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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...Category wiring standards

The ABCs of standards
There are two primary organizations dedicated to developing and setting structured cabling standards. In North America, standards are issued by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA),... more/see it nowwhich is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The TIA was formed in April 1988 after a merger with the Electronics Industry Association (EIA). That’s why its standards are commonly known as ANSI/TIA/EIA, TIA/EIA, or TIA.

Globally, the organizations that issue standards are the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Standards are often listed as ISO/IEC. Other organizations include the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), CENELEC (European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardizations), and the Japanese Standards Association (JSA/JSI).

The committees of all these organizations work together and the performance requirements of the standards are very similar. But there is some confusion in terminology.

The TIA cabling components (cables, connecting hardware, and patch cords) are labeled with a ”category.” These components together form a permanent link or channel that is also called a ”category.” The ISO/IEC defines the link and channel requirements with a ”class” designation. But the components are called a ”category.”

The standards
Category 5 (CAT5) —ratified in 1991. It is no longer recognized for use in networking.

Category 5e (CAT5e), ISO/IEC 11801 Class D, ratified in 1999, is designed to support full-duplex, 4-pair transmission in 100-MHz applications. The CAT5e standard introduced the measurement for PS-NEXT, EL-FEXT, and PS-ELFEXT. CAT5e is no longer recognized for new installations. It is commonly used for 1-GbE installations.

Category 6 (CAT6) – Class E has a specified frequency of 250 MHz, significantly improved bandwidth capacity over CAT5e, and easily handles Gigabit Ethernet transmissions. CAT6 supports 1000BASE-T and, depending on the installation, 10GBASE-T (10-GbE).

10-GbE over CAT6 introduces Alien Crosstalk (ANEXT), the unwanted coupling of signals between adjacent pairs and cables. Because ANEXT in CAT6 10-GbE networks is so dependent on installation practices, TIA TSB-155-A and ISO/IEC 24750 qualifies 10-GbE over CAT6 over channels of 121 to 180 feet (37 to 55 meters) and requires it to be 100% tested, which is extremely time consuming. To mitigate ANEXT in CAT6, it is recommended that the cables be unbundled, that the space between cables be increased, and that non-adjacent patch panel ports be used. If CAT6 F/UTP cable is used, mitigation is not necessary and the length limits do not apply. CAT6 is not recommended for new 10-GbE installations.

Augmented Category 6 (CAT6A) –Class Ea was ratified in February 2008. This standard calls for 10-Gigabit Ethernet data transmission over a 4-pair copper cabling system up to 100 meters. CAT6A extends CAT6 electrical specifications from 250 MHz to 500 MHz. It introduces the ANEXT requirement. It also replaces the term Equal Level Far-End Crosstalk (ELFEXT) with Attenuation to Crosstalk Ratio, Far-End (ACRF) to mesh with ISO terminology. CAT6A provides improved insertion loss over CAT6. It is a good choice for noisy environments with lots of EMI. CAT6A is also well-suited for use with PoE+.

CAT6A UTP cable is significantly larger than CAT6 cable. It features larger conductors, usually 22 AWG, and is designed with more space between the pairs to minimize ANEXT. The outside diameter of CAT6A cable averages 0.29"–0.35" compared to 0.21"–0.24" for CAT6 cable. This reduces the number of cables you can fit in a conduit. At a 40% fill ratio, you can run three CAT6A cables in a 3/4" conduit vs. five CAT6 cables.

CAT6A UTP vs. F/UTP. Although shielded cable has the reputation of being bigger, bulkier, and more difficult to handle and install than unshielded cable, this is not the case with CAT6A F/UTP cable. It is actually easier to handle, requires less space to maintain proper bend radius, and uses smaller conduits, cable trays, and pathways. CAT6A UTP has a larger outside diameter than CAT6A F/UTP cable. This creates a great difference in the fill rate of cabling pathways. An increase in the outside diameter of 0.1", from 0.25" to 0.35" for example, represents a 21% increase in fill volume. In general, CAT6A F/UTP provides a minimum of 35% more fill capacity than CAT6A UTP. In addition, innovations in connector technology have made terminating CAT6A F/UTP actually easier than terminating bulkier CAT6A UTP.

Category 7 (CAT7) –Class F was published in 2002 by the ISO/IEC. It is not a TIA recognized standard and TIA plans to skip over it.

