Cable geniuses at my school



  • First a representative picture:

    This kind of genius continues throughout the school. We have:

    • automatic controls of blinders and lights. This means that at some point during the lessons the blinders will go down because it's too bright in the room. Then the lights will go on because now it's too dark in the room.
    • This automatism cannot be cancelled nor be started manually by anything in the room. You need a special remote for that. There's only one(1) of this remote in existance.
    • If you have actually obtained this remote and decided to darken the room (for a Physics experiment, for example - sometimes you really can't see anything unless the room is absolutely dark), this automatism will sometimes decide at random that the shutters really need to be raised because it's too dark.

    But that's harmless compared to the superintelligent beings which were reworking our auditorium (the picture above is from the auditorium's backwall).

    Now, sometimes you may want to do a play in a school. Or you have some kind of festivities. Or a speaker giving a speech. For which you need some kind of lighting on the stage.

    For which we were given a full-fledged professional solution, the kind you find at rock festivals and concert halls. Well, at least the control desk was professional, fully electronic and programmable up the wazoo. You can guess as to how many of my non-technical colleagues were actually really comprehending how this thing works.

    The stage sports 18 RGB-Colour LED lights and 4 moving lights. If everything is switched on and on full brightness, the stage is about half-lit and spotty because all the lights are very tightly focussed. Great!
    Those 22 lights need about 160 control channels. One DMX cable supports 256 channels. How many DMX cables were actually installed? Four(4). Why? No one knows. But you need to connect all four to the control desk or it won't work. But it's nice to know that we have plenty of reserves, so if U2 ever needed to stage a concert in our school...

    Next up: The moving lights are kind of loud due to their cooling fans. This is a bit of a problem during plays as they're clearly audible during quiet scenes. But there's hope: They also connected two master switches to the control desk so you can power down the connected lights at will!
    So, you could power down the moving lights and only use the LED ones. Well... if they had connected all the LEDs to master switch one and all the moving lights to master switch two.
    In reality it's: LED 1 through 5, 8, 11 and moving light 1 and 4 are on switch one, the rest's on two. Yeah.

    It also took us half a day to find all the motion sensor so we could switch them off. Because as soon as someone moved, those things switched on the big overhead fluorescent lights,

    Then there's the beamer. It's a huge, honkin' beamer, daylight capable and even supporting 3D! They even installed a media converter from HDMI to TCP/IP so one could connect a laptop over slightly longer distances (with a second media converter, mind, TCP/IP->HDMI). Only problem: They ran only one network cable. The drop for that network cable is exactly below the beamer.
    Now, most speakers don't stand behind the audience but in front of it, on stage. That's usually also where they'd like to have their laptop.
    So, in order to have the speaker in front and still Powerpoint (or, indeed any electronic) capability, you either have someone manage the laptop for him from behind or:

    You use two laptops, put one on stage and one under the beamer. And use the stage laptop to remote control the beamer laptop through VNC.

    Oh, and recently I talked to some people responsible for our renovation about my physics room. I complained that the emergency switch did not, in fact, switch off all electrical outlets in the room, just the overhead ones. "That's not required by law!" Only problem: I cannot use those outlets for my experiments because I usually don't put 5 kV (and above) experiments in the middle of my pupils. After I pointed out that my hypothetical lawyer (if I survived such an event, that is) might disagree with them on that notion, they suddenly discovered that the wiring was not up to spec.



  • @Rhywden said:

    So, in order to have the speaker in front and still Powerpoint (or, indeed any electronic) capability, you either have someone manage the laptop for him from behind or:

    You use two laptops, put one on stage and one under the beamer. And use the stage laptop to remote control the beamer laptop through VNC.

    Laptop remotes are a thing. So's wireless HDMI for that matter, but...



  • @Maciejasjmj said:

    Laptop remotes are a thing. So's wireless HDMI for that matter, but...

    I'm a bit dubious at the range of wireless HDMI - it's quite a distance. It's easily 10 meters and there's the audience in the way. And Miracast is sometimes unreliable even if you're right next to the receiver.

