Captain Packrat (captpackrat) wrote,
Captain Packrat

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Why are the easy parts always the hardest?

While the new house was wired for satellite, the old house wasn't.  Instead, the former occupants had put up a small VHF antenna and wired it into the east bedroom (which became my SO's).  The antenna worked adequately until the switch to digital TV, when nearly all the local stations switched from VHF to UHF.  The old antenna became utterly useless.  My SO tried to make due with an indoor antenna, but something happened recently and reception went to pot.  He started becoming very frustrated, so I went out and bought the biggest, most powerful antenna I could find along with an outdoor amplifier.  It's an RCA VHF/UHF antenna that claims to have a 100 mile range and is rated Green (medium-long range) by itself and Purple (extreme range) with an amplifier.

(This is a different antenna from the one I installed a couple weeks ago; that one was for my room only.  There is no wiring between the two rooms and running a wire would be very difficult.)

About 2:30 this afternoon I started working on replacing the old antenna.  It was mounted atop a 10 or 12 foot mast with one end driven into the ground and attached to the side of the roof part-way up.  Disconnecting the mast from the roof was easy enough, and I only had to climb 4 rungs on the ladder.  The ground was fairly muddy, so pulling the mast out of the ground would have been easy, had the former occupants not driven a couple twisted wires into the mud, presumably as some sort of (totally inadequate) ground.  Those wires managed to grab the mud making it nearly impossible to pull the mast out.  The clamp holding the wire onto the mast was stuck and didn't want to come loose.  Finally, with a ton of effort, I managed to wrench the mast out of the ground.

Only to discover problem number two: the installers left almost no slack in the cable and had securely taped the cable to the mast, well above my head, so that it was impossible to simply lay the mast down.  I had to pick the whole thing up and maneuver it around carefully, making sure not to smash out the nearby basement window, until I could get enough slack to lay the mast down.

I started cutting the straps of electrical tape to loosen the cable, then discovered problem number three, and the worst one so far.  The previous occupants had used half a roll of electrical tape around the connectors, which years of sun had baked into a solid plastic block.  There was no way to cut through it or peel it off.  Since the wire came out of the wall with no connectors, I would have to cut the wire and install a new connector.

I've got tons of tools for fashioning UTP ethernet cables, but I've never had to work with coax before, so I didn't have any tools.  I knew the local small-town hardware store wouldn't have anything, so I had to drive about an hour round-trip to Menards. I bought an RCA kit that claimed to have "everything" needed to attach connectors to cable.  I drive home, open the kit... and discover it doesn't have "everything", in fact, it's a whole lot of nothing.  Near as I can figure, the tool the kit comes with is for inserting the cable into the connector, you still need to strip and crimp the cable yourself.  I suppose I could improvise with a pocket knife and a pair of pliers, but this is going to be outside for years and years, so I'd rather do the job right.

I hop back in my car and drive the half-hour to Menards, pick up a pricey universal cable stripper (for coax, UTP and flat phone cables) and an even pricier ratcheting coax crimper.  If you're buying tools, might as well buy good ones, right?  Another half-hour drive home, then I start working on the cable.  By this time, the sun has gone down and it's beginning to get dark out.

The cable stripper works like a charm, once I figure out which way the cable goes in.  I jam a connector onto the end, then stick it into the crimper and give it a squeeze.  The crimper seizes up solid.  I can't open it, I can't squeeze it any farther, and there doesn't appear to be any sort of emergency release.  I try banging it on the concrete, I try stepping on it, but nothing works.  It was finally dark out before I gave up.

It should have taken a couple hours at most to replace this antenna.  So far I've spent nearly 5 hours on it, and I'll have at least another hour long drive tomorrow to return this broken crimper and try to find something else.  And I'm not even half way finished.
Tags: annoyances, shopping, tv

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