Firefly LED Illuminated Cable Protector

November 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Cord Covers 

firefly-mainThanksgiving is over, Christmas fast approaches, and everywhere you turn, you’ll see red, green, and twinkling lights. It’s a wreath! It’s a Christmas tree! It’s a… Firefly® Cord Protector??? Yes, that’s right – while adjectives like “red,” “green,” and “twinkly” usually bring to mind objects of Yuletide cheer (to most normal people, at least), we Cord Covering Nerds at hear those three descriptors in combination and tend to think of one of our newest cable protectors: the aforementioned Firefly®.

Now, before I start babbling on about its attributes, let me set one thing straight: the Firefly, despite its red and green and lights, is nowhere near as pretty as the wreath or Christmas tree that I just mentioned – or even the insect that it’s named after, for that matter. But you can take comfort in the fact that its looks are intentionally quirky, and for one of the best reasons out there: safety.

I should probably explain. Firefly® Illuminated Cable Protectors are designed for low-light environments, where a run-of-the-mill cord cover just wouldn’t be easy enough to see. That neon-green cover? Sure, it’s not a color that many of us would normally gravitate toward, but it turns out that green is the most visible color to the human eye, so that makes it a great pick. And those animated red LEDs? They just scream “look at me” – and that’s the point. After all, you’re trying to keep people from tripping in clubs, concert venues, and other dark places where a trip-and-fall accident would completely wreck an otherwise good time.

But Fireflies aren’t just good for warning pedestrian traffic of they’re presence – they’re also great at catching the eyes of drivers who need to maneuver their vehicles over them. That’s a really nice feature, considering that it’s not too pleasant, or safe, to unwittingly charge a cable protector at high speed (buckle your seat belt). A visible warning and adequate time to slow down are definitely nice things to have.

Gardner Bender Duct Seal Compound

duct-sealing-compoundA few months back, my sister put together a birthday care package for me, and while she was shopping for fun little treats, she came across one of my personal childhood favorites, Silly Putty. Needless to say, it made the cut, and I got a huge kick out of finding it in my Box O’ Fun. Incidentally, I had an even better time when I plopped down on the middle of the couch and sat, Indian-style, for a good 15 or 20 minutes, blowing off stress by stretching, sculpting, and snapping the stretchy stuff in a state of blissful oblivion. In addition to causing my husband to question my sanity (but that’s beside the point), the experience seems to have reawakened my love of things you can squish, which leads me to wonder if that’s why I’ve lately been drawn to putty-like products such as, oh, I don’t know, Duct Seal Compound from Gardner Bender.

I just found out about this stuff a few days ago, and I think it’s pretty neat. The actual purpose of Gardner Bender sealing compound is very basic, but important: it lets you seal seams and gaps in electrical boxes, conduit, duct work and cable trays so that dust and other contaminants can’t weasel their way inside and start causing problems. What makes it interesting is that it’s got a putty-ish texture, and because of that, you can just work it into place with your bare hands, no tools or gloves needed. But here’s the kicker: it never actually dries or hardens. You can remove, reinstall, or modify it at any time, because like my old pal Silly Putty, it never sets up or becomes unworkable.

Something else cool: despite the duct seal compound’s eternal flexibility, you can still do things like paint over it – no waiting period necessary. And beyond that, it’s safe to handle, is FDA and USDA approved for use in food prep and processing areas, and comes in 1 or 5 lb packages, so you’re not committed to a huge supply if you don’t need it.


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The Stevie Awards

November 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Network Products 

marriott-marquis-viewI know it isn’t my usual bag, but today I’m going to shake things up a bit and talk about a recent experience rather than a product.  Did you know that is a woman-owned business? On Friday, November 13th, our President and CEO, Valerie Holstein, was up for a Stevie Award for Women in Business (for Best Entrepreneur), and since she wasn’t able to travel to the awards ceremony, I got to go to Manhattan in her place. Not too shabby.

Both the Stevie Awards ceremony and accommodations were at the justifiably-famous Marriott Marquis, just off of Times Square. I remember the first time I stepped in there as a kid, during an NYC outing with my Dad (I grew up about an hour away). We rode the glass elevators for a few minutes (popping ears!) and then went on our merry way, but the place was so unlike any hotel I had ever seen that I never forgot it. Fast-forward 20 years, and I finally got to check in for an actual stay. I have to say, Times Square itself seemed gaudier and more grotesque than ever, but it’s pretty sweet to stand in a silent, well-appointed hotel room looking down at the theater district from 37 floors up. Well done, Marriott Marquis. Well done indeed!

