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Black Box Explains...Optical isolation and ground loops.

Optical isolation protects your equipment from dangerous ground loops. A ground loop is a current across a conductor, created by a difference in potential between two grounded points, as in... more/see it nowequipment in two buildings connected by a run of RS-232 or other data line. When two devices are connected and their potentials are different, voltage flows from high to low by traveling through the data cable. If the voltage potential is large enough, your equipment won’t be able to handle the excess voltage and one of your ports will be damaged.

Ground loops can also exist in industrial environments. They can be created when power is supplied to your equipment from different transformers or when someone simply turns equipment on and off. Ground loops can also occur when there is a nearby lightning strike. During an electrical storm, the ground at one location can be charged differently than the other location, causing a heavy current flow through the serial communication lines that damage components.

You can’t test for ground loops. You don’t know you have one until a vital component fails. Only prevention works. For data communication involving copper cable, optical isolation is key.

With optical isolation, electrical data is converted to an optical beam, then back to an electrical pulse. Because there is no electrical connection between the DTE and DCE sides, an optical isolator— unlike a surge suppressor—will not pass large sustained power surges through to your equipment. Since data only passes through the optical isolator, your equipment is protected against ground loops and other power surges. collapse


Black Box Explains... Buffers

A buffer (also called a spooler or a cache) is a temporary storage device used to share printers and compensate for a difference in speed and data flow between two... more/see it nowdevices. Buffers use RAM (Random-Access Memory) to take in data and hold it until the receiving device handles it.

A buffer serving a computer can be installed either internally or externally. Internal computer buffers are common in the forms of keyboard inputs, data caches, and video memory. An external buffer is usually used for printing.

An external buffer downloads jobs to the printer, freeing the computer so you can get back to work sooner.

A print buffer’s ports can be serial, parallel, or serial and parallel. Because a buffer’s ports operate independently of each other, a buffer also can be made to perform serial-to-parallel or parallel-to-serial conversion or to change the word structure and/or serial data rate (baud rate) of the data.

While most buffers are FIFO (First In, First Out), some advanced units can function as random-access buffers. For most serial buffers, hardware flow control is required, but some also support software (X-ON/X-OFF) control. Most buffers support printing of multiple copies of a document, provided the buffer has enough memory to store the entire print job. collapse


Black Box Explains... Basic Printer Switches

Mechanical—A mechanical switch is operated by a knob or by push buttons and uses a set of copper or gold-plated copper contacts to make a connection. The internal resistance created... more/see it nowby this type of connection will affect your signal’s transmission distance and must be taken into account when calculating cable lengths.

Electronic—Although electronic switches are controlled by knobs and pushbuttons like mechanical switches, the switching is accomplished with electronic gates not mechanical contacts. Electronic switches don’t have the internal resistance of a mechanical switch—some even have the ability to drive signals for longer distances. And since they don’t generate electronic spikes like mechanical switches, they’re safe for sensitive components such as HP® laser printers. Some electronic switches can be operated remotely. collapse


Black Box Explains...DIN rail usage.

DIN rail is an industry-standard metal rail, usually installed inside an electrical enclosure, which serves as a mount for small electrical devices specially designed for use with DIN rails. These... more/see it nowdevices snap right onto the rails, sometimes requiring a set screw, and are then wired together.

Many different devices are available for mounting on DIN rails: terminal blocks, interface converters, media converter switches, repeaters, surge protectors, PLCs, fuses, or power supplies, just to name a few.

DIN rails are a space-saving way to accommodate components. And because DIN rail devices are so easy to install, replace, maintain, and inspect, this is an exceptionally convenient system that has become very popular in recent years.

A standard DIN rail is 35 mm wide with raised-lip edges, its dimensions outlined by the Deutsche Institut für Normung, a German standardization body. Rails are generally available in aluminum or steel and may be cut for installation. Depending on the requirements of the mounted components, the rail may need to be grounded. collapse


Black Box Explains...Selecting fiber line drivers.

When choosing a fiber driver, you should make a power budget, calculate the speed and distance of your cable run, and know the interface requirements of all your devices.

Many of... more/see it nowour fiber drivers are for single-mode fiber optic cable. Compared to multimode fiber, single-mode delivers up to 50 times more distance. And single-mode at full-duplex enables up to two times the data throughput of multimode fiber. collapse


Black Box Explains... Printer Sharing with Windows

Unlike the earlier DOS operating systems, Windows® doesn’t check to see if the printer is busy at the very beginning of the printing process. Windows will send out data to... more/see it nowstart a job even if the printer is signaling busy or unavailable. If your print sharer doesn’t have a buffer, critical printer-initialization information can be lost before your job is started. Once the initialization information is lost, the printer cannot interpret the job correctly.

A buffered print-sharing device is the most practical solution. When Windows starts printing to a buffered port, it “thinks“ it’s talking directly to the printer, and the critical initialization information is stored by the buffer. The buffer can send out a busy signal to Windows, so it delays sending more information until the buffer is accessible again. collapse


Black Box Explains...T1 and E1.

If you manage a heavy-traffic data network and demand high bandwidth for high speeds, you need digital super-fast T1 or E1.

Both T1 and E1 are foundations of global communications. Developed... more/see it nowmore than 35 years ago and commercially available since 1983, T1 and E1 go virtually anywhere phone lines go, but they’re much faster. T1, used primarily in the U.S., sends data up to 1.544 Mbps; E1, used primarily in Europe, supports speeds to 2.048 Mbps. No matter where you need to connect—North, South, or Central America, Europe, or the Pacific Rim—T1 and E1 can get your data there fast!

