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Black Box Explains...RS-232.

RS-232, also known as RS-232C and TIA/EIA-232-E, is a group of electrical, functional, and mechanical specifications for serial interfaces between computers, terminals, and peripherals. The RS-232 standard was developed by... more/see it nowthe Electrical Industries Association (EIA), and defines requirements for connecting data communications equipment (DCE)—modems, converters, etc.—and data terminal equipment (DTE)—computers, controllers, etc.) devices. RS-232 transmits data at speeds up to 115 Kbps and over distances up to 50 feet (15.2 m).

The standard, which is functionally equivalent to ITU V.24/V.28, specifies the workings of the interface, circuitry, and connector pinning. Both sync and async binary data transmission fall under RS-232. Although RS-232 is sometimes still used to transmit data from PCs to peripheral devices, the most common uses today are for network console ports and for industrial devices.

Even though RS-232 is a “standard,” you can’t necessarily expect seamless communication between two RS-232 devices. Why? Because different devices have different circuitry or pinning, and different wires may be designated to perform different functions.

The typical RS-232 connector is DB25, but some PCs and other data communication devices have DB9 connectors and many newer devices have RJ-45 RS-232 ports. To connect 9-pin PC ports or RJ-45 to devices with 25-pin connectors, you will require a simple adapter cable. collapse


Black Box Explains...Media converters.



Media converters interconnect different cable types such as twisted pair, fiber, and coax within an existing network. They are often used to connect newer Ethernet equipment to legacy cabling.... more/see it nowThey can also be used in pairs to insert a fiber segment into copper networks to increase cabling distances and enhance immunity to electromagnetic interference (EMI).


Traditional media converters are purely Layer 1 devices that only convert electrical signals and physical media. They don’t do anything to the data coming through the link so they’re totally transparent to data. These converters have two ports—one port for each media type. Layer 1 media converters only operate at one speed and cannot, for instance, support both 10-Mbps and 100-Mbps Ethernet.


Some media converters are more advanced Layer 2 Ethernet devices that, like traditional media converters, provide Layer 1 electrical and physical conversion. But, unlike traditional media converters, they also provide Layer 2 services—in other words, they’re really switches. This kind of media converter often has more than two ports, enabling you to, for instance, extend two or more copper links across a single fiber link. They also often feature autosensing ports on the copper side, making them useful for linking segments operating at different speeds.


Media converters are available in standalone models that convert between two different media types and in chassis-based models that connect many different media types in a single housing.




Rent an apartment

Standalone converters convert between two media. But, like a small apartment, they can be outgrown. Consider your current and future applications before selecting a media converter. Standalone converters are available in many configurations, including 10BASE-T to multimode or single-mode fiber, 10BASE-T to Thin coax (ThinNet), 10BASE-T to thick coax (standard Ethernet), CDDI to FDDI, and Thin coax to fiber. 100BASE-T and 100BASE-FX models that connect UTP to single- or multimode fiber are also available. With the development of Gigabit Ethernet (1000 Mbps), media converters have been created to make the transition to high-speed networks easier.




...or buy a house.

Chassis-based or modular media converters are normally rackmountable and have slots that house media converter modules. Like a well-planned house, the chassis gives you room to grow. These are used when many Ethernet segments of different media types need to be connected in a central location. Modules are available for the same conversions performed by the standalone converters, and 10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 100BASE-FX, and Gigabit modules may also be mixed.

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Black Box Explains...Terminal Servers

A terminal server (sometimes called a serial server) is a hardware device that enables you to connect serial devices across a network.

Terminal servers acquired their name because they were originally... more/see it nowused for long-distance connection of dumb terminals to large mainframe systems such as VAX™. Today, the name terminal server refers to a device that connects any serial device to a network, usually Ethernet. In this day of network-ready devices, terminal servers are not as common as they used to be, but they’re still frequently used for applications such as remote connection of PLCs, sensors, or automatic teller machines.

