Being that we’re all about networking and rackmounting server equipment, it can be easy to get a little narrow-minded about the options that are available. If you see enough open server racks or cabinet-style enclosures, those can start to seem like the only choices out there. Sure, you can customize things a bit by choosing whether you want to wall mount the rack or just set it on the floor, but what about those times when you might not want to see any rack at all? Granted, there are quite a few companies out there whose server and A/V racks get better looking all the time, but when all is said and done, a rack is a rack, and no matter how sleek and updated its look is, it still has the potential to drag down the aesthetics of certain environments.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy just nixing electronics in rooms that can’t be marred by bulky equipment racks. Should a high-end executive conference room or beautifully designed house of worship have to go “unplugged” just to avoid the techy look of projectors and computers? No way! Multimedia presentations are a staple in many different venues today, no matter how clean and uncluttered appearances need to remain. Luckily, FSR has come up with an easy solution for facility managers who need to keep rooms technologically up to speed, yet visually electronic, cable, and rack free: the CB Series Ceiling Box.
FSR’s CB Series boxes actually let you mount projectors and network equipment right in your drop ceiling. Length and width-wise, the boxes are sized to the roughly the same dimensions as standard ceiling tiles, so they can be installed right within the dropped-ceiling frame. The bottom of each box (what you’d see if you were looking up at the ceiling) stays flush with the ceiling tiles for a uniform look, and can be opened trap-door style when equipment needs to be accessed. And thanks to varying numbers of built-in outlets (it depends on which box you pick), all of the the cables – including power cords – can be routed and hidden in the ceiling as well, you’ll more or less never see a thing. Talk about invisible.
Ever wonder why it is that you generally never see people slipping and falling at the beach, or while they’re walking across nice, rough asphalt? Easy: traction. Sand and the rougher forms of concrete/cement are heavily textured (albeit in a low-profile sort of way). Because their surfaces are so varied, they’re able to grab onto the soles of your shoes and create gentle friction as you walk, so it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll go head-over-heels unless you really try to (but why would you even want to do that?).
But things are different as soon as you set foot on smooth surfaces. Because they have a higher polish and are generally far less porous, surfaces like tile, linoleum and sealed concrete allow your feet to almost slide over them, and can become downright dangerous with the addition of water, oil, and other liquids.
Common sense and careful foot placement are usually enough to prevent many slipping accidents from happening, but sometimes they’re just not enough. In environments like warehouses, loading docks, industrial facilities and stages, sometimes you have to just focus on the job at hand, without screening every single step you take. Fast-paced environments in which people are often rushing around while carrying things are in particular need of slip-proofing, and I know just the product for it: Pro-15 Anti-Slip Tape.
Best described as adhesive-backed sandpaper on a roll, Pro-15′s anti-skid tape is made up of abrasive-coated plastic film that’s backed by a super-aggressive adhesive. When you lay strips of this down along spill-prone walkways and the leading edges of stairs, it provides much-needed extra traction that helps to counter the risks of walking with your arms full, or not looking where you’re going. And while it’s not absolutely guaranteed to keep anyone right-side up, it does such a good job that it fits the bill for OSHA’s “slip protection in hazardous work areas” guidelines.
But don’t get the idea that this stuff is only good for workplace safety. If you’re in the habit of regularly puttering around the garage or descending into your basement with armloads of laundry, this may prevent a few painful and embarrassing mishaps. As a matter of fact, I’m thinking about laying down a few pieces on my tough-to-negotiate-by-feel basement steps, because as the old saying goes, better safe than sorry.
We’re talking stud finders today, ladies and gents, but girls, don’t get too excited. I hate to disappoint, but nothing about these babies will alert you to the top-secret, undisclosed whereabouts of Gerard Butler, Bradley Cooper or the like. While these handheld scanners will tell you exactly where the studs are, it leans much more toward the wood and metal types (you know, what your drywall is nailed to?) rather than the Hollywood variety.
Ever witnessed a “handy” person looking for studs using the old “knock along the wall until you hear a change in sound” routine? Word to the wise: never, ever, allow that joker to attempt to hang your gorgeous new Plasma screen. One’s knuckles may be a suitable stud-location system when you just want to hang a hefty picture, but when it comes to mounting a small fortune in electronics that weighs as much as a small person, think again. I don’t know your opinion on the matter, but personally, I think I could end up facing manslaughter charges if I lost a new flat screen because some well-meaning but knuckle-dependent installer missed the studs by half an inch when putting up my TV mount. A barrage of profanity from my general direction would be the least of that fool’s problems.
