Cable Catching Bristles for Under Your Desk

metal brush grommetsI can’t imagine life without the convenience of plain old hairbrushes, but there’s just one thing about them that’s driven me kind of crazy: all the hair that gets trapped in the bristles. I guess it’s kind of good that all of the shed hair gets stuck (otherwise it would be all over your clothes and floor), but it’s pretty annoying when you have to pull it all free to clean out your brush.

Now here’s a brush scenario that’s a lot like the one I just mentioned, but a lot less obnoxious. It’s helpful, actually. Did you know that brush bristles can actually help you organize cables? Crazy but true. Add them to a grommet, and not only will the grommet help protect cables as they pass through cutouts in desk tops, conference tables, counters and computer cabinets, but it will also hold cables in place, even if they’re disconnected, so they won’t slip away. Genius.

As far as brush grommets go, this isn’t my first rodeo. But I have to say that the most recent ones I’ve seen also happen to be the most versatile and attractive. In the past, the majority of the brush grommets I’ve dealt with have been super boring looking, and were most commonly used in data center floors and enclosures. That’s why I really like these new metal brush grommets so much: they have some really beautiful designer metal finishes that give them a stylish edge, and they’re not just for super-techy applications – there are actually versions of them that are perfect for popping right into your desktop.

Just think about it: a sleek, modern grommet that keeps your cables organized, and then hangs onto them when they’re unplugged. No more crawling around under your desk for the missing end of that USB – it just stays where it’s supposed to, ready and waiting when you need it. How refreshing.

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Pelican 1075 Series HardBack Cases: Portable Armor for iPads, Netbooks, and Midsize Gadgets

August 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Gadgets, Tools and Cases 

pelican-hardback-caseYou’ve got a shock-absorbing silicone cover for your cell phone and a laptop case that can shield your notebook computer from everything short of nuclear disaster or heavy artillery, but let me ask you this: who’s looking out for your tablet?

Like both our old friend Billy Joel and the new wave of obsessive couponing that’s spawned a rash of Sunday circular thefts from coast to coast, the world of Gadget Protection tends to go to extremes (Billy, please forgive me for dragging your name into the same sentence as extreme cheapskates… ummmm, I mean couponers). Pocket- and full-sized electronics are still the most widely-owned gadgets out there, so they have tons of covering/carrying options available, but those somewhere-in-the-middle tablets, Netbooks, and iPads don’t have it quite so easy yet.

Luckily, Pelican has looked kindly upon midsize gadgets, with their breakable screens and too-big-to-fit-in-your-pocket designs, and has put together a little something special to keep them safe when you decide to take them on the road with you (and who doesn’t?). The company’s new 1075 Series HardBack™ cases give your tablet or Netbook (or several smaller gadgets) near-indestructable protection that can be slung over your shoulder and carried along for the ride.

If you’re not familiar with the hallmarks of Pelican cases, let me drop a few key words to give you the idea. Watertight. Crushproof. Impact-resistant. Buoyant. Self-equalizing. They’re basically equipped with everything you’ve ever dreamed of and more. One time, we actually took one of their earlier, mini-sized models out into the company parking lot, repeatedly ran it over with a large SUV, and the case suffered nothing more than a few surface scratches. If you’re going to put your precious electronics into anyone’s hands, I strongly suggest they be Pelican’s.

But back to the details. As their name and my earlier description imply, HardBack™ cases are constructed of a rigid outer shell, which is lined with customizable foam to create the perfect cushioned fit for any device. An o-ring seal keeps moisture out, so much so that you can submerge a closed Pelican case to a depth of 3 feet without any problem. Elevation changes aren’t an issue, either, thanks to a built-in pressure equalizing valve that automatically balances internal air pressure.

Kind of makes you wish they made a Pelican Case in your size, doesn’t it?

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Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs: Warm White Light With a Long Lifespan

August 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Electrical, Lighting 

cfl-fluorescent-light-bulbsSo, what’s your stance on light bulbs? Have you gone green with compact fluorescents and LEDs, or are you hanging on to your precious incandescent bulbs for dear life? Up until a couple of years ago, I was an incandescent hold-out. Sure, I was all for being a friend of the environment by recycling and doing my best to conserve power and water, but when it came to household illumination, I couldn’t quite bear to make the jump to compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs.

Sure, they last several times as long as incandescent bulbs, and put out just as much light with a fraction of the power use, but no way. Something about not being able to shake the mindset that all fluorescent light was flickery and had a cool, vaguely creepy cast to it. After all, when you’re relaxing at home, you want to bask in a soft, warm glow, right? Not feel like you’re in a stark institutional setting.