The primary advantage of terminal servers is that they save you the cost of running separate RS-232 devices. By using a network, you can connect serial devices even over very long distances—as far as your network stretches. It’s even possible to connect serial devices across the Internet. A terminal server connects the remote serial device to the network, and then another terminal server somewhere else on the network connects to the other serial device.

Terminal servers act as virtual serial ports by providing the appropriate connectors for serial data and also by grouping serial data in both directions into Ethernet TCP/IP packets. This conversion enables you to connect serial devices across Ethernet without the need for software changes.

Because terminal servers send data across a network, security is a consideration. If your network is isolated, you can get by with an inexpensive terminal server that has few or no security functions. If, however, you’re using a terminal server to make network connections across a network that’s also an Internet subnet, you should look for a terminal server that offers extensive security features. collapse


USB 3.0

The newest USB standard, USB 3.0 or “SuperSpeed USB," provides vast improvements over USB 2.0. USB 3.0 promises speeds up to 5 Gbps, about ten times that of USB 2.0.... more/see it now

USB 3.0 uses a sync-n-go technology that minimizes user wait time. USB 3.0 adds a physical bus running in parallel with the existing 2.0 bus. It has the flat USB Type A plug, but inside there is an extra set of connectors, and the edge of the plug is blue instead of white. The Type B plug looks different with an extra set of connectors.

USB 3.0 cable contains nine wires, four more than USB 2.0, which has one pair for data and one pair for power. USB 3.0 adds two more data pairs, for a total of eight plus a ground. These extra pairs enable USB 3.0 to support bidirectional asynchronous, full-duplex data transfer instead of USB 2.0’s half-duplex polling method.

USB 3.0 is much more power efficient than USB 2.0. It provides 50% more power than USB 2.0 (150 mA vs 100 mA) to unconfigured devices and up to 80% more power (900 mA vs 500 mA) to configured devices. It is also better at conserving power, when compared to USB 2.0, which uses power when the cable or device isn’t being used. With USB 3.0, when devices are idle, it doesn't broadcast packets or perform polling.

USB 3.0 is completely backwards compatible with USB 2.0. Applications built to the USB 2.0 spec will work seamlessly with USB 3.0. collapse


Black Box Explains...Connecting peripherals with USB.

Before Universal Serial Bus (USB), adding peripherals required skill. You had to open your computer to install a card, set DIP switches, and make IRQ settings. Now you can connect... more/see it nowdigital joysticks, scanners, speakers, cameras, or PC telephones to your computer instantly. With USB, anyone can make the connection because everything is automatic!

Because USB connections are hot-swappable, you can attach or remove peripherals without shutting down your computer. Also, USB hubs have additional ports that enable you to daisychain multiple devices together. More than 800 leading PC, peripheral, and software manufacturers support USB. collapse


Black Box Explains...Optical isolation and ground loops.

Optical isolation protects your equipment from dangerous ground loops. A ground loop is a current across a conductor, created by a difference in potential between two grounded points, as in... more/see it nowequipment in two buildings connected by a run of RS-232 or other data line. When two devices are connected and their potentials are different, voltage flows from high to low by traveling through the data cable. If the voltage potential is large enough, your equipment won’t be able to handle the excess voltage and one of your ports will be damaged.

Ground loops can also exist in industrial environments. They can be created when power is supplied to your equipment from different transformers or when someone simply turns equipment on and off. Ground loops can also occur when there is a nearby lightning strike. During an electrical storm, the ground at one location can be charged differently than the other location, causing a heavy current flow through the serial communication lines that damage components.

You can’t test for ground loops. You don’t know you have one until a vital component fails. Only prevention works. For data communication involving copper cable, optical isolation is key.

With optical isolation, electrical data is converted to an optical beam, then back to an electrical pulse. Because there is no electrical connection between the DTE and DCE sides, an optical isolator— unlike a surge suppressor—will not pass large sustained power surges through to your equipment. Since data only passes through the optical isolator, your equipment is protected against ground loops and other power surges. collapse


Black Box Explains...Gigabit Ethernet.

