Issue 27

Termination: Cat o’ 9 Tales

Cat o’ 9 Tales.


27 April 2011

Text:\ Graeme Hague

I’m building a house. Seriously, I mean that I’m doing the building – well, to be strictly accurate, some professional builders (and believe me, I use the term ‘professional’ reluctantly at this point in time) will be constructing the house to lock-up, which includes exterior walls and a roof, then I’ll do the rest. The electrical wiring, the plumbing, plastering and gyprock… the whole shebang. Mind you, this isn’t to suggest I have the necessary skills, but that’s a different problem.

My wife is very keen about a lot of the interior details – if I have to watch another episode of Grand Designs I’ll go postal – she’s always prattling on about stuff like taps, bathroom tiling and floor coverings. I’ve become very good at nodding and making agreeing noises when, in fact, my mind is totally focused on much more serious subjects – like installing the AV and entertainment system from hell. This is a fantastic opportunity to get everything absolutely perfect. It’s all very well for us to discuss at great length in this magazine multi-billion dollar AV installations involving cutting-edge technology, but when it comes to your own home, getting things right is really important.

Some of you will think it’s a bit sad – and others will understand – that I’m kind of excited by the prospect of putting enough power outlets behind the stereo cabinet to plug everything in. I’m going to install telephone points right next to where I want to put [sharp intake of breath] the telephones. The new flat-screen plasma (or LCD, either of which is yet to be purchased with exhaustive research) will be mounted on the wall at exactly the right height, because I’ll put in extra stud-frame timber to suit beforehand. Unfortunately we won’t have a proper Home Theatre Room, it’s all going to be kind of ‘open plan’ so my wife can talk to me from the kitchen sink while I watch the football, but I’ll be able to put traps in the floor for the rear surround speakers to be whipped into place in a jiffy. Throughout the walls and ceiling I plan to run a web of Cat5 cable big enough to snag a sperm whale – I figured you can never have too much Cat5.

That is until someone said, “You might as well use Cat6, just in case. It won’t cost you too much more.” 

What? Damn it, here we go with the whole future-proofing thing. 

Who the hell invented the term, just in case? It’s been the basis to every budget blow-out since Nero didn’t bother installing smoke alarms. Just in case will sow seeds of doubt, dreadful thoughts that all my best-laid AV high-definition, surround-sound fantasies will be rendered obsolete by next week’s technological break-through. Like, should I be waiting for Cat8 cable? Even Cat9?

For goodness’ sake, now I can imagine this: a decade or so in the future we’re flogging off the family home to move into an over-35s retirement village (populated by suspiciously youthful-looking women) and as the prospective buyer pulls out the chequebook he casually asks, “You have got Cat9 cabling in walls, right..?” My stuttering excuse that Cat9 wasn’t really available at the time isn’t going to cut it.

I should explain that our house will have a skillion roof, which means no ceiling space to crawl into afterwards. We get one chance to do things right.

Back to the present future: will I need wiring for Foxtel? The government tells us that free-to-air digital TV is only months away, but right now the closest thing we have is the rotary channel dial on the telly has neat, glowing green numbers. Foxtel can save your sanity here. Will we have to put a satellite dish up? A television antenna? Isn’t the mystical, magical National Broadband Network going to get rid us of all that ugly roof pollution? The way I understand it, the NBN will squeeze absolutely everything I’ll ever need through the fibre and our fridge will have a direct smart-link to the local liquor store.

Bloody hell, I just thought of something else. Our property is seven acres (sorry, I still don’t know the metric equivalent [that’s about 2.8hectare – Ed]) and the house site is about 100 metres [or 4.97chains  – Ed] from the point where Telstra abruptly lost interest when they serviced the area. What am I supposed to do? When I run power and phone lines, should I lay my own dodgy fibre-optic cable as well?

Obviously, building the house of the future isn’t easy, if you care about what the future is going to bring. And these days, the future’s only about six months away. Suddenly this is getting tricky. 

Okay, prioritising and choosing what really needs remote control and automation is the key. Things like the dishwasher, stove, air conditioner and washing machine are all fine (unless my wife divorces me). Security is covered – anyone that can run uphill for 100 metres before a 70kg dog catches them is welcome to anything they can carry. So this leaves the internet, phone and aforementioned AV and entertainment system from hell.

Which just needs a bunch of Cat5 in the walls… or maybe Cat 6, just in case.


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