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Plastic Fiber Could Make Optical Networking a DIY Project

timothy posted more than 6 years ago

Networking 170

An anonymous reader writes "A new European project using plastic fiber and off-the-shelf components could make optical networking so cheap and simple that installation could be a DIY job for even a non-technical person. The object of EU-funded POF-ALL project is to find a technical solution to the rising cost of taking optical fiber right into the home." A mere "few hundred metres" of 100mbps (since plastic is thus far dimmer than glass) would suffice to wire any home I'm likely to occupy.

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So... (3, Interesting)

pwnies (1034518) | more than 6 years ago | (#21974620)

What's the benefit of 100mbps plasti-fiber over gigabit cat-6?

Re:So... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21974690)

Well, 100 millibits per second is several orders of magnitude slower than 1 gigabit per second regardless of what the physical medium is made of. The benefits must be something besides bandwidth.

Re:So... (1)

insertwackynamehere (891357) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975050)

Kindof like a pound of feathers and a pound of bricks riddle

Re:So... (2, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975906)

Does plastic (like ducks and very small stones) float?

Re:So... (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 6 years ago | (#21974708)

It would appear to be easier and cheaper to make and work with once they get a streamlined process together.

Re:So... (5, Informative)

longbot (789962) | more than 6 years ago | (#21974750)

Put bluntly, price. And I think it would be easy to extend it to gigabit at some point, with higher-grade plastics.

Copper is much more expensive than plastic, and 8-wire CAT5 cabling is a lot harder to run than a plastic filament, to boot.

MOD Parent up please (5, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975220)

The simple fact is that Copper is about to become VERY expensive. China is buying it as well as working with all countries that have copper mines to aquire full access to the copper. The simple fact is that there is a limited amount of copper and China is about to use 1000x more than what it currently does. In addition, most societies are about to move to electrical cars which will require a lot of copper.

Finally, copper does not go the long distances that Fiber does. I suspect that we will see a lot of uses for these in running from the green box to the home. In fact, I think that the delivery companies will have multiple cables to the home. Basically, dark fiber. It will enable some interesting services.

Re:MOD Parent up please (3, Insightful)

paanta (640245) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975420)

Not that I think fiber isn't the future, but copper prices don't seem to have much to do with it. For in-home wiring, cable runs are short enough that the amount of copper involved is pretty frickin' small, especially compared to the copper in your electric car. Plus, with the housing market cooling off, copper prices are holding fairly steady. If it were really going to be in such hot demand, wouldn't speculators have already driven the price through the roof?

Re:MOD Parent up please (1)

Neo_piper (798916) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976030)

True the amount is small but at least if thieves break into your house they'll steal all your wiring BUT this, though you won't really be running a computer without electrical wiring (if they left the computer for some strange reason)

Re:MOD Parent up please (2, Insightful)

Kythe (4779) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976514)

Hmmm...for in-home runs, the cost of fiber isn't all that outlandish already. 25 meters of singlemode, duplex fiber terminated both ends by LC connectors starts at about $1/meter. True, that's about three times the price of bulk Cat5e, but it's still not exclusively the plaything of millionaires.

The thing about this article that I think misses the point somewhat is that it's the stuff you connect to the ends of fiber that costs so darned much. Case in point: HDMI extenders that use fiber as the medium. You'll spend over $500 for one link, and that cost isn't poured into the fiber itself.

Re:MOD Parent up please (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975794)

The simple fact is that Copper is about to become VERY expensive. China is buying it as well as working with all countries that have copper mines to aquire full access to the copper.

However the US has a bunch of copper.

Finally, copper does not go the long distances that Fiber does.

Glass fiber goes further but TFA talks about plastic fiber and says it doesn't go nearly as far.

Falcon

Re:MOD Parent up please (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21975848)

The simple fact is that Copper is about to become VERY expensive.

Whereas Plastic Fiber is made out of oil, which we all know is exceedingly cheap.

Re:MOD Parent up please (3, Interesting)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976044)

The simple fact is that Copper is about to become VERY expensive.

The simple fact is that plastic is about to become VERY VERY expensive. China is buying the petroleum that is used to make it as well as working with all countries that have oil reserves to acquire full access to the oil. The simple fact is that there is a limited amount of oil and China is about to use 1000x more than what it currently does.

Re:MOD Parent up please (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976250)

Plastic is a byproduct of petroleum refinement. The components of crude oil used to make plastic are *NOT* the same as the ones used to produce gasoline.

Also, we've got quite a bit of recyclable plastic sitting in landfills. More than we could ever possibly need. Likewise, there are a few new "plastic" materials on the horizon that can economically be produced from plants.

NOT an issue.

Copper is much more expensive than plastic (3, Interesting)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975720)

That may be true now but currently plastic is a petrochemical product. As oil prices rise so will the prices of plastic fibers. Copper will rise as well but at least in the US copper can be locally [unr.edu] mined thus reducing transportation costs.

Falcon

Re:Copper is much more expensive than plastic (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976454)

Oil is expensive because it is being used for energy while it is running out. I would guess that about 85-95% of oil goes to energy. Since the bulk of this is for cars and trucks, we are about to see a MAJOR change. In particular, electrical cars and plug-in hybrids cars/truck will change this. IOW, in about 2-3 years, we are going to see oil start down, with a plummet most likely in about 5-8 years. In addition, once W. is gone and the tax cuts for ethanol is rolled out (please), then realism will take hold of corn, and we will see corn being used in plastics.