Then I moved into an apartment where the previous tenants had left behind a box of brand-new CFLs. I let them sit in the back of a cabinet until one fateful day when the light bulb in one of our floor lamps blew out on us, and we had no incandescents on hand to change it with. Not feeling like running to the store but wanting the light back, I dug out the box of CFLs and screwed one in with bated breath. And…

No gross eye-irritating light. No flickering, no cool tones to ruin the cozy vibe. Just nice, bright, warm illumination – the kind I’d thought wasn’t available outside the realm of incandescent bulbs. And that thing lasted forever! I learned my lesson, and have never looked back. As a matter of fact, I’ve since pinch-hit for burnt out CFLs with left-behind incandescent lightbulbs, and now I can’t believe how short their lifespans are. Go figure.

I’ve been enjoying seeing how far CFLs have progressed since the days of strictly spiral-shaped bulbs. Now there are mini-spirals for smaller fixtures, CFLs with more of a classic “bulb” shape, and even little candelabra-style ones for chandeliers and other hanging light fixtures. The variety is incredible, and the quality is better than ever. So if you’re still riding the incandescent train, I highly suggest, from personal experience, that you give compact fluorescent bulbs a chance, even if you start out with just one lamp, like I did. You’ll love the savings.

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Vertical-Lok Electrical Duct Spacers: So You Don’t Have to Sledgehammer Your Way Out of a Conduit Mishap

August 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Raceway, Duct and Conduit 

vertical-lok-duct-spacersThis probably goes without saying, but “oopsie” is one thing you never want to say or hear during a job involving poured concrete. There’s something about that quick-drying, irreversible-without-a-sledgehammer building medium that has a way of inspiring a “let’s get this perfect the first time around” attitude. Laying down a new celebrity square on the Hollywood Walk of Fame must be a nerve-wracking nightmare for the person whose job it is to do it right, but do you know what’s even higher pressure?

Pouring concrete over conduit or wire duct.

Yikes. Just think about it – vital wiring for a soon-to-be building, all buried beneath a hard, thick layer of concrete. The tough stuff may be great for protection, but if anything slides the wrong way under the weight of the concrete being poured over, around and through it, who knows what could happen. All I can say is that you don’t want to be faced with troubleshooting once the concrete is in place. So how do you prevent any tragic mishaps?

One excellent way would be to use Ipex’s Vertical Lok™ Electrical Duct Spacers before the cement mixer pulls up. Designed to act as a sturdy frame to hold rows of conduit firmly in place, these spacers help duct formations stay properly stacked and in line, even under the pressure of pouring concrete.

Unlike some prefabricated duct support systems, Vertical Lok™ spacers come in individual sections, so that they’re easier to transport to, and handle on, the jobsite, and let you build a spacer configuration that exactly fits your needs. Featuring a tight fit and plenty of spaces to accommodate reinforcing bars, the Vertical Lok™ system gives your duct and conduit superior strain relief, so you don’t have to worrying about things bending, buckling, or being forced out of shape. And it doesn’t even require any special tools for assembly. This is one of the best “oops” preventers I’ve seen in a while.

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Wiremold Legrand OFR Over-Floor Raceway: ADA Compliance Without the Bulky Cable Ramps

wiremold-ada-overfloor-racewayADA Compliance: it’s so important and so necessary, but it can also be a tough pill to swallow for business owners and facility managers who are on a tight budget. ADA compliance can be as simple as laying down some paint and installing signage to designate accessible parking spaces, or building a relatively inexpensive ramp to make an entranceway more easily traversable for mobility-challenged individuals who use wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and crutches to get around. But what if you have cables that lay across indoor pathways on a pretty much permanent basis?

Floor-level cords are a notorious tripping hazard even for people who are able to get around without any trouble. But add things like wheelchairs or crutches into the equation, and those cables not only become an obstacle to roll over, but also threaten to snag walking aids, which can cause the individuals using them to lose their balance and fall. Not to mention that rollovers and pedestrian trampling of any kind can crush and otherwise damage the cables. It’s a situation that you can’t ignore.

Several cord protector manufacturers have solved the problem of ADA compliance in the presence of floor cords (and even hoses and air lines) by creating a variety of heavy duty polyurethane cable covers with gently sloped sides that are textured for traction and accommodate wheelchairs without a problem. They’ve also come up with modular rails that can be attached to ADA-compliant cord protectors to create clearly marked crossing points that have the added advantage of providing hand-holds for people who’d like a little extra stability.

