Wireshark 1.2.0 – New Version

Wireshark is a tool that performs packet and protocol analysis on a network. Packets are the virtual transport mechanism that moves are data from sender to receiver. Each packet has a header and payload – the header contains information about where the packet came from and where it’s going, as well as the protocols being used. The payload has our actual digitized data – parts of website, text, a section of photo, or a clip of audio from an MP3 or a phone call. If you don’t get all of the packets then a phone call may sound choppy or it may take a while to download a complete file. Wireshark allows you to take a look at the packets you are sending and receiving and learn a lot more about what it happening and what’s breaking down. Wireshark is not for the lighthearted, as the tool requires knowledge of protocols and a deep understanding of OSI, IP, and TCP/UDP at the very least. But, with time, Wireshark becomes invaluable to the troubleshooting process. I have relied on the tool for my work supporting Voice-over-IP (VoIP) and system and application connectivity. The only side-effect to Wireshark is that you will soon realize why it’s not a good idea to surf the web in a public spot (without a VPN or encryption).

The new version of Wireshark includes more protocols that it will decode, supports 64-bit Windows, and has GeoIP integrated support. Also, Wireshark works perfectly with my passive network cable. Visit www.wireshark.org to download the latest version and learn more about it.

Internet-enabled Message Center

What are you up to now?

I took the leap and bought an Arduino from LiquidWare. An arduino is an open-source microcontroller that has a processor, some digital I/O pins, and analog inputs. You can create little standalone programs that monitor inputs, control LEDs, and pretty much anything that you dream up. My favorite projects are ones that involve the Internet. A microcontroller is rather simple by itself, but what if it could use the web to get answers, send email, maybe update my Twitter status? That means there is a unlimited number of projects ahead – Microcontrollers collaboarating in cyberspace. The missing link for the web part is the ioBridge IO-204. I know you are no stranger to the the IO-204, but for those of you who have not heard. The IO-204 sits on my network and relays data from its channels to ioBridge.com servers and back into my network. It allows for remote control and monitoring without network configuration and programming. One of the expansion boards is a two-way serial board that accepts serial strings and connects them to APIs of web services that ioBridge interfaces to and sends back responses. For instance, I can send the commands, “[[[calc|9*9]]]” and this returns 81. OK, maybe not impressive on the surface, but that result came from Google Calculator. Anything Google Calculator can solve, your microcontroller has access to those results. For more examples, visit the Serial Web Services API on the wiki.

Message Center Project

I wanted to combine these two worlds with a sample project – maybe it will inspire you to come up with something better, spark some ideas that you have. I have my arduino measuring my outside temperature here in Pittsburgh, which is an analog input scaled to Fahrenheit. At any moment I can press a button and get the temperature on the LCD screen – no Internet required. Since I have been planning a work trip to Atlanta, I also wanted to compare my temperature with hot-lanta’s. So, my project solves that. Using the “weather command”, I am able to get the weather anywhere in the world by zip code or city name.

I added a few more things to the message center. With another button I can get the stock quote of Google. My strike price was $405, so I have been watching it close. If it gets below $405, I get an automatic email from my message center. The stock quote comes from the Yahoo Financials API.

I have one more button that emails me a secret message when it’s pressed. I put this in here for when my mom comes into my room from when I am on the road. It’s aptly label, do not press. Next time, I will hook it to a light sensor in the basement to catch her when she turns on my lights. I am sure you all have the same issues with your mom.


Source Code

The arduino requires some c-like programming and I wanted to include the sketch for you to steal and use for your projects. You will see how I send the serial commands from the arduino to the IO-204 using the UART serial connection (pins 0/1) and recieve and parse the incoming results. I use a SoftwareSerial port for the LCD results. The push buttons are software debounced and use pull-up resistors for solid digital connections. The LED’s linked to each button use a 330 ohm resistor to protect them. I was aided by the Arduino Inputs tutorial on Ladyada.net, Debounce Tutorial, and the iobridge Wiki / Forum. Please let me know if you have any questions, maybe I can help. I have learned a lot about handling strings on the arduino.

