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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Basic Lan Concepts

Basic Notes on Lan:

  1. LAN cables are generically called UTP (Unshielded Twisted Pair) and are identified with a category rating. When installing new cable, unless there is a very good reason not to, you should be using category 5, 5e or 6 UTP which is rated for both 10 and 100mb LAN operation.

  2. UTP comes in two forms SOLID or STRANDED. SOLID refers to the fact that each internal conductor is made up of a single (solid!) wire, STRANDED means that each conductor is made up of multiple smaller wires. Stranded cable (which is typically more expensive) has a smaller 'bend- radius' (you can squeeze the cable round tighter corners with lower loss) and due to its flexibility should be used where you plug and unplug the cable frequently. All other things being equal the performance of both types of cable is the same. In general, solid cable is used for backbone wiring and stranded for PC to wall plug (patch) cables. Beware: Each type of wire, solid or stranded, needs its own connector type.

  3. There is NO excuse with all the choice of color cable and other techniques available to-day for not being able to visually spot the difference between at least a straight and a crossed cable before you spend 1 hour fitting the wrong cable into your network. For cheap-skates (which includes us) you can get heat-shrink colour tubing in a slew of colours which you fit on each end of the cable beside the connector to indicate the wiring type and standard instead of using different coloured cables. The advantage of this scheme is that when you change your wiring standard you can just change the sleeve colour - you don't have to rip out the cable. Disadvantage: You have to remember to put the tubing on BEFORE the connector!

  4. You CAN use 100base-TX wiring with a 10base-T network (but not always the other way round). In general ALWAYS use 100baseTX/T4 wiring standards.

  5. If you are using category 5, 5e or 6 wiring EVERYWHERE you can use the 100base-TX standard (this only uses 2 pairs , 4 conductors). Most of the information below assumes you are using category 5, 5e or 6 cables.

  6. If you are using category 3 or 4 cables with 100M LANs ANYWHERE you MUST use the 100Base-T4 standard and this has ADDITIONAL RESTRICTIONS documented throughout (it uses all 4 pairs, 8 conductors). LAN connections/pinouts are defined by IEEE 802.3u.

  7. Maximum LAN cable runs are 100 meters (~300ft).

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