Vanco HDMI™ Extender Over Cat5e Cable

August 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Cables and Wires, Home Theater 

hdmi-over-cat5e-extenderSo, you want to stretch the distance between your HDTV and a high-def source (like an HD-DVD player, Blu-Ray, or PS3 gaming console), but shudder to think of the search for, and cost of, a 100+ foot long HDMI cable? I feel your pain, but don’t worry – you won’t be in it long. Your worries, and HDMI-related budget woes, are about to melt away – at least they will as soon as you meet this Cat5e HDMI Extender from Vanco.

As you can probably tell from its name, this particular HDMI extender uses Cat5e cables (delightfully inexpensive Cat5e cables) to carry your HDMI signals from Point A to Point B. By now you’re probably wondering, “How the heck do you get a decent high-def digital signal over a type of cable that’s usually used for Ethernet connections?” Easy – it’s all in the transmitter and receiver.

While it’s called an extender, it’s actually made up of two separate components – the above-mentioned transmitter and receiver. Using 2 short HDMI cables, the transmitter is connected to the high-definition source, and the receiver is connected to the display. From there, you just need to run 2 Cat5e cables between the transmitter and receiver. The transmitter starts out by translating the HDMI signal into the proper format for Cat5e. The modified signal then travels down the Cat5e cables to the receiver, where it’s translated back into HDMI format, and fed through to the display. And there you have it, ladies and gents – long distance HDMI.

The Vanco HDMI Over Cat5e extender works for distances up to 200 feet, and the resolution can vary depending on how far you’re sending the signal. Up to 100 feet, and the final resolution delivered is 1080p; for 100-165 feet, you get 1080i. When you push it anywhere from 165-200 feet, the resolution drops to 720p, but that’s still high-def! The extender system also reduces annoying EMI and RFI, so you’ll get the clearest audio and video possible.

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Millepede™ Mille-Anchors™

cable-tie-anchor-applicationSay you have a cable bundle to route along the surface of a wall. Say that the wall just happens to be made out of unsealed brick or aerated concrete. Say that the adhesive cable tie mounts you had stashed in your tool kit for just such an occasion refuse to stick. Say… a few really bad words.

No, wait, I take that back. Hold on to the profanity, and save it for a more worthwhile situation – one that there isn’t actually a solution for. Because there’s a really quick fix for the little cable tie mount/brick wall incompatibility problem you’re having right now. And it’s called the Mille-Anchor™ Cable Tie Anchoring System, by Millepede™.

Because of the rough and porous texture of brick and concrete, it’s pretty tough to mount anything to these materials with adhesive, because, simply put, it just won’t stick. But Mille-Anchors™ surmounts this annoying little detail by going straight through that uncooperative surface and driving the cable tie mounts right into the wall.

Don’t let this put you off, though, because unlike drywall anchors, you don’t have to pre-drill before you can use Mille-Anchors™ – they hammer right in, no power tools required. And once they’re in, they’re incredibly low-profile, so when your cable bundles are lashed onto them, the cables won’t jut out extra far from the wall. Nice design feature. And they’re very resistant to pulling out, so once they’re in place, they’ll stay there until you deliberately remove them.

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Rack-A-Tiers Laser Plumb Bob™

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Tools and Cases 

laser-plumb-bobYou can never have enough laser gadgets in your toolbox, right? I didn’t think so. That’s why today we’re going to talk about a nifty new tool I recently came across: the Laser Plumb Bob by Rack-A-Tiers. It may still work off of the same bullet-shaped suspended weight that a regular plumb line does, but here’s the catch: it doesn’t have to hang from the ceiling or a beam to work.

I know what you’re thinking: say what??? Remember that I said this is a laser plumb bob, so there’s no string involved. Instead, the “line” is made of light. Here’s how it works: the brass weight is suspended in a frame, in which it can move until it finds its center of gravity, and is hanging perfectly straight. Built into the top of the weight is a small laser that beams a ray of light upward to the ceiling, and leaves a red laser pinpoint showing exactly where you need to work. And did I mention that the laser plumb bob just sits on the floor or a worksurface? That means no more balancing on ladders with your hands full – yeeeeeeeeeeesssssssssssssssssssssssssssss!!!

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Panduit® Mini-Com® Snap-In Port Identification Icons

snap-in-port-iconsDon’t get me wrong – labeling network data ports and phone jacks is a great thing, especially if you have a situation where the two are grouped together. Unless you want to stick to the old phone and data jack color codes (which many people don’t do anymore for decor reasons), the two can be just about impossible to tell apart at a glance, so labels can be pretty important. But then again, they can look so, well… networky. That is to say, extremely technical. Let’s admit it – there are probably times, now and then, when you just don’t want to see printed labels all over your wall jacks. And do you know what? I can’t blame you for that. Neither can Panduit®, which is why they developed Mini-Com® Snap-In Port Identification Icons.