//
// Message Center using Arduino and the ioBridge IO-204
//
// An open-souce Shadowlord Project
// www.IamShadowlord.com


#include SoftwareSerial.h>

// SoftwareSerial Pins
#define rxPin 2
#define txPin 3

// Setup Software Serial
SoftwareSerial
softSerial = SoftwareSerial(rxPin, txPin);

// Global Setup
int middleLED = 11;
int rightLED = 10;
int leftLED = 12;

int leftButton = 5;
int
leftButtonCurrent = LOW;
int leftButtonReading;
int leftButtonPrevious = HIGH;
long leftButtonTime = 0;
long
leftButtonDebounce = 200;

int middleButton = 4;
int middleButtonCurrent = LOW;
int middleButtonReading;
int
middleButtonPrevious = HIGH;
long middleButtonTime = 0;
long
middleButtonDebounce = 200;

int rightButton = 6;
int
rightButtonCurrent = LOW;
int rightButtonReading;
int
rightButtonPrevious = HIGH;
long
rightButtonTime = 0;
long
rightButtonDebounce = 200;

int tempPin = 5;
int tempAnalog = 0;
int
tempF = 0;

char* currentRequest = "";

// Start up program
void
setup() {

pinMode(rxPin, INPUT);
pinMode(txPin, OUTPUT);

pinMode(leftLED, OUTPUT);
pinMode
(middleLED, OUTPUT);
pinMode(rightLED, OUTPUT);

pinMode(leftButton, INPUT);
pinMode(middleButton, INPUT);
pinMode(rightButton, INPUT);

softSerial.begin(9600);
delay(100);

Serial.begin(9600);
delay
(100);

Serial.flush();
delay(100);

// Setup LCD
clearLCD();
setBacklightBrightness(9);
delay
(1000);

// Test LEDs
digitalWrite
(leftLED, HIGH);
digitalWrite(middleLED, HIGH);
digitalWrite(rightLED, HIGH);

delay(1500);

digitalWrite(leftLED, LOW);
digitalWrite
(middleLED, LOW);
digitalWrite
(rightLED, LOW);

}

// Start main program loop
void
loop(){

// Get Analog Input and scale as temperature for ioBridge temperature sensor on arduino
tempAnalog = analogRead(tempPin);
tempF = tempAnalog / 6.875;

// Monitor left button status and debounce
leftButtonReading = digitalRead(leftButton);

if (leftButtonReading == HIGH && leftButtonPrevious == LOW &&
millis
() - leftButtonTime > leftButtonDebounce) {
if (leftButtonCurrent == HIGH) leftButtonCurrent = LOW;
else
{digitalWrite(leftLED, HIGH);
clearLCD();
delay
(100);
softSerial.print("Outside: ");
delay
(100);
softSerial.print(tempF);
delay
(100);
moveCursor("02", "01");
delay(100);
softSerial.print("Atlanta: ");
leftButtonCurrent = LOW;
//Request temperature in Atlanta via ioBridge
Serial.print("[[[weather|Atlanta]]]");
digitalWrite
(leftLED, LOW);
}
leftButtonTime = millis();
}

leftButtonPrevious = leftButtonReading;

// Monitor middle button status and debounce
middleButtonReading = digitalRead(middleButton);

if (middleButtonReading == HIGH && middleButtonPrevious == LOW &&
millis() - middleButtonTime > middleButtonDebounce) {
if (middleButtonCurrent == HIGH) middleButtonCurrent = LOW;
else
{currentRequest = "Google";
digitalWrite
(middleLED, HIGH);
clearLCD();delay(100);
softSerial.print("GOOG: $");
delay
(100);
middleButtonCurrent = LOW;
//Request Google Stock Price via ioBridge

Serial
.print("[[[stock|GOOG]]]");
digitalWrite
(middleLED, LOW);
}
middleButtonTime = millis();
}

middleButtonPrevious = middleButtonReading;

