Panduit Cable Bundle Organizing Tool: Straight, Organized Cable Bundles Without the Stress and Hand Strain

February 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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panduit-cable-bundle-organizer“Cable bundle.” It sounds so benign, doesn’t it? And in a way, cable bundles are a good thing – after all, wouldn’t you rather have all of your cords in one cohesive group than running wild in every direction? Cable bundling is definitely the way to go. The only thing is, when you start dealing with handfuls of cables, they can get a little tricky to manage. Between Point A and Point B, they can switch places and wind around each other, and there are always at least a couple of renegades that try to make a break from the rest of the pack. It’s like the proverbial herding of cats – have fun with that.

I used to use wire loom to corral all of the computer and phone cables under my desk, and in order to get cables into wire loom, you have to do a little makeshift bundling first. Long story short, even a measly desk’s worth of cables can be a challenge. What on Earth do cabling installers do for heavy duty backbone cable runs? My guess is that they have to really put their backs… and arms… and both hands… into it. I don’t know about you, but I try not to put myself through frustration and physical duress at the same time, and that’s why I really like the idea of Panduit’s Cable Bundle Organizing Tool.

This cable organizer is so simple, yet so brilliant. Structured in a generally round shape, which is more or less the same form you’d want a cable bundle to take, the Panduit organizer actually creates order from the inside out. It’s full of individual spaces that you can slide cables into – each and every cable gets a designated space. Once all of your cables are inserted into the organizing tool, you snap an outer ring around the loaded frame, secure it with the included hook and loop wrap, and slide the configured organizer down the length of the bundle, installing additional cable ties along the way. It more or less combs the cables into the same positions the entire way, so you’re left with a cable bundle that’s smooth and well-ordered, without the stress and exhaustion of having to take care of every last detail yourself.

That’s working smart.

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Quarter Round Decorative Raceway: The High-Style Cable Concealer That Won’t Put a Dent in Your Decor

February 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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quarter-round-racewayAfter 6 months of gradual progress, I just put the finishing touches on my living room. Ever since we moved in, I’ve been hanging wall art, rearranging furniture, experimenting with the placement of everything, and I think we’ve finally hit on something that works. The only things still bugging me are the few places around our entertainment center where I can glimpse the cable wire coming up through the floor, and the power strip’s cord as it makes its way from under the TV stand to the wall outlet a few feet away.

I’ve got things partially concealed with a floor vase full of decorative bamboo, but unfortunately, the camouflaging benefits of green stalks and pottery only go so far. Barring standard surface raceway (its shape isn’t quite subtle enough for this particular situation), I’ve been looking for some sort of cord concealer that my eyes won’t be drawn to when I’m trying to focus on the TV. Something that can lay right along the floor and blend in with my smooth baseboard molding all at once. And as of last Friday, I found it: quarter round decorative raceway.

“Quarter round” sounds a little weird, but it’s a perfect description of this raceway. It’s built on a 90-degree angle and has a gently arcing surface, so that you can fit it into any corner, and see only the lightly rounded top. Quarter round raceway is perfect for fitting into corners, be they the junctions between two walls, or the places where your baseboard meets the floor.

In my case, it’s a “where the baseboard meets the floor” kind of a thing. My baseboard molding is totally flat, with no decorative shaping or anything, so I think that the quarter round might even add a little extra something to that wall. What’s really nice is that it can be painted to match the existing trim, so it will all blend seamlessly (if you have natural wood molding, the raceway is even available in an unfinished, stainable “woodgrain” material, so you can still get an exact match).

Installation is super easy: just peel the backing off the pre-applied adhesive strip, and stick it right to your wall, floor, or molding. It’s almost too easy. And best of all, it lets you shift your attention away from the exposed cables, and back to where it needs to be: on the TV, of course.

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Two-Piece Desk Grommets: Endless Options for Cable Routing and Other Creative Workspace Modifications

February 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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round-two-piece-grommetsChances are, a few of you are asking yourselves, “She’s talking about grommets again? Really?” To all of you exasperated naysayers, I say, “Give me a chance.” I don’t blog just to hear the sound of my own voice, and I don’t like wasting peoples’ time with things they’ve already heard about. I’m enthusiastic about grommets – we’ve covered that. But the entire reason for this post is that my eyes were just opened to a new and exciting way to use desk grommets.

