Standards, Consistency, and Network cables

This weekend I’m in Austin moving my parent’s business to their brand new building. The building with an honest-to-goodness server closet and wiring installed professionally. Well, perhaps it was run professionally but the cables were punched down by idiots.

When making ethernet cables (what the layperson refers to as “network cables”) consistency is the most important thing. Pins 1 through 8 on one end must line up with pins 1 through 8 on the other end. To help with this consistency, the industry introduced two standards, T568A and T568B. Following either of these standards will guarantee you a working ethernet cable as long as both ends of the cable are the same.

To assist with this consistency, ethernet punch down blocks and ethernet wall keys contain handy color-coded labels — usually for both standards — on the blocks themselves. Any non-color-blind individual can brainlessly punch down ethernet cables. Which is why I assert that the cables in the new building were punched down by an idiot. The wall keys correctly follow the B standard helpfully labeled thereon. The punch blocks in the server room don’t follow the B standard. They also don’t follow the A standard. This is despite having both A and B standards conveniently labeled just below each punch-down segment. No, the cables in the punch-down blocks follow some hairbrained scheme of the punching madman and, since they don’t match the other ends, they’re worthless.

If this had happened to one or two, we’d sadly shake our heads and agree that punching down 48 of these would result in anyone getting the brown and orange swapped once or twice. But no, all 48 are consistently wrong. To top it off, the cables were supposedly tested by the installer. I can’t comment on if they were tested, but I can guarantee you that if they were tested, they were most certainly not tested with a successful result.

There’s something to stay about consistency — I just wish they had been consistent on both ends.

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I'm a gay geek living in Seattle, WA.

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