Look at all the pretty lights

This week, I needed to reconfigure a previously-used Cyclades ACS console server. Finding the right adapters was easy enough, but getting the USB serial dongle to play was the tricky bit. Without a signal tracer, I was stuck with the evidence... "it's not working"...and I was trying different hardware combinations, and a few software changes. I wasted 2.5 hours going through different combinations, and I put a reminder in my calendar to bring my signal tracers and my Serial Doctors Bag the next day.

Once I had my trusty signal tracers, it was a matter of 10 minutes to find the proper USB settings, COM port configuration in my terminal emulator, and start the reconfiguration process. Blinky lights will save you time, every time. Good quality signal tracers are worth a high cost, because they will save you time often, and serve you well for many years. One day, blinky lights will probably save my life...

So, having solved Problem #1, and with kit in hand, I tackled Problem #2;

Years ago, a couple of hundred APC smart power strips (OK, "0-RU, metered Power Distribution Units") were installed in a data center. Fast forward to last week, when one unit is failing to respond to SNMP after a high-temperature 'event' in the room. Since it was in critical service, we wanted to try using the serial console to see if the brains were still alive. Unfortunately, nobody could find a serial cable for the job, and APC doesn't want folks making their own cables so APC doesn't post any signaling clues. I did find one website with clues about the wiring for the 940-0144 cable.

The clues indicated that the 6-pin RJ-14 interface was, indeed, RS-232 (and not TTL, for example), I could do some experimenting. A new toy in my Doctors Bag (not in the pictures (yet), is a MODAPT from Siemon. With this, and my trusty Digital Volt Meter (DVM), I was able to confirm some signalling that wasn't mentioned in the LuxNET web page.

Pin1 -2v (in reference to Pin2)
Pin2 GND (0v potential to Pin5)
Pin3 TxD output (-5.5v in reference to Pin2)
Pin4 RxD input (0.2V in reference to Pin2)
Pin5 GND (0v potential to Pin2)
Pin6 -2v (in reference to Pin2)

With this information, I could then make an adapter cable, and then use the RJ45 signal tracer to confirm that the signals are on the right pins. (I found that I could use just 3 wires, Ground - RxD - TxD) for communications to the APC AP7868 rPDU. I did not need to loop RJ-14 pins 1 and 6, and I didn't need to connect RJ-14 pins 1 or 6 to ground to establish communication.)

I'll update my APC console page and my Signals page soon with some of this information.

1 comment:

Arnold de Leon said...

I tested an APC RJ12 to DB9 adapter and it appears to be that two grounds are tied together their adapter. That is pins 2 and 5 from the RJ12 are both connected to pin 5 on the DB9 end.

I built RJ12 mail to RJ45 adapters and I did the same thing and they work just fine.