Metal-Content Cable Ties: I’ll Take a Bag of Potato Chips, Hold the Plastic

metal-content-cable-tiesWe all get grossed out every time we hear those crazy news stories about how someone was happily chowing down until they looked down and discovered a dead cockroach, rodent droppings or a sharp piece of something in whatever they were eating. As a matter of fact, I think I saw a headline about a purported dead mouse in a carton of milk just last week. Naaaaaaasty!!! Most of us have squeaked by without falling victim to food contamination, but every time you hear another gross-out story, it’s easy to think “How can stuff like this be happening, in this day and age of health codes, lawsuits, and complete paranoia?”

Easy. Everything that we consume is touched by humans and/or machinery, two “breeds” (so to speak) that are infamous for things like error and general malfunction. We screw up. The things we invent screw up. It’s going to happen. Luckily, groups like the FDA and WHO are cracking down more than ever on the conditions in food and pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities, right down to the kind of cable management used on data cabling and automated machinery.

Yep, even the cable ties. Code usually demands that metal cable ties be used in food and drug manufacturing, so that if they happen to break off of nearby machinery or overhead cables and fall into product, they can be quickly detected by scanners, and then removed. The only thing is that all-metal cable ties can cost a bundle, which can hurt when businesses are trying to save money.

That’s why it’s so nice that HellermannTyton has developed a metal-content cable tie that looks and feels like the regular plastic kind, but has all the detectablility of a metal tie. That’s thanks to tiny metal particles that are distributed throughout the main plastic material – cool, huh? A little thing like metallized plastic is enough to meet code and fit budgets, but is actually far easier to handle than metal, which can be on the sharp and rigid side. And in the event that one ever breaks and drops onto a conveyor belt or into a vat, it can be easily picked up by scanners and removed. Your chances of ever biting into one of these babies is practically nil.

Hmmmmm, I seem to be getting my appetite back…

get a closer look

HDMI Adapters: Quit Bending HDMI Cables to Point Break

August 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Home Theater 

vanco-hdmi-adapterThese days, on the home entertainment cabling front, no one settles for anything less than HDMI. We’ve tossed our 3-part component and composite cables, and now only have eyes for the one-connector, all-inclusive digital wonder that is HDMI. Then why do we treat our HDMI cables so badly?

You know what I’m taking about. The way we smash and twist them to fit behind our shiny HDTVs. The way we bend them at angles that would make most contortionists shudder. Come on, people – HDMI cables have feelings, too! Well, maybe not feelings, but they do have very specific bend radius needs… needs that we, selfish entertainment hounds that we are, are constantly ignoring.

Ummmmmmm, bend radius? Yes, bend radius. It’s the term that describes how tightly you can bend a cable before it cries “Uncle!” and either starts losing signal, or just stops working completely. As far as HDMIs go, there’s no such thing as partial signal loss, like you might get with a data cable. They just quit on you altogether. Sigh. Sounds like it’s time to clean up our acts, and start treating our home theater cables with a little more respect.

If you’re worried that this self-improvement is going to mean moving your TV for the benefit of your HDMI cable, it doesn’t. No compromise there. But it is going to take a little thing called an HDMI adapter, which is designed to snap right onto the end of an HDMI cable, and into the device of your choice. Sound like no big whoop? I’m not done yet. Vanco is making a line of special HDMI adapters that bend, swivel and rotate at the connector level, so that your cable remains straight (or almost straight) no matter how you need to position it, and keeps those gorgeous audio and video signals moving right along. Okay… now I’m done…

check this thing out

Tie-Matic HD: How to Take Twist Ties to a Whole New Level

tie-matic-hdWhat is it about twist ties that makes us love them so much? Maybe it’s the fact that they’ve always come free with purchase of garbage bags (that’s how I’ve always gotten mine). Maybe it’s that they’re the most idiot-proof method on earth for closing anything. Or maybe it’s because they’re always on the good stuff, like bags of bread, popcorn, and cotton candy. I don’t know. It just seems like they’ve always been there, and always will be, because it’s tough to improve on something so thoroughly useful.

