Tiny Ethernet Cable Arms Race Spawns From Reddit Discussion

If you’ve had any dealings with Cat 5 and Cat 6 cable, and let’s be honest, who hasn’t, you’ve probably wrestled with lengths anywhere from 1 meter to 25 meters if you’re hooking up a long haul. Network admins will be familiar with the 0.1 m variety for neat hookups in server cabinets. However, a Reddit community has recently taken things further.

It all started on r/ubiquiti, where user [aayo-gorkhali] posted a custom-built cable just over 2 inches long. The intention was to allow a Ubiquiti U6-IW access point to be placed on a wall. The tiny cable was used to hook up to the keystone jack that formerly lived in that position, as an alternative to re-terminating the wall jack into a regular RJ45 connector.

Naturally this led to an arms race, with [darkw1sh] posting a shorter example with two RJ-45 connectors mounted back to back with the bare minimum of cable crimped into the housings. [Josh_Your_IT_Guy] went out the belt sander to one-up that effort, measuring just over an inch in length.

[rickyh7] took things further, posting a “cable” just a half-inch long (~13 mm). In reality, it consists of just the pinned section of two RJ-45 connectors mounted back to back, wired together in the normal way. While electrically it should work, and it passes a cable tester check, it would be virtually impossible to actually plug it into two devices at once due to its tiny length.

We want to see this go to the logical end point, though. This would naturally involve hacking away the plastic casings off a pair of laptops and soldering their motherboards together at the traces leading to the Ethernet jack. Then your “cable” is merely the width of the solder joint itself.

Alternatively, you could spend your afternoon learning about other nifty hacks with Ethernet cables that have more real-world applications!

Build Your Own LAN Cable Tester

Sure, you can buy a cable tester, but what fun is that? [Ashish] posted a nice looking cable tester that you can build with or without an onboard Arduino. If you don’t use an Arduino, the project uses a 555 chip to test the eight wires in an Ethernet cable. The readout is simple. When testing a conductor, one of 8 LEDs will light. If one doesn’t light, the cable is open. If more than one light up, there is a short. Mixed up pins will cause the LEDs to light out of sequence. You can see the device in the video below.

The 555 device is fine for the design and we were surprised that the project had provisions for using an Arduino as nothing more than a pulse generator. It could replace most of the circuit which is pretty simple. A decade counter converts the pulses into 8 pulses (a wiring change makes it reset on the 9th count). The rest of the circuit is nothing more than LEDs, resistors, and diodes.

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