John Fagan – “The Cable Guy”

A Blog about Cabling, Phone Systems, Networks, Audio/Video, Security & Surveillance

Got Cables? (part 2)

How could you have avoided this?

Well, if you’re in the Bay Area you could have called me at Dicar Networks and we could have done an “inspection” of the existing cable infrastructure to see if it’s in good shape and usable for your application.  If you’re in another area, just call a local low voltage cabling contractor.  Most companies that do phone system installations or IT services can also help with this.  You wouldn’t move into a new home without an inspection, would you?  Then why would you move into a new office without making sure all of the things you need are working, especially your phone and internet which is the lifeblood of most businesses?

Why aren’t the cables there?

You’re not alone, most people are confused and upset when they find out that the existing jacks don’t have cables behind them.  There could be several reasons why the cables are missing, or cut:

1. The building or office has been remodeled and the cables had to be cut and/or removed during the process.  Landlords and property managers are finding it easier to lease smaller office spaces these days, so they will often remodel a large office into several smaller offices that are easier to lease.  Chances are good that they had no choice but to cut the existing cables in the process.  Most people are surprised that they don’t install new cables, but there are several good reasons why they don’t, the biggest is because it costs money.  And even if they spent the money to do it, it might not be the cables you want, or in the locations you want, and might have to be redone anyway…and thus a waste of money.  So they usually let the new tenant take care of their own wiring needs.

2. Almost 10 years ago now, as I’ve mentioned in prior blogs, “abandoned cable” became a code violation.  A simple way to picture this is that a cable has 2 ends, if both ends are not connected to something it’s considered abandoned cable, and accoring to the California Electric Code is has to be removed.  So let’s pretend you are moving out of your existing office space where you have an equipment rack with some patch panels where the cables connect, and you don’t want to buy new patch panels for your new office at $200-$300 a piece, so you remove the cable and take them with you.  Well now those are considered abandoned cables and according to code, have to be removed.  Often times when those cables get removed, rather than buying “blank” faceplates, the jacks are reinstalled without the cables connected.

Next time you’re looking at office space and you see existing jacks and faceplates you plan on using, make sure you GOT CABLES! 


February 26, 2010 Posted by | Cabling, Network | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Got Cables? (Part 1)

Here’s a situation that happens all too often these days…

Your company has spent the last few weeks or months looking for new office space and has finally found the perfect location. The office is setup just how you want, with a little room to grow, and you (or your real estate broker) negotiated a good lease and maybe even got the landlord to install new carpet and paint.  The office already has phone and internet jacks located around the office, so except for moving in, you don’t have too many upfront expenses. 

But wait…

When you go to use those existing telephone and network jacks…they don’t work.  You try one after another until you’ve tried every jack in your office, and none of them work.  You finally accept the fact that you’re going to have to call your cabling or IT company to “activate” those jacks, and accept that they will bill you for a few hours labor to do so.

But wait…

When you’re cabling or IT company can’t find the “other end” of the cable that attaches to those existing jacks, they decide to take off that existing faceplate, and what do they find?  Often time there are no cables connected to the jacks, or if there are, they are cut somewhere up in the ceiling and can not be used.

Now what?  What does this mean?

It means that while you were excited about the new carpet and paint, you forgot to do your “due diligence” and make sure those existing jacks in the wall were connected and usable.  It means that the great deal you got on the lease of your great new office is going to cost you anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars or more to get the cables installed where you need them, depending on the size of the office and the number of cables.

Why aren’t the cables there?

Check back for Part 2 to read remainder of this story.

February 22, 2010 Posted by | Cabling, Network, Phone System | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s the Hold-Up?

I know…I know…I said I would have pictures of the CCTV job we’re working on up last week. Well, I don’t like to put up pictures until a job is complete…and we hit a speed bump on this one.

The original (metal) conduit that was buried in the ground to feed the cables to the column has rusted through and can no longer be used. Now that we have approval, and an approved change order, we will install new PVC conduit up to the column to feed our new cables and install the last 2 cameras.

We’re hoping to have it completed today, or early next week. Keep your eyes open for the pictures once it’s complete.

August 14, 2009 Posted by | Cabling, Video Surveillance | , , , | Leave a comment

Delay of Game?!?

