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Black Box Explains... SNMP.

SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) management is the standard for LAN management, particularly in mission-critical applications. The standard is controlled by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). It was designed... more/see it nowto manage network configuration, performance, faults, accounting, and security.

An SNMP agent must be present at the device level (a router or a hub, for example), either built into the unit or as a proxy agent, and is accessed through a remote terminal. SNMP does not follow a polling protocol. It waits to receive data from the remote device or sends data based on operator commands.

By using one common set of standards, SNMP enables network administrators to manage, monitor, and control their SNMP-compliant network equipment with one management system and from one management station. If a network device goes down, it|s possible to both pinpoint and troubleshoot the problem more efficiently. And a network administrator isn’t limited to equipment from just one vendor when using an SNMP program. collapse


Black Box Explains...PC, UPC, and APC fiber connectors.

Fiber optic cables have different types of mechanical connections. The type of connection determines the quality of the fiber optic lightwave transmission. The different types we’ll discuss here are the... more/see it nowflat-surface, Physical Contact (PC), Ultra Physical Contact (UPC), and Angled Physical Contact (APC).

The original fiber connector is a flat-surface connection, or a flat connector. When mated, an air gap naturally forms between the two surfaces from small imperfections in the flat surfaces. The back reflection in flat connectors is about -14 dB or roughly 4%.

As technology progresses, connections improve. The most common connection now is the PC connector. Physical Contact connectors are just that—the end faces and fibers of two cables actually touch each other when mated.

In the PC connector, the two fibers meet, as they do with the flat connector, but the end faces are polished to be slightly curved or spherical. This eliminates the air gap and forces the fibers into contact. The back reflection is about -40 dB. This connector is used in most applications.

An improvement to the PC is the UPC connector. The end faces are given an extended polishing for a better surface finish. The back reflection is reduced even more to about -55 dB. These connectors are often used in digital, CATV, and telephony systems.

The latest technology is the APC connector. The end faces are still curved but are angled at an industry-standard eight degrees. This maintains a tight connection, and it reduces back reflection to about -70 dB. These connectors are preferred for CATV and analog systems.

PC and UPC connectors have reliable, low insertion losses. But their back reflection depends on the surface finish of the fiber. The finer the fiber grain structure, the lower the back reflection. And when PC and UPC connectors are continually mated and remated, back reflection degrades at a rate of about 4 to 6 dB every 100 matings for a PC connector. APC connector back reflection does not degrade with repeated matings. collapse


Black Box Explains... Matrix video switches.

Matrix switches enable computers to mix and match the output of multiple PCs on multiple video monitors.

For instance, if your operation has four PCs and you want to display the... more/see it nowvideo on one monitor to the other three monitors, a matrix video switch is what you need to handle the job. Use matrix switches for:
• Trade shows—Set up a wall of video to wow the senses of attendees.
• Transportation schedules—Provide real-time updates of flights or deliveries on multiple screens.
• Training demonstrations—Control each screen’s video to focus everyone’s attention on what’s important. collapse


Black Box Explains...UARTs and PCI buses.

Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitters UARTs are designed to convert sync data from a PC bus to an async format that external I/O devices such as printers or modems use. UARTs insert... more/see it nowor remove start bits, stop bits, and parity bits in the data stream as needed by the attached PC or peripheral. They can provide maximum throughput to your high-performance peripherals without slowing down your CPU.

In the early years of PCs and single-application operating systems, UARTs interfaced directly between the CPU bus and external RS-232 I/O devices. Early UARTs did not contain any type of buffer because PCs only performed one task at a time and both PCs and peripherals were slow.

With the advent of faster PCs, higher-speed modems, and multitasking operating systems, buffering (RAM or memory) was added so that UARTs could handle more data. The first buffered UART was the 16550 UART, which incorporates a 16-byte FIFO (First In First Out) buffer and can support sustained data-transfer rates up to 115.2 kbps.

The 16650 UART features a 32-byte FIFO and can handle sustained baud rates of 460.8 kbps. Burst data rates of up to 921.6 kbps have even been achieved in laboratory tests.

