Tag Archives: sorts

Snagless RJ45 connectors – How To Make Network Cables Snagless

Patch Panel

Snagless RJ45 Connectors – the Odd Request

Snagless RJ45 connectors are that odd request that my department makes from time to time. Why do you need RJ45 connectors anyway, it’s the invariable answer from supervisors, and the typical reminder: “You have all sorts of patchcords, all dimensions…” Well, first of all, we sysadmins never have all the patchcords dimensions available. The IT racks should be something that should be kept as tidy as possible, and one way is to have custom length of the patchcords.

Depending on your infrastructure, you might want or might not want to use handmade patchcords in your racks; however, in many cases this is totally acceptable. You can probably make a Cat 5 patchcord, but you won’t be able to make a Cat 6 one. In other words your hand made patchcords will be able to run at Gigabit speeds, but not at 10 Gigabit speeds, even with the proper connectors and cables. Having said that, most of the equipment in a business server room is connected into a Gigabit switch or at lower speeds, so this would not be a problem.

Custom Patchcords – Always Broken Lokcing Tabs

The major problem with all the handmade Ethernet patchcords and cables is that the locking tab is breaking. I probably don’t have to explain why broken tabs are bad; they will not be secured into the equipment’s jack, resulting in intermittent data loss, or even disconnection.

There are two reasons for the locking tabs breaking so often. Firstly, the little locking tab is very fragile, and we can’t change that, it is fragile to keep the costs down. The other reason is the design, the locking tab sticks out, and it is very easy to get snagged and broken off. All store-bought cables come with a snagless boot; it’s the standard these days. All the cables with broken locking tabs don’t have the boots, because they are terminated in place, by either a datacom tech, or an admin.

These plugs from Panduit are the best snagless RJ45 connectors.

The connectors are meant for patch cords, and they are rated as providing Category 5e performance.

The patented tangle-free plug latch prevents snags, hence breaking.

They are easy release, unlike some snagless boots, and they save time on frequent moves, adds, and changes.

The design facilitates easy insertion and termination of wires

What Is the Solution for Broken RJ45 Connectors

One of the solutions to fix the snagging network cables is to install a "snagless" boot over the cable, before crimping the connector. After crimping, just push the boot over the connector and the boot will protect the little tab.

My preferred way to fix this is to use snagless RJ45 connectors, and a boot. This ensures the plug will not break ever, unless you purposely do it. You can also use just the snagless connectors, they are very good, and I do it very often, but if I have both the snagless connectors and the snagless boots, I will use both for optimization. The snagless plugs are slightly more expensive than the regular ones, but when you draw the line, and consider the troubleshooting needed on the long term, and the fact that sooner or later those RJ45 connectors will break and will need to be replaced, the additional cost is worth paying.

Like I already mentioned before, with the low prices for commercial made patchcords, and the quality ensured by a machine made ethernet cable, there is no need to make your own, it's just not practical.

This cables are made in a commercial facility, they are tested, and they come in a variety of lengths, just choose the one that is right for you. You can even get  to choose the color, so you can color code your patch panel connections, so everything looks tidy, and easy to follow.

How to Troubleshoot Internet Connection Speed

Who didn’t have problems with the Internet speed at least once? OK, many of us, but as an IT professional I always meet and talk to the people who did have problems with their Internet Speed.
I hate to be run through standard procedure, which by the way I know by hearth, (I used to work in an ISP call center). You probably hate it too. If your problem is the Internet connection you will probably have to talk to an agent anyway, but, (with the help of my article), you will know from the start what’s wrong with your Internet connection.

Step 0 – Never Assume

First think I have learned in the Call Center was to never assume. Many times, when people call the Help Line they have a “pretty good idea” of what’s the problem. Usually they are wrong. Don’t do this mistake, do not presume or, do not presume without checking the facts. We hate the Call centers for making us do stupid things, check things that we don’t need to. The truth is that in most of the cases we overlook things and going by the book helps.
When we open up a browser and there is an error message “Page not found” we immediately assume that the connection is to blame. In fact many times this is just a temporary problem of our home page site. Try a different address to see if the connections is down or the home pages’s website is down. Try google.com for instance or ibm.com, or bing.com; if these don’t work it could be the connection

Step 1 – Try a reboot

Almost every time a reboot solves the problem. This might sound anecdotic but it actually works in many cases. Reboot the computer, reboot the modem, reboot the router behind the modem.

Isolate the problem
First of all we need to know that the problem is not in the network.

