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Handmade vs. Commercially Produced Ethernet Cables

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the now-wait-a-minute dept.

Networking 837

An anonymous reader writes "We have a T1 line coming into our satellite office and we rely fairly heavily on it to transfer large amounts of data over a VPN to the head office across the country. Recently, we decided to upgrade to a 20 Mbit line. Being the lone IT guy here, it fell on me to run cable from the ISP's box to our server room so I went out and bought a spool of Cat6. I mentioned the purchase and the plan to run the cable myself to my boss in head office and in an emailed response he stated that it's next to impossible to create quality cable (ie: cable that will pass a Time Domain Reflectometer test) by hand without expensive dies, special Ethernet jacks and special cable. He even went so far as to say that handmade cable couldn't compare to even the cheapest Belkin cables. I've never once ran into a problem with handmade patch cables. Do you create your own cable or do you bite the bullet and buy it from some place?"

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837 comments

How much is your time worth (5, Insightful)

linzeal (197905) | more than 4 years ago | (#27728979)

While it may be cost effective to crimp and cut your own cable when you are making less than 20 dollars an hour once you are making 20 dollar+ just buy it.

Re:How much is your time worth (4, Informative)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729135)

While it may be cost effective to crimp and cut your own cable when you are making less than 20 dollars an hour once you are making 20 dollar+ just buy it.

I promise you I can make more than $20 worth of test-worthy cables in one hour.

Re:How much is your time worth (4, Interesting)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729255)

I promise you I can make more than $20 worth of test-worthy cables in one hour.

I'll second that. I make my own cables when I want a specific length, rather than having the extra wire coiled up in a cable tie.

-jcr

Re:How much is your time worth (5, Funny)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729407)

Yeah,

But the occasional dud-job does pass by. Then you've got this thing spraying ether all over the walls, the floors, and what-have-you.

Try explaining that one, passing the hallway, with ether dripping from the front of one''s trousers. "It's my handworked cable, you see..." you might mumble to colleagues, to their dubious glances.

I know a lot of you came up while 10 MbPS was standard. The drizzling or atomizing was even comforting - almost acceptable in Cat5. Now, 100 MbPS goes off like a water-cannon. With Gig arriving to the desktop and commodity rack, I don't know if "grow-your-own" is advice that one may any longer advocate with a dry lap or chin!

Re:How much is your time worth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27729393)

Yeah, but is that what you're getting paid to do? Does your boss agree that it's worth $xx an hour to have you make cables when you could just buy them for half the price?

Re:How much is your time worth (0, Offtopic)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729383)

While it may be cost effective to crimp and cut your own cable when you are making less than 20 dollars an hour once you are making 20 dollar+ just buy it.

So this is how you get the low-UID people to post. Congratulations. Also to OP.

Re:How much is your time worth (1)

dr_strang (32799) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729477)

So this is how you get the low-UID people to post. Congratulations. Also to OP.

zzzz....snrrrkk.... eh? what?

Re:How much is your time worth (4, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729423)

It depends on the situation and the reason for the cable.

Sometimes there are restrictions for routing the cable that makes a prefabricated cable unusable.

And you may sometimes run into problems with a handmade cable, but often it does work just fine. If you get problems - just remake one contact at a time. If you have a decently modern intelligent switch you can also monitor the port for data errors, and if you don't have any errors it's good enough.

As for cabling quality - all the outlets in buildings are usually contacted by the cable jocks from the installation company and they do a simple test and then moves on to the next. I doubt that the quality from a hand made cable and those outlets are much different.

Re:How much is your time worth (1)

fatbuttlarry (1347443) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729429)

This is insightful, but some of the posts below show $500 dollar audio grade Ethernet cables and talks of die's.

Our resort has thousands of Ethernet cables created by hand. Each cable is fluke tested. That's not to say we are without problems, but our network has redundancy where it's needed in the event of flapping, packet loss or failure.

I guess I'm not sure the OP's question was answered.

Does the TCP/IP stack benefit from professional grade cable? In the OP's case, he has a main T1 VPN line, so perhaps that weights the answer toward "yes". I'd like to know the answer as well as this seems to be a valid topic of debate.

-Tres

Always buy them (5, Interesting)

igb (28052) | more than 4 years ago | (#27728983)

We have TDR equipment and appropriate tools, but we still buy patch cables in bulk. We tested an assortment of ones we had made with cheap crimping tools, and they were all horrible. We can make decent ones, but it takes longer and costs more than buying them pre-tested.

Re:Always buy them (2, Informative)

seanadams.com (463190) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729203)

Aren't the commercial ones also hand made? I find it hard to imagine an automated way of doing it.

Commercial cables have going for them: rubber injection/overmold for more ruggedness, and they're pre-tested. Aside from that, I don't see exactly what should stop you from making decent ones yourself, assuming sufficient skill.

Re:Always buy them (5, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729231)

Depending on wages and such, the commercial cables could easily have 10x the labor and still be cheaper.

Re:Always buy them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27729329)

Commercial cables have going for them: rubber injection/overmold for more ruggedness, and they're pre-tested.

It features two-pronged wall plug, pre-molded hand grip well, durable outer casing to prevent fallapart...

Agreed. (5, Informative)

dr_wheel (671305) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729269)

Yes, you can use handmade cables that are as good as mass-produced factory cables. But that really isn't the issue.

It's just not worth the time spent to cut and crimp your own lines anymore. In my experience, it was a more common practice years ago in IT. That may have had something to do with the fact that there weren't nearly as many PC's or ethernet ports in buildings as there are today.

My advice: Find a good supplier (i.e. not one that charges $800 for a 6 ft. adamantium-coated cable) and do something else with the rest of your time.

