A Guide to Future Proofing: Part 1

“Future proof” is a buzzword commonly used to describe a product or service that won’t need modification as technology evolves. However, even the newest, most up to date electronic devices aren’t future proofed.

Think of your smartphone, for example. Planned obsolescence tells us that a new iPhone generation will be released every fall, with more features than the next. After a while, usually about two years, your smartphone probably won’t function as well as it used to, and you’ll have to purchase another one.

For hospitals, technology tends to be a huge barrier. A survey of 4,000 Chief Nursing Officers found that 14% of respondents believe a lack of tech support is their main problem, while seven percent reported that outdated hardware was.

In any field that is heavily reliant on technology, regular updating of systems and equipment is relatively normal and to be expected every few years.

There are exceptions, however. The cloud, for example, is considered future proof as of yet. As a non-tangible service, any updates or changes to the system would be unbeknownst to the users and all data is transferred seamlessly. Since the introduction of the cloud, there have been no groundbreaking changes that have transformed how it’s utilized or accessed.

But if an upgrade is necessary, there’s no avoiding it. Again, as technology continues to advance, we will need to accommodate.

When it comes to hardware, like cables, future proofing is hard to achieve, but it is not impossible. At least in the short-term, it’s possible to plan ahead for future updates.

For example. if you installed a home or business network back in 2010, you may have been swayed to opt for the new cat6 Ethernet cables in place of cat5e network cables.

Short runs of Cat6 cables can support a significantly faster network than cat5e cables, but they’re also backward compatible. You can still utilize your older network hardware with these newer cable versions without replacing everything.

Tech-savvy people love to talk about future proofing, but the reality is that no one really knows where technology will take us in a few years. We can only plan ahead so far, but it is certainly possible to prepare for the next few years ahead.

Mega Category Madness

A funny thing happened in network cabling sometime in the last, oh heck I can’t recall exactly when. We had a marketing genius take over for the fine folks at the Telecommunications Industry Association(TIA). Apparently these fine, highly qualified and educated folks, (some rumored to be actual electrical engineers), were not making new standards fast enough for our intrepid marketer! In case you detect an edge in my voice, you would be correct. What, you may ask, has gotten my glasses all foggy?

To be honest I am pretty tired of hearing, “The other guy’s cable says 350 MHz; why doesn’t yours?”

Sometimes, in my more sarcastic moments, I find myself thinking: “To heck with it lets put fuzzy bunnies on the darn boxes and cables and call it good.” Yes I am being extremely sarcastic. Extra sauce today if you will. However, there is merit to this rant. A Category 5e cable labelled 350 MHz is worth no more than one labelled 100 MHz. And so long as our fuzzy bunny cable is tested through 100 MHz, it might be worth more than both because it costs more to print fuzzy bunnies on boxes and cables.

Hopefully by now I have a little bit of your attention. Above I mention TIA, those funny people who decide what exactly is a category cable. These fine folks came together, probably argued and fought, and eventually settled on a standard and published it. The standard is TIA/EIA-568, with the most current revision being C. In truth the standards define a lot of physical properties. Some are of the overtly physical variety, and some are more like physics, or electrical properties to narrow down. In there, one finds specifications about these megahertz thingies and different categories.

  • Cat5e – 100 MHz
  • Cat6 – 250 MHz
  • Cat6a – 500 MHz

When the folks at TIA release such standards they define target/acceptable parameters across a range that begins somewhere near zero and persists through the numbers above for a given cat cable. They very clearly list acceptable loss values, in decibels, for the entire frequency range. Companies like Fluke use these standards to design and program their network testers. Other companies like Intel, HP or Broadcom use these standards to design their network hardware.

So, the standards that we are supposed to follow in order to be allowed to call a cable Category 5e, 6 or 6a are also the standards to which the hardware makers also adhere. That being said, if you were Fluke, would you spend money making sure a network tester tested outside of industry standards? If all the hardware vendors build to these specifications, how exactly does performing outside of them benefit you? For that matter how on Earth does one certify a cable is good to an imaginary standard that no real tester even entertains? Cat5e’s electrical properties are defined up to 100 MHz. End of discussion. To see a higher MHz defined, one must change Categories to 6 at which point why not just call it a Cat6 cable? They are worth more money. The same can be said for Cat6 vs Cat6a.

If you were in business, why would you sell an entire product category for significantly less than it was worth?

Oxygen Free Copper. What is it?

Cables are boring; there, I said it. So how does one market something that is inherently not that exciting? I grew up deep into computers, networks and programming. I can remember the birth of so many interesting things that cables have facilitated, but I can never recall coming home shouting about a C13 to NEMA 5-15P. Okay, I admit, even us geeks would call this a computer power cord. So how does one go about making these things interesting? And what is really important?