Category 7 specifies minimum performance standards for fully shielded cable (individually shielded pairs surrounded by an overall shield) transmitting data at rates up to 600 MHz. It comes with one of two connector styles: the standard RJ plug and a non-RJ-style plug and socket interface specified in IEC 61076-2-104:2.

Category 7a (CAT7a) –Class Fa (Amendment 1 and 2 to ISO/IEC 11801, 2nd Ed.) is a fully shielded cable that extends frequency from 600 MHz to 1000 MHz.

Category 8 – The TIA decided to skip Category 7 and 7A and go to Category 8. The TR-42.7 subcommittee is establishing specs for a 40-Gbps twisted-pair solution with a 2-GHz frequency. The proposed standard is for use in a two-point channel in a data center at 30 meters. It is expected to be ratified in February 2016. The TR-42.7 subcommittee is also incorporating ISO/IEC Class II cabling performance criteria into the standard. It is expected to be called TIA-568-C.2-1. The difference between Class I and Class II is that Class II allows for three different styles of connectors that are not compatible with one another or with the RJ-45 connector. Class I uses an RJ-45 connector and is backward compatible with components up to Category 6A. collapse


Black Box Explains... ServSwitch Multi and audio cable.

Get more out of your ServSwitch Multi. Add audio cable, a set of speakers, and a microphone to each CPU. Audio cable turns your ServSwitch Multi into the ideal system... more/see it nowfor education, training, retail, medical, and multimedia office environments.

Audio cable isn’t just for the ServSwitch Multi either. You can also use it with servers that give off audible alarms.

So even if you don’t have audio equipment now—plan ahead. When you’re ready to add audio equipment, just plug in our audio cable. collapse


Black Box Explains...The 13W3 connector.

The 13W3 connector, also called a 13C3 or DB13W3 connector, is an unusual connector that combines a 10-pin D-shell with three analog video conductors. It supports very-high-resolution analog video signals... more/see it nowand has been used by Sun Microsystems®, SGI, NeXt, Intergraph, and other manufacturers. Although 13W3 connectors from different manufacturers look the same, they may be pinned differently.

Pinning for a standard Sun® 13W3 connector:
A1: Red
A2: Green/Gray
A3: Blue
1: Ground*
2: Vertical Sync*
3: Sense 2
4: Sense Ground
5: Composite Sync 
6: Horizontal Sync*
7: Ground*
8: Sense 1
9: Sense 0
10: Composite Ground

* Considered obsolete; may not be connected. collapse


Black Box Explains...Stream mode vs. burst mode/prompt mode.

Computers and mice must communicate with each other in order to operate properly. Most computers and mice communicate via a method called “stream mode”—as a mouse is being moved, it... more/see it nowsends the coordinates of its new position in a constant stream of information.

However, some computers communicate via a method known as “burst” or “prompt” mode. With this method, the mouse holds its data until the CPU sends a request (or “prompt”) for it. This mode of communication presents a problem for many KVM switches, as they normally pass along mouse coordinates in a stream mode. This results in a CPU receiving data when it isn’t expecting it, and the mouse simply won’t function properly.

All ServSwitch™ products contain support for stream-mode CPUs, and several ServSwitch products support both stream and burst/prompt modes. Call our FREE Tech Support about requirements for your application. collapse


Black Box Explains…Wizard.NET

One software solution to rule them all.
Wizard.NET is a professional enterprise management suite that delivers total IP device control, management, and connectivity. Black Box KVM over IP (KVMoIP) devices provide... more/see it nowthe ability to control large numbers of host computers from remote locations. When controlling larger groups of dispersed computers using numerous KVMoIP devices, the major challenge becomes one of management—retaining active control over a complex mix of devices, host computers, and registered users. Wizard.NET was developed as a common interface to help you remotely manage any number of KVMoIP devices together with all of their connected host computers and the access rights of the users.

Wizard.NET is delivered as a software solution only, and operates as a server application running on a system that can be completely separate from any of the KVMoIP devices?—?it merely requires an IP network or Internet connection. Wizard.NET uses an intuitive HTML user interface, which means that registered users can access and control it remotely using a standard Web browser. Like all Wizard KVMoIP products, Wizard.NET employs high specification security techniques to ensure that only authorized users may gain access.

Wizard.NET has two main modules, the manager and the connector. The manager module is accessible only to managers and administrators. It is where the details about all connected devices, hosts, and users are configured and stored. The connector module can be used by registered users to enable quick access to all of the targets for which they have access rights. Targets may be devices, hosts, or device groups as appropriate.

