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Black Box Explains... Buffers

A buffer (also called a spooler or a cache) is a temporary storage device used to share printers and compensate for a difference in speed and data flow between two... more/see it nowdevices. Buffers use RAM (Random-Access Memory) to take in data and hold it until the receiving device handles it.

A buffer serving a computer can be installed either internally or externally. Internal computer buffers are common in the forms of keyboard inputs, data caches, and video memory. An external buffer is usually used for printing.

An external buffer downloads jobs to the printer, freeing the computer so you can get back to work sooner.

A print buffer’s ports can be serial, parallel, or serial and parallel. Because a buffer’s ports operate independently of each other, a buffer also can be made to perform serial-to-parallel or parallel-to-serial conversion or to change the word structure and/or serial data rate (baud rate) of the data.

While most buffers are FIFO (First In, First Out), some advanced units can function as random-access buffers. For most serial buffers, hardware flow control is required, but some also support software (X-ON/X-OFF) control. Most buffers support printing of multiple copies of a document, provided the buffer has enough memory to store the entire print job. collapse


Black Box Explains... Bridges

If you work with legacy networks, you have doubtlessly encountered bridges. Bridges perform the same function as today’s switches in that they connect multiple network segments to create one homogenous... more/see it nownetwork, while keeping each segment isolated from the others.

Bridges operate on MAC-layer addresses and are protocol independent, so they transfer data between workstations without understanding the protocol. Since they don’t have to understand the protocol, they require little or no configuration.

Once you connect the bridge to the network, it automatically learns the addresses of all connected nodes and then creates an internal address table of this information.

When the bridge sees a packet, it checks the packet’s destination address against its internal list. If the address indicates the packet needs to be forwarded, the bridge passes the packet to the appropriate segment. If a bridge doesn’t know where a packet belongs—for example, when a station is first powered on—it passes on the packet.

Bridges can also distinguish between local data and remote data, so data traveling from one workstation to another in the same network doesn’t have to cross the bridge.

Although they are no longer in general use, Black Box stocks bridges for use as replacement parts in legacy networks. Replacing bridges with bridges rather than switches is often preferable because bridges are generally available with the BNC and AUI interfaces often found in older networks. Also, some bridges are able to link to other protocols such as RS-530 and X.21, enabling you to use these media to establish Ethernet network connections. 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... Smart Serial Interface

Smart Serial is the Cisco router interface. It uses a space-saving 26-pin connector that automatically detects RS-232, RS-449, RS-530, X.21, and V.35 interfaces for both DTE and DCE devices based... more/see it nowon the type of cable used.

Smart Serial connectors can be found on Smart Serial cables and on the dual-serial-port WAN interface cards used in Cisco 2600 and 1720 series routers. The cables feature a Smart Serial connector on one end and a standard cable connector (such as DB25 or V.35) on the other end. The Smart Serial connector attaches to the dual-serial-port WAN interface card.

Each port on the WAN interface card features a Smart Serial connector. Ports can be configured independently to support two different physical interfaces. For example, you can run RS-232 cable to one port and RS-449 cable to the other port using a single WAN interface card.

What if you need to replace that RS-232 cable with V.35 cable? Just plug a Smart Serial–V.35 cable into the port. Because any Smart Serial connector on the WAN interface card attaches to any Smart Serial cable connector, no additional interface or adapter is necessary. Changing the configuration of your network is literally a snap! collapse


Black Box Explains...Designing your wireless network.



Setting up wireless devices that belong to the 802.11 family is relatively simple, but you do have to pay attention to a few simple factors.


Ad-hoc or infrastructure... more/see it nowmode?

The 802.11 wireless standards support two basic configurations: ad-hoc mode and infrastructure mode.


In ad-hoc mode, wireless user devices such as laptop computers and PDAs communicate directly with each other in a peer-to-peer manner without the benefit of access points.


Ad-hoc mode is generally used to form very small spontaneous networks. For instance, with ad-hoc mode, laptop users in a meeting can quickly establish a small network to share files.


Infrastructure mode uses wireless access points to enable wireless devices to communicate with each other and with your wired network. Most networks use infrastructure mode.


