GenZ Eco Power Charging Station

eco-charging-stationCharging stations are all kinds of hot right now, and it feels like I blog about them an awful lot. And it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon, because there’s yet another new one to tell you about. And so, fans of organized charging, meet the GenZ Eco Power Charging Station.

I don’t want to tell you who should like this right off the bat, but I will say that the GenZ Eco has a totally different look than a lot of the other charging stations I’ve written about. Being a girl who likes attractive home and office accessories, to this point I’ve gravitated toward the leather-look and super mod styles, but something tells me that this particular one is going to appeal more to guys – especially ones who are really into gadgets. It’s black, it looks a little like a closed laptop, and it’s overall cool. But take a look at the picture – you’ll see what I mean about it having a techier appeal.

Anyway… in addition to its unique style, the Eco Power Charging Station has a few other really neat features, the first of which is that it has charger connectors already built in. This is really pretty sweet, because it means that you can toss all of those individual charger cords, or at least stash them away until you need to travel. The 13 built-in connections are compatible with thousands of devices, so unless you’re trying to charge a gadget that’s really old or rare, you’re covered.

And now for the “eco” part. Cell phone chargers are notorious “vampire electronics,” because they keep drawing small amounts of power as long as they’re plugged in, whether or not they’re actively charging. And to add insult to injury, when you leave your devices plugged in after they’re fully rejuiced, their batteries actually wear out faster. Hmmmphhh – you can’t win, right? Actually, you can, because the GenZ Eco charger is able to sense when a gadget is fully powered, and as soon as it gets that message, it automatically cuts the flow of electricity to that device. No unnecessary battery wear, no go-nowhere power being wasted, just exactly what you need – nothing more, nothing less.

And did I mention that it can handle several gadgets at once?

Sorry, this product has been discontinued.

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Panduit RJ45 Jack Blockout Device

rj45-blockout-mainIt seems like the topic of computer and data security keeps popping up in conversation lately, and I just realized that up to now, I’ve tended to look at things from a strictly “computer protection” angle. You know, computer locks, USB port blocks, laptop security screens, lockable CPU cabinets, that kind of thing. It’s pretty obvious that no one wants a thief taking off with their laptop or stealing personal information off a hard drive, but what do you do when you want to secure an actual network infrastructure?

There are always passwords, firewalls and other software-based preventive measures that can be taken, but if you’re running a fairly large facility that receives a lot visitors or is frequently accessed outside of normal business hours, it’s smart to have physical protection in place as well. This is the part where I tell you about Panduit® RJ45 Jack Blockouts.

If you’re worried about viruses and worms being uploaded to your network or sensitive data being stolen from it, then you’ve got to think about limiting network access points. I’m talking about actually controling the number of RJ45 jacks that can be plugged into. Take a walk around your company’s offices, and you’ll probably find a pretty high number of data ports that are just sitting there, unused and not doing a darned thing. Remember that old saying about idle hands being the devil’s playground? Well, in the same way, idle RJ45 jacks can be a network vandal’s playground. Ruin a data thief’s fun by cutting down on the possibility of illicit network access - just snap Panduit’s RJ45 blocking devices into the empty jacks throughout your offices or facility.

Jack blockout devices work just like plugs, except they don’t just pull out when you want them to. In order to be removed, they need to be “unlocked” with a special tool, which can be left in the hands of your IT people for safe keeping. Insertion and removal of the data port block is completely safe for the jack, and won’t wear down its contacts or cause other degradation, even though multiple uses.

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ReelCraft Side Mount Cart Handles

Side-Mount-Hose-Reel-Cart_602328How is it that so many times, the simplest things can be the most useful? Sure, you can get plenty of cool gadgets that have GPS, lasers, Internet connectability and every other high-tech feature out there, but sometimes what you really need is just some bent metal tubing and a couple of wheels. After all, electronics are great, but they’re not going to get you too far when you’re trying to schlep cable reels from one place to another.

If you’re still scratching your head over the “bent metal tubing” comment and wondering what on Earth that has to do with transporting spools of wire, let me explain. I recently came across the ReelCraft® Side Mount Cart Handle, and I have to say that despite it’s simplicity, it’s really pretty smart. Fully-loaded cable reels can be pretty unweildy to just hoist up and carry around, so it just makes sense to have what is essentially a wheel-equipped handle that attaches to the spool and lets you just push or pull it around.

