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Lightning & Surge Protection October 18, 2021
In our world of high-tech electronics and their associated cabling, a basic requirement is often overlooked – lightning and surge protection.

Modern installation practices specify multiple locations of voice, data, and video cabling in most offices and workspaces.  Even with the advent of 5G and other wireless systems, at least two, certified, hard-wired, data drops are recommended for each work-area outlet.  Couple that with entry access and security cabling, etc. and you quickly amass more wiring in your business than has ever been installed in years past.

Without protection, buildings or tall structures - and your electronic equipment within - hit by lightning is likely to be damaged as the lightning seeks unprotected paths to ground. By safely conducting a lightning strike to ground, a lightning protection system can greatly reduce the probability of severe property or personnel damage.  While nothing man-made can completely safeguard your business from lightning's tremendously high voltages, today's protection does afford you protection from the side strikes and residual voltages that are commonly suffered in an electrical storm.  Another factor when considering potential lightning strike or power problems is your physical location.  Your proximity to other conductive structures, landmarks or power-users changes over time.  What used to be a "lightning-safe" lot can change if your neighbor installs a large tower or other conductive structure next to you.  Locally, we have a customer with a grandstand.  They installed a telephone pole in order to install electricity, voice and data cabling from the stadium to a nearby building.  Very soon after all of this was completed, we were in the building to test the telephone prior to an upcoming event at the grandstand.  It was a typical, single-line desk set; and when I attempted to lift the receiver to check for dial tone, the entire set came off of the table.  The lightning had struck the pole outside, and the resultant surge travelled down the cable and melted the handset to the receiver's cradle!  Imagine if someone had been using that phone when this occurred... Not a good image.  We have since changed the telephones in this building over to VoIP keysets.  In this instance, the VoIP is supplied via Fiber-optic cable; fiber does not conduct electricity.  One problem solved.

Lightning's sheer power and speed make protection from it a daunting, if not insurmountable, task.  Electrical power fluctuation is much easier to tame.  While injury to yourself, your employees, and your building is of paramount concern, proper design and installation of quality surge protection can save you money as well.  Aging municipal equipment can lead to power surges, spikes, and "brown outs" of your electricity source.  Electronics exposed to changing A/C electrical levels have a much shorter life-span, and often develop other problems that are not experienced by units supplied with "clean" power.  Surge protection and line conditioners are normally able to handle most problems encountered. A small investment in surge protection helps to ensure that you get the expected life span, with less down time, from your equipment.  Surge protectors with self-contained "line conditioning" are available as well.  This means that the 110V coming out of your outlet to your computer is regulated to much tighter standards than an unprotected circuit while protecting you from "spikes" as well.  Many units have a built-in battery back-up power supply as well.  These keep your attached electronics functioning for a short time; normally long enough for you to back-up any unsaved material you are working on, call the power company, or complete any other tasks vital to your business.  

Operating a business is expensive.  The initial outlay of cash for new equipment is substantial.  For only a few dollars more, you can, and should, purchase the best protection available for your investment.

At Datacom Inc. we are trained and certified to install state-of-the-art lightning and surge protection, line conditioners, and grounding systems.


 
Anti-bacterial cables??? What??? October 8, 2021
A short back-story by way of introduction: My father, at the time he retired from AT&T, was a PBX Systems Installer; as I am today.  (I also occasionally write.)  When he began his career, as a former Lineman, he easily transitioned into the telecomm industry as a Splicer at Ohio Bell.  He installed and connected the telephone cables on those ever-present “telephone” poles.  As he gained more experience he moved to “inside” work in the then-fledgling world of PBX Systems.  Move forward about 20 years; Among other events in 1984, the culmination of two years of  court battles saw the divestiture of AT&T into several smaller enterprises.  My father decided to switch from Ohio Bell to AT&T.  Believe me when I tell you, no one in the Mahoning Valley knew what the heck was going on, long-term, with that company much beyond the day-to-day dealings.

For the last two years of my father’s job before retiring, he completely re-cabled the General Motor’s assembly plant in Lordstown.  There were still five divisions at the facility at that time and they were all connected to one PBX in the office area.  There were well over 2000 devices made up of keysets, handsets, faxes, and modems throughout the property.

During this time there were steel mills in our valley that rivaled the size of GM, but they were quickly disappearing and their telephone systems were not being upgraded from the old, analog, Centrex, systems that were in use.  The system that was being installed at GM was one of the newly-developed digital varieties which included voice mail.

Having absolutely no experience with digital systems, Dad voluntarily attended a 2-week course at AT&T’s learning center in Denver, Colorado.  While he was a very smart man, I can imagine his frustration at being taught to learn how to write computer programs using “Basic”.  He had served in the Navy as a Fire Control Technician.  They aimed the guns on the ships.  While highly technical, they still used slide rules, protractors, and compasses.  His exposure to modern computers and their workings was virtually nil.  This program writing exercise was just one of the tools that they used to impart the knowledge of how a digital system works versus an analog system.  He passed the class, gaining rudimentary skills on how this new device would be installed and programmed.  For that particular class he was the only attendee from the Northeastern United States.

After his return home, and while recounting what he had learned, it was with a touch of disappointment that he related how far behind the times our local area was.  In the class he was a senior installer, extremely well-versed in everything that AT&T offered in Ohio, yet almost completely lost among a group of what should have been his contemporaries.  He marveled at the way that the voice mail would compress an entire conversation into a tiny amount of data consisting of ones and zeros, only to decompress it during replay; delivering all of the tonalities, pauses, and other sounds – and do it completely accurately!  Today, I’m sure that everyone recognizes this as one of the first “zipped” applications.

His remark that has stayed with me, regarding technology and our locale, he estimated that our area was 10-15 years behind the rest of the Country.  I agreed with him to a certain extent.  But it’s getting better; social media and 24/7 multi-channel news groups have afforded, almost mandated, exposure to what is available out there.  Shop-at-home business’ now market to EVERYONE and inexpensive or free shipping make it easier to partake of these offerings for virtually everyone.  For the purchaser of ideas, you simply download what you want to your home; put it on your own wireless cloud and almost immediately you’re enjoying whatever it is that you wanted.

For those without access to high-speed internet, or a home computer, there are benefits to coming to the party late.  At the speed that technology is evolving today, the life span of a product, or an idea is, generally, greatly diminished.  Economics-wise, this means that while sellers have to charge exorbitant prices initially to recoup their investment – they are forced to lower that price very soon after release to ensure longevity of sales because their merchandise is no longer the latest and greatest thing out there.  The delay that you endured could mean that you wind up paying what the product is actually worth, not that PLUS the R&D cost it took to develop the product.

The subject of today’s blog is somewhat in line with all of this.  I received an email today from our General Manager.  It detailed that one of our vendors is now offering “…a series of Cat6a Rated Antibacterial Ethernet Cables that inhibit bacterial growth by up to 99.9%”.  It’s being marketed with an eye towards hospitals and other medical care businesses.  While it seems kind of paltry to me to jump on the current health scare campaign with this offering, I’m tempted to say every little bit can’t hurt.  I’ve been unable to unearth any statistics on just how many bacterial infections are directly attributable to ethernet cabling, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a few IT personnel have indeed been affected.  The good news that I’m gleaning from this, and that I want to share right now, is that at DataCom Inc., if you require or desire Bacteria-resistant cable or patch cords, we absolutely have access to them and will be very happy to install them for you!

Another item that came out of this very short email, was enlightening to me personally.  The above cable is available with LSZH, Plenum, or PVC jackets.  Not being the purchaser at work, I was unaware of what LSZH is.  This is completely my fault, but it is just one of those things that I have not been paying attention to over the years.  Looking into it I discovered that it stands for: Low Smoke Zero Halogen.  It also quickly became apparent that many in this industry believe it to be the equivalent of Plenum rated cable; It is not.

Non-rated, low voltage ethernet cables are typically insulated with a PVC jacket.  When PVC burns it gives off invisible, odorless, noxious gases along with the acrid smoke.  Often, in a fire, it is these gases that incapacitate someone before they even know that a fire is forthcoming.  “In 1979, British Research Engineering developed the LSZH cable jacket (Low Smoke Zero Halogen) for use in commercial plenum spaces, submarines, and nuclear power plants”*.  Like the name implies this jacket doesn’t burn so much as it chars to a hard covering.  There is minimal smoke, but no overpowering gases, and zero Halogen.  (Ironically, Halon, though an  organohalogen compound, is extremely effective at extinguishing fires.)

“Simultaneously, in the late 1970s the search for these same attributes began in the United States at Underwriters Laboratories (UL). The result was the development of the UL910/NFPA 262 test for fire safety in commercial plenum air spaces. In the early 1980s, the plenum rated cable standard (CMP) was developed and incorporated in the NEC or National Electric Code under section 90A.”*  This family of cables is made by adding chemical compounds to the PVC to give it Low Smoke, and Low Flame properties.  It does contain Fluorine, a member of the Halogen family.
* https://www.truecable.com/blogs/cable-academy/cmp-vs-lszh-fire-rated-ethernet-cabling-explained

So when does any of this matter to you?  For quite a lot of the U.S. - it doesn’t - as either or both of these types of cable are mandated over the use of non-rated PVC.  In northeast Ohio, it is dependent on your industry (like hospitals) or local specifications or ordinances.  Cleveland requires Plenum rated cables and installation hardware on all of their jobs.  This is true even when installing in non-plenum environments having fully ducted air delivery systems.  This is a good practice, because as HVAC systems age they can deteriorate due to vibration, or the surrounding environment.  This wear and tear creates leaks in ductwork.  These, no matter how small, can quickly turn that ducted air supply into a very nice delivery system for the smoke and noxious fumes generated by non-rated cables in a fire or overtemperature condition.

What’s the take away?  Datacom Inc. stocks, supplies, and installs Plenum-rated cables, LSZH cables, and Anti-bacterial cables – or any combination of those three that you may need.  We strive to maintain current standards at least on par with the rest of the country.  We do not want to be like my father's company in years gone-by and be "behind the times".  We will continue to work towards staying ahead of the curve and offer our customers the very latest in the telecomm industry.



 




 
Ships at sea October 1, 2021
On April 27, 2021, my Blog entry had to do with the shortage of supply of microchips.  I was reminded of this as I was trying to discern the truth in reports of up to “1000 ships” not being “allowed” to enter port in California.  Come to find out that number may have been more-than-slightly exaggerated.  In several articles the info showed that the fantastic reports in social media of this problem can easily be proven false.  According to reporting in USA Today:

“Kip Louttit, executive director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California, told USA TODAY that, as of Sept. 21, there were 153 ships of all types at both the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Of those, 64 were at dock loading or unloading cargo, 60 were at anchor and 29 were adrift off the coast.”*
*https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2021/09/28/fact-check-cargo-ships-off-california-coast-dont-number-thousands/5797859001/

I look upon this as both good and bad news.  If the ships are laden with goods – as I’m sure they are – that is a very good indication that the “demand” side of the supply chain is coming back.  It’s hard to argue with this when every Saturday,  Sunday, and Monday I turn on the TV and see football stadiums and race tracks  absolutely PACKED with attendees cheering on their teams.  I don't think attendance would be that prolific if people weren't collecting a paycheck.  Fantastic!  Personally, I am unaware of anyone that is not working now for any reason that is directly related to the mandatory shutdowns.  Apparently, that is not correct when it comes to the rest of this great Country, but I’m not there, so I won’t write about it; not directly.

In my original blog there was a quote attributed to an executive at Cisco that the shortage should only last about “…6 more months” with it getting better and better in the next 12-18 months.  Hmmm.  Possibly that prediction wasn’t quite “spot on”.  