Lest I sound mean, let me assure you that I don’t intend to – I’m just trying to stress the importance of a accomplishing a task with a certain degree of precision – one that can only come from a high-tech gadget. When you can’t afford a mistake, spend a few extra dollars and get a tool that will guarantee success – in this case, the Greenlee Stud Sensor. Based on its readings, you’ll be able to miss studs when you need to, hit them when you need to, and avoid making contact with live AC lines at all times – all pluses in my book. Believe me: the small investment in a stud sensor is a lot less expensive than a new TV, a trip to the the hospital, or, in my hypothetical case, legal defense.
Oh, how I love 3M™ products! I can’t seem to live without Command™ hooks and picture hanging strips, and I always have Post-Its on hand so I can jot down notes that will keep me in line. And talk about the tape. But just when I started to think that 3M products had infiltrated every possible aspect of my home and life, I came across a new little gem that will soon be joining the ranks of My 3M™ Stuff quite soon: the ScotchCode™ Write-On Wire Marker Dispenser.
It has a look and size that’s pretty similar to your average tape dispenser, except that instead of tape, it holds a roll of pre-cut, stick-on cable labels. Sounds pretty handy, right? It’s great for around the house, and even small office or retail environments – you know, places where you may have to label a few cords every now and then, but can’t really justify the need for, or purchase of, a full-fledged label printer. The ScotchCode™ lets you write on and dispense one label at a time, without any big to-do or programming – just scribble what you need to on the exposed writing field, pull the label from the dispenser, wrap it around the wire of your choice, and you’re done.
Word to the wise – if you’re one of those people who will be going down in history for your chicken-scratch handwriting, you may want to avoid this one, because it’s an entirely legibility-driven product. But if you have a knack for penmanship, this is a great time and money saver, and I feel pretty confident saying that you won’t regret it.
Okay, now that my little handwriting side-note is over with, you probably want to know a thing or two about the labels themselves. They’re made out of oil, dirt and heat resistant vinyl, and they prevent themselves from smudging, thanks to a clear, self-laminating overlay. And they also come in refill rolls, so you don’t need to buy a new dispenser every time you run out of labels.
One more thing about the ScotchCode™ labeler – it’s packaged with attention to detail. I don’t know about you, but I love it when businesses are considerate enough to provide thoughful and convenient extras with their products, and 3M is no exception. The ScotchCode comes with a super-fine-point permanent marker, which makes things really easy. I’ve used similar products before, and each time, I’ve had to try multiple pens because nothing was fine enough for laying down tiny print. But this brilliant company has taken the trial and error out of the equation by being professional enough to provide a pen that’s designed specifically for small writing. So simple, but so genius.
Today’s main event is sure to be a Favorite Gadget shoo-in for anyone who wants to save energy, walk into a lit house, or would just rather not get off the couch to turn off the outside lights. So, whether you’re environmentally-conscious, safety-minded, or just plain lazy (and who among us isn’t), this one’s for you.
Now, I’m the type of person who doesn’t exactly enjoy stepping into a pitch-black house. I’ll sometimes leave a lamp on just in case, but then I usually end up feeling guilty about burning up lightbulbs and electricity when I’m not even around to benefit from it. What’s an on-the-move girl to do? First thing: stop being wasteful, and secondly, spend around 12 bucks and plug an entryway lamp into a Remote-Controlled Power Outlet.
Why would someone want a remote-controlled outlet? Well, mainly because it comes with a remote, but otherwise, because it lets you turn whatever’s plugged into it On and Off from up to 40 feet away. Just aim and push the button. Move over, The Clapper!
In my opinion, one of the best features of this handy little outlet/remote duo is that it has the ability to work through doors, walls and ceilings/floors, so a little structural obstruction won’t get in the way of accomplishing lights out. This makes it great for dark-house scaredy cats like me, because you can technically keep the remote control in your car, and use it to turn on a lamp just inside the front door, provided that it’s within 40 feet. No more cringing in the dark while groping around for invisible light switches.
In addition to letting you operate electronic devices via remote control, this outlet also gives you the Power of Auto-Off. Granted, it’s not exactly the same as having the ability to set a timer to an exact hour and minute, but it is nice to know that you can set the outlet to turn something off after 2, 4, 6 or 8 hours if you need to.
