I can’t believe that it’s taken me this long to really take notice of adhesive cable tie mounting bases, but it’s finally happened. Driven by desperation to hide the cords that are ruining the view behind a new LCD TV, I’ve been wracking my brain to come up with the right combination of products for my particular predicament. First I was going to stick a piece of raceway down the back of the TV stand, but I needed cables to enter and exit at different points along the way, so that idea was nixed. Then, I thought that stick-on cord clips would make sense, until I realized that, considering how many cables there are, I’d need to use an awful lot of them. Add to that the fact that they’re adhesive-backed, and in the end, I’d just rather not have a whole slew of things glued to the back of my furniture.
And then I came across cable tie bases. I haven’t looked at or even thought about them in a long time, but suddenly, they’re beginning to look like the perfect solution. One pack of these babies and a few black cable ties, and I’ll be ready to rock. I know I said that I was trying to avoid adhesives, but 3 of these (tops) will do the trick, and in the event that I ever decide not to use them anymore, they’re so low-profile that they’ll be practically invisible. That, and they’re super cheap, which will maybe help to offset the… ummmmmmm… flat screen TV purchase.
Here’s how they work: cable tie mounting bases are basically little, almost-flat plastic squares, with spaces through which you can thread a cable tie. On the back, there’s peel-and-stick adhesive. You just peel off the backing, stick the bases wherever they’re needed, and then thread a cable tie through each one. Then just gather a few cords together, cinch them into the cable tie, and the whole bundle is kept in place. Too easy! These may not look too exciting, but they definitely qualify as Good Stuff.
Filed under: Computer Accessories, Server Racks and Enclosures
I never have to worry about keeping track of more than one laptop myself, but to IT teams that have entire fleets of corporate laptops to keep tabs on, I feel for you. Signing them in and out, making sure that they’re only accessed by the chosen few, and keeping them clean (data-wise) and functional has to be a pretty big job, and heaven forbid that one ever goes missing. (I once received a letter from a former employer that several company-owned laptops had disappeared, and that my personal information may or may not have been on one of them. I and hundreds/thousands of other current/former employees were then offered complimentary ID theft monitoring. Someone’s head had to have rolled for that one.)
Like I was saying, the protection and maintenance is a lot of responsibility, so that would make anything that brings a little peace of mind and lets you turn your back without worrying a great thing, right? Meet the Dasco Secure Laptop Storage Cabinet, your newest ally in the battle against corporate computer/data theft. This thing is like a luxury high-rise fortress for company-owned notebook computers. Every laptop gets its own room (okay, so by “room” I mean “drawer”) with a keyed lock, and full amenities like power, luggage storage (aka: the roomy accessory drawer at the bottom), and even the option of “in-room” (okay, in-drawer) Internet access, so you and your staff can operate the laptops without actually having to drag them out and hook them up somewhere else.
Wow – secure storage and battery charging all in one place. No “Where did that laptop disappear to?” And no “Why wasn’t this notebook’s battery charged when I took it to my presentation?” So congratulations, Great Guardian of the Laptops: your job just got a lot less stressful.
It doesn’t matter how laid-back or paranoid you were up until then: there comes a time in everyone’s life when they start to worry about when the batteries are going to die. For some, it may happen when they’re out hiking, get lost as darkness is closing in, and begin wondering “When was the last time I changed the batteries in this flashlight?” For others, it happens when they’re rushing to finish a project on a single laptop-battery charge, because the plug-in power supply is nowhere to be found. For me, it happened right after the battery in my first car quit on me in the parking lot as I was trying to leave work- after replacing it, I’d get a pang of panic every so often, and ask myself, “Wait a minute: how long is this thing good for?”
The sad thing is, most of our Average Joe battery-related woes are nothing compared to what IT techs and facility managers have to deal with on a regular basis. Critical things like servers, fire alarm systems and security networks use battery backups in case of power outages, so that important data isn’t lost, and safety isn’t compromised. To be on the safe side, you pretty much need to replace batteries more often than necessary, so that you don’t run the risk of them dying on you when you need them most. The only problem is, “just-in-case” battery changes can end up costing you a lot more than you really need to spend. So how do you stretch out the time between battery replacements without putting your system at risk?
The answer, in this case, is the Triplett Chek-A-Cell battery tester. Designed to evalute the charges of 6 and 12 volt sealed lead acid batteries that fall between 1 and 10 amp hours, this unit gives you a quick reading of the state of your battery when you apply the Chek-A-Cell’s two probes to the battery’s contacts. The built-in Ohm meter mode allows the Chek-A-Cell to detect both AC and DC voltage, and you get an almost instant read-out on a large LED display. Because the process is so quick and easy, it lets you keep tabs on what’s really going on with your batteries, instead of always assuming the worst and overspending. A little bit of battery knowledge can really pay off.
Sorry, this product has been discontinued.