The Side Mount Cart Handle is 42 inches tall, so when you use it, there’s no bending involved. You just grab on to any point that’s comfortable for you, and and enjoy the lack of back strain. Add to that a couple of smooth-rolling semi-pneumatic tires, and your job just got a whole lot easier. As for how it works, simple: you just attach it to the side of a reel, and you’re ready to rock.

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Wide Body Media Cart

wide-body-media-cartThere’e nothing like a media cart to get me reminiscing about the good old days at Pembroke Elementary School (go Panthers!). Back at my original alma mater, the sight of a TV and VCR setup rolling through the classroom door was enough to make us pray that the feature presentation would last until end-of-the-day dismissal (in case you didn’t already know, movies instead of Science and Social Studies equals less homework). So it goes without saying that media carts have always held a special place in my homework-loathing heart. But it’s not just me; ask any public school kid – I’m sure they’d say the same.

Only the other day, I was writing an article on how to organize A/V cart cables, and I got to wondering, “why don’t we sell these things?” Turns out that our New Products team was way ahead of me on that one, because the very next day, as if by magic, I received an e-mail stating that we now sell Vutec’s Wide Body Media Cart.

The first thing that I noticed about this cart is that its wider design makes it a lot sturdier than the A/V carts of my past. I don’t know if that’s just because I was a pipsqueak at the time, but the school media carts I remember were usually about 8 feet tall, and always extremely top-heavy. Vutec’s, on the other hand, are quite a bit stockier (in a good way, though), and built to be a heck of a lot sturdier. I really like their shorter height, too – with the TV platform topping out at 48 inches high, it’s a lot easier to view the screen without having to tilt your head back at an uncomfortable angle.

Another nice feature is the locking compartment at the bottom, which gives you a safe place to stow DVDs, remote controls, and anything else you might want to secure. But one of my favorite things is the built-in surge protector, which lets you plug the entire cart into just one receptacle, but gives you 4 protected on-cart power outlets for all of your electronics.

Sooooo… what say we break out the Orville Redenbacher, wheel in the TV, and catch up on some vintage Nat Geo documentaries? C’mon, pleeeeeeeeaaaaase? But they’re educational!

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Glenbeigh Traditional Desk Outlets

January 19, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Power and Data Distribution 

glenbeigh-traditional-outlet-bronzeI don’t know where you stand on the subject of Form versus Function, but personally, I love it when the two collide. The way I figure it, every single product out there starts with a plan – that’s a given. So, as long as you’re already investing time into designing something useful, why not make it look good too, all in one shot? In most cases, going the extra aesthetic mile doesn’t take much extra time or money (or any at all), so why not? Seize the opportunity, people! The Italians seem to do a bang-up job with this concept, so why can’t we?

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that soap box moment out of my system, down to business. As I was saying, the combination of Form and Function is a beautiful thing (literally), and one of the most recent instances of it that I’ve come across is the Glenbeigh™ Traditional Desk Outlet. I’m a big fan of desktop power and data centers in general, but unfortunately, many of them fall into the category of Robot Decor. That’s great if you dig straight lines and lots of powder-coated metal, but what if you have more delicate design sensibilities?

Say that you’ve got an antique desk, or maybe a Pottery Barn knockoff of one – something with sweet cabriole legs and sleek painted finish. Just because you want to bring the functionality of an old-style desk up to date, you shouldn’t have to sacrificing the overall look of the thing. There was a day when you either had to compromise the look of your furniture or just go without, but luckily, those times have passed – thanks to my new pal Glenbeigh™, that is.

Just like any other desk outlet, the Glenbeigh™ is available in all power or power/data versions, but the things that set it apart are its curved lines (which are reminiscent of traditional decorative molding) and choice of beautiful finishes (parchment white, midnight, silver metallic, satin nickel, antique brass, and dark bronze). With options like these, you can choose a finish that complements your desk’s hardware or all-over paint color. And of course, the receptacles and data ports recess into the flush-mounted unit when they’re not in use, so you’ll never have to sacrifice work space.

