Coaxial Cabling

Coaxial cabling looks much like the cabling for cable TV installations. For Ethernet, it comes in two varieties: thin and thick. Those adjectives describe the most obvious difference between the types of cable. How you hook a computer up to each variety also varies:

• To connect a computer to a thin Ethernet cable, you must cut the cable and attach each of the cut strands to a BNC T-connector, as illustrated in Figure 17.5. You can then attach the BNC connector to the jack on the Ethernet card.

• To connect a computer to a thick Ethernet cable, you use a vampire tap. This device allows you to tap into the thick Ethernet cable without cutting it.

Thin Ethernet's T-connectors tend to cause problems, for a couple of reasons:

• Adding a computer requires temporarily cutting the Ethernet cable. This cuts off two parts of the network from each other, and the lack of termination in each half can cause problems even within each segment. With any luck, this disruption only lasts a minute or two, but on a large network on which computers are routinely added and removed, this can be a serious problem.

• If the cable is given a solid yank, it can break free of the T-connector, thus causing network disruptions. This can happen accidentally as furniture is moved around, or potentially even as a computer user shifts his or her legs under a desk.

Part IV

Figure 17.5

A BNC T-connector lets you link a computer onto a thin coaxial Ethernet bus.

Figure 17.5

A BNC T-connector lets you link a computer onto a thin coaxial Ethernet bus.

Thick Ethernet tends to cause fewer problems than does thin Ethernet, but the thick variety is more difficult to string and use. All in all, coaxial Ethernet cabling is a poor choice for new installations. It's trouble-prone, requires use of half duplex transmissions, and can only be used at up to 10Mbps speeds. If you need to add one or two computers to an existing coaxial Ethernet network, you might as well use this technology. For a new network, though, or for major expansions of an existing one, you're probably better off with twisted-pair cabling.

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