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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


Black Box Explains...Fiber optic attenuators.

Attenuators are used with single-mode fiber optic devices and cable to filter the strength of the fiber optic signal. Depending on the type of attenuator attached to the devices at... more/see it noweach end of the fiber optic cable, you can diminish the strength of the light signal a variable amount, measured in decibels (dB).

Why would you want to filter the strength of the fiber optic signal? Single-mode fiber is designed to carry a fiber optic signal long distances—as much as 70 kilometers (or 43.4 miles). Fiber devices send this signal with great force to ensure that the signal, and your data, arrive at the other end intact.

But when two fiber devices connected with single-mode fiber cable are close to each other, the signal may be too strong. As a result, the light signal reflects back down the fiber cable. Data can be corrupted and transmissions can be faulty. A signal that is too strong can even damage the attached equipment.

Because it’s probably not feasible to move your fiber equipment farther apart, the easiest solution is to attach an attenuator to each fiber device. Just as sunglasses filter the strength of sunlight, attenuators filter the strength of the light signal transmitted along single-mode fiber cable. Within the attenuator, there’s doping that reduces the strength of the signal passing through the fiber connection and minute air gaps where the two fibers meet. Fiber grooves may also be intentionally misaligned by several microns—but only enough to slow the fiber optic signal to an acceptable rate as it travels down the cable.

Before selecting an attenuator, you need to check the type of adapter on your fiber devices. Attenuators typically fit into any patch panel equipped with FC, SC, or LC adapters that contain either PC or APC contacts. In addition to the type of adapter, you also need to determine the necessary attenuation value, such as 5 or 10 dB. This value varies, depending on the strength of fiber optic signal desired. collapse


Black Box Explains…TEMPEST.

TEMPEST is an acronym for Telecommunications Electronics Material Protected from Emanating Spurious Transmissions. It pertains to technical security countermeasures, standards, and instrumentation that prevent or minimize the exploitation of vulnerable... more/see it nowdata communication equipment by technical surveillance or eavesdropping.

What puts your data communication equipment at risk? Many things. But first and foremost, its microchip.

Any device with a microchip generates an electromagnetic field, often called a “compromising emanation” by security experts. With the proper surveillance equipment, these emanations can be intercepted and the signal reconstructed and analyzed. Unprotected equipment can, in fact, emit a signal into the air like a radio station—and nobody wants to risk his or her job and a whole lot more by broadcasting national security or trade secrets to the wrong people.

Some of the most vulnerable devices are speakerphones, printers, fax machines, scanners, external disc drives, and other high-speed, high-bandwidth peripherals. If the snoop is using a high-quality interception device, your equipment’s signals can be acquired up to several hundred feet away.

Arguably one of the most vulnerable pieces of equipment is an analog VGA monitor. If a spy were to introduce a Trojan into your system, he or she could monitor and store key presses and passwords used during the day. When the system’s not in use at night, the spy could pulse the VGA screen with grayscale images that have a strong signal at particular frequencies. VGA uses single-ended signaling that has a high common-mode emission level not protected by cable shielding, and it’s possible to monitor these signals outside the secure zone using a radio receiver. Even without a Trojan, a sophisticated receiver located nearby picks up and views what’s on the VGA monitor.

What TEMPEST is and isn’t.
It should come as no surprise that the Federal government became concerned about signal leakage. In fact, its interest goes back to the days of World War I when the Army was trying to exploit weaknesses of enemy combat phones and radio transmitters. Since then, the scope of the government’s interests has broadened beyond battlefield equipment. In the last 40 years, the National Security Agency (NSA) has taken several industry measurement standards and greatly beefed them up. These enhanced criteria are commonly referred to as the TEMPEST standards (although the NSA also calls them EMSEC standards, short for “emissions security”).

TEMPEST disciplines involve designing circuits to minimize emanations and the application of appropriate shielding, grounding, and bonding. Some methods used include radiation screening, alarms, and isolation.

A TEMPEST-approved device resembles its non-secure version with a few key differences. If it’s a network component such as a switch, it comes in a heavy metal case. It also has special shielding, a modified power supply, and perhaps a few other modifications from the standard model. If you need to open the device’s case, a special torque wrench for use with TEMPEST-only products is required.

TEMPEST test equipment is very expensive and is sold exclusively to government agencies. Nobody can sell you commercial TEMPEST testing equipment. And if someone offers you a “TEMPEST surveillance system,” you need to be aware of two things: First, TEMPEST is counter-surveillance science and the offer is a fraud; second, the salesperson is committing a federal felony.