“The global chip shortage has slammed the auto sector this year, cutting factory output by several million vehicles and erasing billions in revenue for car companies.  Next year is expected to be nearly as challenging, industry analysts say.  Auto executives for months have expressed optimism that the problem would begin to ease by year’s end. Now, there is an emerging view that the chip shortage has morphed from a short-term crisis into a structural upheaval for the automotive supply chain that could take years to fully overcome.”*
*https://www.wsj.com/articles/car-companies-buckle-up-for-extended-chip-shortage-11633005657

Locally, the General Manager at DataCom Inc. was shopping with his wife for a new cell phone for her.  They had to visit three stores before locating a device that was to her liking.  I’ve met the GM’s Mrs., and, obviously, I’ve met her husband; she’s not that picky.  Before you take that as a snide jab at my fellow worker (although I couldn’t help smiling as I wrote it), I assure you it was not meant that way.  In fact it could very easily be taken, and I hope everyone does, as a compliment.  Again, I’ve met Mrs. GM.  From what I’ve garnered, she’s meticulous in wanting quality and function.  She’s not afraid to pay a little more when it’s worth it.  (One year, for my birthday, she baked a pie for me from scratch and it was delicious.  Ahem, just a quick FYI, that date is fast approaching.)  Back to the subject – the reason for the multiple visits in this case was the lack of selection.  Everyone reading this knows that cellular stores do not  make a habit of not offering their customers multiple choices – sometimes way too many choices!  The demand for chips for telephones is simply overriding the supply and the lack of phones on the shelves demonstrates this quite nicely.

In April’s blog I recounted that Covid, a fire, and mandatory shut-downs, as well as increased demand due to at-home schooling requirements were four of the factors that explain the shortage of Integrated-Circuit chips.  This has been exacerbated recently with the advent of people returning to, though somewhat reduced, normalcy.

Many offices and factories have reopened their doors.  Imagine if you will a company that was on the verge of replacing or updating their computer system prior to being shut down.  Now, 12-18 months have passed without said upgrades having taken place.  Are they still necessary?  During the mandate, there were new procedures adopted with the work-at-home model that actually worked.  Some of these will require new hardware at the office in order to implement them there.  Also, I’m sure that there were computers turned off in 2020 that refused to restart in 2021.  Yep, the upgrades are necessary - Now!  These few scenarios took all of 3 minutes to concoct so I’m confident that there are many more that have caused a serious upward spike on the demand side as well.  

There are reasons other than the chip shortage that are causing a back-up in the supply chain as well.  Allow me to elucidate.

I know of a job that is winding down but not yet completed.  Wanting to get some moving-in accomplished ahead of pending winter weather, the customer has indicated that they want to start to move pieces of artwork into areas of the building.  Thus, they asked to step up the time table for installing Access Control equipment.  Unfortunately, some of this falls into the category of Life Safety Equipment.  Without going into that particular arena of pitfalls, the parts that are needed are five-twelve weeks out.  The customer wants to start moving next Friday.  As a temporary stop-gap, parts will be procured from spares in the shop and installed to provide protection.  They’ll be replaced with the new ones once they arrive.  In this case, the item needed does not contain Integrated Circuits.  It is a box with a back-plane for mounting various other equipment, and a power supply.  That’s it!  In this case there are simply not enough workers that have returned to the assembly lines at the manufacturer to keep up with orders.  The reasons for this are too complicated and numerous for this author to document apolitically here, so I won’t bother.

While the automotive industry is possibly the largest industry, and hardest hit by the IC shortage; and obviously DataCom Inc. as a tech company has been featured here, they aren’t the only commerce that’s been affected.  Believe it or not, some brands of beer are getting hard to find.  Not that it isn't being brewed, but virtually every other item involved in packaging it is coming up short.  How am I to enjoy Bucket Night with this information looming?  Ah well, good thing I love my job!

I just want to assure everyone that Datacom Inc. is fully staffed with healthy, happy, qualified technicians.  We’re doing our absolute best, taking steps daily, to stay in front of these supply storms and weather them as they come.  We recently reached out to a long-time customer that we knew was considering installing fiber-optic cabling.  We let them know – and I’m also passing this along to all of you – that if you are considering installation of technology equipment and their associated infrastructure, you probably want to get things ordered well ahead!  In the last week, we have purchased the last spool of OM3 fiber cable that was in the Mahoning Valley.  During this transaction we were made aware that OM3 multi-mode fiber-optic cable currently carries a 22-week lead time.  All we were told for single-mode is that it’s an “extended” lead time.  Extended!  I can't help but think that this period of time is longer than 22 weeks.  22 weeks from today is March 4, 2022.  Think of that; by then, winter will basically be over.

To conclude: there are so many types of shortages that have been brought about by the mandated closures.  These in turn have spider-webbed further down the line than anyone could have predicted.  But we are all learning to “get around” this by pre-emptively stocking up, being adaptive toward what we need versus what we want and other steps that, maybe, we haven’t had to consider in a long time.  We will continue to overcome and persevere.  

Please contact us with any supply concerns you may have regarding Telecommunications Technology and any related infrastructure.


 
My how things change... September 13, 2021
     In 1994, when DataCom Inc. opened, we were basically telephone and data cabling installers.  Most of that was geared toward us installing a telephone system as well.  We offered what was then a top-of-the-line digital KSU in three different sizes to accommodate our customers who had anywhere from four employees to over two hundred.  This was our niche.

     Today’s modern office may be made up of several locations at disparate sites; each consisting of digital trunk lines, VoIP keysets, centralized voicemail, cellular telephone integration, cameras and CCTV, and entry access systems.  The office’s inhabitants gain access by swiping a key fob or entering their password into a keypad.  Possibly their license plate is recorded as they drive into the parking lot and that opens the gate automatically for them.  Their entry and exit may consequently make an annotation on their time-card to keep track of their work hours.  Some of this is observed and recorded by numerous cameras aimed at entry points or steered by motion activation.  It is recorded onto either local storage or else in the “cloud”.  Depending on programming, certain events may trigger an alert being sent to security.  Staff’s cell phones may become an extension on the company’s telephone system upon access to the company’s wireless network, or they may operate their desk phone via a wireless headset using their computer and keyboard while accessing Microsoft Outlook® to manage calls to their contacts, or to receive incoming faxes directly to their "in" box.  

     Power over Ethernet (PoE) from the office’s switch gear may provide electricity to the cameras, telephones, and even the overhead lighting.  This low-voltage power travels over the office’s data cabling and is connected via the company’s data network for management.  All of this, including the building’s HVAC and other systems, may be managed and monitored from remote locations.  Updates to programming or simple adjustments to all of these systems can be accomplished with a few easy keystrokes from almost anywhere using your cell phone or tablet!  Sites that are physically located apart may employ a customer-owned, wireless, site-to-site bridge to “link” the two sites for voice and data needs if ideally located.

     This is but the “tip of the iceberg” of what is available today and we look forward to keeping abreast of all that the future offers.

     DataCom Inc. also offers “Old School” options.  Many of our customers have single locations with only a handful of employees.  They have no need for, and thus no reason to incur the expense of, a huge-bandwidth, ultra-high-speed internet connection.  They prefer to manage their lighting, furnaces, and a/c with manual switches and thermostats.  They lock and unlock their doors with a key and have either no cameras or only a few employing a DVR/NVR to record their video.  Their switch gear may not be PoE or managed (thus much less expensive).  They don’t want their computer network experiencing any extra traffic on it and have a very serviceable voice-cable network in place.  For these customers, we continue to sell a modern digital PBX with digital and analog keysets.  While becoming less and less common, we continue to offer an analog camera system as well.  Great strides have been made recently in analog cameras.

To say that the telecommunications world and its inherent offerings have changed since we opened our doors is a mammoth understatement!  DataCom continually makes the immense effort (and monetary investment) to keep ahead of these changes.  Our personnel are selected for their mechanical aptitude, computer skills, adaptability and customer service.  They train continuously and are regularly exposed to new equipment, techniques and installation practices via seminars, (self-guided and mentored), on-line and in-house classes and hands-on aids.  We strive to purchase the very latest in termination, installation, and testing tools and devices.  


 
Labor Day, Yet I have it off? September 7, 2021
“No festival of martial glory or warrior’s renown is this; no pageant pomp of war-like conquest, no glory of fratricidal strife attend this day.  It is dedicated to peace, civilization, and the triumphs of industry.  It is a demonstration of fraternity and the harbinger of a better age – a more chivalrous time, when labor shall be best honored and well rewarded”.
~ Peter J. McGuire

I suspect that I am not alone when I realize that I do not have a full understanding of why most of the United States of America’s workers enjoyed a paid day off this past Monday.  The above quote, incredibly well-written with precision and passion is credited to Peter J. McGuire, “general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, when he suggested setting aside a day for a "general holiday for the laboring classes" to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."”*.  Early in 1892 he pitched his idea to New York’s Central Labor Union for a day off to honor America’s workforce.  

“Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, New Jersey, proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.”  Regardless of who first formed the idea, the organization acquiesced, and the first unofficial Labor Day Parade was conducted between City Hall and Union Square.
Both McGuire and Maguire attended.*
*https://www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history. 

Even though, that as early as 1886, several cities around the country had recognized and celebrated Organized Labor’s contributions to the Industrial Revolution of 1760-1840 with a "working man's holiday," this parade in New York was by far the biggest and among the first to be sanctioned by the entire State! (Oregon, Massachusetts, and Colorado recognized State-wide Labor Day in 1887.)

The yesteryear workplace of days gone by was a far cry from what it is today - thankfully.  From the Bureau of Labor Statistics bulletin No. 604: An 1894  laborer in Boston, Mass averaged 59.8 hours a week at @$0.173 per hour for a grand total of $10.35 a week or $538.20 per year!  A “normal” family of four had a “Total income per family” of: 663.75/year.  "Well sure," you may reply, "but back then things were much less expensive!"  True, true; but after taking into account all of the expenses that were typically expended, up to 98.89% of their total income was exhausted by the end of the year - just by the necessities!  This does not leave a ton of "wiggle room" for  Christmas presents, birthday presents, or other “luxuries” like vacations.  These people were in desperate need of some recognition that was decidedly lacking in their pay check!*
*https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.32106007458745&view=1up&seq=199

By 1894 (22) more states had adopted the holiday and in June of that year, the U.S. Congress passed a bill to make it a National Holiday which President Grover Cleveland immediately signed into Law.

What exactly was the impetus behind the Federal Government getting on board with this movement?  Remember, at this time in our history much of America’s transportation, passenger as well as freight, relied on the railroad.  In late 1893, suffering from decreased sales of their passenger cars, Pullman Palace Car Company cut their employee’s wages.  That alone would not have been so bad due to the fact that much of America’s economy was suffering due to a harsh recession.  What caused deeper hardship was that Pullman did not lower prices at their company stores, nor the rent due for company housing in the “company town”.  This forced many employees to join the newly-formed American Railway Union (ARU) and organize a strike.  While only encompassing approximately 35% of Pullman's total workers, this small cadre’s refusal to handle any train containing Pullman passenger cars led to large problems with long delays in shipments.  Grover Cleveland became involved creating the cover story that the strike was interfering with U.S. Mail delivery.  While ostensibly true, it wasn’t the only reason.  The strike drug on with several legal battles being waged.  Inevitably, violence became the normal way of handling things on both sides.  Eventually the Army stepped in, and the strike was quelled.  “During the course of the strike, thirty strikers were killed and 57 were wounded.  Property damage exceeded $80 million.”*

Following this, Cleveland’s administration “in an effort to conciliate organized labor after the strike… …designated Labor Day as a federal holiday.”*
*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pullman_Strike

So next year when we enjoy this holiday again may we remember all of this, and realize that this holiday carries more significance than I’ve given it credit for in past years.

"For as Abraham Lincoln said of labor:
"All that serves labor serves the nation,  All that harms labor is treason to America.  No line can be drawn between these two.  If a man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor, he is a liar.  If a man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool.  There is no America without labor, and to fleece the one is to rob the other.”"
~ John F. Kennedy May 17, 1960



 
LEED Certification August 30, 2021
I promised a blog on Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and here it is.  While LEED doesn’t yet seem to be prevalent in the Northeastern part of Ohio where DataCom Inc. currently resides, what I see happening to the rest of our wonderful country portends that it will soon be here.  I, for one, do not look forward to this.