Well, not just any desk grommets… to be more specific, the new round two-piece grommets that we just started carrying. They’re simple, but extremely cool, because they come in (as you’ve gathered) two separate parts: the sleeve, which is the section that lines the actual hole cutout in your desk or countertop, and the snap-on top, which narrows the opening so that it fits snugly around the wire and cables traveling through it. Up to this point, most grommets have been a one-piece hybrid of the two parts, but someone had the outstanding idea to go deconstructionist on these, and I really think it works.

Why? Because you can use both components together, or take the more-laid back approach and just stick with the sleeve. The complete solution is perfect for routing cables (as usual), but what really intrigues me is the sleeve-only option, and the suggestion that, when you’re dealing with the large-diameter 4″ grommet, the sleeve can actually be fashioned into a sort of through-desk trash chute.

Ever noticed how in some restaurant bathrooms, there’s a cutout in the sink vanity, into which you toss your used paper towels? Well, now you can do the same thing to your desk! Just use a hole saw to cut out an opening, snap in a grommet sleeve for a finishing touch, line your wastepaper basket up below the hole, and start dropping your small paper trash right through your desktop. Bombs away!

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Middle Atlantic’s RDR Series: Home Theater Racks That Won’t Make You Feel Like You’re in a Server Room

February 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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middle-atlantic-rdr-home-theater-rackSo, you drop big bucks on a home theater. Amazing screen. Killer audio. Super posh decor, and furniture that’s almost impossible to part ways with at the end of the show. As you, the fam and maybe a few friends snuggle in for a fun night in front of the big screen, you glance over at your equipment rack, and suddenly you’re whisked away to a cold, brightly-lit, featureless data center, where the only thing to make you feel cozy and comfortable is the warm air being exhausted by the enclosure ventilation fans.

No, you’re not hallucinating or having a nightmare, and you haven’t been forcibly sucked into some weird parallel universe in which you’re actually an IT guy. You were just shocked out of your sweet cinematic surroundings by the stark, metallic, “a-little-too-techy” look of your electronics rack. What the heck is that thing doing in your perfect (well, near perfect) home theater? Have you no sense of style?

It’s a good thing that the designers at Middle Atlantic got wind of the fact that there are more than a few people out there who are butchering the aesthetics of otherwise well-planned home theaters with racks that were designed for… well… less-than-decor-conscious environments. Clearly, they must have asked themselves, “Do movie lovers kick back in residences, or telco closets?” And as I imagine it, they then glanced around the room at each other during a brief silence, shouted “residences” in unison, collectively nodded their heads, and then got down to business designing their home-worthy RDR Rack Series.

Much like your standard-issue server rack, RDR home theater racks are built out of tough steel that can take abuse and still support the weight of hundreds of pounds of electronics. The difference is in the finishing touches, from the decorative trim that replaces sharp, angular corners, to a sleek black woodgrain top as the crowning touch. It’s like Clark Kent turning into Superman. Moneypenny to Bond Girl.

Hey, look! You’re back from the data center.

Ideal Foam Carriers: Scrub Dirt, Debris and Gunk from Conduit While You Pull New Cables

February 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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ideal-foam-carriersI’ve never thought of simple, innocent conduit as being gross. It keeps cables safe, takes them from one place to the next… and that’s it, right? Not if you also factor in the possibility that something other than cables and air could weasel its way into a stretch of conduit. Dirt and general debris (annoying, but not too terrible). Sticky cable lubricant residue (gross). And then of course, the really fun stuff like dead insects and (gulp) animal droppings (a “@*&$#*%^!!!!” would not be out of line here). “Nasty” would be the understatement of the decade.

Now that you know the truth about what could be lurking inside your conduit, the big question is how to get it out. It’s not like you can stick a pressure washing wand down that stuff – but that would be nice, wouldn’t it? Luckily, Ideal Industries got creative and came up with a very cool little thing called a foam carrier, a plug-like cleaning tool that’s attached to a pull line or cable, and maneuvered through a length of conduit – in one end, and out the other. As it’s pulled through, the foam carrier gently scrapes out any nasty bits that are clinging to the conduit’s interior, leaving you with a clean, unobstructed run of duct to send new cables down.

Being made of foam, the carriers are mildly flexible, so they can navigate smoothly through bends and around corners. You can pull them by hand, or even better, use a mechanical blower or vacuum system to send them down the line. Want to cut time in half and clean your conduit while you’re running new cables? Each foam carrier features a metal center rod, which is equipped with hooks at each end, perfect for attaching to, say, cabling. Once the cables and carrier are attached, just pull the whole assembly at once, and you’ll have freshly-pulled wires in crud-free conduit. That’s what I’m talking about.

