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Shadytel at Toorcamp

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So this year, I went with Shadytel to provide phone service at Toorcamp! Wireline service was provided using an Avaya Definity and four Adit 600 channel banks for additional capacity. In true shady spirit, all interaction with the switch happened from the fully priveleged account intended only for manufacturer use. There was going to be an LCR-based GSM network running as well, but the Linux box running it experienced some pretty severe hardware fallout. So for the week, we had lots of questions, and few answers about when the wireless network would be running. But the answer ultimately was not this year.


Meanwhile, the wireline side of things turned out to be surprisingly popular! At our peak, we ran 50ish lines, 10,000 feet of 1-pair copper, and about 1,500 feet of 2-pair. Near the beginning, things became pretty dicey. While chronomex and some of the others were working on trying to get the mobile gear repaired, we had to work on getting the Adits running. This was the first time we'd put them into service, so we weren't sure what to expect. In between wiring customers up, we had been doing mostly guesswork to figure out why an Adit was coming up in yellow alarm mode. Unbeknownst to us at the time, one of the power supplies was only pushing about 10 VAC to ring phones too. Between all of this, people were coming in faster and faster to ask for service. With the few free moments we had, Falcon and I ended up sitting on the porch of a staff cabin diagnosing our first channel bank install through the static of a handheld Icom radio.


By the second day, the camp was starting to expand. People were setting their tents up further away from the CO. It became clear we needed to finally get the Adits online, and fast. So we finally brought a laptop with a terminal emulator out to the one on the porch, and logged in. The problem? The line coding was set to b8zs instead of AMI. D'oh! After communicating over a two way radio, our box of ebayed 2500 knockoffs never sounded so good.


So with the channel bank running, we started making our way to the cabins. The radio station naturally wanted a phone, and opted for a dial-less 500 set. Or someone opted to give them that - I'm not sure which. But anyway, you'll remember earlier, I mentioned the Adit was pushing a ninth of what it should out in ring voltage. Yeah, funny how these things happen. The radio station now had a phone, but they couldn't make outgoing calls. Or incoming. Funny how these things work out. Between the next round of installs, some of them coming out of nowhere at two in the morning, we went out with a multimeter and stuck in a new power supply.


In between all of this, a myth started to go through the camp that just dialing 9 would get you a person. And so it did! We looked at the dialplan. During the chaos of our first few days, someone had added a vector into the switch that routed the digit 9 to Neg9's phone if you waited a few seconds. So like any responsible group of switchmen, we rerouted it to a milliwatt. Myth busted. Ish.


The Definity's internal DCP signaling format supports the capability to natively transfer Bell 212A modem bits over it, and use a DSP card to spit it out as FSK. For some reason, the announcement card needs one of these to work, so we made it the absolute last number in the range. Among some other simple test numbers we made, it got without saying that it got a lot of calls.


About midway through our second day there, things started to become much more manageable. The new installs weren't piling up faster then we could count, the Adits (even though we didn't have the password for one. It turns out all you need is the switch to provision everything) started behaving, and people were visibly enjoying the network. Someone brought over a Doorking, which ended up doubling as a directory, and to make things more interesting, a phone was installed in one of the porta potties. That's the first time I've seen a line gather for a porta potty. At least, the first time when there were several other free toilets.


While Shadytel can't pay for real CALEA material or the NSA's fiber splitters (our state of the art, all copper networks don't support them), we did start offering an opt-in feature called The Peoples' Intercept. Basically, it allowed you to "service observe" other people, but the tradeoff was it would put you at risk for "service observing".


Perhaps most gratifyingly though, not only did the call processing activity reach 4% occupancy (It's worth noting the processor is designed for a maximum of 2,800 ports), but about a dozen volunteers joined us, and we got special recognition from everyone. Even a large thank you from the staff during the closing ceremonies.


Speaking of which, I'd like to give a special thanks to everyone who was involved in one way or another. Whether you were out there installing phones, helping running the switch, or even just using a phone, thank you! We were absolutely floored by the overwhelmingly great response. Everybody was very supportive, hard working, and outright fucking hiliarious. You've made Toorcamp unforgettable for us, and I hope we did the same for all of you.


Here's some of the things we're going to try and shoot for next time:


- An ANAC. Maybe even a homemade one from a floppy drive or something. For a while, half the calls to the attendant line were just to read someone's number back.

- Real ACTS

- Running a DMS-10. No, seriously!

- Getting capture-the-flag running. With phones. And maybe a PA system for good measure.

- Getting live feeds from several nice things up on one of the trunk cards. The radio station, shortwave receivers, anything and everything.

- Outbound connectivity of some kind. Iridium was a candidate this year, but it kinda fell flat on it's head at the last minute. There was a single 768k DSL line for the whole camp, so it's better to pretend that doesn't exist


You can see a photo gallery from this year here:

Edited by ThoughtPhreaker

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Thanks for posting. I'd love to attend one of these one of these years. Sounds like a whole lot of fun!


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