Wi-Fi and the Great Spring Break Band Trip — Part Two

Bus WifiWhat does network connectivity have to do with not being able to hold a band concert?  Read on as we move into “Wi-Fi and the Great Spring Break Band Trip — Part Two”.

After doing a concert in North Carolina, my daughter’s concert band headed south toward Atlanta to work for several days at the Salvation Army Kroc Center.  Kroc Centers have an incredible story (former owners of McDonald’s)  in providing the inner city community with fine arts centers, youth programs, internet libraries, community education and much more.  (Check out this amazing story at http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/kroc-centers).   So, our band came to play for several youth and adult events and a community food pantry distribution.  We had a lot of fun (however, sleeping bags on the floor for three nights was not part of that….)

Our last evening, we had planned a community band concert in the state-of-the-art auditorium at the center.  Well, it was planned until someone asked me “Can you help us?  We’ve lost the lights in the hallway and the auditorium!”.  It was around 5 PM, and the concert started at 7 PM.  The director (Ben, who had been on staff only three months) and I began to look at electric breakers in the basement.  The lighting system was a dimmer-controlled setup (picture three large gray panel doors, six foot tall by eighteen inches wide each, with hundreds of small electronic breakers).  I found a digital read out of an error on Panel 3, reset it and went up the stairs, expecting the lights to work.  Still no lights.  The director then called someone who knew a bit more about the mechanical setup at the center (did I mention this place is huge and really high-tech?).  We only got his voice mail.

I descended again (Ben had other stuff to attend to….) to look at the dimmer panels (and did I mention that no one at the center had any idea how this system worked?).  To the right, I saw a black wall mounted box with a door and key. There was no conduit or anything connecting these two panels, but I decided to poke around anyway and opened the door and saw an Ethernet punch panel and 24-port Cisco PoE gigabit switch.  Sweet!  But, this could not have anything to do with the lights being out, right?  I mean, the light dimmers don’t work on Ethernet, do they?   Then, I saw the Furman power conditioner at the top with a red overload light.  Hmm….   In between the control panel and the gigabit switch was a cover plate that said “Lighting Control System”.  And looking through all the Ethernet cables plugged into this really nice gigabit switch, I noticed something else…no switch or power LEDs at all!  I think I’m finally getting somewhere.  I reset the power conditioner, and immediately I heard the dimmer panel cooling fans kick in and saw green LEDs on the dimmer panels that said “Net” begin to light up.  I flew upstairs and saw —LIGHTS!   Very cool!

At 7 PM, the band concert began (with the lights ON)!!!

The lessons I learned here were not earth-shattering, but they apply nonetheless.  I hope these will be a a reminder and encouragement to my WLAN colleagues (OK, it was not Wi-Fi, but Ethernet — but these network troubleshooting principles still apply….)

1. Ask the basic questions in looking for problem resolution. (When did the problem begin?  Was the system working before?  Did this ever happen previously?)

2. Ask others for assistance (In this case, it did not help, but I asked anyway)

3. Your first attempt may not work at resolving an issue.  Don’t give up!

4. Think outside the box. (Well, in this case it was inside the box….the black Ethernet wall mount box seemed to have nothing to do with the problem, but after research, it had everything to do with the resolution!)

5.  Share your results after you resolve an issue!   (I told Ben what I had done, in case this overload situation occurred again).  Don’t hide your knowledge and expertise—sharing stuff is the best way to interchange ideas and grow in your ongoing WLAN education!

And the results?  One of their best band concerts ever!

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