Robertshaw Programmable Thermostats: Don’t Let Utility Bills Soar Just Because the Temperature Drops
Filed under: Electrical, Energy Conservation
In honor of the fact that Autumn, my very favorite season, is just one day away, today we’re going to talk programmable thermostats, which are about to come very much in handy as temperatures soon begin to drop. Sure, we’re in that perfect place where it’s a little too cool for AC yet way too warm to turn on the heat, and you probably want to just sit back and enjoy this brief lull in utility abuse. But don’t let next month’s lower electric bill fool you into a false sense of security: colder times are ahead. Before you get too caught up in caramel apples, jack-o-lanterns and diving into piles of leaves, it’s time to get down to business.
Fall is the perfect time to evaluate the energy efficiency of your home, by checking the seals around doors and windows, switching over to insulating thermal window treatments, and maybe even installing a programmable thermostat. If you didn’t move into a newer house that was already equipped with one, a digital thermostat like Robertshaw‘s Invensys 9700i might seem like an unnecessary investment – after all, what’s wrong with turning a dial? But in reality, it’s a little too easy to turn that dial and crank the heat higher than it needs to be. With cranked heat comes cranked utility bills, and often, wasted energy. You shouldn’t be paying for what you don’t really need.
Living greener at home (and saving money) has a lot to do with making slight adjustments to your heating and cooling habits, and those adjustments are made far easier with programmable thermostats, which let you limit and maintain holding temperatures, instead of constantly fiddling with them. And one really cool thing about the Robertshaw 9700i Thermostat is that you can actually program you heating (or cooling) 7 days out, according to what your schedule is like, and when you’ll be home. That means that you can set it to let the temp drop right after you normally leave for work, and bring it back up to a more comfortable place just before you’re due to arrive home. It’s kind of like having a digital, money-saving butler – except it doesn’t get a salary.
It’s all fun and games until someone presses the big red button and everything goes dark. No, not the big red Staples “Easy” button that makes affordable office supplies magically appear. I’m talking about the big red button on the wall in many data centers, the one that’s usually inadequately labeled, but should actually read “Paralyze Data Center” or “Commit IT-Career Suicide By Accidentally Bumping This.” Yes, yes, the Emergency Power Off button, affectionately known as the EPO.
The whole point of having an EPO button is so that a data center’s power can be cut in one fell swoop if there’s a fire, electrocution, or other dire emergency. The only thing is, an EPO can wreak total havoc, and even cause you to lose your job, if you accidentally push it. When the power suddenly dies, you’re left with hours or even days of downtime and recovery, which can mean very bad things for both your business and your clients. As a matter of fact, I recently saw a hilarious blog post that showed a picture of an EPO that was cleverly labeled “Armageddon.” That pretty much sums it up. So why the heck don’t data center managers (with the exception of the “Armageddon” guy) do a better job of labeling these things?
Put away the Post-It notes, masking tape and markers: it’s time for a real label, one that’s worthy of a Bond villain’s control panel. One that’s authoritative enough to say “do not push this unless absolutely necessary” and mean it. What we need is a little HellermannTyton.
HellermannTyton has recently developed a really cool, extremely substantial foam label that can be printed with a thermal transfer label printer, but has a lot more impact that plain old tape-style labels. They can take large fonts, have room for additional graphics, and some of them are even cut to fit around buttons and toggle switches. These things are not joking around – they’re serious labels for serious controls. Try them out, because a data center is never the place to say “oopsie!”
I moved last week – a whopping 3 miles away from my old house. But from the way that I panicked over the general safety and transport of my laptop, you’d think I was about to go base jumping with the thing strapped to my back. In answer to what you’re probably asking yourself right now, no, I didn’t have the foresight to purchase, say, a laptop case when I got the computer, so the 5-minute drive through some of the tamest streets in the continental US started looking like the thrill rides I so desperately avoid.
I ended up packing the darn thing in the exact middle of an oversized laundry basket full of clean, folded clothes. But I wouldn’t surrender it to the boys who were tossing the rest of our stuff into the back of a pickup truck – instead, I gave the laptop-padding laundry basket the passenger seat of my car, and then personally carried it into the new digs and unloaded it myself. Ridiculous, I know, but how would you feel if your notebook computer was destroyed?
Luckily, apart from moving, it stays home and doesn’t travel, but I’m starting to feel for people who have to regularly fly with a laptop, or even multiple laptops. That has to be a little stressful – plenty of businesspeople have their entire lives (or careers, at least) stored in their notebooks. Luckily, the designers at Gator know a thing or two about electronics transportation, and have come up with the perfect solution: the Roto-Molded rolling laptop case.
Granted, the since the Gator Rolling laptop case can accommodate up to 8 laptops, it’s more than most solo business travelers need, but it’s perfect for government and military transport, or for traveling to trade shows with multiple company-owned laptops. The rotationally-molded polyethylene outer shell is super tough, and the case’s interior is lined with dense foam that’s compartmentalized for 8 laptops, as well as accessories. And just because they knew that these cases will most likely be flying, Gator has equipped them with built-in release valves, which equalize internal and external air pressure during altitude changes. Pretty smart.