To ensure maximum security, Wizard.NET does not retain any passwords within its database for the devices that it controls. Instead, a valid password is used once only to gain access to each device during the “acquire” stage, when Wizard.NET establishes a Secure Ticket with the device. In all subsequent accesses to each device, the relevant secure ticket is used to gain access. collapse


Black Box Explains... Plasma vs. LCD Screens

When deciding whether to use plasma or liquid crystal diode (LCD) displays for your applications, you need to consider many factors. Both provide brilliant color, sharp text contrast, and crystal-clear... more/see it nowimages. But the way in which plasma and LCD screens process and display incoming video/computer signals is markedly different.

Compare and contrast.
Both plasma and LCD technology provide stark enough contrasts to make displays sharp and pleasing. But when it comes to contrast output, plasma technology outperforms LCD screens. Some plasma displays have a 3000:1 contrast ratio, which is the measure of the blackest black compared to the whitest white. LCDs use electric charges to untwist liquid crystals, thereby blocking light and emitting darker pixels. Despite this process, LCD displays don’t produce more than a 1000:1 contrast ratio.

Clarity that’s light waves ahead.
Pixels contain enough information to produce every color in the spectrum. Because plasmas use each and every pixel on their screens, color information is reproduced more accurately. Plasma screens display moving images with remarkable clarity, though burn-in can be an issue. For displays with lots of light and dark imagery, plasma panels provide excellent performance with their high-contrast levels, color saturation, and overall brightness.

LCD displays, on the other hand, manipulate light waves and reproduce colors by subtracting colors from white light. Though this makes it more difficult to maintain color accuracy and vibrancy compared to plasma screens, LCDs have an advantage with their higher-than-average number of pixels per square inch. These additional pixels make LCD technology better at displaying static images from computers or VGA sources in full-color detail. Plus, there’s no flicker and very little screen burn-in.

Applications with large amounts of data—such as those found on spreadsheets—display particularly well on LCD monitors.

Brilliant displays that go on and on.
With LCD screens, there are essentially no parts to wear out. LCD screens last as long as their backlights do, with displays lasting, on average, 50,000–75,000 hours. That’s why LCD screens are especially good for long-term applications, such as digital signage or displays that require around-the-clock use.

Plasma screens, however, use a combination of electric currents and noble gases (argon, neon, and xenon) to produce a glow, which in turn yields brilliant color. The half-life of these gases, however, is only around 25,000 hours. The glow they produce grows dimmer over time.

The right angle can make all the difference.
Plasmas light every pixel on the screen, making the brightness on the screen consistent and giving plasmas the edge when it comes to viewing angles. In fact, plasma screens have as much as a 160° viewing angle compared to LCDs. This makes viewing the images on the screen easier to see from a variety of angles. In doing so, however, plasmas consume much more power.

LCDs display at 130–140° angles, but their use of fluorescent backlighting requires much less power to operate than plasmas. This also makes LCDs less prone to burn-in or ghosting of images.
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Black Box Explains... Multiplatform cabling environments.

When using a ServSwitch™ with multiple computer platforms, choosing which peripherals to use to control your diverse group of CPUs can be confusing. Because of the wide variation in connector... more/see it nowtypes and compatibilities, there is a hierarchy to follow when choosing your “user station“ keyboard, monitor, and mouse.

1. If you have at least one Sun® computer in your application, you should use a Sun keyboard and mouse to control your CPUs.

2. If you have a mixture of PCs and Mac® computers, use your PC-style keyboard and mouse to control your CPUs. collapse


Black Box Explains... Matrix video switches.

Matrix switches enable computers to mix and match the output of multiple PCs on multiple video monitors.

For instance, if your operation has four PCs and you want to display the... more/see it nowvideo on one monitor to the other three monitors, a matrix video switch is what you need to handle the job. Use matrix switches for:
• Trade shows—Set up a wall of video to wow the senses of attendees.
• Transportation schedules—Provide real-time updates of flights or deliveries on multiple screens.
• Training demonstrations—Control each screen’s video to focus everyone’s attention on what’s important. collapse


Black Box Explains... Using fiber optics for KVM extension.

If you‘re sending KVM signals between buildings for an extended distance, in areas supplied by different power sources, in an electrically noisy environment, or where data security is a big... more/see it nowconcern, you need to use a fiber optic-based KVM extender.