If you buy surveillance equipment—authentic or not—then you have also commited a felony. Construction of, possession of, attempting a sale of, or attempting a purchase of said surveillance equipment is illegal. Even if the product purchased is a hoax, the law will take your intentions into account as much as the salesperson’s. Don’t be surprised if you both go to jail.

In the United States, you can learn about TEMPEST testing only in special schools sanctioned by, if not run by, the NSA. Courses to earn the TEMPEST Technician or TEMPEST Engineer certifications are very expensive. These classes are offered to a limited number of people who have a very high level of security clearance and who will be working on TEMPEST-approved equipment all the time.

TEMPEST ratings.
All TEMPEST-approved communication devices have a rating based on their application and/or environment.

Type 1: This rating is for classified cryptographic equipment used for national security purposes. It’s endorsed by the NSA for securing telecommunications and automated information systems and for the protection of classified or sensitive U.S. Government information.

Type 2: This rating is for unclassified cryptographic equipment used by U.S. Government agencies, state and local governments, and sponsored U.S. Government contractors. It’s endorsed by the NSA for securing telecommunications and automated information systems and for the protection of unclassified but sensitive information, such as contract bids.

Type 3: This rating is for unclassified commercial cryptographic equipment that implements an algorithm registered with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It’s for use in protecting sensitive information, like a corporation’s network communications. collapse


Black Box Explains...Category wiring standards

The ABCs of standards
There are two primary organizations dedicated to developing and setting structured cabling standards. In North America, standards are issued by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA),... more/see it nowwhich is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The TIA was formed in April 1988 after a merger with the Electronics Industry Association (EIA). That’s why its standards are commonly known as ANSI/TIA/EIA, TIA/EIA, or TIA.

Globally, the organizations that issue standards are the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Standards are often listed as ISO/IEC. Other organizations include the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), CENELEC (European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardizations), and the Japanese Standards Association (JSA/JSI).

The committees of all these organizations work together and the performance requirements of the standards are very similar. But there is some confusion in terminology.

The TIA cabling components (cables, connecting hardware, and patch cords) are labeled with a ”category.” These components together form a permanent link or channel that is also called a ”category.” The ISO/IEC defines the link and channel requirements with a ”class” designation. But the components are called a ”category.”

The standards
Category 5 (CAT5) —ratified in 1991. It is no longer recognized for use in networking.

Category 5e (CAT5e), ISO/IEC 11801 Class D, ratified in 1999, is designed to support full-duplex, 4-pair transmission in 100-MHz applications. The CAT5e standard introduced the measurement for PS-NEXT, EL-FEXT, and PS-ELFEXT. CAT5e is no longer recognized for new installations. It is commonly used for 1-GbE installations.

Category 6 (CAT6) – Class E has a specified frequency of 250 MHz, significantly improved bandwidth capacity over CAT5e, and easily handles Gigabit Ethernet transmissions. CAT6 supports 1000BASE-T and, depending on the installation, 10GBASE-T (10-GbE).

10-GbE over CAT6 introduces Alien Crosstalk (ANEXT), the unwanted coupling of signals between adjacent pairs and cables. Because ANEXT in CAT6 10-GbE networks is so dependent on installation practices, TIA TSB-155-A and ISO/IEC 24750 qualifies 10-GbE over CAT6 over channels of 121 to 180 feet (37 to 55 meters) and requires it to be 100% tested, which is extremely time consuming. To mitigate ANEXT in CAT6, it is recommended that the cables be unbundled, that the space between cables be increased, and that non-adjacent patch panel ports be used. If CAT6 F/UTP cable is used, mitigation is not necessary and the length limits do not apply. CAT6 is not recommended for new 10-GbE installations.

Augmented Category 6 (CAT6A) –Class Ea was ratified in February 2008. This standard calls for 10-Gigabit Ethernet data transmission over a 4-pair copper cabling system up to 100 meters. CAT6A extends CAT6 electrical specifications from 250 MHz to 500 MHz. It introduces the ANEXT requirement. It also replaces the term Equal Level Far-End Crosstalk (ELFEXT) with Attenuation to Crosstalk Ratio, Far-End (ACRF) to mesh with ISO terminology. CAT6A provides improved insertion loss over CAT6. It is a good choice for noisy environments with lots of EMI. CAT6A is also well-suited for use with PoE+.

CAT6A UTP cable is significantly larger than CAT6 cable. It features larger conductors, usually 22 AWG, and is designed with more space between the pairs to minimize ANEXT. The outside diameter of CAT6A cable averages 0.29"–0.35" compared to 0.21"–0.24" for CAT6 cable. This reduces the number of cables you can fit in a conduit. At a 40% fill ratio, you can run three CAT6A cables in a 3/4" conduit vs. five CAT6 cables.