I know…I know…there hasn’t been a new post in a couple weeks. My wife and I had our first child and have been a little busy.

We are starting a video surveillance project today consisting of replacing / upgrading 6 cameras (2 domes and 4 box cameras in outdoor housings). We’re hoping to finish this one up by the end of the week, so I should have a full story and pictures sometime next week.

For those of you wondering…they are analog cameras.

See you next week!

July 29, 2009 Posted by | Cabling, Video Surveillance | , , , | Leave a comment

Is Your Network Rack Costing You Money?

A lot has happened since my last blog. As I write this I am anxiously awaiting a call from my wife telling me to hurry home…our first child is due any time now.

I would like to say congratulations to a couple friends and former teammates of mine who will be playing in this year’s MLB Allstar Game in St. Louis: Hunter Pence and Ben Zobrist.

OK…let’s get on with it.

Does your network rack look anything like this?

Rack - BeforeSwitches Before

If so, chances are it’s costing you money. 

Messy racks like this make it harder to trace cables and determine what port on the patch panel and/or switch they are connected to.  Also, it makes it very difficult to add, remove, or test equipment; let alone adding new cables for new desks and employees.

For most companies it is hard to justify paying someone to come in and “clean up” your network rack, after all it’s probably not out in the open for people to see, right?  Of course not, it’s hidden in your Telecommunications or Equipment Room (more often referred to as the Server Room) where no one goes except your IT staff or outsourced company.

So how much is it costing you?

Well, that is hard to say exactly, but you can bet that every job that requires someone working on or around your rack takes longer than it would if your rack was neat and orderly.  If you’re talking about adding or removing equipment from a rack like this, your labor time could be double.  And with cabling rates costing as much as $100/hour and IT services costing as much as $150/hour or higher, wouldn’t it make sense to invest the small amount of money it would take to have a rack like this professionally “cleaned up” and start saving money on every future job?

Of course it would, and here’s what it looks like now…

Rack AfterSwitches After

July 8, 2009 Posted by | Cabling, Network | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

High-End Conference Room

Conf. Table Connections

Conf. Table Connections

Conference Room w/ 65" Plasma
Conference Room w/ 65″ Plasma










First let me say congratulations to the San Jose State Baseball Team on winning the Western Athletic Conference, though I still think they got snubbed by not making the NCAA tournament.

I just wanted to share a few photos from a recently completed job.  It started as a standard voice and data cabling job, and turned into a custom Audio/Video job as well that included a 65″ plasma in the main conference room.  a RapidRun VGA+3.5mm audio cable from Quiktron connects the TV to the conference room TV to double as a computer monitor.  Also feeding the TV is a DVI cable so the MAC users don’t get left jealous, and a HDMI cable for satellite TV enjoyment (after hours of course).  Because the Peerless TV mount only had 3 specific cutouts for wall plates, we had to have a custom wall plate fabricated form the team at DataPro ( to house the HDMI, DVI and 3.5mm audio connectors.  A “thank you” goes out to the team at DataPro for getting the custom wall plates and cables to us in just a couple days so we could complete this project ontime.

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Network Rack

Network Rack

Custom Wall Plate

Custom Wall Plate

June 3, 2009 Posted by | Audio/Video, Cabling | , , , , | Leave a comment

Importance of a UPS…Are You Protected?

Is your critical electronic equipment protected from power surges? 

Can your employees still conduct business during a power outage?

If your answer was “no” or “I don’t know” to either of these questions, you owe it to your business to keep reading.  First let’s talk about the electrical “power surges.”  Take a moment to look around your office at all of the electronic equipment (computers, printers, copiers, phone system, servers, switches, televisions/monitors, etc.); now think about how much money was spent on all of that equipment.  If it’s a “home” office it might be a few thousand dollars, if you’re in a large corporate office it might be hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Everyone has seen and probably used a “power strip” that not only gives you extra outlets, but also protects the connected equipment from power surges.  Every piece of electronic equipment, including your TV and DVD or Blue Ray player at home, should be protected with a surge protector.  I won’t get into the details here, but you can buy a surge protector for $5-$10, or you can spend hundreds; some will even buy you new equipment if it’s damaged while plugged into their surge protector.  Do some research to determine how much protection you need.

