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From the Tips Box: Ethernet Cheat Sheets, Wi-Fi Cantennas, and Easy Holiday Package Tracking

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One a week we dump out the Tips Box and share some of the great tips you’ve mailed in. This week we’re looking at Ethernet wiring cheat sheets, Wi-Fi cantennas, and easy holiday package tracking.

Tuck an Ethernet Cheat Sheet in Your Tool Box

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Philip writes in with the following tip:

I’ve finally given up on ever getting a good Wi-Fi signal throughout my old thick-walled home. For the last few weekends I’ve been running cable through the walls and have found my DIY Ethernet color coding cheat sheet to be invaluable. I took the images from this Ethernet tutorial, printed them in color, and then laminated them (back to back). They’re about the size of a 3×5 card and great for quick reference when you’re up late wiring. I’m sure if I did this long enough I’d have everything memorized but when it’s 2AM on a Saturday and I a bit off my game the cheat sheets really help. If anyone has higher resolution or alternate images I’d love to see them!

That’s a clever way to put together a quick and dirty cheat sheet Philip. Thanks for sharing!

Boost Wi-Fi Reception with a Cantenna

2011-12-15_130036Holly writes in with the following Wi-Fi boosting tip:

I’d seen builds for “cantennas” for years but never thought I’d need to geek out and build one myself. I recently installed a computer out in my workshop (a pole barn about 50 feet off the back of my house). I didn’t really want to run network cable all the way out there but the Wi-Fi signal from the house was spotty at best. I followed the simple instructions here and (after I’d bought a couple cheap but special order parts) I was in business. I plugged the cantenna right into the Wi-Fi card in the computer and now I get a great signal out there in the pole barn. The whole project only cost me about $15 and took less than an hour once all the parts had arrived.

Cheap, effective, and built MacGyver style? What’s not to love about about this project?

Track All Your Holiday Packages with PackageTrackr

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Rick writes in with the following holiday tip:

Normally I only get a few packages delivered a month (so keeping track of them isn’t a big deal). Around this time of year, however, the packages come flooding in. My favorite tool for keeping track of them all is PackageTrackr. It’s a web app with a great mobile interface. You can see all your packages and get feedback like… the package has left the shipper, is in transit, is held up, is out for delivery, has been delivered, and so on. Not only that it works with more than just the big names (like UPS and FedEx). If you look at the pulldown menu of shipping providers it can track there are like 40+ entries. I ordered something from Hong Kong earlier this month and PackageTrackr handled it with no problem.

PackageTrackr looks awesome Rick! You left out a pretty sweet detail: once you sign up for an account you can forward your tracking notices to track@packagetrackr.com and it will automatically add your packages to your account. We’ll be back in a bit; it’s time to plug in some Christmas packages.


Have a tip or trick to share? Shoot us an email at tips@howtogeek.com.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 12/15/11

Comments (23)

  1. ChuckBales

    One thing we say in IT when it comes to wiring and remembering which pin-out to use is “A is for a**hole”, meaning always use the standard B pinout (WO,O,WGr,Bl,WBl,Gr,WBr,Br)

  2. justsomeguy

    Exactly… I saw the cheat sheet and was like “Who the hell uses that?”

  3. Matt

    how to geek is notorious for using bad cabling standards (or should I say lack of standards?)…..disappointing if you ask me. Its stuff like this on the internet that makes you walk into a building, look at a cable and have to do work to find what wires on what pin.

  4. J000

    I second the WO,O,WGr,Bl,WBl,Gr,WBr,Br

  5. Bogey

    LOVE the idea of a handy cheat sheet…just not this one! ;-)
    Also second (or 3rd) on the standard WO,O,WGr,Bl,WBl,Gr,WBr,Br

  6. Matt Lucas

    It’s always been:
    WO,O,WGr,Bl,WBl,Gr,WBr,Br
    for me also.

