Arlington Cam-Kit: Adapt Any Fixture Box for a Custom Dome Camera Installation

January 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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arlington-cam-kitSo, you just got a dome-style security camera. How were you thinking of mounting that thing? As far as I know, there are two choices: get out your hole saw and install a brand new camera mount from scratch, or you can use Arlington’s Cam-Kit™ to adapt an existing fixture box into a custom hanging bracket. No offense to the hole saws out there, but if I already have a perfectly good fixture box installed into a wall, ceiling, or eave, I’m not going to haul out a tool that requires me to wear safety glasses and a mask to avoid Death by Drywall Particulate. Nooooooooooo thank you.

If you haven’t already figured it out, that means that I’m extremely pro Cam-Kit™. Made by Arlington Industries, otherwise known as the Retrofit Geniuses, this adapter set has everything you need to transform an old, unused fixture box into a mount that’s perfect for any dome security camera up to 5 inches in size. Available in round or octagonal versions to suit either shape fixture box, the Cam-Kit™ consists of a crossbar that mounts onto the box itself, as well as a camera base that attaches to your security camera.

Installation is incredibly easy: once you attach each part of the kit to its respective component (as I just mentioned), you just twist the camera base onto the crossbar, tighten the set screw so that nothing budges, and you’re good to go. If you’re wondering how this can possibly work for such a wide range of cameras, it’s easy: you drill your own mounting holes, exactly where you need them.

In letting you take this step of the operation into your own hands, Arlington isn’t being lazy on their end – they’re actually doing you a favor. Ever tried to to force a “universal fit” accessory to conform to the item you purchased it for? No fun. You’re way better off zipping your power drill through the mount yourself. All of the holes will line up, and remember, you already avoided hole saw work, so what’s the big deal about a few seconds with a power drill? Nada.

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Extra Long Hook-and-Loop Wraps: Big Jobs Need Big Cable Ties

January 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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long-hook-loop-tiesWhat is it about hook and loop cable ties that we’re all so crazy about? Standard-size hook and loop wraps have been one of our hottest sellers for years, so it’s no surprise that you’ll find one lurking on the laptop cord of almost anyone you know. Then we got the mini version, which, considering the fact that it’s scaled down for use with iPod earbuds and iPhone charger cords, is even cooler. No matter what the size or brand, they’re just great in general: you can reuse them hundreds of times, they don’t crush cables, and they’re known to come in more than a few cool colors.

But what happens when your love for the rippy stuff grows so much that you want to start using hook and loop wraps for even bigger jobs? Maybe you want to circumvent an entire cable tray, or keep a coiled-up garden hose bundled? Maybe you have a rolled-up drop cloth or camping tarp that you’d like to neatly store or transport in proper Yodel-like formation. Good luck getting that done with an average-sized hook and loop wrap. At very best, you could link a few ties together, but that would be for extreme situations requiring MacGyver-like improvisation.

If I were you, I’d just buy some extra-long hook and loop cable ties to begin with.

As their name so strongly implies, Economical Long Hook and Loop Ties are cost-effective, longer than usual (to the tune of 12″-24″), and made of the beloved Velcro-like hook and loop material. Given their size and capabilities, they can really be classified more as bundling straps than garden-variety cable ties – as a matter of fact, they can hold up to 18 lbs during use. Not too shabby. In addition to the cable, hose and tarp-related uses I mentioned above, these would also be perfect for managing sports equipment, keeping beach umbrellas furled (or making carrying handles for them), and lashing things together in general.

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Ideal Aqua-Gel Cold Weather Cable Lubricant: Because Winter is No Time to Stop Pulling Cables

January 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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aqua-gel-cold-weather-cable-lubricantEarly this morning, I e-mailed my grandfather to say “hi,” but not sooner had I started typing than I realized I really didn’t have much news to report from the homefront. The culprit of my life’s suffocating mundanity? Winter. It’s like everyone is so busy trying not to freeze their rear ends off that they can’t be bothered to wiggle out from under their Snuggies, much less leave the house. That would involve preheating one’s car, and that’s just too much trouble when it’s in the single digits even before you figure in wind chill. Ugh.

After clicking “send” on the world’s shortest catch-up e-mail, I took a quick jaunt to the local news website, only to see that despite the weather, construction crews are currently under the gun to finish a pretty ambitious addition that’s being built onto one of the hospitals in town. So I guess that life and work do go on, even below freezing.

