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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...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...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


Black Box Explains...DIN rail usage.

DIN rail is an industry-standard metal rail, usually installed inside an electrical enclosure, which serves as a mount for small electrical devices specially designed for use with DIN rails. These... more/see it nowdevices snap right onto the rails, sometimes requiring a set screw, and are then wired together.

Many different devices are available for mounting on DIN rails: terminal blocks, interface converters, media converter switches, repeaters, surge protectors, PLCs, fuses, or power supplies, just to name a few.

DIN rails are a space-saving way to accommodate components. And because DIN rail devices are so easy to install, replace, maintain, and inspect, this is an exceptionally convenient system that has become very popular in recent years.

A standard DIN rail is 35 mm wide with raised-lip edges, its dimensions outlined by the Deutsche Institut für Normung, a German standardization body. Rails are generally available in aluminum or steel and may be cut for installation. Depending on the requirements of the mounted components, the rail may need to be grounded. collapse


Black Box Explains...UARTs at a glance.

Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitters (UARTs) are integrated circuits that convert bytes from the computer bus into serial bits for transmission. By providing surplus memory in a buffer, UARTs help applications overcome... more/see it nowthe factors that can hinder system performance, providing maximum throughput to high-performance peripherals without slowing down CPUs.

Early UARTs such as 8250 and 16450 did not include buffering (RAM or memory). With the advent of higher-speed devices, the need for UARTs that could handle more data became critical. The first buffered UART was the 16550, which incorporates a 16-byte First In First Out (FIFO) buffer and provides greater throughput than its predecessors.

Manufacturers have been developing enhanced UARTs that continue to increase performance standards. These faster chips provide improvements such as larger buffers and increased speeds. Here are the rates of today’s common UARTs:

UART FIFO Buffer Rate Supported
16550 16-byte 115.2 kbps
16554 16-byte 115.2 kbps
16650 32-byte 460.8 kbps (burst rate)
16654 64-byte 460.8 kbps (burst rate)
16750 64-byte 460.8 kbps (burst rate)
16850 128-byte 460.8 kbps (sustained rate)
16854 128-byte 460.8 kbps (sustained rate) collapse


Black Box Explains…Fiber Ethernet adapters vs. media converters.

When running fiber to the desktop, you have two choices for making the connection from the fiber to a PC: a fiber Ethernet adapter or a media converter like our... more/see it nowMicro Mini Media Converter.

Fiber Ethernet adapters:

  • Less expensive.
  • Create no desktop clutter, but the PC must be opened.
  • Powered from the PC—require no separate power provision.
  • Require an open PCI or PCI-E slot in the PC.
  • Can create driver issues that must be resolved.
  • May be required in high-security installations that require a 100% fiber link to the desktop.

  • Media converters:
  • More expensive.
  • No need to open the PC but can create a cluttered look.
  • Powered from an AC outlet or a PC’s USB port.
  • Don’t require an open slot in the PC.
  • Plug-and-play installation—totally transparent to data, so there are no driver problems; install in seconds.
  • The short copper link from media converter to PC may be a security vulnerability.
  • 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...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...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


    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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