Re:Always buy them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27729503)

We tested an assortment of ones we had made with cheap crimping tools, and they were all horrible.

I think I see your problem. Get some halfway decent tools, and the product that comes out in the end will be of higher quality. Does this really need to be explained to you guys?

meh, easy... (5, Funny)

polle404 (727386) | more than 4 years ago | (#27728993)

Monster cables, dude, Monster cables...

Re:meh, easy... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27729265)

Hey, I just spent $100 on a 3ft gold-wired Cat6 cable, and I can tell that my bits are coming in cleaner.

Re:meh, easy... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27729315)

Nah, I tested some ethernet cables I made with 4 pairs of wire coathangers and they performed just as well as the Monster Cable ethernet cord!

Re:meh, easy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27729469)

Yeh? I just made some using rusty barbed wire that beat Monster. Next.

Re:meh, easy... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27729395)

Monster cables are nothing but a name. I can make higher quality cables out of old telephone wire and snickers bars than anything Monster puts out. Seriously, that whole gold plated thing is a bunch of bullshit. Who gives a damn if your connectors are gold plated, the wire running through the rest of the cable is still plain old wire. The only thing monstrous about them is the price.

DJCalarco

Just do what your boss wants (2, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#27728997)

It's clearly not your company's core business to make their own patch cables. It may be fun for you to wittle down your own toothpics from lincoln logs but if it's not in your job description it ain't going to fly. Seriously, just buy the damn stuff and do what your boss has asked.

Re:Just do what your boss wants (2, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729485)

And why not? The only reason I ever bothered to learn how to make patch cables was because I had bosses who didn't want to spend the extra money to buy commercially produced stuff. If your boss is giving you the OK for the money, then place an order online and have a whole bunch delivered straight to your door. Nothing could be easier.

I can produce cables all day long and something like 99% of them will be easily good enough for my needs. Still, I wouldn't doubt that a company like Belkin, running an ethernet cable factory or whatever, has better equipment to create and test the cable than I do, and they create better quality cables with greater efficiency than I would. Fewer problem cables, and they catch a greater percentage of the bad ones in their QA.

your boss sucks at making ethernet cables (1, Troll)

BroadbandBradley (237267) | more than 4 years ago | (#27728999)

Obviously your boss isn't good at making cables. While if you lack the skill to do something like make cables with care you're going to have problems, there's no reason that you can't make your own cables and have them perform just as well as the ones made by a machine in a factory.
 

Re:your boss sucks at making ethernet cables (5, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729193)

Obviously your boss isn't good at making cables. While if you lack the skill to do something like make cables with care you're going to have problems, there's no reason that you can't make your own cables and have them perform just as well as the ones made by a machine in a factory.

They can put it under the "Tech" section if they like, but this is really another disappointing Ask Slashdot. It's disappointing because too many of these have this format: "my boss at work wants me to do X, but I'd really rather do Y; what are the merits of X versus Y?" All of them need to be summarily rejected, with a polite e-mail sent to the submitter which says "within the bounds of the law, you need to do what your boss asks you to do whether or not you necessarily agree with it. If you cannot convince your boss to do otherwise, and this is a problem for you, perhaps you should consider working elsewhere."

The other disappointing category of Ask Slashdot-type submissions are those questions that are factual in nature and have only one correct (and rather well-known, easily researched) answer. Asking a large group with varying levels of expertise makes a lot of sense when there are multiple possible solutions to a problem and there is room to be creative. It makes no sense when it's more of a yes/no question -- remember the recent Ask Slashdot that asked whether spam is increased by trying to opt-out of spam e-mails? That's an excellent case in point, and not atypical either. That should have been an "Ask Google", not an "Ask Slashdot".

I think it's a shame that the quality of these particular submissions are on the decline. There's nothing inherently wrong with the "Ask Slashdot" format and there are a lot of very knowledgable people who browse this site. I'd love to see how creative they can be. It's just never going to be as good as it easily could be when it's handled this way.

Just pretend that the question is... (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729303)

It's disappointing because too many of these have this format: "my boss at work wants me to do X, but I'd really rather do Y; what are the merits of X versus Y?" All of them need to be summarily rejected, with a polite e-mail sent to the submitter which says "within the bounds of the law, you need to do what your boss asks you to do whether or not you necessarily agree with it. If you cannot convince your boss to do otherwise, and this is a problem for you, perhaps you should consider working elsewhere."

Just pretend that the question is "how should I convince my boss that Y is better than X?". It's like asking legal questions on Ask Slashdot: the real question is "what should I know before my appointment with a lawyer?".

Re:your boss sucks at making ethernet cables (2, Insightful)

FatRichie (1456467) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729307)

Maybe I'm missing your point... but I think the submitter is aware of what he's REQUIRED to do. This puts his question more on the theoretical, "If I were the boss..." , but still does not invalidate the question. Just because he may be unable to act on the advice gained here, why does that make the question bad? There may be plenty of other situations where he CAN apply the advice, or any of the rest of us reading can use said advice.

Re:your boss sucks at making ethernet cables (5, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729331)

All of them need to be summarily rejected, with a polite e-mail sent to the submitter which says "within the bounds of the law, you need to do what your boss asks you to do whether or not you necessarily agree with it. If you cannot convince your boss to do otherwise, and this is a problem for you, perhaps you should consider working elsewhere."

Bull! Entirely aside from what the submitter should do to protect their job, it is topical on slashdot to question whether DIY ethernet cables are any good, just as people on a home repair DIY site might discuss whether doing drywall yourself is worthwhile.

When the only answer slashdotters can imagine is "just pay somebody else to do it," that is the day there is no point reading here.