All of this reminded me of a very interesting new product that we recently added to the roster: a cable pulling lubricant that’s designed to stay fluid and flexible even in temps that are low enough to stiffen your fingers and toes. Ideal Aqua-Gel CW (that stands for “cold weather”) cable lube stays comfortably unfazed in temperatures as low as -25°F, so that cables don’t freeze into the conduit mid-pull, and work can go on as usual.

Aqua-Gel CW has a polymer-based formula that not only doesn’t freeze, but also stays semi-fluid when “dry”, so that the cables you apply it to can be easily repulled or removed at a later date, without a second application. It’s formulated to cling strongly to cables for the duration of long pulls, but is easily cleaned up with soap and water when you’re done. The only way this stuff could help you work better in the cold would be if it made you coffee and cocoa.

For all of you outdoor cabling contractors who will stop at nothing to be productive, you’ve just met your new best friend. To the rest of you, sorry. It looks like snow days are a thing of the past. Now that I think of it, I should probably drop by the hospital construction zone and see if the guys could use a case of this… as soon as I can put down my Snuggie.

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ACT Cobra Low Profile Cable Ties: No More Snagging

January 21, 2011 by · 1 Comment
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act-cobra-cable-tiesSo there you are, bundling wires with zip ties like there’s no tomorrow. You’re carefree, you’re getting things done – as a matter of fact, it’s pretty much all fun and games until… somebody gets snagged by a cable tie. That “somebody” might be your sweater cuff, a cable, one of the rails inside your server enclosure, you name it. But one thing’s for sure: that snaggage is annoying, and if it hasn’t caused outright damage, it’s at the very least slowing you down. As my old friends Winnie the Pooh and Alton Brown like to say, “Oh bother.”

ACT Fastening Solutions has heard our collective cable management lament, and responded with the creation of Cobra® Low Profile Cable Ties. Like the snake they’re named after, these “zero-clearance” cable ties have a flat head, which results in a smooth profile that won’t “bite” into skin or cable insulation, or get snagged on fabric, conduit, or nearby fixtures. Once wrapped and secured around a cable bundle, low profile Cobra® cable ties lay flat around the entire circumference, with just the tiniest bit of thickening where the head is. No sudden elevation jump with sharp corners – just a smooth band all the way around. That low profile head also hides the sharp, cut edge after you’ve trimmed away the excess – once you snip the end, the cut edge just slides back into the head for a perfectly snag-free finish.

Another nice thing about ACT Cobra® ties is that they’re safe and easy to remove. Whereas you generally have to jam a pair of scissors between tie and cables to remove a standard zip tie, you just snip the top crossbar to release the Cobra® tie. This prevents you from accidentally slicing into nearby cables, which is never a good thing.

And lastly, I can’t forget to mention that Cobra® ties have excellent tensile strength, and are even tamper-proof, thanks to a pawl that’s located on the underside of the cable tie’s head. Add up all their benefits, and these cable ties are a smart (and safe) addition to almost any environment: home, office, data center, marina, school, and even playground.

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STI SpecSeal Flame Retardant Cable Spray: Give Vital Cables a Fighting Chance When Fire Strikes

January 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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sti-specseal-flame-retardant-cable-sprayWhen you ask people what they’d save in a fire, the answers are usually pretty obvious: kids, spouses, pets, photo albums, jewelry boxes – maybe even a laptop, if there were time and room enough to tuck it under your arm. Our instinct is to save the things dearest to us, or items we rely heavily on. It’s no too hard to name what you’d rescue in a house fire, but what if your business were to burn?

Among all of the critical business tools that you could lose in a fire, have you ever thought of the data and electrical cables that keep you powered and connected to the outside world? When large groupings of cable (like what you’d find filling a cable tray) ignite, they’re not only destroyed – they also pose a large flame-spread threat to the rest of your office or facility. Keep cables from catching fire or sustaining heat damage, and you’ll not only reduce your losses, you’ll spare yourself extra downtime, as well.

So now comes the big question: how do you prevent cables from igniting in the first place? The answer: SpecSeal® Flame Retardant Cable Spray from STI. This latex-based, asbestos- and halogen-free product is sprayed onto cables to create a thin, fire-resistant coating that prevents heat damage to cables, and lessens their chances of propagating flame spread.