// Monitor right button status and debounce
rightButtonReading = digitalRead(rightButton);

if (rightButtonReading == HIGH && rightButtonPrevious == LOW &&
millis() - rightButtonTime > rightButtonDebounce) {
if
(rightButtonCurrent == HIGH) rightButtonCurrent = LOW;
else
{
digitalWrite
(rightLED, HIGH);
clearLCD();
delay(100);
softSerial.print("Alert: ");
delay
(100);
rightButtonCurrent = LOW;
//Send email via ioBridge

Serial
.print("[[[email|hans@nothans.com|Alert|Mom, is pressing your buttons]]]");
digitalWrite(rightLED, LOW);
}
rightButtonTime = millis();
}

rightButtonPrevious = rightButtonReading;

// Display serial messages
if(Serial.available() > 0){

delay(100);

char charIn = 0;
byte i = 0;
char
stringIn[32] = "";

while(Serial.available()) {
charIn = Serial.read();
stringIn[i] = charIn;
i += 1;
}

if (currentRequest == "Google") {

softSerial.print(stringIn);
int stockPrice = atoi(stringIn);
delay(100);
moveCursor("02", "01");
delay(100);
stockPrice = stockPrice - 405;
softSerial.print("Change: $");
delay
(100);
softSerial.print(stockPrice);
currentRequest = "";

}
else
softSerial.print(stringIn);
}

// End program loop
}

//
// ioBridge Serial LCD Functions and Parameters (for SoftwareSerial)
//

void displayMessage(char* message){
softSerial.print(message);
}

void clearLCD(){
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("Z");
}

void setBacklightBrightness(int level){
// level
// 0=Off -> 9=Brightest

softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("B");
softSerial.print(level);
}

void setBacklightTime(int level, byte seconds){
// level
// 0=Off -> 9=Brightest

// seconds
// 01 = 1 seconds => 06 = 60 seconds


softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("T");
softSerial.print(level);
softSerial.print(seconds, BYTE);
}

void moveCursorHome(){
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("H");
}

void turnCursorOn(){
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("J");
}

void turnCursorOff(){
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("K");
}

void turnBlinkingCursorOn(){
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("P");
}

void turnBlinkingCursorOff(){
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("Q");
}

void scrollMessage(int row, int speed, char* message){
// row
// 1=First Line -> 2=Second Line


// speed
// 0=Slowest -> 9=Fastest


softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("S");
softSerial.print(row);
softSerial.print(speed);
softSerial.print(message);
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
}

void moveCursor(char* row, char* column){
// row
// 01=First Line -> 02=Second Line

// column
// 01=First Position -> 16=Last Position


softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("L");
softSerial.print(row);
softSerial.print(column);
}

void drawHorizontalGauge(int row, char* leftLabel, char* rightLabel, char* length){
// row
// 1=First Line -> 2=Second Line

// leftLabel and rightLabel
// 2 character labels

// length
// a=Empty -> k=Full (filled in from left to right)


softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("G");
softSerial.print(row);
softSerial.print(leftLabel);
softSerial.print(rightLabel);
softSerial.print(length);
}

void drawVerticalGauge(int height){
// height
// 0=Bottom -> 8=Top (filled in from bottom to top)

softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("V");
softSerial.print(height);

}

Bonus Project

It’s simple, but I hacked together a power supply for the Arduino, which gets power from USB or a coaxial input from a transformer. I wanted to only run one brick, wall wart, so I hacked a USB cable. There are 4 wires in the USB cable (from pinouts.ru):

1 VCC Red +5 VDC
2 D- White Data –
3 D+ Green Data +
4 GND Black Ground

The IO-204 has a regulated 5VDC and ground (up to 1A – 4A total draw depending on supply) on each channel, so using a terminal strip, I connected the VCC and GND to a cut in half USB cable.

It’s magic – look ma, only one power source.

Clearblue Screen of Death

Everything is going digital. I know, a profound statement, but the consequences of “digital” are a future riddled with software bugs, failures, and EMP induced outages (the EPT EMP to be exact). We rely on technology to get us through our days and we will be faced with crashes when we need technology the most.