So now that your equipment is protected from power surges, what happens when there is no power at all?  Does your business come to a screeching stop?  Do you count the money you are losing as the minutes pass by on your [battery powered] watch?

 What would it be worth to your business if you could keep your phones (and other equipment) working during a power outage?  Would you save money on unproductive employees?  Would you have more sales?  More “happy” customers?

Connecting your critical equipment (phone system) to an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) would allow you to continue to make and receive calls during a power outage.  Connect your servers, computers and printers and now you have a fully operational business while your competitors are updating their MySpace or Facebook status from their cell phones.  The bonus is that most uninterruptible power supplies also offer surge protection, so you just need the one piece of equipment.

Let me illustrate this point for you with a true story that happened recently.  A medical office had a power surge followed by a short power outage.  The surge fried the hard drive and one of the cards in the phone system that cost nearly $1,200 to replace.  If they had a UPS, their phone system would have been just fine, and they could have used the phones during the power outage.  There is no way to measure the number of calls missed or customers lost during the downtime.  The irony of the story is that the medical office had already purchased a UPS to connect with their phone system, but never took the 5-10 minutes to install it.  The UPS was still in the box on the floor when the technician arrived to repair the phone system.

Learn how to protect yourself by calling Dicar Networks at 408-850-6400, or

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Have questions or comments that you would like to see addressed in future blogs, leave a comment?

April 14, 2009 Posted by | Audio/Video, Cabling, Network, Phone System, Video Surveillance | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Get What You Pay For…

Everyone has heard the old saying, “You get what you pay for.”

In the cabling world, I get the feeling there is a lot of
“How hard could it be?” and “They can’t be that bad.”

These are probably the thoughts of someone who is basing their decision of what voice and data (low voltage) contractor to use solely on the lowest price.  Now I am sure there are companies out there that have selected the lowest price bid and were extremely satisfied with the work, just as I am sure there has been times when the most expensive bid was chosen and did a terrible job; there are always going to be exceptions.  I expect most individuals and companies don’t know what to look for, or what questions to ask when seeking bids for their cabling projects.

Use the following list/questions to assist you in selecting a qualified company/contractor for cabling, phone systems, video surveillance, networks, audio/video (and many other services):

1. Are they licensed?  You can check the type and status of a California contractor’s license at the Contractors State License Board website (

2. Do they carry workers compensation insurance?  While you are on the Contractors State License Board website, make sure the contractor has current workers compensation.  If they don’t, your company could be held liable should an injury occur on the job site.

3. Ask for references and pictures.  Of course, a company/contractor is not going to give you a reference that they don’t think is going to say good things and help them get the job, and they’re not going to show you ugly pictures of work they’ve done, but at least you’ve made them produce these things and at the very minimum done your due diligence.  Now if they do a bad job and your boss asks why you chose them, you have covered your butt.

4. Experience.  How much experience does the company/contractor have?  Do they have any certifications related to the work that makes them more qualified than the competition?  When it comes to “information transport systems” and cabling, BICSI is the professional association supporting the industry with information, education and knowledge assessment for individuals and companies.  Find out if the company employs any RCDDs or BICSI certified installers.

5. What additional services can they provideAre there additional services or products that you need now, or will need in the future?  Most people find it much easier to have one company that can provide multiple services/products (especially if the services/products work together), than to have different companies provide them and have to coordinate with the different companies and staff.

Think of it as an interview process.  If you were hiring for a position within your company, wouldn’t you want to hire an individual that is qualified, dependable and trustworthy?  Well if that’s true, don’t you want the most qualified, dependable and trustworthy company working on your cabling, phone system, surveillance system, network, etc.? 

I’m not that naive to think price won’t play a part in your decision, and it should, but make sure you look at the big picture…or you may “unhappily” be saying, “I got what I paid for.”

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March 19, 2009 Posted by | Audio/Video, Cabling, Network, Video Surveillance | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Plenum Ceiling

I know we need the rain out here in California, but with baseball season fast approaching, get it out of your system Mother Nature. Opening Day for the major leagues is just 26 days away, the World Baseball Classic has started, and college baseball has been playing for a few weeks. I must say congratulations to the San Jose State Baseball Team which is now 9-0 to start the season and and is ranked #25 in the nation.