Being that I was attending the dinner stag (can you say that if you’re a woman?), I was a little nervous about striking up conversation with my mystery dinner companions, but needn’t have been at all. I end up sitting between a very friendly PR rep for Cargo Cosmetics (with whom I enjoyed lighthearted chatter about makeup, sushi joints, and our mutual annoyance with poor e-mail grammar), and a very lovely and comfortable-to-converse-with couple, Susan and Scott,  who were not only the heroic parents of 5-year-old triplets, but also in high hopes of Susan walking away with a much-deserved Blog of the Year award. At the end of the night, neither Susan nor I got to take the stage and accept a Stevie Award in our respective categories, but I did find out that not only were she and her husband based in Florida (like CableOrganizer), but that Scott had actually formerly been in IT, and had blogged about what a terrific source was for network equipment. That’s still a win in a my book, and just goes to show that even in the Big Apple, it’s still a small world after all.

One-Click Fiber Optic Connector Cleaner

November 17, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Fiber Optics, Tools and Cases 

one-click-cleanerCan someone please explain to me why I always seem to find fiber optic cleaning supplies so fascinating? While I have a very decent understanding of the fiber cleaning and termination processes, they’re by no means tasks that I carry out on a daily basis, so why do I tend to stop and say “ooooh!” every time an innovative new fiber cleaner happens to come my way? It’s probably a mystery better left unsolved, but it comes in handy nonetheless – if I weren’t a big enough cable nerd to find these things cool, I’d never be able to yack on about them to you. So, without any further ado, let’s get down to today’s latest and greatest.

The AFL Telecommunications One-Click Cleaner captured my fancy just yesterday, mostly because its convenience and portability factors are through the roof - it’s basically a pen-shaped cleaning tool for fiber optic connectors and adapters, and to be quite honest, it reminds me of those One-Touch blood glucose meters that one always sees TV commercials for. Now, the One-Click won’t do anything to help monitor your blood sugar levels, but it does have a design that’s compact, all-inclusive, and intended for multiple uses (500, to be exact!) – just like the portable blood sugar testers. But the nice thing about the One-Click is that it doesn’t involve sticking your fingers (phew).

So, as for how it works – it’s very easy really. One of the chief charms of the One-Touch connector cleaner is that it has no need at all for things like isopropyl alcohol or cleaning solutions – instead, it relies on a self-forwarding cleaning tape to take care of the so-called dirty work. And you’ll really like this – the cleaning and tape-advancing take place all in one step – you just insert the One-Click’s tip into a fiber optic connector, and push until you here a click (hence the name). That’s it. In the time it takes to hear that sound, the cleaning tool automatically forwards to a fresh section of tape, makes solid contact with the connector’s backplane, and rotates to pick up dust, oils, lint, and other debris. You don’t even have to bother twisting your wrist.

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Triplett ProTemp 12 Infrared Thermometer

ProTemp12_smI hate to break it to you, but it looks like the Hard Way, as we know it, is about to go the way of trans fats and non-recyclable grocery bags – that is to say, waaaaaaaay out of style. At least when it comes to gauging the temperature of hot objects, that is. There will be no more hesitant outstretching of shaking hands as you wince in anticipation of singed fingertips. There will be no more blisters or reddened skin to announce to the world, “I should have known better.” So sit up straight and listen up, kids – it’s time to meet the Triplett ProTemp 12.

So what exactly is the ProTemp 12, anyway? Five fun words to pique your excitement: a gun-style infrared thermometer. That’s right. You just pick it up, aim, pull the trigger, and get an instant and precise temperature reading on whatever the thermometer’s laser pointer happens to be resting on. Pretty cool, right? When there’s no need to get too close to hot engine components or pressurized pipes, that automatically means fewer burns for you.

The ProTemp 12 is perfect for use in industrial plants, boiler plants, and garages, but it’s also great for cooking. Specifically, measuring the surface temps of pots and pans. This may sound crazy, but as soon as I found that out, I though of someone who could have really used one of these about 20 years ago. I grew up watching cooking shows on PBS, and mixed in somewhere amongst Julia Child, The Frugal Gourmet, and Yan Can Cook was a show called Madeleine Cooks, hosted by a petite and charming French lady by the name of Madeleine. Now, Madeleine made great stuff and I loved the show, but she did one thing that even I, a kid, considered un peu crazy (albeit extremely amusing). She tested the temperature of her pans with her knuckles. C’est dangereux, non?

I, of course, intend no offense or disrespect to the chef – I just wished she wouldn’t have sacrificed her poor knuckles for perfectly cooked crepes. So this one’s for you, Madeleine – may you let infrared rays do the dirty work, and enjoy life without peeling knuckles.