“Clearblue” has released a digital version of their pregnancy tester. My girlfriend, completely fictional to make a point, and I were discussing the ramifications of a digital pregnancy test. One day the test will be dependent on an Operating System to drive the user interface. It might even have Windows on it.

In your critical moment, of whether you will be with child or have more time to yourself – unshackled by a disappointing version of yourself, the pregnancy tester will crash giving you an ambiguous result.

Take a glimpse of the future. You have been warned.

Death Tag – Spitball with Tic Tacs

You’re It!

Death Tag is a full contact game using a McDonald’s straw and various projectiles – the most lethal of which is the Tic Tac – 1.5 calories of pain. This is Death Tag’s story… Pass on the fun, er, the mayhem…You’re it!

I invented the game as a kid when I discovered that a Tic Tac and a McDonald’s straw had roughly the same diameter. A fresh Tic Tac fits almost perfectly into the straw. This principle makes the combination nearly lethal. Over the years, I have expanded on the design and have tested straws from every fast food chain in the United States and projectiles of all sorts.

The Straw

The McDonald’s straw has one of the largest diameters, with a straw from Starbucks a close second, and an In and Out Burger straw third (West coast glocking). Always have multiple straws on hand – you never know if you need back up muzzleloaders. Tic Tacs become sticky, so avoid copious spit.

The Projectile

The Tic Tac fits perfectly inside the McDonald’s straw. My independent testing proves that this combination is the most fierce with the highest muzzle velocity. The Tic Tac is the most accurate and longest shooting projectile I have used. It also leaves a white mark on your targets. There are two drawbacks though – stickiness and cost. Saliva + Tic Tac equals jammed barrel on occasion. I have recently switched to un-popped popcorn. This projectile is cheap and somewhat pointed to being your enemy to a swift submission. Popcorn also allows for some advanced techniques like “The Rain Maker”.

Techniques

Load the projectile, use your tongue to stop up one end of the straw. Build up some pressure and move your tongue. You can gets some serious distance and accurate shots this way.
“The Machine Gun” or “The Rain Maker” technique requires a cheek full of popcorn. Load up some popcorn and shuffle the kernels into the barrel while blowing. Make it rain destruction on your opponent.

Origin of the Name

Death Tag started picking up steam in the early 2000’s. I was on the road a lot and drove solo across the country many times. On a drive from Columbia, SC to Melbourne, FL, my friend Dale and I stopped at a truck stop. The trucker’s paradise had everything, a Micky D’s and convenient snacks. I bought up a supply of Tic Tacs and grabbed a handful of straws. I explained the premise to Dale and it soon involved us shooting cars out of the window. We assigned point values to certain objects that you hit. For example, the side a truck was 1,000 points, but a minivan is 5,000 points. A car window had the point value of 10,000 points and a road sign was 15,000 (since you could shot out and arc it – we called it the golden arch). The ultimate thing we shot was a Target sign on the side of a tractor trailer – 50,000 points. The “freshmint” or white Tic Tacs also leaving a little white mark to be proof positive of a successful hit. We started calling it, “Death Tag” because we were paying more attention to hitting our targets than driving safely.

A Word of Caution

It’s called Death Tag for a reason. Be careful, you could die, lose an eye, or leave a welt. I know it sounds fun, but I am a trained professional. I recommend discussing the side effects with a doctor and always wear proper eye protection.

Making the Perfect Cup of Coffee

The only reason to make the perfect cup of coffee is to enjoy the perfect cup of coffee. My life is filled with moments connected to coffee. Nothing was better than being in New Orleans and having a coffee at Cafe Du Monde. Or blitz chess at Seatle’s Best (while they were the best). And performing at a coffee shop on an Open Mic night with bad poets, mediocre musicians, and wannabe comedians.

These sentiments might not mean much to a to a person that doesn’t drink coffee (or tea), but I am sure you can find a parallel substance in your life. I am not talking about drinking coffee for the sake of drinking coffee, not the times you need it to wake up, but rather the experience of coffee. When you couple a perfect moment with the perfect cup, you create a truly great experience.

