>If the clip-release is facing me is pin1 on the right, or on the left?
One would normally look at it with the plug up, cable down, and clip away. The wires are easier to see that way. If it is held that way, pin 1 is on the left.
>do I need the steel plated?
No. However, just because they are plastic does not mean they are the right plugs.
Everything you need to know about this subject is on this site and can be found at http://duxcw.com/digest/Howto/network/cable/cable1.htm, in the networking and Internet sharing FAQs, in this forum, and elsewhere using the Site Search to the left. Larry