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Monthly Archives: December 2018

  1. Cable Switches

    Cable switches are used to connect multiple signal inputs (computers, DVD players, video game consoles, etc.) to a single output (televisions, computer monitors, etc.). Switches all work on the same general principle and most are purely mechanical. A switch only goes from multiple inputs to one output; if you need to go from one input to multiple outputs, you will need a splitter instead.

    Switches are used when you have a screen, such as a TV or computer monitor, that does not have enough ports. For example, say you have a TV with one HDMI port but you want to connect a DVD player, a laptop, and a video game console. One option would be to constantly reach behind the TV and switch the cables, but that gets old fast. The simpler solution would be using a switch that connects all three devices to the TV and lets you change between them at the push of a button.

    Most switches are mechanical and do not require a power cable to work. The inside of a switch works similar to switching the rails on train tracks. Say you have a 2-way switch, so the signal can come in from Input A or Input B. If the switch is set to Input A and you press the button to change it to Input B, parts inside the switch move from A to B to change the connection. This is why switches can only use one input at a time. If a switch was built to use multiple signals at once, the signals would interfere with each other and none of them would work.

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  2. Making & Mending - DIY Banana Plugs

    Banana connectors are the most common speaker wire connector, with virtually every speaker on the market having banana ports. While there are other connectors that can be used with speaker cable (the cable can even be wired directly to speakers without a connector), banana plugs are by and large the most useful.

    Other types of speaker connectors are harder to use and a bit outdated, being more fragile and not providing as strong of a connection between the wire and speaker. While connecting bare wire straight to a speaker technically provides a better signal, bare cable without a connector attached is more prone to be damaged. In the long run, that will result in a worse signal than what banana plugs provide. Having cable directly wired into speakers also makes moving the speakers around difficult, especially compared to just unplugging a cable.

    A video guide of the below steps is available at the bottom of the article.

    Step 1: Gathering the Supplies

    There are a few simple supplies that will be needed for an installation or repair. The key components are the banana connectors as well as the cable. Banana jacks will accept cable up to 12 AWG (American Wire Gauge) thick. For new users: lower number AWGs are thicker cables. A thicker cable

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  3. Cable Splitters

    Cable splitters are used to connect multiple TVs, computer monitors, or other devices to a single signal source. There are differences between the various types of splitters, but a few general rules apply to them all. Splitters only go from one input to multiple outputs; if you need to go from multiple inputs to one output, you need a switch instead.

    When a signal goes through a splitter, it is divided and becomes weaker. Imagine an HDMI splitter as an example. Modern HDMI cables are capable of a 4k signal, which works fine if you are using a single HDMI cable by itself. However, say you use a 4-way HDMI splitter to run four cables to four TVs. Each signal would only have half the normal strength so none of the TVs will have 4k quality.

    Because the signal is evenly divided, the signal will become weaker for bigger splitters. A 2-way splitter will have signals with ½ the normal strength, a 3-way splitter will have ⅓ the normal strength, etc. This is true even if you are not using every port on the splitter. When a cable splitter is powered on, the signal is split between every port on the unit even if not all of them are in use. For example, if you have a 3-way splitter and are only using two of the ports, each of those two lines will still only have ⅓ the normal signal strength.

    Coax Cable Splitters

    Coax cable splitters are used to connect multiple TVs to a single coax line. These splitters are made with F-type female ports, the same type of screw-on connection seen on the backs of most TVs.

    Coax splitters can be rated for different Radio Frequency (RF) ratings, measured in MegaHertz (MHz). The MHz range on the splitter determines whether it can be used for antenna, satellite, or both

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  4. Making & Mending - DIY 3.5mm Cables

    3.5mm jacks, also called headphone jacks, are the most common type of audio cable. There are different variations of this jack, such as the smaller 2.5mm and the larger ¼”, but they are all functionally similar. 3.5mm cables are commonly available as off-the-shelf items, but sometimes a repair it easier than a replacement. Other times, users need a custom size not available as a standard cable.

    This guide will show users how to assemble 3.5mm themselves, either as a repair or brand-new installation. Since 2.5mm and ¼” jacks are the same shape as 3.5mm, they use the same installation process and the below steps can be used as a general guideline for them as well.

    Before getting started, it is important to note there are different types of 3.5mm connections. These three types are TS, TRS, and TRRS. TS connections are used for mono audio or independent microphones and have one ring around the metal end of the connector. TRS connections are used for stereo audio and have two rings. TRRS connections are used for stereo plus a microphone and have three rings.

    TS (left), TRS (middle), and TRRS (right) are all industry standards.

