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Black Box Explains...MT-RJ fiber optic connectors.

Bringing fiber to the desktop is a great way to provide your users with increased bandwidth. The first step in achieving this goal is to provide an inexpensive fiber optic... more/see it nowsystem that is intuitive to the end user, easy to terminate in the field, and widely supported by equipment manufacturers. MT-RJ could be the answer to all these requirements.

A collaborative effort by leading fiber optic manufacturers, MT-RJ has an intuitive RJ latch that users recognize from copper Category 5 patch cords and traditional telephone cords, and it operates in the same way. The plug and jack are also similar in size to traditional RJ-type connectors.

Field installation, a common concern, is easier because of MT-RJ’s no-polish, no-epoxy, quick-termination design. MT-RJ is available in single- or multimode configurations and is backwards compatible for integration into existing networks. Since MT-RJ has duplex polarity, you don’t have to worry about the polarity reversal that happens with traditional ST type connectors. The TIA/EIA recently voted to accept MT-RJ, indicating wide acceptance of the new design and possible future inclusion in the TIA/EIA 568A standard.

Black Box, the name you trust to keep you up with the latest industry developments, supports this new technology. collapse


Black Box Explains...SCSI-1, SCSI-2, SCSI-3, and SCSI-5.

There are standards…and there are standards applied in real-world applications. This Black Box Explains illustrates how SCSI is interpreted by many SCSI manufacturers. Think of these as common SCSI connector... more/see it nowtypes, not as firm SCSI specifications. Notice, for instance, there’s a SCSI-5, which isn’t listed among the other approved and proposed specifications. However, for advanced SCSI multiport applications, SCSI-5 is often the connector of choice.

SCSI-1
Supports transfer rates up to 5 MBps and seven SCSI devices on an 8-bit bus. The most common connector is the Centronics® 50 or a DB50. A Micro Ribbon 50 is also used for internal connections. SCSI-1 equipment, such as controllers, can also have Burndy 60 or 68 connectors.

SCSI-2
SCSI-2 introduced optional 16- and 32-bit buses called “Wide SCSI.“ Transfer rate is normally 10 MBps but SCSI-2 can go up to 40 MBps with Wide and Fast SCSI. SCSI-2 usually features a Micro D 50-pin connector with thumbclips. It’s also known as Mini 50 or Micro DB50. A Micro Ribbon 60 connector may also be used for internal connections.

SCSI-3
Found in many high-end systems, SCSI-3 commonly uses a Micro D 68-pin connector with thumbscrews. It’s also known as Mini 68. The most common bus width is 16 bits with transfer rates of 20 MBps.

SCSI-5
SCSI-5 is also called a Very High-Density Connector Interface (VHDCI) or 0.8-mm connector. It’s similar to the SCSI-3 MD68 connector in that it has 68 pins, but it has a much smaller footprint. SCSI-5 is designed for SCSI-5, next-generation SCSI connections. Manufacturers are integrating this 0.8-mm design into controller cards. It’s also the connector of choice for advanced SCSI multiport applications. Up to four channels can be accommodated in one card slot. Connections are easier where space is limited. collapse


Black Box Explains...Shielded vs. unshielded cable.

The environment determines whether cable should be shielded or unshielded.

Shielding is the sheath surrounding and protecting the cable wires from electromagnetic leakage and interference. Sources of this electromagnetic activity... more/see it now(EMI)—commonly referred to as noise—include elevator motors, fluorescent lights, generators, air conditioners, and photocopiers. To protect data in areas with high EMI, choose a shielded cable.

Foil is the most basic cable shield, but a copper-braid shield provides more protection. Shielding also protects cables from rodent damage. Use a foil-shielded cable in busy office or retail environments. For industrial environments, you might want to choose a copper-braid shield.

For quiet office environments, choose unshielded cable. collapse


Black Box Explains... Speaker wire gauge.

Wire gauge (often shown as AWG, for American Wire Gauge) is a measure of the thickness of the wire. The more a wire is drawn or sized, the smaller its... more/see it nowdiameter will be. The lower the wire gauge, the thicker the wire.

For example, a 24 AWG wire is thinner than a 14 AWG wire. A lower AWG means longer transmission distance and better integrity. As a rule of thumb, power loss decreases as the wire size increases.

When it comes to choosing speaker cable, consider a few factors: distance, the type of system and amplifier you have, the frequencies of the signals being handled, and any specifications that the speaker manufacturer recommends.

For most home applications where you simply need to run cable from your stereo to speakers in the same room—or even behind the walls to other rooms—16 AWG cable is usually fine.