Instead of relying on bold lettering to tell you which jack is which, Panduit’s®  Mini-Com® port ID plates rely on subtle icons to clue you in. A computer means “data,” and a phone means “voice.” Super easy. And since the icons are molded-in and not printed on, they don’t scream for the attention of people who are passing by – they just sort blend in until you need them. Another nice thing about Mini-Com® snap-in icons is that they’re available in 12 different colors – neutrals to further blend in with your room’s color scheme, or brighter hues that fit in with just about any color code. And have I mentioned that they’re fast and inexpensive to use? No labels to print, no backings to peel off – you just snap a plate into the icon slot of a Mini-Com®  module, wall plate, surface mount box or patch panel, and your work is done.

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Powramid™ Surge Protector

August 20, 2009 by · 6 Comments
Filed under: Power and Data Distribution 

powramid-mainJust when you thought they couldn’t invent a surge protector in another shape. First came block-style surge suppressors, the kind that most of us have under our desks. Then came the round tabletop version for conference rooms. And believe it or not, there’s even one out there that looks like a squid. But up until now, there haven’t been any pyramids -at least not that I know of. But I found one! Meet the uniquely conical Powramid™, a 6-outlet surge protected PDU that gives you 360° power. Because it provides receptacles that face in all directions, it’s perfect for use on conference tables, or for any other situation in which you have a group of people who need to plug multiple devices into a central power source.

The Powramid’s™ design benefits don’t end with 360° power availability, though. It just so happens that it’s a lot easier to fit bulky plugs, adapters, and transformers into outlets that are configured like a pyramid. When you plug fat adapters into regular power strips or surge protectors that have their outlets placed side by side, you can run into a little problem: wasted outlets. Extra-wide adapters have a tendency to creep over the borders of the outlets that they’re plugged into and invade the space of neighboring receptacles, making them unusable for other devices. Call me crazy, but I think that if you pay for a certain number of outlets, you should be able to use them all.

The Powramid™ is crowned with a power switch that lights up when the unit is running, and allows you to switch the whole thing off when none of the devices plugged into it are being used. The switch is also covered with a removable plastic dome that prevents you from accidentally shutting the surge suppressor down while it’s in use.

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Watts Up? .Net Watt Meter

wattsup-net-mainThese days, it seems like power usage meters for home and office are popping up everywhere. And why shouldn’t they be? Not only are they green (they tell you how much electricity different electrial appliances consume while running), they’re also big money-savers (they help you make smart utility-bill-reducing decisions on which power-guzzlers to get rid of or use less). The only catch is that you have to actually be present to use them. That’s fine for an average home-bodyish chick like me, but what about the environmentally-conscious jet-setters out there? How do they keep tabs on how much energy their homes and businesses are using, and more importantly, how much that power consumption is costing them?

I just found out. They use the Watts UP? .Net Electricity Watt Meter. While it works just like the other power usage meters out there (you plug it into a wall outlet, then plug an appliance into the meter, and the meter tells you how much power the device consumes), it has an extra high-tech feature that lets you control it and get readings even when you’re far, far away: a built-in web server. Whether you’re down the road or overseas, you can access your power usage data, and even switch the device attached to the .Net on and off, all via the Internet.

The Watts Up? .Net is compatible with any device that’s between 100 and 250VAC, and has a non-volatile built-in memory that can store up to 8,000 records for long-term tracking.

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Super Wrist Magnet

August 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Tools and Cases 

wrist-magnet-smThis is it, ladies and gents. The one that almost got away. I don’t know how I let this one slip between the cracks, but let’s just say that it’s a good thing that I received an e-mail from a coworker this morning, asking me which tools, out of all that we sell, I think are the coolest. Because that’s when I remembered the Super Wrist Magnet. Honestly, I don’t know how I could have forgotten it, especially since I just about busted a gut the first time I heard its name. I mean, the thing sounds like it shoud be wearing a cape, or like it might be a prime secret weapon for the X-Men to whip out against Magneto. But after I stopped snorting with laughter and had wiped the tears of mirth from my eyes, I realized that the Super Wrist Magnet is actually an extremely creative and useful product.

If you’re wondering why one would ever want to wear a powerfully magnetic wristband, I have two words for you: runaway hardware. How many times have you ever shrieked in despair as you watched nails, screws, drill bits, nuts and bolts roll or skitter away just when you needed them most? Personally, I really would have dug having one of these last year, when I was helping my sister assemble an apartment full of IKEA furniture. We carefully counted and separated all of the hardware, but things started to get a little tricky when those little silver-colored pieces began to fall onto the mottled gray carpet, and then roll away across the slanted floor (it’s a really old building). Needless to say, frustration and profanity ensued.

