Archives for Cable Clutter
BlueLounge Design, the maker of the SpaceStation we wrote about back in March, is now selling a product called the CableBox. It’s basically just a plastic box (available in either white or black) designed to hold a power-strip inside to help contain cable clutter.
We admit this seems overpriced and ordinarily we would be tempted to find a simpler and less-expensive solution to the problem. That said, we’re hesitant to pile electrical cables inside anything not expressly designed for that intended purpose. So it’s worth considering, irrespective of the price. It’s also nice to have a more flexible alternative to the Belkin Concealed Surge Protecter, which requires you to use its own integrated power-strip.
During a recent visit to Chicago, I took some time to setup a Home Theater PC for my parents, which they now use to watch Blu-ray movies and television programs streamed over the web.
Unfortunately, the effective range of their old wireless keyboard and mouse was just shy of the distance between the PC and the sofa. It was also somewhat frustrating to have to use the optical mouse either on the upholstry or a on a knee. A better solution was clearly warranted.
I was very pleased to eventually find the Logitech Cordless Mediaboard Pro. It has an integrated trackpad, so the mouse problem was eliminated. Bluetooth connectivity gives the device a range of about 30 feet, which now lets them use it from anywhere in the room.
Although this keyboard is marketed for the PlayStation 3, it works just fine with a Mac or a PC.
In addition to being a cable-free solution, it’s also better looking than most Bluetooth keyboards.
Artist Christoph Niemann reflected on his relationship with cables and wires on the New York Times blog Abstract City. His distain for cable clutter is right at home with Unclutterer and I’m sure many of you will enjoy it.
The whimsical art that Niemann creates incorporates actual cables with his illustrations. From the blog:
I don’t even want to get started about the endless varieties of cables, chargers and adapters out there. My biggest frustration stems from a much simpler problem: I use a lot of extension cords with multiple sockets. Although these cords are obviously designed to power six cables, I can barely squeeze in three, since most electronic equipment nowadays seems to sport absurdly large plugs. This reminds me of some very inconsiderate folks one so often encounters on the subway.
Thanks to reader Emily for bringing this to our attention.
If making a charging station (like we recommended earlier this morning) isn’t up your alley, then we know of a product that might interest you. One of our Twitter followers tipped us off to The Power Shelf:
I especially like one of their products that is currently in development. It’s a PowerShelf for hair appliances like curling irons, straighteners, and blow dryers.
I’ve been thinking a great deal about do-it-yourself projects lately (the economy has that effect on me), and wanted to share a favorite find. Blogger Zakka Life posted directions on her site for creating a cell phone charging station out of an old lotion bottle:
Simple, recycled, and space saving — a trifecta of uncluttering!
Thanks to reader Adora for the initial link.
Reader John submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
I am mounting a flat screen TV over my fireplace and the cable and electric receptacles are several feet away. What is the best way to eliminate the cable clutter in order to give it a clean look?
The first thing I need to say is that mounting a flat screen television above a fireplace almost always nullifies the warranty (even if you don’t use the fireplace, and even if it’s gas).
Secondly, codes in your area might require that you install a plug immediately behind your television above your fireplace. In many states, it is against code to have exposed wires above a fireplace. I know this is true in Virginia because two of my close friends learned this when they recently had their homes inspected.
Noting these two things, it is best for me to recommend that you hire a licensed electrician to: 1. Wire a new outlet above your fireplace, and 2. Wire HDMI cables (an any other cables you need) back through the wall to a nearby outlet. You might also consider hiring a professional installer to ensure that your TV is well secured to the wall.
You will still need a component console to hold your DVR, cable box, Blu-Ray player, or whatever boxes you want to connect to your TV. Set up your component station next to the HDMI wired outlet. Then, replace the damaged drywall, paint up the patches, and call it a day (or, more likely, a week).
You will have to decide if putting a TV over the fireplace is really worth it: Your TV instantly goes out of warranty, you have to pay a licensed electrician to install a new outlet that is up to code, you have to repair your wall, and you still need a console in the room to hold your components. But, for some people, the time, effort, and expense will be worth it.
Thank you, John, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.
Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.
News hit Tuesday that 17 phone manufacturers have agreed to use Micro-USB chargers on all phones by 2012. According to ZDNet, “Companies signed up to the initiative include Nokia, Motorola, Orange, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, T-Mobile, 3, Telefónica and Vodafone. HTC was not on the list of compliant companies in the announcement, but an HTC spokesperson told ZDNet UK on Tuesday that the manufacturer will participate in the scheme.”
I love the idea of a single charger being able to power multiple devices, but I worry that this announcement is a little too late. In three years’ time, devices like mobile phones might best be charged with cable-free technology, like “WITricity” or Powermats.
Another unsettling point is that many of the smart phone makers didn’t sign onto this agreement. Palm, Blackberry, and Apple aren’t among those on the participation list. I don’t see Apple changing their docking systems to Micro-USB in three years.
I definitely believe that this is a move in the right direction. A single power cord is a brilliant idea. However, I worry that Micro-USB may be an irrelevant standard in three-years’ times.