The basic components of infrastructure mode networks include:

  • The radios embedded or installed within the wireless devices themselves. Many notebook computers and other Wi-Fi-compliant mobile devices, such as PDAs, come with the transmitters built in. But for others, you need to install a card-type device to enable wireless communications. Desktop PCs may also need an ISA or a PCI bus adapter to enable the cards to work.
  • The access point, which acts as a base station that relays signals between the 802.11 devices.
One or many access points?

Access points are standalone hardware devices that provide a central point of communication for your wireless users. How many you need in your application depends on the number of users and the amount of bandwidth required by each user. Bandwidth is shared, so if your network has many users who routinely send data-heavy multimedia files, additional access points may be required to accommodate the demand.


A small-office network with fewer than 15 users may need just 1 access point. Larger networks require multiple points. If the hardware supports it, you can overlap coverage areas to allow users to roam between cells without any break in network coverage. A user’s wireless device picks up a signal beacon from the strongest access point to maintain seamless coverage.


How many access points to use also depends on your operating environment and the required range. Radio propagation can be affected by walls and electrical interference that can cause signal reflection and fading. If you’re linking mobile users indoors-where walls and other obstructions impede the radiated signal-the typical maximum range is 150 feet. Outdoors, you can get greater WLAN range-up to 2000 feet (depending on your antenna type) where there’s a clear line of sight!


For optimal speed and range, install your wireless access point several feet above the floor or ground and away from metal equipment or large appliances that may emit interference.


Battle of the bands.

In addition to sharing bandwidth, users also share a band. Most IEEE 802.11 or 802.11b devices function in the 2.4-2.4835-GHz band. But these frequencies are often congested, so you may want to use devices that take advantage of the IEEE 802.11a 5.725-5.825-GHz band.


No matter what frequency you use, you’ll want to isolate your users from outsiders using the same frequency. To do this, assign your users a network identifier, such as an Extended Service Set Identifier (ESSID), as well as distinct channels.


Web and wired network links.

The access point links your wireless network to your wired network, enabling your wireless users to access shared data resources and devices across your LAN enterprise. Some access points even feature capabilities for routing traffic in one or both directions between a wired and wireless network.


For Internet access, connect a broadband router with an access point to an Internet connection over a broadband service such as DSL, cable modem, or satellite.


For connecting network printers, you can dedicate a computer to act as a print server or add a wireless print server device; this enables those on your wireless network to share printers.


When to use external antennas.

If you plan to install access points, you can boost your signal considerably by adding external antennas. Various mounting configurations and high- and low-gain options are available.


You can also use add-on antennas to connect nodes where the topology doesn’t allow for a clear signal between access points. Or use them to link multiple LANs located far apart.


Additional external antennas are also useful to help overcome the effects of multipath propagation in which a signal takes different paths and confuses the receiver. It’s also helpful to deploy antennas that propagate the signal in a way that fits the environment. For instance, for a long, narrow corridor, use an antenna that focuses the RF pattern in one direction instead of one that radiates the signal in all directions.


Plan ahead with a site survey.

A site survey done ahead of time to plot where the signal is the strongest can help you identify problem areas and avoid dead spots where coverage isn’t up to par or is unreliable. For this, building blueprints are helpful in revealing potential obstructions that you might not see in your physical site walkthrough.


To field test for a clear signal path, attach an antenna to an access point or laptop acting as the transmitter at one end. Attach another antenna to a wireless device acting as a receiver at the other end. Then check for interference using RF test equipment (such as a wireless spectrum analyzer) and determine whether vertical or horizontal polarization will work best.


Need help doing this? Call us. We even offer a Site Survey Kit that has a variety of antennas included. Great for installers, the kit enables you to test a variety of antennas in the field before placing a larger antenna order.

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Black Box Explains...SCSI-1, SCSI-2, SCSI-3, and SCSI-5.

There are standards…and there are standards applied in real-world applications. This Black Box Explains illustrates how SCSI is interpreted by many SCSI manufacturers. Think of these as common SCSI connector... more/see it nowtypes, not as firm SCSI specifications. Notice, for instance, there’s a SCSI-5, which isn’t listed among the other approved and proposed specifications. However, for advanced SCSI multiport applications, SCSI-5 is often the connector of choice.