Re:your boss sucks at making ethernet cables (5, Funny)

Thornburg (264444) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729439)

When the only answer slashdotters can imagine is "just pay somebody else to do it," that is the day there is no point reading here.

Hey, that was pretty good. What would you charge to make my posts for me?

Re:your boss sucks at making ethernet cables (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27729411)

I agree with you, but it is not clear what to do about this sad state of affairs. Maybe you should post the question on how to fix this situation on slashdot?

Re:your boss sucks at making ethernet cables (5, Insightful)

Phasma Felis (582975) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729487)

They can put it under the "Tech" section if they like, but this is really another disappointing Ask Slashdot. It's disappointing because too many of these have this format: "my boss at work wants me to do X, but I'd really rather do Y; what are the merits of X versus Y?" All of them need to be summarily rejected, with a polite e-mail sent to the submitter which says "within the bounds of the law, you need to do what your boss asks you to do whether or not you necessarily agree with it. If you cannot convince your boss to do otherwise, and this is a problem for you, perhaps you should consider working elsewhere."

I don't know about you, but I was hired for my technical expertise. It is part of my job description to let management know when they are making bad technical decisions. If they still insist after that, then sure, I gotta shrug my shoulders and do it; but until then, it's my job to find out the facts and make sure they stay informed...which is exactly what the questioner is doing.

Save the "shut up and do as you're told" bit for McDonald's burger-flippers. We're professionals here.

Re:your boss sucks at making ethernet cables (2, Informative)

Victor_0x53h (1164907) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729349)

While I would agree that hand making Ethernet cables is a fine way to go about things, if the boss says says to buy them pre-made, then just buy them. That is, unless you can convince him, for example, that hand making cables is necessary for keeping a tidy data room (precut sizes aren't going to work for running a building's worth of Ethernet jacks).

What you've posted him saying sounds like a lot of I'm-afraid-of-doing-that-myself jargon. By crimping the cables yourself you're opening yourself up for any data or transmission speed problems to be blamed on you and your shoddy Time Domain Reflectometer tests.

I make my own all the time. (2, Informative)

khasim (1285) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729001)

And I have never had any problem with them. Even on 50 servers running at full Gig. No errors.

Re:I make my own all the time. (1)

neowolf (173735) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729305)

We have a mix of them at my office. We often have "emergency" needs thanks to a constantly shifting cube-farm, so end up making a lot of our own. But- when time permits- I prefer to purchase them. It's one less thing for me to get blamed for if it fails. We are only running 1Gb Ethernet though, so I don't know if I would trust my cable-making skills to anything faster than that, especially for something as mission-critical as this story suggests.

Re:I make my own all the time. (5, Funny)

Guido del Confuso (80037) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729461)

Seconded. I make all my own patch ca$lw7 and3@0 datt trd!@m34ssion ha*F aslwts bben3n vereryu reliabl3233e.

Whatever saves time (4, Interesting)

boaworm (180781) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729011)

I've spent many hours debugging things that ended up being poor quality TP connectors, but I've also saved countless more hours producing them myself compared to running to the store everytime.

For any permanent installation, go for the molded cables. For anything thats temporary, just pick whatever cable is closest.

And you're not guaranteed to be free of problems just because you buy expensive stuff, I've had problems with Dell PowerEdge switches and factory-made, properly molded STP cables, the RJ45 plug was simply too small and the copper pins didnt connect every time. Really odd, we had to throw away a whole box of STP patch cables for that reason.

Re:Whatever saves time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27729457)

Which was the "expensive stuff"? The low-quality cable or the low-quality switch?

Re:Whatever saves time (3, Insightful)

CrazedSanity (872448) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729467)

The problem with the "grab whatever if it's temporary" is that temporary solutions oftentimes become more permanent than anything. I have had many experiences where fixing a problem in the server room exposes some "temporary" fix from years ago that I never had time to make permanent (and since it worked, nobody thought twice about the problem it had fixed).

Or when developing web applications, somebody implements that "quick function" that does X, intended only for internal stuff. Another feature comes along, and pretty soon we're using that temporary function as the core of a new system... and sometimes it even gets embedded into the core of the system. But remember, it was only temporary.

Hand-made is time consuming (2, Interesting)

Enry (630) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729013)

but makes perfectly fine cables from what I saw. I generally don't do it anymore unless I have a very custom length as pre-made are really inexpensive and over 10 cables I usually have to re-crimp at least one end. Does your boss have any proof that hand-made cables are inferior?

Re:Hand-made is time consuming (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27729151)

I used to work in a large shop that mostly made their own cables. We honestly rarely had issues. Sure, sometimes you write off a problem to a bad cable but if you know what your are doing (without a TDR) you can still be fine most of the time. Recently, I've moved to a different employer who prefers to buy everything. Nothing handmade. They literally have bins of cables in every size in a store room and backfill what is taken out so you never run out and you don't have to go to the store. The result is a cleaner solution IMHO. I guess it depends on the scale and mindset of the company....

Create your own but TEST the cables... (5, Informative)

nweaver (113078) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729017)

I've learned the hard way when setting up a couple of clusters: You MUST use custom-made, cut to length cables to prevent a huge rats nets in the server room. Buying precut cables is a disaster. I had to rip out and completely rewire one cluster because I made that mistake.

However, you need to TEST the cables. And not just by plugging in and making sure it works, but a full ethernet validation tester.

I've been very happy with the Fluke Cable-IQ qualification tester [flukenetworks.com], which doesn't just make sure that the wiring is correct, but actually tests the cable up to gigabit speed to make sure everything is kosher.

Re:Create your own but TEST the cables... (4, Informative)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729157)

This is the most sensible response so far.

The submitter neglected to mention how often this scenario is encountered though. If this happens frequently, buying a cable tester probably makes a lot of sense and will save a lot of money, time and headaches in the future.

