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Black Box Explains... GBICs

A Gigabit Interface Converter (GBIC) is a transceiver that converts digital electrical currents to optical signals and back again. GBICs support speeds of 1 Gbps or more and are typically... more/see it nowused as an interface between a high-speed Ethernet or ATM switch and a fiber backbone. GBICs are hot-swappable, so switches don’t need to be powered down for their installation. collapse

Black Box Explains...Token Ring Cabling

The original Token Ring specifications called for shielded twisted-pair (STP) cable using either a DB9 connector or a unique square connector called the IBM data connector. Later, Token Ring was... more/see it nowadapted to use conventional unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) cable with RJ-45 connectors. The most common kinds of Token Ring cabling in use to day are Type 1 and Type 6 STP as well as Type 3 UTP.

Type 1 shielded twisted-pair (STP) cable is the original wiring for Token Ring. In Type 1 cabling, each wire is constructed of 22 AWG solid copper. Type 1 cable is not as flexible as Type 6 cable and is generally used for long runs in areas where twists and turns are less likely, such as in walls or conduits.

Type 6 Token Ring cable is a lighter, more pliable version of Type 1 cable. It’s constructed of two stranded 26 AWG copper pairs that are surrounded by an overall braided shield. Type 6 cable is commonly used in offices and open areas, and its flexible construction enables it to negotiate multiple twists and turns.

Type 3 or UTP Token Ring cabling uses the same twisted-pair CAT3, CAT5, or CAT5e cabling with RJ-45 connectors as 10BASE-T Ethernet does. Attaching older Type 1 Token Ring to UTP Token Ring requires a balun or adapter. collapse

Black Box Explains...MIMO wireless.

Multiple-Input/Multiple-Output (MIMO) is a part of the new IEEE 802.11n wireless standard. It’s a technique that uses multiple signals to increase the speed, reliability, and coverage of wireless networks. It... more/see it nowtransmits multiple datastreams simultaneously, increasing wireless capacity to up to 100 or even 250 Mbps.

This wireless transmission method takes advantage of a radio transmission characteristic called multipath, which means that radio waves bouncing off surfaces such as walls and ceilings will arrive at the antenna at fractionally different times. This characteristic has long been considered to be a nuisance that impairs wireless transmission, but MIMO technology actually exploits it to enhance wireless performance.

MIMO sends a high-speed data stream across multiple antennas by breaking it into several lower-speed streams and sending them simultaneously. Each signal travels multiple routes for redundancy.

To pick up these multipath signals, MIMO uses multiple antennas and compares signals many times a second to select the best one. A MIMO receiver makes sense of these signals by using a mathematical algorithm to reconstruct the signals. Because it has multiple signals to choose from, MIMO achieves higher speeds at greater ranges than conventional wireless hardware does. collapse

Non-standard PoE

Because Power over Ethernet (PoE) delivers power over the same cable as data, it’s popular for powering devices such as VoIP phones, wireless access points, and security cameras. It often... more/see it nowleads to significant savings by eliminating the need to install a separate power outlet.

Most PoE today is standards-based IEEE 802.3af or the newer higher-powered IEEE 802.3at PoE, which are very safe because power source equipment (PSE) doesn’t add power to the data line unless it detects a compatible powered device (PD) connected to the other end of the cable. This protects devices that do not support PoE. PSEs and PDs also negotiate power requirements, so a PD never receives too much power. Both PSEs and PDs have power supplies and regulators isolated from ground to minimize shock hazard.

But here’s where it gets complicated…
Because most PoE available today is standards-based 802.3af or 802.3at, it’s easy to forget that there are versions of PoE that are NOT standards based. Some of these non-standards-based versions of PoE feature power injectors that inject power without checking compatibility—and that can be very bad news for an innocent network device.

Non-standard PoE tends to fall into three categories: proprietary PoE, high-wattage proprietary PoE, and passive PoE.