I thought that my video-related posts were going to top out at 2 for this week, but strangely enough, I’m sneaking in a third. We’ve talked sleeving and mini projectors, but this time, we’re taking on cable. Even if you’re not an A/V installer, you probably know that video of any kind, whether it deals with cable TV or closed-circuit security monitors, has traditionally meant coaxial cable. You know, the round stuff with the funny pin-style connectors on the ends. It’s good cable and we’ve all used it, but cost-wise, coax has never been as cheap as twisted-pair Cat data cable, and while it’s pretty easy to terminate, it calls for special compression connectors and crimpers. Sigh. If only installing coax was as simple as using an RJ45 connector and regular punchdown tool on network cables, it might be a little easier for data installers and DIYers to run their own video, as well.
As it turns out, it is that easy, and coax no longer has to be a piece of the video puzzle. Mohawk has developed the very unique Spectrum™ low-skew, twisted-pair video cable, which has all the physical characteristics of Cat cable, but transmits video signals instead of data. That means that running video in your home is as easy as making your own network cables, using the same old RJ45 connectors and everything.
If that weren’t reason enough to smile, what would you say to cable runs up to 2000 feet long, without signal degradation? Or the fact that this stuff is a lot thinner than coaxial or RGB, so you can fit more runs in the same amount of space? Not to mention it costs less, too.
I must be feeling extra into movies this week, because they just keep popping up as a blog topic. Yesterday it was a product that’s used in movie production, but today I have something even more fun for you: a gadget that lets you view movies or photos on demand, and is tiny enough to fit in your pocket. And no, it’s not an iPod. Even though Apple has pretty much cornered the market on pint-sized pieces of electronic awesomeness, today I have to give props to 3M.
Have you seen their MPro Pocket Projector? This is the best mini thing to come out since, oh, I don’t know, Munchkins (to specify, I mean the donut kind, not the Lollipop Guild… although, they’re not bad either). But I digress. Suffice it to say that this thing is great. How cool must it be to carry around PowerPoint presentations, movies, and photo slideshows right in your shirt pocket? And they’re projectable! We’re talking freedom from squinting at 2-inch screens! You can turn any flat surface out there into a screen, and view pictures that range anywhere from 8 to 50 inches in size.
I don’t know about you, but I think that aside from all the perks it has for traveling businesspeople and on-the-road presenters, the Pocket Projector could very well revolutionize the way we wait in line at tedious places like Orlando theme parks and the DMV. Just be sure to get in line behind a laid-back, obliging type who doesn’t mind serving as a human movie screen (word to the wise: you probably shouldn’t attempt this in New York or similar).
But back to business. I think that you’ve caught my drift in the “this is super cool!” department, but let me quickly outline a few of the technical specs that may be of interest. You’re probably wondering if the projector provides sound, and the answer is yes – it’s fully equipped to output audio without extra speakers. The MPro is designed to play nicely with Windows-based sofware like MS Word, PowerPoint and Excel, as well as Adobe. You also have a choice of models: the MP120 works in conjuction with computers, cameras and smartphones, and the MP150, which has its own internal memory for storing and accessing files independently, without help from other devices.
Sorry, the MPro 120 has been discontinued. But good news: the MPro 150 is still available, so take a look!
A couple of months ago, I was watching some sort of behind-the-scenes show that showed scenes from a movie (if I’m not mistaken, it was Night at the Museum) being filmed in front of a green screen, and it really amazed me. Not the concept of the green screen itself, but rather the fact that actors are able to pull off something totally believable when they’re interacting with nothing but thin air (shout out to Ben Stiller here: well played!). Same thing with a few Pirates of the Caribbean snippets I saw a while back - in my imagination, it would be pretty darn tough to effectively swagger and swashbuckle without genuine rolling seas and immortal skeletal pirates to spur one on (a tip of the feathered cap to you as well, Mr. Depp). How do they do it?
Raw talent, I guess, and practice – lots of it. But get this: I just found out that acting isn’t the only challenge when shooting a major motion picture in front of a green screen. It turns out that making all of those lighting, power and boom mic cables disappear into the background is something of an issue as well. What’s a movie stagehand to do? Would you believe that a little cable sleeving can solve the problem?
There’s a very cool product by the name of Studio Key sleeve on the market, and for all its simplicity, I think it’s downright brilliant. It’s pretty much just fabric tubing that fastens around cables, but here’s the interesting part: it’s reversible, with ”green-screen green” on one side, and “blue-screen blue” on the other. So if special-effects filmmaking is your game, Studio Key just might be your new best friend: it’s super easy to apply, incredibly durable (it actually protects wiring in addition to covering it), and has the ability to multitask between green and blue screens built right in. Give it a try – your editors and special effects crew will love you for it.