August 21, 2003 · Lessig
So a bunch of people in San Francisco (with Brewster Kahle, who’s behind all great ideas behind it) are building a free wireless network for the city, called sflan. My wife’s and my house is to be sflan16, and last weekend the team came to the house to install the antenna.
Our house has just undergone major renovations (a 9 month project which is 6 months late; the other 9 month project is humming along just fine with eta 2 weeks), and we included in those renovations a conduit from the roof to a server room in the basement.
But when we tried to run the Ethernet cable from the roof to the basement, we discovered that the conduit makes 3 90-degree turns and one 45-degree turn, and it was not at all clear how one pushes a cable through such a maze.
So of course we turned first to the internet. I typed in a totally natural language question into Google (which I find these days is increasingly the best method): something like “how do you thread a cable through a long conduit with 90 degree angles.” The first post that came up was a thread from some list titled Threading fiber through a long conduit. This thread reported no good luck, but it had the kernel of an idea: a vacuum cleaner.
So we took a bit of foam, tied it to the end of a roll of kite string, and connected a small Shop-Vac at the other end of the conduit (which is at least 50 feet long). Bingo. The key, it seems, is to have a big but light obstruction, and google at hand.