OTH, that will not happen with copper. We will find some more copper, but not too much more. And we are going to see LOADs more uses for copper. IOW, we really are running out of copper.

Re:So... (4, Interesting)

FrankSchwab (675585) | more than 6 years ago | (#21974820)

At the very least, electrical isolation.

Lightning hit my house (or very close to it) last year, and took out at least the ethernet port on every computer I had that was Cat5 connected at the time. Took out a few USB ports, and sent my router to the great network in the sky also.

Plastic fiber wouldn't have that problem (until someone marries the plastic fiber with the Power over Ethernet spec).

/frank

Re:So... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975956)

Polyphaser cat5e surge suppressors would have done the same thing. also properly grounding your switch would have also made a big difference as well.

Although, If the strike is close enough, even $10,000,000 in fiber and lightning suppression will not save your equipment. you cant stop that EM pulse short of faraday caging your home.

Fiber has it's uses! running video and data from the house to the guest house is a perfect use. It's easy to get a ground voltage potential difference between my home and the guest house 500 feet away. when a storm cloud simply passes overhead! I have lost equipment because of that on my shorter run to the garage 300 feet away. Blew out the cheapie 27" set in the garage and took out the wireless router there as well.

Re:So... (2, Interesting)

camperslo (704715) | more than 6 years ago | (#21974880)

A better question is why are people associating brightness (loss) with speed?

I would expect that the characteristics of the electrical/optical transceivers and modulation would set the speed, and the loss in the cable per unit length would limit how long it could be without some sort of repeaters.

Re:So... (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975052)

A better question is why are people associating brightness (loss) with speed?

I would expect that the characteristics of the electrical/optical transceivers and modulation would set the speed, and the loss in the cable per unit length would limit how long it could be without some sort of repeaters.


Exactlty, since brightness is a measure of amplitude. The distance that could be travelled will utlimately depend on the initial brightness and the absorption by the cable. One advantage of optical over electrical, is that the former is not affected by most EM noise - (it is only effected by EM optical noise if there is no covering).

Re:So... (1)

BSAtHome (455370) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975294)

The biggest problem of any fiber over a distance is not amplitude (or attenuation), but the washout of the pulses because the fiber has a finite width. After a while, you still have a measurable amplitude, but one which has become a constant "on" light and no data modulation to see anymore. The thickness of the fiber is an important measure of how long you can make it without signal loss (think single-mode at 9 microns vs multi-mode at 50..75 microns). A one millimeter fiber will never carry data at gigaspeed over very long distances, regardless of material.

Re:So... (3, Informative)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976412)

The big problem impacting speed is dispersion. The light takes different paths down the cable with the net result that some of it travels more slowly than the rest. At the other end, its as if you received a blurry picture: you can't tell what the signal was supposed to be.

If that doesn't make sense, let me explain it this way: light doesn't travel straight down a fiber optic cable. Instead, it bounces back and forth down the cable, first hitting the cladding at one side and then hitting the cladding at the other. That's why the light can go around curves; its not traveling straight, its bouncing back and forth off the walls. The index of refraction for the cladding material is much higher than the index of refraction for the fiber, so the light obeys a principle called "total internal reflection" instead of the cladding absorbing it.

Some photons go pretty straight, rarely hitting the walls. Others bounce off the walls a lot. That changes distance they travel, which changes the time it takes them to reach the other end. With a thick plastic cable, the ones that bounce a lot will travel a much longer distance thus you have to space the changes in the signal further apart for them to be detectable at the other end of the cable.

Make more sense now?

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21974916)

Ease of use and Safety
POF is non conductive so it can be run in the same conduit as electrical wires which means less drilling which according to many EU telcos is a big issue as many many EU homes are made of block or brick and a pain to drill through.
POF can be cut with scissors and the terminating connectors have a build in file to smooth the fiber, and then cap with a one way lock.

Re:So... (4, Insightful)

blhack (921171) | more than 6 years ago | (#21974942)

What's the benefit of 100mbps plasti-fiber over gigabit cat-6?
With fiber, you have at most 2 wires to deal with per connection....1 for transmit, and one for receive. With cat 6e you have to deal with 8, and they are a pain in the ass to use.

The problem with this, though, is that transmitting data isn't the only thing that Cat6 is used for. The fact that i have 8 little wires at my disposal running all over the building is a really great tool. I run POE (power over ethernet) on a few networking devices i have floating around. I also have used the White/Brown - Brown pair to run phones in a pinch (like when we end up having move gear in a room than we originally intended).

Fiber doesn't do this...at all. Not to mention the fact that you can't run a tone generator over fiber to find a cable inside of a bundle on the other side of the building.

Lets face it, folks, copper wiring isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Fiber is really great for long distance, high throughput links...but using it to wire everything in your house, or your office building is very very short-sighted.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21975110)

Useless "I'm smart"-type post.

Nobody was suggesting everyone was going to wire everything with plastic, dude.

Re:So... (1)

blhack (921171) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975186)

nobody was suggesting everyone was going to wire everything with plastic, dude
i've got a suggestion for you. Next time, before you flame me, read the article. Tell you what, even read the first SENTENCE of the article. Here, i'll paste it for you.