However, if this happens very rarely, just buy the cable and be done with it.

Re:Create your own but TEST the cables... (5, Informative)

MasterOfMagic (151058) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729223)

And at $1,270.99, it's an absolute steal! [cdw.com]

Unless he's making hundreds/thousands of patch cables, I think the original poster is better off buying a commercially made cable.

Re:Create your own but TEST the cables... (3, Interesting)

eggoeater (704775) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729379)

Isn't there some diagnostic software you can run to test a cable between two computers?
I guess you may need a special NIC, but even still, its gotta be cheaper than $1200.

Re:Create your own but TEST the cables... (4, Interesting)

jefftp (35835) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729491)

If you're testing to certify cat5, cat5e, or cat6 you need a cable tester. If you cannot certify the cable to a category you cannot guarantee the cable will work. So the cable is always suspect when you have connectivity issues.

Keep the OSI model in mind, errors at the physical layer cause the whole stack to collapse.

The advantage of cabling over wireless is that you can guarantee that the cable will work where there's no such promise with unlicensed RF spectrum.

Re:Create your own but TEST the cables... (1)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729313)

I can understand that for clusters, but why should extra cable length matter when wiring up an office? Just leave the extra length in the wall.

He's right... (5, Funny)

Ecuador (740021) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729033)

You can certainly screw it up if you do it yourself, for example you could forget the signal directional markings [denon.com] and then the signal would not know which way to go. Why do you think there are Ethernet cables at $500/1.5m? You think respectable companies are just trying to steal your money?

Re:He's right... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27729263)

You can certainly screw it up if you do it yourself, for example you could forget the signal directional markings [denon.com] and then the signal would not know which way to go. Why do you think there are Ethernet cables at $500/1.5m? You think respectable companies are just trying to steal your money?

Of course they wouldn't. They have only our best interests at heart.

For example, the cable you referred to is one of the best in the industry. Having problems with packet loss? Probably due to excess vibrations shaking all of your bits off the wires.
But they are prepared, for this cable also includes high quality insulation and woven jacketing to reduce vibration.

Re:He's right... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27729341)

Why do you think there are Ethernet cables at $500/1.5m?

I figured that Denon was really in the adult entertainment business, and the cable was just the excuse for the hooker to charge five hundred bucks for the "special" installation service.

Re:He's right... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27729463)

Heh. An acquaintance of mine is a self-styled audiophile. He showed me his special "bi-lead, directional surround cable" that are "specially designed for the frequencies that go to the surrounds". They apparently need to be connected in a specific direction to allow the electrons to flow more evenly from amp to speaker, sort of like a check-valve for electrons. They actually looked like your run-of-the-mill FM antenna wire but why point this out; he seemed happy.

Me: "How much?"
Him: "They are $30 a foot but totally worth it. You can hear the difference without all the reflected signal."
Me: (nods and walks away whistling circus music)

Bite the bullet (3, Informative)

bernywork (57298) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729041)

I buy cables because I would go through 5 - 10 cables a day and by the time I made them, tested them, labelled them, I could be doing 101 other things.

It's not to say that you can't do it, you can. It's just a matter that the amount of time you spend doing it just makes it a hell of a lot cheaper in the long run to buy them.

This is ESPECIALLY true when dealing with CAT7 or STP. On a 20Mb line (Probably a 100Mb link) the chances of having a problem though are pretty low provided you terminate it cleanly.

Not sure if I'm stating the obvious here but (2, Insightful)

MLS100 (1073958) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729045)

If you get the rated speed and it's reliable, need we delve further?

Re:Not sure if I'm stating the obvious here but (2, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729377)

If you get the rated speed and it's reliable, need we delve further?

But how can you be sure that a cable is as reliable as you think it is without a $1,200 device [slashdot.org] that comprehensively tests the reliability?

Don't cross the data streams! (4, Interesting)

mc1138 (718275) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729049)

I took a network troubleshooting class in college, and we had to test the integrity of data runs that we pulled ourselves and if they weren't good enough we had to do them again till we got our numbers down. I'm sure there are hundreds of data companies that would disagree with you on what it takes to make quality cables and I'm sure "expensive dies" and other nonsense like that really don't help that much when it comes to quality. All you need is a steady hand and lots of practice.

Pointy Haired Nitwitt (5, Funny)

nefus (952656) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729059)

I think you have a pointy haired boss who can't do anything himself. Thats why he has other people do the IT. I've run into these types of people before. He's probably the kind of guy that staples the crap out of cat cable and wonders why his network is down.

custom patch (-1)

Lilo-x (93462) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729071)

All our stuff is custom patched,

we deploy 80 servers in a single rack unit, each with 4 ethernet cables, thats a total of 320 hand made cables per a footprint, - 6720 over one 21 rack footprint along with other cables - probably 7500 cables

How many problems have we had in the last twelve months? - 2 and these were weeded out within 24 hours of deployment via testing.

Your boss seems to have run a few google checks looking purely for negatives

that being said, for a single cable run, I might just buy a long cable ;) you probably have over spent :P

Sure... Belkin... right... (1)

DavidChristopher (633902) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729075)

I'm compelled to ask what your phb actually does for a living. because it's not networking
In the data centre, all of our runs are custom. Even in the lab and development rooms, the runs are custom built cables. If a "belkin" cable gets into the datacentre, it's lost.
Now, I'm not promising that YOU can make the cables, there's a definite knack to it ( I personally don't have it, I hate making cables but our datacentre guys are wicked awesome at it). I've ever heard of these magical special jacks dies and cable he's referring to.

Maybe he wants you to get some of these?: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-9967991-1.html [cnet.com] ?

