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Black Box Explains...Shielded vs. unshielded cable.

The environment determines whether cable should be shielded or unshielded.

Shielding is the sheath surrounding and protecting the cable wires from electromagnetic leakage and interference. Sources of this electromagnetic activity... more/see it now(EMI)—commonly referred to as noise—include elevator motors, fluorescent lights, generators, air conditioners, and photocopiers. To protect data in areas with high EMI, choose a shielded cable.

Foil is the most basic cable shield, but a copper-braid shield provides more protection. Shielding also protects cables from rodent damage. Use a foil-shielded cable in busy office or retail environments. For industrial environments, you might want to choose a copper-braid shield.

For quiet office environments, choose unshielded cable. 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.


Black Box Explains...50-µm vs. 62.5-µm fiber optic cable.

As today’s networks expand, the demand for more bandwidth and greater distances increases. Gigabit Ethernet and the emerging 10 Gigabit Ethernet are becoming the applications of choice for current and... more/see it nowfuture networking needs. Thus, there is a renewed interest in 50-micron fiber optic cable.

First used in 1976, 50-micron cable has not experienced the widespread use in North America that 62.5-micron cable has.

To support campus backbones and horizontal runs over 10-Mbps Ethernet, 62.5-micron fiber, introduced in 1986, was and still is the pre-dominant fiber optic cable because it offers high bandwidth and long distance.

One reason 50-micron cable did not gain widespread use was because of the light source. Both 62.5- and 50-micron fiber cable can use either LED or laser light sources. But in the 1980s and 1990s, LED light sources were common. Because 50-micron cable has a smaller aperture, the lower power of the LED light source caused a reduction in the power budget compared to 62.5-micron cable—thus, the migration to 62.5-micron cable. At that time, laser light sources were not highly developed and were rarely used with 50-micron cable — and, when they were, it was mostly in research and technological applications.

The cables share many characteristics. Although 50-micron fiber cable features a smaller core (the light-carrying portion of the fiber), both 50- and 62.5-micron cable use the same cladding diameter of 125 microns. Because they have the same outer diameter, they’re equally strong and are handled in the same way. In addition, both types of cable are included in the TIA/EIA 568-B.3 standards for structured cabling and connectivity.
As with 62.5-micron cable, you can use 50-micron fiber in all types of applications: Ethernet, FDDI, 155-Mbps ATM, Token Ring, Fast Ethernet, and Gigabit Ethernet. It is recommended for all premise applications: backbone, horizontal, and intrabuilding connections. And it should be considered especially for any new construction and installations. IT managers looking at the possibility of 10 Gigabit Ethernet and future scalability will get what they need with 50-micron cable. collapse

USB 3.0

The newest USB standard, USB 3.0 or “SuperSpeed USB," provides vast improvements over USB 2.0. USB 3.0 promises speeds up to 5 Gbps, about ten times that of USB 2.0.... more/see it now

USB 3.0 uses a sync-n-go technology that minimizes user wait time. USB 3.0 adds a physical bus running in parallel with the existing 2.0 bus. It has the flat USB Type A plug, but inside there is an extra set of connectors, and the edge of the plug is blue instead of white. The Type B plug looks different with an extra set of connectors.

USB 3.0 cable contains nine wires, four more than USB 2.0, which has one pair for data and one pair for power. USB 3.0 adds two more data pairs, for a total of eight plus a ground. These extra pairs enable USB 3.0 to support bidirectional asynchronous, full-duplex data transfer instead of USB 2.0’s half-duplex polling method.

USB 3.0 is much more power efficient than USB 2.0. It provides 50% more power than USB 2.0 (150 mA vs 100 mA) to unconfigured devices and up to 80% more power (900 mA vs 500 mA) to configured devices. It is also better at conserving power, when compared to USB 2.0, which uses power when the cable or device isn’t being used. With USB 3.0, when devices are idle, it doesn't broadcast packets or perform polling.

USB 3.0 is completely backwards compatible with USB 2.0. Applications built to the USB 2.0 spec will work seamlessly with USB 3.0. collapse

Black Box Explains...Gigabit Ethernet.

As workstations and servers migrated from ordinary 10-Mbps Ethernet to 100-Mbps speeds, it became clear that even greater speeds were needed. Gigabit Ethernet was developed for an even faster Ethernet... more/see it nowstandard to handle the network traffic generated on the server and backbone level by Fast Ethernet. Gigabit Ethernet delivers an incredible 1000 Mbps (or 1 Gbps), 100 times faster than 10BASE-T. At that speed, Gigabit Ethernet can handle even the traffic generated by campus network backbones. Plus it provides a smooth upgrade path from 10-Mbps Ethernet and 100-Mbps Fast Ethernet at a reasonable cost.

Gigabit Ethernet is a true Ethernet standard. Because it uses the same frame formats and flow control as earlier Ethernet versions, networks readily recognize it, and it’s compatible with older Ethernet standards. Other high-speed technologies (ATM, for instance) present compatibility problems such as different frame formats or different hardware requirements.

The primary difference between Gigabit Ethernet and earlier implementations of Ethernet is that Gigabit Ethernet almost always runs in full-duplex mode, rather than the half-duplex mode commonly found in 10- and 100-Mbps Ethernet.

One significant feature of Gigabit Ethernet is the improvement to the Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection (CSMA/CD) function. In half-duplex mode, all Ethernet speeds use the CSMA/CD access method to resolve contention for shared media. For Gigabit Ethernet, CSMA/CD has been enhanced to maintain the 200-meter (656.1-ft.) collision diameter.

