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5. Cabling serial ports together
Since you will be connecting two DTEs together, you will need to have a null modem run between the two devices. A null modem crosses transmit and receive, and ties a few status lines together so the application can open the port. This null modem can be a dongle that connects to the cable, or can be built into the cable. A dongle will get expensive if you have a large number of cables, so it is usually easier to get cables with the null modem built in.
Most PC hardware these days use DB-9 connectors, giving 9 pins for transmitting data and status, which is fine for us. Pre-built DB-9 cables can be had for a few dollars for a few feet of cable. More flexible is building a DB-9 to RJ-45 connector and building the null modem into that. The RJ-45 connector then accepts regular 10BaseT cables that can be custom-built, or with varying legths. This gives a lot of flexibiliy in arranging cables, since each cable can be the correct length to run between machines. Little extra cable is left lying around.
DB-9 to RJ-45 connectors can be purchased unassembled since there are no real standards for making this conversion. So long as Tx and Rx cross and CTS RTS cross, you have a null modem connection. The cabling I have here comes from my own design, and works just fine. Note that there have to be two different DB-9 to RJ-45 connectors because of the way pins are switched. I labeled them as "1" and "2". They can be placed on either end of the cable.