SpecSeal® Cable Spray is specifically designed for cables that are/will be grouped together, and has been formulated in such a way that it won’t re-emulsify after initial drying (so once it’s dry, it stays dry, and won’t become tacky or sticky in the presence of humidity). It also maintains a decent degree of flexibility once it’s dry, so it isn’t difficult to remove or reconfigure cables post-application.

SpecSeal® Cable Spray contains no solvents, so there’s nothing in it that will break down cable jackets and insulation. It also contains a high proportion of solids, so it covers better than any other comparable product on the market. Just spray on an even coat with an airless sprayer, and take comfort in knowing that one of the most vital behind-the-scenes players in your business – your cabling system – is far better equipped to take the heat.

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Geist Variable Speed Fan Controller: “Steps on the Gas” or “Hits the Brakes” as Enclosure Cooling Needs Fluctuate

January 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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geist-variable-speed-fan-controllerFrom the green perspective on data center cooling, keeping rack fans running full tilt all the times is the equivalent of revving your engine nonstop while sitting through a red light, or keeping an oven preheated 24/7 so that it’s ready to go if and when you feel like baking something. In other words, it’s needless, wastes crazy amounts of energy, and causes unnecessary wear and tear on the components left running (i.e. the fans).

That’s not to say that cooling isn’t one of the most important elements of a well-run server room. Rack fans are, in many cases, a must, and they need to be left on to adequately circulate air and keep things comfortable for temp-sensitive computer equipment. The point is that they don’t have to be run at high speed all the time to do their job. It’s actually possible to keep a server enclosure at an optimal temperature with fans running at lower speeds and using less energy. Considering the stat I recently read that said cooling costs alone can swallow up to 40% of a data center’s energy budget, why wouldn’t you want to make some smart pare-downs wherever possible? Your data center will be that much greener for the energy savings, and the lower electricity bills won’t hurt your budget either.

So, how do you accomplish these energy-conserving fan speed adjustments? It’s easier than you might think. Geist’s Variable Speed Fan Controller mounts right into a server enclosure, and based on temperature parameters that you set, adjusts fan speed as needed when temp readings fluctuate. If things are warm but not too stuffy, fans will be run at a gentler speed, saving you unnecessary wear and tear on your ventilation fans, as well as pointless overspending on energy. But when that equipment kicks into high gear and starts cranking out the BTUs, the fan controller senses the rise in temperature, and makes the fans work harder. Exactly what you need, when you need it.

The Geist Variable Speed Fan Controller also has a web interface, and can be set to warn you via e-mail, SNMP traps or XML when temperature conditions get out of control and warrant your personal attention. You can also adjust fan speeds remotely by way of the web interface, so it’s a perfect option for business owners or data center managers who need peace of mind even when they’re on the go.

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D-Line Half Round Raceway: Show Some Style with Sleekly Curved Wire Channels

January 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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half-round-racewayUp to about yesterday, whenever I heard the term “surface raceway,” my mind would conjure up the image of long, rectangular sticks of wire channel. Boxy. Angular. Lacking in subtlety. Raceway is great for routing and concealing cables, and does help to camouflage things quite a bit, but as for shape, there isn’t much flow to the standard garden varieties. Straight line, corner. Straight line, corner. All the way around. Great if you’re into a Cubist aesthetic, but if you prefer something a little sleeker, it’s less than ideal.

So imagine my surprise and delight when D-Line Half Round Raceway came waltzing through the door. Unlike its boxy counterparts, this decidedly shapelier version has curves in all the right places, but not in the way that will make anyone look twice. In fact, the semi-circular shape actually helps D-Line Half Round avoid notice, since it blends and transitions and more smoothly with walls than rectangular raceway does.

If you look at the picture, you’ll see what I mean. Isn’t it great the way it blends right in with the baseboard molding that it’s installed right above? What’s really nice it that you can even paint it to match. That gentle curve actually mirrors the detailing in the molding, and unless someone were to get down on their hands and knees and do some close-range squinting at it, they’d be none the wiser of its presence.