Both yes and no (1)

MortenMW (968289) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729095)

For drop cables and cables to and from client computers I normally buy in bulk. That way I don't have to make 50 1m cables or 50 1,5m cables. For "custom runs" I usually make it myself as it is cheaper than buying a cable with some odd length.

If the Belkin cable fails, you can blame Belkin (5, Insightful)

Glass Goldfish (1492293) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729101)

Why put your neck on the line? If you make a cable and anything goes wrong, even if it happens later on, you're blamed. If something happens with the Belkin cable, you can blame Belkin. Even if it isn't Belkin's fault. Especially after your boss has told you to do something. Whenever you go up against an authority figure, the best you can hope for is proving them wrong. It's better to say "What a great idea boss!" and buy the cable. If it works, great. If it doesn't work, don't rub it in. Besides, do you really want to crimp your own cables?

Rewiring our building (5, Informative)

Peter Simpson (112887) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729103)

We had a contractor come in and rewire our facility. They ran raw CAT 6 and hand terminated it, then TDR'd each run.
Your boss is unclear on the tools needed and the difficulty...just simple hand crimpers were all they needed. There's going to be
an impedance bump at the RJ anyway...the cable's not twisted there.

As to making them yourself or buying patch cables? It's way cheaper to buy them (I like L-Com) but if you need one *right now*,
(or a custom length) it's cheap to have a crimp tool, some RJs and a roll of cable handy in the corner of the office.

Eh. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729113)

For a 20Mb/s connection, I'd be surprised if it matters noticably(your nominal 1Gb/s cat6 job would really have to suck to cause trouble at less than fast ethernet speeds); but I'd be shocked if handmade cables are equivalent in quality to good, tested, machine made ones.

Doing an extremely regular job precisely is the sort of thing that expensive machines are very good at and, amortized over a bazillion cables a year, quite cheap at.

Doubt he's correct, but believe him anyway! (4, Insightful)

zaf (5944) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729131)

Wait a minute. Your boss is telling you to buy cables instead of toiling to make your own, and you're _complaining_? I don't think a self-terminated link of CAT6 will have the slightest trouble maintaining 20 megabits, but that's not the point.

Word of advice, take his word for him and nod. If he's willing to spend money to make your job easier, then keep that job!

How fast is this thing running? (1)

putaro (235078) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729153)

Sounds like 100Base-T since you only have a 20 Mbit connection coming in. You can practically run that over tin cans and string.

If you're doing a run of any length it's usually pretty hard to estimate just how long it's going to be so cutting the cable to length makes more sense to me than buying a much longer pre-terminated cable and either having a bunch left over coiled in the overhead or underestimating and coming up short.

Re:How fast is this thing running? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729445)

Sounds like 100Base-T since you only have a 20 Mbit connection coming in. You can practically run that over tin cans and string.

Unless it's gigabit because the connection between the server and the workstations needs to be faster than the connection between the gateway and the ISP equipment.

Handmade cable nightmare (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27729161)

For a long run, obviously the choice would be to make it yourself. Vz/brighthouse/etc installers do it all the time with coax, sometimes vz with ethernet. Your boss is being a putz by the sound of it.

HOWEVER: don't think it's more cost effective to hand-make every single cable everywhere. My last network admin decided to do that by making 3 inch, 4 inch, 6inch, 8inch patch cables from the patch panel to the switch, guess what happened when the switch died and a replacement was ordered, only - it wasn't the exact model? they didn't fit. Not to mention that he couldn't make them properly to begin with ; that is, insulation must be crimped inside the connector, all of his cables had the pairs hanging outside of the connector - no wonder half of them failed, and no wonder your boss is paranoid.

Sounds like you're not a moran though, so simply go for it. Cable testers are good insurance, of course :)

like cathedral and bazaar (1)

spyrochaete (707033) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729167)

Perhaps this is similar to the commercial software versus open source in the workplace scenario. Some companies refuse to use even superior open source software because there is no accountability or support, which can fall out of various compliance requirements (for security, insurance, certification, whatever).

You've voiced your concerns, and now you must do what your boss requests.

I recently tried to dissuade my Marketing Director from trying to embed Quicktime videos on a SharePoint site. I stated my objections and then abided by her choice. I've got my best "told you so" waiting on the tip of my tongue.

Both, but mostly buy (1)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729179)

For patch cables it's just not worth the hassle of crimping your own, nor is it very cost efficient unless you have a skilled cable crimper working at near minimum wage, while for laying new distribution looms paid contractors are usually the best option. For very long, one off cable runs however, or cables that need to take specific routes that preclude the connector being attached (think industrial environments), then I'll hand crimp as and when required.

As to quality, I've never had any problems with my hand crimped cables at all, even on cables running high load Gigabit, but I do use decent cable, ends and tools and know how to do a proper crimp. On the subject of the cable, do make sure get the right type for the cable run! Nearly all the places where I've seen problems have ultimately been down to the wrong cable type more often than a bad crimping job; the flexible cable is for patching, the stiff cable is for horizontal/vertical distribution!

Never had a problem but... (1)

BenJaminus (472372) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729183)

I've never had a problem with handmade cables, but I have had a problem with poorly installed cables (eg too many sharp angles) - though you'd get that regardless of how they're made.

Not worth the responsibility (5, Insightful)

hhaarrvv (1521241) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729185)

Your cables would be fine, but if ANYTHING ever goes wrong the first thing your boss will say is "It's probably that damn cable you made when I told you to buy one." It's just not worth it.

He's the boss... (1)

Temkin (112574) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729189)

I've had pretty good luck making my own cables over the years. I've had very few fail in service once I got them crimped right. So I'd call it a wash.