    And laptop remotes also have the range problem, plus: You usually only have a subset of control commands.



  • @Maciejasjmj said:

    Laptop remotes are a thing.

    Right but the speaker needs the image in FRONT of him also, otherwise he has to put his back to the audience to switch slides.

    @Maciejasjmj said:

    So's wireless HDMI for that matter, but...

    With a range of like 30'? What good is that in an auditorium?

    This is a pretty obvious WTF, why are you questioning it? They need to fix it and run the cable all the way to the stage, that's the only sensible solution here.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @Rhywden said:

    In reality it's: LED 1 through 5, 8, 11 and moving light 1 and 4 are on switch one, the rest's on two. Yeah.

    This is probably the most deliciously :wtf:y part of the whole story, because it's purely batshit insane.



  • @FrostCat said:

    This is probably the most deliciously :wtf:y part of the whole story, because it's purely batshit insane.

    Yeah, the guy who trained us on the control desk software had to begin our training one hour late because he first had to figure out what the installation monkeys had thrown together (of course neither documentation nor labels existed in any way).

    He also gave us a pretty long list with issues we should raise with the installation company.



  • @Rhywden said:

    One DMX cable supports 256 channels.

    No, 512. It's called DMX512 for a reason.

    PS: http://tsp.plasa.org



  • @lightsoff said:

    No, 512. It's called DMX512 for a reason.

    PS: http://tsp.plasa.org

    Makes using four cables only even more of an overkill :)



  • There can be reasons for using several - eg reducing the effect of losing one cable, however I don't think they apply here.

    What's the make of lighting controller?

    I'm rather guessing that it's a grandma! Those are completely unsuitable for a school.



  • Sounds like a tech company made a gigantic profit, though. That's what really matters, right?


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @CoyneTheDup said:

    Sounds like a tech company made a giganticMonster profit, though.

    FTFY…



  • I’m wondering what’s stopping someone from opening this desk up and connecting things in a more sensible way.



  • @lightsoff said:

    I'm rather guessing that it's a grandma! Those are completely unsuitable for a school.

    You're right, it's a grandMa2 - this one here, to be exact, albeit without the two additional screens on top and without the left screen. Just the two center ones.



  • @Gurth said:

    I’m wondering what’s stopping someone from opening this desk up and connecting things in a more sensible way.

    Because the desk is configured through software - it's the lights which are connected to the cables in a very strange way. For that to change, we'd need to open the ceiling which is 6 or more meters above ground.



  • Indeed, it would probably be worth it to check that school's accounting to see if that tech company belongs to someone's brother, as that would explain many things.



  • @anonymous234 said:

    Indeed, it would probably be worth it to check that school's accounting to see if that tech company belongs to someone's brother, as that would explain many things.

    That's moderately unlikely - I've had to do requests for tenders myself (for my physics equipment) and it is an umitigated pain in the ass.

    It's more likely that someone thought this equipment to be a good idea (just like they were enamoured with the idea of automatizing all the things!) and someone clueless set the spending limit way too high. I mean, I had to fight in the opposite direction due to their cluelessness - I had to buy completely new Physics equipment (to the tune of 80,000€) and I was to request six(6) tenders from different vendors.
    Only that there are only two(2) vendors with non-comparable equipment (non-comparable in the sense of: One coil has 300 windings and is 1 meter long, the other is 310 windings on 1,10 meters - for the experiment they're absolutely identical but...)
    But I already told that story.

    Oh, and I just remembered a different WTF: The big clocks all over the building. Those aren't bog-standard, battery driven clocks. They aren't radio controlled either.

    They're wired.

    "Now, wait a minute!" you'll say. "Surely it's a good idea to provide them with wired power so that the super doesn't have to climb ladders on a regular basis!"

    Yeah. Only thing: Those wires don't only provide power, they're also sending time data from a server in our school. Which meant that those clocks weren't working for two weeks and then were five minutes fast for another two weeks.



  • I guess Hanlon's razor is right again.



  • @Rhywden said:

    Yeah. Only thing: Those wires don't only provide power, they're also sending time data from a server in our school. Which meant that those clocks weren't working for two weeks and then were five minutes fast for another two weeks.