  7. Tron 781

    Does anyone vett this stuff for commonsense, no one really uses A, except in australia and one mis wired building at harvard

  8. pt99

    packagetrackr.com has a new site at faranow.com you can use your login from packagetrackr.com. It has a much simpler and easier interface! So far I like it!

  9. CI

    Brick dust, flashlight, rood-tree, chiropteran (taxidermist)

  10. Joe Morgan

    If you ever worked at the phone factory any length of time the standard cabling would be burned into your memory cells a long time ago.
    LMAO
    a old bell head
    ~j~

  11. John

    Technically it doesn’t matter what order the colors are in so long as both ends of each cable are the same. Though t568b does seem to be more common.

  12. Luis

    It doesn’t make any diference if you understand the concept DTE-DCE and DTE-DTE communication. You can even have communication if you only have 4 wires.

  13. Coleton

    WO,O,WGr,Bl,WBl,Gr,WBr,Br
    has always been taught to me as b standard

  14. zenpistolero

    B FTW (for the wire…)

    If you know

    a) orange, then green
    b) start with light, and alternate, even across colors
    c) blue is center pair in case it’s used for phone

    then it all just falls in place.

    Oh well. I guess that’s why they’re the journalists and we’re the tech-heads.

  15. Anonymous

    Standards would seem to demand correct color coding. And adhering to the usual WO,O,WGr,Bl,WBl,Gr,WBr,Br Ethernet cabling standard probably would save some other tech a few hours of head scratching later on. But as long as the correct connections are made it really doesn’t matter what colors go to what pins. And if it works then why “fix it”? So unless these cables are being sold (or even given) to someone else with less technical knowledge then I say leave it alone.

    Otherwise, as far as any sort of “professional” cabling goes then I would agree: (A)bort, (R)etry, (F)ail. Cause if you think about it, if someone else were to crimp on another RJ-45 – and do it correctly – it most likely would lead to more problems.

  16. Al Howrad

    Through my Votech school, we had to learn both A and B standards, but we use B most often. The only time we use A is when making a crossover cable and we have to use it.

  17. Al Howard

    And @ John,

    It does matter what way you put the wires because of cancellation between the wires and the twists to stop crosstalk.

  18. cqaigy

    A or B has the same noise cancellation characteristics. B is used most often in the US

  19. PaulB

    Despite the issue of colour coding conventions, the author is to be commended for an excellently written and delightfully well explained project, which even non-techies can follow and build on. Very Well Done!

  20. Don

    It makes a major difference when your wire is extra long. I made several that didn’t work until I used B. The TIA/EIA 568-A standard which was ratified in 1995, was replaced by the TIA/EIA 568-B standard in 2002 and has been updated since. Both standards define the T-568A and T-568B pin-outs for using Unshielded Twisted Pair cable and RJ-45 connectors for Ethernet connectivity. The standards and pin-out specification appear to be related and interchangeable, but are not the same and should not be used interchangeably.

  21. Donovan

    Don, so what your trying to say is that the manufactures of the cable take 4 pairs of cable and make 1 pair better than another, i hope you didn’t pay for your studies because that will be a shame considering you learnt nothing.

  22. wayne

    568 b is the Standard we use in the Data Tel Business also agree WO,O,WGr,Bl,WBl,Gr,WBr,Br.

    As an old installer I add one more tid bit–Wires on a Cat 5 Cable are color blind as long as you have the same colors at each end- :)D

  23. ChuckBales

    Yes, what I meant by my original “a is for a**holes” post was that it’s the most commonly used standard (at least in the US), so when you walk into a phone/network room it’s nice to see everything consistent, and to be courteous and pay it forward to the next guy that’s going to work in that room.

    Also, 1Gb ethernet uses all wires, not just two pairs like 10/100.
    And if you’re dealing with PoE you need to watch which standard the devices use, though I think the newest 802.3af allows for both using the spare pairs and data pairs to provide power.

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