Proprietary PoE.
Before the ratification of the 802.3af standard in 2003, PoE was a free-for-all with many vendors offering their own method of delivering power over data lines. Some vendors still offer their own proprietary PoE. These proprietary solutions offer varying degrees of communication between PSE and PD. Our Black Box® Wireless Point-to-Point Ethernet Extender Kit (LWE100A-KIT) uses Prorietary PoE in the form of 12 VDC running at 12 W, which is well below the 48 VDC and 15.4 W provided by standard 802.3af.

High-wattage Proprietary PoE.
Many vendors offer high-wattage PoE solutions designed to deliver from 50 watts to 100 or even 200 watts per port. High-wattage proprietary PoE is often used with high-powered outdoor wireless radios.

Passive PoE.
Passive PoE injects power into an Ethernet cable on Pins 4 and 5 with negative return on Pins 7 and 8 and absolutely no communication between PSE and PD. This method was once a very common “home brew” method of transferring power over data cable and is still commonly used in telecomm applications.

Document and label.
There’s nothing wrong with PoE that’s not standards based—these power methods work as well as 802.3af/at PoE to power network devices. You do, however, need to be aware of what kind of Power over Ethernet you have and what it will work with. Good network documentation and labeling are the keys that enable you to know that, for instance, that power injector is a high-wattage proprietary injector that will fry the IP camera you’re about to connect. Proper documentation, which is good practice in any case, becomes absolutely vital when you have components that may damage other components.

Black Box Explains... Manual switch chassis styles.

There are five manual switch chassis styles: three for standalone switches (Styles A, B, and C) and two for rackmount switches (Styles D and E). Below are the specifications for... more/see it noweach style.

Standalone Switches

Chassis Style A
Size — 2.5"H x 6"W x 6.3"D (6.4 x 15.2 x 16 cm
Weight — 1.5 lb. (0.7 kg)
Chassis Style B
Size — 3.5"H x 6"W x 6.3"D (8.9 x 15.2 x 16 cm)
Weight — 1.5 lb. (0.7 kg)
Chassis Style C
Size — 3.5"H x 17"W x 5.9"D (8.9 x 43.2 x 15 cm)
Weight — 8.4 lb. (3.8 kg)

Rackmount Switches

Chassis Style D (Mini Chassis)
Size — 3.5"H x 19"W x 5.9"D (8.9 x 48.3 x 15 cm)
Chassis Style E (Standard Chassis)
Size — 7"H x 19"W x 5.9"D (17.8 x 48.3 x 15 cm) collapse

Black Box Explains...10-GbE, CAT6A, and ANEXT.

The IEEE released the 802.3an 10GBASE-T standard in June 2006. This standard specifies 10-Gbps data transmission over four-pair copper cabling. 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10-GbE) transmission includes up to 37 meters of... more/see it nowCAT6 cable (with installation mitigation techniques), 100 meters of Augmented Category 6 (CAT6A) UTP or F/UTP cable or 100 meters of S/FTP CAT7/Class F cable.

CAT6A is the ANSI/TIA 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10-GbE) over copper standard. Its requirements are covered in ANSI/TIA-568-C.2 (Balanced Twisted-Pair Communications Cabling and Components Standard) published in August 2009. It defines 10-Gigabit data transmission over a 4-connector twisted-pair CAT6A copper cable for a distance of 100 meters.

Category 6A cabling is designed to support next-generation applications, including the transfer of large amounts of data at high speeds, up to 10 Gbps. CAT6A extends electrical specifications to 500 MHz from 250 MHz for CAT6 cabling. CAT6A cables are fully backward compatible with previous categories, including CAT6 and 5e. Category 6A is also designed to support bundled cable installations up to 100 meters and PoE+ low-power implementations. The standard includes the performance parameter, Alien Crosstalk (ANEXT). Because of its higher performance transmission speeds and higher MHz rating, CAT6A cable needs to be tested for external noise outside the cable, which wasn’t a concern with previous cabling categories. CAT6A UTP also has a much larger diameter than previous cables.