A new European project using plastic fiber and off-the-shelf components could make optical networking so cheap and simple that installation could be a DIY job for even a non-technical person.
Now what business would a "non-technical" person have doing any of the things that have traditionally required optical networking?

Re:So... (3, Interesting)

Chabil Ha' (875116) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975184)

Not to mention the fact that you can't run a tone generator over fiber to find a cable inside of a bundle on the other side of the building.
All you have to do is stick in a test laser device such as this [lanshack.com] and wave the bundle over your hand until you 'see' which pair it is coming out of. You obviously don't want to look directly into the port/termination, but it is no more difficult (if not easier) than waving a tone wand around.

Re:So... (2, Funny)

Alioth (221270) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975412)

You obviously don't want to look directly into the port/termination

Well, not with your remaining eye, certainly!

Re:So... (1)

blhack (921171) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975532)

The device that you linked to is for finding cracks or "leaks" in a fiber cable, not for picking out a single one inside of a bundle.

Re:So... (1)

socz (1057222) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976422)

There is a visible laser used for testing fibers out in the field. You plug it in on one end, and over the phone ask if it's seen on the other end. It's not as strong as the actual laser that is used for transmitting data.

I think this is actually really easy having used this method at the head terminal where you just uncover the fibers and see where the light comes out using a paper.

Don't try this at home kids!

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21976358)

You mean you actually work somewhere that has enough money to buy a tester?

In my day, 4 yrs ago as a momNpop ISP engineer, we had no tester. We had crimpers, shitty rj45 connecters, our eyes, and a prayer that the damn link pushed what it was capable of.

Testers... HA! These kids today have it easy.

Re:So... (1)

kryten_nl (863119) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975256)

I also have used the White/Brown - Brown pair to run phones in a pinch
Try googling for "VOIP" next time, it this new thing all the kids are talking about.

Not to mention the fact that you can't run a tone generator over fiber to find a cable inside of a bundle on the other side of the building.
That's true, but the fact that you'll be able to shine a light through it might help.

Re:So... (1)

jabuzz (182671) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975472)

Yeah, and my VOIP phone needs PoE, and my wireless access points also needs PoE. Hum we seem to have a slight problem here with power over fibre.

Re:So... (1)

kryten_nl (863119) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976012)

Unless _all_ VOIP phones and _all_ WAP's require PoE, your point is mute. The GP stated that CAT is better, because copper wire is more versatile. I responded that fiber can be versatile as well. If you have a point, please make it.

Re:So... (1)

myrdos2 (989497) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975454)

Right now, fiber optics come to a central Optical Network Terminal, and electrical devices convert the optical signal to an electrical one. You then get it piped into your router at home, and sent to your computer with Ethernet. Electrical components are SLOW compared to optical components. It takes them longer to process the same data, adding latency and limiting bandwidth. Passive optical components that use unpowered optical splitters are far far faster. Of course, with ISPs claiming their backbones can't handle more traffic (in the States), you might not see significant bandwidth or latency gains. But the "first mile" would no longer be a significant latency source/bandwidth bottleneck.

Optical = Electrical (1)

dunc78 (583090) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975628)

You do realize that an optical signal is an "electrical" signal right? So how are you going to make a router out of "optical" components, just a splitter? I don't see how that would work, but maybe I'm just dumb.

Re:Optical = Electrical (1)

myrdos2 (989497) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976260)

One is a flow of photons. One is a flow of electrons. When you consider a passive optical splitter, think of a prism that splits light into a rainbow of colors. Same kind of effect.

Right now one of the biggest challenges is buffering light. Slowing it down or stopping it. There are devices that do this, but they are very expensive or work poorly or both. If we could buffer light, we could create routers that are entirely optical, speeding up the internet immensely.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optical_computer [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive_optical_network [wikipedia.org]

Re:So... (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976288)

I know you said "in a pinch" you've used wh/br-br pairs; however per spec you should use the blue-blue/white pairs. That way if you put it down in a regular keystone jack to spec the phone will appear on the middle pairs. Plug in computer and get 100mbps goodness - plug in phone and get dial tone.

Of course, if you're seperating into 2 seperate jacks it's kind of a pain that way - but if you wire it using the blue/white-blue AND the white-brown/brown pairs put down in proper phone configuration you can get a 2 line phone and network jack (again, only 100mbps for 'net) out of it. Copper isn't that cheap and sometimes you don't have options - I always recommend running the extra wire. If you're running one, usually running two is not that much of a problem.

Re:So... (2, Interesting)

avandesande (143899) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975060)

With an upgrade of the end components you could easily get several orders of magnitude higher bandwidth over the existing fiber.

Re:So... (2, Informative)

AmPz (572913) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975816)

No. That is incorrect.
People seems to automatically associate fiber with high speeds and long distances.
But in reality, plastic fiber does not have those capabilities. A plastic fiber intended for 100Mpbs will work with 100Mpbs, but it cannot be upgraded to higher speeds in the future. The multimode characteristics of the fiber limits the bandwidth.

You only get the super high performance if you use single mode glass fiber. And that stuff is very expensive and complicated to work with. The end equipment is also quite expensive. The single mode glass fiber itself is cheap thou..

