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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...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...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…TEMPEST.

TEMPEST is an acronym for Telecommunications Electronics Material Protected from Emanating Spurious Transmissions. It pertains to technical security countermeasures, standards, and instrumentation that prevent or minimize the exploitation of vulnerable... more/see it nowdata communication equipment by technical surveillance or eavesdropping.

What puts your data communication equipment at risk? Many things. But first and foremost, its microchip.

Any device with a microchip generates an electromagnetic field, often called a “compromising emanation” by security experts. With the proper surveillance equipment, these emanations can be intercepted and the signal reconstructed and analyzed. Unprotected equipment can, in fact, emit a signal into the air like a radio station—and nobody wants to risk his or her job and a whole lot more by broadcasting national security or trade secrets to the wrong people.

Some of the most vulnerable devices are speakerphones, printers, fax machines, scanners, external disc drives, and other high-speed, high-bandwidth peripherals. If the snoop is using a high-quality interception device, your equipment’s signals can be acquired up to several hundred feet away.

Arguably one of the most vulnerable pieces of equipment is an analog VGA monitor. If a spy were to introduce a Trojan into your system, he or she could monitor and store key presses and passwords used during the day. When the system’s not in use at night, the spy could pulse the VGA screen with grayscale images that have a strong signal at particular frequencies. VGA uses single-ended signaling that has a high common-mode emission level not protected by cable shielding, and it’s possible to monitor these signals outside the secure zone using a radio receiver. Even without a Trojan, a sophisticated receiver located nearby picks up and views what’s on the VGA monitor.

What TEMPEST is and isn’t.
It should come as no surprise that the Federal government became concerned about signal leakage. In fact, its interest goes back to the days of World War I when the Army was trying to exploit weaknesses of enemy combat phones and radio transmitters. Since then, the scope of the government’s interests has broadened beyond battlefield equipment. In the last 40 years, the National Security Agency (NSA) has taken several industry measurement standards and greatly beefed them up. These enhanced criteria are commonly referred to as the TEMPEST standards (although the NSA also calls them EMSEC standards, short for “emissions security”).

TEMPEST disciplines involve designing circuits to minimize emanations and the application of appropriate shielding, grounding, and bonding. Some methods used include radiation screening, alarms, and isolation.

A TEMPEST-approved device resembles its non-secure version with a few key differences. If it’s a network component such as a switch, it comes in a heavy metal case. It also has special shielding, a modified power supply, and perhaps a few other modifications from the standard model. If you need to open the device’s case, a special torque wrench for use with TEMPEST-only products is required.

TEMPEST test equipment is very expensive and is sold exclusively to government agencies. Nobody can sell you commercial TEMPEST testing equipment. And if someone offers you a “TEMPEST surveillance system,” you need to be aware of two things: First, TEMPEST is counter-surveillance science and the offer is a fraud; second, the salesperson is committing a federal felony.

If you buy surveillance equipment—authentic or not—then you have also commited a felony. Construction of, possession of, attempting a sale of, or attempting a purchase of said surveillance equipment is illegal. Even if the product purchased is a hoax, the law will take your intentions into account as much as the salesperson’s. Don’t be surprised if you both go to jail.

In the United States, you can learn about TEMPEST testing only in special schools sanctioned by, if not run by, the NSA. Courses to earn the TEMPEST Technician or TEMPEST Engineer certifications are very expensive. These classes are offered to a limited number of people who have a very high level of security clearance and who will be working on TEMPEST-approved equipment all the time.

TEMPEST ratings.
All TEMPEST-approved communication devices have a rating based on their application and/or environment.

Type 1: This rating is for classified cryptographic equipment used for national security purposes. It’s endorsed by the NSA for securing telecommunications and automated information systems and for the protection of classified or sensitive U.S. Government information.

Type 2: This rating is for unclassified cryptographic equipment used by U.S. Government agencies, state and local governments, and sponsored U.S. Government contractors. It’s endorsed by the NSA for securing telecommunications and automated information systems and for the protection of unclassified but sensitive information, such as contract bids.

Type 3: This rating is for unclassified commercial cryptographic equipment that implements an algorithm registered with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It’s for use in protecting sensitive information, like a corporation’s network communications. 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


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


Black Box Explains...Multi-user ServSwitch products vs. multipoint access ServSwitch products.

A multi-user ServSwitch, such as the Matrix ServSwitch, enables two or more users to access different servers at the same time. So, for instance, one user can access “Server A”... more/see it nowwhile another user accesses “Server B.” This is considered a “true two-channel” architecture because two users have independent access to CPUs. It should be pointed out that multiple users cannot access the same server at the same time.

A multipoint access ServSwitch, such as the ServSwitch Duo, provides two access points for control stations but requires that both users view the same server at the same time. So, if one user is accessing “Server A” on his screen, the other user is also seeing “Server A” on his screen. If the second user switches to “Server B,“ the first user will also switch to “Server B.” Only one of these users is actually in control. The user in control stays in control until his workstation is inactive for a period of time (selectable). Then the other station can take control.

A multipoint access ServSwitch is useful when simultaneous, independent access is not required—just the ability to access CPUs from more than one place.

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Black Box Explains... Digital Visual Interface (DVI).

The Digital Visual Interface (DVI) video standard is based on transition-minimized differential signaling (TMDS). In a typical single-line digital signal, voltage is raised to a high level and decreased to... more/see it nowa low level to create transitions that convey data. To minimize the number of tran-sitions needed to transfer data, TMDS uses a pair of signal wires. When one wire goes to a high-voltage state, the other goes to a low-voltage state. This balance increases the data-transfer rate and improves accuracy.

Although there are four types of DVI connectors, only DVI-D and DVI-I are commonly used for monitors. DVI-D is a digital-only connector. DVI-I supports both digital and analog RGB connections. collapse

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