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Black Box Explains...IRQs, COM Ports, and Windows

Windows® 95 normally requires each serial port to have its own unique Interrupt Request Line (IRQ). However, if you use a third-party communications driver that supports IRQ sharing, you can... more/see it nowshare interrupts. Unfortunately, data throughput will not be as high as with single interrupt port configurations.

With Windows NT®, you can share interrupts across multiple ports as long as the serial ports have an Interrupt Status Port (ISP) built into the card.

The Interrupt Service Routine, a software routine that services interrupts and requests processor time, reads the ISP and is immmediately directed to the port that has an interrupt pending. Compared to the polling method used if the serial ports don’t have an ISP, this feature can determine which port generated the interrupt up to four times more efficiently—and it almost eliminates the risk of lost data. Windows NT supports the ISP by enabling the user to configure the registry to match the card’s settings. Black Box models IC102C-R3, IC058C, and IC112C-R3 all have ISPs and come with a Windows NT setup utility to simplify installation and configuration.

If your serial port doesn’t have an ISP, the Interrupt Service Routine has to poll each port separately to determine which port generated the interrupt. collapse

Black Box Explains... Advantages of the MicroRACK system.

• Midplane architecture—Separate front and rear cards make changing interfaces easy.
• Multiple functions—Supports line drivers, interface converters, fiber modems, CSU/DSUs, and synchronous modem eliminators.
• Hot swappable—MicroRACK Cards can be replaced... more/see it nowwithout powering down, so you cut your network’s downtime.
• Two-, four-, and eight-port MicroRACKs—available for smaller or desktop installations. They’re just right for tight spaces that can’t accommodate a full-sized (16-port) rack.
• Optional dual cards—Some Mini Driver Cards have two drivers in one card. One MicroRACK chassis can hold up to 32 Mini Drivers!
• All standard connections available—DB25, RJ-11, RJ-45, fiber, V.35.
• Choose you own power supply—120–240 VAC, 12 VDC, 24 VDC, or 48 VDC. 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...16850 UART.

The 16850 Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter (UART) features a 128-byte First In First Out (FIFO) buffer. When implemented with the appropriate onboard drivers and receivers, it enables your onboard serial ports... more/see it nowto achieve sustained data rates of up to 460.8 kbps.

The 16850 UART includes automatic handshaking (RTS/CTS) and automatic RS-485 line control. It also features external clocking for isochronous applications, a performance enhancement not offered by earlier UARTs. collapse

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... G.703.

G.703 is the ITU-T recommendation covering the 4-wire physical interface and digital signaling specification for transmission at 2.048 Mbps (E1). G.703 also includes specifications for U.S. 1.544-Mbps T1 but is... more/see it nowstill generally used to refer to the European 2.048-Mbps transmission interface. 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.

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

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.

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.

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...USB 2.0 and USB OTG.

The Universal Serial Bus (USB) hardware (plug-and-play) standard makes connecting peripherals to your computer easy.

USB 1.1, introduced in 1995, is the original USB standard. It has two data rates:... more/see it now12 Mbps for devices such as disk drives that need high-speed throughput and 1.5 Mbps for devices such as joysticks that need much lower bandwidth.

In 2002, a newer specification, USB 2.0, or Hi-Speed USB 2.0, gained wide acceptance in the industry. This version is both forward- and 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 CD/DVD burners, scanners, digital cameras, video equipment, and more. USB 2.0 supports demanding applications, such as Web publishing, in which multiple high-speed devices run simultaneously. USB 2.0 also supports Windows® XP through a Windows update.

An even newer USB standard, USB On-The-Go (OTG), is also in development. USB OTG enables devices other than a PC to act as a host. It enables portable equipment—such as PDAs, cell phones, digital cameras, and digital music players—to connect to each other without the need for a PC host.

USB 2.0 specifies three types of connectors: the A connector, the B connector, and the Mini B connector. A fourth type of connector, the Mini A (used for smaller peripherals such as mobile phones), was developed as part of the USB OTG specification. collapse

Black Box Explains...How MicroRACK Cards fit together.

Slide a function card into the front of the rack. Then slide a connector card in from the back. The rest is simple. Just press the cards together firmly inside... more/see it nowthe rack to seat the connectors.

Changing systems? It’s easy to change to a different connector card. Just contact us, and we’ll find the right connection for you.

Add a hot-swappable power supply (AC for normal operation, VDC for battery-powered sites), and you’re up and running. 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

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