Fiber has bend radius limitations, and will not work well if you bend the fiber sharply. CAT5/CAT6 also has bend radius limitations, but is more forgiving. It will work fine even if you make a sharp 90 degree bend.

In general, plastic fibers are no better than CAT5/CAT6. Sometimes it is even inferior to CAT5/CAT6. The only technical advantage plastic fiber has over CAT5/CAT6 is the eletrical isolation, which makes it more or less immune to lightning.

Re:So... (1)

Alpha830RulZ (939527) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976174)

Oh, what things have come to when we are moaning that 100 Mbps is too damn slow for household use. Makes me remember the time when I upgraded from 300 bps to 1200 bps... (strokes beard and fumbles for walker...)

Re:So... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21975542)

all the cool lights would look really neat when I am trippin and sending data everywhere!

Re:So... (1)

doctorcisco (815096) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975824)

1) Distance. TFA indicates Gen 1 gear can push 100 mbits to 300 meters with green light. Cat6 GigE is 100 meters. The difference matters in a fiber to the prem kind of infrastructure.

2) If the stuff in the house does plastic fiber, then telco can put you directly into an ethernet switch port with no media conversion needed.

3) Fiber is easier to handle than UTP.

4) Fiber doesn't care about flaky fluorescent tubes and other sources of RFI you may have in your house.

5) Fiber buried in a trench to your house doesn't care as much if it gets wet.

doctorcisco

Re:So... (1)

lsolano (398432) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976026)

Distance.

Re:So... (1)

chipace (671930) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976124)

100m of cat5e cable allowed me put a gigabit LAN port into every room of my house. The switch is in the garage (only 5 ports needed). Total cost was $120 (including the switch, cable, and nice looking face plates) using my own labor.

If I were to hire someone to do this for me, the labor would have been a couple of times that.

My experience is that the cable and equipment cost is not significant when compared to the price of install.

Re:So... (1)

Jessta (666101) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976238)

What's the benefit of 100mbps plasti-fiber over gigabit cat-6?

A major advantage of optic fiber on CAT6 is distance. CAT6 has a maximum distance of ~75 metres, but with optic fiber you can run connections upwards of 1km.

Re:So... (1)

swordfishBob (536640) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976324)

UTP installations require a licenced/registered cabler in many countries, and for good reason.
Fibre optic often comes under related rules, due to its own hazards (mostly related to laser light that may be transmitted).
It's possible that plastic fibre carrying safe levels of visible light could be installed legally by anyone. Otherwise, at least it'd be easier to find a tradesman who can get it right! (I've seen enough registered cablers get UTP wrong..)

100 MBPS fiber?? (2, Insightful)

bbroerman (715822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21974642)

Honestly, unless it becomes a lot cheaper than Cat-5 UTP, I think it's going to be a non-starter. Now, if it was 100 GBPS, that would be a different story...

The real cost (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21974920)

is in the trenching and pulling cables. That's not going to change by going to plastic etc.

Re:The real cost (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975452)

that depends if you are a discerning householder or someone who doesn't give a f*ck what it looks like. Surface cabling is piss easy to run.

RICHARD DUNN (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21974688)

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100mbps enough? (1)

Naughty Bob (1004174) | more than 6 years ago | (#21974696)

Surely one thing we've learned in the field of computer technology- Whatever seems like more than enough is just too little. Not that this stuff doesn't look cool, it's just that in a year or two something 10 times better will come along, and cool new applications for many Gbps will probably arrive shortly after that... Those holo-hookers won't animate themselves.

I see an inconsistency (2, Interesting)

andyfrommk (1021405) | more than 6 years ago | (#21974710)

"It's future-proof," confirms Nocivelli. You run at 100 Mbit/s today, 1 Gbit/s tomorrow and maybe 10 Gbit/s in the future."
At 10Gb/sec the light from the fibre will probably hurt your eyes thus making his point of using plastifibre moot

Re:I see an inconsistency (1)

kevmatic (1133523) | more than 6 years ago | (#21974864)

Who is going to stare at the output end of the fiber? The length of the fiber isn't going to light up, if that's what you're thinking. Just the ends. I'm not sure more bandwidth requires more light, anyway.

Re:I see an inconsistency (1)

andyfrommk (1021405) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975122)

The guy from the article seems to think someone could stare down the end of the cable,

"I have a two-year-old child," says Nocivelli, "and I would never install a glass optical fibre in my own home, even though I have been working with glass optical fibers for many years."

I'm not sure more bandwidth requires more light, anyway.
More bandwidth may require a higher intensity light to traverse the plastic molecules (IANAfibreopticcableinstaller)

Re:I see an inconsistency (1)

Enoxice (993945) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975308)

I'm pretty sure he was scared of his kid breaking it by bending/snapping it, not looking down the cable...

Re:I see an inconsistency (1)

o'reor (581921) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975588)

That's not what I understood. The sentence before that one mentions the damage to the eye that can occur with glass fiber optics and the associate infrared light signal. I work in a fiber optics company, and our hardware engineers are required to have their retinas examined every year. That would be the main concern to me if I had a 2-year-old running around in a room with fiber optics hardware...

Re:I see an inconsistency (1)

bobcat7677 (561727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976198)

So how is USB 3.0 going to work then? That uses optical for high bandwidth transmission. Should we be worried about our 2 year olds looking into the end of the USB 3 cable?

