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Black Box Explains...Industrial Ethernet (Ethernet/IP) and IP-rated connectors.

Ethernet technology is coming to the factory floor. Once limited to office environments, Ethernet has proven to be a robust alternative to the RS-232 interface traditionally used with industrial devices... more/see it nowsuch as programmable logic controllers. Ethernet brings speed, versatility, and cost savings to industrial environments.

The requirements of industrial environments are different than offices, so there are industrial Ethernet standards. The most common is the Ethernet/Industrial Protocol (Ethernet/IP) standard, usually called Industrial Ethernet. Industrial Ethernet adapts ordinary, off-the-shelf IEEE 802.3 Ethernet communication chips and physical media to industrial applications.

The Ingress Protection (IP) ratings developed by the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) specify the environmental protection an enclosure provides.

An IP rating consists of two or three numbers. The first number refers to protection from solid objects or materials; the second number refers to protection from liquids; and the third number, commonly omitted from the rating, refers to protection against mechanical impacts. An IP67 rating means that a connector is totally protected from dust and from the effects of immersion in 5.9 inches (15 cm) to 3.2 feet (1 m) of water for 30 minutes.

Because office-grade RJ-45 connectors do not stand up to an industrial environment, the Ethernet/IP standard calls for sealed industrial RJ-45 connectors that meet an IP67 standard, meaning the connectors are sealed against dust and water. collapse

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...Power problems.

The Threat — A sag is a decline in the voltage level. Also known as “brownouts,” sags are the most common power problem.

The Cause — Sags can be caused... more/see it nowlocally by the start-up demands of electrical devices such as motors, compressors, and elevators. Sags may also happen during periods of high electrical use, such as during a heat wave.

The Effect — Sags are often the cause of “unexplained” computer glitches such as system crashes, frozen keyboards, and data loss. Sags can also reduce the efficiency and lifespan of electrical motors.

The Threat — A blackout is a total loss of power.

The Cause — Blackouts are caused by excessive demand on the power grid, an act of nature such as lightning or an earthquake, or a human accident such as a car hitting a power pole or a backhoe digging in the wrong place.

The Effect — Of course a blackout brings everything to a complete stop. You also lose any unsaved data stored in RAM and may even lose the total contents of your hard drive.

The Threat — A spike, also called an impulse, is an instantaneous, dramatic increase in voltage.

The Cause — A spike is usually caused by a nearby lightning strike but may also occur when power is restored after a blackout.

The Effect — A spike can damage or completely destroy electrical components and also cause data loss.

The Threat — A surge is an increase in voltage lasting at least 1/120 of a second.

The Cause — When high-powered equipment such as an air conditioner is powered off, the excess voltage is dissipated though the power line causing a surge.

The Effect — Surges stress delicate electronic components causing them to wear out before their time.

The Threat — Electrical noise, more technically called electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI), interrupts the smooth sine wave expected from electrical power.

The Cause — Noise has many causes including nearby lightning, load switching, industrial equipment, and radio transmitters. It may be intermittent or chronic.

The Effect — Noise introduces errors into programs and data files. collapse

Black Box Explains...UTP cable and color drift.

UTP cable is often used with video or KVM extenders to extend the reach of a video signal. It’s popular for this application because it’s lightweight, easy to handle, and... more/see it nowinexpensive. But when you transmit video over long stretches of twisted-pair cable, you sometimes run into a phenomenon called color drift or color split.

Color drift shows up as that annoying colored shadow you occasionally see around objects on a video screen. It sometimes happens with UTP cable because the pairs of wire in the cable are twisted at slightly different rates to reduce crosstalk between pairs. Because of these differences between wire pairs, video signals for different colors often travel different distances before they reach the remote receiver. When one color signal arrives behind the others because its wire is longer, you get that red, green, or blue shadow around the objects on your video screen.

UTP cable varies widely by manufacturer, so before installing video extenders, it’s difficult to determine whether or not you’re going to have a color drift problem. You’re more likely to experience color drift with higher grades (CAT5e or CAT6) of cable, on longer cable runs, and on high-resolution screens.

If you experience color drift, there are several possible solutions. You can use a shorter length of cable, switch from CAT5e or CAT6 cable to CAT5 cable, use a lower screen resolution, or use a video skew compensator.

A video skew compensator removes color drift by delaying some color signals to compensate for differences in wire pairs. collapse

Black Box Explains...SFP, SFP+, and XFP transceivers.

SFP, SFP+, and XFP are all terms for a type of transceiver that plugs into a special port on a switch or other network device to convert the port to... more/see it nowa copper or fiber interface. These compact transceivers replace the older, bulkier GBIC interface. Although these devices are available in copper, their most common use is to add fiber ports. Fiber options include multimode and single-mode fiber in a variety of wavelengths covering distances of up to 120 kilometers (about 75 miles), as well as WDM fiber, which uses two separate wavelengths to both send and receive data on a single fiber strand.

SFPs support speeds up to 4.25 Gbps and are generally used for Fast Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet applications. The expanded SFP standard, SFP+, supports speeds of 10 Gbps or higher over fiber. XFP is a separate standard that also supports 10-Gbps speeds. The primary difference between SFP+ and the slightly older XFP standard is that SFP+ moves the chip for clock and data recovery into a line card on the host device. This makes an SFP+ smaller than an XFP, enabling greater port density.

Because all these compact transcievers are hot-swappable, there’s no need to shut down a switch to swap out a module—it’s easy to change interfaces on the fly for upgrades and maintenance.

