block so I could light it up as well.

It turned out to be really easy. The Cat-5 runs were color coded to the colors on the block, so I simply lined up the wires (blue & white, solid blue, orange & white, solid orange, green & white, solid green, brown & white, solid brown) and used the punchdown tool to knock them into the block. Then I used a crimping tool that I bought back in 2005 to make Ethernet patch cables from some spare Cat-5, and connected the block to the hub. I saved the short run for the weekend; I’ll probably move the long cable I had to the data block, and splice the short one and run it into the voice block.

That leaves one very important step: getting a data feed from the WAN (our ISP) into the hub. I have a plan for that, and it happens this weekend. And it involves a new contractor and a new drop to the house. And I’m very excited about it. Stay tuned!

Basement library complete

Here’s the after to Tuesday’s before, with my row of BestÃ¥ shelves from Ikea fully assembled. The doors went on Monday night, and the books went in the last few nights. I’m still waiting on one glass door and a few DVD organizers for the small shelf to the right, which will help with the clutter there.

The hardest thing about the shelves is probably just deciding where to put them to maximize storage. The shelves that meet the bottom of the glass doors need to stay fixed, and there are LPs behind the bottom doors, so that dictates the position of two shelves; and there needs to be another fixed shelf about a third of the way down for stability. But there are a lot of options for the other shelves. I ended up doing something I swore off years ago: sorting books by size and spacing the shelves accordingly. I bought five extra shelves for the units I bought (comprising four 75-inch bays and one 50 inch bay), and I think I still need to buy one or two more extras.

Bonus: click through on the photo and look at the “original size” version on Flickr, and you can get a pretty good look at the titles in my library.

Basement update: bookcases are in

A quick update on our basement project: it looks like we’ll make our deadline. The picture to the right shows a stage in the completion of the project, with the BestÃ¥ bookcases mostly assembled and the Flor carpet in.

I was able to finish the carpet with about an hours’ worth of work on Sunday. I was pleased with how well it came together and how solid it seems now that it’s settled in for 48 hours. Oh yes–and it’s bright too! Hoo boy. But it works in the otherwise slightly dark basement room, and helps set it aside as a “family” room as opposed to our more formal spaces.

The bookshelves were pretty straightforward too, though assembling three sets of shelves takes a little time. They’re cam-locked standard Ikea frames, just like a Pax closet or Akurum kitchen cabinet, or just about any other flat pack furniture, so the timely part is in leveling them so that the doors will line up properly, and in securing them to the wall. I was luck and hit studs going into four out of the six locations that were recommended as anti-topple points, so between that and the fact that the frames were screwed together I think we’re in business.

Since the picture was taken, I’ve finished hanging the glass doors on the front of the cabinets and have begun loading in the contents, which will take a while. I’ll post one more update when the shelves are all loaded in.

Basement progress update

We’re bound and determined to finish the basement project before the middle of next week. Why? Well, we’ll have both my parents and my sister visiting, and we only have one currently usable guest room… so it’s crunch time.

Fortunately, Lisa and Esta decluttered a lot of stuff and painted a lot of the basement last week, and Lisa and her Mom and I finished it over the last few days. So today was finishing day, beginning with a quick trip to Ikea to buy the bookshelves (detouring around the big fireball on Rt 128). More on the shelves tomorrow.

I bought a door to replace the water damaged one last weekend, and did a trial hanging of it today, mortising the hinges against the door and the frame. (Whoever hung the last door didn’t bother to mortise the hinges, just screwed them into the frame directly.) Then Lisa started painting the door, and I started laying the carpet.

We’re using Flor tiles for the carpet, and it’s kind of interesting. They come in boxes of 18 inch square tiles, and you start laying them down the center of the room on both axes, get them lining up as you like them, and then start filling in the four corners that are left. The tiles float above the subfloor, and are joined together by “dots”–essentially large stickers with heavy duty adhesive that join the corners together. It all goes very easily, until of course you get to the edge of the wall. Then the swearing begins. While Lisa put a coat and a half of paint on the (thankfully preprimed) door, I got about a wall and a half done along the edge, including the fireplace, before we had to knock off for the night.

Tomorrow’s job is to finish the carpet tiles, hang the door, and assemble the shelves. Then we can load the books and records back in, and find out how many books I have to find another home for. We won’t have a new sleeper sofa by Thursday, but we’ll have most of the room done, and that’ll be something.

Piece of the past

While I was in Pennsylvania, I helped my uncle move some junk out of the storage unit where we put some of my grandfather’s things. A few items held memories for me (I never could get comfortable on that fold-up metal cot, and was glad to see it go), but others were remnants: the boxes for his stereo, a piece of old demolished kitchen cabinets that was being used as a laundry table.

I happened to open one of the drawers in the aforementioned kitchen cabinets, and found an odd artifact: a hand drill, but looking like none I had ever seen. I asked my uncle about it, and he said he remembered using it with my grandfather on the farm back in the 1950s and 1960s. He said I could take it, so I brought it home.

The lettering on the gear handle said “Millers Falls Company, Greenfield, Mass.” A little searching turned up a history of the Millers Falls company and an illustration, description and photograph of our drill: a number 308, the so called “Buck Rogers” drill. The drill as manufactured featured red plastic grips and a fully enclosed gear, which had the benefit of keeping the mechanism working smoothly even after many years in a drawer. My grandfather’s was missing the box, and had white paint on both handles, but otherwise was intact. The handle still had some of the drill bits inside, though I haven’t looked closely to see if they are the originals.

It was oddly evocative to have this palmsize memento of my grandfather, who was so much bigger, whose hands fixed and built, fed and sheltered his family, until he couldn’t any more.

Holiday weekend

I’ve spent the weekend so far mostly outside, which has been great. When I was at Fennell’s party last weekend I never got a chance to mow our lawn, and it took forever to get through this afternoon. Then grilling burgers afterwards, with errands in between.

There’s nothing more urgent or important that needs to be done this weekend than to take care of my house and my family. I kind of like that.

Beautiful day

It was an amazing weekend. I spent the last half of last week dying of some sort of cold/allergy–it was so bad that I think I was running a fever a couple of nights. But on Saturday morning I could move again. And it was a good thing: since it rained the whole previous weekend, my lawn hadn’t been cut yet and it was almost ready to start swallowing small dogs and children.

So I got the mower going for the first time in 2008. It was slow going; the grass was so long and heavy with dew that I had to empty the bag every two rows, and had to scrape the deck clean every four so that the blade wouldn’t get choked. But it was nice to start getting the outside of the house into shape again.

This should be a nice week. No Tanglewood commitments for a while, and I have a trip this weekend to DC to see Lars Bjorn and Craig Fennell, along with some other folks I haven’t seen in a very long time. The occasion: Craig’s bachelor party. Which, since we’re all in our late 30s, should be fairly mellow.