CAT6A UTP vs. F/UTP. Although shielded cable has the reputation of being bigger, bulkier, and more difficult to handle and install than unshielded cable, this is not the case with CAT6A F/UTP cable. It is actually easier to handle, requires less space to maintain proper bend radius, and uses smaller conduits, cable trays, and pathways. CAT6A UTP has a larger outside diameter than CAT6A F/UTP cable. This creates a great difference in the fill rate of cabling pathways. An increase in the outside diameter of 0.1", from 0.25" to 0.35" for example, represents a 21% increase in fill volume. In general, CAT6A F/UTP provides a minimum of 35% more fill capacity than CAT6A UTP. In addition, innovations in connector technology have made terminating CAT6A F/UTP actually easier than terminating bulkier CAT6A UTP.

Category 7 (CAT7) –Class F was published in 2002 by the ISO/IEC. It is not a TIA recognized standard and TIA plans to skip over it.

Category 7 specifies minimum performance standards for fully shielded cable (individually shielded pairs surrounded by an overall shield) transmitting data at rates up to 600 MHz. It comes with one of two connector styles: the standard RJ plug and a non-RJ-style plug and socket interface specified in IEC 61076-2-104:2.

Category 7a (CAT7a) –Class Fa (Amendment 1 and 2 to ISO/IEC 11801, 2nd Ed.) is a fully shielded cable that extends frequency from 600 MHz to 1000 MHz.

Category 8 – The TIA decided to skip Category 7 and 7A and go to Category 8. The TR-42.7 subcommittee is establishing specs for a 40-Gbps twisted-pair solution with a 2-GHz frequency. The proposed standard is for use in a two-point channel in a data center at 30 meters. It is expected to be ratified in February 2016. The TR-42.7 subcommittee is also incorporating ISO/IEC Class II cabling performance criteria into the standard. It is expected to be called TIA-568-C.2-1. The difference between Class I and Class II is that Class II allows for three different styles of connectors that are not compatible with one another or with the RJ-45 connector. Class I uses an RJ-45 connector and is backward compatible with components up to Category 6A. collapse


Black Box Explains...IRQs, COM Ports, and Windows

Windows® 95 normally requires each serial port to have its own unique Interrupt Request Line (IRQ). However, if you use a third-party communications driver that supports IRQ sharing, you can... more/see it nowshare interrupts. Unfortunately, data throughput will not be as high as with single interrupt port configurations.

With Windows NT®, you can share interrupts across multiple ports as long as the serial ports have an Interrupt Status Port (ISP) built into the card.

The Interrupt Service Routine, a software routine that services interrupts and requests processor time, reads the ISP and is immmediately directed to the port that has an interrupt pending. Compared to the polling method used if the serial ports don’t have an ISP, this feature can determine which port generated the interrupt up to four times more efficiently—and it almost eliminates the risk of lost data. Windows NT supports the ISP by enabling the user to configure the registry to match the card’s settings. Black Box models IC102C-R3, IC058C, and IC112C-R3 all have ISPs and come with a Windows NT setup utility to simplify installation and configuration.

If your serial port doesn’t have an ISP, the Interrupt Service Routine has to poll each port separately to determine which port generated the interrupt. collapse


Black Box Explains...Microphone positioning.

Proper microphone positioning is especially important to take advantage of noise canceling microphones, which reject background noise.

For optimum performance, position the microphone one finger width away from your lower lip.


Black Box Explains...SCSI Ultra2 and LVD (Low-Voltage Differential).

Small Computer Systems Interface (SCSI), pronounced “scuzzy,” has been the dominant technology used to connect computers and high-speed peripherals since the 1980s. SCSI technology is constantly evolving to accommodate increased... more/see it nowbandwidth needs. One of the more recent developments is Ultra2 SCSI.

Because Ultra2 SCSI is backward compatible, it works with all legacy equipment. Ultra2 doubles the possible bandwidth on the bus from 40 to 80 MBps! Just as importantly, Ultra2 supports distances up to 12 meters (39.3 ft.) for a multiple-device configuration. Ultra2 uses Low-voltage Differential (LVD) techniques to transfer data at faster rates with fewer errors. Don’t confuse Ultra2 with LVD. Ultra2 is a data-transfer method; LVD is the signaling technique used to transfer the data.