But if I had had one of these on hand (literally), things would have gone a little (okay, a lot) easier. The Super Wrist Magnet is the perfect for keeping all of the small hardware for a job right where you need it, so you don’t have to keep stopping what you’re doing to grab parts. My suggestion is to wear this ingenious contraption on the wrist that corresponds to whichever hand you’re holding your drill, hammer, or screwdriver in. That way, your free hand can just grab one screw or nail at a time, and you’ll never miss a beat – or have to crawl around looking for escaped pieces.

The Super Wrist Magnet is made of steel covered in comfortable neoprene, with 6 extremely strong neodymium magnets providing plenty of magnetic pull. And despite the whole “made of steel” thing, the wristband is actually very lightweight, so wearing it around won’t tire your arm out.

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Lutron® Claro™ Designer Wall Plates

August 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Electrical 

wallplates_smHow do you know when you watch waaaaaaay too much HGTV? When you start coveting snazzy wall plates with which to frame your home’s every light switch. And, just to clarify, when I say “you” and “your,” I really mean “me” and “mine”. Yes, that’s right – all of those hours of taking in the on-air interior design prowess of Candice Olson, Vern Yip, and Angelo Surmelis have taken their toll, and lately I’ve found that I have to keep going back for yet another look at Lutron’s® Claro™ designer wall plates.

Alas, I’m a mere renter, and have yet to procure a house of my own, on which to inflict my personal sense of style. But in the meantime, I can dream – and tell all of you homeowners with an eye for detail why I like these things so much. To begin with, they’re sleek and simple – they have a way of really playing up a room and making it look finished, without actually calling attention to themselves. And they have no visible hardware, which gives them a refreshingly clean and smooth surface. But the real kicker for me are the colors they come in – there are the standard-issue neutrals (like white, ivory, and almond) for the non-risk-takers and those who prefer soothing palettes, or, if you’re feeling a little bolder (like me) you can go with glossy-finished black, brown, or gray. Personally, my eyes have been riveted to the brown wall plates – gorgeous.

Another great thing about Claro™ wall plates is that they’re really affordable, so you don’t have to spend a lot to add some polish to a tired room. And you can even install them yourself - perfect for a weekend project, and you won’t even have to hire someone to take care of it for you.

Claro™ wall plates are available in configurations that range from 1 to 6 gangs (openings), and are compatible with Lutron® Maestro, Diva, and Skylark dimmers and switches, as well as other manufacturers’ designer-series switches and controls.

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Black Box Professional Technician’s Kit

August 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Tools and Cases 

black-box-prof-tech-kit-smTalk about having an arsenal on your hip. No, I’m not talking about firearms or any other family of weapons. I’m talking about cable installation tools – just about every major type you could need, all packed into a compact holster that you can clip right onto your belt. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no pro cable installer, but I have learned quite a few basic cable terminations, and in doing so, used all of the required tools firsthand. And just from my hands-on experience in class, sitting at a table, I can imagine that searching for, and then juggling, tools in the field can get pretty annoying. That’s why, today, I’m turning the spotlight onto the Black Box Professional Technician’s Kit.

I love smart kits like this. All too often, combination-type items (everything from compilation CDs to candy mixes) seem to fall short on the things you really want, but load you up with other products you could do without. But with the Professional Technician’s case, that isn’t even an issue. It’s got everything that you need, and nothing you don’t. Enough said.

Included in the kit are must-haves like a punchdown tool, a reversible Type 110/66 puchdown blade, a combination cutter/stripper for UTP and STP cables, utility scissors, a mini flashlight (AA batteries included), a multi-use spudger, and even a Sharpie marker – all packed into a molded PVC holster that holds it all in place, and perches securely on your belt. You just pull out the tool you need, when you need it, and put it back in its place when you’re done, so it’s ready to go for next time. Nice.

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Arlington Industries Recessed Electrical Boxes

August 11, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Electrical, Home Theater 

arlington-recessed-electrical-boxEver plug in an appliance that you wanted to place right against the wall, only to have your plans foiled by how far the plug ended up sticking out from the receptacle? Sigh. More flat screen TV, coffee maker, and microwave placements have been wrecked from Jutting Plug Syndrome than I, personally, care to think about. But do you know what soothes my rattled interior design-conscious psyche? The fact that everything can be set right with a recessed electrical box from Arlington Industries.

Arlington’s recessed electrical boxes are just like run-of-the-mill power outlets, except for one special feature: they’re actually set back into your wall, instead of leaving outlets flush with the wall’s surface. This one seemingly-minor detail makes a world of difference, because when you plug into a recessed outlet, you’ll find that instead of protruding impolitely from the wall, plugs are almost entirely hidden away inside the depression (let me clarify: good depression) created by the wall box. When plugs are below surface level, you’re left with complete freedom to, well, put whatever you want in front of them. Flat screens can actually lay flat, as nature intended, and you can push kitchen appliances (remember the microwave and coffee pot I mentioned earlier?) all the way against the wall to save on counter space. Furniture placement suddenly gets a lot easier, too.

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