In addition to being paintable, D-Line half round raceway is also easy to cut with scissors or a PVC cutter (depending on its size) and is available with the inner and outer corner fittings that make it possible to “bend” the raceway into, out of, and around corners. As for installation, it’s a piece of cake: after you’ve cut the raceway to length, just peel off the backing, and press the pre-applied adhesive against the wall. Then step back and admire your work. But be warned: you may need to take a really close look – this stuff can be easy to miss.

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Geist Compact Environmental Monitor: The High-Tech Babysitter for Your Most Sensitive Network Components

January 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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geist-compact-environmental-monitorI’m a little foggy on how it all unfolded, but there’s a scene in an old episode of Frasier in which the lovably pretentious Frasier Crane (played by Kelsey Grammer) complains to his blue collar, ex-cop father, Martin (John Mahoney) about all of the things that drive him crazy and make life unbearable. The exact annoyances I can’t remember, but they probably had something to do with imbeciles who can’t correctly pronounce the name of his favorite opera, someone dreadfully fouling up his $8 cappuccino order, or a sommelier who didn’t live up to expectations – you know, the everyday stuff. Anyway, when Frazier finishes his whiny rant, Martin retorts with something to the affect of, “Well, aren’t you a little hothouse orchid!”

I never thought I’d end up relating one of my favorite shows to IT equipment, but here it goes: network components are just as much hothouse orchids as our gent Frasier is. They may not snub and whine and spend way too much at the haberdashery, but man, are they finicky – especially when it comes to temperature and humidity. Let servers get too hot, or mess with the ambient humidity too much, and they start spazzing out or shut down altogether. Talk about electronics that need constant babysitting!

But there’s not really a choice: communication must go on, so the equipment that makes it possible must be coddled. But now there’s an easier way, one that gives you a break from constantly monitoring the thermostat and humidity levels. Meet Geist’s Compact Environmental Monitor, an extremely helpful device that mounts in any data center or server enclosure, and keeps tabs on all the vitals for you… while you spend your time on better things.

Here’s how it works: you install the environmental monitor, and then set a few predetermined maximum and/or minimum thresholds, or cutoff points. If the temperature or humidity go above or below the parameters you’ve set, the monitor automatically sends you an alert via e-mail, so that you can tend to the problem at hand. This is all thanks to a PoE web interface that provides the Internet connection and the power – you don’t even need to plug it into a separate electrical outlet.

High maintenance just got a lot easier to deal with.

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Black Box IntelliPass Biometric Access System: Authorized Cabinet Access That Takes Nothing More Than a Fingertip Scan

January 4, 2011 by · 1 Comment
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black-box-intelli-passThere was a time when critical server access control meant only one thing: an enclosure with locks – the kind that require keys. Keys that could easily be misplaced, or even worse, stolen. Keys that could fall into the wrong hands, or force you to call a locksmith if they couldn’t be found. Keys that made that heavy, jingling mass of metal in your pocket look and feel more like a jailer’s keyring than a collection of door-openers belong to a tech-savvy pro. Keys suck. It’s time to kiss them goodbye, and say hello to the future of computer cabinet access.

Meet Black Box’s Intelli-Pass biometric cabinet access system. If you ever thought that biometrics were way too James Bond or Mission Impossible for your humble data center, think again. Server room biometrics are here, accessible, and in the hands of Black Box, really, really good.

The Intelli-Pass installs right where an enclosure’s handle would normally go, and at first glance, actually looks like a handle. But zoom in on it, and you’ll notice that there’s a small fingerpad at the top, which is precisely where the magic happens. It’s “unlocked” with the most convenient, least duplicable keys of all: the fingerprints of you and your most trusted IT staff members.

One thing that I really like about the Intelli-Pass (aside from the biometrics) is that it’s designed with tamper-resistance in mind. While the fingertip scanner is very necessarily located on the outside, unsecured portion of the device, all of the most sensitive inner-workings are safely stashed on the other side of the enclosure door, where they can’t be vandalized or otherwise damaged. It also has the very cool feature of alarm system compatibility – tie it into your building’s existing emergency alert system, and the Intelli-Pass can be configured to automatically open server enclosures when the alarm sounds, so that equipment can be accessed or removed instantly.

I know that I totally ripped traditional keys before, but sometimes you may want them as a backup, so Intelli-Pass is available in an optional keyed version in the event that you’d like to have standard key access in the event of a power outage. It’s pretty convenient, really. They think of everything.