13 Feb The Tricorder for Networks: Cable Prowler™
This happens often. An information worker notifies the help desk that their computer is offline. The technician embarks on a series of troubleshooting steps: verify the fault, eliminate user error, try turning the computer off and on again. On most occasions those steps solve the problem. But once in a while, the network really is down. No ping reply from the IP address. No link light on the network interface card. Really, a broken connection. And now it’s necessary to find the fault and fix it, or bypass it.
Cable Prowler from T3 Innovation can help with that. This hand held device is like a tricorder for networks. It brings visibility to the largely unseen physical layer of networked environments. What is the wiring like behind the network jack coverplate, walls, and ceiling tiles between user end-nodes and the central network switch? Can it support POE? Which wall jack is connected to which port on the network patch panel? If the site lacks good documentation finding out requires a good tester or tracing the lines by hand.
The Cable Prowler’s color LCD screen will show CAT 6 cable pinouts, cable distance using a built-in TDR (Time Domain Reflectometer), opens & shorts, presence of POE (Power Over Ethernet), and will detect individually numbered RJ45 & coax terminators included in the Cable Prowler kit. A tone generator will send any of several tones on one or more specific pins on either the RJ45 or coax ports to help trace cable runs. There is also a telephone mode aware of pinouts used for RJ11, RJ14, and three-pair RJ25 telephone wiring.
“This hand held device is like a tricorder for networks. It brings visibility to the largely unseen physical layer of networked environments.”
Using the Cable Prowler to discover a cable configuration is straightforward. For network discovery, the Prowler has both an active online and passive offline mode. For coax and telephone discovery, the Prowler works offline, that is, with the cable disconnected from the active system.
In network online/active discovery, the Prowler will auto-negoiate an active link to the attached network device (eg. a central network switch.) There is even an LED link light on the face of the unit. It will also test for POE capability supported by the link. The LCD display will show negotiated speed and link capability.
Network, telephone, and coax passive/offline discovery is where the Prowler truly shines. While attached to a RJ45 or telephone cable, the unit shows length of each cable pair and will show any detected shorts. Finding an open in this mode means viewing the length of each pair. If one of the lengths is much less than the others, an open is likely. Connected to a coax, the Prowler will show cable length and a center conductor-to-shield short if detected.
“Cable Prowler with the included accessories brings together major features for discovery, testing, and results in a low-voltage coax/telecom/networking cable environment.”
Add one of the included remote loopback terminators to the far end of the coax or telecom cable and even more options are available. Each remote is identified by a number and each is uniquely recognized by the Cable Prowler. The tester will show the remote ID on the LCD while using the loopback capabilities introduced by the remote to test the cable further. Here it will find shorts and opens reliably and show the distance to any faults. Network/telephone pinouts and crossover pairs are displayed in color on the LCD screen.
The built-in tone generator will produce a tone on individual pins or pairs selectively. The included TrakAll TP200 sensor wand with its non-conductive tip will help you physically trace the attached cable.
The ID remotes (numbered 1-20) included with the Cable Prowler Kit add one more feature to help physically map out a network. By first plugging these ID remotes into network jacks of the local area network, a tester can use the Cable Prowler to step through each port of a central cable hub or home run. The Prowler will display each remote’s unique ID on the LCD panel one at a time. And so, identify individual cable runs by the ID returned from the remotes out on the network. This makes labeling cable runs quick and easy.
All in all, the Cable Prowler with the included accessories brings together major features for discovery, testing, and results in a low-voltage coax/telecom/networking cable environment.