One of the biggest, annoyingly brilliant deals in copper cables was to declare a cable has oxygen free copper (OFC). This is genius because one takes a simple term most didn’t think was worth mentioning and it becomes some marketing juggernaut. Hey, In most cases we say it too. Copper cables are oxygen free. So what exactly is going on there?

Copper is a base element (Cu on the periodic table). So how does copper get oxygen? Well it’s not like we mine pure copper from the ground. There are impurities in the ore itself. We also introduce impurities when we refine the copper ore. Typically some oxygen gets into the mix at the refinement stage. Depending on the requirements of the final product, the refinement methods and process can vary.

C10100 (trade name: Oxygen-Free-Electronic) the final portion of it’s process occurs in an airspace devoid of oxygen with rules so stringent even silver is considered an impurity. Keep in mind this stuff is going into places like vacuums inside a particle accelerator or a CPU where any impurity can matter. I think this might be overkill for speaker wire. Maybe I am wrong though, it does have a 101% IACS conductivity rating. Wait, is this like giving 110% of oneself? I love giving more than all

C10200 (trade name: Oxygen-Free) differs in that silver is not considered an impurity and it can have more oxygen, by a power of 50 which means very little when it’s 0.0005% vs 0.001% and we are using it for speakers…

C11000, is called Electrolytic-Tough-Pitch (ETP), relaxes the rules even further. It typically can equal more than all in conductivity as well. This is the copper that finds itself all over normal applications. (Shut up, a particle accelerator is not normal!) Most of what is out there and marketed as oxygen free copper is this stuff here. I am sure that there are some cables out there which are made with C10200 and there always will be because some people will buy them just like people keep thinking a Cat5e cable marketed as 250MHz is better than 100MHz. Side note on a completely different rant if that 250MHz Cat5e was so amazing they would have printed Cat6 on the packaging and jacked the price…. (Though I think I might be due a rant on this so we’ll see.)

What really matters is that your cables, wires and cords that should be copper are indeed copper, not aluminum, and that they are uniformly and well constructed. You need to choose a cable that is of the correct materials and size for the intended use. If you are unsure about the gauge you need for a 100 foot run delivering 100 watts to a two way in your garden, don’t fret we have Tech Support to help you out.


sources:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen-free_copper
alloys.copper.org/alloy/C10100
alloys.copper.org/alloy/C10200
alloys.copper.org/alloy/C11000

HDMI: The 1.0 Generation

HDMI: The 1.0 Generation Explained


When HDMI cables first hit the market in 2002, they forever changed the way home consumers could transport digital audio and video signals between remote signals. The days of analog were officially over, and our new digital realm was firmly in place.

Since then, HDMI standards have gone through a series of upgrades and changes. Yet some things remain the same: 90% of HDMI connectors used in the HiFi world, for example, are still the 13.9mm Type A.

Yet today, HDMI cables are capable of transferring video signals anywhere from 480i to 4K resolution. While every individual manufacturer will determine the parameters for their HDMI components, the official HDMI specifications have progressed significantly with each new standard iteration.

In the beginning, there was the HDMI 1.0. This revolutionary single cable combined a two-channel audio signal with a digital video signal of standard and high-definition capabilities. Commonly, they were used to connect HDMI-equipped DVD players and television screens.

Then came the HDMI 1.1. This added additional audio features to the two-channel system, including surround signals for Dolby Digital, DTS, DVD-Audio, and up to 7.1 PCM channels.

The HDMI 1.2 arrived in 2005 and included support for one-bit audio processing and Direct-Stream Digital (DSD) for Super Audio CDs, both of which in turn helped make HDMI cables better suited for PC connections.

New technologies during this time, such as HD display, Deep Color, and higher resolutions and frame rates, demanded more bandwidth from HDMI cables. The 1.3 standards introduced speeds up to 340MHz/10.2Gbps to support these developing advancements.

HDMI 1.4 was released in 2009, the final iteration of the 1.0 generation. These standards were designed specifically with Blu-ray technology in mind, with the ability to pass two simultaneous 1080p signals on one connector.

When the HDMI 2.0 arrived in 2013, it brought with it a slew of changes and improvements. While the details of the forthcoming 2.1 are still under wraps, HDMI standards will be sure to advance and evolve for as long as technology allows.

Understanding the difference between USB 2.0, USB 3.0, A and B-Type, and More

Does this sound like a familiar situation?

You need to connect to a printer, camera, or cellphone, but you can’t find a USB cable. You frantically search through your cupboards, drawers and bags, untangling the wires as you go. Once you finally come across a USB cable, you try plug it in, only to realize that the connector just doesn’t fit.