If you’re considering runs of more than 40 feet (12.1 m), consider using 14 AWG or even 12 AWG cable. They both offer better transmission and less resistance over longer distances. You should probably choose 12 AWG cable for high-end audio systems with higher power output or for low-frequency subwoofers. As a rule of thumb, power loss decreases as the wire size increases.

To terminate your cable, choose gold connectors. Because gold resists oxidation over time, gold connectors wear better and offer better peformance than other connectors do. collapse


Black Box Explains...Digital Visual Interface (DVI) and other digital display interfaces.

There are three main types of digital video interfaces: P&D, DFP, and DVI. P&D (Plug & Display, also known as EVC), the earliest of these technologies, supports both digital and... more/see it nowanalog RGB connections and is now used primarily on projectors. DFP (Digital Flat-Panel Port) was the first digital-only connector on displays and graphics cards; it’s being phased out.

There are different types of DVI connectors: DVI-D, DVI-I, DVI-A, DFP, and EVC.

DVI-D is a digital-only connector. DVI-I supports both digital and analog RGB connections. Some manufacturers are offering the DVI-I connector type on their products instead of separate analog and digital connectors. DVI-A is used to carry an analog DVI signal to a VGA device, such as a display. DFP, like DVI-D, was an early digital-only connector used on some displays; it’s being phased out. EVC (also known as P&D) is similar to DVI-I only it’s slightly larger in size. It also handles digital and analog connections, and it’s used primarily on projectors.

All these standards are based on transition-minimized differential signaling (TMDS). In a typical single-line digital signal, voltage is raised to a high level and decreased to a low level to create transitions that convey data. TMDS uses a pair of signal wires to minimize the number of transitions needed to transfer data. When one wire goes to a high-voltage state, the other goes to a low-voltage state. This balance increases the data-transfer rate and improves accuracy. collapse


Black Box Explains...10GBASE-T standard.

In June 2006, the IEEE approved the standard for 10 Gigabit/sec Ethernet, or 10GBASE-T (10-GbE). 10-GbE transmission requires a bandwidth of 500 MHz.

The 10-GbE standards.
The cabling industry is developing... more/see it nowtwo different standards that can be used in 10-GbE applications. One is for use with Category 6 (CAT6) cable, and one is for Augmented Category 6 (CAT6a).

Alien Crosstalk.
Before discussing the standards, a definition of Alien Crosstalk is needed.

Alien Crosstalk (ANEXT) is a critical measurement unique to 10-GbE systems. Crosstalk, measured in 10/100/1000BASE-T systems, is the mixing of signals between wire pairs within a cable. Alien Crosstalk is the measurement of the signal coupling between wire pairs in different, adjacent cables.

The amount of ANEXT depends on a number of factors, including the promixity of adjacent cables and connectors, the cable length, cable twist density, and EMI. Patch panels and connecting hardware are also affected by ANEXT.

With ANEXT, the affected cable is called the disturbed or victim cable. The surrounding cables are the disturbers.

10-GbE using CAT6.
The first set of standards defines cabling performance when using Category 6/Class E cabling for 10-GbE applications. The TIA/EIA version will be the Technical Systems Bulletin 155 (TSB 155). ISO/IEC TR 24750 is a technical report to be used for measuring existing Class E systems.

No matter what the cable length is, CAT6 cable must meet 10-GbE electrical and ANEXT specifications up to 500 MHz. However, the CAT6 standard now specifies measurements only to 250 MHz, and it does not have an ANEXT requirement. There is no guarantee CAT6 can support a 10-GbE system. But the TSB provides guidelines for ways to help mitigate ANEXT. One way to lessen or eliminate ANEXT is to use shielded equipment and cables. Another way is to follow installation guidelines, such as using non-adjacent patch panels, separating equipment cords, unbundling horizontal cabling, etc.

10GbE using CAT6a.
The second set of standards will define Augmented Category 6 (CAT6a) and Augmented Class E (Class Ea) cabling. The newer, augmented cabling systems are designed to support 10-GbE over a 100-meter horizontal channel.

The TIA/EIA version is in draft and will be published as ANSI/TIA/EIA-568B.2-AD10. It recognizes both UTP and STP CAT6a systems. It also extends CAT6 electrical parameters such as NEXT, FEXT, return loss, insertion loss, and more to 500 MHz. It specifies near- and far-end Alien Crosstalk (ANEXT, AFEXT) to 500 MHz. It also goes beyond IEEE 802.3an by establishing the electrical requirements for the permanent link and cabling components. The ISO Class Ea standard will be published in a new edition of the 11801 standard.

