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Channels and cables
Great! You're on your way making your fancy storage system bigger, adding more devices, etc. There is more to consider in the mod than simply adding devices.
First of all, let's explain the different types of cables. You may have noticed that there are many different types of cables out there. There are many types of cables more specifically, glass cables, covered cables, smart cables, and there are dense cables. Glass cable is the most basic cable. Covered cable essentially acts the same as glass cables but are visually different and serve as a crafting ingredient for the next two cables. Smart cables are similar looking to the covered cables, but they have a display that shows how many channels are being used. And finally, there are dense cables, noticeably thicker than the others which also shows how many channels are being used. All cables except for dense ones carry 8 channels, and dense ones carry 32. Cables come in different colors and the "fluix" kind. The colored ones will connect to all types of cables of the same color and fluix cables, and fluix cables will connect to everything. If you don't want two same-colored cables to connect, you can use a cable anchor in between the two cables.
What are channels? Well, every device requires a channel to function, including an ME Drive, terminals, and busses, CPUs, and interfaces that will be covered later. For a network without a controller, there can be up to 8 channels and the network will shut down if more are introduced. This type of network is known as an "ad-hoc" network. If you need more than 8 channels, you need a ME Controller. There can be one controller on a network at most. The controller is a multiblock structure that follows a few rules:
- It can be no bigger by 7x7x7
- A controller block must not connect to more than 2 other controller blocks on the same axis, or else it will idle
- There can only be 1 on the network, or both will idle.
If a controller remains red, one of the rules are broken and the controller is idle. Otherwise, it should cycle through the colors.
Each face of a controller will emit 32 channels (same number as a dense cable). When a controller is introduced to a network, all devices will take the shortest possible path through any cables to the controller. This will use up one channel through that cable. It is important to keep in mind that devices will take the shortest path through a cable. Thus, if there is a smart cable (8 channels) and a dense cable (32 channels) connected to a grid of 10 drives, but the smart cable is the shortest possible path, the devices will still connect through the smart cable and ignore the dense cable, resulting in 2 drives offline. This may also create unpredictable behaviour when there are two routes of equal length, which should be avoided.
As already mentioned above, most AE2 devices need a channel to work. If a device successfully connects to a channel, you usually see it changing color to the cable's color, and Waila shows "Device Online". Otherwise, if no channel is left, it stays pink and you see "Device Offline". As all cables except dense cables only can carry 8 channels, it's not easy in larger networks to get all devices reliably connected. Especially the shortest-path rule (see above) often yields surprising results.
All would be easy if dense cables would connect to devices --- unfortunately they don't. Otherwise you could use dense cables everywhere (if you already have enough resources, at least) and care less about channels. But as it is, the best plan for cabling seems to be kind of a tree-structure:
- the root is the controller
- the larger branches going off the root are dense cables (carrying max. 32 channels)
- other cables (max. 8 channels) branch off dense cables
- and finally connect the leaves of the tree, i.e. the devices.
You should take some care that the smaller branches do not connect with each other (which easily happens with fluix-colored cables). Otherwise your channels are likely to run another path than expected and the part attaching to the dense cable gets overloaded. You can avoid connections by:
- keep distance (at least one block)
- use different colors
- use cable anchors
Using different colors is a somewhat limited approach, as for connecting to the dense cable, you need either fluix or the same color as the dense cable itself. So directly adjacent connections at the dense cable are still not possible just by colors.
Smart and dense cables show how many channels are used on them: the first half shows as stripes in cable color, the next half is represented as white strips. So if a cable shows those, it's at least half full. Waila also can show how many channels are used on a dense cable, however not always and I haven't really understood when and when not.