Alien crosstalk (ANEXT) is a critical and unique measurement in 10-GbE systems. Crosstalk, measured in 10/100/1000BASE-T systems, is the mixing of signals between wire pairs within a cable. Alien Crosstalk, in 10-GbE systems, is the measurement of the unwanted signal coupling between wire pairs in different and adjacent cables or from one balanced twisted-pair component, channel, or permanent link to another.

The amount of ANEXT depends on a number of factors, including the type of cable, cable jacket, cable length, cable twist density, proximity of adjacent cables, and connectors, and EMI. Patch panels and connecting hardware are also affected by ANEXT.

With Alien Crosstalk, the affected cable is called the victim cable. The surrounding cables are the disturber cables.

There are a number of ways to mitigate the effects of ANEXT in CAT6A runs. According to the standards, ANEXT can be improved by laying CAT6A UTP cable loosely in pathways and raceways with space between the cables. This contrasts to the tightly bundled runs of CAT6/5e cable that we are used to. The tight bundles present a worst-case scenario of six cables around one, thus the center cable would be adversely affected by ANEXT. CAT6A UTP cable needs to be tested for ANEXT. This is a complex and time-consuming process in which all possible wire-pair combinations need to be tested for ANEXT and far-end ANEXT. It can take 50 minutes to test one link in a bundle of 24 CAT 6A UTP cables.

To virtually eliminate the problem of ANEXT, you can use CAT6A F/UTP cable. The F indicates an outer foil shield encasing four unshielded twisted pairs. This cable is also a good choice when security is an issue because it doesn’t emit signals. In addition, CAT6A F/UTP cable works well in noisy environments with a lot of EMI/RFI.

Installation of CAT6A F/UTP is simpler, too, because the cable features a smaller outside diameter than CAT6A UTP. Its construction makes it easier to pull and more resilient. The cable also has a smaller diameter so you can run more cables in a conduit or pathway, and have greater patch panel port density.

For more information, see the CAT6A F/UTP vs. UTP: What You Need to Know white paper in the Resources section at blackbox.com. collapse

Black Box Explains...Choosing a wireless antenna.

Ride the wave.

One of the most critical components to operating a successful wireless network is having the right antennas. Antennas come in many different shapes and sizes,... more/see it noweach designed for a specific function. Selecting the right antennas for your network is crucial to achieving optimum network performance. In addition, using the right antennas can decrease your networking costs since you’ll need fewer antennas and access points.

Basically, a wireless network consists of data, voice, and video information packets being transmitted over low-frequency radio waves instead of electrically over copper cable or via light over fiber lines. The antenna acts as a radiator and transmits waves through the air, just like radio and TV stations. Antennas also receive the waves from the air and transport them to the receiver, which is a radio, TV, or in the case of wireless networking, a router or an access point.

Type cast.

The type of antennas you use depends on what type of network you’re setting up and the coverage you need. How large is your network? Is it for a home, single office, campus, or larger? Is it point-to-point or multipoint?

The physical design-walls, floors, etc.- of the building(s) you’re working in also affects the type and number of antennas you need. In addition, physical terrain affects your antenna choices. Obviously, a clear line of sight works best, but you need to consider obstructions such as trees, buildings, hills, and water. (Radio waves travel faster over land than water.) You even need to consider traffic noise in urban settings.

The ideal shape.

Let’s take a look at the different types of antennas.

Isotropic Antenna. First, think of the introduction to the old RKO movies. A huge tower sits on top of the world and emanates circular waves in all directions. If you could actually see the waves, they would form a perfect sphere around the tower. This type of antenna is called an isotropic antenna, and does not exist in the real world. It is theoretical and is used as a base point for measuring actual antennas.

Go in the right direction.

