CXO

Support diary: Matthew M. (Friday)

It's Matthew's swan song today. Highlights include head butting with a smarmy salesman and working into the wee hours on a late night install.


MatthewMercurioisthemanagerofinformationsystemsforClearChannelBroadcasting’sLouisville,KY,market.

Read Monday’s entry.

Read Tuesday’s entry.

Read Wednesday’s entry.

Read Thursday’s entry.

8:00 A.M.: The long day begins
Today I arrived at my office around 8:00 A.M. I was looking forward to getting in there to get the printers up on the Traffic system. I figured I’d get in and make the connections, take care of some orders I needed to place, then scoot out of there by 12:00.

Well, the first thing that came up was a phone call I received from a vendor. Now since I had already had my coffee, I dealt with this call in a professional manner. Given the underhanded business practices of this vendor, without my coffee, I would have let this guy feel the wrath of SuperHumanPC-Guy’s mighty force! Let me explain. About a month ago, I received a call from Datavision and Devices. Make note to self—remember that name!

Anyway, these people called me and asked if they could send me a package that contained some of their monitor glare screens, mouse pads, and wrist pads. They said I could try them out with my users at no obligation. They only asked that in return they could call me in a couple of weeks to see if I would like to order any of their products. I said okay and hung up the phone.

A few weeks went by and then I received their package. Over a couple of days, I had all the demo products handed out. I didn’t think much more of it—until today that is. This bozo from Datavision and Devices calls me up and asks how I liked their product. I told him they were okay, but I thought they were a little pricey. I mean, $200 for a glare screen is a bit much. I told him unless they could get the price down, I didn’t want any.

He must have taken offense, because then he said, “Well alright, I will just send you an invoice for the products you have now.” I said excuse me, but these were for demo purposes, and I was under the impression by your sales folks that there was “no obligation.”

His slimy reply was: “Sir, you were never told that these products were free.” Like I said, without my coffee I would have ripped his head off, but I relaxed and calmly told him that I don’t want the products and they can have them back. Of course, his answer to this was, “Sure thing. Just ship them back and that will be the end of it.” I replied that I would be happy to ship them back, but I was not going to pay any shipping charges!

After a couple of minutes of silence, he told me they would send me out some return shipping labels. Then as I was reaching for my pen to write his name down, he quickly told me to just call their service department and request the labels, then hung up on me. Now I have seen some sales snakes before, but this guy was the King Cobra. Can you see now why I have such a wonderful attitude towards the so-called sales professionals?

9:00 A.M.: Time to get the printers working
Now that my day had started out on a sour note, I was determined to not let it get me down. I had to hook those printers, and that was it. I kept thinking to myself, if the sun comes out later today, maybe I can get some golf in. SuperHumanPC-Guy is also SuperHumanHacker-Guy, and I mean “hacking” as in the world of golf.

After a hard day of battle with users and stubborn PC problems, there is nothing I like better than a nice, relaxing game of golf. Just hit that little white ball and then walk, hit the ball, walk—you get the idea. If you are as good as I am, you even get to go on some hunting/hiking trips through the woods or do a little fishing in those beautiful ponds that are sitting right in the middle of the fairway!

Then again, maybe “relaxing” and “golf” should never be used in the same sentence. I think that the man who invented golf must have been evil. Who else would take a 4-inch cup, put it in the middle of a 6,000-acre setting, and tell you that you only get four hits to put a one-and-a-half inch ball into in the cup?

Okay, sorry for the detour—now back to the printers. After stringing the cable yesterday, all that was left to do was to physically connect the printers to the ports on the AS/400. Making the connections was fairly easy. After I did that, I then had to assign port addresses to each one of them. During the overnight routines of the AS/400, the new configurations would be applied, and the printers would be given an address at that point.

11:00 A.M.: Wrapping up some details
I had configured the printers on the AS/400 successfully, so all that was left was to wait for the overnight routines to run. Now I had to turn my attention to making sure that some last-minute details were in place for the Prophet install later tonight. We have a 19-inch rack cabinet on wheels. This cabinet is about 4-feet tall and can hold about six rack-mount PCs. We are going to use this cabinet for our Prophet machines. My mission was to make sure the PCs were mounted in the cabinet and ready to go. I installed the PCs and the necessary peripherals. That task took me right up to 12:00 P.M., and then it was time to go.