This past weekend, my husband and I finally got around to hitting the local farmers’ market, which we’ve planned on visiting for months. We bit the bullet and shirked the dumb grown-up responsibilities (like working out and home maintenance) that have shackled us for the past 8 or so weekends, headed downtown, and dove into stand after stand of deliciousness. And do you know what? Everything came twist-tied. Yep. We picked up a couple of bunches of basil from a group of up-and-coming young chefs who are about to open their own “farm-to-fork” restaurant, and grow their own herbs and produce. Twist ties. And then there was that huge loaf of artisanal multigrain bread from the extremely hip pseudo-Italian bakery in the next town. Twist ties.

Same thing for flower bouquets, bunches of carrots, bags of cookies, blown-glass pendants attached to display cards – you name it. It was like Twist Tie Mania out there. Someone must have had some pretty sore fingers and wrists from twisting all those things. Unless…

They had something like the Tie-Matic HD, an automated twist tie machine that closes bags and bundles cables in a second (literally), but gives your wrist a break from repetitive twisting motions. This, as it turns out, is how food companies turn out bagged products in high volume without paying little elves to sit up through the night, fastening twist ties. You just keep the Tie-Matic HD filled with rolls of ties, hold your bag (or coiled cables) in the allotted space, and let the automated tying machine spring into action. It reduces labor hours, prevents frustration and repetitive-motion injuries, and saves a lot of money in general. Sounds almost as good as farmers’ market baked goods, doesn’t it?

get a closer look

 

SliderBox: Why Replace Outlet Boxes When You Can Slide Your Way to Code Compliance?

August 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Electrical 

sliderboxesWell, well, well. If my inner DIYer hasn’t found another product to love. These days, I’ve been dreaming of putting a tile backsplash in my kitchen. Most of my focus has been on things like mud, grout, trowels, tile cutters, and the actual tile itself, but I had a small epiphany (a “light bulb” moment, if you will) the other day, as I was watching Holmes on Homes while sweating it out on the treadmill.

Good, responsible and detail-oriented Mike Holmes was rescuing another family in distress from the shoddy work of a disreputable contractor. He was primarily there to right a prematurely disintegrating tile floor, but decided to throw in a bonus new backsplash for the long-suffering homeowners. There I am, doing my “hamster-in-a-wheel” workout, and watching Holmes do some proper tile work. At one point, he and his tile guy notch a tile to fit around an outlet box, and it hit me that installing a backsplash changes the thickness of your wall, and can make things a little tricky as far as outlet boxes are concerned.

If you tack (or nail, or glue) any type of decorative finish onto drywall in a way that causes your outlets to become recessed, in many (or all) cases, you’re not meeting electrical code. I love pretty tile, but not at the expense of receptacles that aren’t quite safe.

Anyway, to make a long story short, the SliderBox™ came across my desk just 2 days later. It looks like any boring old electrical box, but it’s actually able to adjust to different depths without any hassle. Want to add tile to your wall? Just slide it out to make it deeper. What about if you remove a decorative overlay from your wall? Just slide again for a shallower box. All you need to do is loosen a couple of screws, which is a heck of a lot easier than replacing – or relocating – the junction box altogether.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a project waiting for me. Has anyone seen my tile nippers?

check this thing out

Crossbar Mounting System: There Should Always Be Room for You at Your Desk

crossbar-mounting-systemEver think about how much junk it takes to be “efficient?” Let’s see… you’ve got multiple computer monitors, a keyboard, a mouse, a phone, a cell phone, designated “in” and “out” boxes (maybe more if you’re super “organized”), office supplies, peripherals, and of course, a nice big bucket of coffee to give you enough energy to try and work around all of that space-eating stuff. Call me old-fashioned, but as soon a you can’t rest your elbows on your desk because there are too many business tools in your way, there’s a problem.