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Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for the Geek Who Makes Your Heart Beat Faster

February 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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red-bluetoothDon’t ask me how it happened, but by some miracle, Geeky has become the new Sexy. The Conspiracy Theorists out there may surmise that certain tech companies, such as “Orange” and “The-Search-Engine-That-Must-Not-Be-Named” (names have been changed to protect those with powerful legal departments) may have started doctoring water supplies across the nation with geek-seeking aphrodisiac chemicals. Others may say that since we’re all a little gadget-crazy these days, it’s not so weird to pass up human interaction in favor of gaming and social media. Whatever the case may be, certified tech geeks are now making it to the top of “Most Desirable Valentines” lists everywhere, so that begs the question: what do you buy the Apple-Lover of Your Eye?

Chocolates? Sorry… they melt on fingers, and then smudge up computer keyboards. Flowers? Hellooooooooo, not unless they have a Web interface. A romantic dinner for two? Impossible: that would require forcible removal, possibly surgical in nature, from one’s laptop or smartphone. Looks like we’d better give you a few suggestions on how to spark gift-induced romance with your geeky sweetheart.

Being the crew of tech nerds that we are, a few of us at put together a list of His and Hers Valentine gifts with a decidedly techy twist. From iPhone cord organizers and Bluetooths (or is it Blueteeth?) to solar chargers and USB hubs, our Geekentine’s Day gifts are creative, affordable, and may be just what it takes to score a non-virtual smooch or two.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Ergonomic Multi-Shift Workstation Chairs: Sit and Work Longer with Fewer Aches, Kinks and Creaks

February 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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middle-atlantic-multi-shift-chairsThere was a time in the not-too-distant past when I split my days between slinging cappuccinos and hauling my rear end around campus with many, many pounds of textbooks strapped to my back. With all that time spent either standing behind an espresso bar or hiking around a university that seems to have been intentionally designed with inconvenient parking, I was in pretty decent shape, and felt exactly as a whippersnapper should: healthy and ache-free.

Then they handed me a diploma, at which point I traded my green apron in, and took a job that I continue to hold to this day: writing. Aside from thinking up pretty words and typing them out on my laptop, the other mainstay of this career is sitting. A lot. Sure, I hit the gym regularly, and I’m nowhere even near middle age, but I have to tell you: all of this chair time has made me feel like I’m falling apart. Aches, stiff muscles… I’m a groaning wreck. I’m thinking I should snag one of Middle Atlantic‘s new ergonomic, multi-shift workstation chairs.

These things look awesome. I’m not someone who’s remotely excited at the prospect of office furniture, but the features of these chairs made me rethink my standpoint on the stuff. They’re adjustable in pretty much every way possible (seat height, armrest position, and degree of recline), and are made out of the good stuff, like mesh and the lovely-sounding Technogel cushions (I imagine that would be like sitting on a body-sized gel insole). Lumbar support, high-tech weight balance, everything you dream of. These chairs are not for people at risk of falling asleep on the job.

The reason why these chair are so comfortably designed is that they’re intended for people who need to be pretty much glued to them once they punch in for the day. Security personnel at command/monitoring desks, programmers… writers… you get the idea. Longer on hours, shorter on aches – not a bad day’s work.

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7-Outlet Surge Protector with Individual Switches: Selective Outlet Powering for Gadget Owners Who Like to Call the Shots

February 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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individually-switched-surge-protectorI’ll admit it: I’m a little bit of a control… ummmmm…. aficionado. Take other people’s word for it that something is done? Don’t make me laugh. This chick needs to see it with her own two eyes, and make sure that it’s done right. Yes, it makes me a tad insufferable at times, but at least I know that the doors are locked before I go to sleep, that the thermostat has been turned down for the night, and that just a couple of lights are left strategically on, so that we don’t come home to a totally dark house.

That said, I’ve always liked the idea of smart power strips, which automatically shut off power-wasting peripheral electronics when the main devices they work with (ie, TVs or computers) aren’t being used. These intelligent PDUs are great to have around; they save energy and money, all without you having to do a thing. For all the normal people out there, smart power strips sound like the perfect way to plug in: they keep things on when you need them, and switch them off when you don’t… whether or not you remember to yourself.

But what about the in-charge, “I’ll-Do-it-Myselfer” types like me? Maybe we want to selectively turn things off on our own, without a smarty-pants gadget calling the shots for us. Maybe we have excellent reasons why we would prefer that certain devices remain powered. Maybe we, the hardheads who trust our own judgement most, inspired this extremely cool surge protector.