10:00 P.M.: The Prophet install
At this time of the day, I had no problem parking, as there are hardly any cars in the parking lot at night. Even though the building is quiet, it is not completely vacated. There is always someone at the station. Tonight, a few DJs and late-night talk-show hosts, some board ops (operators), a couple of engineers, and myself were the only ones in the building. You know, if I thought I could get away with it, I wouldn’t mind working second shift. There are no users to distract you, and everything is so quiet. That is an IT manager’s dream! I bet I could get a hell of a lot accomplished.

10:30 P.M.: We start the install
There really wasn’t a whole heck of a lot to do as far as my part was concerned. I started out by testing my connections at both the wall connection in the studio and back at my patch panels. I have three data jacks in each studio, and we have a total of 12 on-air studios and eight production studios.

We need three data drops because each studio will have one Prophet audio server, one Prophet workstation, and one Internet computer running Windows 98 SE. So I had to make sure there was good connectivity between the wall and the patch panel. To do this, I used a $200 Paladin cable tester. It doesn’t give you signal strengths or digital readouts, but it does check the pin-out configuration. The tester’s LEDs tell you if there are crossed wires and, if so, which ones they are.

When we moved into the building, I had Fishel Wire Technologies wire it placing a data and a phone drop in every room. And I mean every room—including closets, storage rooms, mailrooms, and even some of the bathrooms. Some rooms, depending on their size and their function, have two or three drops of each. There are a total of 315 data and phone drops in our building. Each drop was punched down on the stack of patch panels in the patch panel rack in our server/broadcast equipment room. Each cable was tested and certified by Fishel at the time of install. These certification readouts were recorded and placed in digital form on a set of two floppy disks. All this for a cost of roughly $47,000.

Now even the best project manager can’t anticipate all of the add-ons and changes to be made in the future. I planned for an enormous amount of expandability, but even I couldn’t foresee a corporate merger that involved the installation of the Prophet studio system. So I ran the extra studio lines afterwards. Needless to say, before we made a major change in the way we broadcast our signal, I wanted to make sure the lines were good. And it was a good thing that I checked.

My tester told me that on WHAS-1D, I had a crossed wire. In any other situation, this wouldn’t be a problem. But in this case, it was just a tad different. See, we have a “U”-shaped counter in the studio. The counter sits right up against the wall and—you guessed it—it’s the side that the data jack is on. I was going to have to crawl inside the cabinet and get to that data jack. Since I am not as small as I was in my twenties, this was not an easy trick. By the way, why is it as soon as you get into your thirties, you start to, uhhh, expand a little?

Anyway, I popped off the outside panel, which is on the inside of the “U”, and started making my way to the data jack. Good thing the cabinet does not have a back to it and the data jack is right there in front of God and everybody! Well, maybe not that accessible, but you get the picture. Now if I could only get the jack apart and re-terminate it without kicking a wire loose and taking our 100,000-watt station that reaches 42 states at night off the air! Well, don’t worry—I got it terminated. But because I had to be very careful with every move I made, it took me almost an hour and a half to get this accomplished.

12:30 A.M.: Time to patch it to my hubs
In my server room, I have five 19-inch racks. Two of these racks hold my servers. One rack holds all my patch panels. Another rack holds the monitor, 8-port switch box, routers, CSU/DSUs, and all my other peripherals. The last rack houses all my hubs. Excuse me if I sound a little possessive, but when you literally build your network from the ground up all by yourself, it sometimes feels like it belongs to you.

Anyway, I used Cisco 24 FastHubs and tied them all together with a Cisco 2900 Catalyst switch. For the Prophet On-Air computers, I used three Cisco 2900XL switches with a 1-GB module and cascade cables. The wires that we installed tonight will be placed in these hubs. Now I had to make up two Category 5 cables that are 15 feet long. So I made the cables and then tested them with my tester. After feeding them through my wire trays from patch panel to hub, the only thing left was to plug in the servers and boot them up.

1:30 A.M.: Time for the test
I went back to the studio and booted up the machines. After some minor configurations, they were talking to my network and also on the corporate WAN. Man, I love it when a plan comes together! Now all that was left is for the engineers to wire the digital sound cards to the studio’s audio board.

We have three sound cards in each machine—some even have four. This way we can have multiple sources of sound output and still have one sound card for recording. If the board op or the DJ wanted to, they could throw two or three (depending on the sound card configuration) out on the air and still record the caller who has just won that million-dollar contest! Too bad employees aren’t eligible!

This is where I left it to the engineers to finish up. I packed up my tools and was looking forward to a nice relaxing weekend.
To comment on this diary entry, please post a comment below or follow this link to write to Matthew . If you’d like to write a support diary for TechRepublic, please drop us a note to find out how.

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