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  5. Telephone Cord Detanglers

    Anyone who has ever used a desk or wall phone knows they all have one problem in common: cords getting tangled. In the long run, it does not particularly matter how careful or gentle you are with a coiled handset cord. Eventually, the cord is going to end up as a jumbled mess. Preventing a cord from tangling in the first place is where a detangler comes in.

    Phone cords do not last forever. When a cord starts to tangle, the smaller wires inside the cord begin to bend the wrong ways and start developing small, unnoticeable kinks. While the damage does not have immediate effects, it does add up over time. Eventually, the phone cord will start to have static because the damaged wires can no longer transmit a phone signal properly.

    Along with a static-filled signal, tangled cords are just annoying. You sit there trying to keep the cord straight as it wraps around itself, wraps around your hand, and knocks a picture frame off the table all while the damage keeps compiling. Eliminating this issue is arguably even more important than using a detangler to extend the life of the phone cord.

    Functionally, a cord detangler is very simple. The detangler goes in-between the handset and the coiled cord. One side of the detangler plugs into the handset (where the phone cord would plug in normally) and then the phone cord goes into the other end of the detangler. The part of the detangler connected to the phone cord spins around, preventing the

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  6. Making & Mending - DIY Telephone Cables

    Modern telephone cords have been in use for a long time, with little change since their invention in the 1970s. Finding phone cords in the store can be tricky today; many stores have stopped carrying telephone cables since so many people only use cell phones now. This rings especially true for coiled handset cords. With these cables becoming rarer, sometimes it is better to repair rather than replace them. Other times, users may just need a cable not available in a standard length.

    There is a bit of variation with different connectors available, as well as different wiring schemes (called pinouts) for the smaller wires inside the main cord. This guide will cover how to attach a connector to the end of bare phone cable and the difference between wiring pinouts.

    Step 1: Gathering the Supplies

    There are a few simple supplies that will be needed for an installation or repair. The key components are the bare phone cable and the correct type of connectors. There are three main types of connectors that can be used. RJ12 is the most common, being used on flat line cords that connect the base of a telephone to the wall. RJ11 is an older version of RJ12, and they are the same size. The difference is that RJ11 uses four internal wires (called conductors) while RJ12 uses six. RJ12 is backwards compatible with RJ11, but RJ11 will not work with RJ12.

    Coiled handset

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  7. TV Antenna/Satellite Equipment

    Ideally, getting a television up and running is as simple as connecting the antenna or satellite cable to the back of the TV. Realistically, a bit more work may be necessary before every channel comes in without static. Other tools can be used for protecting your televisions from power surges, extending the signal, and more.

    TV Antenna Booster/Amplifier

    Boosters/amplifiers are fairly self-explanatory; they make a signal stronger. Many amplifiers today are line-powered, meaning they receive power from the coax cable they are connected to. Make sure to check whether the coax cable being used transmits power; most modern coax cables do, but when working with older cables that may not be the case. If using a non-powered line, make sure to select an amplifier with a separate cord for plugging into a wall outlet.

    Antenna signals and satellite have different frequency ratings and amplifiers can cover different ranges, measured in MegaHertz (MHz). Antenna signals typically run from 5 to 900 MHz. Satellite signals are in the range of 950 to 2350 MHz. When selecting an amplifier, check the frequency range it covers to see if it works with antenna, satellite, or both.

    When a booster is being installed, it should be placed as close to the signal source (antenna or satellite dish) as possible. Many boosters are outdoor rated, so if possible the ideal placement is on the roof right next to the antenna/satellite dish. If the roof is not an option, shoot for wherever the cable comes into the building, like in an attic. Boosters will still work when installed somewhere else, just not as well.

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  8. Making & Mending - DIY Coax Cables

    Coax is one of the oldest types of cables and has withstood the test of time, still being used over 100 years after its invention. While many stores today have pre-made coax cables available, sometimes another option is needed. Users may need a cable in an unusual size or just need to replace a broken connector. This guide will show users how to put coax connectors onto the end of bare coax cable.

    The installation process can vary a little depending on whether a crimp, solder, compression, or twist-on connector is used. In this guide, the first few steps will apply to all coax installations and then branch off into specific steps taken for the different coax connectors.

    Example video guides detailing the below steps can be found at the bottom of the article.

    Step 1: Gathering the Supplies

    There are a few simple supplies that will be needed for an installation or repair. The key components are the bare coax cable and the coax connectors. Coax connectors come in different types, but the front end of the cable will always be the same size for each type. For example, an F-type male will always connect to an F-type female. There are not different versions of the two.

    The back of the coax connector

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