As workstations and servers migrated from ordinary 10-Mbps Ethernet to 100-Mbps speeds, it became clear that even greater speeds were needed. Gigabit Ethernet was developed for an even faster Ethernet... more/see it nowstandard to handle the network traffic generated on the server and backbone level by Fast Ethernet. Gigabit Ethernet delivers an incredible 1000 Mbps (or 1 Gbps), 100 times faster than 10BASE-T. At that speed, Gigabit Ethernet can handle even the traffic generated by campus network backbones. Plus it provides a smooth upgrade path from 10-Mbps Ethernet and 100-Mbps Fast Ethernet at a reasonable cost.

Compatibility
Gigabit Ethernet is a true Ethernet standard. Because it uses the same frame formats and flow control as earlier Ethernet versions, networks readily recognize it, and it’s compatible with older Ethernet standards. Other high-speed technologies (ATM, for instance) present compatibility problems such as different frame formats or different hardware requirements.

The primary difference between Gigabit Ethernet and earlier implementations of Ethernet is that Gigabit Ethernet almost always runs in full-duplex mode, rather than the half-duplex mode commonly found in 10- and 100-Mbps Ethernet.

One significant feature of Gigabit Ethernet is the improvement to the Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection (CSMA/CD) function. In half-duplex mode, all Ethernet speeds use the CSMA/CD access method to resolve contention for shared media. For Gigabit Ethernet, CSMA/CD has been enhanced to maintain the 200-meter (656.1-ft.) collision diameter.

Affordability and adaptability
You can incorporate Gigabit Ethernet into any standard Ethernet network at a reasonable cost without having to invest in additional training, cabling, management tools, or end stations. Because Gigabit Ethernet blends so well with your other Ethernet applications, you have the flexibility to give each Ethernet segment exactly as much speed as it needs—and if your needs change, Ethernet is easily adaptable to new network requirements.

Gigabit Ethernet is the ideal high-speed technology to use between 10-/100-Mbps Ethernet switches or for connection to high-speed servers with the assurance of total compatibility with your Ethernet network.

When Gigabit Ethernet first appeared, fiber was crucial to running Gigabit Ethernet effectively. Since then, the IEEE802.3ab standard for Gigabit over Category 5 cable has been approved, enabling short stretches of Gigabit speed over existing copper cable. Today, you have many choices when implementing Gigabit Ethernet:

1000BASE-X
1000BASE-X refers collectively to the IEEE802.3z standards: 1000BASE-SX, 1000BASE-LX, and 1000BASE-CX.

1000BASE-SX
The “S“ in 1000BASE-SX stands for “short.“ It uses short wavelength lasers, operating in the 770- to 860-nanometer range, to transmit data over multimode fiber. It’s less expensive than 1000BASE-LX, but has a much shorter range of 220 meters over typical 62.5-µm multimode cable.

1000BASE-LX
The “L“ stands for “long.“ It uses long wavelength lasers operating in the wavelength range of 1270 to 1355 nanometers to transmit data over single-mode fiber optic cable. 1000BASE-LX supports up to 550 meters over multimode fiber or up to 10 kilometers over single-mode fiber.

1000BASE-CX
The “C“ stands for “copper.“ It operates over special twinax cable at distances of up to 25 meters. This standard never really caught on.

Gigabit over CAT5—1000BASE-TX
The 802.3ab specification, or 1000BASE-TX, enables you to run IEEE-compliant Gigabit Ethernet over copper twisted-pair cable at distances of up to 100 meters of CAT5 or higher cable.

Gigabit Ethernet uses all four twisted pairs within the cable, unlike 10BASE-T and 100BASE-TX, which only use two of the four pairs. It works by transmitting 250 Mbps over each of the four pairs in 4-pair cable. collapse


Black Box Explains...UARTs and PCI buses.

Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitters UARTs are designed to convert sync data from a PC bus to an async format that external I/O devices such as printers or modems use. UARTs insert... more/see it nowor remove start bits, stop bits, and parity bits in the data stream as needed by the attached PC or peripheral. They can provide maximum throughput to your high-performance peripherals without slowing down your CPU.

In the early years of PCs and single-application operating systems, UARTs interfaced directly between the CPU bus and external RS-232 I/O devices. Early UARTs did not contain any type of buffer because PCs only performed one task at a time and both PCs and peripherals were slow.

With the advent of faster PCs, higher-speed modems, and multitasking operating systems, buffering (RAM or memory) was added so that UARTs could handle more data. The first buffered UART was the 16550 UART, which incorporates a 16-byte FIFO (First In First Out) buffer and can support sustained data-transfer rates up to 115.2 kbps.

The 16650 UART features a 32-byte FIFO and can handle sustained baud rates of 460.8 kbps. Burst data rates of up to 921.6 kbps have even been achieved in laboratory tests.

The 16750 UART has a 64-byte FIFO. It also features sustained baud rates of 460.8 kbps but delivers better performance because of its larger buffer.

Used in newer PCI cards, the 16850 UART has a 128-byte FIFO buffer for each port. It features sustained baud rates of 460.8 kbps.

The Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI®) Bus enhances both speed and throughput. PCI Local Bus is a high-performance bus that provides a processor-independent data path between the CPU and high-speed peripherals. PCI is a robust interconnect interface designed specifically to accommodate multiple high-performance peripherals for graphics, full-motion video, SCSI, and LANs.

A Universal PCI (uPCI) card has connectors that work with both a newer 3.3-V power supply and motherboard and with older 5.5-V versions. collapse


Black Box Explains...USB.

What is USB?
Universal Serial Bus (USB) is a royalty-free bus specification developed in the 1990s by leading manufacturers in the PC and telephony industries to support plug-and-play peripheral connections. USB... more/see it nowhas standardized how peripherals, such as keyboards, disk drivers, cameras, printers, and hubs) are connected to computers.

USB offers increased bandwidth, isochronous and asynchronous data transfer, and lower cost than older input/output ports. Designed to consolidate the cable clutter associated with multiple peripherals and ports, USB supports all types of computer- and telephone-related devices.

Universal Serial Bus (USB) USB detects and configures the new devices instantly.
Before USB, adding peripherals required skill. You had to open your computer to install a card, set DIP switches, and make IRQ settings. Now you can connect digital printers, recorders, backup drives, and other devices in seconds. USB detects and configures the new devices instantly.

Benefits of USB.
• USB is “universal.” Almost every device today has a USB port of some type.
• Convenient plug-and-play connections. No powering down. No rebooting.
• Power. USB supplies power so you don’t have to worry about adding power. The A socket supplies the power.
• Speed. USB is fast and getting faster. The original USB 1.0 had a data rate of 1.5 Mbps. USB 3.0 has a data rate of 4.8 Gbps.

USB Standards

USB 1.1
USB 1.1, introduced in 1995, is the original USB standard. It has two data rates: 12 Mbps (Full-Speed) for devices such as disk drives that need high-speed throughput and 1.5 Mbps (Low-Speed) for devices such as joysticks that need much lower bandwidth.

USB 2.0
In 2002, USB 2.0, (High-Speed) was introduced. This version is backward-compatible with USB 1.1. It increases the speed of the peripheral to PC connection from 12 Mbps to 480 Mbps, or 40 times faster than USB 1.1.

This increase in bandwidth enhances the use of external peripherals that require high throughput, such as printers, cameras, video equipment, and more. USB 2.0 supports demanding applications, such as Web publishing, in which multiple high-speed devices run simultaneously.