Re:I see an inconsistency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21974956)

???

Running a higher data rate doesn't mean putting more power in it, it means better switching and detection on either end.

Re:I see an inconsistency (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21975048)

"At 10Gb/sec the light from the fibre will probably hurt your eyes thus making his point of using plastifibre moot"

Not likely, as they don't increase the intensity of the light, only the rate at which it is turned on and off.

Re:I see an inconsistency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21975966)

Are people really more afraid of optical fibers than the 110V or 220V power outlets in their homes? I mean a fiber could put a spot on your retina but AC can kill you. The safety arguments make no sense to me.

Re:I see an inconsistency (2, Insightful)

Fatal67 (244371) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976064)

Shouldn't be looking in to the end of a fiber anyway. But if put it in a persons home, you have to make sure this can't happen. Someone will do it.

When you unplug the end of the cable you are going to look in to, the loss of light will put the transceiver in to pulse mode. It'll go in to a 'find' mode.
The laser is probably a class 1 to begin with. (Ciscos' CWDM gbics are class 1)

Class 1 lasers are low-power lasers which do not normally pose a hazard.
Class 2 lasers are low-power visible lasers or laser systems that cannot cause eye damage unless they are viewed directly for an extended period of time.
Class 3 lasers are medium-power lasers and laser systems capable of causing eye damage with short duration exposures to the direct or specularly reflected beam. They are subdivided into two subclasses.
          Class 3a lasers normally do not present a hazard if viewed momentarily with an unaided eye, but may present a hazard if viewed using collecting optics.
          Class 3b lasers can present a hazard if viewed directly. This includes intrabeam viewing of specular reflections.
Class 4 denotes high-power lasers and laser systems that may cause severe eye injury with short duration exposure to the direct or reflected beam. They may also cause severe skin damage and present a fire hazard.
http://web.princeton.edu/sites/ehs/healthsafetyguide/E3.htm/ [princeton.edu]

Sources? (1)

Evets (629327) | more than 6 years ago | (#21974790)

Slightly off topic, but I've been looking for a decent (inexpensive) source for fiber optic cables for doing a small star-ceiling.

I was actually thinking of using these guys [fiberopticproducts.com] - , but I would be interested if anybody could come up with alternative recommendations. I poked around a little and I can't seem to find any consumer sources for plastic fiber. (you know, other than the bait and tackle shop)

Re:Sources? (1)

andyfrommk (1021405) | more than 6 years ago | (#21974972)

You in the US? try here [cablewholesale.com] or here [fiberopticcableshop.com] for the real (glass) deal.

What about Optical Audio? (3, Interesting)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#21974796)

Does TOSLINK [wikipedia.org] optical audio not count as a DIY network? I didn't pay anyone to hook up my AV stuff.

Because my favorite cable [flickr.com] is a TOS-LINK cable with a clear sheath, over the fiber optics.

(Yes, I am a nerd with a favorite kind of cable.)

Granted there it is a step up to go from a 6-foot cable to 100 feet, but it isn't that big of a deal. Bi-directional communication is another thing that would be needed to make a real network.

Amazon.com [amazon.com] has a bunch of 100-foot fiber optic cables, so I don't think that fiber itself is the issue, getting the network cards cheap enough is more of an issue, I think.

Re:What about Optical Audio? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21974868)

DRM=Dumb Restrictions Management

That's about as clever as "Micro$oft" and "Bu$hitler".

Just thought you should know.

Re:What about Optical Audio? (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975034)

Fine, is this better?

Re:What about Optical Audio? (1)

nuxx (10153) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975318)

May I ask where you got that specific cable? I think it's pretty nifty looking...

Re:What about Optical Audio? (2, Interesting)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975572)

Wal-Mart, actually. I already had a couple of TOS-Link cables, and then I saw that at Wal-Mart, and couldn't leave the store without it. The good news is that it is about $10-$15.

Newegg [newegg.com] had them, but they are out of stock.

They are called "RCA HD6HPL Optical Cable with Halo Connectors" for the 6-foot version, and the 3-foot version which apparently costs the same is the "RCA HD3HPL Optical Cable with Halo Connectors"

Another cool thing about this cable is that they connector isn't rectangular, which if you have ever tried to plug a TOSLINK cable into the back of something you will appreciate.

Advantages over Ethernet? (1)

ElMiguel (117685) | more than 6 years ago | (#21974858)

The article is Slashdotted and the summary doesn't address it, so... what are the advantages of 100Mbps plastic fiber over wired and wireless Ethernet?

Re:Advantages over Ethernet? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21974910)

The advantage is you get to use the word "thus" for no reason. Thus thus thus.

Re:Advantages over Ethernet? (1)

imbaczek (690596) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975020)

there are none, since that fiber runs Ethernet?

if you think about twisted pair Ethernet, copper is expensive and conducts electricity, which is good if you use Power over Ethernet and bad if your installation gets hit by lightning.

Re:Advantages over Ethernet? (1)

ElMiguel (117685) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975286)

Yeah, I was thinking about twisted pair ethernet. About getting hit by lightning, since the devices connected to a plastic fiber network would usually still need to get their power from a wall socket, I'm not sure how much more protected they would be.