These standards specify requirements for each component in the channel, such as cable and connecting hardware, as well as for the permanent link and the channel. collapse


Black Box Explains...Fiber.


Fiber versus copper.

When planning a new or upgraded cabling infrastructure, you have two basic choices: fiber or copper. Both offer superior data transmission. The decision on which one... more/see it nowto use may be difficult. It will often depend on your current network, your future networking needs, and your particular application, including bandwidth, distances, environment, cost, and more. In some cases, copper may be a better choice; in other situations, fiber offers advantages.


Although copper cable is currently more popular and much more predominant in structured cabling systems and networks, fiber is quickly gaining fans.


Fiber optic cable is becoming one of the fastest-growing transmission mediums for both new cabling installations and upgrades, including backbone, horizontal, and even desktop applications. Fiber optic cable is favored for applications that need high bandwidth, long distances, and complete immunity to electrical interference. It’s ideal for high data-rate systems such as Gigabit Ethernet, FDDI, multimedia, ATM, SONET, Fibre Channel, or any other network that requires the transfer of large, bandwidth-consuming data files, particularly over long distances. A common application for fiber optic cable is as a network backbone, where huge amounts of data are transmitted. To help you decide if fiber is right for your new network or if you want to migrate to fiber, take a look at the following:



The advantages of fiber.

Greater bandwidth-Because fiber provides far greater bandwidth than copper and has proven performance at rates up to 10 Gbps, it gives network designers future-proofing capabilities as network speeds and requirements increase. Also, fiber optic cable can carry more information with greater fidelity than copper wire. That’s why the telephone networks use fiber, and many CATV companies are converting to fiber.


Low attenuation and greater distance-Because the fiber optic signal is made of light, very little signal loss occurs during transmission so data can move at higher speeds and greater distances. Fiber does not have the 100-meter (304.8-ft.) distance limitation of unshielded twisted-pair copper (without a booster). Fiber distances can range from 300 meters to 40 kilometers, depending on the style of cable, wavelength, and network. (Fiber distances are typically measured in metric units.) Because fiber signals need less boosting than copper ones do, the cable performs better.


Fiber networks also enable you to put all your electronics and hardware in one central location, instead of having wiring closets with equipment throughout the building.


Security-Your data is safe with fiber cable. It does not radiate signals and is extremely difficult to tap. If the cable is tapped, it’s very easy to monitor because the cable leaks light, causing the entire system to fail. If an attempt is made to break the security of your fiber system, you’ll know it.


Immunity and reliability-Fiber provides extremely reliable data transmission. It’s completely immune to many environmental factors that affect copper cable. The fiber is made of glass, which is an insulator, so no electric current can flow through. It is immune to electromagnetic interference and radio-frequency interference (EMI/RFI), crosstalk, impedance problems, and more. You can run fiber cable next to industrial equipment without worry. Fiber is also less susceptible to temperature fluctuations than copper is and can be submerged in water.


Design-Fiber is lightweight, thin, and more durable than copper cable. And, contrary to what you might think, fiber optic cable has pulling specifications that are up to ten times greater than copper cable’s. Its small size makes it easier to handle, and it takes up much less space in cabling ducts. Although fiber is still more difficult to terminate than copper is, advancements in connectors are making temination easier. In addition, fiber is actually easier to test than copper cable.


Migration-The proliferation and lower costs of media converters are making copper to fiber migration much easier. The converters provide seamless links and enable the use of existing hardware. Fiber can be incorporated into networks in planned upgrades.


Standards-New TIA/EIA standards are bringing fiber closer to the desktop. TIA/EIA-785, ratified in 2001, provides a cost-effective migration path from 10-Mbps Ethernet to 100-Mbps Fast Ethernet over fiber (100BASE-SX). A recent addendum to the standard eliminates limitations in transceiver designs. In addition, in June 2002, the IEEE approved a 10-Gigabit Ethernet standard.


Costs-The cost for fiber cable, components, and hardware is steadily decreasing. Installation costs for fiber are higher than copper because of the skill needed for terminations. Overall, fiber is more expensive than copper in the short run, but it may actually be less expensive in the long run. Fiber typically costs less to maintain, has much less downtime, and requires less networking hardware. And fiber eliminates the need to recable for higher network performance.


Multimode or single-mode, duplex or simplex?

Multimode-Multimode fiber optic cable can be used for most general fiber applications. Use multimode fiber for bringing fiber to the desktop, for adding segments to your existing network, or in smaller applications such as alarm systems. Multimode cable comes with two different core sizes: 50 micron or 62.5 micron.