“It was a pleasant cafe, warm and clean and friendly, and I hung up my old water-proof on the coat rack to dry and put my worn and weathered felt hat on the rack above the bench and ordered a cafe au lait. The waiter brought it and I took out a notebook from the pocket of the coat and a pencil and started to write.” – Ernest Hemingway

I would rather have a brewed coffee or espresso vs. a latte or cappuccino. Certain large scaled coffee vendors have serialized the coffee drink to the point to where coffee is second to sugar. A Cafe Americano (espresso plus hot water) is about the best value (but I noticed Starbucks raises the price $.35 every quarter). I am not a purist but I am in it for the coffee taste. I am so much not a purist that sometimes I say “Expresso” when I am in the company of those who take it too far. I like to miss use words and see the retractions, most just simply ignore me.

What are the ingredients of the perfect cup of coffee? I am going to conclude that the situation is just as significant as the actual cup of coffee. Take away the experience and it probably would taste like it tastes from a truck stop in North Dakota. When I am home I meticulously attempt to make the perfect cup of coffee using apparatuses from all over the world.

Here is my approach to the pursuit of the perfect cup:

  • Invite a friend (or better yet have the friend make you coffee)
  • Have a notebook handy for those best ideas
  • Mute the mobile
  • Grind a whole bean roast (French is one of the best coffee tastes)
  • Use a fine grind for the Aeropress
  • Use a course grind for the French Press
  • Use medium for the drip
  • Use filtered filtered water and ceramic mugs
  • Boil the water and then let it cool off for 2 minutes
  • Use a little of the hot water to warm up the carafe and cups
  • Brew in your preferred fashion (I prefer the Aeropress for dark roasts and the French press for lighter roasts)
  • Don’t over do the steeping – bitterness is what most people don’t enjoy (bitterness is caused by over heating and over brewing)
  • Pour into mugs
  • Add warm milk if necessary (a Cafe Au Lait is equal parts coffee and warmed milk)
  • Create your moment and enjoy

It’s a lot of work that needs continual attention and improvement. A lot can go wrong, but the overwhelming ingredient is timing.

iTurn – iPhone and iPod Touch Hack

Since my toaster has been on the Internet Twittering my toasting habits, I have been flooded with email asking what I was going to do next. To be fair, most of the email suggested that I had too much time on my hands. My mom got me an iPod Touch for Christmas (she gave it to me a few days early). I have not had the thing out of my sight since she surprised me with a wonderful gift. She also gave me Batman which I transferred to the iPod. I turned the screen about 44 times a minute while watching The Joker and The Dark Knight try to out smart each other. This got me thinking, “Could I control a motor with the movement of the iPod?” I had my next hack.

The iPhone or iPod Touch has an accelerometer that detects how the device is oriented. As the devices moves off axis (from straight up and down) the screen rotates. I want to use that feedback to control the position of a motor or servo or cause specific events to happen depending on the device’s position.

Taking the ioBridge IO-204 module, I connected the servo controller and a servo to one of the channels. On the servo I taped a Best Western hotel pen to show the movement of the servo. I found from hours of testing that the Best Western worked the “Best” and Hampton Inn worked slightly worse.

iTurn Setup
On the ioBridge website, I created 3 widgets that corresponded with the orientation of the iPod. “Left” for when tilted towards the left, “Right” when I turned right, and “Forward” when I was holding the iPod normally (straight up and down).

Warning: The next part involves some light programming. I made a quick HTML file with some JavaScript that detected the orientation of the iPod and called the appropriate widget. The orientation code is below for those of you that are interested in trying this for yourself:

function updateOrientation() {
switch(window.orientation){
case 0: widgetExecute(“Upright Widget ID”);
break;

case -90: widgetExecute(“Right Widget ID”);
break;

case 90: widgetExecute(“Left Widget ID”);
break;
}
}

Load up the completed HTML file on your iPhone or iPod Touch and now you can control a servo with the turning of your iPhone. I call it “iTurn” (didn’t see that one coming, did you?).

