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'[EE] Inexpensive Network Certifier'
2010\07\28@164747 by Dwayne Reid

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Good day to all.

I came across an item of which I was not previously aware: its a network certifier test package from a company called Byte Brothers.  Specifically, its called the "Byte Brothers Real World Certifier".

I've played with network tools from Fluke and Ideal but they have been far too expensive for me to purchase, given the few times each year that I might use them.

However, this "Real World Certifier" looks to be capable and is relatively inexpensive - the least expensive on-line supplier wants US $426 plus shipping.  That is within my budget and I'm set to purchase a unit.

I was given the loan of one of these Real World Certifier units and have played with it somewhat.  I also watched the several short video clips on the DVD that it comes with.  I'm actually quite impressed with what I've seen.

So: a couple of questions to ask of the Real World experience of my fellow PIClisters:

1) has anyone played with one of these units?  Opinions?

2) Is anyone aware of any other low-cost network certifier-type tools available?

FWIW - this Real World Certifier has a few neat tools built in.  In addition to the standard wire-map testing that even a $5 network cable checker can do, it also does near-end and far-end cross talk testing, wire length of each pair within the cable, distance to faults: opens, shorts, split pair.  This last appears to be quite unique: it will show a wiring problem at a patch bay (split pair) by giving the distance from the end of the cable to the fault.  It then tells you the category rating of the cable you just tested as a bar graph starting at Cat 3 and going up past Cat 6.  It finishes off by telling you the maximum data rate that the cable will work at.

For example, I had a 250' coil of Cat 5E cable I was playing with.  They tell you NOT to test a coil of cable - the cable must be straight.  I didn't bother to un-coil it but just tested it anyway.  The cable tested out to be somewhere between Cat 5 and Cat 5E and the tested speed capability was in excess of 1000 Mbs.  In other words, that chunk of cable is suited to be used as interconnect cable for a Gigabit network.

The unit has two levels of certification: the first level is done using only the main box and remote probe.  Second level testing is done with a user-supplied switch - Gigabit preferred but will work with slower switches.  They suggest a full-duplex 1000Mb switch such as Linksys or D-Link.  If you supply such a switch, it then tells you the relative signal strength on each of the 4 pairs and comes up with a number that represents the amount of headroom that your cable installation has.  0% headroom means that the system may or may not work, 50% headroom means that the cable attenuation can deteriorate by 50% before problems occur, etc.

It will do a couple of other cool things as well: possibly the neatest is that you can insert the main unit in line between the cable end and whatever device that cable is supposed to connect to.  It then tells you the speed capability of each end of the link: then tells you what the negotiated (connected) speed actually is.  Seriously cool!

Like I said - I'm pretty impressed so far.  I'm hoping for some other opinions before I go plunking down my hard-earned cash.

Many thanks!

dwayne

-- Dwayne Reid   <spam_OUTdwaynerTakeThisOuTspamplanet.eon.net>
Trinity Electronics Systems Ltd    Edmonton, AB, CANADA
(780) 489-3199 voice          (780) 487-6397 fax
http://www.trinity-electronics.com
Custom Electronics Design and Manufacturing

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