USB 3.0
USB 3.0 (SuperSpeed) (2008) provides vast improvements over USB 2.0. USB 3.0 has speeds up to 5 Gbps, nearly ten times that of USB 2.0. USB 3.0 adds a physical bus running in parallel with the existing 2.0 bus.

USB 3.0 is designed to be backward compatible with USB 2.0.

USB 3.0 Connector
USB 3.0 has a flat USB Type A plug, but inside there is an extra set of connectors and the edge of the plug is blue instead of white. The Type B plug looks different with an extra set of connectors. Type A plugs from USB 3.0 and 2.0 are designed to interoperate. USB 3.0 Type B plugs are larger than USB 2.0 plugs. USB 2.0 Type B plugs can be inserted into USB 3.0 receptacles, but the opposite is not possible.

USB 3.0 Cable
The USB 3.0 cable contains nine wires—four wire pairs plus a ground. It has two more data pairs than USB 2.0, which has one pair for data and one pair for power. The extra pairs enable USB 3.0 to support bidirectional asynchronous, full-duplex data transfer instead of USB 2.0’s half-duplex polling method.

USB 3.0 Power
USB 3.0 provides 50% more power than USB 2.0 (150 mA vs 100 mA) to unconfigured devices and up to 80% more power (900 mA vs 500 mA) to configured devices. It also conserves power too compared to USB 2.0, which uses power when the cable isn’t being used.

USB 3.1
Released in 2013, is called SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps. There are three main differentiators to USB 3.1. It doubles the data rate from 5 Gbps to 10 Gbps. It will use the new, under-development Type C connector, which is far smaller and designed for use with everything from laptops to mobile phones. The Type C connector is being touted as a single-cable solution for audio, video, data, and power. It will also have a reversible plug orientation. Lastly, will have bidirectional power delivery of up to 100 watts and power auto-negotiation. It is backward compatible with USB 3.0 and 2.0, but an adapter is needed for the physical connection.

Transmission Rates
USB 3.0: 4.8 Gbps
USB 2.0: 480 Mbps
USB 1.1: 12 Mbps

Cable Length/Node
5 meters (3 meters for 3.0 devices requiring higher speeds).
Devices/bus: 127
Tier/bus: 5
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Black Box Explains...Power problems.

Sags
The Threat — A sag is a decline in the voltage level. Also known as “brownouts,” sags are the most common power problem.

The Cause — Sags can be caused... more/see it nowlocally by the start-up demands of electrical devices such as motors, compressors, and elevators. Sags may also happen during periods of high electrical use, such as during a heat wave.

The Effect — Sags are often the cause of “unexplained” computer glitches such as system crashes, frozen keyboards, and data loss. Sags can also reduce the efficiency and lifespan of electrical motors.

Blackouts
The Threat — A blackout is a total loss of power.

The Cause — Blackouts are caused by excessive demand on the power grid, an act of nature such as lightning or an earthquake, or a human accident such as a car hitting a power pole or a backhoe digging in the wrong place.

The Effect — Of course a blackout brings everything to a complete stop. You also lose any unsaved data stored in RAM and may even lose the total contents of your hard drive.

Spikes
The Threat — A spike, also called an impulse, is an instantaneous, dramatic increase in voltage.

The Cause — A spike is usually caused by a nearby lightning strike but may also occur when power is restored after a blackout.

The Effect — A spike can damage or completely destroy electrical components and also cause data loss.

Surges
The Threat — A surge is an increase in voltage lasting at least 1/120 of a second.

The Cause — When high-powered equipment such as an air conditioner is powered off, the excess voltage is dissipated though the power line causing a surge.

The Effect — Surges stress delicate electronic components causing them to wear out before their time.

Noise
The Threat — Electrical noise, more technically called electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI), interrupts the smooth sine wave expected from electrical power.

The Cause — Noise has many causes including nearby lightning, load switching, industrial equipment, and radio transmitters. It may be intermittent or chronic.

The Effect — Noise introduces errors into programs and data files. collapse

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