    This may or may not be a WTF. I've heard quite a few times that radio clocks sometimes fucks up in the funniest ways. I know that some danish hospitals has moved to wired (and wired sync) clocks because of problems with the raio clocks. I'm not sure if it was a problem with radio penetration, or just general bugginess.
    http://ugeskriftet.dk/files/ugeskriftet.dk/artikel_1450.pdf
    (and yes - i presume accurate time is more important in hospitals, but if it costs the same you might as well eliminate potential problems)


  • area_deu



  • @Rhywden said:

    we'd need to open the ceiling which is 6 or more meters above ground.

    You don’t have any gymnasts in this school? ;)



  • @swayde said:

    I've heard quite a few times that radio clocks sometimes fucks up in the funniest ways.

    The one in my kitchen occasionally, for no discernible reason, winds itself forward twelve hours — sometimes it even does this several times in a row. I suppose it might be because it’s detected it’s running a little fast, but can't turn the hands backward.



  • Mine has the same problem - i presume it's worse in bigger installations :mushroom:



  • (Pre-note: I'm assuming this is a government school; it doesn't actually say that but...it seems likely.)

    @Rhywden said:

    That's moderately unlikely - I've had to do requests for tenders myself (for my physics equipment) and it is an umitigated pain in the ass.

    But bid rigging and fraud it is a daily thing, isn't it? See, on one hand you have government with poor accountability and essentially unlimited money; and on the other hand you have people who want that money and to not have to give anything in return for it...

    I mean, they automated everything? What's wrong with pull-string blinds? And lights that you switch on and off manually? I'm surprised the toilets don't flush on schedule. It's a textbook case of stuffing in everything they could possibly collect a buck for and, while I have no proof, I'll bet all those little devices were marked up...into the stratosphere.

    And the result? An unworkable and frustrating experience.

    @anonymous234 said:

    I guess Hanlon's razor is right again.

    When money is at issue, some malice is almost always present. Nevertheless, Hanlon's razor is right because malice in maximal separation of [government/suckers] from their money does usually require stupidity.



  • @CoyneTheDup said:

    What's wrong with pull-string blinds? And lights that you switch on and off manually?

    I’m guessing you don’t get subsidies for them. Back when I was in secondary school, at some point they installed a lift in the building, apparently for no reason other than because they got a subsidy to make the building accessible to wheelchair users; some ramps were also put in at various steps. I don’t remember seeing a wheelchair — with or without someone in it — in that school at all in the six years I spent there, and the only people who used the lift were the janitors. Would they have gotten the lift installed if the school had had to pay for it themselves? I doubt it. Rhywden's over-wired school is probably a similar case, if I’m any judge.



  • My guess on the blind WTF is that the automation is designed to reduce energy consumption and wasn't designed to be used in classrooms. In that case, it was a simple case of choosing the wrong technology. It also explains the "randomly spending money and getting something worse for it" condition. The vendor probably said the energy savings would pay for the system, so it was "better than free" in the long term. If that was the pitch, and it was from someone who has numbers and successful installations to back them up, it would have gone through a funding review without question.



  • It was indeed proposed as an energy saving solution.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @Gurth said:

    lift in the building, apparently for no reason other than because they got a subsidy to make the building accessible to wheelchair user

    It's not necessarily just for wheelchair users; there are people with other problems (breathign issues, bad knees) that make it difficult to climb stairs.



  • Of course — but in the particular case I was talking about, I seem to recall it being “sold” as making the place accessible to wheelchair users. In any case like I said, nobody but the janitors ever seemed to use the lift at all, largely because as a student needed permission to do so.

    Also, this was in the late ’80s, when people weren’t such hypochondriacs as today …



  • @Gurth said:

    Also, this was in the late ’80s, when people weren’t such hypochondriacs as today …

    I'm not sure that "needs a wheelchair" falls under being a hypochondriac. By the way, my school actually has a pupil in a wheelchair.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @Rhywden said:

    I'm not sure that "needs a wheelchair" falls under being a hypochondriac. By the way, my school actually has a pupil in a wheelchair.

