Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Camron-Stanford House

The last couple of weeks have been busy. Given that I'm moving my office from the dining room to our old bedroom, it's no surprise I've spent time drilling holes, pulling wires, and painting and the like. What is surprising is that the work wasn't in our house, but in this little number:

It's Camron-Stanford House, a Victorian house on Lake Merritt. I've been volunteering there for a couple of years doing tech support. Via slow upgrades and a lot of work, the computer system is now in pretty good shape. (The database is still a mess, but that's a whole 'nother can of worms.)

The last weak link has been the Internet connection. It's a historical house, so drilling holes to pull cables or having *gasp* exposed cables are no-nos. So we've been using a wireless setup to connect to one of the law offices upstairs (office rents and renting the house for weddings and other events are how they pay for the upkeep of the house) where the DSL modem is. But given the vintage of the house, it has hecka thick walls (in the basement at least, 8" interior and 12" exterior), fat cast-iron plumbing and radiators, and uses plaster and lath instead of drywall as is done in more modern houses. Those things added up to pretty bad wireless connectivity, so we'd added an external antenna, repeaters, etc. I only occasionally had problems with it, and re-trying always fixed the problem. But the woman who used it to handle e-mail inquiries about renting the house for an event had frequent problems, which meant frequent phone calls to me, which meant frequent increases in my blood pressure. Not to mention an election-time like aversion to answering the phone.

But on my last I-can't-connect-please-come-down-here visit, the lawyer in the office upstairs and I figured out a way I might be able to run a network cable with no exposed cables, and (mostly) using existing holes by following other cables for things like the telephone lines and security system. A quick trip to CompUSA (yrch!) for some cable and home for some tools, and I spent most of the day fishing a Cat5 cable from office to office. I did have to enlarge one hole a little, and I had to cut off a connector to get the cable fished through. So today I re-terminated the cable, tacked it up discretely below a faux beam in the office (and painted it brown to match), and there's now a connection to the DSL modem that is as close to 100% as any can be. Which means fewer calls, and lower blood pressure.

Woohoo! Of course, we've now figured out a possible way to connect one of the problematic 2nd floor offices by fishing a cable through an old fireplace, so my adventures in really old houses is not over... And then there's the graphic design work I do for them, too...