LEED is a “green building program”* under the auspices of The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC); supposedly a non-profit organization “…that supports the development of prosperous, healthy and resilient communities through the transformation of the built environment”*.  At the top of an article about USGBC: “Our goal is green buildings for everyone”* and their reach is expanding rapidly across the globe.  A curious reader might ask “what if a business can’t afford to build green right now?”  After the standard reply of “How can you afford not to?”, (implying that the business must be endangering their fellow citizens with imminent exposure to the filth spewing out of the smoke stacks of whatever business they may be operating) the enquirer might be made aware that, very soon in the near future, any building not carrying LEED certification will be virtually uninsurable.  Possibly that might provide incentive for the business to begin making modifications to their building at least.  Besides, we must all do our part, right?

“USGBC is committed to transforming how our buildings and communities are designed, constructed, and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves quality of life.”*  That sounds terrific!  I read the entire article however, and it never did mention who, exactly, defines what, exactly, do they mean by: “environmentally and socially responsible”.  What levels of health and prosperity can I expect from my certified building?  How do they define social responsibility?  Seems just a touch vague.

And don’t even get me started on  “quality of life”.  I have personally witnessed acquaintances whose choices have made them extremely happy with where they are in life while others might be appalled or bored to tears with their circumstances.  Myself, I live a very simple lifestyle but am happier overall than I have ever been.  Living, working, or playing in nicer conditions may very well contribute to a more joyful experience; of that I have no doubt.  But I also remember a wonderful childhood which included drinking from outside spigots, entire summers of no shoes, often on rocks and gravel, no air-conditioning (sometimes not even a fan), and our entertainment was bicycle riding, ball games (of all kinds), hide and go seek, lightning bugs and bonfires.  Vacations were usually to visit out-of-state relatives where you often had to sleep in overcrowded rooms with your cousins.  Apparently, by today's standards, we were poverty-stricken.  Funny how we always had a warm, dry house; plenty of food and clothing... Even with all of that “hardship” these memories evoke nothing but smiles and I’m sure, make me a better overall person.  I'm also sure that many folks would disagree with me on this.

So I’m betting that despite grandiose promises of utopia, individuals are a better arbiter of what kind of buildings they should erect (or how they should modify their existing structures) than a global think tank could ever be.  On the whole, when you have to pay for it yourself, you strive to get the absolute best quality you can for your budget.  You do the research and make the choices that will suit you and your employees (a happy worker is an efficient worker).  You pick HVAC, plumbing, and building materials/practices that suit your area and will provide you a good work space, a safe work space, and reasonable reoccurring utility bills.  You try and future-proof your IT infrastructure that you may enjoy the next two (or three) generations of computing applications and hardware without having to completely revamp your spaces.  As it has worked since the industrial revolution began, your budget and how far you are willing to go into debt will make these decisions – not promises!

Often new construction is a gamble.  Will the business make it?  Despite hours spent in research, is it the right location?  Does my product have sustainability?  Will Mother Nature deal me wrong with a natural disaster?  To saddle the prospective builder or remodeler further with expensive, and possibly not productive, mandates may not make sense.  Allow me to amend that: It definitely does not make sense.

“Center for Green Schools: The Center for Green Schools at USGBC is making sure every student has the opportunity to attend a green school within this generation, because high-performing schools result in high-performing students. The Center works directly with staff, teachers, faculty, students, administrators, elected officials and communities to drive the transformation of all schools into sustainable places to learn, work and play.”*

The economic forecast for much of America is not exactly uplifting after the pandemic; mandatory shut downs have shuttered many, many businesses across our country.  I’ve read that it may take years for some areas of the U.S. economy to reattain the highs that they were experiencing during 2019.  I know it’s only the first year of this decade, but how feasible is it that this endeavor for green schools can really take place?  How can a time-frame of “…within this generation” occur without putting undue financial stress upon the local communities?

Where is the evidence that "...high-performing schools result in high-performing students"?  I am certain that many of the people that put the first man on the moon spent time in a one-room school house.  They were with students from 1st to 12th grade sharing one teacher.  The building was heated in the winter with a coal stove and cooled in the spring with open windows and doors.  They wrote with pencils on paper; and they succeeded!  Have the requirements for achieving academic excellence really changed in the last 100 years?

As for that long list of who is consulted in the design of school buildings, what new information may be gleaned from polling today’s school workers and elected officials?  Not having held office, I’m ignorant of the particular requirements.  Even so, I’m not aware of architectural knowledge being a prerequisite to run for office.  Polling the students seems even just a tad more ludicrous.

Having been involved in the ground up construction of: (4) K-12, (3) Elementary & Middle School, (2) Vocational Schools, and (1) Adult education schools; as well as many add-ons at schools in Trumbull, Mahoning, and Columbiana counties, I can attest that I am, for the most part, disappointed by today’s choices in building schools.  When I questioned the architect years ago about the lack of a wood or metal shop and no Home Economics classes I heard the response: “for the student that wants those things, they can attend the Vocational School.”  I guess “someone” figures that it requires a 2-year class to teach someone how to boil macaroni, make a grocery list, or balance a budget.  What about the youngster who simply wants to gain a little familiarity with normal handy-man/woman tools so that they are able to safely make simple repairs to their home, to replace a light fixture or patch their drywall; without the expense of hiring a professional?  Two years?  I noticed that there was still a chemistry and a computer lab.  While I agree with both of these being needed (after all, DataCom installs computer and IT networks), don’t they fall prey to the same logic as the assertions to the other areas of study mentioned earlier?

I didn’t see anything in the LEED’s certification application that addresses any of these problems.

Okay, last one: “Our vision at USGBC is that buildings and communities will regenerate and sustain the health and vitality of all life within a generation.”*

I graduated from college Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Electrical Engineering.  How does the construction of a building require it to “regenerate”?  And why does its very existence cause the degeneration “of all life”?  And again, why would we want to wait for an entire generation for said regeneration?  Seems like an inordinate amount of time to wait for something as vital as that.  I cannot see how LEEDs, or some variant of it and its mandatory compliance, can be avoided.  There are definitely aspects of the program that I agree with.  LED lighting, brighter colors being available in hardware are just two areas that I’ve blogged about in the recent past.  Datacom Inc. shall stay ahead of all requirements in the ITS building industry, and we shall adapt as necessary while supplying quality products and superlative installations.
*https://www.usgbc.org/press/about-usgbc




 
Want to be star in a Spy Movie? August 25, 2021
Thanks to a relatively inexpensive camera manufacturer, it’s much easier than you think.  About three years ago, in August of 2018, the National Defense Authorization Act (NADAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 was signed by The President.  For the first time the act was “…banning the use of Dahua and Hikvision (and their OEMs) for the US government, for US government-funded contracts and possibly for 'critical infrastructure' and 'national security' usage.”*  This ban remains in effect today as the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.
* https://ipvm.com/reports/ban-law

These banned systems, while not offering superlative quality, are very functional and of decent to good quality.  They’re also usually available at considerable savings over other manufacturers.  There’s an old adage; “You get what you pay for”.  Apparently, sometimes, you even get just a touch more.  These cameras come from the factory – at no extra charge to you – with a “back door”.  Touted as a “Maintenance Portal” this feature, very simply, affords the manufacturer (or anyone else who cares to try) an avenue into your camera where they can, probably unbeknownst to you, not only download the video stream but access all of the maintenance features as well.  An 85 second video demonstrates just how easy it is to access this backdoor at: https://ipvm.com/reports/hik-exploit.  In it, you see that they gain access by emulating an authorized user to log in to the camera at the highest levels of authorization.

So what does that mean to me?  Basically, unless you’re in procurement at a Federal Government organization, probably very little.  To tell the truth, with only a small amount of research beyond the above, I discovered numerous articles detailing that there are many, many instances of the government ignoring the ban and purchasing one of the many Other Equipment Manufacturer’s (OEM’s) that Dahua and HikVision make.

“The Army, which records show purchased a Dahua DVR resold by Global Data Center Inc. under the Amcrest brand name in September 2020, said it relies on attestations by its vendors. “Companies that propose on federal contracts are required to assert their compliance with various Federal Acquisition Regulation and Defense supplement provisions and clauses”…” “An Amcrest representative told The Intercept in an email that “Amcrest cameras and security products are conceptualized and designed by Amcrest in Houston, TX…” “…analysis by IPVM determined that the Amcrest AMDV10814-1TB-C DVR resold to the Army by Global Data Center is in fact a Dahua XVR4104 in slightly different clothing: While the unit’s front panel appears to have been modified in the Amcrest version, both models have identical side ventilation panels, and, crucially, their array of rear ports is identical, indicating that they’re using the same inner circuitry. Both devices also appear to come with nearly the exact same software…”*
*https://theintercept.com/2021/07/20/video-surveillance-cameras-us-military-china-sanctions/

When you consider the size of what is entailed by “for US government-funded contracts and possibly for 'critical infrastructure' and 'national security' usage”, I think it’s not entirely unforeseen that non-compliance might take place.  Thankfully, on a brighter note, you and I operate on a much smaller scale.  So unless you really are looking to star in a “spy” movie produced in the far east, and I’m guessing you’ll “star” without any credit being given to you, then perhaps its best if you conduct your own research before purchasing any video equipment.  At DataCom Inc. we will be completely honest with you about the origins of the CCTV camera systems we sell.  Not only that, but we’ll offer alternatives if needed.

In all honesty, if anyone were surreptitiously viewing a camera at my house, aside from the occasional cookout, or varmint wandering up my drive of a night, I think they’re going to quickly realize just how boring it can be outside of my house.  I take pride in not being “star” worthy!


 
Another color choice August 10, 2021
When I started installing Voice cabling and jacks for telephones back in the dinosaur days, it was easy.  We were pulling 1000’ spools of grey cat-3 cable out of a box.  Those cables were then landed onto single or duplex jacks either mounted flush on the wall or in a small surface-mount box at the work station.  One thing that they all had in common was that they were Ivory in color.  In the telecomm closet, everything ended up on a 66M50 block that was white.  Non-telecomm types that have seen walls of these little beauties are always heard to incredulously remark “How do you know how to connect these??”  Not on topic, but I’ll let you in on a little secret; if you can count to five, and do it five times in a row, you too can figure out “how to connect these”.

Even with the advent of adding Data jacks, they were still either single or double jacks – AND THEY WERE IVORY!  The main difference was in the telecomm closet.  Here the data cables were landed, just like they are today, onto 110-style patch panels.  These were always black and were either wall-mounted on a device or they were installed and stacked in free-standing racks that matched the patch panel color.  Data hardware in the IT closet, aesthetically, has changed virtually not at all – until very recently.  But I digress.  Please read on.

Stocking the vans back then was a breeze with so little choices to be made.  As the world of IT became more sophisticated however, some customers began to demand that their voice cable be one color and their data cable be another.  This often carried over to the jack colors as well.  While virtually any color was – and is – available, the lead time for ordering anything other than blue, grey, or green in cable, and either white or ivory in jacks, was often excessive.  We implored our customers to stick with the easily procured colors as the electrons in those cables have no idea what color is on the outside of the cable that they’re flying down!

When voice and data were still separated into Cat 3 cable for voice and Cat 5 or 5e for data, it sometimes made sense to use different jack colors.  This was usually accomplished using ivory for voice and either black or blue for data.  There was an instance where that was taken to extremes though.

This particular customer believed in overkill to the extreme and had us cable every single outlet for Computer, Telephone, Modem, Fax, and Credit Card.  Every one of these uses carried their own color-coded jack.  Over our strenuous objections, (we demonstrated that it was the Label of the jack that denoted what it “could” be used for and not the jack color) the customer would not relent, and we proceeded to order the multi-colored parts.  It took the factory nine weeks to get us the number of jacks that were needed in the colors that were requested.  We did indeed order extra and left them on site when we departed after completing the job.

