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  1. Network Setup Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

    Setting up a network sounds easy. Just run some ethernet cable, plug it into your computers and other equipment, and everything is good to go. However, that is a bit of an oversimplification. Under ideal conditions, things really would be that simple. But conditions do not start out ideal and how close they are to the mark largely depends on the prep work.

    The best way to prevent any problems is to avoid them entirely. Knowing which mistakes are the most common during the planning phase is the best way to dodge them during implementation.

    Poor Cable Management

    Most people have probably laid eyes on a jumbled, tangled mess of wires at one point or another. Messes like this can lead to a host of problems down the road. Most obviously, tangled cables are hard to work with and annoying. If anything ever needs to be moved or replaced, the task becomes much more tediously. Additionally, cables twisted together can go past their maximum bend radius, damaging or even outright breaking cables in the long run. Keeping cables organized and labeled with a little extra work now can save you from a lot of extra work later.

    These good practices also extend to removing old, unused cables. It is not uncommon for old equipment to be removed while the cables used for it are just unplugged. Those old cables take up space, can tangle with other wires, and get in the way when making new installs or repairs. If an old piece of equipment needs

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  2. Making & Mending - DIY Surface Mount Box

    Surface mount boxes are great little alternatives to wall plates when running cables to a keystone jack. A surface mount box can be easily affixed to the wall, floor, or ceiling when setting up a keystone jack. This makes them perfect for setting up connections without having to pull cabling through the walls as well.

    In the guide below, we will be attaching an ethernet keystone jack to a single port surface mount box. A video guide is available at the bottom of the article.

    Step 1: Gathering the Supplies

    The main item will be the surface mount box itself, which will come disassembled in a few separate pieces. Not all of these pieces will be used; some will be left over depending on how you secure the mounting box to the wall/floor/ceiling. Aside from the box, you will also need the keystone jack as well as the cable being attached to the back of the keystone. In our example below, we have pre-wired the keystone jack.

    From here, the next step is to decide how to secure the surface mount box. There are two options for this: screwing the box down or using an adhesive pad. For using a screw, see Step 2a. For using an adhesive pad, see Step 2b.

    Step 2a: Securing with a Screw

    Towards the back of the surface mount box, there will be a small round hole. The screw included with the box fits through here and can provide a secure connection to

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  3. Making & Mending - DIY Low Voltage Mounting Bracket

    Installing a wall plate onto drywall can be a real pain. Cutting a hole in the wall is easy, but getting the plate to stay tight and secure is another story. More often than not, users end up with a loose wall plate that feels like it will come off along with the cable any time something is unplugged. The issue lies with the wall plate not have something solid enough to rest against. Drywall may be too soft by itself, but a mounting bracket changes that.

    In the guide below, we will be using the single gang version of the bracket. The same steps can be applied to the dual gang version. A video guide is available at the bottom of the article.

    Step 1: Gathering the Supplies

    The main item to have will be the bracket and the wall plate that will go on top of it. For tools, users will need a pencil, a drywall saw, and a Phillips screwdriver.

    Step 2: Tracing the Outline

    Hold the bracket up to the where the wall plate will go. Make sure the bracket it straight and hold it steady. Take the pencil and trace the inside of the wall bracket.

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  4. Making & Mending - DIY Install - Swing Arm (Articulating) TV Wall Mounts

    The days of giant, boxy televisions that take three people to carry are long behind us. Modern TVs are flat, slim, and most importantly, lightweight. These newer, sleeker designs make it much easier to save space by using a TV wall mount over a traditional TV stand. Before installing a TV mount, there are a few basic details to be aware of.

    In this guide, we will be covering articulating (swing arm) TV mounts. Articulating wall mounts allow a TV to swing back and forth, making them best for areas where a TV needs to face different directions. For tilting and fixed mounts, see our other TV mount DIY install guide here.

    There are a few different ratings that apply to TV wall mounts. The first is the size of the television. Wall mounts will be rated for different screen sizes, so be sure to select a unit that will accommodate your television. Each wall mount will also have a weight limit. Smaller articulating wall mounts cannot handle as much weight as an equivalent fixed wall mount, so be sure to double-check the weight limit. Bigger units (wall mounts made for TVs 80” or larger) have higher weight limits and should not present any problems.

    The other major factor is the VESA pattern of the television. VESA patterns are the holes on the back to the TV used to attach the mount. There are different types of VESA patterns, measured in millimeters. For example, a 200x200 VESA pattern means the holes form a square that is 200 millimeters on each side. The VESA pattern should be listed in the TV instruction manual. Otherwise, a ruler or tape measure can be used to check. Be sure to select a wall mount with a maximum VESA pattern compatible with the TV. If a little wiggle room is needed, a

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  5. Making & Mending - DIY Install - Wall Mount Brackets & Patch Panels

    While many data centers and other tech rooms use large racks and cabinets to hold equipment, sometimes a more compact solution is needed. A full-fledged rack or cabinet can be overkill for installing something as simple as a single patch panel. To save space and keep the installation easy, a bracket is often the best option.

    Installing a bracket is a fairly easy project once a good spot has been picked out for it. The bracket itself will come with the screws, washers, and wall anchors that will be needed. Beyond that, just a few simple tools will are used for an install.

    For this guide, we will be using a basic 1 RU (rack unit) wall mount bracket with a 6” depth and installing an ethernet patch panel. Rack units are the standard of measurement used for racks, cabinets, and brackets. For width, any rack, cabinet, or bracket should be 19” across. For length, the number of RUs determines the size with 1 RU equal to 1.75”. Patch panels, shelves, and other attachable pieces of equipment should be rated with a number of RUs so users know how much space will be needed.

    A video version of this guide can be found at the bottom of the article.

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  6. Making & Mending - DIY DIN Cables

    The term “DIN” covers a variety of different connectors used for power, audio, data, video, and more. DIN stands for Deutsches Institut für Normung, the German national standards organization that developed DIN connectors. There is a bit of basic information to know about DIN connectors before working on assembling one.

    There are many different versions of DIN connectors. The name of each type comes from the number of pins the connector has (3-pin DIN, 4-pin DIN, etc.) Some of these pin numbers come in different configurations, with the pins arranged differently from one configuration to the next. For example, 8-pin DIN comes in 262° and 270° versions.

    DIN cable connector
3-pin, 4-pin, 5-pin, 6-pin, 7-pin, 8-pin
180, 216, 240, 262, 270

    Note: This image does not display all available DINs, but these are the most common types.

    There are also Mini versions of some DIN connectors, but these are generally developed for specific uses and referred to by other names. For example, an S-video connection is actually a 4-pin Mini-DIN but is generally just called S-video.

    The other key detail about DIN connectors is that they do not have a standard configuration. Other types of cables have standard pinouts; the wires inside the main cable are connected from one side of the

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  7. 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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  8. 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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  9. 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 telephone wire 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 cords use a smaller connector called RJ9 or RJ22 (both names refer to

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  10. 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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