    Done well, making a building accessible for people with movement difficulties can make it better for everyone else as well. Which isn't to say that everyone does it well, not at all…

    My work is actually really careful about these sorts of things, and mostly does a good job of it. It helps when some of the professors need the facilities I guess. :smiley:



  • That’s not what I said. I was talking about the people with other problems that FrostCat mentioned, of which there seem to be far more these days than there were a few decades ago. I ascribe that to people nowadays wanting to be seen as having some kind of illness or disability much more than they used to, rather than simply coping with it.



  • @Gurth said:

    That’s not what I said. I was talking about the people with other problems that FrostCat mentioned, of which there seem to be far more these days than there were a few decades ago. I ascribe that to people nowadays wanting to be seen as having some kind of illness or disability much more than they used to, rather than simply coping with it.

    Whenever someone talks of "there seems to be far more of [...] these days!" I am immediatly distrustful of such statements.

    There are usually several explanations and not all of them result in "people are [insert derogatory term]". Plus, there's usually the problem of conflating one problem (i.e. the real over-diagnosis of stuff like ADHD) with other issues which can, for example, be also explained with better diagnosis tools.
    I.e. people have always suffered from "condition A" in such numbers, we just weren't looking hard enough. And if someone now suggests something like "Well, they should toughen up!", then I'd also suggest that this someone is a horrible human being.

    Lastly, there's also the issue of faulty memories. Your memory is not perfect and what you remember doesn't actually shape reality.


  • SockDev

    @Gurth said:

    I was talking about the people with other problems that FrostCat mentioned, of which there seem to be far more these days than there were a few decades ago.

    Genuinely more, or simply more media coverage?


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @Rhywden said:

    Lastly, there's also the issue of faulty memories.

    There seem to be a lot more faulty memories about these days!



  • @Rhywden said:

    It was indeed proposed as an energy saving solution.

    At my wife's school, they put in an energy savings plan. To prove how much energy they're saving, they set up a large-sized plasma screen to display an energy usage graph. The screen runs 24/7. My wife can't seem to convince anyone why this is a counterproductive idea.

    Bonus wtf: the one actually knows how to read the graph. And even if they did, it's just a single KwH consumption line. There's no baseline to show how much the school used before the energy saving program went into effect.

    Bonus wtf 2: As far as anyone knows, the solar panels (the lynchpin of the energy savings plan) stopped working a long time ago, and there's no money in the budget to get them fixed.



  • The point of energy saving plans isn't to save energy but to collect government grants.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @Gurth said:

    I seem to recall it being “sold” as making the place accessible to wheelchair users.

    Ah. I bet the real reason was to use up money before the end of the year, then.

    @Gurth said:

    Also, this was in the late ’80s, when people weren’t such hypochondriacs as today

    I actually know a couple of people who aren't hypochondriacs but have problems with stairs. One's got problems with the cartilage in her knees and a bad tendon in her ankle. Walking up stairs is actually painful for her. I didn't mean people with just, for example, a little bit of asthma.


  • I survived the hour long Uno hand

    @FrostCat said:

    I actually know a couple of people who aren't hypochondriacs but have problems with stairs.

    Hi :)

    I'm getting a lot better with physical therapy, but I've got legit problems with my knees and leg muscles, and sometimes stairs are a bitch. Problem is, with my kind of thing, slopes aren't much better, so I often end up gritting my teeth and using the stairs because I'll be up faster than taking a ramp.

    My dad also has crappy knees, he's had to have surgery to correct some issues, but that probably has to do with his playing basketball his whole life on top of having the same tendencies I do.


  • SockDev

    @Yamikuronue said:

    My dad also has crappy knees, he's had to have surgery to correct some issues, but that probably has to do with his playing basketball his whole life on top of having the same tendencies I do.

    I used to play basketball as a kid; you really do need strong joints for it. Or shoes with very springy soles.



  • @Gaska said:

    The point of energy saving plans isn't to save energy but to collect government grants.