Two years later, the customer purchased the adjoining portion of the building they were in and asked us to come out and cable it as we had cabled the original spaces.  They also let us know that they were moving in over the following weekend; this was on the preceding Monday.  Unable to locate the jacks that we had left them two years earlier (not that there were nearly enough!) we decided to terminate everything into standard ivory surface mount boxes and jacks.  As can be expected the customer, when informed that this was the only solution available to get the job done in the time allotted, was livid!  We let him know that we would be happy to install these in a way that we could come back later and re-terminate the cables onto the colored jacks once they arrived.  He was amenable to that idea until we let him know that we would be doing this re-termination on a time and material basis.  Essentially, he would be paying us twice to do the same job.  He finally relented to allowing us to terminate everything onto ivory jacks and they moved in successfully, on time.  We did not replace the jacks.

Today cables, jacks, and faceplates are available in a myriad of hues with very short lead times.  Well then why, except that it has a great story attached, am I blogging about this today?  It seems that color choice decisions have raised their ugly heads again.  This blog is being written to address the issues regarding data center rack and patch panel hardware and whether you want to purchase it in white or black.

Keep in mind that we are talking about the racks, cabinets, enclosures, and patch panels.  Not all manufacturers offer the same availability when it comes to supplying their components in anything other than black. Today, in the black color however, virtually all have the same general appearance and use somewhat “mottled” metal with a flat matte finish.  Should you be considering switching colors at your location, the first consideration for your decision making is the actual amount of light that is available for the person installing and using these data ports; how well can they actually see the labels?  Some of these enclosed racks are large and the patch panel, front and back, sit recessed quite a bit into them.  This means that the light is already somewhat blocked from above as well as the sides.  Black absorbs light waves much more than white does.  Choosing a lighter color over the black “could” lead to less eye strain and/or mistakes when connecting devices.

Also, the absorption of light is reciprocated by the emission of that energy in the form of heat.  If your cooling budget is stretched thin already, you might want to go with the lighter color that reflects the light.  Over the course of time, you could realize a significant savings in your a/c bill.  While our area has not yet been greatly influenced by LEED certification (more in a future blog) in our building design, it will definitely be a consideration in new construction and should be addressed when you’re looking at future considerations.

Another consideration is wearability.  The physical placement of your hardware should figure heavily when calculating whether to go with black or white.  When forced to put the devices into an office environment where it will be seen daily, one or the other color might be more aesthetically pleasing.  If it is out in a manufacturing facility production floor, the darker color tends to hide dirt and dust better.  It also blends into the surrounding environment and hides the inevitable scratches better.  (Of course in a high traffic environment you might want it to be seen and thus avoid it being struck and damaging your expensive switch gear.)

As I write these blogs, I realize the crazy number of questions that need to be asked – and answered - in order to build a smart Information and Communications Technology (ICT) network at any business.  While it is daunting, you can rest assured that the professionals at DataCom Inc. keep abreast of what is happening, what the future holds, and how to get that information to you.



 
What is this thing called VoIP July 23, 2021
According to Wikipedia, The free encyclopedia:
"Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), also called IP telephony, is a method and group of technologies for the delivery of voice communications and multimedia sessions over Internet Protocol (IP) networks, such as the Internet. The terms Internet telephony, broadband telephony, and broadband phone service specifically refer to the provisioning of communications services (voice, fax, SMS, voice-messaging) over the Internet, rather than via the public switched telephone network (PSTN), also known as plain old telephone service (POTS)."

Well, I’m glad we cleared THAT up!  But then, I’m writing on this subject for exactly that reason – that so many people who are not in the telecomm industry, while knowing what the acronym stands for, are not exactly crystal clear on what those four little letters mean.  They know they want it; it’s the latest and greatest thing!  But there are still a few questions to clear up regarding this technology.

You can immediately see from Wiki’s definition that VoIP merely describes a way of getting telephone conversations via the internet.  Now, how you physically participate in this conversation is where the questions come in.  Also, do not confuse fiber-optic with VoIP.  Fiber-optic is the physical construct of the cable used to bring you your voice and data.  All of those cables out there on the telephone poles that aren’t power – are fiber-optic.  Whatever signal is using the fiber is often then converted to a signal that uses copper for your equipment to connect to.

In this blog we’re talking about how VoIP relates to telephone systems.  DataCom sells telephone systems.  To me, the first and foremost query when considering buying a system is: do you want to have immediate access to, and total control over the day-to-day maintenance and programming changes on your system?  Then you need to purchase a PBX that will be installed on your site.  You are billed one time for the equipment that you purchase and the installation of it.  You are responsible for providing your trunks (actual telephone numbers) and the monthly billing of them.  If you would prefer a more “hands-off” approach, then a Hosted system would be your choice.  Basically, the only physical evidence of a telephone system at your business are the telephones that are on your desks.  (More on those in a minute.)  Your VoIP phones are connected to a remote controlling device via the internet through your switchgear.  The provider is responsible for all maintenance and upgrades to the physical system on their end.  Your local telephone numbers are furnished at the remote location as well.  You merely tell them how many lines you need, and they are provided to you.  You are billed monthly for a hosted system based on how many trunks and telephones you have.

That really doesn’t seem like a whole lot of decisions to be made.  Well now we get into the meat of the situation.  How much, exactly, do you want to participate in this VoIP stuff?  Maybe you only want to bring your trunks into your facility using VoIP.  Just to muddy the waters a tad more - VoIP trunks are becoming less and less expensive and offer you the most economical choice for delivering your business telephone lines.  Fine, this is done more and more via SIP trunking.  Pretty much all the dial-tone providers offer a SIP solution.  If you have decided on installing a PBX, you merely choose a system that is SIP compatible; Easily accomplished and done every day.  You very much want to take advantage of these savings, but do not want to purchase a new telephone system or service right now?  Most, if not all, of the providers can bring your lines into the building via SIP and then convert that signal, via an analog gateway, to an analog signal that functions identically to the way your old POTs lines do.  You just connect them to your existing system and enjoy the savings!  Regarding a hosted system, the question of SIP trunking becomes moot because the lines are provided remotely to the host.

How about the keysets?  Here you have even more choices: analog, digital, VoIP, SIP, or virtual.  The analog and digital keysets are only available if you are utilizing your own PBX.  Analog keysets are the least expensive but do not offer many features like built-in function keys and can often access only one line at a time.  Typically they’re found in lobbies, warehouse floors, safety islands, and other industrial applications where features are not needed, or the environment precludes expensive solutions.  Digital keysets have all the features that are available and come in a large variety of models.

VoIP keysets are usually identical to their digital counterparts but are connected to the PBX via your data network.  You plug your keyset into the LAN port in your office wall and it can then communicate with the PBX or host (if you're using a hosted system) via the network.  Your computer then plugs into a port on the keyset and shares the data provided by your network.  If your switch gear does not supply electricity via Power over Ethernet (PoE), you will need to purchase a transformer and supply A/C power to it as VoIP phones do require external power.  SIP phones are VoIP phones but use a specific realm of the magical world of the data network that we won’t get into here.  To simplify, VoIP is the system that the provider uses to talk to the keyset, and SIP is the language that they are speaking.  One of the advantages of a SIP device is that they typically can work with practically any telephone system.  With that being said, they often can not perform brand-specific features.  If you have tailored desires regarding what your phone can and cannot do, research must be done to ensure that a SIP phone will work for you with the system you have. 

Virtual keysets are a program on your computer.  A small picture of a telephone is projected on your screen, and you use it via your keyboard, mouse and pointer, and either a wired or wireless headset.  I haven’t been in a call center for a while, but I envision this solution as the most efficient for that application.

Once you have decided exactly which aspects of VoIP you are going to use, and you have chosen whether your system lives at your location or somewhere remote and is maintained by others; and you have chosen which telephones you are going to use, it is then time for installation.

If you choose to install a PBX, the installer comes out gathers info on how you want it programmed and begins.  Next thing you know, you have new equipment hanging on the wall, and new keysets on the desktops.  The installer gives training on how to use them and you are in business.  A hosted system is identical to this scenario except there is no equipment on the wall in your telecomm closet.  If you’re reading this and we’re only talking about 3-4 employees needing keysets, then the hosted provider might just mail you your new telephones with detailed instructions on how to connect them to your data network.

So… with a PBX, it is your choice how much of the VoIP realm you want to inhabit.  You can have the savings of SIP trunks (that you pay for every month) while utilizing less-expensive analog and digital keysets in the office.  If you have a few employees that work out of their home that need to be on your system, you can set them up with remote VoIP keysets at their house using a VPN tunnel from your network to theirs.  They use your lines, your paging, and can be reached with the touch of a button.  You also have the IOT (Internet Of Things) and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).  This means that your employees can use an app on their cell phone to become an extension on your telephone system.  Your office caller id number is displayed to any customer that your employees may call using this feature and again, all the features of your system are available to these employees. They can do this via your Wireless Access Points while in the office, and on the cell signal when away.

If you’ve made it this far, you can see that those four little letters mean quite a lot!  I hope that I’ve cleared some of it up for you.

Have fun storming the castle!



 
I been to the edge July 17, 2021
So, what exactly is an “Edge” Data Center?

Years ago, DataCom Inc. was tasked with cabling the “Mega Data Center” for a large medical facility on Belmont Avenue on Youngstown’s north side.  We cabled the entire building for high-density cubicles and ran innumerable cables between racks in the data center.  This facility was the main “Hub” for servers and supplied data for customers across the entire country!

While today’s published cabling practices preclude it now, the cable trays there often carried bundles edge-to-edge 6”-8” deep – and the tray was stacked four high!!  The 7-foot racks were populated with 2RU cable management between 48-port patch panels from floor to ceiling.  Like today, we used Leviton products for this job.  The difference was that the panels were of a brand-new category above Cat 5e called Media Twist; euphemistically known as Cat 7.  This specific cable was requested by the customer.

Very shortly into testing the first patch panel “opens” began appearing.  A quick visual inspection revealed that the individual conductors were coming out of the lands on the patch panel.  We would re-punch them down and get a successful test only to notice as we progressed that they would again “un-land” themselves.  Now this entire job encompassed somewhere in the neighborhood of 75+ 48-port patch panels (3600 cables!) – and they were all in jeopardy of not working!  Thankfully, we had terminated less than half of them at this time.  We were informed that when the new cable was proposed a preliminary spec had been released from the cable manufacturer.  It was this preliminary data that Leviton had used to construct the patch panels we were using.  Unfortunately, when the final cable was released, it was quite different than originally planned for.  Leviton had re-worked their patch panel to this new cable but had mistakenly shipped us the original stock.  Leviton resupplied us with new, improved, patch panels and we successfully finished the job.

Why I’m sharing this is to give background on a remark that was relayed to us during this project.  The customer’s in-house technical person was a little older and had been involved in the then-new IT world, basically, since the inception of “networking”.  As he surveyed the sheer number of cables in the Data Center, we heard him wonder “…just how long do you think this is going to last?”  We assured him that with the replacement of the patch panels it should last him a good long time.  He then clarified that he wasn’t asking about the quality of our install, but on the longevity of the centralized Data Center style of technology.  He added further that he had been “in the business” for 25 years and that he had personally witnessed the “expansion” and subsequent “contraction” of Centers at least two times previously;  That business’ would decide that they wanted an in-house IT department and would build them and man them, only to decide years later as they grew, that it would be financially prudent to consolidate multiple IT departments into one centrally-located Data Center off-site, like this one was.