The 16750 UART has a 64-byte FIFO. It also features sustained baud rates of 460.8 kbps but delivers better performance because of its larger buffer.

Used in newer PCI cards, the 16850 UART has a 128-byte FIFO buffer for each port. It features sustained baud rates of 460.8 kbps.

The Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI®) Bus enhances both speed and throughput. PCI Local Bus is a high-performance bus that provides a processor-independent data path between the CPU and high-speed peripherals. PCI is a robust interconnect interface designed specifically to accommodate multiple high-performance peripherals for graphics, full-motion video, SCSI, and LANs.

A Universal PCI (uPCI) card has connectors that work with both a newer 3.3-V power supply and motherboard and with older 5.5-V versions. collapse


Black Box Explains...Digital Visual Interface (DVI) and other digital display interfaces.

There are three main types of digital video interfaces: P&D, DFP, and DVI. P&D (Plug & Display, also known as EVC), the earliest of these technologies, supports both digital and... more/see it nowanalog RGB connections and is now used primarily on projectors. DFP (Digital Flat-Panel Port) was the first digital-only connector on displays and graphics cards; it’s being phased out.

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

DVI-D is a digital-only connector. DVI-I supports both digital and analog RGB connections. Some manufacturers are offering the DVI-I connector type on their products instead of separate analog and digital connectors. DVI-A is used to carry an analog DVI signal to a VGA device, such as a display. DFP, like DVI-D, was an early digital-only connector used on some displays; it’s being phased out. EVC (also known as P&D) is similar to DVI-I only it’s slightly larger in size. It also handles digital and analog connections, and it’s used primarily on projectors.

All these standards are based on transition-minimized differential signaling (TMDS). In a typical single-line digital signal, voltage is raised to a high level and decreased to a low level to create transitions that convey data. TMDS uses a pair of signal wires to minimize the number of transitions needed to transfer data. 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. collapse


Black Box Explains...Alien crosstalk.

Alien crosstalk (ANEXT) is a critical and unique measurement in 10-GbE systems. Crosstalk, used in 10/100/1000BASE-T systems, measures the mixing of signals between wire pairs within a cable. Alien Crosstalk,... more/see it nowin 10-GbE systems, is the measurement of the signal coupling between wire pairs in different, adjacent cables.

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

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


Black Box Explains...Loose-tube vs. tight-buffered fiber optic cable.

There are two styles of fiber optic cable construction: loose tube and tight buffered. Both contain some type of strengthening member, such as aramid yarn, stainless steel wire strands, or... more/see it noweven gel-filled sleeves. But each is designed for very different environments.

Loose tube cables, the older of the two cable types, are specifically designed for harsh outdoor environments. They protect the fiber core, cladding, and coating by enclosing everything within semi-rigid protective sleeves or tubes. In loose-tube cables that hold more than one optical fiber, each individually sleeved core is bundled loosely within an all-encompassing outer jacket.

Many loose-tube cables also have a water-resistant gel that surrounds the fibers. This gel helps protect them from moisture, so the cables are great for harsh, high-humidity environments where water or condensation can be a problem. The gel-filled tubes can expand and contract with temperature changes, too.

But gel-filled loose-tube cables are not the best choice when cable needs to be submerged or where it’s routed around multiple bends. Excess cable strain can force fibers to emerge from the gel.

Tight-buffered cables, in contrast, are optimized for indoor applications. Because they’re sturdier than loose-tube cables, they’re best suited for moderate-length LAN/WAN connections, long indoor runs, and even direct burial. Tight-buffered cables are also recommended for underwater applications.

Instead of a gel layer or sleeve to protect the fiber core, tight-buffered cables use a two-layer coating. One is plastic; the other is waterproof acrylate. The acrylate coating keeps moisture away from the cable, like the gel-filled sleeves do for loose-tube cables. But this acrylate layer is bound tightly to the plastic fiber layer, so the core is never exposed (as it can be with gel-filled cables) when the cable is bent or compressed underwater.

Tight-buffered cables are also easier to install because there’s no messy gel to clean up and they don’t require a fan-out kit for splicing or termination. You can crimp connectors directly to each fiber.