Single-mode-Single-mode is used over distances longer than a few miles. Telcos use it for connections between switching offices. Single-mode cable features an 8.5-micron glass core.


Duplex-Use duplex multimode or single-mode fiber optic cable for applications that require simultaneous, bidirectional data transfer. Workstations, fiber switches and servers, fiber modems, and similar hardware require duplex cable. Duplex is available in single- and multimode.


Simplex-Because simplex fiber optic cable consists of only one fiber link, you should use it for applications that only require one-way data transfer. For instance, an interstate trucking scale that sends the weight of the truck to a monitoring station or an oil line monitor that sends data about oil flow to a central location. Simplex fiber comes in single- and multimode types.


50- vs. 62.5-micron cable.

Although 50-micron fiber cable features a smaller core, which is the light-carrying portion of the fiber, both 62.5- and 50-micron cable feature the same glass cladding diameter of 125 microns. You can use both in the same types of networks, although 50-micron cable is recommended for premise applications: backbone, horizontal, and intrabuilding connections, and should be considered especially for any new construction and installations. And both can use either LED or laser light sources.


The big difference between 50-micron and 62.5-micron cable is in bandwidth-50-micron cable features three times the bandwidth of standard 62.5-micron cable, particularly at 850 nm. The 850-nm wavelength is becoming more important as lasers are being used more frequently as a light source.


Other differences are distance and speed. 50-micron cable provides longer link lengths and/or higher speeds in the 850-nm wavelength. See the table below.




The ferrules: ceramic or composite?

As a general rule, use ceramic ferrules for critical network connections such as backbone cables or for connections that will be changed frequently, like those in wiring closets. Ceramic ferrules are more precisely molded and fit closer to the fiber, which gives the fiber optic cables a lower optical loss.


Use composite ferrules for connections that are less critical to the network’s overall operation and less frequently changed. Like their ceramic counterparts, composite ferrules are characterized by low loss, good quality, and a long life. However, they are not as precisely molded and slightly easier to damage, so they aren’t as well-suited for critical connections.


Testing and certifying fiber optic cable.

If you’re accustomed to certifying copper cable, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to certify fiber optic cable because it’s immune to electrical interference. You only need to check a few measurements.

Attenuation (or decibel loss)-Measured in decibels/kilometer (dB/km), this is the decrease of signal strength as it travels through the fiber cable. Generally, attenuation problems are more common on multimode fiber optic cables.

Return loss-This is the amount of light reflected from the far end of the cable back to the source. The lower the number, the better. For example, a reading of -60 decibels is better than -20 decibels. Like attenuation, return loss is usually greater with multimode cable.

Graded refractive index-This measures how the light is sent down the fiber. This is commonly measured at wavelengths of 850 and 1300 nanometers. Compared to other operating frequencies, these two ranges yield the lowest intrinsic power loss. (NOTE: This is valid for multimode fiber only.)

Propagation delay-This is the time it takes a signal to travel from one point to another over a transmission channel.

Optical time-domain reflectometry (OTDR)-This enables you to isolate cable faults by transmitting high-frequency pulses onto a cable and examining their reflections along the cable. With OTDR, you can also determine the length of a fiber optic cable because the OTDR value includes the distance the optic signal travels.


There are many fiber optic testers on the market today. Basic fiber optic testers function by shining a light down one end of the cable. At the other end, there’s a receiver calibrated to the strength of the light source. With this test, you can measure how much light is going to the other end of the cable. Generally, these testers give you the results in dB lost, which you then compare to the loss budget. If the measured loss is less than the number calculated by your loss budget, your installation is good.


Newer fiber optic testers have a broad range of capabilities. They can test both 850- and 1300-nanometer signals at the same time and can even check your cable for compliance with specific standards.


Fiber precautions.

A few properties particular to fiber optic cable can cause problems if you aren’t careful during installation.

Intrinsic power loss-As the optic signal travels through the fiber core, the signal inevitably loses some speed through absorption, reflection, and scattering. This problem is easy to manage by making sure your splices are good and your connections are clean.

Microbending-Microbends are minute deviations in fiber caused by excessive bends, pinches, and kinks. Using cable with reinforcing fibers and other special manufacturing techniques minimizes this problem.

Connector loss-Connector loss occurs when two fiber segments are misaligned. This problem is commonly caused by poor splicing. Scratches and dirt introduced during the splicing process can also cause connector loss.

Coupling loss-Similar to connector loss, coupling loss results in reduced signal power and is from poorly terminated connector couplings.


Remember to be careful and use common sense when installing fiber cable. Use clean components. Keep dirt and dust to a minimum. Don’t pull the cable excessively or bend it too sharply around any corners. That way, your fiber optic installation can serve you well for many years.

