The Link Up

Today, our society’s founder, coordinator and I.T Technician for the UWI CaveHill campus, Mr. Maurice Beckles gave us a hands on experience on computer network cabling.

CSS Session4Web

His presentation began with a brief definition of a ‘network’ as it relates to the field of computer science. Two questions were popped at the club:

“What is a network?”

A computer network or data network is a telecommunications network which allows computers to exchange data. In computer networks, networked computing devices exchange data with each other along network links (data connections).

Why do we think it’s necessary to have computer networks in business?

“To aid with business expansion” and  “For communication purposes” were two of the accepted responses the students gave. Maurice gave an additional reason in, ” They allow for better productivity in the modern era as older methods (such as phone calls to off site locations for various reasons) were inefficient. ”

He briefly spoke about the OSI network model, what goes on at each level and its relevance to networking.

A student requested a more in depth explanation for the OSI model and the process. An attempt to explain diagrammatically was made.

Diagram Maurice drew to assist explanation of the OSI model

Network Hardware

The next area of discussion was network hardware. The following hardware components were mentioned and explained briefly.

  1. Hubs
  2. Switches
  3. Routers
  4. Wireless access points
  5. Firewalls and Other appliances

Cable Types

  • Cat 5e, 6e , 7
  • Fiber
  • Coaxial

Cable configurations

This was the next topic on Maurice’s agenda. Special mention was given to :

Crossover cable: which is generally used to connect two machines to each other to facilitate communication between them. This cabling technique isn’t as popular now due to most switches being able to automatically detect what type of connection is necessary for devices.

Straight through cable: which is  the common configuration used when connecting a device/computer system to a router/modem.

Examining and traversing networks on PC/MAC

A few of the common networking protocols and commands that you could expect to use or encounter were given and very briefly explained. The list included but is not limited to :

  • TCP/IP – are the basic communication languages or protocols of the Internet. They exist on both platforms
  • ipconfig(Windows)/ifconfig ( MAC/Linux) – used to check for actual IP address
  • netstat – checks network status and see all open connections
  • nslookup – name service lookup eg. and get their server name
  • traceroute – check  path to a device or network
  • ping – used to check whether a website or IP address can be reached from the host machine
  • rsync – sync files to another machine , only available on Linux/MAC machines
  • ssh – connect to other machines

As Maurice wrapped up the first segment of his presentation, he left us with a bit of advice:
“I.T networks should add value to the organization. ”

Hands-on Exercice

The final hour of the session was dedicated to providing the CSS members with a live tutorial on patch cable making! And boy was it a treat! Here’s what the exercise was all about.

Be sure to check out the photo gallery at the end of the blog!

Part 1

As a practical exercise, the students were paired up and given a 10 foot long Cat-5e network cable. They were tasked with having to make a functioning patch cable. A few of the best made patch cables were installed in the computer science lab to replace the faulty ones.

Students were exposed to:

  • Cable cutting and wire stripping techniques
  • Pairing the wires and applying the RJ-45 connectors
  • Crimping cables
  • Testing the cables to verify no faults

Maurice assisting a member as she crimped her cable : Check that focus !

Part 2

Using a freshly CSS-made patch cable to provide network connectivity. The students, spear headed by the club guru and president, booted up one of their servers in anticipation of Maurice’s introductory server installation exercise.

Due to unfortunate time limitations, he focused mainly on demonstrating the list of commonly used commands that were mentioned earlier in this post. The level of excitement was indeed evident, not once did he have to coerce the group into dabbling with the commands.

It was definitely a blast. Be sure to check out the sessions’ photos below!

Do join us next week for more CSS action !

All smiles ! As she forgot her introduction for Maurice
All smiles ! As she forgot her introduction for Maurice
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