One thing I've never had any luck at... Going against my boss. Whatever else he may be... Regardless of what everyone on Slashdot says... He's the boss. It's his expense account. I know if I was the boss, I'd not look kindly on having to argue with a subordinate over a cable.

Re:He's the boss... (1)

ircmaxell (1117387) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729381)

Big risks come with big rewards. Going against the boss can pay off bigtime IF it works. If it doesn't, it's usually your ass... But for cables? I wouldn't call that a big risk, and definately don't think it's worth going against the boss for... Just buy the cables (unless it's a very custom run)...

Re:He's the boss... (1)

boaworm (180781) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729451)

One thing I've never had any luck at... Going against my boss. Whatever else he may be... Regardless of what everyone on Slashdot says... He's the boss.

Are you trying to insinuate that there is a credability problem with referring your mission-critical decision to an "Anonymous Coward" post on slashdot?

Your boss is a dumbass.. (5, Interesting)

ockers (7928) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729209)

Ask him how the premise wiring in every commercial building in the world is installed. They order patch cables from some commercial patch cable vendor for every run, riiiiiiiight.

Also, CAT5e is fine for what you are doing. I agree with the previous poster that you could practically use tin cans and a string for this.

These special dies, jacks, and connectors are called "CAT5" parts and you can buy them at Home Depot I think. Does that make them "special" ?

I only use monster ethernet cables (2, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729213)

It really preserves the assonitic complexity and quality of the packets when they move from your wall to your router. Cheaper cables let noisy bits through that go all wobbly and clog your connection. I hear their new wifi cables are hella expensive but totally worth it.

what do you care? (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729215)

It boils down to dollars and time, which in the USA is the same thing.

As someone above noted, if you're making more than $20p.h., don't bother building your own. Your time is worth money. If the boss is willing to piss away several extra bucks, then fine - just go and buy the damn cable, or better yet, order it online and have it delivered the next day FedEx.

There is also an issue of accountability involved. Example: you spend $100 on a cable from "wireco" or where-ever. It comes with a warranty from Wireco, and if it doesn't, then it should be returnable to the seller "Compujunk" for replacement. If you build it yourself, then it's your wages spread over the time it takes to build it PLUS the money spent on the raw materials. The raw materials may be from Wireco, but their functionality is mediated by your labour on them as cables. So, if it fails or doesn't work, it's the COMPANY'S ass on the line, not Wireco or Compujunk's.

So, for your own stuff at home, sure: DIY.

At work, go for the third party materials.

"Nobody ever got fired for ordering gear from RCA"

RS

Depends on where you run it (1)

wirelessjb (806759) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729219)

In many cases you have no choice but to make your own cables; when you need to run them through conduit, small holes in a concrete wall, up an air shaft, and other places where the connector won't fit but the cable and some fish tape will. I haven't seen any problem with the performance of a hand-made cable, though experience stripping and crimping help a lot. Be sure to get all 8 wires shoved all the way into the connector. The big advantage of buying pre-fab cables is not the quality so much as the durability (the molded connectors are harder to rip off than the hand-crimped ones) and cost, when you need to buy several score or several hundred cables.

I prefer commercial cables but you are right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27729227)

Cables are generally binary - either they work or they don't.

I find that every once in awhile I will make a bad cable, and it isn't worth the potential hassle these days.

If you are on a shoe string budget and can live with potential flakiness then by all means make your own.

Yes and No (2, Interesting)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729259)

We have a roll of bulk cable for when location X needs a network run Right Now. I route it, cut to length, and terminate it. I'm pretty good.

I don't have a TDR, so I run 200M of data at the target link speed. If it isn't good enough (i.e. more than 10% away from my target throughput rate), I reterminate the cable. If it still isn't good enough, I pull new cable.

This is for those projects where waiting a week for a shipment of manufactured cable won't do. For anything else, you are wasting time and money by making your own cable. Tested chinese patch cables are cheaper than buying bulk cable, and they have a higher chance of working right the first time, and they're probably the right kind of cable for what you're doing.

Your boss is being paranoid - I'm sure you can install cable to handle the 20M link without problems... but he's right to say that you should look to save money elsewhere. I'm guessing you make more than $3/hr - your time can be put to better use than making a $20 cable.

Now, on the other hand - if you're doing a run that's more than 100ft long, yes. Make it yourself (or hire a professional installer). Long cables are stupid expensive - but that's horizontal cabling, not patch cabling. Still have to pull, route, and terminate it properly. Getting good connectors on it is the tricky part - none of the local places carry the kind of jacks we use (Panduit MiniCom - all the locals carry some crappy cheap variety of a keystone jack).

TLDR: You had a T1, probably at the same demarcation point. Why aren't you reusing that cabling to move the data from the new channel bank that's sitting 3 feet away from the old T1 interface over to the network closet?

It's really not that hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27729277)

almost a third of our core business is installing cable, CAT5 5e and 6 and even fiber, yes you can screw it up using cheap tools or bad wiring practice's. that can increase your "NEXT" readings, thats "Near End Crosstalk".

but then again, all my guys are union trained and make way over twenty bucks an hour, so maybe linzeal is right, buy them ;)

Even big companies crimp themselves (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27729283)

Due to an NDA I can't specify which company, but I can tell you one of the bigger search engine providers has no problem crimping hundreds of cables themselves (for gigabit speeds).
From my experience, once you have a working cable you'll have no problem with it quality wise. The trick is getting the icecubes on right and in a timely fashion.