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ReelCraft GFCI Outlet Box Reels

reelcraft-gfci-outlet-boxI spend an awful lot of time researching different products, and when it comes to those oriented toward workplace safety, I oftentimes end up reading excerpts from OSHA reports that go into all the gruesome details of on-the-job electricity-related deaths. It always seems that at the root of each tragedy was some simple and ridiculous oversight, and that the fatality could have easily prevented if only the victims had been a little more aware of their surroundings. More than a few of these cases involved power tools or electrical appliances that came into contact with water while they were being operated. It makes you wonder: would these people still be alive if the tools that they were using had been plugged into a GFCI?

One could feasibly argue that GFCI receptacles may not be available at all jobsites, and that work must continue with or without them. But throwing your safety at the mercy of chance is never a good idea, especially when you can bring your own portable GFCI along, wherever the job takes you. A portable GFCI, you ask? Why, yes – meet ReelCraft’s GFCI Outlet Box Reel.

This GFCI-on-a-reel is a lot like a standard reeled industrial-grade extension cord, but with an added bonus: the GFCI-equipped outlet box that happens to be wired onto it. Just plug the extension cord into a wall outlet, and then plug your power tools or appliances into the outlet box’s GFCI receptacles. In addition to providing a safe power source, this reel also eliminates the problem of annoying (and potentially dangerous) cord slack – you don’t have to unroll more extension cord than you need, so there’s much less chance of tripping over it.

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Ideal Plug-In Receptacle Testers

January 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Electrical, Test Equipment 

ideal-receptacle-testersI sort of have a thing for old houses. I think I’d like to own one someday. I’m not saying that modern homes can’t be beautiful, but somehow, nothing beats original hardwood floors, antique trim, and maybe even a little glint of stained glass bordering the top of an accent window. I’m talking homes that have squeaks, warmth, and decades of memories – not mirror-polished granite countertops and sulphur-tainted Chinese drywall.

My husband and I have recently taken to surfing the Web for older houses on the market in his hometown, which has more than a few cute 1920s bungalows. Every time he comes across a reasonably well-kept abode that he thinks I’ll like, there are a few questions that I fire off on my way to take a peek at his latest discovery. What year is it? Wood, vinyl siding, or brick? (I’m holding out for brick). What kind of shape is the roof in? How old is the wiring?

Yes, that’s right. Nostalgic, charm-soaked old houses often come with not-so-endearing electrical systems that have been wired by who knows who. Jerry-rigged electrical receptacles are no party, because you never know whether or not they’ll work, and even if they do, there’s always the question of whether or not they can support the power draw of whatever you decide to plug into them. I don’t know about you, but I prefer houses that aren’t smoldering. Guess that means that a thorough home inspection is in line…

Whenever you’re considering purchasing a home, old construction or new, it’s always to investigate a few things yourself, even if you’re bringing in a professional inspector. And guess what? You have what it takes to tackle all of those power outlets on your own… at least, you do if you have an Ideal® Receptacle Tester.

Simple enough for any electrical rookie to use and read, this plug-in outlet tester checks for all of the most common problems homeowners run into, like improper wiring, open ground, open neutral, open hot, hot/ground reversal, and hot/neutral reversal. Three lights instantly diagnose these problems, or indicate the lack thereof. And then there’s the test-result key that’s printed right on the tester – it’s basically a quick-reference guide that helps you decipher what different light patterns mean.

No more keeping your fingers crossed, or discovering electrical problems through trial and errror. It’s nice to know that peace of mind is as easy as plugging in, isn’t it? (And by the way, it doesn’t cost much, either.)

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USB Bluetooth Dongles (Black Box)

January 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Gadgets, Network Products 

bluetooth-donglesDongle? What the heck is a “dongle?”

If you’re a Bluetooth veteran, you’re probably already dongle-savvy, and can both read and speak the word without giggling or wrinkling your forehead in confusion. But if you’re a bit of a tech rookie and find your mind spiraling downward, imagining all sorts of fun and colorful definitions, let me interrupt your train of thought before it gets too out of hand, and set the record straight. A dongle is a type of hardware that plugs into a computer, and basically unlocks a particular software program and allows it to be used. In the case of these particular Black Box USB dongles, the technology in question is Bluetooth.

Designed to look almost identical to a standard USB flash drive, a Black Box Bluetooth dongle plugs into your computer’s USB port, and enables it to interact with other Bluetooth devices located within a certain range. It lets you create an instant, wireless personal network – pretty cool. And in these days of data theft paranoia, these dongles are safe to use, thanks to their built-in encryption and user authentication programming.