(via ZDNet and reader Clare)
(Note: An astute reader pointed out that the image is a Mini-USB port instead of a Micro-USB port. Sorry for the confusion! There are so many standards, even I got confused. Ugh!!)
Out of all of the products that I’ve seen from the Consumer Electronics Show this year, the Powermat may be the most technologically uncluttered. According to Powermat’s creators, they ”bring safe, simple, and efficient wireless electricity to surfaces including walls, tables, floors, and desktops. It is designed to replace the need to access multiple electrical sockets.”
One of Powermat’s products is the “electric” counter top. The video below shows a stand-up mixer running on nothing else but the Powermat technology. The mixer has no power cord and is equipped with a Powermat receiver on the inside. The option of running non-Powermat equipped products is also possible by using a wireless outlet that is equipped with the receiver. The technology is safe when exposed to water and can power the 300 watt mixer on full power with no problems.
Watch the video for a better idea of how Powermat can change the way we power our small kitchen appliances. I’m looking forward to this product hitting the U.S. market.
I’ve written a couple of posts about soundbars in the past, but they just keep improving by leaps and bounds. (Not unlike everything else in the consumer electronics industry.) The Samsung HT-BD8200 features a Blu-ray player and the ability to stream from Netflix and Pandora. Other features include an iPod dock, the ability to stream audio from A2DP-compatible Bluetooth audio devices, and a wireless subwoofer.
With all of the features that are included in this speaker it is a decent option for those of us who want to keep our cable clutter under control without sacrificing our sound or entertainment options. The speaker was shown at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show and is probably going to be released in the first half of 2009.
Recently, I’ve stumbled upon a few alternatives to traditional power strips that alleviate or reduce the space-hogging wall wart problem:
First up is a surge protector that swivels. This one is good for extra wide wall warts:
Next is the UFO power adaptor. You don’t gain a lot of outlets from this one, but you can outfit it with many wall warts:
Finally is the power strip liberator. I have a few of these under my desk currently. They’re simply five inch electrical cords that allow you to use a regular plug in your power strip:
Let us know of additional wall wart space hogging solutions in the comments!
Here is an interesting prototype desk that was entered into the European design competition Prix Emile Hermés. The desk designed by Swedish designer Jarl Fernaeus includes an integrated lamp, charging station, and storage compartments.
The stool/desk combo features some very useful compartments that can cut down on wire clutter and it also has some great solutions for storage. Storage areas are tucked away in a sleek desk drawer and in the stool.
For final specs on the prototype see the Jarl Fernaeus website.
(via Apartment Therapy)
According to Cellular-News, the College of Engineering at Boston University is launching a program aimed at developing the next generation of wireless communications based on visible light rather than radio waves. From the article:
“Imagine if your computer, iPhone, TV, radio and thermostat could all communicate with you when you walked in a room just by flipping the wall light switch and without the usual cluster of wires,” said BU Engineering Professor Thomas Little. “This could be done with an LED-based communications network that also provides light – all over existing power lines with low power consumption, high reliability and no electromagnetic interference. Ultimately, the system is expected to be applicable from existing illumination devices, like swapping light bulbs for LEDs.”
Fewer wires and increased communication with all of your devices sounds like a winning advancement to me. The technology for LED-based wifi has just begun, so I’m cheering for the labs at BU to work diligently to get this to market.
The JBL WEM-1 Wireless Expansion Module promises to extend your speakers wirelessly up to 70 feet. You hook one module up to your A/V receiver and then you hook your speakers into the amplifier module. The price is a bit steep in my opinion ($359 currently $253 on Amazon), but the concept helps cut down on cable clutter while extending your speakers’ reach.
When it comes to wireless speakers, the quality is not quite there and the offerings are few and far between. Even this JBL offering only offers up 50 watts per channel, but this is a decent step in the right direction.
Last fall, I posted about the new Eye-Fi memory card, which wirelessly uploads your photo files to your computer. Eye-Fi has now released a more powerful version called the Eye-Fi Explore and a lower priced Eye-Fi Home. Also included in the new lineup is the Eye-Fi Share, which can upload photos to the photo sharing website of your choice (like Flickr).
The Eye-Fi memory card has been out for less than a year and noticeable improvements have been made in that time. These new cards offer faster upload speeds, online sharing capabilities, and geotagging. I’m surprised that they didn’t increase the storage space, which is still at 2GB. It is only a matter of time before that is doubled or even tripled. And, for those who have a camera that uses Compact Flash cards rather than an SD card, you can use an adapter for use with the Eye-Fi SD cards.
Sony has come up with a clever television stand that is composed of speakers. It has right, left, center, and subwoofer speakers integrated into the stand. The concept cuts down on cable clutter and doubles as a place to set you television and a few components.
The concept serves multiple purposes, but I’m not sure replacing the tv stand with this speaker set up is advisable. If one of the speakers are damaged or malfunction, the whole unit would have to be replaced, leaving you without a tv stand or speakers.
The Sony RHT-G500 is not on the market as of yet and pricing has not been released, but it is an intriguing option for people who want a simple home theater that won’t add unwanted wires and cables to your living room. Is this yet-to-be-released speaker-laden tv stand something you find useful? Let’s read your opinions in the comments.