NOTE: For three days in November, Your Humble Content Marketing Manager at CEDIA attended the training session called “Basic Boot Camp” at the association’s HQ in Indianapolis. Here’s a summation of Day Two. (Day One can be found here
, Day Three here
.) 8 a.m.
Time for info on some basic electrical safety. Instructor Ken Erdmann (pictured above): “The NEC (National Electrical Code) is NOT a how-to book.”
We’re plowing through building codes, grounding requirements, local codes, and the specter of the dreaded HOA regs. According to the Feds, you have a Constitutional right to erect an over-the-air antenna on your roof no matter what your Homeowner’s association says — it’s one of the ways you receive that First-Amendment Goodness.
But your HOA doesn’t much care, and you might as well stash an antenna in your attic if your system uses one and the HOA disapproves of it — lawsuits are expensive and long. 9 a.m.
This is interesting: The drill-down on safety procedures might seem like the overwrought scribblings of alarmists at times, but Erdmann’s got some data on how best practices save cash: Workplace safety programs save $4 - $6 for every dollar spent. There’s the priceless savings, too: The reason phone company workers began taking a lap around the truck before starting it up? Zero kids have been run over since the implementation of that policy in the ‘70s. Apply that to the other trades, and you’ve got what’s definitely a Good Idea.
Next up: Ladders, power tools, eyewear — and knowing the ADDRESS of your jobsite if 911 needs a call. 9:30 a.m.
Exercise: Name the Framing Members! (You knew studs are usually spaced 16” on center, right?)
The ins and outs — literally — of cable and conduit installation take center stage. Cable too long? That results in an unacceptable voltage drop. It’s a degradation referred to as attenuation.
We’re talking about planning cable runs, the maximum diameter of a hole in a load-bearing versus a non-load-bearing stud, and the max number of cables you can effectively run through the holes you’ve drilled.
Also, one needs to know the max tension you can use when pulling a cable. The short version? Cat 5 and 6 cables are more fragile by over half the strength of coaxial; fiber is pretty tough when one’s talking about a straight pull. Radiuses need your attention, and while the Kinks were a great band, when it comes to UTP and coax a sharp bend means damage.
Oh, and here’s a handy rhyme: LABEL YOUR CABLES. Sixteen dangling unmarked speaker wires have been dropped into an electronics panel. Which ones run to what room, big guy? 11 a.m.
After more best practices are laid out for running all that pricey line, it’s time to cut the right amounts of cable, label it, and begin our runs. Yours Truly starts the lab by pulling WAY too much coax (nah, nothing at all embarrassing about screwing up BASIC MATH), and as I’m dropping a few coils into the recycling bin, CEDIA’s Veep of Emerging Tech Dave Pedigo busts my chops in true Pedigo style:
“Ed, you’re making me sad.” 12 noon
Chik-Fil-A. Gone before you can say “Dolby Atmos.” 1 p.m.
Ah, the joys of cable termination. We’re handed short lengths of cables, termination ends, and the tools we’ll need.
Compression ends on coaxial cables? Give me a sharp cutter and a proper compressing tool and I can go to work for Comcast RIGHT NOW. Every short jumper I’m running (which we’ll use to test installed cable later) comes up as a pass. The stinger’s just the right length. The termination is solid. No bigs.
Next up: Wire an RJ45 plug properly with Cat cable.
I’m untwisting just enough for each pin … cutting ‘em back … flattening the twists … right amount goes into the plug, and …
And no less than five attempts yield split pairs and swapped pairs and all manner of misfirings on the ends of my Cat 6a jumper.
Finally, sixth time’s the charm — all the digits have lined up on my testing screen. (And I’ve also been schooled by my more knowledgeable classmates on the differences between T568A and B color standards.) 2 p.m.
The remainder of this day is spent terminating the cable in our practice rooms (again, only in the “new construction” walls of our own cubicle) and testing what we’ve installed.
My lab partner Jordan’s finishing the ends of TP cable with a punch-down tool while I’m stripping the wires for Phoenix connectors. We’ve got two kinds available: unmarked blocks with small screws and color-coded clip-ins.
For the first time in the “field” I’ve established a personal preference: While I’m using the color-coded connector as a “for dummies” memory guide, I really prefer the screw-in type. The thing just feels more secure in my hands — and I’m a lot less concerned about losing a connection during the process of wedging all that cable into a rough-in ring with a volume control.
There’s time for the other attendees to pick Erdmann’s brain. He’s clearly enjoying this group: It’s one of the larger bunches he’s worked with, and the entire crew is focused.
These men and women are here to learn. 4:30 p.m.
I wrap this day by measuring the cable we’ll need for last leg of this training: cabling behind existing walls — the retrofit.