Depending upon what type of range and how much security you want your Bluetooth network to have, these USB dongles are available in two models: Class I, which has a 100 meter range (great for covering an office or your entire home), or Class II, which enables a contained, hacker-protected network within a tighter 10 meter range. They’re also conveniently compatible with just about any computer: whether you’re a desktop or laptop, Mac or PC, Black Box has you covered.

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Gator Road Cases for LCD and Plasma Screens

January 12, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Tools and Cases 

gator-lcd-travel-casesHow do you move a flat panel display from one place to another? Very carefully. I know, I know – we just got started, and you’re already rolling your eyes, thinking “Wokka wokka wokka – where did she get that come from, a Laffy Taffy wrapper?!” For your information, the answer is no, I did not (how could you think that?). And just for the record, it wasn’t a joke – even though it did sound like one. A really, really bad one.

But down to business. I wasn’t kidding about that “very carefully” stuff – moving plasma and LCD screens can get pretty tricky, and if you make even one wrong move, it can turn out to be expensive, too. Replacing broken screens can really set you back, so if you ever have to move one, do the following: cast all thoughts of cardboard boxes, packing peanuts and moving blankets out of your head. You heard me – no flimsy packing materials. I’m usually a pretty frugal person, but this is one area in which I will loudly school anyone who attempts to take the cheapskate route.

That said, I happily recommend Gator’s G-Tour LCD and Plasma Road Cases to anyone who regularly travels from job to job with an LCD screen in tow. I’m not going to say that they aren’t a bit of an investment, but when it comes to sparing the lives of large, expensive electronics, I think a little preventive spending is in line, don’t you?

I really like these cases, because they’re both good looking and functional, inside and out. Based on what meets the eye, they’re like sleek, modern, low-profile steamer trunks for your HD display – but instead of sailing up the Nile, they’re better for getting booth display screens to that tradeshow in Atlanta and back. That’s all because of the cases’ less-obvious inner appointments, which include shock-absorbing polyethylene foam lining, and configurable foam wedges that allow you to custom-fit the case to your screen. Talk about traveling in luxury – it’s like going cross-country in a Tempur-Pedic® bed.

The entire line of G-Tour cases meets ATA specifications for transport cases, so you don’t need to worry about running into any unusual luggage difficulties – just check the case at Point A, and retrieve your unscathed Plasma or LCD at the other end of the line. Too easy.

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Rack-A-Tiers Wire Connector Installation Tool

January 7, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Electrical, Tools and Cases 

original_spinner-tool_smI have something to confess. Only this afternoon, I “judged a book by its cover,” and do you know what? I was wrong. I’ll admit it. What was the so-called “book” that I misjudged? The Rack-A-Tiers Wire Connector Tool. And how, pray tell, did I go astray? I saw it, and automatically thought to myself: “that’s the laziest thing I’ve ever seen!” But now I see the err of my ways…

Here’s how it all started: I know how wire nuts work. I’ve used them. It’s not rocket science, and when all is said and done, you’re not exactly physically wrung out when the job is complete. So what self-respecting wire splicer would use something to make it even easier? But then, a little voice in my head shamed me by saying “What do you know, kid? You’re no electrician! You’re just an electrical newb!!!” And as it is in many cases, the voice was right. I had received my come-uppance. Who am I to judge, when I don’t spend 40+ hours a week winding wires together?

As soon as I came crashing off my high horse, I started thinking about things from the professional electrician’s perspective (i.e. the correct perspective), and immediately started appreciating this tool for what it is and how it works. Gripping and twisting wire connectors isn’t too strenuous when you only have a few to get through, but if you have to knock out a bunch, day after day, your wrist and fingers are eventually going to start complaining. And you can’t have that.

So, you’re probably wondering how it all works. It’s easy – the tool just slips over a wire connector, and you spin the handle around a couple of turns. Then you’re officially in business. This is a great fatigue-reliever because there’s no tight gripping or wrist twisting involved, and the best part of not getting tired is that you can work for longer, and get more done. But that’s not even the best part. My favorite feature of this wire connector tool is that you don’t have to twist the wires together ahead of time, before you can screw on a wire nut. Just hold the stripped wire ends together, and you’re automatically good to go!

This product has been discontinued.

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