The article (3, Informative)

camperslo (704715) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975144)

Plastic fibre slashes optical network costs
  Wed, 01/09/2008 - 19:49 - Wire Services

A new European project using plastic fiber and off-the-shelf components could make optical networking so cheap and simple that installation could be a DIY job for even a non-technical person.

The object of EU-funded POF-ALL project is to find a technical solution to the rising cost of taking optical fiber right into the home.

The project partners decided to focus on the cabling inside buildings, which would typically account for 30% of the cost of laying an optical fibre from the exchange into the home. This last hundred metres or so is known as the 'edge' network.

"We realised that we could lower the cost of this edge installation by using a simpler technology," Alessandro Nocivelli, the founder and CEO of Luceat SpA, one of the partners in the project, said. "If we could employ a technology which is so simple to use that anyone can install it, that would relieve telecom companies of 30% of the cost of the access network, which means up to several billion euro if you consider the European Union as a whole."

Plastic fibres use harmless green or red light that is easily visible to the eye, as opposed to glass fibres which use infrared laser light that could potentially cause eye damage.

"I have a two-year-old child," says Nocivelli, "and I would never install a glass optical fibre in my own home, even though I have been working with glass optical fibers for many years."

Plastic fibres are also much thicker than glass fibres, a millimetre or more, and can be handled without special tools or techniques.

"You don't need to be trained to handle and install it. You just cut it with scissors, plug it in and it works. It's as easy as that," Nocivelli adds.

On the downside, plastic fibres absorb light more than glass, which limits their useful length to a few hundred metres.

They also have a lower data capacity than glass fibres, but that is not an issue for the cable that runs from a conventional glass fibre in the street into a house, or even for laying a network within a block of flats.

The partners have built a system that uses green light to transmit 100 megabits a second over a distance of 300 metres, which is the speed telecom companies hope to offer their customers five to ten years from now, and 50 times as fast as a typical adsl broadband connection.

Their second achievement is to transmit ten times faster still - one gigabit per second - over a 30m fibre, using red light.

By the end of the project in June 2008, they expect to have extended that to 100m.

"Then, of course, we will try to focus on longer distances," says Nocivelli. "We have already demonstrated that plastic fibre would be future-proof not only for the next ten years but for the next 30 years. With that speed in your home you could download a full DVD in thirty seconds."

The POF-ALL members have not had to develop any novel technologies, as they have built their systems using the latest off-the-shelf components and the ingenuity and skill of the ten academic and industrial partners.

Two products are already coming to the market. Luceat is commercialising an optical Ethernet switch (a router) using plastic fiber technology and the Fraunhofer Institute is looking for partners to market an integrated optical transceiver to work at one gigabit a second with plastic fiber.

Home and office networks could be rewired with plastic optical fibre so simply and cheaply it could be a do-it-yourself job.

"It's future-proof," confirms Nocivelli. You run at 100 Mbit/s today, 1 Gbit/s tomorrow and maybe 10 Gbit/s in the future."

A follow-up project, POF-PLUS, is intended to further develop optoelectronic components for plastic fiber and is awaiting a final decision on EU funding.

Re:Advantages over Ethernet? (2, Interesting)

shdo (145775) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975158)

well for one, nobody is sitting in there car taking my bandwidth or bypassing my firewall. i prefer wired to wireless and having a non-conducting cable is a positive so for me this is something i would do in a heartbeat.

Re:Advantages over Ethernet? (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976176)

well for one, nobody is sitting in there car taking my bandwidth or bypassing my firewall. i prefer wired to wireless and having a non-conducting cable is a positive so for me this is something i would do in a heartbeat.

I was going to say security as well however I like having wireless access. With my laptop I can be outside and still have access without stringing cable.

Falcon

Yet.. another petrol product.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21974890)

Where do you think plastic comes from? Yes start making fiber from plastic and watch the price of petrol skyrocket! Stupid idea.

Re:Yet.. another petrol product.. (1)

goldspider (445116) | more than 6 years ago | (#21974982)

Right, because there is an unlimited supply of conductive metals out there that has rendered copper virtually worthless, right?

Re:Yet.. another petrol product.. (2, Insightful)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975470)

My addition to the plastic part is how long does it take to biodegrade ? We should be reducing our use of 10,000 year lifespan plastic not increasing it.

> We have already demonstrated that plastic fibre would be future-proof not only for the next ten years but for the next 30 years. With that speed in your home you could download a full DVD in thirty seconds."

He's off his nuts, 30 years ago I was excited about 1Mb RAM replacing my 32k, I can *already* copy a DVD in 30s right now!

Seems like presscue.com isn't so present proof let alone future :

user warning: Got error 122 from storage engine query: SELECT COUNT(*) AS count, d.tid, d.name, d.vid FROM wn_term_data d INNER JOIN wn_term_node n ON d.tid = n.tid WHERE d.vid IN (2) GROUP BY d.tid, d.name, d.vid ORDER BY count DESC LIMIT 0, 12 in /home/wn/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 172.

Re:Yet.. another petrol product.. (1)

rrkap (634128) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975950)

My addition to the plastic part is how long does it take to biodegrade ? We should be reducing our use of 10,000 year lifespan plastic not increasing it.

I sincerely hope that my network doesn't biodegrade.

