Wireless Home Networking Game Programming

Ethernet Networking







Ethernet Materials / Tools

10BaseT/100BaseT Ethernet Materials

The following Ethernet materials are listed in order from when an Ethernet connection starts at a computer's Network Interface Card and follows until it reaches an Ethernet hub.

Network Interface Card (NIC)

This is the peripheral card that you plug into a slot (ISA or PCI) inside your computer. This card connects your computer to the Ethernet network and allows it to communicate on it. Cards may be BNC and or TP. BNC uses coaxial cable, whereas TP, twisted pair uses cat 3 or cat 5 cable. In addition to ISA or PCI cards for desktops, external NIC's can be purchased that plug into a USB port. For notebook computers, PCMCIA Ethernet cards can be used.

Patch Cable

A patch cable is a cable that connects two jacks together. This would be the jack on the network interface card and the jack in the wall plate. These cables come in a variety of colors to suit your needs and blend into the environment, if so desired. Each cable has 2 plugs, one on each end.

Wall Plate

A wall plate is the plate that is put on the wall that covers an electrical box. In the wall plate, there are cutout rectangular areas where "keystone" jacks may be inserted. This modular design allows easy changing from RJ45, for Ethernet, to RJ11, for phone.

RJ45 Jack

An RJ45 jack is a receptacle for RJ45 plugs (patch cables). These"keystone" jacks are snapped into places in the wall plate. The jacks are connected to bulk cabling by a punch down tool.

Bulk Cable

Bulk cable is used to connect wall plates to the patch panel. It comes in spools of 250', 500', 1000', and 5000'. There are 3 types of bulk cable: solid, stranded, and plenum. Solid cable is better for data transmission, and thus it should be used between the wall plate's RJ45 jack and the central patch panel. Stranded cable, on the other hand, doesn't transmit as well as solid, but has the benefit of flexibility. This type should be used for making your own patch cables. Lastly, plenum cable shall be used if the cable will be going through air ducts. In case of fire, plenum cable doesn't release toxic fumes into the air. Thus, there are building regulations mandating its use.

One visitor corrected me on the definition of plenum cable:
Actually a plenum is the area between a false ceiling and the true one in most commercial building and is used to circulate heating and cooling air. It's called plenum or the plenum space. Plenum-based cable's purpose is not the fact that it is more resistant to fire, but the fact that when burnt, it does not emit toxic fumes into the air.

Patch Panel

A patch panel consists of a board-like structure that allows keystone RJ45 jacks to be inserted, allowing the bulk cable leads to connect. A patch panel organizes all the cables and makes them easier to manage. Often times, the area where the patch panel is located is called the "wiring closet."

Patch Cables

Same as patch cables mentioned above, although cables used in the wiring closet tend to be shorter because they need only connect to the hub/switch nearby.

Ethernet Hub/Switch/Router/Bridge

A hub is where all the patch cables coming off the patch panel come together. Each patch cable is connected to a separate port on a networking device. Sometimes hubs will include a BNC or Twisted Pair uplink port to allow them to connect to other hub, without adding another network segment. Hubs with this feature are often called "stackable."

Ethernet Tools

Punchdown Tool

A punchdown tool is used to terminate the wires in a jack. Unless you plan on doing a lot of these, you don't need an actual punchdown tool (even the cheapest punchdown tools cost about $70). For less than $10 you can get a little black piece of plastic called a "pushdown tool" that has the cutouts for being a punchdown tool. The only difference between this and a real punchdown tool is that this doesn't have blades for cutting the wire. Also, a real punchdown tool has adjustable springs that prevent you from damaging the patch panel or wall jack by applying too much force.

One visitor pointed out that Radioshack sells a pushdown tool for $5:

"Radioshack sells a plastic and metal pushdown tool for about $5.00 that has a metal stab that pushes the wire into the terminal, with a molded plastic stop surrounded this metal stab so that you can't push it too far, and it has a blade for stripping the outer jacket of an assortment of outer jacket diameters. If used properly this tool will last a very long time. I prefer it to the spring loaded because it is much smaller, much less weight, much cheaper, does two jobs (stripping and punchdown), can be carried on a key-ring, and you can "feel" the wire being pushed into the terminal. It does not trim the excess wire as the wire is terminated, but every person working with wire is going to have some type of diagonal wire cutters with them to trim the excess wire." -Michael Shreve


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