Move forward to today:
"As we all know, the Internet of Things is taking off and mobile communications is a big part of that – the Cisco Visual Networking Index report says that smartphone traffic will ultimately exceed PC traffic. Other technology growth and advances like industrial IoT, machine-to-machine communications, online gaming, video streaming and self-driving cars rely on superfast response times and real-time processing of data. And there’s 5G cellular that’s coming down the pike – 5th generation mobile networks that add huge amounts of spectrum in bands to potentially deliver a theoretical throughput of up to 10 Gb/s—enough to support all of this growth in mobile technology." (Fluke Networks Information: April 2019)

     In the article cited above, today’s self-driving cars are given as an example of technology that will require immense bandwidth being absolutely mandatory everywhere the driver may want to go.  It notes that using today’s 4G cellular networks, the latency between car and Data Center averages 80milliseconds.  It further notes that, in order for this mode of transportation to be safe, an average of 5milliseconds is required.

"In general terms, medium latency for data transmission from an end device to a centralized or hyperscale cloud data center can be around 20 milliseconds or longer. When moving the data storage and processing to the edge, latency can drop to 10-15 milliseconds. This is considered low latency. This may seem fast: for reference, our brains need about 13 milliseconds to recognize what our eyes see. However, some emerging IoT applications for on-premises networks such as factory assembly lines will require ultra-low latencies that drop down to 5 milliseconds or less. Low and ultra-low latency performance can only be accomplished with an architecture where edge and traditional cloud data centers work together by sharing processing power and reducing latency for when applications require it."*

"It is important to recognize the effect of 5G deployment goes beyond adding more edge computing — it will also place more strain on the core cloud computing performed in centralized data centers. Roughly 90% of data is still processed in these data centers today, and 5G will speed up the introduction of 400 Gb/s and 800 Gb/s optics and switches in hyperscale and cloud data centers as a way to move data faster. 400 Gb/s switch options entered the market fairly recently, introduced by manufacturers in late 2018 and early 2019, and adoption of these new switches took off in 2020. The new 400 Gb/s switches, based on 12.8 Tb/s chips, provide much faster speeds and greater network density."*
*(https://www.leviton.com/en/support/networking/crosstalk-newsletter/july-aug-2021#story1)

What does this mean?  Well, even with 5G, if the Data Center is located too far away from the vehicle, physics does not allow the latency problem to be overcome!  This, logically, mandates that the Data Center must be moved closer to the vehicle.  While a large number of bigger Data Centers may not be fiscally viable, it also isn’t necessary.  A small “Edge” Data Center (some no larger than a single cabinet) can easily be installed wherever deemed necessary.

"Edge data centers are popping up in a variety of places—near Wi-Fi towers to support 5G cellular service, on street corners to support smart traffic systems and self-driving cars, in central offices and even within or adjacent to a manufacturing plant or an enterprise facility like a medical complex or university campus." (Fluke Networks Information: April 2019)

I guess the HMIS IT worker was right (and wrong), because this will be a huge “expansion” of “consolidated” Data Centers!  Thankfully DataCom Inc. stands ready, willing, and immensely able to install of this infrastructure right now.



 
How to get a really fast data network July 7, 2021
       A fast, reliable, data network is possibly one of the most vital assets for a top-flight business to possess.  Outdated switch gear must be replaced with modern  multi-Gbit devices that employ Layer 3 switching,  Power over Ethernet (PoE), VoIP compatibilities (QOS), and numerous ports.

       That’s all well and good.  But, in order to completely utilize all of that expensive hardware, you really need to go one more step and survey your existing cabling infrastructure.  Cat-6 and Cat-6a are routinely installed today.  The improvement over Cat5e of 20 years ago is astounding.  (C-6a is the only cable heavy enough to future-proof your install against the higher-power PoE requirements that lighting and other powered devices require.)

       But just installing the correct category and gauge of cable is not enough!  I admit that DataCom Inc., back in the day was as guilty as EVERYONE else when it came to this, but the old ways of just throwing it up on top of your ceiling tile, or utilizing round D-rings, or pulling it through the grid-work of your structure’s steel roof is no longer acceptable; Number one, with the power running through some of today’s data cabling it can quickly become a fire hazard; And number two, improper installation degrades the performance of your new cable, thereby degrading your entire system!

       At the incredible speeds that data flows through the cable, it is vital that your data network be designed by, and your infrastructure cabling be installed by, certified professionals.  DataCom Inc. is your solution; from our on-staff RCDD-certified designer designing a robust, scalable, reliable network for your business, to our BICSI-certified installers putting all of that selected hardware in place neatly and properly to give you a professionally installed Information Communications Technology (ICT) network; that is certified for the life of the system!  I’ll explain a little more about that below.

       Proper design ensures that your entire network will function at the maximum levels of performance at all times.  Pretty much, a decent Cat-5e (or even an improperly installed C-6) network may still operate at Gbit speeds.  But you will begin to see signs of degradation when the network is “pushed” beyond that.

       Imagine; it’s Payday week and your Accounts Payable people are constantly accessing your network adjusting timesheets and updating employee pay files.  Maybe they’re also on-line to see what your State’s current requirement for paying mileage and tax rates are.  Your Sales department has three people doing the monthly update of your website while the rest of them are on their VoIP phones - connected through your network's wireless access points (WAPS) - making cold calls.  Meanwhile your Safety department is streaming a video in your conference room to a portion of your employees for mandatory OSHA training.  Oh, and don’t forget every one of you are sitting under lighting that is being powered using Power over Ethernet (PoE) supplied by your switches and using your data cabling to deliver said power; the system is monitored 24/7 by your Power system.  The ambient room temperature is being monitored as well by your HVAC control unit.  Both systems send you quarterly emails detailing their usage.  Your cameras and Wireless Access Points run 24/7 using PoE, and depending on programming, may be using a lot of your bandwidth as well.  This means that a proper design is crucial for when the network is truly being utilized at full strength!

       Today’s cabling practices mandate that the product be installed correctly in order for it to be certified.   EIA/TIA testing of your cabling is vital (DataCom has always done that); What we now offer – that the other contractors cannot – is certification!  This is your warranty that your entire system was installed properly, using quality parts, and will continue to perform at mandated levels for the life of the system. (25 years or more, depending on manufacturer).  This guarantees maximum Return On Investment (ROI) and makes terrific fiscal sense for you in the long run.



 
I just don't get it June 30,2021
Currently, I serve honorably as the most aged of the workers at DataCom Inc.  (Feel free to tell our Office Manager that as I’m sure that, as much as she wants to dispute it, she’ll keep it to herself.)  DataCom is a small inter-connect company in the IT and systems industry.  I am also the most senior technician on staff having been at DataCom Inc. since 12-1-94.  I consider myself to possess a sizeable amount of “all-around” knowledge when it comes to this job and particularly this workplace.  This might sound incredibly narcissistic but I take solace in the fact that I’ve frequently witnessed the other workers asking for, and sometimes even heeding, my advice on how to properly install IT Infrastructure.  While I learned long ago to let the youngsters make their own mistakes and thereby gain their own expertise, I’m not above suggesting a certain way of doing things or offering the “tricks of the trade” that I’ve learned over the years.  (I recently showed the easiest way to open a zip-lock bag to one of our workers.  He then went home and demanded that his parents explain exactly why they had been negligent in teaching him this vital skill.  While, technically, not directly IT related, a lot of our new parts come in zip-lock bags.)
 
With this in mind, I need to say that while all of us good-naturedly "bust each other’s chops”, respect is normally shown; if not to the age, at least to the seniority and position of the "bustee".  Lately, more than once, I’ve noticed that the guys sometimes take it easy on me.  I’ve actually seen them going out of their way, rushing forward to do a menial task in order that I don’t have to; or admonishing me when a job demands that the least bit of physical exertion be expended by me.
 
There was a ladder into an attic that we were pulling cable into recently.  Admittedly this ladder was not in the best of shape but was still very serviceable.  The tech on the job thought it prudent to issue the now-standard “You be careful, Dave” as I approached the opening.  (I didn’t see him warning any of the other guys as they scampered up and down that rickety thing!)  As much as I do not enjoy hot, itchy, dark, insulated attic spaces, Patton’s 3rd Army couldn’t have kept me from going up there that day!  Even so, once up there, I soon realized that I couldn’t think about anything other than how in the world I was going to get down.  Sheesh!  I quickly surveyed what was going on, told the guys "Good Job!" and exited the attic to the safety and nice cool air in the Telecomm Closet.
 
So, it isn’t all bad – but what I Just Don’t Get – is when exactly did this change occur?  DataCom Inc. has not closed its doors, for any reason other than scheduled time off, since opening them almost 30 years ago.  The current health scare was nothing more than a small hiccup that didn’t affect our day-to-day operations at all.  We are incredibly busy right now and are scheduled out beyond the foreseeable future (Thank you God, customers, owners, and employees).  What this increased activity means is that I occasionally have to “wear the tools” and go do jobs that I normally would not have to do any more.  Yesterday I was tasked with terminating some fiber-optic cable at a local steel-pipe mill.  Each of the cabinets that I was working in required my using a step-ladder to reach the work.  As I was finishing, and having been on and off, up and down, that ladder for the previous six hours, my feet began to throb!  I reminisced that in years gone by this would not have been an issue in the least.  At the end of the day, as I was carrying out everything that I needed to, I realized that this was my third trip to get things that, again – in years gone by – would have been in the truck with the first load.  I consoled myself that I was wiser now, the tortoise wins the race; but knew that it was only a cover story to hide the fact that I just didn’t want to carry all of that stuff at once.
 
At a recent walk-through of a job looking at installing Wireless Access Points at the Ohio State Penitentiary, I realized that myself and another “seasoned” worker were the only ones taking notes using pencil and paper.  The others, at least those who weren’t going to simply memorize this job, were using their cell (no pun intended) phones to take notes.  I love texting and use it often when I need to get something across that doesn’t need explained, or further discussion.  I rarely send “novels” in a text.  But if you or anybody else thinks that I am able to get my somewhat arthritic fingers to traverse that tiny little keyboard fast enough to take coherent, decipherable notes at a walk-through, well…  Don’t think that!  I cannot.  The most used key on my phone is the back-space key.  If I would have used my phone to take notes and nothing else, it would have taken a world-class cryptographer to figure out what was on the screen – and beyond that – what the heck all of that gibberish meant!
 
As for those who want to put me out to pasture?  Well, I’d like nothing more, but maybe not just yet.  Before the last few years, an indication of a good day was to look back at a new telephone system I had installed and programmed and see it looking good, done professionally and neatly, and working properly!  At Datacom, we pride ourselves on the appearance of all of our installs; but particularly our cabling jobs, and go out of our way to make every job look superlative.  I always tell the workers, "If it looks good, it'll probably work good; and if it looks bad, it doesn't matter how good it works!  It still looks bad - and that is all the customer is going to remember."
 
Having installed at hundreds, if not thousands of locations, management has graciously promoted me into the spot of Project Manager.  I love it!  While the day-to-day paperwork can be tedious, keeping ahead of a job and ensuring it goes smoothly for the foreman and workers brings its own satisfaction.  I just marked up a set of “as-built” drawings to issue to the customer.  I took the foreman’s penciled notes and, using a new-to-me software, made a beautiful, legible, professional set of prints that the customer can use for reference in the years to come.  It was actually fun and I now have a new skill to be proud of.

Working for a smaller company often means that one has to wear more than one “hat”.  I have also been asked to help out with Web design and Social Media Management.  Updating our Facebook page and writing this Blog are just a couple of the parts of that. (I’m sure that I’ll eventually catch on to this.)
 
So to get back to the theme of I Just Don’t Get It, I think I have the answer.  I’ve gotten old.  Two immediate responses come to mind: 1. Good thing I’m still having fun, and 2., um… Well I’m sure it’ll come to me.  Ah well, hope you’re having fun too!  And to answer when did the change occur?  For me, it was at 57.


 
What Price Do We Pay? May 26, 2021
A very simple google search of America's involvement in various wars, skirmishes, and conflicts during our sovereign existence shows over 80 events between 1775 – 2019. This has yielded: 1,354,664+ deaths. Their sacrifice forces me to list, at least, our major wars individually.


