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Cannot Connect to Linked Controller Units


steventhewilson
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steventhewilson

Hello everyone!  First post here, and I searched through and read several other threads and have been trying to work this out myself the last few days, but no dice!  I will also say, we had this setup working last year, and we may have switched computers this year, but otherwise everything should be the same.

My father-in-law has three light controllers that he has bought over the last few years, all three are model CTB16PCG3, versions 5.16126 on Unit 01, 5.16168 on Unit 02, and 5.18193 on Unit 03 respectively, if that matters much.  We have one black USB485 adapter that has an Ethernet cable running from our PC to Unit 01, then another Ethernet from Unit 01 to 02, and then another Ethernet from Unit 02 to 03.  All are set up on COM4, with the drivers for that up-to-date, and the Control Panel also cites COM4.  I went into the Device Manager, and confirmed that it is indeed COM4 that disappears and reappears when I unplug and replug the USB485 device from the computer.

The problem I am seeing is that when I scan for controllers in the Hardware Utility, it is only finding Unit 01, even when I raise the max ID up to the maximum value.  I have tried buying new Ethernet cables and swapping them out, and that does not seem to be the problem.  In troubleshooting, I also tried just running the main cable from the USB485 adapter straight to Unit 02 separately with nothing else connected, and it did find Unit 02, it was indeed labeled as Unit 02 on COM4, and it did let me control those lights on that controller on that individual basis.  I also tried the same thing with Unit 03, with it being the only thing connected to the USB485 adapter's cable, and it too let me find and use it separate from everything else.  One other thing I did find when doing this is that one of the two Ethernet ports in my Unit 02 is bad.  It only works sometimes when I wiggle it, but that just led me to change my chain order to be instead Unit 01 to 03, and then 03 to the good port of 02.  But again, still no dice, and that bad port is still not my overarching problem because I still only find the main Unit 01 even when I daisy chain only 01 to 03 and don't include 02 in the mix at all.

Let me know if you want any additional information to help figure this out, but I've been trying to the last several days to no avail.  I really was convinced that maybe it was just my middle Ethernet cord that was bad, but I didn't have another one long enough to test with, so I had to wait until I could get a new one.  But, now that the new one is in place, I really don't think it is the problem.  So, any insight that anyone has would be greatly appreciated!  Thank you, and have a happy Thanksgiving!!!

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Couple comments.  First of all, it's Cat-5 or Cat-6 cable, not "Ethernet" cable.  Yes, Ethernet and the RS-485 serial that we use both use a Cat-5 cable, but the data signals are NOT compatible and can in fact result in damaged equipment if mixed up.  Referring to it as "Ethernet" cable is a recipe for thinking they are the same and not working, or worse, damaging something.  I generally recommend using a different color cable for the LOR RS-485 networking.  Makes it at least a little harder to mix it up.  I use purple cable for RS-485, green for E1.31, and blue for my "normal" home LAN cabling.

I think you found PART of your problem.  Since it would appear that your cables are good, you likely have more than one RJ-45 connector (note 1 below) that is either completely broken or partially.  If you have a Cat-5 cable tester, use two short KNOWN GOOD cables and plug into the two RJ-45 connectors on a controller and wiggle the connectors while watching the tester.  I'm betting that you will find more than one connector that is suspect.  In your arrangement, you need two controllers that have two working connectors and one that only needs one working connector.  If you find that you don't meet that minimum, ask and we can give you several work arounds to get through this season.  If you don't have a cable tester, I HIGHLY recommend buying one.  Does not need to be a fancy one, just something to test for continuity (around $10).

Note 1:  It's actually not an RJ-45 connector, but rather an 8P8C, but the term RJ-45 is used incorrectly so often that it is accepted, and almost no one knows what an 8P8C connector is...  This statement to keep a purest from jumping on me 😄

 

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Something extra you can try with Jim's suggestions, look at the green or red light inside. If its connected properly, it should be steady on. If not, it'll be flashing. So look at the first one in your daisy chain then look at the next and etc...if you see a flashing controller led, now you know where its not getting its data signal. Let's say ID01 works and the light is steady, then ID02 is also steady but ID03 is flashing. This should tell you that either a bad cable or ID02's output port connection is messed up or the input port connection on ID03 is messed up. When this happens, its usually one of two things. Dirty or out of place pins in the RJ45 connector. The second possibility is the RJ45 connector has lifted off or partially off the motherboard.

To fix: first problem, you'll need a very small tool like a dental pick and ever so carefully, pull the pushed in contact pin back up, then clean properly too while there. Second problem, you'll need to take the board out of the box completely and resolder the RJ45 connector, reassemble and test.

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steventhewilson

Thank you k6ccc and dgrant both for you comments!  I do see now the Light-O-Rama site suggests "Cat 5 LAN cables", as they phrase it.  I am just wondering, is there any difference between Cat-5 and Cat-5e cables as far as connecting Light-O-Rama units is concerned?  Again, right now my mind is already blown, as I just thought the higher the number of Cat cable, the faster speeds of Internet it supported in a network.  I could even be completely wrong in that assumption, but this is just the first time I've even encountered something where the type of "Ethernet" cable mattered, so my mind is just a bit blown!  So, if you have any recommendation between Cat-5 and Cat-5e, if there even is actually a difference, I would appreciate it!

And yeah, I'll still have to troubleshoot the problems with the one faulty RJ-45 on my Unit 02 when I get the chance.  I really do think I'll be able to just avoid using that connector for now and just make that unit the last stop of my daisy chain.  I definitely plan to troubleshoot that problem more when I get a free weekend, but your comments should prove most useful when I do circle back to it, dgrant!

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28 minutes ago, steventhewilson said:

I am just wondering, is there any difference between Cat-5 and Cat-5e cables as far as connecting Light-O-Rama units is concerned?

Not for our purposes.

BTW, it is recommended NOT to use Cat-6.  On some of the controllers, the cable has to make a sharp bend in order to get the door closed on the controller.  This can stress the connector on the controller resulting in breaking it if you use Cat-6 cable (much stiffer).

 

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In the end and you may already know this. If you end up with only one controller that has one bad RJ45 data port you can use that one for an end of line controller and still have three units.

If my friend Jim doesn’t beat me up for calling it the purist name. LOL

JR

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6 hours ago, dibblejr said:

In the end and you may already know this. If you end up with only one controller that has one bad RJ45 data port you can use that one for an end of line controller and still have three units.

If my friend Jim doesn’t beat me up for calling it the purist name. LOL

JR

He gets to beat on both of us.  😐  I say RJ45 instead of 8P8C

RJ stands for Registered Jack . That belongs to the Telco (along with all the other RJ) as to how they were wired for a usage. RJ31 is an 8P set up for security (alarms) using the standard Tip-Ring Voice line

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5 hours ago, TheDucks said:

He gets to beat on both of us.  😐  I say RJ45 instead of 8P8C

All of us.  Almost no one calls is an 8P8C jack.  It's one of those situations where you have to use the wrong term in order for people to know what you are talking about.

 

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