  • Use a computer that you are sure is not infected by any Mallware. Connect it directly to the DSL device, cable modem, or other type of modem.
  • Do not use the wireless; connect the computer with a network cable. This way you are testing the connection and nothing else.
  • As already mentioned, you need to make sure your computer works fine and is not infected. Use antivirus and antispyware if needed.
  • If you are not sure about the health of your computer you can always boot from a Live Linux CD. On the Live CD you will have a browser and other useful tools.
  • Once the system is up and you are connected to the Internet, test your connection with one of the free online services. Google-it and you will find many online DSL speed test websites. If the speed is OK then, the problem is in your computer, or your network, go to step 4.
  • Step 2 – Modem troubleshoot

    If the DSL speed test failed, (no connection or slow speed), you have a few things to try before calling the ISP
    Usually, for a DSL connection, the telephone line is shared with another device, a fax or a phone. Some of us have a separate line for DSL or they don’t even have a phone line, they only have a dry loop. If you don’t understand any of these you most likely don’t have it.

  • If you share the DSL line with another device you need to connect this second device through a DSL filter. I must stress: EVEN IF IT WORKED before without it, you must have the filter.
    DO NOT run the DSL line through a filter, you’ll only break your Internet Connection, only the phone or the fax, or Credit Card processing device, etc…
  • Check all the physical connections of the Modem Device, R6 or RJ11 or the RJ45 connectors and make sure that they are tight they don’t have the locking pins broken, etc…
  • For a DSL connection the length of the phone cable could be critical, so use the original cable, (the short one), provided with the modem at least for the testing period. The reason is because the length of the pair from the CO to your place can be at its length limits, it happens more often than you think. If you pass this limit your connection stability will be penalized. Another reason is because a long cable is more difficult to examine for defects than a short one.
    If needed, use a longer network cable to connect a device in the house. The network cable, (UTP – unshielded twisted pair), can go up to 100m (300 feet).
  • Some electric devices can interfere with the modem; avoid placing it near such devices.
  • Look at the modem’s lights. If the DSL light is off there is no service.
  • If there is no connection at all, (No DSL light), check the phone to see if you have a dial tone.
  • If the modem connects to a separate wall jack bring a phone and check if you have a dial tone, you might have a dial tone in the bedroom and not in the office.
  • Similarly check if there is TV service, if there is no TV service then most likely it is a bigger problem at your cable provider.
  • Look for the DSL filter as described above.
  • Check the LAN light on the modem. If the LAN LED is off your computer’s network adapter might be defective, or disabled, or the UTP cable that connects the computer with the modem might be defective. There is a chance that the modem’s LAN interface is defective.
  • If you have a solid DSL light, (check the modem’s manual, manufacturers have different signalling for established DSL connection), and you don’t have a connection check the password for the connection.
  • Step 3 – Connect to Your Modem’s Administration Interface

    All of the modern modems have a WEB Administration Interface. The admin Interface is usually accessible via a WEB browser. It lets you configure the authentication and other different settings.
    In order to administrate your modem you need the following:

  • The administrator’s password to access your router. If you don’t have it you can perform a hardware reset using the reset button located on the modem. You need to use a pin to press the button. This will reset all of your modem’s setting, including the admin password, to the factory defaults.
  • The IP address of the router. If the modem has its DHCP server started, (by default yes), it will lease your computer an IP address and provide it with other IP configuration settings such as: “Default Gateway”, netmask, and DNS. The important part is the gateway’s IP address as this is your modem’s internal interface and this is what you need to access your router’s web Interface. You can find all of this information by issuing the following command in a command prompt window with elevated rights, (admin credentials):
    ipconfig /all
    After issuing the command you will get a screen similar to this one. Note that the “Default Gateway” is the address of your modem.
    IPCONFIG
    In a web browser type: http://IPADDRESS where IPADDRES is your router.
    For instance if your router’s (gateway) IP address is 192.168.200.1 the address you are looking for is: http://192.168.200.1.
  • Once connected to the web interface you need to enter the authentication details. If you don’t have them you have to call your ISP which will make a reset after security verification.
  • If all of the previous steps did not solve the problem call your ISP. They might ask you to redo all of the steps above and maybe more. Be patient, they are just doing their job, they never assume, or they shouldn’t. The second they let themselves drawn into your speculation they make the same mistake as you do.