Affordability and adaptability
You can incorporate Gigabit Ethernet into any standard Ethernet network at a reasonable cost without having to invest in additional training, cabling, management tools, or end stations. Because Gigabit Ethernet blends so well with your other Ethernet applications, you have the flexibility to give each Ethernet segment exactly as much speed as it needs—and if your needs change, Ethernet is easily adaptable to new network requirements.

Gigabit Ethernet is the ideal high-speed technology to use between 10-/100-Mbps Ethernet switches or for connection to high-speed servers with the assurance of total compatibility with your Ethernet network.

When Gigabit Ethernet first appeared, fiber was crucial to running Gigabit Ethernet effectively. Since then, the IEEE802.3ab standard for Gigabit over Category 5 cable has been approved, enabling short stretches of Gigabit speed over existing copper cable. Today, you have many choices when implementing Gigabit Ethernet:

1000BASE-X refers collectively to the IEEE802.3z standards: 1000BASE-SX, 1000BASE-LX, and 1000BASE-CX.

The “S“ in 1000BASE-SX stands for “short.“ It uses short wavelength lasers, operating in the 770- to 860-nanometer range, to transmit data over multimode fiber. It’s less expensive than 1000BASE-LX, but has a much shorter range of 220 meters over typical 62.5-µm multimode cable.

The “L“ stands for “long.“ It uses long wavelength lasers operating in the wavelength range of 1270 to 1355 nanometers to transmit data over single-mode fiber optic cable. 1000BASE-LX supports up to 550 meters over multimode fiber or up to 10 kilometers over single-mode fiber.

The “C“ stands for “copper.“ It operates over special twinax cable at distances of up to 25 meters. This standard never really caught on.

Gigabit over CAT5—1000BASE-TX
The 802.3ab specification, or 1000BASE-TX, enables you to run IEEE-compliant Gigabit Ethernet over copper twisted-pair cable at distances of up to 100 meters of CAT5 or higher cable.

Gigabit Ethernet uses all four twisted pairs within the cable, unlike 10BASE-T and 100BASE-TX, which only use two of the four pairs. It works by transmitting 250 Mbps over each of the four pairs in 4-pair cable. 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

Black Box Explains... Speaker wire gauge.

Wire gauge (often shown as AWG, for American Wire Gauge) is a measure of the thickness of the wire. The more a wire is drawn or sized, the smaller its... more/see it nowdiameter will be. The lower the wire gauge, the thicker the wire.

For example, a 24 AWG wire is thinner than a 14 AWG wire. A lower AWG means longer transmission distance and better integrity. As a rule of thumb, power loss decreases as the wire size increases.

When it comes to choosing speaker cable, consider a few factors: distance, the type of system and amplifier you have, the frequencies of the signals being handled, and any specifications that the speaker manufacturer recommends.

For most home applications where you simply need to run cable from your stereo to speakers in the same room—or even behind the walls to other rooms—16 AWG cable is usually fine.

If you’re considering runs of more than 40 feet (12.1 m), consider using 14 AWG or even 12 AWG cable. They both offer better transmission and less resistance over longer distances. You should probably choose 12 AWG cable for high-end audio systems with higher power output or for low-frequency subwoofers. As a rule of thumb, power loss decreases as the wire size increases.

To terminate your cable, choose gold connectors. Because gold resists oxidation over time, gold connectors wear better and offer better peformance than other connectors do. collapse

Black Box Explains…Cooling blade servers.

Blade servers are hot. Really hot. These slim, high-powered CPUs generate heat like nothing you’ve ever installed in your data center before—a rack of blade servers can generate more heat... more/see it nowthan an electric oven! And as temperatures rise, servers may fail, leading to downtime and even data loss.

Needless to say, blade servers present a cooling challenge. If you plan to install them, you need to make sure you can accommodate their cooling needs.

Computer rooms have special equipment such as raised-floor cooling systems to meet their high cooling requirements, but it’s also important to ensure that cabinets used to house blade servers provide adequate ventilation—even in a cool room, hot spots can develop inside cabinets if air distribution is inadequate.

If you’re planning to install blade servers or other high-density components in cabinets, look for a cabinet with fully perforated doors in the front and rear— the greater the amount of perforation, the more cool air can be delivered to the components.

Don’t overload the cabinet by trying to fit in too many servers—75% to 80% of capacity is about right. Leave at least 1U of space between rows of servers for front-to-back ventilation. And finally, ensure all unused rack space is closed off with blank panels to prevent recirculation of warm air back to the front of the cabinet.

If you need help calculating your system’s cooling needs, contact our FREE Tech Support.

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.


    Black Box Explains...Cable management.

    Corporate networks are complex systems of PCs, servers, printers, and the devices that connect them. Getting everything to work in harmony requires bundles of cables, and managing all those cables... more/see it nowfrom inside a telecommunications closet can be a daunting task. To connect cable bundles to rackmounted equipment (like patch panels, hubs, switches, or routers), you need to direct the bundles overhead, vertically, and horizontally.

    A popular choice for overhead cable routing is a ladder rack. Ladder racks come in many varieties. They can run along a wall supported by brackets or they can be installed overhead and supported by a threaded rod. Ladder racks can support large cable bundles neatly and safely. Because bundles lie flat on a ladder rack, cables aren’t subjected to harsh bends. You can run ladder racks directly to the top of most standard telecommunications racks that conform to TIA/EIA standards.

    Use vertical cable managers to route cable bundles along the sides of a rack. These “cable troughs” as they’re sometimes called can be single sided—or double sided to route cable bundles to the rear of equipment and to the ports on the front as well. Vertical cable managers usually come with some type of protection for the cable, such as grommeted holes to protect the cable jacket or a cover that may clip on or act as a door.

    Horizontal cable managers are usually a series of rings that directs cables in an orderly fashion toward the ports of hubs, switches, and patch panels. collapse

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