Now let’s turn to real-world antennas. There are many types of antennas that emit radio waves in different directions, shapes, and on different planes. Think of the spherical isotropic antenna. If squeezed from the sides, it will become shaped like a wheel and will concentrate waves on a vertical plane. If squeezed from the top, it will flatten out like a pancake and radiate waves on a horizontal plane. Thus, there are two basic types of antennas: directional and omnidirectional.

Directional antennas.

Directional antennas, primarily used in point-to-point networks, concentrate the waves in one direction much like a flashlight concentrates light in a narrow beam. Directional antennas include backfire, Yagi, dish, panel, and sector.

Backfire. This small directional antenna looks like a cake pan with a tin can in the middle. It’s designed to be compact, often under 11" in diameter, making it unobtrusive and practical for outdoor use. These antennas also offer excellent gain, and can be used in both point-to-point or point-to-multipoint systems.

Yagi. The Yagi-Uda (or Yagi) antenna is named for its Japanese inventors. The antenna was originally intended for radio use and is now frequently used in 802.11 wireless systems.

A Yagi antenna is highly directional. It looks like a long fishbone with a central spine and perpendicular rods or discs at specified intervals. Yagi antennas offer superior gain and highly vertical directionality. The longer the Yagi, the more focused its radiation is. Many outdoor Yagi antennas are covered in PVC so you can’t see the inner structure.

Yagi antennas are good for making point-to-point links in long narrow areas (for instance, connecting to a distant point in a valley) or for point-to-point links between buildings. They can also be used to extend the range of a point-to-multipoint network.

Parabolic or Dish. These antennas look like a circular or rectangular concave bowl or "dish". The backboard can be solid or a grid design. Parabolic grid designs are excellent for outdoor use since the wind blows right through them. The concave nature of this dish design focuses energy into a narrow beam that can travel long distances, even up to several miles. This makes parabolic antennas ideal for point-to-point network connections. Since they generate a narrow beam in both the horizontal and vertical planes, offer excellent gain, and minimize interference, they’re ideal for long-distance point-to-point networks.

Panel or Patch. These antennas are often square or rectangular, and they’re frequently hung on walls. They’re designed to radiate horizontally forward and to the side, but not behind them. Sometimes they’re called "picture-frame" antennas.

Panel antennas are ideal in applications where the access point is at one end of a building. They’re good for penetrating a single floor of a building, and for small and medium-size homes and offices. Since they might not have much vertical radiation, they might not be a good choice for multifloor applications.

Because panel antennas can be easily concealed, they’re a good choice when aesthetics are important.

Sector. A sector antenna can be any type of antenna that directs the radio waves in a specific area. They are often large, outdoor flat-panel or dish-type antennas mounted up high and tilted downward toward the ground. These antennas are often used in sprawling campus settings to cover large areas.

Omnidirectional antennas.

Omnidirectional antennas provide the widest coverage possible and are generally used in point-to-multipoint networks. Their range can be extended by overlapping circles of coverage from multiple access points. Most omnidirectional antennas emanate waves in a fan-shaped pattern on a horizontal plane. Overall, omnidirectional antennas have lower gain than directional antennas. Examples of omnidirectional antennas include: integrated, blade, and ceiling.

Integrated. Integrated antennas are antennas that are built into wireless networking devices. They may be embedded in PC card client adapters or in the covers or body of laptops or other devices, such as access points. Integrated antennas often do not offer the same reception as external antennas and might not pick up weak signals. Access points with integral antennas must often be moved or tilted to get the best reception.

Blade. These small, omnidirectional antennas are often housed in long, thin envelopes of plastic. They are most often used to pick up a signal in a low-signal or no-signal spot. You usually will see them on the walls of cubicles, mounted on desktops, or even hung above cubicles to catch signals. They’re basically an inexpensive signal booster.