At first glance, this 7-outlet surge protector looks like most other PDUs… until you realize that each outlet has its own on/off switch. Hmmmmmmmm. Basically, thanks to those switches, you get to decide which plugged-in gadgets run, and which have had their fill of electricity for the day. In short, you’re the brains of this operation, not the power strip itself. I thought you’d like that.

There are a few nice little features that help you out in a good way, though. For example, those switches glow red when the outlets they correspond to are receiving power – a nice, easy way to assess the situation at a glance. And secondly, the 7th switch doesn’t belong specifically to a single outlet, but to the entire surge protector. Need to shut everything on or off at once? That’s the way to do it… if you make the decision to.

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Middle Atlantic Hinged Plexiglass Security Doors: Tamper-Free Visibility for Critical Server Equipment

February 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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middle-atlantic-hinged-plexiglass-doorsYou know that scene in Ocean’s Eleven where one of the Utah twins (can’t remember if it was Scott Caan or Casey Affleck) manages to get into the casino’s “secure” data center, mess with a patch cord or two, and gain access to the surveillance video feed? First, you’ve gotta love that they worked a little server room tampering into the plot, and secondly, why the heck wasn’t that equipment locked up better? Didn’t Terry Benedict and his security staff know there was at least some chance that several of Hollywood’s best-looking, lovable scoundrels would stop by to rob them blind on fight night?

Apparently not, or they would have gotten their Bellagio-monogrammed mitts on at least a few of Middle Atlantic’s Hinged Plexiglass Security doors.

These rackmount security doors are made in 2, 3, 4, and 8U heights, come complete with pre-installed keyed locks, and bolt onto just about any standard 19″ server rack, so you can protect just one or two components, or a whole group of them. The doors are fantastic because they keep your equipment perfectly visible, but limit access to only trusted keyholders. Those prowling, sticky-fingered, up-to-no-good types may be able to see your telecom equipment, but won’t be able to actually sabotage it. Perfect.

Now that we’ve covered the basic idea, on to the specs. The security doors are framed in 16-gauge steel to stay strong, and have a tough black powder coat finish that resists scratching and matches well with pretty much any rack. They also have a stand-out depth of 1½ inches, so they give plenty of clearance for controls, cable connectors and the like.

And did I mention that they’re almost as easy on the eyes as certain Ocean’s cast members? Almost.

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Focus-Lite Heat Shrink Oven: Concentrated Heat for Safe, Even, Energy-Efficient Shrinking

February 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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focus-lite-heat-shrink-ovenHeat guns are fantastic for shrinking short lengths of heat shrink tubing, but when the inches start to add up, so does the Roast Factor. While heat guns are designed with directional airflow in mind, their heat output still tends to travel beyond the immediate shrink zone, and cause things like hands, clothes and nearby objects to become uncomfortably, and sometimes dangerously, hot. Not such a problem when you’re shrinking only a few inches here and there, but if the heat shrink job extends into feet, then you can be in for a bit of trouble. And the wasted energy! These things are like tiny jet engines. There’s got to be a way to efficiently apply heat shrink without cooking yourself or going broke on butane refills or utility bills in the process.

Enter the Focus-Lite Heat Shrink Processing Oven, which can shrink many, many feet of heat shrink tubing at a time, without causing the operator heat-related discomfort, or burning up too much energy in the process. It’s really pretty cool – you just hold the heat shrink wrapped cable in both hands, and gradually move it through the oven’s shrinking chamber, which reflects its contained heat around all sides of the tubing for a perfectly even shrink.

The Focus-Lite uses a halogen lamp that’s capable of hitting optimum temperature in milliseconds, and is able to shrink in a fraction of the time it takes a run-of-the-mill hot air tool, which accounts for a large part of this machine’s energy-saving qualities. The rest of the energy conservation factor is due to the fact that the oven requires only about 20% of the power typically guzzled by a standard heat gun. It’s also controlled via foot pedal, leaving you with two free hands, both of which I always like to have available when working on projects that require any degree of precision or quick response.

All this, and it’s small enough to mount right onto a work bench, so it’s ready at a moment’s notice, without you having to dig through a drawer or tool box, untangle a power cord, and plug in. It’s high volume heat shrink done right, with no waiting time, uncomfortable ambient heat, or wasted electricity. So learn from the burn, and get one of these into your workshop fast.

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