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Platinum Tools EZ-SnapJack

ez-snapjackWaaaaaaaaaaay back in the day (okay, so it was only this past February), I talked about an EZ RJ45 plug that saved tons of time for installers because you slide all 8 wires into a wide, unpartitioned slot, instead of inserting each wire into its own individual channel. Believe me – I did a couple of comparison terminations myself, and the EZ version was practically fun compared to the standard RJ45 plugs. The hands-down winner. Well, I’ve just met the EZ RJ45′s soul mate: Platinum Tools’ EZ-SnapJack™, otherwise known as the keystone jack that’s about to rock your world.

If I remember correctly, I actually giggled with glee as I witnessed my first demo of this product. Now, I’m no jaded, punchdown-weary telecom tech, but I have done a few jack terminations at work and in the Learning Lab at CEDIA Expo 2008 (just a quick aside – if you get the chance, go). And while keystone punchdowns are no big deal, they definitely land on the time-consuming side of things.

Not anymore – well, not as long as you’re using EZ-SnapJacks™. These things work exactly the same way as the EZ RJ45 connector, in that you just arrange the 8 wires into the correct sequence, slide them into an alignment sleeve, and then trim the ends. From there, all that’s left to do is pop the prepped cable into the open jack, snap the top down (which, by the way, is the action that acts as the actual “punchdown”), and you’re done. It’s complete and utter laziness, but in the most positive and productive sense of the word. All I have to say is: way to save time on the job.

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TeleAdapt Wired Connectivity Pull-Through Hubs

teleadaptGenerally speaking, I’d rather be at my place than staying in a hotel, but here and there I’ve found a few “hotel-only” features that I’ve wished I could have taken home with me. Minibars, for instance. Who wouldn’t want an ever-stocked stash of soda and macadamia nuts right in their very own bedroom? Then again, that would just make one chubby, and a girl prefers to stay in single-digit clothing sizes. And then there’s the coveted glass and travertine shower with rainfall showerhead… but that’s a little out of my bank account’s league right now. So where does that leave me?

At the desk, of course. Well, not the actual desk itself, but the sleek little disk-shaped cable holder stuck to the top of it. You know, the thing that holds onto the built-in Ethernet cord, so everything’s ready to plug in as soon as you whip out your laptop. Unlike at home, at hotels, you never have to crawl under the desk to find the cable. It’s an altogether winning concept. Now, I have far too much of a conscience (or guilt complex?) to make off with lodging-establishment property, but unlike the shower and minibar, those nifty cable-holding hubs are both readily available and in compliance with my ordinary-person budget.

Before I go any further, I should probably tell you exactly what they’re called: TeleAdapt Wired Connectivity Pull-Through Hubs. And they’re the exact same thing that you find at hotels and resorts – right down to the desk card that holds your choice of instructions or messages. If you’re going to use it at home or at work, you could always stick a motivational quote or something funny into the card holder, but if that’s not your thing, you can just remove it completely.

The TeleAdapt hub has a weighted base and a suction cup to keep it in place, and here’s the really cool thing – it isn’t just for Ethernet cords! There are 3 types of pull-thoughs, one each for Internet, Audio, and A/V connections – and each one includes a cable for its respective application. But if you already have all the cables you need, just go with the Cablesitter, a non-wired model that can be used with any cord you have.

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Christmas Tree Ornament Touch Dimmer

November 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Electrical, Energy Conservation 

christmas-tree-dimmerWay to liven up my dragging Monday. We just turned the clocks back this weekend, but despite that extra hour of shut-eye we got just 36 hours ago, earlier today I was taking Monday morning a lot harder than usual. That’s until I started working my way through my accumulated weekend e-mails, and came across a pre-Christmas electronics sale. Christmas? Electronics?

Those two little words reminded me of the AmerTac™ Westek® Ornament Touch Dimmer, a very cool piece of electronics that resembles a golden snowflake ornament, but isn’t just there to look pretty. Get this: it actually lets you dim your Christmas tree lights! I’ve been wanting to take it for a spin for quite some time, so today was the day to make it happen. I rifled through our sample box, came up with the magic ornament, and returned triumphantly to my desk. Luckily, despite my nerd-girl appearance, deep down inside I’m a Buddy the Elf at heart, and have a string of Christmas lights stashed in my filing cabinet year-round. So I dug those babies out, plugged in, and started yelling to my coworkers to come and check this thing out.

All you do is plug a string of lights into the dimmer’s adapter, plug the adapter into a power outet, and you’re ready to go. From there, just touch the “ornament,” and you can adjust your lights to low, medium, and bright settings, or turn them on and off. The dimmer itself hangs right on a Christmas tree branch like any other ornament, and no one will be the wiser. The AmerTac™ Westek™ ornament dimmer is great for conserving energy and extending the life of your Christmas lights, or it could just be a fun thing for those with a flair for the novel to have around. You can either wow your guests with your “magic” skills, or just discreetly mess with them by changing light levels every time they glance in the direction of the old Tannenbaum. Either approach you take, you know it will be fun to watch (wink)!