Another characteristic shared by this group of transcievers is that they’re OSI Layer 1 devices—they’re transparent to data and do not examine or alter data in any way. Although they’re primarily used with Ethernet, they’re also compatible with uncommon or legacy standards such as Fibre Channel, ATM, SONET, or Token Ring.

Formats for SFP, SFP+, and XFP transceivers have been standardized by multisource agreements (MSAs) between manufacturers, so physical dimensions, connectors, and signaling are consistent and interchangeable. Be aware though that some major manufacturers, notably Cisco, sell network devices with slots that lock out transceivers from other vendors. collapse

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

DVI (Digital Video Interface) is the standard digital interface for transmitting uncompressed high-definition, 1080p video between PCs and monitors and other computer equipment. Because DVI accommodates both analog and digital... more/see it nowinterfaces with a single connector, it is also compatible with the VGA interface. DVI differs from HDMI in that HDMI is more commonly found on HDTVs and consumer electronics.

The DVI standard is based on transition-minimized differential signaling (TMDS). There are two DVI formats: Single-Link and Dual-Link. Single-link cables use one TMDS-165 MHz transmitter and dual-link cables use two. The dual-link cables double the power of the transmission. A single-link cable can transmit a resolution ?of 1920 x 1200 vs. 2560 x 1600 for a dual-link cable.

There are several types of connectors: DVI-D, DVI-I, DVI-A, DFP, and EVC.

DVI-D (digital). This digital-only interface provides a high-quality image and fast transfer rates between a digital video source and monitors. It eliminates analog conversion and improves the display. It can be used when one or both connections are DVI-D.

DVI-I (integrated). This interface supports both digital and analog RGB connections. It can transmit either a digital-to-digital signal or an analog-to-analog signal. It can be used with adapters to enable connectivity to a VGA or DVI-I display or digital connectivity to a DVI-D display. If both connectors are DVI-I, you can use any DVI cable, but DVI-I is recommended.

DVI-A (analog) This interface is used to carry a DVI signal from a computer to an analog VGA device, such as a display. If one connection is DVI and the other is VGA HD15, you need a cable or adapter with both connectors.

DFP (Digital Flat Panel) was an early digital-only connector used on some displays.

EVC (also known as P&D, for Plug & Display), another older connector, handles digital and analog connections.


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.


Black Box Explains…Terminating fiber.

Terminating fiber cable used to be a job for experts only. But today, prepolished connectors make it possible for anyone to terminate multimode fiber—all you need is a bit of... more/see it nowpatience and the right tools. Here’s how to terminate fiber with ST connectors:

Step 1 — Slide the connector strain-relief boot, small end first, onto the cable.

Step 2 — Using a template, mark the jacket dimensions to be stripped (40 mm and 52 mm from the end).

Step 3 — Remove the outer jacket from the cable end to the 40 mm mark. Cut the exposed Kevlar. Carefully remove the jacket to the 52-mm mark, exposing the remaining length of Kevlar.

Step 4 — Fan out the Kevlar fibers and slide the crimp ring of the connector approximately 5 mm over the fibers to hold them out of the way. Mark the fiber buffer 11 mm from the end of the cable jacket. Also, mark the buffer where it meets the jacket.

Step 5 — Bit by bit, strip off the buffering until you reach the 11-mm mark. Check the mark you made on the buffer at the jacket. If it’s moved, carefully work the buffer back into the jacket to its original position.

Step 6 — Clean the glass fiber with an alcohol wipe. Cleave the fiber to an 8-mm length.

Step 7 — Carefully insert the fiber into the connector until you feel it bottom out and a bow forms between the connector and the clamp. Cam the connector with the appropriate tool.

Step 8 — Crimp the connector.

Step 9 — Slide the crimp ring up the jacket away from the connector, releasing the Kevlar fibers. Fan the fiber so they encircle the buffer. The ends of the fibers should just touch the rear of the connector—if they’re too long, trim them now.

Step 10 — Crimp the connector again.

Step 11 — Slide the strain-relief boot over the rear of the connector. You might want to put a bead of 411 Loctite adhesive for extra strength on the rear of the boot where it meets the jacket.

Although the details may vary slightly with different connectors and termination kits, the basic termination procedure is the same. collapse

Black Box Explains... Video extenders with built-in skew compensation.

To ensure the best video resolution, it’s important to match your video extension device with a compatible grade of cable. Some multimedia extenders are not designed to transmit video across... more/see it nowcable that’s higher than CAT5. In fact, with these extenders, the higher-grade cable may actually degrade video.

The problem is with the cable twists of CAT5e and CAT6 cables. To reduce signaling crosstalk, these higher-grade cables have tighter twists—and more of them—than CAT5 cable does. For this reason, the wire distance that an electrical signal has to travel is different for each pair. This doesn’t normally cause a problem with data, but if you’re sending higher-resolution analog video signals across long cables, you may see color separation caused by the video signals arriving at different times.

To avoid this, you could use only the lower-grade cable with the extenders. But what if you already have CAT5e or higher cable installed in your building, or you simply want the latest and greatest copper wiring? Order an extender receiver that features built-in skew compensation so it can work properly with higher cable grades at longer distances. collapse


S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format) is a type of digital audio transfer file format developed primarily by Sony and Philips. It enables the transfer of digital audio without converting it... more/see it nowto and from analog, which can degrade the signal.

S/PDIF is typically used to connect consumer audio equipment over short distances. The connector is found on equipment such as a DAT (Digital Audio Tape) device, home theater amplifiers, etc. S/PDIF is based on the professional AES3 interconnect standard.

S/PDIF signals are carried over two types of cables. The first is a 75-ohm coaxial cable with orange RCA connectors. The second is a fiber cable with TOSLINK connectors. collapse

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