These are all outstanding products, but have the drawback of being a little too expensive, bulky and intrusive for environments like smaller retail stores, offices, and school media centers. While they’re perfect for large outdoor events, concert venues, and other large-scale applications, the heavy duty polyurethane products would just be overkill in situations that don’t include crowds in large, open spaces.

Enter the OFR Over-Floor Raceway by Legrand Wiremold. It’s every bit as ADA-compliant as its bulky counterparts, but with a scaled-down, low profile steel design that’s appropriate for just about any indoor business or educational environment. It can be installed over any type of flooring, and when all is said and done, it only rises a half inch above the floor surface, with sloped sides that ease the crossing of pedestrians, wheelchair users, and even small carts. People are protected, cables are protected, and no one goes broke in the process. You’ve gotta love that.

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HellermannTyton Swivel Clip Cable Ties: Easy Add-Ons in Any Direction

August 3, 2011 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Cable Ties, Clips and Grommets 

Holy swiveling cable ties.

When you’ve seen and used as many kinds of cable ties as I have, you can start to feel a little smug in your knowledge of zip tie-dom. Pathetic, but true. Whenever a purportedly “new” cable tie model rolls along, it somehow still seems all too familiar, in a “been there, done that” kind of way. Releasable? Check. Polymer-coated stainless? Yawn. UV-resistant? Are you actually showing me this?

Okay, maybe that least reaction was a little bit of an exaggeration, but you get where I’m going with this: there’s rarely anything truly “new” under the Sun. Well, “rarely” just happened.

HellermannTyton has come out with some extremely cool Swivel Clip cable ties. Up to now, we’ve had ties that can be nailed or screwed into drywall, ties with mounting brackets attached, and even ones with built-in flags that you can use to label cables. But never cable ties with swiveling clips. The other ones are good, but these are awesome.

If you’re wondering why on Earth someone would need clipping, swiveling cable ties, consider the fact that sometimes you just need to attach more cable to an existing wire harness, or maybe you want to run a hose or some wiring along a moving component. Swivel Clip cable ties make that easy because once you have your add-on cables bundled up within the tie, you just snap the clip onto another cable bundle, a support rod or narrow hose, and you’re in business.

What I really like is that the clip in question rotates a full 360 degress, so even after it’s snapped into place, you can keep turning/adjusting things until they’re aligned in the exact direction you need them to go in. No unsnapping the clip and trying again – just grab the whole bundle and turn. It’s almost too easy – but when is that ever a bad thing?

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swivel-clip-cable-tie

Lok-Kit I Computer Security Kit: Keep Your PC Where it Belongs – On Your Desk

August 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Computer Accessories 

byte-brothers-lok-kit-1I’m not really what you’d call a “stuff” person, but make no mistake: what possessions I have I like very much, and tend to get a lot of use out of. I take care of them so they’ll last, and would be extremely put out if some lowlife were to try and take them from me. This is especially true where my computer equipment is concerned. While it would be annoying to have to go out and buy a new printer, it would be downright tragic to have to replace an entire computer. That’s why I’m so taken with this little low-tech but brilliant security system from Byte Brothers.

The Lok-Kit I™ is a simple-to-use kit that gives your tech stuff an extra measure of protection while you’re not there to defend it in person- and it doesn’t even require an IP camera and remote viewing app for your iPhone. No, all it involves is some refreshingly low-tech flexible steel wire, a padlock, and a few lock plates – and there’s even some super-strength adhesive thrown in for fun (more on that later).

Byte Brothers’ Lok-Kit I™ works by letting you adhere small, grommeted steel plates onto a stationary object and pretty much any combination of your computer tower, screen, peripherals, after which you run the included steel cable through the grommets to attach everything, and give the ends of the cable a final lockdown with the kit’s padlock. This effectively secures multiple components together along a single locked loop of steel cable, and even gives you the ability to anchor everything to a heavier, more permanent object, like a desk.

How do those grommet-equipped steel plates stick to your computer equipment? Easy – with that industrial adhesive that I mentioned before. If you’re the type that can’t even look at a tube of Crazy Glue without getting your hands stuck together, don’t sweat it – this particular adhesive is pre-applied, so the lock plates are actually peel-and-stick. Easy.

After all of the peeling, sticking, and cable-threading is complete, what you have is a sturdy and effective deterrent to smash-and-grab type thefts that would typically rely on fast access to unsecured equipment. Unless those bad guys come prepared with some pretty serious cable-cutting equipment, your computer is staying right where it belongs.

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