Want the best of both worlds? Try a hybrid, breakout-style fiber optic cable, which combines tight-buffered cables within a loose-tube housing. collapse


Black Box Explains...Upgrading from VGA to DVI video.

Many new PCs no longer have traditional Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) computer monitors with a VGA interface. The latest high-end computers have Digital Flat Panels (DFPs) with a Digital Visual... more/see it nowInterface (DVI). Although most computers still have traditional monitors, the newer DFPs are coming on strong because flat-panel displays are not only slimmer and more attractive on the desktop, but they’re also capable of providing a much sharper, clearer image than a traditional CRT monitor.

The VGA interface was developed to support traditional CRT monitors. The DVI interface, on the other hand, is designed specifically for digital displays and supports the high resolution, the sharper image detail, and the brighter and truer colors achieved with DFPs.

Most flat-panel displays can be connected to a VGA interface, even though using this interface results in inferior video quality. VGA simply can’t support the image quality offered by a high-end digital monitor. Sadly, because a VGA connection is possible, many computer users connect their DFPs to VGA and never experience the stunning clarity their flat-panel monitors can provide.

It’s important to remember that for your new DFP display to work at its best, it must be connected to a DVI video interface. You should upgrade the video card in your PC when you buy your new video monitor. Your KVM switches should also support DVI if you plan to use them with DFPs. 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...10GBASE-T standard.

In June 2006, the IEEE approved the standard for 10 Gigabit/sec Ethernet, or 10GBASE-T (10-GbE). 10-GbE transmission requires a bandwidth of 500 MHz.

The 10-GbE standards.
The cabling industry is developing... more/see it nowtwo different standards that can be used in 10-GbE applications. One is for use with Category 6 (CAT6) cable, and one is for Augmented Category 6 (CAT6a).

Alien Crosstalk.
Before discussing the standards, a definition of Alien Crosstalk is needed.

Alien Crosstalk (ANEXT) is a critical measurement unique to 10-GbE systems. Crosstalk, measured in 10/100/1000BASE-T systems, is the mixing of signals between wire pairs within a cable. Alien Crosstalk is the measurement of the signal coupling between wire pairs in different, adjacent cables.

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

With ANEXT, the affected cable is called the disturbed or victim cable. The surrounding cables are the disturbers.

10-GbE using CAT6.
The first set of standards defines cabling performance when using Category 6/Class E cabling for 10-GbE applications. The TIA/EIA version will be the Technical Systems Bulletin 155 (TSB 155). ISO/IEC TR 24750 is a technical report to be used for measuring existing Class E systems.

No matter what the cable length is, CAT6 cable must meet 10-GbE electrical and ANEXT specifications up to 500 MHz. However, the CAT6 standard now specifies measurements only to 250 MHz, and it does not have an ANEXT requirement. There is no guarantee CAT6 can support a 10-GbE system. But the TSB provides guidelines for ways to help mitigate ANEXT. One way to lessen or eliminate ANEXT is to use shielded equipment and cables. Another way is to follow installation guidelines, such as using non-adjacent patch panels, separating equipment cords, unbundling horizontal cabling, etc.

10GbE using CAT6a.
The second set of standards will define Augmented Category 6 (CAT6a) and Augmented Class E (Class Ea) cabling. The newer, augmented cabling systems are designed to support 10-GbE over a 100-meter horizontal channel.

The TIA/EIA version is in draft and will be published as ANSI/TIA/EIA-568B.2-AD10. It recognizes both UTP and STP CAT6a systems. It also extends CAT6 electrical parameters such as NEXT, FEXT, return loss, insertion loss, and more to 500 MHz. It specifies near- and far-end Alien Crosstalk (ANEXT, AFEXT) to 500 MHz. It also goes beyond IEEE 802.3an by establishing the electrical requirements for the permanent link and cabling components. The ISO Class Ea standard will be published in a new edition of the 11801 standard.

These standards specify requirements for each component in the channel, such as cable and connecting hardware, as well as for the permanent link and the channel. collapse

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