Slowly settling in.

The Big Move has been done for over a week now, but the process of settling in with Anne’s parents continues at a slow and steady pace. Kathy and Aral, Anne’s parents, and Angela, one of her younger sisters, have done their best to make us feel at home, but it’s difficult to shake the “extended visit” feeling I had when we first moved in. There’s six of us in the house total and when you add in the other four family members who live just across the street who come over on a regular basis the whole situation takes on a very Walton’s kind of feel at times.

I’ve managed to carve out a small computer area amongst our boxes of stuff in the basement while Anne and Courtney’s PCs are in the bedrooms. Aral has already let me drill one hole in the floor so I could run an Ethernet cable down to my PC and I’ll probably have to drill one more to get Courtney’s PC hooked up to the net as she’s still offline at this point. I’ve been in the house a week and I’m already drilling holes all over the place. My first plan was to use my wireless router as an access point so I wouldn’t have to run wires, but it doesn’t want to talk to the DSL Modem/Router combo they have so that ruled that option out for the moment.

In addition to hole-maker I’ll probably be trying my hand at electrician soon. There’s an absolute dearth of three prong outlets in the house other than a couple in the kitchen and one in the basement near the washer and dryer so Aral and I went out and bought some three prong sockets so I could swap them out with the two prongers so the PCs can be hooked up properly. Before I do that, though, I need to figure out how to determine if a properly grounded wire is already available in the walls and what to do if it isn’t. Needless to say I’ve not busted my ass on trying to get this done yet as my electrical skills are minimal at best so I’m going to have to study up a bit before I feel comfortable even considering the possibility of trying it. It’s the sort of thing you want to make sure you’re doing correctly lest you end up killing yourself and burning the house down in the process.

Anne and I went out and signed up for a Family Share Plan with the T-Mobile folks as they did a good job of convincing us that we’d have decent coverage at the house, but it turns out that they were wrong. At home the phones are in a near-perpetual searching for service mode with only the occasional, and very short lived, connection established. This is a problem in part because I need a cellphone I can be reached on at all times as part of my job. The T-Mobile folks gave me a suggestion to try when I get home tonight, but if it doesn’t work I have 12 days or so left to take both phones back and cancel the service outright. Problem is, I don’t know of any other providers that’d be much better. I already know Verizon is for crap out there from the Blackberry I had been provided by the folks at Compeople. I have no idea if Sprint or AT&T would be any better. Cellphones is another area I need to study up on.

So that’s how things are going so far. We’re still working on getting addresses changed and making arrangements to have Courtney transfer high schools at the end of her semester in about two weeks time, but we’re getting there.

13 thoughts on “Slowly settling in.

  1. Les,

    It so happens that (among other things) I am an electrician.

    A few tips:

    Always shut the circuit off at the panel before replacing an outlet.

    If you have any doubts that you know what you are doing, contact a qualified electrician.

    When you remove the outlet, there will either be one or more sets of either 2 wires or three wires in the box. There will be more than one of each set if the box is feeding another box.

    If there are three wires, you should have a black wire which should be the hot. A white wire which should be the neutral. A copper, uninsulated wire which should be ground.

    If you have all three wires, you are probably ok. Just connect the new outlets thus: Black wire goes to the gold screw on the outlet, white wire goes to the silver screw, and copper goes to the green screw.

    You may want to check the ground with a volt/ohm meter as follows: set the meter to register continuity. Check to see if there is continuity between the white wire (the neutral) and the copper wire (the ground). If not, it probably is not made up in the panel, or possibly not in another outlet box feeding the one you are working on…

    Do NOT use the neutral (the white wire) for the ground.

    If you only have two wires in the box, then, my friend, you are going to be pulling wire. You will need 12/2 with ground romex. And probably an electrician.

    Even if you already have 3 prong outlets elsewhere, this does not mean they have a ground. If you have three wires in the outlet boxes you check, then they probably are, but it never hurts to make sure.

    I strongly recommend that if you are replacing outlets anyway, then replace all kitchen and bathroom outlets with GFCIs (Ground Fault Circuit Interuption). The life you save could be your own.

  2. KPatrick, thanks for the suggestion, but that antenna seems like it would defeat the point of having a cell phone. grin

    Bodi, thanks for the electrical advice. It points me in the right direction.

    Mom, I may yet end up with Nextel if they can provide service, but I’m still working with T-Mobile to see if they can get things straightened out first.

    When we signed up for the phones we were told coverage shouldn’t be a problem because they had inked a deal with Cingular to use their roaming towers in areas where their own coverage was spotty. The tech support folks had me try manually switching the network setting when I got home last night and when I did a scan it did show a Cingular tower nearby, but when I tried to connect it said I wasn’t allowed. So it seems that a local Cingular tower isn’t aware that T-Mobile folks are supposedly allowed to use it. I’ll be talking to T-Mobile again today and based on that conversation may or may not be returning the phones tomorrow.

  3. This month’s issue of This Old House magazine had an article about swapping out outlets in your hosue complete with pictures, etc.  My husband was very excited.  It might help.

