Five Easy Ways to Eliminate Cable Clutter

On my desk I have five cables matched up with the miscellaneous smartphones and tablets that we own in our household; each of these cables is essential in order to charge each of these various devices. That means that, when one of these devices is being used, there is no weight to hold the charging end in place. Unfortunately, that often results in one of these cables falling behind the desk, which makes it necessary for me to get these old bones up and down as I try to locate the cable that has fallen out of sight — which can be a real chore.

Here are five possible solutions that can organize and streamline access to the various cords you need and thus make your life just a little less cluttered.

The first option is binder clips. These clips, which are available in the stationary department of your favorite superstore (office supply store), can be used to hold cables in place. They are also available online through Amazon and come in a variety of different sizes and colors so they can match any decor.

To use them, simply slip the cable through one end of the clip and attach the clip to your desktop. You need to measure the thickness of your desktop to determine the size of the binder clip you are going to need. (I found that the 1″ clips work best on my desktop.) Below is a picture of how using the binders will hold your cables in place.

Five Easy Ways to Eliminate Cable Clutter

Binder Clips

Along the same avenue is an inexpensive option called Everything Clips. My wife found them at Bed Bath & Beyond for under $2.00, but any specialty kitchen store should handle them (Amazon also has Everything Clips for about three bucks). Another advantage of Everything Clips is that they can be used everywhere. We have even used them to reseal potato chip bags.

Everything Clips

Five Easy Ways to Eliminate Cable Clutter

Everything Clip: Laptop Power Cable

A second option is to use thumbtacks and a rubber band. Once again, this is a relatively easy fix that will prevent your cables from slipping to the floor. Simply attach the rubber band between two thumbtacks and slip the cables through the rubber band. It’s that simple; no rocket scientist is required.

Five Easy Ways to Eliminate Cable Clutter

Thumbtack: Rubber Band Holder

A third option is to use foam pipe insulation. To use it, you need to measure the length of foam insulation to the length of the cable you wish to insert. Next, slip all of the cables inside the foam pipe insulation, threading the cables through until they exit at the other end or at a pre-measured split in the insulation. This type of insulation is normally sold in 6 ft. lengths or longer, and will hold as many cables as you like. Due to its length, you may wish to share the cost with a couple of friends (it will be long enough for each of you to use).

Five Easy Ways to Eliminate Cable Clutter

Foam Pipe Insulation

The fourth solution will please those of you who are green minded, since it gives you a way to recycle emptied toilet paper or paper towel tubes. I believe that the advantage of using them is obvious, as well as how the size will dictate which tube will work best to hide your cables or keep them from tangling. For short cables, you could get away with using a toilet paper tube. However, if you require a longer extension cord to keep your cords untangled or concealed, you would need to use a paper towel tube. For even longer or for multiple cable runs (charging cables, USB cables, network cables, and more), you may choose to use Christmas wrapping paper tubes to hide the clutter and keep cables together.

Five Easy Ways to Eliminate Cable Clutter

Toilet Paper Roll

The last option, one which can keep earbud cables untangled, is as simple as placing the earbuds on a hanger in your closet with the buds hanging down. Attach a few clothespins to add weight to the buds and hang them in your closet overnight. In the a.m., the earbuds should be untangled. :-)

Five Easy Ways to Eliminate Cable Clutter

Earbuds: Coat Hanger, Clothespins

After untangling my earbuds, it made me wonder if this would work on Christmas tree lights…

Do you have any tricks like these that you can share with us?

Comments welcome.

How to Run Long Lengths of FireWire Cable

LockerGnome reader Mike asks:

“Are there any secrets to running long lengths of FireWire cable?

Currently, the maximum reliable distance of a single FireWire cable is 15 feet (4.5 meters). Though some retailers carry 10 meter cables, these tend to be unreliable and sketchy at best. I’d recommend using a FireWire hub or repeater to accomplish this task. Using this, you can connect a 4.5 meter FireWire cable to the hub, and another 4.5 meter cable to the other end creating a solid reliable 9 meter connection.

Belkin makes a decent 6-port hub for this in case you want to hook up multiple devices without having to find a separate repeater for each device. The hub acts as a power source for these devices as well, reducing the chance of an issue from an overloaded FireWire port.

FireWire 6-Port Hub

For extremely long distances, you might want to consider a FireWire CAT5 repeater. This kind of repeater uses two separate devices that connect to each other through CAT 5 or 6 cable with ports on either end for a FireWire connection. Your device connects to one of the transceivers which connects to the other through the CAT 5 or 6 cable, and then to your machine using a final FireWire connection. These solutions can come with a price, but if you need to cover serious ground, it may be a worthwhile solution.

How To Cut The Cable And Watch TV Without A Monthly Fee

If you have cable, think for a second about the cost of your monthly bill. Then, write down the shows you watch on a regular basis. Are any of those shows on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, or FOX? Remove them from the list. Are any available online easily? Remove those as well. What remains is all that you’re paying the cable company for. However high your bill is, whether it’s $40, $80 or more, you are probably paying too much for watching television.

What follows is a basic guide to cutting the cord. If you’re willing to spend some time getting your set-up right, you can save hundreds of dollars a month by saying NO to cable subscriptions and taking your media consumption into your own hands. Sure, it might not be as effortless as cable and there will be a few things some will miss that aren’t available streaming, but for a lot of people the money saved is more than worth it. Let’s begin:

1. The Trusty Antenna

Rabbit ears were a thing of the past until digital TV brought them roaring back. Before digital television, TV signals through an antenna were fuzzy, looked terrible, and were prone to interference. With the digital switchover, however, all of that changed. Now every local station is broadcasting over the air in glorious uncompressed HD, and in most cases it looks even better than HD from your cable provider. Sound comes in 5.1 surround sound, and any HDTV with a TV tuner can pull in the basic broadcast channels for free.

The tricky part with an antenna is buying the right one and putting it in the right place. AntennaWeb is an excellent resource that can help you out. Enter your address and you can see how far and in which directions the broadcast towers are away from you, and how powerful of an antenna you’ll need to pull them in. For people living close to the towers, a basic $10 RCA antenna should do the trick. If you live further away and need a little bit more power, an amplified antenna like this Terk model might be better.

Plug the antenna into your TV and do a channel scan and see what you get. In most cases, you’ll be able to get ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and FOX. You might need to mess with the positioning and direction of your antenna to get everything, but with a little bit of work and tinkering, you’ll be watching your favorite broadcast shows in HD without a monthly fee.

2. Streaming and Downloaded Media

For shows that aren’t available on broadcast television, there’s also plenty of streaming options. From standalone boxes like the Roku and Apple TV to full blown Home Theater PC’s and the Mac Mini, there are options for everyone on any end of the technological spectrum.

For the best access to streaming media, your best option is a full-blown PC or Mac hooked up to your TV. This will allow for streaming from individual TV show websites as well as sites like Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube. You can also play downloaded movies and TV shows, which is a feature that most standalone boxes are lacking. The Mac Mini is the most integrated and compact solution, but hardware geeks like myself can build their own HTPC for less money. If you’re not concerned about looks, really any tower with enough power will fit the bill. The easiest way to hook up a Home Theater PC to your TV is through an HDMI video card, highly recommended for anyone building their own.

Media software for HTPC’s is plentiful, some use Windows Media Center which is installed by default on Windows 7, others like XBMC, MediaPortal, or Plex for Mac. The best part about these apps is that they are all free, so you can try them out and decide which one you like best.

If you’re not wanting to go the route of a theater PC, the Roku box is another solid choice. With Amazon, Hulu Plus and Netflix streaming, you’ll be able to get a significant chunk of the content you’ll be able to get on a HTPC, but not all. Once you have your setup ready to go, Moki.TV is an excellent directory of what is streaming where, so you can find out how to get your favorite shows.

3. Live Sports and Other Potential Drawbacks

While cord-cutting can be great for most TV watchers, the one area that hasn’t totally caught up is live sports. Of course, the biggest events are on broadcast TV and if your ISP supports ESPN3, that can be a great option, but it doesn’t cover everything.

ESPN3 does not carry ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast, for example, and if you’re a fan of a team that isn’t regularly on broadcast television the lower-tier sports channels like FSN and Versus rarely have official streaming options. College Football and College Basketball junkies might want to think this one through before canceling their cable, as you might miss more games than you want and be forced to find bootleg streams of questionable quality.

The other place where streaming hasn’t quite caught up is with children’s programming. It’s hard to find streams of full shows on networks like Nick, Cartoon Network, and the Disney Channel. If you cut the cord with a kid around, it will be hard to find age-appropriate material on many streaming sites, and DVDs will be your only option.

The age of insane cable bills seems to be behind us. With over the air HD and streaming solutions up the wazoo, there is less and and less need for a cable box piping pre-selected programming into your tube. Netflix, ESPN3, and Hulu put the content at your fingertips when you want it, and the empowerment feels great for most people. So go, cut the cord, and make sure to let us know how it goes for you.

Would Bundling Your TV, Cell Phone And Electric Bill Make Sense To You?

In the town where I live, the bundling of utilities and billing are handled by the city. Our electric, garbage, water, trash and sewer are billed on a single bill. When I lived in California, each of these services were billed individually requiring separate payment for each service. Now some are predicting the possibility that we could see a bundling of services not only for utilities, but also for cell phone, TV, Internet and other services.

We have seen how cable companies ventured into providing Internet services and have expanded their offering to include phone services as well. This bundling of services by a single entity usually are advertised as a savings to consumers. If you purchase a bundling of services the company usually provides some type of discount on your monthly bill.

In a recent article it stated:

Bundling utility services into cellular and cable TV packages has begun in Australia and some other parts of the world, but it could spread. The idea is both simple and radical at the same time. Power and water are commodities delivered through monthly service contracts, just like Internet service.

When I first read this article the first thought that popped into my mind was Google. For years Google was the search king, but in recent years has expanded into other areas. Google Android now is said to be a commanding leader in software for smart phones, surpassing Apple. Google has also ventured into the computer market with their Chrome netbook, is developing a remote-controlled car, and is also become a venture capitalist interested in the development of a smart grid.

So is Google also in the electricity business? Google has developed their own solar panel grid to power the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA., that supplement their electricity usage. So Google is no strange when it comes to electricity and could venture into the electrical market in the near future.

I guess my main question would be is if you did purchase electricity from your cable company, who would repair the transmission lines during a power outage?

What do you think about the merging of cable and utilities?

Comments welcome.

Source – ecomagination

AudioQuest Coffee 6.6′ HDMI Cable For Only $695.99 & Free Shipping

Best Buy has an awesome sale on the AudioQuest – Coffee 6.6′ HDMI Cable for only $695.99 and free shipping. On the Best Buy site they describe the cables as:

This HDMI cable features solid silver-plated long-grain copper conductors and a dielectric-bias system to reduce jitter and distortion.

Could this be a typo? I went to the AudioQuest web site and downloaded their price listing for U.S. retail pricing. Sure enough the recommended retail price is $695 for this particular HDMI cable.

I did some checking over at the Amazon web site and found they were selling AudioQuest K2 terminated speaker cable – UST plugs 8′ long for $6,800.

I am sure both of these products are top of the line in quality.

I just bought a 6′ HDMI cable from Amazon several weeks ago for $7.00 opting for their in store Basic brand .

Has anyone used either of these cables? If so, please share your experience with us.

Comments welcome.

Source – Best Buy – Link to AudioQuest HDMI Cable

Source – AudioQuest

Source – Amazon – Link to AudioQuest Speaker Cable

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How Do You Feel About Broadband?

Ars Technica reported that 23% of U.S. households don’t have Internet anywhere in the house? Why not? many people just don’t see the need for this “Internet” thing at all. Really? Lamarr thinks broadband should just be something in the house like electricity, water, and heat service so that it’s just normal to have.

The largest reason is listed as a lack of interest in the Internet, with cost being second. Stop spending so much money on dinners out and get yourself online instead. Broadband should be a required utility in the house like water or heat.

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How can someone not want to be connected to the Internet? The world is out there. You can find everything online. Don’t you want to expand your mind and your opportunities?

Do you think these 23% are living in the dark ages, are ignorant, or are they on to something? Maybe the Internet causes more problems than it’s worth. I’m just playing Devil’s Advocate here; leave a comment below.

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Hired To Help People Bail On Cable

There should be an image here!Every time someone learns that I watch Hulu through my laptop via VGA to my TV set, the first question is “can you help me do that so I can cancel cable?” Clearly, there is something to consider here, both as an audience tired of being fleeced by insane cable/satellite costs, in addition to the appeal of getting TV for free or cheap… like we did when I was a kid.

At age 37, I vividly remember getting up as a child to warm up my TV for Saturday morning cartoons. To make sure my selection was not disturbed in any way, I would actually remove the “knob” from the TV set to guarantee my brother would not change the channel during an episode of my favorite cartoon show. Back then, the idea of paying for TV was not in the realm of reality of most people. 99% of the country was using a crazy contraption called broadcast TV. It cost us nothing other than time to warm up the TV set and maybe a pair of rabbit ears.

Flash forward to now. I think people are yearning for this simplicity once again. And settop devices, along with physical computers attached, do provide us with the ability to forego TV options of the 20th century once and for all.

The problem is, are they really ready for it? Do people understand that by going to a TV setup where you cannot simply have it running in the background with shows you’re not watching is where they’d be headed? On-demand TV is very different than cable or even broadcast TV. The obvious compromise, I guess, is a mixture of HD broadcast and on-demand options with Hulu, Netflix, and so on.

So no, I will not be available for hire as my friends and neighbors have asked me. Not because I cannot provide what they are asking for. Rather, because I realize its limitations are not always considered by those making the request. Once Hulu Plus comes to Roku (this fall), however, despite it being a little more limited in content than on the PC, I might reconsider setting folks up with my current home setup.

[Photo above by ellenm1 / CC BY-ND 2.0]


Extreme Measures For Decent Internet Connectivity

There should be an image here!Like everyone, I hear people complaining about the lack of broadband choices in their area. Having been one of these people in my recent past — stuck with cable only at the time — I feel their pain. But what about broadband access for those who are completely devoid of any cable or DSL options, much less access to fiber?

At this site, I was alerted to one guy who needed a solution for his telecommuting needs so he could keep his software company going, even while at home. It’s a grand idea, but as you can see from the above link, getting something up tall enough to hit a wireless repeater is something of an art in and of itself.

What remains a bit of a mystery here is which ISP is being used. I know of some wireless ISPs (not the usual 4G types) in parts of southern Washington and northern Oregon, but in the boonies of Indiana, I’ve no idea as the site neglects to share this tidbit.

At the end of the day though, it reflects what can be done with a small investment, LOTS of time, along with some elbow grease and a pass from the FCC. Want wireless Internet? Chances are even in the boonies, there may be options if you are willing to make the commitment to the effort.

[awsbullet:wireless broadband essential]

First Pictures – Apple iPhone 4 Bursts Into Flames

I just read on the BGR Web site that the first reported case of an Apple iPhone 4 catching fire has been reported. The user had the iPhone connected to their computer using the supplied cable via a USB port. The pictures show that the cable and port connection to the iPhone had been damaged and it appears the phone may not be repairable. The article also stated that:

An Apple Store did confirm to our AT&T connection that this did appear to be a defective USB port and not some sort of user error. Our source went onto say that the phone bezel was extremely hot (obviously), and it slightly burned the customers hand. The USB port in the phone was slightly melted and the cord was badly melted (as is apparent in the pictures). Hopefully this is the only time we see our beloved iPhones meet a fiery death. We’ve got one more picture for you after the break.

I am always skeptical when an alleged ‘first report’ is made, since it could just be someone wanting attention. I believe that it is too early to confirm the validity of the report, until other reports are made. You could get the same result by holding a lighter to the cable and phone.

Comments welcome.

Source – BGR web site

Fastest ISPs In The US

There should be an image here!I remember way back when I first discovered this new thing called “broadband” Internet. The idea was awesome: Faster connections, near instant Web page load speeds, and the ability to download email to my email client in mere seconds instead of minutes. Those were exciting times. Back in those days, we had a cable company some of you might remember as TCI. Later on, it was bought out by AT&T and then eventually, here in my area, became what we know as Comcast today. I don’t really pretend to understand the specifics, but this is what we here in western Washington found happening in front of our very eyes.

It was also interesting to watch both the adoption of high speed Internet keeping pace with the newly placed importance on ISP speed, as well. Remember, when cable Internet first started becoming popular, most people were thrilled to have something faster than dial-up. Whatever that meant was besides the point. My, how times have changed.

Flash forward into today and we have plenty of ISP choices — venue allowing, of course. Most places have access to cable Internet these days, and others have the secondary choice of DSL, too. And for the super-fortunate lucky enough to have yet a third option to choose from, there are now areas that provide fiber Internet right to the front door. I am thrilled to say I fall into the latter category of access to everything, including fiber (FiOS by Verizon here).

Having had used all types of Internet from various point to point wireless options, DSL and cable, I will go on record in saying that my experiences with fiber based Internet access has nothing short of a stellar experience. Yes, everyone’s mileage will vary. My mom is a big fan of Comcast due to how well she has been treated by its techs and customer service, so everyone has a different take here. But my experience with Verizon has been positive — likely due to me never needing to call for outages or billing issues. Simply put, I never experienced either in the two years I have lived in my home here. The only time my FiOS Internet went out was actually because the cat unplugged the modem. No phone calls needed there!

So where does all of this come from? What do we place the most importance on — speed or customer service? Having been a once long time cable customer and now, a happy fiber based ISP customer, my perspective on ISP value are as follows. I’d just as soon avoid the need to call into for customer service in the first place. Auto-bill my credit card, keep the lines up and running and spare me the “friendly voice” on the other end of the line. I am simply looking for the best overall experience possible.

How can this be expanded on? By taking some additional steps on your own end. Avoid cheap consumer routers. If you must use them, set up the routing and Wi-Fi with different devices. Many ISP provided boxes/modems have routing options built in. Use them, while using your consumer level router for Wi-Fi access. I have found this completely eliminated router reboots and freezing. This proved successful with both DSL and fiber based connections. For cable connections, try modem to router to WAP. Keep the heat in the WAP and not where you are routing local connections throughout your home.

[Photo above by eyesplash Mikul / CC BY-ND 2.0]


Verizon Won’t Block P2P

There should be an image here!Seems like Verizon is taking an interesting stance on allowing its subscribers to use P2P networks. It is saying that, unlike Comcast, it’d never block them. Now, obviously, this doesn’t mean a green light to software, movie, and video game piracy — rather, that folks such as myself who use P2P options like BitTorrent can download legitimate things like Linux distros without fear of being cut off.

Now this is not to say that every ISP that says no to throttling and other interference, both private and government based, is worth applauding. I will say this, however: it beats the heck out of having everything metered to death.

I think that Comcast, like many cable companies, has a lot of nice people working in its offices. But its service is not something that I will be seeking out any time in the near future. This is not because I am being unfair — rather, the fact that my own needs are not being addressed by Comcast and companies like Comcast means that I am a very satisfied Verizon FiOS subscriber. You couldn’t pay me to use cable again.

[Photo above by takomabibelot / CC BY-ND 2.0]


How Do You Power Your Devices?

I really hate cables. I like that they can power up my devices, but I don’t like looking at them all day long. That is why I keep them tucked away out of sight. I was disappointed when I got my iPad recently, because it needs 10 watts of power to charge. My then-current Macbook Pro didn’t support that much output, so I had to charge through a regular electrical outlet. What a kluge that was!

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Thankfully, Targus sent me their Premium Laptop Power system to review. This little charger is about half the size and weight of a standard one. This makes it perfect to take with me on the road. It comes with 9 laptop tips, a mini-USB tip for cell phones or cameras and an iPod/iPhone/iPad tip. This makes it seriously versatile, and even allows you to charge two different devices at once. It is powerful enough to charge your laptop AND your phone at the same time.

You know how you plug a large charger into a power strip and it then blocks one (or more) of the other empty slots? This annoys me to no end. With this particular charger, though, you won’t have that issue anymore. The prongs rotate 180 degrees, making it easy for you to adjust it to best fit your needs.

The charger includes a portable auto adapter so that you can charge up your devices as you motor to your next destination.

I haven’t had the pleasure of using a charger that is better than this one. It’s powerful enough to do what I need it to do. It’s small enough to carry with me wherever I need to go. And – it actually looks good! How often am I able to say that about a device such as this? You know I’m all about having my gadgets look right in my office.

[awsbullet:targus laptop charger]

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Cable Extensions for your iPod, iPad or iPhone

My iPad tends to run out of juice pretty quickly. My MacBook only passes along five watts of power, and the iPad needs ten watts to recharge itself. I could use the wall plug-in, but that would require stringing yet another cord all over my office. Thankfully, the people at RadTech sent along this DockExtender cable for me to review.

This cable will work on any Apple product that requires the 30-pin connector, including the iPhone and iPod. This cable is basically a male-female adapter that will allow me to extend any iPad cable.

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It works. If you’re looking to extend your experience, you now know where to look.

I have to thank our friends at RadTech for passing this along, and for the other products they sent me to review with my iPad. Keep your eyes open in the coming days for those review videos.

Build Your Own ISP

Simply rolling out your own ISP is a fascinating concept. And I suppose for large businesses, large neighborhood associations, etc., it may very well be a viable option based on what I have seen here. As the article points out, there is a significant challenge when trying to round up enough people in a nearby vicinity as to have a buy option for a connection that can be translated into something “ISP” worthy. But I think the idea is cool, though.

Now the article goes into the whole Net Neutrality thing, which I think gets too deep into politics and so I’ll leave that to the individual readers to sort that out themselves. But simply from a perspective of choice, having apartment buildings, companies, etc., all offering their own flavor of ISP would be fantastic as it might mean that these individual groups could set the rules on how their pipes are being used, instead of a single company.

So what say you? Hit us up here in the comments and let us know what you think of rolling your own ISP. If you had the means, would you undertake such a task?

[awsbullet:101 Internet Businesses You Can Start from Home]

Sorry, No FiOS For You!

Well this stinks… for those who don’t already have access to a fiber based connection. Worse is I have seen Qwest, among others, not moving at all. So even outside of Verizon territories, the likelihood of seeing anything better than that old copper cable is simply not happening. But how about blazing fast 1.5 DSL! Yeah, this is the fastest option Qwest offers in my mom’s neck of the woods. Did I mention this is a town nearly twice the size of the one I live in? Sad, Qwest…

Now I totally understand Verizon’s concern — money is tight and it has spent a lot of it on advertising for its existing FiOS offerings. I mean, I actually shook my head at a guy here next door who was getting cable added for Internet based on some idiot ad he found on TV. It wasn’t even cheaper! We have FiOS boxes on our homes, yet this individual opted for the power of 1980s copper!

But I digress. So what can Verizon do to help get some of that FiOS love in its areas that simply cannot not afford all of the manpower needed? Well, geeks are not above shoveling dirt for the promise of a little more fiber (Internet) in their diet! Obviously the hardcore stuff has to be done by pros, but surely Verizon could offset some of the cost through a newspaper announcement to the geeks of the area to pick up their shovels and help make FiOS happen in their home town? Okay, on the best day this is likely entirely too Utopian to ever happen or even be practical. That said, at least it would allow those set to cable or worse, some kind of hope for broadband with speeds comparable to elsewhere.

[awsbullet:verizon fios]