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BlueWolf's Howl

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September 16, 2004

Ouch, My Tips

The tips I'm talking about are the tips of my fingers. Ouch! It hurts to type (but, that doesn't stop me, does it?). Well, it's a job hazard and there must be some way around it.

Yesterday I replaced a Catalyst switch. That's how my tips became sore. Apparently, even in a server room, beauty outranks function.

I remember when I installed a Catalyst 5500 in the server room of a job site in Alexandria. I was given a large box of patch cables to run from the patch panel to the switch. All the cables were the same size and all had those little rubber boots on the end. So very pretty.


No matter how pretty they are, they're not practical! I cut them all off the cables on the end that plugged into the Catalyst on the one I installed. But that was years ago. That was in Virginia. Yesterday's switch was in Boston.

These things are made of rubber or soft plastic. The little bump in the middle is supposed to "protect" the release lever on the RJ-45 jack. The idea is that you would squeeze the boot and the lever to remove the cable. This works well for a cable that you use frequently. So, how often do you plug and unplug ports on a switch? Sure, this could be a fun Tuesday afternoon sport. But, there's always some spoil-sport that won't let you play Twilight Zone tricks on the users.

Think about it. Here's a cable that gets plugged in and never touched until the switch fails. By the time the switch fails, the rubber boot has become hard and is not so easy to squeeze. The boot also adds thickness to the plug - which means there's less room to put your fat fingers around the jack. Unplug a hundred of these as fast as you can (because everyone wants that equipment back up and running FAST), and see how sore your fingertips become.

Yes, I know the pressure management puts on the IT department. If you have cables that are neat and pretty, they believe that the data moves faster. They believe that you know more about what you're doing when it looks 'professional' ... I understand. But, how much time are you going to lose when your switch goes down and you have to struggle to remove each cable?

In my current position, I have no choice. I'm dealing with other people's switches. It's not my server room. It's not my network closet. I arrive on the scene years after the switch has been installed. And I doubt this one little article in an obscure blog is going to revolutionize the industry. Anyone installing a switch is going to use the pretty cables with the color-coordinated boots and management is going to be very happy with the professional look of the finished product. That part of the scenario will never change - at least not on any scale to save my sore fingers.

So, what's the solution? A tool is needed. I have to find a tool that will remove the plug without crushing the jack. Perhaps this tool already exists. Perhaps I will have to invent it. Pliers are too bulky and wouldn't fit in the tight space around the plug. Tweezers would fit around the plug, but wouldn't allow enough pressure to be applied to remove the cable. It would be nice if the tool was hard plastic or rubber-tipped. It would help if the tool used hand pressure instead of finger pressure to squeeze the boot and lever. And it should cost no more than a pair of crimpers.

The search is on to save my tips. After all, I need them for typing........

Posted by BlueWolf on September 16, 2004 04:33 AM