Whatever happened to the days when you could prop a book on your desktop if you needed to, or maybe a stack of papers that needed perusing? When you could find a clear spot on your worksurface where you could set down and actually sign an expense report, without your pen running off the edge? They may feel long gone, but you’re about to get them back, compliments of the Crossbar Mounting System.The Crossbar is an extremely cool workspace accessory that mounts right onto the back of your desk, and gives you a strong, elevated horizontal bar on which to mount everything that’s been cramping your work style. Flat-panel computer monitors, small peripherals, even mail trays and organizers – they can all be made to hover gracefully above your work surface, instead of hogging it and making things cluttered.

The Crossbar Mounting System is made of sleek, shiny aluminum and steel, so it’s a great modern-looking complement to flat panel monitors and other office tech. Once it’s installed and everything is attached, all of your work accessories are located at eye level, right in front of you, so you can see everything at a glance, and still have plenty of free desktop space to actually make yourself comfortable and get things done.

check this thing out

FiberglassBox: All the Toughness of Steel Outlet Boxes, None of the Grounding Issues

August 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Electrical 

fiberglassboxAhhh, steel. You’ve gotta love the stuff. It’s tough, rugged, versatile… and, unfortunately, electrically conductive. Sure, you may want it to conduct electricity sometimes, but other times it can just be a grounding hassle. Take, for example, the steel outlet box. If you’re going to put a receptacles and live wires into a steel electrical box, you sure as heck better ground it, or something really bad could happen to someone who’s not expecting it. No one should ever be shocked or electrocuted because they make contact with an ungrounded metal outlet box. Never.

But even with that in mind, a lot of electricians out there favor steel boxes, because, as I mentioned before, they’re super tough. The only downside is that to get that toughness on the Electrical Code’s good side, it does need to be properly grounded, and grounding takes extra time. And being that time is of the essence in the electrical industry as it is elsewhere in the business world, that’s gotten people thinking that there has to be a better solution. One that’s strong as steel, but takes less time. There is: it’s called FiberglassBox.™

Just as it’s name makes it out to be, Allied Moulded Products’ FiberglassBox is indeed a fiberglass box, the type meant to house electrical outlets and switches. It’s just as strong and rigid as everybody’s favorite steel receptacle boxes, but it has a few pluses: it’s light, it’s non-corrosive, and it’s completely non-conductive. That’s “non-conductive” as in it does not conduct electricity, and therefore needs no grounding. No grounding. ‘Nuff said.

check this thing out

SpaceGAIN Angled Patch Cords: Don’t Let Tight Spaces Kill Your Bend Radius

spaceGAIN-mainIf it’s common knowledge that a data cable is pretty much no good if you do anything to cramp its bend radius, then why is it that we’re always stuffing patch panels and the cords that connect them into restrictive enclosures? It’s pure logic, right? Lock your server equipment up in a nice, secure cabinet so it can’t get damaged, and then connect everything with patch cables that end up getting so cramped and smooshed in that tight space that they can barely do their job. Come on, people – wake up!

Luckily, the pros at Black Box saw the light before the rest of us, and came up with a brilliant new style of patch cord that lets the connector do the bending instead of the cable. Nice. It’s so crazy that it actually works, and it’s called the SpaceGAIN Angled Patch Cord.

Here’s how it all works. Every data cable has a “bend radius,” or a maximum angle that it’s safe to bend the cable to before it becomes damaged and the signal starts to disintegrate. If you exceed the bend radius, you have trouble on your hands. But here’s the thing: conditions can get really cramped in the back of a server enclosure, and it’s pretty easy to kill a patch cord’s bend radius when you don’t have enough room to plug in.

That’s where the SpaceGAIN angled connector comes in. It safely and efficiently takes care of the bend right off the bat. Need your patch cord to angle up or down at a 90-degree angle? Done. Right or left? No problemo! These low-profile connectors not only make the bend without signal degradation, they also save you up to 4 inches of space, which any other type of patch cord would have eaten up in a traditional bend radius situation.