Mike (1)

Redstorm_mpasaa (1538001) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729287)

I like making cables and as long as you use a basic cable tester to ensure all pins on each end are passing electrical signals there is NO difference between store bought and hand-made. I've never run into any issue where there was a break in the middle and this can happen to any cable--store bought or not. The big cost is time and I know most of us would prefer to NOT waste time doing these sorts of tasks. We are in the process of re-cabling our racks due to the previous admins being lazy about the lengths of cables they use (i.e. 50 foot cable for a 7 foot run) with APC patch panels and simply bought 1ft, 3ft, 5ft, & 7ft lengths of the snagless type...they work fine and save us time in this very time-consuming project. If we need a special length we will make one....for many cables...buy them... good luck all...

Jerkeoff (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27729321)

Your boss is a misinformed jerkoff.

20Mbit is nothing, cat 5e even a long run (100Meters) will easily push 1000Gb unless it was termininated by an untrained monkey. Tell him you hired a professional cable runner and then sti k the $500 in your pocket. honestly, unless you are a complete tool with split pairs and a complete disregard for 562b wiring and going over 100Meters you will be fine. buzz it out and make sure 12-36 are each their own pair and then sleep well at night. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to run some cat5e/cat6 cable. If you believe you cable runs are bad, it is most likely your upstream connection or your Interet router is to blame. it is wire and as long as the twisted pairs are correct, only a dipshit and/or a moron will believe that the wiring is a factor.

Hire a friend to verify the "cable runs" and split the profit with him. your boss is a tool or a moron, or both.

Best luck,

punchdowns? (0)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729325)

no matter how good he thinks factory-made is, chances are good that the cables get punched-down somewhere. And that is by hand, and never as pimp-tight as a well-done rj45 job. what glass dick has that guy been smoking?

Depends.... (1)

Xenna (37238) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729355)

If I run cable from my patch panel to my wall boxes (thru conduits) I connect them myself with a punch tool. In my experience that usually works well and reliable.

But my experiences with putting RJ connectors on cables are pretty bad. Too often I end up with problematic cables.

So I buy patch cables from the store, but in the back-end I punch them into the connectors myself. That's my winning combination ;)

X.

How do you want to spend your time? (2, Informative)

pz (113803) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729371)

I've bought thousands of dollars of cable. Full disclosure, it has been BNC cable, and not ethernet, but I think my experience is likely germane. This cable has been used to construct installations of scientific equipment that gets reconfigured pretty frequently (and I've been the primary user on most of this equipment). I have never, ever had a single cable-related failure using ITT/Pomona cables. My peers, on the other hand, use hand-made cables and are constantly debugging their setups.

I spend my time doing my job (collecting data), while other people in my lab spend their time fixing problems. (Really full disclosure, I'm the only one with an EE degree.)

Good cables can be found inexpensively. These are the ones you want. Cheap cables can be found for less money, but these are the ones you do not want. Custom cables, unless you have high-quality crimping tools (the $39.99 variety don't cut it) and a proper means for doing testing, which means TDR and bandwidth testing in your case, just are not worth it for general-purpose use.

Look at it this way: how long does it take you to generate a qualified cable? Not how long does it take you to make one cable, but how long does it take you to make one cable that you will use, including all of the failed crimps, cables that were cut too short, too long, were miswired, or must be discarded, for some other reason. How many cables will you be making? Total that up and use 1/2 of the time to search for low prices on high-quality cable instead. You will be ahead in the end.

Do you know how to do it well? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729413)

With that in mind, your boss is an idiot. Back in my early days of IT I strung literally miles of cable within office buildings.

Using good equipment and connectors and putting the extra effort into making sure the ends are properly crimped will produce a cable as good as anything you're going to get elsewhere.

Bulk made cables are generally hit and miss. Some are good, some are shit. Hand made cables work about the same way, although someone with some experience making cables knows shortly after the crimp if its going to be a crappy cable most of the time.

In your situation, you're almost unable to avoid a custom cable unless you want a bunch coiled up laying somewhere which is arguable worse than just about anything you're going to do to it.

If you crimp the ends and it shows working with even the cheapest cable tester you are probably fine.

The ends aren't where you need to be concerned. Where and how you run the cable is. When you're running it don't step on it, kink it or knot it ANYWHERE. Most of the time these events won't cause a problem, but that doesn't help you when you start getting packet loss for no other apparent reason a few years down the road after the cable has stretched a little or been otherwise disturbed.

If the cable is going to hang in the plenum make sure it is well supported. Zip ties WILL cut cables given enough weight and time. Make sure there is plenty of extra strain relief cable near the end points.

Don't run the cable along side other non-data cables like it. Laying it on a fluorescent light can be a killer in an office building even though it shouldn't emit that sort of radiation. You can generally run a T1 and Ethernet side by side, and most other data cables as they are designed (at least modern ones) to cancel their own noise out internally so it rarely bothers anything like it externally. Power lines are also a nono, stay away from them.

If this cable is a stationary, install once never touch again, type of cable, make sure to use single strand cable. Pay the extra money for shielded if you're really concerned. Don't cheap out on anything if you really are concerned with it being a quality cable, and by putting in a quality CAT6 cable your 20MB circuit can easily be used up to gigabit ethernet, which will probably take care of your needs for a long time to come. If it doesn't, you'll be making enough money to not worry about replacing it.

Alternatively, you could hire a cable monkey to do it. I good service will run the cable, do everything you need for it to be done properly, and provide you with test outputs to verify it meets your specified requirement for its installation. They probably won't mean anything to you, but a good company will be proud to show you its testing results as they won't fear you looking up and comparing them to the specifications required for CAT6/GigE or whatever. This route probably isn't the most cost effective way for a single cable however.

With all that said however, I'm well past the point of laying cables. Now I am happy to call the cable guy, let him do what he's good at, get dirty in the plenum and walls, and take responsibility for the cable working properly, leaving me to stay clean, not have to work in crappy spaces like the plenum, steer clear of drywall dust, and get more of what I was actually hired to do done.