There was a time when you had two choices, braided sleeving-wise: you could have metal, which had tough-guy good looks and shielded against EMI, but was less than ideal in the flexibility department (way too stiff). Or there was plastic, which was flexible and abrasion-resistant, but couldn’t do a thing to block interference. Both types are great in their own respects, but if you needed the characteristics of both, it was more or less a “pick your poison” scenario.
Enter HellermannTyton and their braided sleeving brainchild, otherwise known as Helagaine. It makes me wonder if the stuff was named by someone from NoCal, because with this stuff, you get hella gains over what you might with a less brilliant product. Okay, that was pretty bad, but what did you think of when you read that name? Thought so.
Anyway, here’s the deal: Helagaine braided sleeving combines the best attributes of both metal and plastic-based braids into one sweet sleeving that has the flexibility and almost glove-like fit of a plastic expandable braid, but the sleekly badass appearance and EMI-repellant powers of a stainless steel or copper sleeving. It’s great for radio equipment, heavy machinery and military vehicles whose cables need a little extra something in the way of protection, but can’t settle for a sloppy fit. Or, you could just use it to snazz up some hoses or wiring for your boat or custom car.
Okay, okay, I know that I’m technically supposed to be talking about the awesomest products out there, but today I came across a service that’s so cool (literally) that I have to tell you about it. If you’re in the data center/IT world, then you know that thermal management is a pretty hot topic (wow, I have to stop with these temperature puns). Between the current push toward energy efficiency and the ever-increasing density of server room equipment, it can be a real balancing act trying to keep things cool and functional without being slapped with the dreaded “anti-green” or “Naughty, Naughty Energy Waster” labels. If adequate yet efficient thermal management is keeping you up at night, you might want to bring in a professional – and now, it turns out, you can order one online.
Yes, you heard me. By doing nothing more than filling out a super quick online form, you can get the ball rolling to have a real, live thermal analysis pro from Panduit visit your actual facility, to evaluate what you’re doing right, and determine where your thermal management plan could use a little improvement. We’re talking guidance – sound, professional guidance. Advice from someone who can see your data center firsthand, instead of general guidelines given by someone who’s never even set foot in your state. It’s tempting, I know.
When your own personal thermal management pro shows up, they’ll map out airflow patterns, make sure that cooling equipment is correctly installed, locate possible hotspots, and determine how efficient your rack/enclosure configuration is. And yes, they’ll talk with you. Of course they’ll leave behind maps and charts for you to refer to later, but while they’re on your turf, they’re available to answer questions, demonstrate and explain, so that you can be confident in the information you receive and how to implement it.
It seems like everywhere you turn, someone’s trying to defy gravity. Take a look around – we have aircraft, spacecraft, supportive undergarments that are more heavily-engineered than aircraft and spacecraft combined, and industrial epoxy-strength hair products, without which we wouldn’t have Snooki, Pauly D, or the rest of Jersey Shore, for that matter.
Sometimes the gravity defiance works, sometimes it doesn’t (see “Jersey Shore”). The point is, it’s always there. But what about working with gravity, for once? Novel idea, right? I think so – especially when it comes to things like patch cords. Everyone worries about strain relief, because patch cords that plug into patch panels at 90 degree angles tend to, thanks to gravity, sag under their own weight, which can lead to signal attenuation and other damage. But instead of reinforcing network cables, why not let them just go with the flow? This epiphany courtesy of the pros at Black Box, who have developed the SpaceGAIN patch panel based on that very same “just go with it” principle.
SpaceGAIN patch panels, unlike the common garden variety, have ports that tilt downward at a 45 degree angle, so that once plugged in, patch cables can just flow gently (and naturally) downward, instead of jutting out at 90 degree angles and then dropping downward in tight (and possibly signal-damaging) arcs. Nice and easy – no attenuation, no bend radius issues. And because of the downward slope, the cords don’t stick out as far, leaving you with a little extra room in your rack or enclosure… and in a densely-packed server room, that never hurts.
Wow- it feels like lately, I can’t stop talking about fire protection products or Mike Holmes. Up to now, the two subjects have remained separate, but today, they’re colliding in this very blog post. Last week, I was watching yet another episode of Holmes on Homes during yet another treadmill workout, and one of Mike’s contractor pals took the trouble to wrap the backs of new electrical boxes with these flexible sheets of intumescent material, the kind that expands and hardens when exposed to fire, so that smoke and flame can’t spread too far from where they originate. Pretty neat stuff, considering that electrical wiring is a prime source of heat, sparks, and other nasty fire-starting things. Suffice it to say I was impressed at the contractor’s overall safety-mindedness and attention to detail.
Anyway, lo and behold, a few days later, I found out that we actually just started selling a product that’s very similar to the one used on the show. It’s called the Power Shield electrical box insert, and it’s perfect for maximizing the safety of outlet boxes, switches, and other electrical assemblies in fire-rated walls. And best of all, it’s super easy to use: just peel off the backing, and smooth the adhesive side of it against the rear wall of your electrical box. Once in place, it won’t cause any damage to your wiring (it’s non-conductive), and when exposed to fire, will have the ability to expand to up to 24 times its original size to contain flames and smoke.