One of my favorite things about these patch cords is that they’re available in tons of different configurations. Need one with two “up” connectors? They’ve got it. Need one with a “down” connector on one end, and a “straight” (traditional) connector on the other? It’s in the bag. Sigh. I love it when bend radius nightmares have a happy ending.

see the magic for yourself

Cable Protector Transport Cart: Sometimes the “Lazy Way” is Just Smarter

cable-protector-transport-cartEver picked up a heavy-duty polyurethane cable protector? They’re heavy – sometimes really heavy. Depending on its width and the amount of “ramp” area it has, a typical cord protector can range anywhere from 20 to 100 lbs. Granted, for that type of product, heft is a definite selling point, because it means that the cord protectors aren’t going to be pancaked or pushed around when pedestrians and vehicles go over them. But think about the fact that you almost never need just one cable protector, and that they’re often used on a temporary basis.

Add it all up, and that means some serious cable protector hauling every time you need to set up, break down, or just change configuration. Not that having to break a sweat every now and then is a bad thing, but seeing as how most cable protectors are at lease 3 feet long, they can be a little unweildy to schlep, considering their weight. Moving more than one at a time is, in most cases, not advisable. Now, I know that there are a few people out there (I may or may not be one of them) who think that making multiple trips is lame, and would rather overload themselves in the name of efficiency than have to go back a second or third time. These people tend to end up in pain shortly after entertaining these thoughts. These people need to get a cable protector transport cart.

You heard me. The Yellow Jacket Cord Protector Cart. It can hold up to 12 of the biggest and baddest cable protectors at once, but lets you roll them from Point A to Point B in comfort, instead of juggling them like an idiot and sweating like a pig. And in the event that you just need to store the cord covers for a while instead of immediately setting them up in another location, the cart doubles as the perfect storage rack. When it’s time to put the cable protectors back in action, just wheel them wherever you need them. I hate to say it, but sometimes the “lazy” way really does end up being the smarter way.

see the magic for yourself

Vanco Secure Mount HDTV Mounting Kit: “Look Ma, No Studs!”

August 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Home Theater 

vanco-secure-mount-kitEverybody loves an HDTV, and these days it seems like hardly anyone takes the “stand” route anymore – it’s wall-mount or bust. Wall mounting is a great way to show off your flat panel, but it can be a little tricky, in that it usually requires two things: a professional AV installer, and studs. To any of my fellow ladies out there who may be starting to get excited, don’t try to simplify things by hiring an A/V installer who also happens to be a stud. While that would be a very scenic option, it just won’t work, because I’m talking about wall studs, not man studs.

Technically, the A/V pro is optional, as long as you (or someone you know) is handy with a level and a power drill. But as for studs, they’re a must-have, because if you haven’t noticed, flat screens are heavy. Try to hang one of those babies on drywall alone, and you’re done for… within minutes (or even seconds), both your TV and a section of the wall it was hanging on will be on the floor, in pieces. Not good. But if you anchor your HDTV mount into studs, the weight is distributed and supported, and everyone can live happily ever after. Except

What if they’re aren’t studs located exactly where you want your TV to go? Hmmmmmm…. little dilemma, there. Honestly, I don’t like inanimate objects telling me what I can and can’t do, and I’d be really ticked if a couple of punk studs were to prevent me from centering my new flat panel on a wall, just because they weren’t in the right place. Sheesh.

Luckily, Vanco has found a way for HDTV fans to get around hassles like uncooperative architecture. Their Secure Mount anchor kit lets you provide plenty of support for your wall and TV – without tapping into studs. It’s all thanks to ingenious D-shaped drywall braces that are able to support up to 150 lbs of TV, despite the fact that they’re less than 4 inches long. Now that’s engineering.

see the magic for yourself