If it were up to me, I'd lay it myself in your shoes however. Custom cut to length cables routed properly always looks better than a bunch of premade, wrong length cables, and when you come into my NOC, the bling-bling is just as important as the blinky lights. If it works or not is irrelevant. :)

Making cables is so 1990's... (1)

klubar (591384) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729415)

If you really want to roll your own cables, just cutting and crimping is just the start. You really should start by buying single strand copper cable and twisting it yourself. Even that's not enough, you can buy copper and melt and strand it over a coffee pot. But that's just the beginning, if you really want to manage the process end-to-end, you should start with raw copper ore and smelt it yourself.

Don't be cheap--if your time is worth more than $10/hour, buy pre-made cables. The quality will be higher and you'll save time. Find a reliable vendor who can ship them overnight in the rare case that you run out.

TDR is for kilometer+ long cables. (1)

Organic Brain Damage (863655) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729419)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time-domain_reflectometer [wikipedia.org] According to Wikipedia, TDR is for kilometer-long telecom cable run testing. In my experience, a dumb "how fast can I copy a DVD from computer A to computer B" over this cable test is probably sufficient to find problems with cables. If you want to get every so slightly more sophisticated without spending a bundle, you could load a packet inspector and see how many packets are getting retransmitted overnight, swap cables and check again the next day.

If u make one u will make all! (0)

luiso (792034) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729427)

A boss that I had, he want that I made 40 cables, at the beginning for me was like, my boss is stupid, he hates me. When I finished my work he told me that the cables were too short in this precise moment I decide to change my work. If your boss tell u that u can buy the cable, please do it and don't ask for the other way because in the moment that u make a good cable u are expert in making cables.

Will it do 100Mbit? (1)

Sopor42 (1134277) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729433)

I once had a boss express concern that the hand-made cable I was hooking up her desktop with wouldn't be able to get a full 100Mbit... as hand-made cables are never as fast as store bought cable.

I wanted to ask her if she was fucking kidding me?

At NASA I regularaly good cables, (2, Interesting)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729437)

with equipment that's not much different than stock equipment. I test these cables with a DTX-1800, they do great.

They're sticklers for BlackBox brand cable, I don't know if it's because the cables good, or the more likely scenario that instead of specifying TIA-568B compliant cable they have have to give a part number to make a "Typical". A "Typical" is a blue print for a cable. Remember, it's government, loads of red tape.

We also use Black Box brand connectors, again, for part number reasons I'm almost certain. For the Cat-5 stuff there is something a bit different than your run of the mill cables, it's the inclusion of black load bars that get crimped into the connection. A bit different than most connectors I've used.

The only Cat-6 I've made was a specialized connector with additional grounding added, so I wont get into that.

Beyond what's mentioned the only difference between NASA and the rest of the world is the use of really expensive test equipment, and the insistence that calibrated ratcheting crimpers are used. For test reasons I've made cables using my own stuff and put it on the Fluke, I hate to say it, but my uncalibrated out of the box $20 crimpers from Ideal do just as well as there $150 at minimum crimpers that are custom pieced together. At least according to the Fluke.

your boss is a retard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27729441)

who knows nothing.

Can be worth it, but not always. (1)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729447)

It can make sense to do it yourself dependant upon the value of your time vs a contractor. If your cost is $50 an hour, than the cables and tools have to come in cheaper than that. If you can't afford a contractor than you'll need to learn to do it yourself. You'll also need to do it yourself if you need custom length cables. Some tips from what I have learned.
  1. Don't buy cheap tools! Buy a good quality Paladin or equivalent crimper. Home Depot sells them and they are readily available online.
  2. Buy a good quality tester cable tester from Fluke or equivalent. There might be a halfway decent occasional use one for under $200, but better to be safe on this one.
  3. Buy your RJ45 plugs in bulk online. Don't buy them retail or you will pay too much money.
  4. Buy a good quality punchdown tool, dont buy a cheap one.
  5. Study up on how to make the cables [ertyu.org], it should not take more than a few hours to get it down.

If you will need to run cables through the walls and plenum than things can change quite a bit, especially for a commercial building. That is where you need to read up on code and the like.

Test, test, test! Every tests should be repeatable, don't consider it good until you have done so. Use your cable tester for doing the tests. Just because your notebook detects 1000 Mbps connection does not mean you have a good quality connection. Lastly, if you have to buy the tools personally, save the receipts as these are considered "Tools of the trade" and you may be able to write them off on taxes.

Field Crimping Cat6? (2, Insightful)

ddillman (267710) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729465)

I've personally crimped thousands of patch cables and other ethernet lines in Cat5 and Cat5e. However, it's been my understanding that it is nigh impossible to field crimp Cat6 to meet specs. That may have changed, since the last time I asked was a couple of years ago. Cat5 and 5e are relatively easy, and as others mentioned, making your own eliminates messy loops of extra cable hanging about. And there's some satisfaction from making your own stuff as well. But Cat6? As others mentioned, it's probably cheaper and better in the long run to purchase ready-made cables from a reputable source.

Cheap Cables: Buyer Beware (2, Interesting)

blavallee (729704) | more than 4 years ago | (#27729483)

While I have made my own, I really just don't have the time. Especially when I need a few dozen patch cables.
Running to the store is great, but I've learned the hard way to trust only one manufacturer. Their cables are guaranteed for life!

Buy a few hundred 'Brand X' cables and a percentage of them could be useless.
Once that happens, you'll have a box of cables you'll never want to use. Just can't trust them.

Beside, who has a spool of beige, black, blue, gray, green, orange, pink, purple, red (crossover only), white, and yellow laying around?
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