Revolutionary War: April 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783 (8 years, 4 months, 18 days). Approximately 8,000 killed in combat and another 17,000 dying later of disease or wounds.

War of 1812: June 18, 1812 – February 18, 1815 (2 years, 7months, 30 days). Approximately 2,260 killed in combat and another 12,740 dying later of disease or wounds.

Mexican – American War: April 25, 1846 – February 2, 1848 (1 year, 9 months, 7 days). Approximately 1,733 killed in combat and another 11,550 dying later of disease or wounds.

American Civil War: April 12, 1861 – April 9, 1865 (3years, 11 months, 28 days). Both sides; At least 234,414 killed in combat and another 419,097 dying later of disease or wounds.

Spanish American War: April 21, 1898 – December 10, 1898 (7 months, 17 day). 385 dead with 2,061 additional deaths the result of disease.

World War I: July 28, 1914 – November 11, 1918 (3years, 3 months, 13 days). Approximately 53,402 dead and 63,114 more succumbing to disease or injury.

World War II: December 7, 1941 – September 2, 1945 (3 years, 8 months, 25 days). 291,557 killed in combat and about 113,842 dying later of disease or wounds.

Korean War: June 25, 1950 – July 27, 1953 (3 years, one month, two days). 33,686 killed in combat and another 2,830 dying later of disease or wounds.

Vietnam War: November 1, 1955 – April 30, 1975 (19 years, 5 months, 29 days). 47,424 killed in combat and another 10,785 dying later of disease or wounds.

War in Afghanistan: 2001 – Present (21+ years). 1,833 killed in combat and another 383 dying later of disease or wounds.

Iraq War: March 20, 2003 – December 15, 2011 (8 years, 8 months, 24 days). 3,836 killed in combat and another 961 dying later of disease or wounds.


I will not recount any politically-charged reasons why these gallant men and women were right to be fighting for our country when they paid the ultimate sacrifice. I will not argue whether these and the other battles that we wage merit this tremendous payment by our country-men and -women.

I saw a meme on social media yesterday which had a drawing depicting various spectral images as they stood next to their gravesites at what appears to be Arlington National Cemetery. They are dressed in several eras of military garb and positioned in various relaxed stances gazing toward their final reward. The caption is “A powerful picture of what this weekend is all about.” I could not agree more. The picture has effectively captured and portrayed for us the idea that this segment of humanity has not changed over time. These warriors were, and are, willing to represent the United States of America across the globe, separated from their families and loved ones, in matters that are often little known to them. Though preferring peace, they will fight when called upon. They will sacrifice themselves mentally with the taking of another’s life, and physically when their body is battered, lacerated, or destroyed by our enemy. While none of the servicemen in the picture are portrayed with any sign of injury it is obvious that they have suffered much prior to their expiration. They are now at peace, resting, knowing that they have behaved with courage and pride and that their final reward is near at hand.

That’s what I take away from seeing this picture. But what I want both MYSELF and EVERYONE ELSE to remember is that this gift that these men and women have bestowed upon us does NOT come freely; it comes with obligations. It is now incumbent upon each and every one of us, having been gifted the opportunity to continue to live in the free country that we were born in, to passionately, vehemently, strive to keep it free. It is now binding upon us to not fail in this never-ceasing endeavor.  We must live that these brave Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, in their own time, did not die winning a war - only for us, in our time, to freely give back what was won with such hardship. We must conduct our daily work and play always keeping in mind OUR individual responsibilities towards honesty chivalry and that American streak of independence. We must remember and pass on to our youth our civic duty to elect leaders that will never cede our sovereignty; They must always be mindful and sure. There should be no “political” leanings in our politicians or OUR own political beliefs, only what is right and what is wrong, and keeping with our hallowed constitution.

We must always remember and know that being the most powerful nation on earth has its own difficult responsibilities. We and our politicians must adhere to our preference to keep our military at home and allow others to solve their own problems. But when they are unable, then it is incumbent upon us to squash any efforts that seek to undermine our less-fortunate brothers and sisters that are not Americans. It is paramount that our elected step in early, using diplomatic methods to help others help themselves. But, if the good is overrun, we must swoop in, without malignant pride in our power, but blessed with the knowledge that we are fighting for what is right! Maybe then, we will have paid back and kept true to the memory of our sacrificed service men and women that they may move on without worry.


 
Let there be light May 20, 2021
In the May 2021 issue of Electrical Contractor magazine I just read an article concerning wiping out germs with light. It detailed that there are several wavelengths of light being studied and NON-UV sources are being used to destroy germs, bacteria, mold, and fungi. UV sources add viruses to that list. Lab testing has shown “SARS-CoV-2 kill rates of 99% on contaminated surfaces.”*1 (SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19.)

A company out of Troy, NY has been manufacturing non-UV antimicrobial LED lighting for the past several years. With the recent health scare, they have been forced to expand their markets to include under-counter lighting, school bus lighting, behind high-touch elevator buttons, etc. They’ve joined with a popular bathroom fan producer and incorporated their lighting into that company’s exhaust fans. This light operates in the Violet range of light waves and eliminates bathroom odor immediately.

While the success of this New York company screams the efficacy of using LED lights in the Non-UV spectrum, the article also sighted another company out of Kentucky that uses an ultra-violet UV-C (UV-LED) light source. Begun in 2015, today they are using a high-power, small footprint, UV-LED light to “…kill viruses, bacteria and other pathogens in water within seconds.”*1 and is “…developing applications for air and surface decontamination”*1 as well.
The Non-UV light doesn’t currently appear to have any adverse affects on humans, but the body’s reaction to UV light has been documented for many years. We’ve all heard about UV-A and UV-B and today I’m talking about UV-C; so what’s the difference?

Sunlight's UV-C does not penetrate earth’s atmosphere to any degree worth talking about. And with the article talking about using it for disinfecting down here on the earth's surface tells me that we must be reproducing it artificially with our LED lights tuned to exactly the right frequency.

I was surprised to learn that between UV-A and UV-B, while UV-A does the most damage to our skin, it does not cause the skin to tan. This lack of tan might lead one to mistakenly believe that their exposure has been kept at a minimum. That, with the fact that the harmful effects are cumulative and delayed by at least 10 years, could become a nasty surprise of melanoma down the road.

UV-B rays are responsible for the production of melanin which is the body’s way of darkening the skin to try and avoid further exposure to damage. This is also where the Vitamin D in sunlight resides; meaning that while low levels of exposure can improve your immune system, high levels may actually weaken it against viruses.

What does any of this have to do with DataCom Inc.? The LEDs in question need further testing and much more research and development (R&D). This will take time and a LOT of money. Today’s LED office lights may not kill germs or other nasties in the air or surfaces, but they do ease eye strain and can be quite pleasant compared to the old incandescent bulbs. Also, many of today’s selections are powered via Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) through your data network’s switch gear. Not only does this connection provide the necessary electrical energy to your lights, but it gives the owner an avenue of controlling them. Access the lights through an app on your cell phone, laptop, or other device and you can turn the lights up, down, off or on.

If you were not aware of it, DataCom Inc. sells and installs PoE enabled switches. We also install, test, and maintain all manner of ethernet infrastructure cabling to lights, computers, telephones, cameras and access control devices. Give us a call.

*1(Electrical Contractor, 5-21, Disinfecting with Light, Jeff Gavin).


 
Clouds 5/10/21
I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It's cloud's illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all…
(“Both Sides Now” Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. First recorded by Judy Collins, it appeared on the US singles chart during the fall of 1968.)

For those of us old enough to remember, these lyrics bring back fond memories as well as giving introspection.

As a young Aircrewman in the United States Navy, one of my primary responsibilities was to operate an airborne RADAR system. Typically only operated to detect objects on the surface, it could also be aimed heaven-ward to get an idea of just what was in certain cloud formations. Often, high winds co-reside inside of clouds which have high amounts of precipitation. This mass of water reflects the radar’s electronic beam and paints a very definitive picture of an area you probably wanted to steer around if you are inside of an airplane.

There were basically two kinds of cloud formations you could be reasonably certain that you wanted to avoid; Cumulonimbus and Nimbostratus. In the aforementioned cloud type the column edges are usually very well defined on a pillowy puff of, often, a brilliant white as it stretches upward from the rest of the clouds. These sometimes contain invisible shear winds that can wreak havoc on an aircraft. The other type is the “wall” of grey that we’ve all seen as a precursor to heavy showers and is just pure “yuck”. The cumulo’ was almost always easily recognized and avoided by the pilots; but sometimes they would be big or numerous enough to warrant firing up the radar and determining their “weakest” point for us to navigate through. This was always true of the “wall” cloud formation.

Except to say that at that point I naively believed that I actually did “Know Clouds”, I’ll continue with - Enough of the Junior Weather-person lecture.

In 2021, it’s the world of computing that has continued the rush to “The Cloud” for their needs. When computers initially began their dominance in business and industry they were connected within the office with the LAN or Local Area Network. This meant that ALL of the equipment that connected ALL of your computers physically resided at your location. It quickly became apparent that the amount of available storage was a primary factor for the speed at which a company’s local network operated. As your network grew, you needed more and more storage as the amount of data that any of your computers might need to access grew as well. Network engineers were constantly faced with the conundrum of supplying this need with more, or larger, storage devices. Often, with fluctuating times of high or low tempo operations, it became frustrating to the engineers and their superiors who had purchased large amounts of very expensive storage only to have it sit unused during any natural lull in business activity.

The LAN is still in use today but a then-little-used component of it – the WAN (Wide Area Network) - has come forward to play the role of significant importance. Initially, the WAN was merely a supplier of the internet. It was used to look up information, send emails, and the uploading or downloading of program updates and, really, not much more. Today, that is no longer the case. Today it brings – The Cloud.

Simply put, The Cloud is supplied for your use by any of a number of Cloud Service Providers. These entities have leased space on servers at innumerable Data Centers located around the globe. It is these data centers, among countless others, that your provider can use to supply you with redundant storage where you may access not only your own data, but other's as well as proprietary software and programs. In fact, when your cloud data is stored, it is automatically stored on more than one server at more than one data center so that in the event of a catastrophe at one center, your data remains intact at another. Perhaps one of the best aspects of Cloud Storage is that you only pay for what you need. You don't pay for anything that you aren't using! Efficient and economical.

While some may see the cloud as a device where any hacker can get a crack at your data, take solace, as your information is protected as well. All of your data is encrypted through more than one way. I won’t bore you with the details, but your computer automatically has two cryptographic keys. While other computers can indeed send you data with the Cloud Service Supplier giving your public key, your computer – and only your computer – is able to decipher that data as only your machine has the private key.

So that is “Cloud Storage”. As terrific as it is, there is another feature to utilizing this amazing “device” and it is known as Cloud Computing.

Cloud computing also involves clients connecting to remote computing infrastructure via a network, but this time that infrastructure includes shared processing power, software, and other resources. This frees users from having to constantly update and maintain their software and systems, while at the same time allowing them to harness the processing power of a vast network. Familiar everyday services powered by cloud computing include social networks like Facebook, webmail clients like Gmail, and online banking apps. (Howitworksteam, “Cloud Storage, What is it and How does it work?”, 25/04/2019, https://www.howitworksdaily.com/cloud-storage-what-is-it-and-how-does-it-work)

So with this short explanation, I hope that I have put a dent in your ability to “Know Clouds”.


 
CCTV - Four letters that end in TV
Over 20 years ago, in 2000, America was caught up in watching a new show; CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. This show brought to the forefront, you guessed it, crime scene investigation. Tech was huge in the story development and video surveillance was routinely used. Stored video was obtained from gas stations or diners near the crime and criminals were being identified through facial recognition software.