Ceiling Dome. These are sometimes also called ceiling blister antennas. They look somewhat like a smoke detector and are designed for unobtrusive use in ceilings, particularly drop ceilings. Ceiling dome antennas often have a pigtail for easy connection to access points. They’re excellent for use in corporate environments where wide coverage over a cube farm is needed.

Wave basics.

To better understand wireless antennas and networking, there are some basic measurements and terms that need to be discussed.

Gain. One of the primary measurements of antennas is gain. Gain is measured as dBi, which is how much the antenna increases the transmitter’s power compared to the theoretical isotropic antenna, which has a gain of 0 dBi. dBi is the true gain the antenna provides to the transmitter’s output. Gain is also reciprocal-it’s the same transmitting and receiving. Higher gain means stronger sent and received signals. An easy way to remember gain basics is that every 3 dB of gain added doubles the effective power output of an antenna. The more an antenna concentrates a signal, the higher the gain it will have.

You can actually calculate the gains and losses of a system by adding up the gains and losses of its parts in decibels.

Frequency and Wavelength. Electromagnetic waves are comprised of two components: frequency and wavelength.

Frequency is how many waves occur each second. Wavelength is the distance between one peak of a wave and the next peak. Lower frequencies have longer wavelengths; higher frequencies have shorter wavelengths. For example, the frequency of AM radio is 1 MHz with a wavelength of about 1000 feet. FM radios operate at a much higher frequency of 100 MHz and have a wavelength of about 100 feet.

The two most common frequencies for wireless networking are 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz. Both are very high frequencies with very short wavelengths in the microwave band. The 2.4-GHz frequency has a wavelength of about 5 inches.

Beamwidth. Consider an antenna to be like a flashlight or spotlight. It reflects and directs the light (or radio waves) in a particular direction. Beamwidth actually measures how energy is focused or concentrated.

Polarization. This is the direction in which the antenna radiates wavelengths, either vertically, horizontally, or circularly. Vertical antennas have vertical polarization and are the most common. For optimum performance, it is important that the sending and receiving antennas have the same polarization.

VSWR and Return Loss. Voltage Standing Wave Ratio (VSWR) measures how well the antenna is matched to the network at the operating frequency being used. It indicates how much of the received signal won’t reach either the transceiver or receiver. Return loss measures how well matched an antenna is to the network. Typical VSWR numbers are 1:1.2 or 1:1.5. A typical return loss number is 20.


Black Box Explains...IEEE 1284

Introduced in 1994, the IEEE 1284 standard addresses data-transfer speeds and distance for parallel interfaces. Standard parallel interfaces support speeds of up to 150 kbps at distances of up to... more/see it now6 feet (1.8 m); IEEE 1284 parallel interfaces can send your data over 100 times faster at up to five times the distance!

Although the Centronics® interface enabled only unidirectional computer-to-peripheral data flow, the IEEE 1284 interface enables bidirectional flow so peripherals can send data to the computer.

The IEEE 1284 standard covers five separate parallel modes, from the original Centronics (with which it’s compatible) to the high-performance Enhanced Parallel Port (EPP) mode. The computer negotiates with the attached device to determine which mode to use. collapse

Black Box Explains...vDSL.

VDSL (Very High Bit-Rate Digital Subscriber Line or Very High-Speed Digital Subscriber Line) is a “last-mile” broadband solution for both businesses and homes, providing economical, high-speed connections to fiber optic... more/see it nowbackbones.

VDSL enables the simultaneous transmission of voice, data, and video on existing voice-grade copper wires. Depending on the intended applications, you can set VDSL to run symmetrically or asymmetrically. VDSL’s high bandwidth allows for applications such as high-definition television, video-on-demand (VOD), high-quality videoconferencing, medical imaging, fast Internet access, and regular voice telephone services—all over a single voice-grade twisted pair. The actual VDSL distances you achieve vary based on line rate, gauge and type of wire, and noise/crosstalk environment. collapse

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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