For those of you who took the poll in my last post, “my record” is the San Jose State Career Homerun Record.  Congratulations if you selected the correct answer.


Air Return Vent From Below

On a recent job I was able to get a picture of a plenum ceiling that I wanted to share. 

The picture to the right shows the air return vent, most offices will have something similar to this.  So if most offices have this, what determines if it is a plenum or nonplenum ceiling?

The answer is in the ceiling above this vent.

The picture below is of this same vent, but from the ceiling space above.  As you can see, there is nothing connected to this vent.  Which means air flows from inside the office, through this vent and into the ceiling space and eventually makes its way to the HVAC unit.

Plenum Ceiling - Above Vent

Air Return Vent From Above

If the ceiling space is used for air handling, it is a plenum space.
However, if there is a duct connected to the vent for return air, as in the picture on right, it is a nonplenum space.
Air Return with Duct - Nonplenum Space

Air Return with Duct - Nonplenum Space

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to determine from the floor below, and often requires climbing a ladder and poking your head up in the ceiling space.  Keep these pictures in mind when you’re trying to determine if a ceiling space is a plenum space or not.
So, why should you care if a ceiling is a plenum space or not?
Well, when it comes to voice and data and audio/video cabling, non-plenum cable is significantly cheaper than plenum cable.  And until recently, plenum rated HDMI cables haven’t even been available.
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March 10, 2009 Posted by | Audio/Video, Cabling | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


So what does a “cable guy” do when he’s not working, you ask?

My wife and I spent Friday night taking in Opening Day for San Jose State’s baseball team.  They ended up winning 15-1, GO SPARTANS!  Seems like yesterday that I was out there playing first base for Coah Piraro and the Spartans.   I did however, forget to buy a program to check on “my record.”  Let’s see how many of you “readers” out there know what “my record” is:

The rest of the weekend has been spent cleaning up from a recent project I did on the homefront.  After a year without one, we were given a flat screen TV for our home gym.  We still don’t have the all important satellite receiver necessary to watch shows on the TV, but it is definitely ready for it.

TV, Mount, Outlets/Faceplates

TV, Mount, Outlets/Faceplates

I did all the work myself, but I highly recommend hiring a qualified electrician to assist with any high voltage needs like adding electrical outlets.  The first picture shows the important materials (except for the cables) like the TV, TV mount and the new outlets.  These are recessed outlets and are designed for being installed behind TVs.  Missing from this picture is the 30 foot HDMI cable that will connect the TV to the satellite receiver and the 14/2 electrical wire for the new outlets.

Once the location for the TV was selected, it was time to start cutting and drilling holes.  Once the mount was installed, I cut the hole for the combination recessed power outlet and low voltage (audio/video) cables and started running my wires.


The interesting part of this install is the location of the satellite receiver…the closet.  That’s right, I didn’t want any excess furniture or shelves in the gym, so the satellite receiver will be located in the closet.  This means I had to install a new power outlet in the closet, and run my HDMI cable from the closet to the wall with the TV.  There was only one way to run the HDMI cable…through the attic.  

Outlet behind TV

Outlet behind TV

Outlet in closet (power, HDMI, 2 Coax)

Outlet in closet (power, HDMI, 2 Coax)



Once the cables were run and outlets installed, it was time to hang the TV and wait for the satellite receiver.  I suppose we can finish decorating the room as well.

Outlet and cables in closet

Outlet and cables in closet

For those who are worried about having to open the closet door each time I want to watch TV, the newer satellite receivers can be controlled via IR, which means the door doesn’t have to be open.  For those interested in the outlets that were used, the one behind the TV is from DataComm Electronics, and the one in the closet is from Leviton.  As stated above, use a qualified electrician for all electrical work. 

Do you have audio/video questions, or a project you are working on, I would love to hear about it, just leave a comment below.  Check out for other services we provide and can assist you with.

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Final Product - Clean install of TV without any visible wires

Final Product - Clean install of TV without any visible wires

February 22, 2009 Posted by | Audio/Video, Cabling | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment