It’s official: LEDs have taken over, and are now making products that have always been cool or useful even more amazing with the addition of lights that practically never burn out. First it was appliance displays, followed by Christmas lights and HDTVs. And now: patch cords?
Meet EVO6™ Self-Tracing Patch Cords from Mertek. I’ll confess, my first (too quick) glance at the name brought on a cringe-worthy thought of Rachael Ray cheerful rasping on about EVOO (for you non-Food Network afficionados, that’s a pseudo-cutesy acronym for extra virgin olive oil), but that soon gave way to rapt admiration for the genius that is EVO6. EVO6™ patch cords are Cat6 (hence the “6″ part of their name), but that’s beside the point: all you really need to know is that their connectors have build-in LEDs, and that you use said LEDs to instantly trace the patch cords and find their precise connection points… at both ends.
The process is easy, because in addition to LEDs being built into both connectors of each patch cord, there’s also a tiny built-in button on the cord boot. Push it, and the LEDs are instantly activated, meaning that your patch cord will be blinking red at both ends. No feeling your way along the cable’s length, no guessing, no need for additional cable tracers - just push a button and you’re done.
Sounds like you just freed up a lot of time… maybe now you can catch up on Rachael Ray and her EVOO.
There’s something about the word “custom” that always seems to make my heart beat a little faster, but then again, who doesn’t drool at the thought of something being made just for them? For example, I love both books and creative architectural details, and there’s this house in a historic neighborhood not far from where I live, which I’ve affectionately come to refer to as “bookshelf house” in honor of the gorgeous custom built-in bookcases (they’re even lit, mind you) that are visible to passers-by when the house is lit up at night. You’re just driving along, glancing casually at the passing homes, and then suddenly you get an eyeful of perfectly painted crimson walls set off by semi-ornate white bookshelves almost artistically loaded with a small library’s worth of reading material. I can never resist giving that sight a longing, head-turning glance, and it’s almost always inevitably followed by me returning home, walking into my guest room, and staring with disgust at the twin particleboard deals holding a hodgepodge of paperbacks and dust. I like to think that the owners of Bookshelf House must feel pretty darn smug.
While this particular example of custom lust is probably a little too old-school and tech-free for a blog that deals primarily with gadgets and cables, here’s something that’s not: Field-terminable HDMI cable from BTX Technologies. Whether you’re fed up with home theater cables that are always longer than you need them to be or are just Jonesing for something made with only you and your sweet A/V setup in mind, you’ll definitely want to take notice.
BTX’s field-terminable cables are rated to HDMI 1.3 standards, and come in either round or ribbon styles, depending on whether you’re planning on bundling them with neighboring cords (choose round), or routing them flat along the wall (that would be ribbon). The bulk cables are simply measured to the exact length you need (no more paying for or cable-managing a bunch of useless slack) and terminated with specially designed crimp-on connectors that achieve an even stronger connection than soldering.
Both the round and ribbon-style home theater cables are made to be ultra flexible, so they can take most tight bends and curves without risking breakage or attenuation. Durability is further enhanced by the connectors’ additional extended plastic boot and strain relief, which gives your HDMI cables extra support just where they need it most.
Custom is now better than ever.
Cat5e cable is generally not one of those things that makes me stop and go “Oooooh!” Personally, I use it every day without even thinking about it, kind of like lip balm or tissues. I spend 8 hours a day sitting at a laptop whose Cat5e Ethernet cable provides me with a vital Internet connection and is never more than an inch or two from my left hand, yet I never give it even a second of thought or attention unless I need to unplug it to pack up my computer. How’s that for appreciation?
I have to say, though, that my interest and admiration were piqued yesterday afternoon when I met the newest network cable to join our lineup. Cicoil® (pronounced “see-coil”) Shielded Cat5e cable is very uniquely designed for use in manufacturing facilities, labs, and anywhere else where it’s likely to be attached to moving machinery and subject to some serious EMI/RFI. What makes it so fascinating are the totally flat design and the ultra-flexible clear silicone jacket that envelopes the shielded conductors.
The silicone is extremely durable, but has a somewhat jelly-like flexibility and stretchability that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a cable jacket. It’s a big part of what makes Cicoil Cat5e resilient enough to withstand up to 10,000,000 motion cycles (perfect for use with automated machinery that’s in near-perpetual motion), and clean/non-polluting enough to use in laboratories and cleanrooms that require RoHS-compliant materials. And since silicone is great at resisting water, fire and chemicals, this shielded Cat5e is good to go in even the harshest environments.
Because it’s such a specialized cable, Cicoil is sold be the foot, so you can order just what you need, without worrying about wasting money on extra that won’t be used. While it comes unterminated in standard orders, you also have the option of paying a little extra to have it factory-terminated to your specifications. Either way, you’re get something very, very good.
As I’ve kept a close eye on every new product to join our lineup, one thing has become abundantly clear: if you need to oops-proof your data connections, keep vandals away from patch panels, save space in a server enclosure, or otherwise add a combined element of convenience and genius to your data center, Black Box® products are the ones to turn to. If you’ve ever thought, “hey, you know what would be great?”, they’ve probably already come with it, or have it in the works.
I thought they had already hit the height of revolutionary patch cord design when they came out with one that had a 90-degree angled connector, but it gets better: they just introduced the LockPORT™ locking patch cord, a network cable that, once plugged in, can’t be yanked out of its port accidentally or purposefully. Thanks to special little locks that slide into each connector and require actual effort to remove, they perfectly embody a little concept that I like to call “removal only with approval.”
LockPORT™ patch cords are available in Cat5e and Cat6, and give you the choice of two different levels of protection: security lock, and keyed lock. The first, involving a green security lock, is designed to guard against accidental unplugs, the kind that might happen if you were to inadvertently tug on a patch cord that’s adjacent to another cable you’re working on, or if a moving object snagged onto a cable and pulled it out of its port. You release the security lock by pinching its two sides together and pulling it out of the connector.
The other (keyed) lock type is red, and while it slides easily into place like the green lock, it takes more effort and a special tool to disengage and remove it. This lock style prevents both accidental unplugs as well as tampering by vandals or other unauthorized users.
What’s very cool about LockPORT™ patch cords is that their locks can be interchanged to create any type of locking configuration you need. This feature is extremely convenient, because in many cases it will allow you to customize as needed, without necessarily having to purchase a slew of new patch cords. Very nice.
I’m getting the feeling that I’m on kind of a minimalist jag this week. Only yesterday I was talking up the virtues of small and incredibly simple cord organizer, and today, we’re exploring the “less-is-more” advantages of what happen to be the shortest USB cables I’ve ever set eyes on. Meet the Extra Connectors.
Made by BlueLounge® Designs, the not-so-evil geniuses behind some of the hottest and most functional charging stations on the market, Extra Connectors are foot-long USB cables (yes, you got that right, they’re only 12 inches) that let you add extra connectors to BlueLounge Charging Stations that have spare USB ports, or just plug small devices into your laptop without the hassle of an extra 5 feet of USB cable cluttering up your workspace.
I don’t know if this is just the first time I’ve come across cables this short, or if it’s been going on forever without my knowledge, but to be quite honest, I don’t care – the whole concept is brilliant. Think about it. When you want to connect, say, your digital camera to your laptop to import photos, do you really need a 6-foot USB cable? No! In reality, you’re setting your camera down about a foot away from your computer, and then working around the pile of cable slack. Inconvenience for a greater benefit is one thing, but fighting a needlessly, wastefully long cable for elbow room is pretty much insane.
Extra Connectors are compatible with over 1,500 devices, from a lineup of manufacturers that include Nokia, Sony Ericsson, LG, Samsung, Palm, Sony, Nintendo, and Motorola. With the odds that they’ll work for you being so good, you’ve definitely got to give one a try. You won’t miss the cable slack – I promise.
Filed under: Cables and Wires, Power and Data Distribution
Not too long ago, I blogged about an extremely cool extension cord lock that’s able to internally secure connected power extensions to prevent accidental pull-aparts. An amazing concept and product, but one that’s really better left to pros who work with power tools on a daily basis, than to a mere DIY weekend warrior like me. It’s the kind of thing that I’d love to use in the yard and garage, but considering the fact that it needs to be hardwired onto your main extension cord, this particular plug lock was just a little too hardcore and industrial for my needs.
Just as I was beginning to think that extension cord locking was out of my league, the Angel-Guard® Cord Connect™ Plug Protector waltzed in the room – only a couple of days ago, in fact. Now this is something that any homeowner or handy type can really sink their teeth into (not literally, of course). Instead of installing permanently and working internally, this plug protector forms a protective shield around joined extension cord plugs, to keep them together while blocking out water and contaminants like dust, dirt, sawdust, and grass clippings. And best of all, it’s not permanent – when you don’t need it, just remove it and toss it into a drawer until next time.
But enough of that – let’s get down to how it works. The Cord Connect™ has a hinged, shell-like design that’s equipped with a cord pass-through at each end. To use it, just insert joined extension cord plugs into the connector chamber, and route each cord out through its respective pass-through. Once that’s done, just fold the Angel-Guard’s halves together, snap it closed, and go on your way.
The Angel-Guard® Cord-Connect™ is perfect for times when you’re doing yard work that involves things like electrical hedge trimmers, running some garden/party lights to brighten up a cook-out, or throwing an outdoor kids’ party with the kind of fun stuff (bounce houses and cotton candy machines, anyone?) that needs plugging in. Once it’s in place, you can keep your mind on the work or play at hand, instead of worrying that someone’s going to snag a foot on your extension cords and pull them apart, or that some stray water from the Slip ‘N Slide is going to get on the plugs and cause a short.
Kind of a relief, isn’t it?
Filed under: Cables and Wires, Power and Data Distribution
Most people out there (including, most likely, you) would be hard-pressed to derive joy and excitement from something as mundane as an extension cord. But after 4+ years focusing on the ins and out of the cabling world, I’ve reached the point where I actually find certain power extensions interesting, even (dare I say it?) cool. And whereas it could be off-putting to others if I were to babble on in person about the amazing attributes of a given extension cable, I’m not directly subject to weird looks if I talk about them in this blog… so lucky me, and here goes! I promise, you’re going to like this one, too.
Coleman Cables is known for producing some of the most well-made, thoughtfully designed extension cords on the market, and the Cord Runner™ is no exception. I’m just sorry that I didn’t meet this product in time to introduce you to it in time for outdoor holiday decorating! If you’ve ever been hanging lights just to wish you had power outlets at regular intervals, then the Cord Runner™ definitely has New Best Friend potential for you.
Unlike most extension cords that plug into a wall outlet on one end, and provide you with a couple of outlets at the other, the Cord Runner™ extension cord actually has 3 outlets spaced out along its length, so you have convenient power access points staggered all the way from Point A to Point B. An outlet setup like this can be a huge asset not only for the holiday decorating I mentioned before, but also for jobs that require several power tools to be available at the same time, yet spaced slightly apart.
The Cord Runner™ is available in lengths ranging from 6 to 50 feet, so no matter what the scale of your job is, there’s a cord to suit it. And here’s another great feature: all 3 outlets are molded out of clear plastic, with protective flaps to keep out dirt and moisture, as well as a neon power indicator light embedded into each one. When power is running through a receptacle, the entire outlet glows to let you know that. It increases the safety of the cord, and makes it look good too, which never hurts.
If 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.
Filed under: Cables and Wires, Electrical, Power and Data Distribution
Being a small house dweller, I’ve found that no matter which room I arrange furniture in, something inevitably ends up pushed against a wall. Not that I wouldn’t love to have stylish little furniture groupings in the middle of the room, it’s just that the rooms I’m currently in possession of don’t have enough “middle” to allow that. So whether we’re talking the bed, dresser, couch or bistro table, they’re all getting pretty cozy with the outer perimeters of the rooms they live in.
While those up close and personal wall/furniture relationships aren’t so much a problem in and of themselves, the fact that there always happens to be a much-needed power outlet right where I need to position the latest IKEA purchase is getting to be a bummer. Sure, you can always leave said piece of furniture a few inches away from the wall, but with use, everything ends up weaseling its way right up to the wall, and I don’t want to have to worry about constantly making sure that plugs aren’t being squashed beyond the point of recognition and safety.
That’s why that FlatPlug® low-profile extension cord is about to make my life so much easier. True to its name, this handy power extension has a truly flat plug that won’t jut out from the wall and start a turf war with your furniture. That means you can arrange a room as you see fit, and still enjoy the modern conveniences of electricity without worrying about starting an electrical fire. Sounds good to me.
I have a problem. In the grand scheme of things, it’s no big whoop, but nonetheless, it’s kind of annoying. You see, fellow music fans, all the good stuff is on my iPod®. Forget about the 200 or so CDs that used to be the life of my stereo. No, I’ve gone and imported all the good songs off those babies, combined them with a few choice iTunes® downloads of things I didn’t yet own, and now a magically eclectic mix of my faves has become the new standard of listening pleasure. Trouble is, I can only enjoy the soundtrack of my life if I wedge a couple of earbuds in, and I prefer to leave that for the gym or a long flight.
This is probably the part where you’re thinking, “Just buy an iPod dock already, you moron.” And now it’s my turn to reply with 3 of the most stubbornly immature words on the planet: “No. Don’t wanna.” You see, I like my stereo. I don’t want to shell out to replace it with an accessory that can only be used with an iPod. One that may even run the risk of sounding tinny or otherwise too small. And so I’ve painted myself into that gym-and-airplane-only corner, just waiting for something better to come along.
Well, it appears that that something has just hit the scene, thanks to the people who understand at Cables to Go®. They’ve created an iPod-to-stereo RCA adapter cable that lets you hook up your favorite Apple companion not only to stereos, but to TVs and home theater receivers as well. iTunes on Surround Sound® – sweet! My favorite part is that the dock connector synchronizes the audio settings of your iPod and whatever other device it’s attached to, so you can raise and lower the music with the stereo or TV’s volume controls.
Sorry, this item has been discontinued.