    Step 4 – Correct the problems behind the modem

    If the connection is OK the problem is behind the modem. This problem could be anything in your network.
    Some suggestions are:
    The router – many times the router can slow down your network. Try a reboot. If that doesn’t work try another model or another manufacturer. Do an upgrade of the firmware. Check the router’s configuration and try a default stripped down configuration.
    The computer – most of the times, the slow performance over Internet is actually the poor performance of a computer. This is a dense material that is treated in a separate article which you can find here: How to Refresh your Computer speed (coming soon).
    The network – many times a poor network will penalize al sorts of network traffic not only Internet. This makes the subject of another article here: How to Troubleshoot Your LAN, (Local Area Network). (coming soon)

    Ask me any technical question in the comments area so I can update the document or answer you directly on the comments. I would like to make this article as useful as possible.

    Chain Letters and Spam Email

    Email Chain letters are one of the sneakiest and devious ways of SPAM. I consider them a particular case of social engineering.

    Chain Letters Target Human Weakness and the Lack of Information.

    Even though chain letters come always from your friends, and they look like their purpose is to spread “peace on Earth” or to give you an insightful perspective of life, or ask you to help someone in need, their purpose is Spamming.
    You can recognize this by the encouragement to forward the message to your friends or to close the email circle or anything similar. Some of you came here as a result of my SPAM, (I apologize, I had to…).
    Sometimes the spammer will go as far as threatening you to send to your friends or else something bad will happen. All of these are various sorts of psychological exploitation. They target human weakness and lack of knowledge.
    Most of the times chain letters contain false, misleading, frightening, or foolish messages, Urban Legends, Virus Hoaxes. The Chain Letter has evolved now and it is more subtle nonetheless dangerous. It uses “good luck” promises, “missionary” messages, or even true philosophical dissertations.
    No matter what is the method of persuasion, all the chain letters will convince you to send the letter to other people. It is very convincing and it targets human flaws. I am not an easy to scare person but I can remember myself in at least on occasion getting chills up my spine while reading the blackmail at the end of the email. Human brain is easily influenced, once the message read you will start, unconsciously, to act upon validating the prediction. It is a process similar to Hypnosis.
    Best way to avoid such events is to delete the message without reading it.
    There is also the positive message if you forward the message to 5 friends something wonderful will happen in your life. Who can resist such a promise? Me.

    Is It Wrong to Propagate Chain Letters?

    Short answer – YES – it’s wrong to propagate chain letters. Previous paragraph explains why.
    Long answer:
    Sometimes it is hard to ignore some of these messages and discard them. Their message is beautiful, and you would like to share it with your friends. There is not too wrong to do that IF and ONLY IF you follow these simple rules.
    Use BCC field when addressing your email, (blind carbon copy). This will conceal the destination addresses.
    When the chain letter arrives in your Inbox there are high chances to contain all the previous recipients into its body. Remove all the email addresses in the body, before forwarding the message. This is of no benefit to you, but it will benefit the community, and if many people do this harvesting addresses will be very difficult. Who knows on how many chain letters has circulated my email address?
    If you really need to send chain letters, consider using your secondary email address.
    Consistency on doing all of these will discourage the creators of such letters to write them, as the benefit from sending them will be null.

    The image below shows a portion of the email body of a message that contains all the previous recipients of a chain letter. Using an email harvesting utility I got 417 email addresses only from this message.

    Example of email Chain Letter
    Chain Letter - Click to enlarge

    What does the SPAMMER achieve by these kinds of emails?

    They harvest email addresses. How do they do this? The principle is that the more an email circulate the more chances are to come back to the original sender. Even if it doesn’t come back it will go to another SPAMMER in the “Black Hat Web Marketing Community” and made public within the community. Then all the harvested email address will be shared or sold.
    Another reason for circulating chain letters is scamming people. There are numerous scamming schemes circulating through emails.
    There are also the hoaxes. A lot of chain letters warn about an upcoming virus or a computer threat. Most of them are hoaxes. Some of them are just simple hoax, but some other are cleverly crafted emails, so that when a recipient look for some of the keywords in the respective email, they would be directed by the search engine to targeted websites.

    How can the Spammer harvest email addresses?

    The main problem comes from the fact that most of the people will never think of hiding email addresses when they are forwarding messages. This makes that an email can sometimes contain hundreds or even thousands of addresses from all the people that forwarded it. The picture bellow depicts such a message.

    What can you do to help?

    First, whenever you send an email to a list of people add your addresses on the BCC field rather than CC or TO field. The BCC field will hide all the destination addresses.
    If you forward a message, delete the transmission history in the message body. Check this article Prevent email SPAM for more information.
    Break the chain! Delete the message and do not forward it. You have now the information. Stop for a few minutes before sending the email and think.
    Comment on this post with positive or negative feedback. I can take critique.

    I dedicate this article to Bogdan M. who first talked me about chain letters some 10 years ago.