T1 and E1 are versatile, too. Drive a private, point-to-point line; provide corporate access to the Internet; enable inbound access to your Web Server—even support a voice/data/fax/video WAN that extends halfway around the world! T1 and E1 are typically used for:
• Accessing public Frame Relay networks or Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTNs) for voice or fax.
• Merging voice and data traffic. A single T1 or E1 line can support voice and data simultaneously.
• Making super-fast LAN connections. Today’s faster Ethernet speeds require the very high throughput provided by one or more T1 or E1 lines.
• Sending bandwidth-intensive data such as CAD/CAM, MRI, CAT-scan images, and other large files.

Scaling T1
Basic T1 service supplies a bandwidth of 1.536 Mbps. However, many of today’s applications demand much more bandwidth. Or perhaps you only need a portion of the 1.536 Mbps that T1 supplies. One of T1’s best features is that it can be scaled up or down to provide just the right amount of bandwidth for any application.

A T1 channel consists of 24 64-kbps DS0 (Digital Signal [Zero]) subchannels that combine to provide 1.536 Mbps throughput. Because they enable you to combine T1 lines or to use only part of a T1, DS0s make T1 a very flexible standard.

If you don’t need 1.536 Mbps, your T1 service provider can rent you a portion of a T1 line, called Fractional T1. For instance, you can contract for half a T1 line—768 kbps—and get the use of DS0s 1–12. The service provider is then free to sell DS0s 13–24 to another customer.

If you require more than 1.536 Mbps, two or more T1 lines can be combined to provide very-high-speed throughput. The next step up from T1 is T1C; it offers two T1 lines multiplexed together for a total throughput of 3.152 on 48 DS0s. Or consider T2 and get 6.312 Mbps over 96 DS0s by multiplexing four T1 lines together to form one high-speed connection.

Moving up the scale of high-speed T1 services is T3. T3 is 28 T1 lines multiplexed together for a blazing throughput of 44.736 Mbps, consisting of 672 DS0s, each of which supports 64 kbps.

Finally there’s T4. It consists of 4032 64-kbps DS0 subchannels for a whopping 274.176 Mbps of bandwidth—that’s 168 times the size of a single T1 line!

These various levels of T1 service can by implemented simulta-neously within a large enterprise network. Of course, this has the potential to become somewhat overwhelming from a management standpoint. But as long as you keep track of DS0s, you always know exactly how much bandwidth you have at your disposal.

T1’s cousin, E1, can also have multiple lines merged to provide greater throughput. collapse


Black Box Explains...USB 2.0 and USB OTG.

The Universal Serial Bus (USB) hardware (plug-and-play) standard makes connecting peripherals to your computer easy.

USB 1.1, introduced in 1995, is the original USB standard. It has two data rates:... more/see it now12 Mbps for devices such as disk drives that need high-speed throughput and 1.5 Mbps for devices such as joysticks that need much lower bandwidth.

In 2002, a newer specification, USB 2.0, or Hi-Speed USB 2.0, gained wide acceptance in the industry. This version is both forward- and backward-compatible with USB 1.1. It increases the speed of the peripheral to PC connection from 12 Mbps to 480 Mbps, or 40 times faster than USB 1.1!

This increase in bandwidth enhances the use of external peripherals that require high throughput, such as CD/DVD burners, scanners, digital cameras, video equipment, and more. USB 2.0 supports demanding applications, such as Web publishing, in which multiple high-speed devices run simultaneously. USB 2.0 also supports Windows® XP through a Windows update.

An even newer USB standard, USB On-The-Go (OTG), is also in development. USB OTG enables devices other than a PC to act as a host. It enables portable equipment—such as PDAs, cell phones, digital cameras, and digital music players—to connect to each other without the need for a PC host.

USB 2.0 specifies three types of connectors: the A connector, the B connector, and the Mini B connector. A fourth type of connector, the Mini A (used for smaller peripherals such as mobile phones), was developed as part of the USB OTG specification. collapse


Black Box Explains...DIN rail.

DIN rail is an industry-standard metal rail, usually installed inside an electrical enclosure, which serves as a mount for small electrical devices specially designed for use with DIN rails. These... more/see it nowdevices snap right onto the rails, sometimes requiring a set screw, and are then wired together.

Many different devices are available for mounting on DIN rails: terminal blocks, interface converters, media converter switches, repeaters, surge protectors, PLCs, fuses, or power supplies, just to name a few.

DIN rails are a space-saving way to accommodate components. And because DIN rail devices are so easy to install, replace, maintain, and inspect, this is an exceptionally convenient system that has become very popular in recent years.

A standard DIN rail is 35 mm wide with raised-lip edges, its dimensions outlined by the Deutsche Institut für Normung, a German standardization body. Rails are generally available in aluminum or steel and may be cut for installation. Depending on the requirements of the mounted components, the rail may need to be grounded. collapse


Black Box Explains...Advanced printer switches.

Matrix—A matrix switch is a switch with a keypad for selecting one of many input ports to connect to any one of many output ports.

Port-Contention—A port-contention switch is an... more/see it nowautomatic electronic switch that can be serial or parallel. It has multiple input ports but only one output port. The switch monitors all ports simultaneously. When a port receives data, it prints and all the other ports have to wait.

Scanning—A scanning switch is like a port-contention switch, but it scans ports one at a time to find one that’s sending data.

Code-Operated—Code-operated switches receive a code (data string) from a PC or terminal to select a port.

Matrix Code-Operated—This matrix version of the code-operated switch can be an any-port to any-port switch. This means than any port on the switch can attach to any other port or any two or more ports can make a simultaneous link and transfer data. collapse

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