SCSI-1
Supports transfer rates up to 5 MBps and seven SCSI devices on an 8-bit bus. The most common connector is the Centronics® 50 or a DB50. A Micro Ribbon 50 is also used for internal connections. SCSI-1 equipment, such as controllers, can also have Burndy 60 or 68 connectors.

SCSI-2
SCSI-2 introduced optional 16- and 32-bit buses called “Wide SCSI.“ Transfer rate is normally 10 MBps but SCSI-2 can go up to 40 MBps with Wide and Fast SCSI. SCSI-2 usually features a Micro D 50-pin connector with thumbclips. It’s also known as Mini 50 or Micro DB50. A Micro Ribbon 60 connector may also be used for internal connections.

SCSI-3
Found in many high-end systems, SCSI-3 commonly uses a Micro D 68-pin connector with thumbscrews. It’s also known as Mini 68. The most common bus width is 16 bits with transfer rates of 20 MBps.

SCSI-5
SCSI-5 is also called a Very High-Density Connector Interface (VHDCI) or 0.8-mm connector. It’s similar to the SCSI-3 MD68 connector in that it has 68 pins, but it has a much smaller footprint. SCSI-5 is designed for SCSI-5, next-generation SCSI connections. Manufacturers are integrating this 0.8-mm design into controller cards. It’s also the connector of choice for advanced SCSI multiport applications. Up to four channels can be accommodated in one card slot. Connections are easier where space is limited. collapse


Black Box Explains…HDMI

The High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI®) is the first digital interface to combine uncompressed high-definition video, up to eight channels of uncompressed digital audio, and intelligent format and command data in... more/see it nowa single cable. It is now the de facto standard for consumer electronics and high-definition video and is gaining ground in the PC world.

HDMI supports standard, enhanced, and high-definition video. It can carry video signals at resolutions beyond 1080p at 60 Hz (Full HD) up to 4K x 2K (4096 x 2160) as well as 3D TV.

HDMI also provides superior audio clarity. It supports multiple audio formats from standard stereo to multichannel surround sound.

HDMI offers an easy, standardized way to set up home theaters and AV equipment over one cable. Use it to connect audio/video equipment, such as DVD players, set-top boxes, and A/V receivers with an audio and/or video equipment, such as a digital TVs, PCs, cameras, and camcorders. It also supports multiple audio formats from standard stereo to multichannel surround sound. Plus it provides two-way communications between the video source and the digital TV, enabling simple remote, point-and-click configurations.

NOTE: HDMI also supports HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection), which prevents the copying of digital audio and video content transmitted over HDMI able. If you have a device between the source and the display that supports HDMI but not HDCP, your transmission won't work, even over an HDMI cable.

HDMI offers significant benefits over older analog A/V connections. It's backward compatible with DVI equipment, such as PCs. TVs, and other electronic devices using the DVI standard. A DVI-to-HDMI adapter can be used without a loss of video quality. Because DVI only supports video signals, no audio, the DVI device simply ignores the extra audio data.

HDMI standards
The HDMI standard was introduced in December 2002. Since then, there have been a number of versions with increasing bandwidth and/or transmission capabilities.

With the introduction of HDMI (June 2006), more than doubled the bandwidth from 4.95 Gbps to 10.2 Gbps (340 MHz). It offers support for 16-bit color, increased refresh rates, and added support for 1440p WQXGA. It also added support for xvYCC color space and Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio standards. Plus it added features to automatically correct audio video synchronization. Finally, it added a mini connector.

HDMI 1.3a (November 2006), HDMI 1.3b (March 2007, HDMI 1.3b1 (November 2007), and 1.3c (August 2008) added termination recommendations, control commands, and other specification for testing, etc.

HDMI 1.4 (May 2009) increased the maximum resolution to 4Kx 2K (3840 x 2160 p/24/25/30 Hz). It added an HDMI Ethernet channel for a 100-Mbps connection between two HDMI devices. Other advancements include: an Audio Return Channel, stereoscopic 3D over HDMI (HDMI 1.3 devices will only support this for 1080i), an automotive connection system, and the micro HDMI connector.

HDMI 1.4a (March 2010) adds two additional 3D formats for broadcast content.

HDMI 2.0 (August 2013), which is backwards compatible with earlier versions of the HDMI specification, significantly increases bandwidth up to 18 Gbps and adds key enhancements to support market requirements for enhancing the consumer video and audio experience.