We’ve all been there. The reality is that not all USB cables are created equal. While you might not have realized it, you probably found USB 2.0 printer cables with a Type B connector, when what you needed was a Mini-B connector or vice versa.

So how can you tell the difference and learn which cables connect to what? Here’s a quick guide to figuring out the difference between all of the cables you have in your arsenal.

First things first, there are two different type of connectors: male and female. This applies to all cables, as well as other connectors and fasteners. The male connector fits inside the device. For an iPhone charger, the end that plugs into your laptop or brick is the male connector. A female connector is often referred to as the port. It is where the male connector plugs in. That makes the USB ports on your laptop all female.

Next, what is a USB cord anyway?

It stands for Universal Serial Bus, which was developed in the 1990s as an industry standard. This defines the cables, connectors, and communication protocols that facilitate communications and power delivery between computers and/or electronic devices. As time has gone on, the USB standard has evolved to become more efficient and adoption among device manufacturers so wide spread as to make it ubiquitous.

More recent specifications.

USB 2.0: The USB 2.0 specification was released in 2000 and increased the amount of bandwidth from 12 Mbit/s to 480 Mbit/s (Megabits per second).

USB 3.0: In 2008, USB 3.0 was released. This new specification introduced more bandwidth for transferring data, an increase in power output to improve charging and powering of devices and more robust power management. USB 3.0 cables are compatible with USB 2.0 devices, but the performance of these connections is only as fast as it would be at 2.0 level.

Plugs, Connectors and Ports oh my!

USB A-Type: This is the standard rectangular female port found on computers and other devices.

USB B-Type: Most USB 2.0 printer cables, scanner cables and some external hard drive cables are B-type connectors. They are small and square.

USB C-Type: These are the newest USB connectors on the market. They have a symmetrical design that eliminates that age old orientation annoyance when plugging in a USB cable. You are most likely to see the C connector on the device side for now as most computers are sticking with Type-A ports. This excludes the latest Macbook Pro which sports Thunderbolt 3 ports, designed by Intel, which happen to support USB C. You will find plenty of USB A to USB C cables that work on both USB 2.0 and 3.0. Just be mindful that charging rates will ultimately be limited by the USB version.

Micro USB B-Type: Until the C connector becomes more utilized, this is likely the connector that people associate the most with USB. Micro USB B-Type is found on phones, tablets, external drive cages, some cameras, and many more devices. Due to its small dimensions and relatively cheap licensing, this connector/port is all over the place and unlikely to go away any time soon.

USB Mini-b (5-pin): If you’ve rummaged across a USB cable slightly too big to fit your cell phone, it may be a Mini-b 5 pin. This is found on digital cameras, GPS units, some DV cams, external drive enclosures and similar hardware. This connector is slowly being phased out in favor of the Micro USB B-Type.

USB Mini-b (4-pin): This connector made the rounds some time ago and probably didn’t need to exist. However, given that it did exist on quite a few cameras and smaller devices, we will reference it. Smaller even than the Mini-B 5 pin, the Mini-B 4 pin was also replaced by the newer Micro USB type B.

If you’re struggling to find a USB 2.0 printer cable, cell phone charger cable, GPS cable adapter, or anything else, buy a brand new one from CableWholesale today!

Cleaning Up Cord Clutter

Cleaning Up Cord Clutter


Managing the clutter in your home can be quite the task, especially seeing as how the average household in the U.S. contains over 300,000 items.

In the modern age, much of that clutter stems from electronic devices. Case in point, many American homes have more television sets than people — each of which is left on for an average eight hours and 14 minutes every day, or one-third of the time.

Do you remember the last time you misplaced the TV remote? Some people lose up to nine items every day, or 198,743 over the course of a lifetime. And those minutes we spend searching for misplaced items can add up. On average, we’ll spend 3,680 hours — 153 days, total — looking for the items we lose.

Organization is the trick to not losing things. If your TV is mounted up close to a wall or the back of an entertainment center, for instance, you might consider investing in some 90-degree or swivel couplers for your HDMI hookups. This also helps reduce stress on the neck of the cables, as they’re forced down by gravity, which will help them last longer.

Another key tip for better cable organization is bundling. Use a simple zip tie or hair binder to group together individual cables that run together to lessen the clutter behind your entertainment system or computer desk.

If you want cable clutter out of sight altogether, you might also try installing an undermount basket or bracket right on the underside of your desk. IKEA sells the Signum for just this purpose, and for only $10.

The best time to take control of your cable organization is when you’re first installing or replacing an old system. When you do so, consider using a color-coded system so that you can tell on sight which cable is connected to which device behind your TV. Added bonus: colored cables in red, blue, or yellow are often less expensive than black or white cables, too. You’ll not only save some money, you’ll also help preserve at least a little bit more of your sanity.