    Having done development for a program that facilitates evaluating the "eco-ness" of schools, I cannot disagree with this statement of absolute and complete fact. :|



  • @Rhywden said:

    Whenever someone talks of "there seems to be far more of [...] these days!" I am immediatly distrustful of such statements.

    Note “seems to be” rather than “are”.

    @Rhywden said:

    There are usually several explanations and not all of them result in "people are [insert derogatory term]”.

    You’re putting words into my mouth … I never said there are no people with valid reasons for ‹whatever›. If every step you take hurts like hell, then by all means, take the lift. But if you get short of breath from a couple of flights of stairs, just take them more slowly and rest if you have to, but take them yourself (and if it’s because you’re too fat, eat less and get some exercise so you develop a bit of stamina).

    Now, I’ve been debating whether or not to mention the following, because on the one hand, it’ll come across like I’m asking for the kind of sympathy I accused a lot of people these days appear to want (which, for the record, I’m not asking for), but on the other hand I figure it illustrates where I’m coming from with this. I have a genetic condition that, among other things, means I have just about no sweat glands. This makes life difficult for me when the temperature rises above the low 20s (Celsius, people … ). If the temperature gets too high, I’ll do nothing much but hang around at home, and anyone who wants me to do something in the heat is shit out of luck — but in the temperature range between “uncomfortable” and “too hot” I’m not letting the heat stop me doing stuff I have to or want to, even if I know it’ll probably result in me having to spend considerable time being effectively out of action in order to cool back down. I don’t see this as any different from taking the lift if you really can’t take the stairs, but taking those bloody stairs when you can — as opposed to not taking the stairs because you think you can’t due to having some medical condition.

    @Rhywden said:

    people have always suffered from "condition A" in such numbers, we just weren't looking hard enough. And if someone now suggests something like "Well, they should toughen up!", then I'd also suggest that this someone is a horrible human being.

    This reads to me like you’re saying that even if people in the past could cope with something, but now we’ve got better diagnosis, they can’t cope anymore … ?

    [quote="Rhywden, post:32, topic:48901”]Your memory is not perfect and what you remember doesn't actually shape reality.[/quote]
    It isn’t, but I wish it did shape reality.

    @RaceProUK said:

    Genuinely more, or simply more media coverage?

    Doesn’t either one lead to the other?

    @Lorne_Kates said:

    My wife can't seem to convince anyone why this is a counterproductive idea.

    It’s the same idiocy everywhere. People all claim they want to save the environment these days, yet what do they do? Get more and more battery-powered devices. Buy wood-burning heaters instead of using natural gas. Ride bicycles with electric motors.


  • SockDev

    @Gurth said:

    @RaceProUK said:
    Genuinely more, or simply more media coverage?

    Doesn’t either one lead to the other?

    No; there is no causal link between the two.



  • I was being ironic. Maybe I should have added a smiley.

    However, media coverage does seem to lead to people who have some condition being made aware of it — and that, IMHO, can lead to them wanting sympathy for it rather than just living with it the way they did before they knew they have a genuine medical condition.



  • @Gurth said:

    This reads to me like you’re saying that even if people in the past could cope with something, but now we’ve got better diagnosis, they can’t cope anymore … ?

    No, I was responding to this really shitty attitude of yours which goes along the lines of "oh, boohoo, people in earlier days coped as well!"

    Yeah, guess what? They "coped" by doing stuff like being generally miserable throughout their lives and sometimes committing suicide. I've run into this attitude of yours before in regards to depression. It's not fun, it's not hypochondria and it's not a matter of "just cope with it".

    And, yeah, we get it: You're a tough guy. Not everyone is, though. And not everyone should have to be either.

    That's something I've run into as well: "Oh, but I manage just fine!" Yeah, so? I managed to overcome depression as well, on my own!
    Does not mean that I'm of the opinion that everyone can manage that - still lost about a year to this condition.
    @Gurth said:

    I was being ironic. Maybe I should have added a smiley.