Here is a YouTube video of the iTurn project:

People Watching at the Airport

I travel a lot and find myself watching people at the airport to pass the time waiting for flights to depart. I watch them as they walk by Cinnabon and pretend not to want one. I am fascinated by how people behave – whether it’s good behavior or bad, I still find it interesting. After a canceled flight and Chicago weather, I finally made it back to Pittsburgh International Airport. If you have never been, it’s like a mall that opened up an airport. I was waiting for my luggage to come from the airplane. We are all standing around a belt that turns in one direction and carries our luggage from a down ramp. The first thing I noticed is that half of the crowd was on one side of the ramp and the other half was on the other side. So, half of these people are going to be waiting the entire trip around for their luggage and the other half are going to get their luggage first. A lady in her late forties and a scarf had an entirely different agenda. She was going to stand clear and wait for it to start turning and sidle up and grab her bag. I could see the anticipation well up as the horn and spinning light announced our bags were coming. She got up and cut right to the side the belt was turning ignoring the people who were there first. My page came out soon, but I wanted to see how it played out. The lady grew impatient and sighed with the exaggeration of a stage actor. I waited 10 minutes and nearly all of the bags were taken minus a few stragglers – a taped up duffel and flower print roller were the only ones left spinning. She stormed into the bag claim office. I took my flower print roller and headed to the parking shuttle. On the ride to my car, I thought about the events of the lady and her missing bag. She probably asked for it and had it coming.

Social Networking for My Toaster

My Toaster Tweets

That statement sounds odd. Well, let me explain. My friends would describe me as the kind of person that has a lot of time on their hands. They would be right. That time is never put to productive use, but over Thanksgiving I got the gumption to start a new project. Sometimes, I start little servo, robotic, web-based projects for my own gratification, but I get fed up with all of the time I invest just so I can impress my 3 friends that also have nothing do to over the holidays.

My friend Jason Winters has been working on an module that simplifies the connecting of projects to the internet. He sent me one of his ioBridge modules to beta test and my mind started spinning. My goal this Thanksgiving was to think of a crazy project that would be the most senseless thing someone has ever heard of before.

Again, My Toaster Tweets…

Twitter is a social networking site that allows you to tell the world your current status – kind of like a microscopic blog that gets to the point. You can write, “Hans is going to lunch” or “Hans is tired”, etc. It’s fun to follow people and see what they can do creatively with just a few characters of updates.

I use my toaster when I am home and I thought that the world may want to know when I’m toasting.

Twitter Screen Shot

How do you make a toaster twitter?

I grabbed my old bagel / toast toaster and glued a switch to the outside, so when the slider gets pressed down it triggers the switch and when it pops up, the switch opens (couldn’t be any more binary than that).

Toasting Position

The ioBridge module has a digital input that I can hook the switch up to and monitor that state of toasting or not. Using a terminal board, a pull up resistor (1k), and some alligator clips, I hooked up the resistor from the digital input to the +5v source from the module, and clipped my clips on the resistor and the ground. A few pictures are worth more than my description.

Toaster Hookup Close Up

Module Hookup

Here is the whole system hooked together:

Twitter Toaster System

The Web Stuff

Using the ioBridge website, I created an event widget that monitors the input state of that particular digital input. And when the input is “high”, the site sends an HTTP POST to the ThingSpeak API to send a message to Twitter. ThingSpeak calls this “ThingTweet” and is one of many services that you can use to build Internet of Things projects.

MyToaster IoT Gadget

Follow My Toaster on Twitter at twitter.com/mytoaster. I think that I proved that I have too much time on my hands.

New Battery or New Cell Phone?

I have a phone that’s three years old. Yes, I admit it, the phone is not smart, no “i”, or no Andriod as of yet. My mobile is a clam shell with no QWERTY keypad, so texting “I love you, too” is “444#55566688833#99966688#8666666” while near-hitting a bridge abutment. The phone still works, makes calls, and fits into my pocket with my Moleskin.

Over the last few weeks, the battery holds a charge for 10-15 minutes. I found myself pouring over new phones, visiting the local shops, and reading about the G1 and the new Blackberry touch. I was wiling to switch carriers, since my phone was as good as dead. I had it in my mind that I was going to get a new phone. I was looking for a reason and the battery dying was the proverbial straw.