But seriously, why is using plastic any worse than using copper? Its pretty likely that the copper requires more fossil to refine than the plastic requires to make, and it isn't like you can't burn the plastic when you want to get rid of it. Also, data cable is something you hope to be able to use for many years when you install it. It isn't like something that is meant to be disposed of after a single use like a drinking cup.

Maybe tomorrow... (3, Funny)

telchine (719345) | more than 6 years ago | (#21974960)

[quote]100mbps would suffice to wire any home I'm likely to occupy.[/quote]

Yes, and I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.

Also, 10 megabytes should be enough for anyone.

Best way to put ends on fiber? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21974962)

I picked up some surplus loose buffer tube multi-mode fiber. I'd like to try my hand at putting the terminations on the fibers? I got the fan-out tubes but I'm stuck on how to put ends on. Suggestions please.

Re:Best way to put ends on fiber? (4, Informative)

danknight (570145) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975310)

I work for a big telco, the one that runs fiber to the home, we don't put ends on the fiber, at least not directly. what we do is use a fusion splicer, and use a connector with a length of fiber already attached, we then splice that to the end of the fiber..

The Article (2, Informative)

pwnies (1034518) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975066)


Plastic fibre slashes optical network costs
Wed, 01/09/2008 - 19:49 - Wire Services
A new European project using plastic fiber and off-the-shelf components could make optical networking so cheap and simple that installation could be a DIY job for even a non-technical person.
The object of EU-funded POF-ALL project is to find a technical solution to the rising cost of taking optical fiber right into the home.
The project partners decided to focus on the cabling inside buildings, which would typically account for 30% of the cost of laying an optical fibre from the exchange into the home. This last hundred metres or so is known as the 'edge' network.
"We realised that we could lower the cost of this edge installation by using a simpler technology," Alessandro Nocivelli, the founder and CEO of Luceat SpA, one of the partners in the project, said. "If we could employ a technology which is so simple to use that anyone can install it, that would relieve telecom companies of 30% of the cost of the access network, which means up to several billion euro if you consider the European Union as a whole."
Plastic fibres use harmless green or red light that is easily visible to the eye, as opposed to glass fibres which use infrared laser light that could potentially cause eye damage.
"I have a two-year-old child," says Nocivelli, "and I would never install a glass optical fibre in my own home, even though I have been working with glass optical fibers for many years."
Plastic fibres are also much thicker than glass fibres, a millimetre or more, and can be handled without special tools or techniques.
"You don't need to be trained to handle and install it. You just cut it with scissors, plug it in and it works. It's as easy as that," Nocivelli adds.
On the downside, plastic fibres absorb light more than glass, which limits their useful length to a few hundred metres.
They also have a lower data capacity than glass fibres, but that is not an issue for the cable that runs from a conventional glass fibre in the street into a house, or even for laying a network within a block of flats.
The partners have built a system that uses green light to transmit 100 megabits a second over a distance of 300 metres, which is the speed telecom companies hope to offer their customers five to ten years from now, and 50 times as fast as a typical adsl broadband connection.
Their second achievement is to transmit ten times faster still - one gigabit per second - over a 30m fibre, using red light.
By the end of the project in June 2008, they expect to have extended that to 100m.
"Then, of course, we will try to focus on longer distances," says Nocivelli. "We have already demonstrated that plastic fibre would be future-proof not only for the next ten years but for the next 30 years. With that speed in your home you could download a full DVD in thirty seconds."
The POF-ALL members have not had to develop any novel technologies, as they have built their systems using the latest off-the-shelf components and the ingenuity and skill of the ten academic and industrial partners.
Two products are already coming to the market. Luceat is commercialising an optical Ethernet switch (a router) using plastic fiber technology and the Fraunhofer Institute is looking for partners to market an integrated optical transceiver to work at one gigabit a second with plastic fiber.
Home and office networks could be rewired with plastic optical fibre so simply and cheaply it could be a do-it-yourself job.
"It's future-proof," confirms Nocivelli. You run at 100 Mbit/s today, 1 Gbit/s tomorrow and maybe 10 Gbit/s in the future."
A follow-up project, POF-PLUS, is intended to further develop optoelectronic components for plastic fiber and is awaiting a final decision on EU funding.

We've been using plastic fiber optics for data ... (4, Interesting)

the_rajah (749499) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975070)

since about 1985. I designed a system back then, using plastic fiber and off-the-shelf HP transmitter and receiver modules, to pass data between elevator controllers where they are in a coordinated group. Isolation was the main reason, but it's also very convenient. We're still producing the same system today. It's convenient that it uses visible light and termination is very easy since the fibers are relative large. We're using relatively low data rates and the maximum distance I've got to handle is less than 100 feet.

Just a few comments and a question. (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975120)

1 They say that they can do 100mbits with green light now and hope to do 1Gbits with red light soon... I thought that the higher the frequency the higher the bandwidth?

As to the benefits over Cat5 I can see a few.
One is cost. Copper is getting more and more expensive plastic is cheap. Not only that but it should be lighter to ship and easier to install since it is smaller than CAT5.
Then you have safety. You don't have to worry about shorts and other issues with fiber. Not a huge problem but I can see where some people would like it.
And you have the lack of EM from fiber. No not for safety reasons but for interference with other devices. I have never seen a problem with it but anytime you have a signal running on a wire you have the potental for EM.

