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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

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

Black Box Explains...How fiber is insulated for use in harsh environments.

Fiber optic cable not only gives you immunity to interference and greater signal security, but it’s also constructed to insulate the fiber’s core from the stress associated with use in... more/see it nowharsh environments.

The core is a very delicate channel that’s used to transport data signals from an optical transmitter to an optical receiver. To help reinforce the core, absorb shock, and provide extra protection against cable bends, fiber cable contains a coating of acrylate plastic.

In an environment free from the stress of external forces such as temperature, bends, and splices, fiber optic cable can transmit light pulses with minimal attenuation. And although there will always be some attenuation from external forces and other conditions, there are two methods of cable construction to help isolate the core: loose-tube and tight-buffer construction.

In a loose-tube construction, the fiber core literally floats within a plastic gel-filled sleeve. Surrounded by this protective layer, the core is insulated from temperature extremes, as well as from damaging external forces such as cutting and crushing.

In a tight-core construction, the plastic extrusion method is used to apply a protective coating directly over the fiber coating. This helps the cable withstand even greater crushing forces. But while the tight-buffer design offers greater protection from core breakage, it’s more susceptible to stress from temperature variations. Conversely, while it’s more flexible than loose-tube cable, the tight-buffer design offers less protection from sharp bends or twists. collapse

Black Box Explains...DIN rail.

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...Types of KVM switches.

Black Box has the keyboard/video switches you need to share one CPU between several workstations or to control several CPUs from one monitor and keyboard.

If you do a lot of... more/see it nowswitching, you need premium switches—our top-of-the-line ServSwitch™ KVM switches give you the most reliable connections for the amount of KVM equipment supported. With ServSwitch KVM switches, you can manage as many CPUs as you want from just one workstation, and you can access any server in any computer room from any workstation. Eliminating needless equipment not only saves you money, it also gives you more space and less clutter. Plus, you can switch between PCs, Sun®, and Mac® CPUs. ServSwitch KVM switches can also cut your electricity and cooling costs because by sharing monitors, you use less power and generate less heat.

If your switching demands are very minor, you may not need products as advanced as ServSwitch. Black Box offers switches to fill less demanding needs. Most of these are manual switches or basic electronic switches, which don’t have the sophisticated emulation technology used by the ServSwitch.

For PCs with PS/2® keyboards, try our Keyboard/Video Switches. They send keyboard signals, so your CPUs boot up as though they each have their own keyboard.

With the RS/6000™ KVM Switch, you can run up to six RS/6000 servers from one workstation. Our Keyboard/ Video Switch for Mac enables you to control up to two Mac CPUs from one keyboard and monitor.

With BLACK BOX® KVM Switches, you can share a workstation with two or four CPUs. They’re available in IBM® PC and Sun Workstation® configurations.

You’ll also find that our long-life manual Keyboard/Video Switches are perfect for basic switching applications. 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...Electronic vs. manual switches.

What’s the difference between electronic and manual switches? Are the benefits of electronic switches worth the price increase over manual switches?

As you might imagine, the inner workings of manual switches... more/see it noware far simpler than those of electronic switches. When you turn the dial of a manual switch, internal connections are physically moved. This is great for less complex applications, but it can cause voltage spikes that can damage particularly sensitive equipment such as laser printers.

Because electronic switches do their switching with solid-state components, you have more control in advanced applications. For example, our AC-powered, code-operated, and fallback switches offer numerous options for out-of-band management of critical network resources. They give you the remote control your operation may need. You can control your high-end applications and sensitive equipment via computer, modem, or even touch-tone phone—a convenience simply not available with manual switches. collapse

Black Box Explains...Low-profile PCI serial adapters.

Ever notice that newer computers are getting smaller and slimmer? That means regular PCI boards won’t fit into these computers’ low-profile PCI slots. But because miniaturization is the rage in... more/see it nowall matters of technology, it was only a short matter of time before low-profile PCI serial adapters became available—and Black Box has them.

Low-profile cards meet the PCI Special Interest Group (PCI-SIG) Low-Profile PCI specifications, the form-factor definitions for input/output expansion. Low-Profile PCI has two card lengths defined for 32-bit bus cards: MD1 and MD2. MD1 is the smaller of the two, with cards no larger than 4.721 inches long and 2.536 inches high. MD2 cards are a maximum of 6.6 inches long and 2.536 inches high.

BLACK BOX® Low-Profile Serial PCI cards comply with the MD1 low-profile specification and are compatible with the universal bus. Universal bus is a PCI card that can operate in either a 5-V or 3.3-V signaling level system. 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

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