  4. You can also look for a grounding rod outside – that’s a good indication the house electrical has a safety ground.  You can also take the face off the breaker box, and you’ll see the ground wires if they’re there.

    If there are three wires, you should have a black wire which should be the hot. A white wire which should be the neutral. A copper, uninsulated wire which should be ground.

      Remember Les, the key word is SHOULD.  You never know if a circuit was wired by someone on their first day.  Be paranoid, shut power at the breaker/fuse box, and check the outlet with a voltmeter to be sure.  The outlet you may be working on may not be on the circuit you think it is.  My house’s electrical isn’t organized by room or outlets, which meant my first changes to the electrical were preceeded by a lot of “What turns off when I flip THIS breaker?”.

    You may want to check the ground

    Do a continuity check between plug ground and a copper water pipe, ground rod, or a heavy appliance’s chassis that’s safety grounded.  If you have continuity between neutral and ground, you’ll need to make sure they aren’t tied together in the house system.

    Neutral has been used as ground in the past, but it poses a hazard if the hot shorts out. 

    Bodi and I are speculating a bit, since we don’t know what kind of electrical setup is in the house.  It could have been built with neutral used as ground for all we know.  I second Bodi, if in doubt, get an electrician and be safe.  I do recommend reading up on it, since those home repair skills can save you lots of money, like the computer tech skills, although it is more dangerous than computer repair.  Luckily, there are lots of books on the subject.  The “All Thumbs guide” books are decent. 

    Have you setup a wireless router in a home network with a wired router?  I bought a wireless router, but have yet to get it to work with my wired router.

  5. Have you setup a wireless router in a home network with a wired router?

    Sure, no biggie.

    First, the routers have to be on the same network, but with different IP numbers. If you want to use one of the routers as a DHCP server, make sure that DHCP is disabled on the other and that its IP number is not in the DHCP scope of the first one.

    Assuming that both routers have built-in switches or at least hubs on the LAN side, from here on it’s just a matter of figuring out if the switch ports want to be connected with a straight or a crossover cable.

  6. Thanks again for the tips. I’ll probably crack open one of the wall outlets to see how it looks and if it’s not immediately obvious to me that I can install the new outlets properly then I’ll start asking around to see if I can find an electrician to take a look at it.

    Ragman writes…

    Have you setup a wireless router in a home network with a wired router?  I bought a wireless router, but have yet to get it to work with my wired router.

    Several times, though my most recent attempt at our new home has been less than successful.

    My mother-in-law has a D-Link DSL Modem/Router Combo that she bought after the DSL modem she was supplied by SBC/Yahoo died on her. I brought my current D-Link Wireless Router with me when we moved in. For some reason I’ve not been able to figure out I can’t get the two to play nice with each other. I can get the wireless one to act like a switch, but it can’t see past the DSL Modem for some reason. It’s like the DSL Modem isn’t passing along DNS routing info as it should. I think the problem lies in the DSL Modem, though, because simply connecting a new machine to it can cause it to stop accessing the net until you’ve fiddled around with it for a while.

    The brief instructions Elwed provided should do the trick, though.

  7. Les and elwed, thanks for the wireless advice.  I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet, it’s not a high priority for me.  I use my laptop at my study desk, which has a switch I plug into.  Just wanted to say so before I forgot which topic it was under. wink

    I’ve got my wireless set up, it just won’t connect through my wired router to the internet.  I’ve already changed it’s local network IP from, since that’s the same as the wired router.  I also have to get my laptop to find my network printer.  I’ve set up several network printers, but I keep forgetting how I do it.  I just did it recently with my desktop, I hope I wrote down what I did.  The drivers are pre-XP, so I had to jump some hoops.  I think I had to create the port and type in the IP. 

    You know, of all the network printers I’ve setup, the printed instructions were only good 50% of the time at best.  I’ve had two IDENTICAL, brand new printers that had to be setup two different ways. When I do tech work for others, I write down how I fixed things so that I’d have it in case something similar came up – especially with the printers.

  8. Ragman touches on my pet peeve – poor documentation – and so makes his own:

    When I do tech work for others, I write down how I fixed things so that I’d have it in case something similar came up

    That is a very good practice.  I keep a Treepad of installations, procedures, and solutions for our department for that very reason.  Then any detail I need later – suppliers, part numbers, servernames, etc. – I can find in 5 seconds.  It compensates for my poor memory, and also allows me to share the whole kaboodle with our technicians.

    It doesn’t matter if you use Treepad, or Lotus Notes, or just a giant .txt file – all are searchable.

  9. I used my Palm pilot when onsite.  Besides, I don’t like repeating the aggravation of trying to figure something out again 2 years later. 

    I did write down how I connected my printer, so I had the laptop up in no time.

  10. Palm Pilots rock.  I also sometimes print my notes in very small type, trim the paper close to the text, and tape it to the equipment with a piece of packing tape.  Then I can tell people on the phone; “see my notes on the access panel”

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