National exposure to this tech and the endless databases of apparently readily-accessible information may have gotten its start on this show, but the video envelope was really pushed forward with the advent of NCIS. On this show, Jethro’s sneaky little innocent, Timothy, would instantly access remote databases around the globe from his laptop – oftentimes without permission! He would then enhance the usually-grainy images and cull the info that was needed. The next spin offs were NCIS LA and NCIS: New Orleans. In these, the viewer was introduced to “smart boards” where the actor could “swipe” video info from their laptop on to a large flat-screen with a wave of their hand. Entire files were deleted or merged with the simulated motion of the actor’s hands as they “grabbed” the screen and “balled” it up or “smashed” them together. It’s still done today. On the remake of Hawaii Five-O, the group gathers around their smart board every week to be briefed; amazing stuff!

This tech really does exist and is in use today – with refinements beyond even what Hollywood is showing.

Why the history lesson in tv shows? Because DataCom Inc. sells CCTV cameras and recording systems. Many of our customers are desirous of some of the above features. My only warning at this point is “you might want to sit down”. The price tag can be just a bit daunting.

To access the facial recognition aspect, you first need the software on your monitoring systems. The initial outlay of cash for this, while getting less and less every day, can be quite expensive. You also need cameras capable of delivering a picture with high enough resolution so that the software may actually work. This means high pixel count. High pixel count means higher priced cameras as well as higher storage capacity on your NVR. Thus, these costs go up as well. And, of course, the infrastructure of your data network must be able to handle the additional traffic and power needs that these high-end cameras place upon it.

Bosch has a simple model which details pixel requirements for four different conditions:
1. Detection – Something is there and/or moving.
2. Classification – What is it? Animal, object, or human?
3. Recognition – Friend or foe. By what it is and what it is doing.
4. Identification – Specifically, who it is, beyond any reasonable doubt.

A chart from Axis gives the pixels generally required across a human face in order to achieve the given condition.

Condition Pixels
Detection 4
Recognition 20
ID (Good conditions) 40
ID (Poor conditions) 80

We use this with other charts to determine which cameras are needed for various widths of area covered by the camera’s field of view and range to the target.

For our “high-end” CCTV systems, DataCom Inc. sells, installs, and maintains both Axis and Bosch CCTV systems. These cameras can be analog or IP. They are typically coupled with a Milestone NVR. Analog cameras are attached to digital NVR’s using an analog encoder.

For a lower-priced system, DataCom offers the Hikvision camera and NVR pairing.

The trick here, is to meld your security needs, your personal desires, and your budget. Your budget speaks for itself so that's easy; what's more difficult is to come up with a balance between your needs and your desires. No matter what you decide, DataCom offers, and is expert at installing and servicing, CCTV solutions that fit whatever you may require.


 
No Fries - Chips! April 27, 2021
I just googled “What is the biggest concern today?” Once I scrolled past the ads I was able to pick a few articles to scan. For the U.S. it seemed that political problems were at the forefront on the lists. Moving to the articles that shared Global concerns, I then got to what I consider to be slightly more imperative matters like:

“Increased access to clean water and improved education around proper sanitation has resulted in an overall decrease in the prevalence of transferable diseases worldwide.” (https://www.gviusa.com/blog/6-critical-global-issues-what-are-the-worlds-biggest-problems-and-how-i-can-help/)

One topic that my hurried research did not divulge was the diminishing availability of computer chips. This is due to the Covid-19 reaction exacerbated by weather and a fire at a major manufacturer. Another aspect is that with the lock-downs and stay-at-home schooling, demand for tech actually went up as there was more time available during normal work hours for using devices.

While all areas of technology have suffered due to this shortage of chips, one of the hardest hit is the automobile industry. Virtually all auto manufacturers have had to initiate shut-downs at various plants world-wide. The arguments about fuel efficiency and carbon emissions become null and void when new vehicles are not being produced. The manufacturers cannot afford ludicrous R&D budgets to bring about our future super cars when they aren’t selling what they can’t make!

Another business that is suffering with this shortage is DataCom Inc. We are, primarily, a technology company. Not only are we good at it, but we enjoy installing new systems with 21st century technology. We are in the process of becoming a Dealer in an intrusion alarm system that is sure to enjoy huge success in the current “Smart Home” market. Some of the really innovative and useful features are:

1. This system employs a host of sensors that are all connected and controlled wirelessly through either an app on your cell or panels installed throughout your home. Forgot to close the garage door? Not a problem, bring it up on your cell and after confirming that it is indeed open, close the door from wherever you are. It can also close the door automatically when your cell goes out of range of your “Geo Fence”. As you reenter range, the door opens, the lights in the garage come on. With entry of a code on the app the house door unlocks, depending on time of day the entry light may come on and the alarm is disarmed automatically. If these are your children getting home from school, you can get notification that your child’s code was used, as well as a screen shot of them as they entered their code.

2. When the smoke detector senses smoke, a siren sounds, first responders are notified, your thermostat is disabled to prevent the blower from further circulating the smoke, your lights come on, and the doors unlock making it easier for you to exit the house. All of this is done automatically. Your current smoke detectors rely on someone being available to hear the alert and then, hopefully, calling the fire department.

3. With the water sensors you can install near potential leaks, they’re monitoring 24/7. On detecting a problem, the system not only notifies you but it can turn off the main valve supplying water to the house. This is especially helpful when no one is at home. Early notification and shutting the water off can combine to help prevent a catastrophic event with its expensive final bill!

4. In addition to all of the normal intrusion devices (door and window contacts, glass breaks, motion sensors) there can be cameras on the system as well. Not only can you monitor your home, but you can see and talk to your family members within the house without having to traipse all over the place. I can well imagine having finished cooking in the kitchen, calling the kids in the play-room to let them know that dinner is ready and that they should come to the dining room to eat. I could then watch them to ensure that they are listening and putting their games away and getting washed up.

The cameras come in all shapes and sizes, both indoor and outdoor, with their data being controlled by “rules” that you set up. They, basically, detect whether what they are "seeing" is: Human, Animal, or Vehicle. These three items cover the vast majority of what the home-owner is concerned with. To preclude the necessity of a huge storage device, the cameras are event-driven based on the alarms and rules that you set up. This means that the video is only recorded when the camera is seeing something you have told them to look for or an alarm from one of the other sensors has triggered. The system can accomodate up to forty cameras.

4. Some of the sensors may be employed within the house for reasons other than Intrusion Detection; For instance you can set up the system that when the door contact on your pantry door is opened, the light comes on automatically; and when closed it extinguishes. A motion sensor can alert you when your child is in an area of the house that they’re not allowed to be in unescorted.

So - To the point of this blog - the problem is that all of this wonderful technology is controlled via a Qualcomm Data Chip. Qualcomm is the major manufacturer of almost all of the chips in today’s cell phones. While our Intrusion System manufacturer has systems in stock today, no one is able to promise what the future will bring. There are rumors:

"Cisco chief Chuck Robbins told the BBC: "We think we've got another six months to get through the short term. "The providers are building out more capacity. And that'll get better and better over the next 12 to 18 months."" (https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-56847518)

Well I certainly hope so. I want to install this system for someone and impress them with how well it works!


 
Shooter Detection Systems (SDS) - April 21, 2021
Recently, as part of the over-all security measures at a distribution warehouse in Lordstown, DataCom Inc. installed a gun-shot detection system. This particular install was integrated with their intrusion alarm system and consisted of (19) sensors and (20) notification strobe lights.

In a typical shooting, once the first shot is fired, the average time until the authorities are initially notified is five minutes. This is usually by a witness reporting that an active shooter is on scene and engaged with the public. Thankfully, I’ve never been in this situation, but I can well imagine the doubt that would be running through everybody’s minds before they would want to alert the police. "What the heck was that?" "That can't be good." Like most of us, I too live in, and normally find myself working in, a basically peaceful neighborhood. Even when forced to enter the most questionable of areas, I’m not “on alert” for someone shooting at myself or others. This means that valuable time is wasted when this horrific event does occur.

It’s been reported that by the time the victim decides to call for help, they’re typically in such a state that inaccurate information is often given to the 911 dispatcher. As humans, our emotions can get the better of us and we pay attention to that - instead of pertinent information that could actually help the first responders. “Is anybody shot? How many shooters? Where are they now?" Etc. These are questions that need answers; Answers that often aren’t readily available to the caller who isn’t within eyesight of the gunman.

What is needed is a rock-solid witness that is detached and unafraid with an immediate connection to the local police. This is exactly what the modern Shot Detection System (SDS) provides.

First, within milliseconds, the system quickly and accurately detects that a bonafide gunshot has been detected in the area. This is accomplished by at least three different sensors. The first is an audible detector; it “hears” the shot’s audible levels and frequency. Next is an infrared detector. The muzzle flash of a gunshot disturbs the IR section of light waves and is detectable at quite a distance. The third sensor is a pressure sensor. The percussion from a gunshot is also measurable. The audio, the flash and the percussion affect their respective mediums in a distinct, known manner. The SDS, through very complex software, analyzes these disturbances against others and determines if they are the result of a gunshot or not. There are other proprietary sensors on some models of detectors, but for the most part these are the three primary ones.

The second phase of what the SDS provides is dependent on the programming of the system. It is possible that the customer has the system tied into their Intrusion Alarm system and that, in addition to lighting strobe lights throughout the facility for the unknowing workers, it also alerts the police of a gunshot immediately. Possibly it is programmed with their video surveillance system to have the PTZ cameras immediately point towards the gunshot and provide real-time video of the scene. In any case, with the right setup, not only are the authorities notified almost immediately, but they also know where the problem is in the building, and possibly are being live-streamed video as it happens.

If nothing else, an investment in an SDS system would have to bring about a favorable reaction from your Liability insurance provider as well as provide peace of mind to everyone protected by the system. And I sincerely hope that after installation at your facility, it is never needed.


 
5G: Some possibilities... April 14, 2021
About two years ago, I watched a seminar detailing the coming evolution of cellular wireless. As was stated in the seminar:

- 5G isn’t just another “G” - it’s a revolution! -

In my opinion, this “revolution” will take not just another insidious step in the removal of humans from humanity, but a giant LEAP towards that goal.

First and foremost, this IS NOT about better cell phones! Today’s cellular telephone on 4G does virtually everything that it will do on 5G. This is about a “system” of wireless data transmission that will affect, to some degree, almost everything you do on a day-to-day basis. Also, true 5G is quite a way down the road. (Or so I thought when this was written, see below.) How far is unknown at this time. It was only in the last couple of years that placement of 4G hardware was 100% completed across the country. 5G requires total replacement of ALL of this. The expenditure that was incurred installing 4G, (as well as the money spent on R&D of 5G) has not yet been recouped by the cellular providers. Thus, complete 4G equipment replacement isn’t economically feasible at this time. So… What is going on is that, at many locations, 5G technology is being “pushed” over 4G equipment. This is probably a good thing as it will give the programmers and code talkers a chance to work the “bugs” out of their brand-new system before its actual wholesale release. In the end, all wireless data transmission will be conducted via 5G cellular wireless. All wireless devices will have a cellular radio that “makes calls” via 5G to transmit/receive data. And you'll be getting calls from devices that you never knew you wanted to talk to. (Wait until you hear about who's calling our Japanese friends...)

The seminar, talking about just a few sectors worldwide that will be most affected with the full implementation of this technology, brought up many possible scenarios as well as “solutions” to existing problems. Every single one of these involved “wearables” and “embeddables”; devices that are carried on or in the body that would be continuously monitored for various reasons. Think about the exploding market for Fit-Bits and Smart Watches. Soon, pretty much every device that is more functional than a paper clip will have a 5G transmitter installed. Animals, devices, – and humans - can be “chipped” in a whole new way.