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Black Box Explains...IEEE 1284

Introduced in 1994, the IEEE 1284 standard addresses data-transfer speeds and distance for parallel interfaces. Standard parallel interfaces support speeds of up to 150 kbps at distances of up to... more/see it now6 feet (1.8 m); IEEE 1284 parallel interfaces can send your data over 100 times faster at up to five times the distance!

Although the Centronics® interface enabled only unidirectional computer-to-peripheral data flow, the IEEE 1284 interface enables bidirectional flow so peripherals can send data to the computer.

The IEEE 1284 standard covers five separate parallel modes, from the original Centronics (with which it’s compatible) to the high-performance Enhanced Parallel Port (EPP) mode. The computer negotiates with the attached device to determine which mode to use. collapse


Black Box Explains... Crosstalk.

One of the most important cable measurements is Near-End Crosstalk (NEXT). It’s signal interference from one pair that adversely affects another pair on the same end.

Not only can crosstalk... more/see it nowoccur between adjacent wire pairs (“pair-to-pair NEXT“), but all other pairs in a UTP cable can also contribute their own levels of both near-end and far-end crosstalk, multiplying the adverse effects of this interference onto a transmitting or receiving wire pair.

Because such compounded levels of interference can prove crippling in high-speed networks, some cable manufacturers have begun listing Power Sum NEXT (PS-NEXT), FEXT, ELFEXT, and PS-ELFEXT ratings for their CAT5e and CAT6 cables. Here are explanations of the different types of measurements:

NEXT measures an unwanted signal transmitted from one pair to another on the near end.

PS-NEXT (Power Sum crosstalk) is a more rigorous crosstalk measurement that includes the total sum of all interference that can possibly occur between one pair and all the adjacent pairs in the same cable sheath. It measures the unwanted signals from multiple pairs at the near end onto another pair at the near end.

FEXT (Far-End crosstalk) measures an unwanted signal from a pair transmitting on the near end onto a pair at the far end. This measurement takes full-duplex operation into account where signals are generated simultaneously on both ends.

ELFEXT (Equal-Level Far-End Crosstalk) measures the FEXT in relation to the received signal level measured on that same pair. It basically measures interference without the effects of attenuation—the equal level.

PS-ELFEXT (Power Sum Equal-Level Far-End Crosstalk), an increasingly common measurement, measures the total sum of all intereference from pairs on the far end to a pair on the near end without the effects of attenuation. collapse


DisplayPort cable.

DisplayPort is a digital video interface that was designed by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) in 2006 and has been produced since 2008. It’s incredibly versatile, with the capability... more/see it nowto deliver digital video, audio, bidirectional communications, and accessory power over a single connector.

DisplayPort cables are targeted at the computer world rather than at consumer electronics. DisplayPort is used to connect digital audio/video computers, displays, monitors, projectors, HDTVs, splitters, extenders, and other devices that support resolutions up to 4K and beyond. Unlike HDMI, however, DisplayPort is an open standard with no royalties.

With the proper adapters, DisplayPort cable can carry DVI and HDMI signals, although this doesn’t work the other way around—DVI and HDMI cable can’t carry DisplayPort. Because DisplayPort can provide power to attached devices, DisplayPort to HDMI or DVI adapters don’t need a separate power supply.

DisplayPort supports cable lengths of up to 15 meters with maximum resolutions at cable lengths up to 3 meters. Bidirectional signaling enables DisplayPort to both send and receive data from an attached device.

DisplayPort v1.1: 10.8 Gbps over a 2-meter cable.

DisplayPort v1.2: 21.6 Gbps (4K). DisplayPort v1.2 also enables you to daisychain up to four monitors with only a single output cable. It also offers the future promise of DisplayPort Hubs that would operate much like a USB hub.

DisplayPort v1.3: 2.4 Gbps. (5K)

The standard DisplayPort connector is very compact and features latches that don’t add to the connector’s size. Unlike HDMI, a DisplayPort connector is easily lockable with a pinch-down locking hood, so it can't be easily dislodged. However, a quick squeeze of the connector releases the latch.

The Mini DisplayPort (MiniDP or mDP) is a miniatured version of the DisplayPort interface. It carries both digital and analog computer video and audio signals. Apple® introduced the Mini DisplayPort connector in 2008 and it is now on all new Mac® computers. It is also being used in newer PC notebooks. This small form factor connector fully supports the VESA DisplayPort protocol. It is particularly useful on systems where space is at a premium, such as laptops, or to support multiple connectors on reduced height add-in cards.

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