After forgetting about the battery condition for a day or two, I came back to my senses and searched eBay for a new battery. I found a vendor from NYC that had non-OEM batteries for my make and model. I am sure they were stolen, refurbed, or a fire hazard, but the battery was $6 with free shipping. I got the battery last week in a plain white envelope (now the free shipping makes sense). I popped the “hot” battery in and it held a charge for 3 full days. Three days is more than 15 minutes, so my concerns with possibly feeding the black market all of a sudden went away. I left a positive feedback and my desires for a new phone also vanished.

I am not sure what the moral of the story is, but I am sure there is a life lesson here. Maybe there are many solutions to problems in life, maybe I should save my money instead of buying new stuff, etc. Regardless, a new cell phone is pretty sweet.

Fiber Optics Considerations

Fiber optic technology uses tiny strands of glass or plastic fibers to trap light allowing data to be carried extremely fast over long distances. Don’t look for any hype here, fiber delivers what it promises – speed, which enables high-speed internet, television services, and telephone communications. The technology is all around our lives and has been for quite some time. Recent advancements of fiber optics versus copper, reduction in deployment costs, and customer demand has brought fiber optic technology into the attention of everyone from consumers and technicians to engineers and managers alike.

Passive fiber optic technology is a key advancement allowing for fiber to be deployed in the last mile, which connects communication offices to consumers directly. For example, Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) uses passive amplifiers and splitters serving housing developments off of a single strand of fiber. In a copper-based scenario, each house would be connected with a pair of copper wires or networked together using coaxial cable. In either case, the distance and speeds are limited, which further restricts the carrier’s service offerings and competitiveness. Copper is also prone to interference from other cable pairs, radio services, and power lines causing high maintenance costs and degraded services.

Lasers, LED’s, amplifiers, fiber optic cable, light receivers and all of the components that allow fiber optic equipment to operate have become very inexpensive allowing for new products and technologies to be developed and offered to carriers, business, and consumers at low or similar costs. In new housing developments and office parks, establishing fiber optic technology will be the most advantageous deployment. As the copper local loop and backhaul networks age, fiber will also be present allowing for current and future service offerings to meet market demand and carrier requirements.

The need for speed has always been a driver in the communication markets. Besides the luxury of just speed, fiber optics in the minds of consumers bring about visions of fast internet, high-definition and interactive television, and mobile multimedia features. To the carriers, fiber optics offers a world converged to one technology, multiple service offerings, increased capacity at cellular sites, and minimized maintenance expenses. Inside business networks, fiber optics will be the connections that are made between routers and switches allowing for business to handle more clients, devices, and bandwidth intensive services like Voice-over-IP (VoIP) and video conferencing.

The limitation of fiber optic technology exists only with each of us and those who will work on fiber systems. Fiber is just not installed and all of our visions come to a reality and all of our existing issues disappear. Proper design, installation, maintenance practices, and provisioning will be essential in the success of fiber optic deployments. For example, learning the proper way to clean a fiber optic connector is one skill that will mitigate several issues at communication offices, cell sites, office buildings, and residences. Engineers and managers will have to know which fiber solutions to consider and determining loss budgets, while having an understanding of terminology and fiber optic technology concepts to make proper decisions. Technicians will be responsible for installation, maintenance, and provisioning as the technology spreads quickly through their networks and sites. Critical skills that require training and practice are splicing fiber optic cables, cleaning connectors, putting on new connectors, cable section replacement, and installation of cable between devices.

Fiber optic technology introduces new infrastructure, maintenance, and testing equipment to be installed and used properly. In the Local Area Network (LAN), routers and switches will have fiber optic connections to connect fiber optic cables, store cable slack, and panduit to run cable through the premises. In restoration or installation practices, fusion splicers will be required to connect and repair fiber optic cables. Once the network is establish, testing devices such as light and power meters, light generators, Optical Time Domain Reflectometers (OTDR), fiber optic scopes, and visual fault locators will be used to determine proper levels and faults.