Cables are very important when designing or upgrading a system to take advantage of Ultra2 SCSI. Cables and connectors must be of high quality and they should come from a reputable manufacturer to prevent crosstalk and minimize signal radiation. BLACK BOX® Ultra2 LVD cables are constructed of the finest-quality components to provide your system with the maximum protection and highest possible data-transfer rates. collapse


Black Box Explains...Layer 2, 3, and 4 switches.



...more/see it now
OSI Layer Physical
Component
7-Application Applicaton Software

LAN-Compatible Software
E-Mail, Diagnostics, Word Processing, Database


Network Applications
6-Presentation Data-
Conversion Utilities
Vendor-Specific Network Shells and Gateway™ Workstation Software
5-Session Network Operating System SPX NetBIOS DECnet™ TCP/IP AppleTalk®
4-Transport Novell® NetWare® IPX™ PC LAN LAN Mgr DECnet PC/TCP® VINES™ NFS TOPS® Apple
Share®
3-Network Control
2-Data Link Network E A TR P TR E TR E E E P E P
1-Physical E=Ethernet; TR=Token Ring; A=ARCNET®; P=PhoneNET®

With the rapid development of computer networks over the last decade, high-end switching has become one of the most important functions on a network for moving data efficiently and quickly from one place to another.


Here’s how a switch works: As data passes through the switch, it examines addressing information attached to each data packet. From this information, the switch determines the packet’s destination on the network. It then creates a virtual link to the destination and sends the packet there.


The efficiency and speed of a switch depends on its algorithms, its switching fabric, and its processor. Its complexity is determined by the layer at which the switch operates in the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) Reference Model (see above).


OSI is a layered network design framework that establishes a standard so that devices from different vendors work together. Network addresses are based on this OSI Model and are hierarchical. The more details that are included, the more specific the address becomes and the easier it is to find.


The Layer at which the switch operates is determined by how much addressing detail the switch reads as data passes through.


Switches can also be considered low end or high end. A low-end switch operates in Layer 2 of the OSI Model and can also operate in a combination of Layers 2 and 3. High-end switches operate in Layer 3, Layer 4, or a combination of the two.


Layer 2 Switches (The Data-Link Layer)

Layer 2 switches operate using physical network addresses. Physical addresses, also known as link-layer, hardware, or MAC-layer addresses, identify individual devices. Most hardware devices are permanently assigned this number during the manufacturing process.


Switches operating at Layer 2 are very fast because they’re just sorting physical addresses, but they usually aren’t very smart—that is, they don’t look at the data packet very closely to learn anything more about where it’s headed.


Layer 3 Switches (The Network Layer)

Layer 3 switches use network or IP addresses that identify locations on the network. They read network addresses more closely than Layer 2 switches—they identify network locations as well as the physical device. A location can be a LAN workstation, a location in a computer’s memory, or even a different packet of data traveling through a network.


Switches operating at Layer 3 are smarter than Layer 2 devices and incorporate routing functions to actively calculate the best way to send a packet to its destination. But although they’re smarter, they may not be as fast if their algorithms, fabric, and processor don’t support high speeds.


Layer 4 Switches (The Transport Layer)

Layer 4 of the OSI Model coordinates communications between systems. Layer 4 switches are capable of identifying which application protocols (HTTP, SNTP, FTP, and so forth) are included with each packet, and they use this information to hand off the packet to the appropriate higher-layer software. Layer 4 switches make packet-forwarding decisions based not only on the MAC address and IP address, but also on the application to which a packet belongs.


Because Layer 4 devices enable you to establish priorities for network traffic based on application, you can assign a high priority to packets belonging to vital in-house applications such as Peoplesoft, with different forwarding rules for low-priority packets such as generic HTTP-based Internet traffic.


Layer 4 switches also provide an effective wire-speed security shield for your network because any company- or industry-specific protocols can be confined to only authorized switched ports or users. This security feature is often reinforced with traffic filtering and forwarding features.

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Black Box Explains: M1 connectors.

In 2001, the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) approved the M1 Display Interface System for digital displays. The M1 system is a versatile and convenient system designed for computer displays,... more/see it nowspecifically digital projectors. M1 supports both analog and digital signals.

M1 is basically a modified DVI connector that can support DVI, VGA, USB and IEEE-1394 signals. The single connector replaces multiple connectors on projectors. An M1 cable can also be used to power accessories, such as interface cards for PDAs.

There are three primary types of M1 connectors:
–M1-DA (digital and analog). This is the most common connector, and it supports VGA, USB and DVI signals.
–M1-D (digital) supports DVI signals.
–M1-A (analog) supports VGA signals.

The M1 standard does not cover any signal specifications or detailed connector specifications. 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

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