As to the benefits over Cat5 I can see a few. (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976298)

One is cost. Copper is getting more and more expensive plastic is cheap. Not only that but it should be lighter to ship and easier to install since it is smaller than CAT5.

It's very possible for plastic get more expensive than copper. First most plastic in the US today is a petrochemical product. As oil is depleted the cost of plastic will rise. Secondly because of the depletion of oil transporting it become more expensive as well. However copper can be and is mined in the US.

Falcon

100mbps == Futureproof? (1)

fernandoh26 (963204) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975338)

A mere "few hundred metres" of 100mbps (since plastic is thus far dimmer than glass) would suffice to wire any home I'm likely to occupy.
Of course! In unrelated news, it has been announced that 640k should be enough for everyone.

Re:100mbps == Futureproof? (1)

Nullav (1053766) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975604)

Oh come on, 12MB/s is just fine for a normal home network, unless you have a SAN set up. Cheap fiber could be a boon to those with relatively large clusters, however.

As for the topic, I just finished replacing my old 100Base-T network a few weeks ago, so I'm sticking with this for a few years. When I do upgrade again, however, I would more likely switch to 10 Gigabit ethernet (after the price goes down) than use plastic fibers, which could bend too much and become opaque; klutzproofing before futureproofing and all that good stuff.

Re:100mbps == Futureproof? (1)

kwerle (39371) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975758)

Oh come on, 12MB/s is just fine for a normal home network, unless you have a SAN set up. Cheap fiber could be a boon to those with relatively large clusters, however.

I want video&sound from my computer or notebook to my HDTV at home. Never mind what is currently possible or reasonable. That's what I want. And 12MB/s ain't gonna cut it, is it? And why wouldn't joe-home-user want that?

Re:100mbps == Futureproof? (1)

fernandoh26 (963204) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975780)

I totally agree with you, for a "normal home network," but this is Slashdot, who in here doesn't have multiple file servers hosting massive amounts of multi-gigabyte videos? =)

Re:100mbps == Futureproof? (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976550)

Oh come on, 12MB/s is just fine for a normal home network

OMG who can ever use 64KB of RAM?

Whatever is available will get used.

Falcon

Cost? (1)

VonSkippy (892467) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975440)

Copper is pretty cheap AND so is all it's components.

I have around 12 devices networked in my house.

How much will that Plastic Fiber equipment cost?

Using $5 NIC's, a $80 smart switch, and copper cable seems like a price that will be hard to beat.

Cost? (1)

Bocaj (84920) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975594)

With the rising cost of copper products, could plastic be a cheaper?

What's the point? (1)

Joseph Hayes (982018) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975626)

The best thing my ISP offers at the moment is 10mbs, and they charge me 70 bucks for it. While I enjoy 1MB/s downloads from Bangbros, nearly instant webpage loading, and zero lag in gaming, they would be hard pressed to squeeze any more money out of me for an internet connection. I think it will take several years, if not a decade before we see a full throttle 100mb internet option. We already have cables just fine for dealing with that amount of bandwidth, why re-wire your house when They (Charter in my case) have yet to utilize the capability of the current infrastructure.

Great and all, But... (1)

CaptScarlet22 (585291) | more than 6 years ago | (#21975716)

I don't see a "Wired" solution being a great option for computer connections at the home anymore. I once envisioned running Cat-5e all over my house. But why??? When wireless N speeds are quite fantastic around 134 Mbit/s (at least that's what it tells me).

I suppose in a network of multiply computers, it might be really nice to have around the house.

POF, not a chance... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21975876)

back in 96 i worked with a research group trying to develop POF and the day a competing research group demonstrated 1GB over copper, POF was dropped like a hot potato. There are too many issues with POF. From the materials side, first you have to designing a polymer that has a high enough refractive index to be able to transmit signal for more than 6 feet. Then this polymer has to support tubular extrusion at very high rates like > 1000/min, very little variation in I.D/O.D/and wall thickness, be able to be flexible enough to be installed in temperatures ranging from -20F to 110F, be insensitive to moisture, shrinkage, and long term environmental cycling. As for the finished product, it has to cost at least 20% less to install and maintain than copper for an installer to even suggest it to customers and that assumes that a large structured wiring manufacturer is making or partnering with someone to make termination/networking equipment.
Cold day in hell when this will be in main stream. I'm sure this is a nice grad student project/patent generator...

Big deal, these have been around a long time, man (1)

unassimilatible (225662) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976530)

Spencer's Gifts has been selling these [coolstuffcheap.com] for cool bachelor pads since the 1970's, man. What next, are we going to use lava lamps and blacklights for data transmission, man?

Could? It already is! (2, Informative)

statemachine (840641) | more than 6 years ago | (#21976536)

For some reason, people have it stuck in their heads that plastic fiber is new. It's not. Also, it can carry 10Gb/s just fine. All the 100-300m links are class 1. In fact, I'm looking at a 50Km rated SFP that is Class 1. According to all the safety ratings, you can stare at its laser as long as you like. And wavelength has nothing to do with power. The 50Km SFP that I just mentioned is infrared.

It looks like they're solving problems, badly, that have already been solved. MS Windows and their broken "shortcuts" if anyone remembers? If I didn't think it was just plain ignorance, I would claim this was a well-disguised FUD piece.
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