HDMI 2.0 also includes the following advanced features:

  • Resolutions up to 4K@50/60 (2160p), which is four times the clarity of 1080p/60 video resolution, for the ultimate video experience.
  • Up to 32 audio channels for a multi-dimensional immersive audio experience.
  • Up to 1536Hz audio sample frequency for the highest audio fidelity.
  • Simultaneous delivery of dual video streams to multiple users on the same screen.
  • Simultaneous delivery of multi-stream audio to multiple users (up to four).
  • Support for the wide angle theatrical 21:9 video aspect ratio.
  • Dynamic synchronization of video and audio streams.
  • CEC extensions provide more expanded command and control of consumer electronics devices through a single control point.

  • HDMI Cables
  • Standard HDMI Cable: 1080i and 720p
  • Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet
  • Automotive HDMI Cable
  • High Speed HDMI Cable: 1080p, 4K, 3D and Deep Color
  • High Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet

  • HDMI connectors
    There are four HDMI connector types.
    Type A: 19 pins. It supports all SDTV, EDTV, and HDTV modes. It is electrically compatible with single-link DVI-D. HDMI 1.0 specification.

    Type B: 29 pins. Offers double the video bandwidth of Type A. Use for very high-resolution displays such as WQUXGA. It's electronically compatible with dual-link DVI-D. HDMI 1.0 specification.

    Type C Mini: 19 pins. This mini connector is intended for portable devices. It is smaller than Type A but has the same pin configuration and can be connected to Type A cable via an adapter or adapter cable. Type C is defined in HDMI 1.3.

    Type D Micro: 19 pins. This also has the 19-pin configuration of Type A but is about the size of a micro-USB connector. Type D is defined in HDMI 1.4.

    HDMI cable
    Recently, HDMI Licensing, LLC announced that all able would be tested as either Standard or High-Speed cables. Referring to cables based on HDMI standard (e.g. 1.2, 1.3 etc.) is no longer allowed.

    Standard HDMI cable is designed for use with digital broadcast TV, cable TV, satellites TV, Blu-ray, and upscale DVD payers to reliably transmit up to 1080i or 720p video (or the equivalent of 75 MHz or up to 2.25 Gbps).

    High-Speed HDMI reliably transmits video resolutions of 1080p and beyond, including advanced display technologies such as 4K, 3D, and Deep Color. High-Speed HDMI is the recommended cable for 1080p video. It will perform at speeds of 600 MHz or up to 18 Gbps, the highest bandwidth urgently available over an HDMI cable.

    HDCP copy protection
    HDMI also supports High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP), which prevents the copying of content transmitted over HDMI cable. If you have a device between the source and the display that supports HDMI but not HDCP, your transmission won’t work, even over an HDMI cable. Additional resources and licensing information is available at HDMI.org.

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    Black Box Explains...Layer 3 switching.

    In the last decade, network topologies have typically featured routers along with hubs or switches. The hub or switch acts as a central wiring point for LAN segments while the... more/see it nowrouter takes care of higher-level functions such as protocol translation, traffic between LAN segments, and wide-area access.

    Layer 3 switching, which combines Layer 2 switching and Layer 3 IP routing, provides a more cost-effective way of setting up LANs by incorporating switching and routing into one device. While a traditional Layer 2 switch simply sends data along without examining it, a Layer 3 switch incorporates some features of a router in that it examines data packets before sending them on their way. The integration of switching and routing in a Layer 3 switch takes advantage of the speed of a switch and the intelligence of a router in one economical package.

    There are two basic types of Layer 3 switching: packet-by-packet Layer 3 (PPL3) and cut-through Layer 3.

    PPL3 switches are technically routers in that they examine all packets before forwarding them to their destinations. They achieve top speed by running protocols such as OSPF (Open Shortest Path First) and by using cache routing tables. Because these switches understand and take advantage of network topology, they can blow the doors off traditional routers with speeds of more than 7,000,000 (that’s seven million!) packets per second.

    Cut-through Layer 3 switching relies on a shortcut for top speed. Cut-through Layer 3 switches, rather than examining every packet, examine only the first in a series to determine its destination. Once the destination is known, the data flow is switched at Layer 2 to achieve high speeds. 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.
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    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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