With 5G, it would become very conceivable for every human, having sensors installed under their skin at birth, to be monitored 24/7. These are cognitive systems that not only yield location but contain context-aware sensors. These are necessary to provide data for analytics. Analytics are the programs that are necessary to take said data and provide possible outcomes - and even predict future actions. It is an analytic program that tracks your internet activity and determines which pop up ads might be most useful or interesting to you based on the sites you’ve visited. This is one way that web sites make money. They either sell your searching and web site visit history to a company that does these analytics, or else they analyze your data themselves. Just one aspect to the type of info that you would be providing freely – and unknowingly. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Allow me an example of the bandwidth available with 5G. One of the given day-to-day scenarios listed “Smart Stadiums”. With the implementation of 5G, every single attendee in these stadiums would be able to enjoy up to 50Mbps on their devices simultaneously! The reason given was so that the user could enjoy live streaming and instant replays on their smart phone or tablet. (Why - after spending exorbitant fees on tickets, parking, snacks, and refreshments, etc. - would I want to stream a game instead of just watching it live? And why would I want instant replays on my small screen when I could just look up at the “jumbotron”?)

While I’m sure this would add to the enjoyment of the game, wouldn’t it be more prudent to track how many hot dogs and beers I consumed while attending the game in order to supply my health insurance carrier with this information? (Especially if we were silly enough to adopt a government-mandated, taxpayer paid-for, health care insurance scheme.) This way the insurance company could continuously update my life span (or maybe increase my premium payments) as well as any other health concerns affected by my diet and lifestyle. Remember, this technology will involve wearables, at least. While you’re viewing the game, your every movement could be tracked. Your purchases could be tracked, etc.

It would be sold as a convenience; you don’t have to carry money or a credit card – no, all you do is scan your chip to the cash register and voila, done! Of course, the register knows who you are and can now disseminate this info – that you voluntarily gave – to whoever they wish.

At home, your toilet would have sensors also. (These already exist and are in use in Japan.) The device tests your waste to detect deficiencies in vitamins and minerals in your body. Appropriate groceries are then suggested (read: mandated) for you to consume to correct this deficiency. Screening for virus’ as well as other medical tests are also conducted with that information being forwarded to your doctor and health insurance agency as well. This is wonderful for catching diseases early, but maybe that info is something you want to keep private?... Sorry, that doesn’t fit with the plan.

World-famous surgeons will be available 24/7, at practically any location on the planet. They will conduct surgery even if located thousands of miles away from their patients utilizing virtual-reality visors and gloves connected via 5G wireless signals to a network with robots at the patient’s location doing the actual surgery. Keep in mind, today’s hackers make unauthorized long-distance calls on your phone or send strangely “suggestive” messages to your friends on social media. Tomorrow’s? Maybe carve a smiley face on your gizzard during your tonsil removal. (Too much? Sorry.) As of 3-15-19 there was a commercial on TV for one of the cell providers showing an artist “drawing” a picture on a tablet. In the next scene is a shirtless male laying on his stomach in what appears to be a sterile operating theatre. There is also a robotic arm next to the prostrate man. This arm is holding a tattoo needle and the drawing is being rendered beautifully on the man’s back. The idea of remotely-operated procedures is being normalized. Lifesaving? Sure, but at what price?

Autonomous cars that drive themselves are another area that will be affected. The cars, every one of them, will communicate on this 5G network! Of course, this also means that they will have to be “controlled” remotely as well. Yet another facet of life where we will lose the necessary skills to “fend for ourselves”. It is easy for me to visualize our government outlawing every other form of vehicle due to their being “dangerous” and much more prone to accidents.

Imagine this: Should you live in a remote area where ambulance services are not readily available, it might, sometime, become necessary for you to drive yourself or someone else to the local hospital due to an emergency. These trips are usually conducted with the posted speed limit being exceeded. Speeding can be dangerous. I have not heard mention of an “emergency” setting available on self-driving cars. I’m certain that speeding will be just one of the many things that these vehicles will not be allowed to do. It might be sold to the public with the line that it will “free up” law enforcement from traffic duty, so that they have more time available for “actual crimes”. And what is the local government going to do once the revenue stream from traffic tickets is eliminated? I’m guessing that police department manpower will not be reduced; even without the need for traffic officers. That means that money must be raised in some other way; more taxes anybody? Not to be macabre, but with the serious downturn in traffic deaths, how are we going to feed all of these people that should have passed in an auto accident, but are now alive?

I use my telephone’s GPS for navigating to all of our vacation destinations. I can’t imagine that self-driving cars would use anything too much different. Recently, on Interstate 70, a major, long-established highway in Indiana, I looked down to see that my navigation app had me out in the neighboring corn field. The highway was nowhere in sight! Thankfully, I didn’t believe it, and the silly thing recovered before my next turn. Another time, the pleasing voice instructed me to “Make a left turn”. As I gazed out over the cliff to my left, I decided not to heed the request. These are not uncommon occurrences. (Maybe it’s trying to make up for the lack of speed-related deaths?)

Not to mention; If the entity controlling my car decides that I shouldn’t go somewhere (or maybe don’t “need” to go somewhere) then they simply disable my car from going there. Using more than “your fair share” of gasoline? Oh no you’re not! Going into a bad neighborhood every Tuesday night? Maybe you’re working at a shelter handing out food or clothing – but maybe a better answer is: “You must be buying drugs”. We’ll go ahead and alert the local constabulary to “keep an eye on you”. No seatbelt? No move the car. No proof of insurance (although why do I need insurance – I’M NOT DRIVING)? No move the car. No freedom? Hey, you wanted it; It’s safe!

It should be frightening to see just how much control “they” will have over your/our existence. We will give it up gradually, but freely, so that we may enjoy all of the pleasures that this new technology will bring. But it still won’t make you a sammich. OK… it WILL let others know that you’re eating that delightful snack when the ‘fridge lets them know that you removed the mayo and returned it weighing 3oz less; and that the cheese appears to be missing 3 slices, and the salami, mortadella, and capicola add up to almost 1lb less; but the lack of lettuce, tomato, avocado use reveals that veggies are not high on your sammich list!

Update!.
One of my latest seminars was an introduction to Li-Fi. This is the acronym chosen for the wireless medium of data transmission via LED lighting. That is to say: every LED lightbulb, every single one of them, are capable of becoming a Wireless Access Point of sorts. The speed at which these devices can be switched on and off is so fast that it is not visible to the human eye; we are unable to detect when the LEDs are passing data, just being a light, or both! They are also able to operate in the dark, as the light is on for such a short period of time that it does not register to the human eye. Also, the wireless spectrum for radio frequency Wi-Fi is fast becoming “crowded” with all of the devices accessing Wi-Fi at any one time. (It is estimated that up to 60% of ALL data transmission is via wireless.) Using the light spectrum opens up this spectrum by over 1000 times and makes available speeds that are up to 10,000 times faster! (It is predicted that the initial bottleneck regarding speed of transmission will be in the switch gear itself.)

This technology will become integral to the installation of 5G. It will lighten the “load” potentially placed on the 5G mechanical infrastructure. No longer will it be necessary to build the number of cellular towers I talked about above or launch the vast numbers of cellular satellites. Every device that uses an LED bulb, can be networked. And remember, coupled with 5G they don’t have to be physically connected to each other! I’m certain that any lag times experienced while you are out of range of an LED or a cell tower, will be reduced by analytics. They will determine what data is most important to transmit/receive and will have that on the data stream before the mundane stuff like time and temperature thus making your wait time less, if only fractionally, once you're back in range.

Incandescent light bulbs have been being phased out in the United States for quite a while now. Amazingly, clear back in 2011, Li-Fi was demonstrated to not only be theoretically feasible, but to actually work! To move forward with Li-Fi implementation, the first thing that has to be done is the mass replacement of incandescent bulbs for LED bulbs. I know, We’ll FORCE them to do it! We’ll tell them it’s to save the planet!! Coincidence?

Why was 5G brought into the public’s eye a couple of years ago, but Li-Fi, though in existence, not mentioned for another 2 years? Once the 5G embeddables and Li-Fi systems are completely implemented, the powers that be, will be able to constantly track, and analyze through analytics, every human being on earth. One supposition is that if all of this was brought out at the same time, some enterprising, thinking, individual might, just might, put two and two together and come up with four!

Through the companies controlling 5G, we will not only be tracked, but the information that we are able to have access to will be strictly controlled “for our own good”, (Think of what Google has admitted to recently regarding political searches), similar to the way that our children’s public education is conducted today. I, for one, do not look forward to this future! Remember this: “If it sounds too good to be true, it is”!

That last sentence sums up this rant perfectly. I’m not being a conspiracy theorist. I’m simply relaying truths and giving possible outcomes based on having paid attention – and remembering – for the last 30 years to what the government of The United States has done in the past thereby proving what it is capable of doing in the future. Couple that with what our current spate of "leaders" - at all levels - are promising and what is possible (probable?) becomes a little less hazy.


 
Firestopping
Firestopping is: A System of passive materials and procedures which greatly impedes the progress of a fire – and sometimes more importantly, smoke – from penetrating a wall, floor, or ceiling opening.

This affords your company four vital items:
1. Time for your sensors to detect a fire, or smoke, and then signal your horns and or strobes, to sound the alarm.
2. Time for your personnel to exit the danger area before being overcome.
3. Time for your suppression system, if installed, to activate and quell the source
4. Time for emergency responders to arrive to your facility thereby limiting structural damage as much as possible.

Always required in hospitals and public schools, firestopping is often warranted at many other locations. When driven by regulations and architectural specifications, the devices and methods are spelled out. When requested by the owner, the correct installation practices must be derived by you and your contractor. Choosing the correct firestopping devices and methods is a case-by-case decision and can be a daunting task. There are many choices available from foams and caulks, to pillows and pre-made sleeves.

At DataCom Inc., we are extremely qualified to help you decide which system to install; we continually update our knowledge base of this vital component of construction. We stay abreast of the current standards, visit the construction site to determine the make-up of the wall or floor we are dealing with, the requirements of the government, the desires of the customer, and consult with the firestopping manufacturer for their recommendations. We then expertly install up to and beyond what is determined to be the correct system.

DataCom techs utilize EZ Path pathway devices, SSB Firestop Pillows, SSM Firestop Mortar, as well as other sealants, foams and sprays. Our safety record is unsurpassed for both the initial install and during the life of the system.


 
New for 2021
Some things have changed • April 05, 2021
Late last Fall Joe Dickey Electric acquired DataCom Inc. As an electrical contractor in the Mahoning Valley for over 60 years, the sheer size of their customer-base and accumulated business knowledge has everyone at DataCom very excited to begin working more closely with them. We've already partnered up with them for the mammoth TJX/Homegoods distribution warehouse in Lordstown. Begun in November, we are currently in the process of completing a successful installation there. The distribution warehouse, a $90 million facility has over 1.2 million square feet of concrete floor with approximately 300,000 sq/ft of mezzanine floor space above.

We installed: (99) office Intrusion/Alarm devices and (526) in the warehouse; (35) Office Access-Control doors and (10) in the warehouse; (30) Office cameras and (154) in, and outside of, the Warehouse. We installed (4) Emergency Call Boxes in the parking lot. In addition, we installed a Shot Detection System to warn of the discharge of a firearm with (19) sensors in the Office areas and (20) Strobe lights for notification in the warehouse.

While growing and experiencing larger and larger jobs, we're still the same technology company that we've prided ourselves as being over the past 25 years. We continue to install and service state-of-the-art camera, entry-access, and telephone systems. We still install infrastructure cabling utilizing both copper and fiber offering a lifetime warranty for the system.

What's changed is that we now are able to more easily call upon our parent-company to supply their wealth of knowledge and man-power when faced with larger, more daunting tasks. In the past, we might have needed to sub-contract out for some of the more industrial-sized jobs; now we partner with 'Dickey regularly to get the job scheduled quickly and installed promptly and professionally.

"The Future's So Bright, We Need Sunglasses!"
 
 
 
11757 Market Street • North Lima, OH 44452
 
P: 330.549.2200 • F: 330.549.2228
 
support@datacomfirst.com