    However, media coverage does seem to lead to people who have some condition being made aware of it — and that, IMHO, can lead to them wanting sympathy for it rather than just living with it the way they did before they knew they have a genuine medical condition.

    It can also lead to them recognizing that they indeed have the condition. Yes, there are some fads of the month, like all this Gluten-free crap. Doesn't mean that other cases are not valid.



  • @Rhywden said:

    No, I was responding to this really shitty attitude of yours which goes along the lines of "oh, boohoo, people in earlier days coped as well!”

    And this is invalid how?

    @Rhywden said:

    Yeah, guess what? They "coped" by doing stuff like being generally miserable throughout their lives and sometimes committing suicide. I've run into this attitude of yours before in regards to depression. It's not fun, it's not hypochondria and it's not a matter of "just cope with it”.

    Was I talking about depression? No, I was talking about people with minor physical problems who could do stuff if only they let themselves, rather than complain about how difficult things supposedly are. That’s something entirely different from depression, which is a serious condition that you need help with if you’re suffering from it. Whereas if you just strained a muscle or something, well, avoid using it and it’ll heal — that doesn’t need special consideration by other people.

    @Rhywden said:

    And, yeah, we get it: You're a tough guy.

    No. I’m not. I’m far from, and never will be, a tough guy. I just don’t complain much about things that ail me, which IMHO is not the same thing as being tough.

    @Rhywden said:

    Doesn't mean that other cases are not valid.

    Typical of discussions like this: no matter how often I repeat that I’m not saying things are black and white, people keep replying as if I did do just that …



  • Did I mention somewhere that I really like people who insist on ripping postings apart?

    And, yes, my dear, you come across as the typical tough guy even if you're either unwilling to admit it or incapable of recognizing this fact.

    This here:

    I just don’t complain much about things that ail me

    That's the very definition of a "tough guy".

    And in regards to your first question: Learn to read. It is invalid in the same sense as some people believing that Measles served some kind of higher purpose - after all, humanity survived, didn't it? Yours is a wonderful combination of a "Get off mah lawn!" attitude, coupled with ignorance and a basic lack of empathy.

    And good for you that you recognize depression as a valid issue. Now, if you only applied this particular example to all the other cases...



  • @Gurth said:

    People all claim they want to save the environment these days, yet what do they do? Get more and more battery-powered devices.

    Sometimes the choice is battery-powered or none at all, which isn't fair. For example, you could get those toys with the rotating arrow that landed on an animal (12 arranged around the arrow); then activate the device while the arrow is, say, on a cow, and it'll say: "The cow says...Moooo (cow sound)". When I was a kid, those came with a mechanical pull string. Worked for years. No batteries. Now, the only choice is a battery-powered version. :wtf:?



  • @redwizard said:

    Sometimes the choice is battery-powered or none at all, which isn't fair. For example, you could get those toys with the rotating arrow that landed on an animal (12 arranged around the arrow); then activate the device while the arrow is, say, on a cow, and it'll say: "The cow says...Moooo (cow sound)". When I was a kid, those came with a mechanical pull string. Worked for years. No batteries. Now, the only choice is a battery-powered version. ?

    Get the European version:
    Stewies european see and say – 00:30
    — John Johnson



  • @Rhywden said:

    Yes, there are some fads of the month, like all this Gluten-free crap.

    It's political correctness gone mad!



  • @Rhywden said:

    Did I mention somewhere that I really like people who insist on ripping postings apart?

    Reply to specific parts of posts in order the way people used to before Microsoft got everyone to use its bastard Outlook-taught method of quoting messages, you mean?

    @Rhywden said:

    That's the very definition of a "tough guy”.

    I’d say a tough guy is someone who keeps going regardless of pain (or whatever), not the one who simply doesn’t complain but also doesn’t do anything that might make it worse.

    @redwizard said:

    Sometimes the choice is battery-powered or none at all, which isn't fair.

    I bought a new bicycle a few years ago, and to my mild surprise it came with a battery-powered taillight despite having a dynamo in the front wheel hub to power the headlight. The logic of this escapes me entirely, except that maybe the manufacturer wanted to save on a few metres of wiring.


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