Optical fiber is an ideal transmission medium not only for backbone and horizontal connection, but also for workstation-to-backracked CPU or server links. It works very well in applications where you need to transfer large, bandwidth-consuming data files over long distances, and where you require immunity from electrical interference or data theft.

The choice for extraordinary reach.
Fiber doesn’t have the 100-meter (328-ft.) distance limitation that UTP copper without a booster does. Fiber distances can range from 300 meters (984.2 ft.) to 70 kilometers (24.8 mi.), depending on the cable, wavelength, and network. With fiber-based KVM extenders, the transmitter converts conventional data signals into a modulated light beam, then transports the beam via the fiber to a receiver, which converts the light back into electrical signals.

Many newer fiber-based KVM extenders support both analog and digital transmission. Often, they work by digitizing video output from a local CPU, then sending it across fiber link to a remote unit, which converts it back to the original analog signal. In many cases, one fiber of the fiber pair transmits monitor video serially and the second fiber sends remote mouse and keyboard information back to the local CPU.

The choice for ensuring signal integrity.
Because fiber is made of glass, which is an insulator, no electric current can flow through. It’s immune to electromagnetic interference and radio-frequency interference (EMI/RFI), crosstalk, impedance problems, and more. This is why fiber-based KVM extenders are beneficial to users in process control, engineering, utility, and factory automation applications. The users need to keep critical information safe and secure off the factory floor but be able to access that data from workstations and control consoles within the harsh environments. Plus, fiber is also less susceptible to temperature fluctuations than copper is, and it can be submerged ?in water.

The choice for greater signal fidelity.
Fiber-based KVM extenders can carry more information with greater fidelity than copper-based ones can. For this reason, they’re ideal for high-data-rate systems in which multimedia workstations are used.

Newer KVM extenders enable you to send both DVI and keyboard and mouse signals over the same fiber cable, transmitting video digitally for zero signal loss. This way, you can get HD-quality resolution even at very long distances from the source. Users in university or government R&D, broadcasting, healthcare—basically anyone who depends on detailed image rendering—can benefit from this technology.

The choice for data security.
Plus, your data is safe when using fiber to connect a workstation with a CPU or server under lock and key. It doesn’t 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 physical security of your fiber system, you’ll know it.

Many IT managers in military, government, finance, and healthcare choose fiber-based KVM extenders for this very reason. Plus corporations, aware of rising data privacy concerns over customer billing information and the need to protect intellectual property, use this type of extension technology in their offices, too.

Considerations for fiber-based KVM extension.
Before selecting a fiber-based KVM extender, it’s important to know the limitations of your system. You need to know where couplers, links, interconnect equipment, and other devices are going to be placed. If it’s a longer run, you have to determine whether multimode or single-mode fiber cable is needed.

The most important consideration in planning cabling for fiber-based KVM extension is the power budget specification of device connection. The receiver at the remote end has to receive the light signal at a certain level. This value, called the loss budget, tells you the amount of loss in decibels (dB) that can be present in the link between the two devices before the units fail to perform properly.

Specifically, this value takes the fiber type (multimode or single-mode) and wavelength you intend to use—and the amount of expected in-line attenuation—into consideration. This is the decrease of signal strength as it travels through the fiber cable. In the budget loss calculation, you also have to account for splices, patch panels, and connectors, where additional dBs may lost in the entire end-to-end fiber extension. If the measured loss is less than the number calculated by your loss budget, your installation is good.

Testers are available to determine if the fiber cabling supports your intended application. 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 to determine your link loss margin.

Also, in some instances, particularly when using single-mode fiber to drive the signal farther, the signal may be too strong between connected devices. This causes the light signal to reflect back down the fiber cable, which can corrupt data, result in a faulty transmission, and even damage equipment. To prevent this, use fiber attenuators. They’re used with ?single-mode fiber optic devices and cable to filter the strength of the fiber optic signal from the transmitter’s LED output so it doesn’t overwhelm the receiver. Depending on the type of attenuator attached to the devices at each end of the link, you can diminish the strength of the light signal a variable amount by a certain number of decibels.

Need help calculating your budget loss? Call our FREE Tech Support. If necessary, they can even recommend a fusion splicing fiber kit, a fiber tester, or a signal attenuator for your specific requirements. collapse

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