Assorted items for July 14, 2010

Some interesting things to share:

  • I’m recording an interview about uncluttering for Renew You that should be available this Friday through next Tuesday. Renew You 2010 was a conference that occurred earlier this summer, and every few weeks the organizer of the conference sends out links to new interviews to conference attendees and people who register for the mailing list. The interviews are targeted toward women, but the information I’ll be giving is applicable for anyone. The e-mail list is free, but there are pay-to-listen areas of the site that have some cost associated with them. You shouldn’t have to pay anything to hear my piece on uncluttering. The interview should be about an hour long, so sign up if you’re interested in hearing my talk.
  • TV business kisses HDMI goodbye” on the THINQ site leaves me with mixed feelings. I’m glad multiple manufacturers are coming together and establishing a standard cable, but it means we will all have to buy new cables. Not sure it’s simplifying anything.
  • Author Harlan Ellison decided to purge and auction off the majority of his book collection, including a signed birthday present from Neil Gaiman. The following link includes a profane word or two, but is still an interesting read about uncluttering your bookshelves: “The Great Ellison Book Purge” on the AV Club.
  • Have many errands to run at once? Lorie Marrero recommends the “optimal route planner” Route4me to determine the shortest route to take.
  • The website FreelanceSwitch offers terrific project management advice in its post “The Swiss Cheese Method of Project Scheduling.” The article is geared toward freelance programmers, but is applicable to anyone budgeting her time.

Assorted links for June 15, 2010

A number of really cool things have moved across my desk this past week, but none of them are necessarily large enough for a post all their own. Enjoy exploring these uncluttering and organizing tidbits:

Signum for cable management

Over the weekend, Lifehacker posted a great cable clutter solution from Ikea that I wanted to bring to your attention.

This Signum Cable Organiser is a black polyester pouch with two steel clips that can hook to the side of a workspace that has a 2″ or smaller edge. The clips are also convenient to remove, which means that you can have the Signum work double duty as cable carrying case. The case is 19″ long, and at just $5.00 it is a relatively inexpensive way to keep your computer or electronics cables under control.

Thanks to Lifehacker for bringing this organizer to our attention. Oh, and beware: There are at least seven products named Signum at Ikea, which is confusing.

Hiding cables in plain sight

Unclutterer Forums member mpoush found a creative solution for concealing cables in plain sight:

We just moved our office into a larger room that does not have a phone jack. That means running wire from the other room for the modem and phone. Two ugly black cables hanging down were not the ideal, however. So I painted them dark green, and made some paper flowers on green pipe cleaners, then wrapped them around both cables, so it looks like a flowering vine. It’s still there, but now it’s decoration instead!

While flowers and pipe-cleaners may not be to your liking, this technique demonstrates how sometimes the best way to draw attention away from unsightly things is to draw attention directly to them.

As seen on Lifehacker

This past week, I encountered two fantastic articles on Lifehacker I wanted to share with you.

First, the article and its corresponding image “Creatively Display Your Cables When Hiding’s Not an Option” made me gasp with delight:

I want to do this someplace in my house right now. Small, adhesive Cable Clamps would be perfect and quick for this project.

Second, “Google Navigation is a Total GPS Replacement–As Long as You’re Connected” is an extremely thorough review of Google Maps vs. a traditional GPS device. I have a Garmin Nuvi and love it with a passion, but it’s good to know that I won’t need to replace it if something happens to it. If you’re in the market for a GPS, you should definitely read the article — you may already have a decent GPS you didn’t know you had.

(Image from Maisie Maud Broadhead.)

Brilliant UK electrical plug concept saves space

I spent nearly twenty minutes wiping coffee off my computer monitor yesterday after performing a Danny Thomas spit-take while watching this amazing video of a proposed design for a United Kingdom 3-pin electrical plug for a laptop.

I really hope this product eventually makes it to the manufacturing stage, as it’s one of the best examples of space-saving industrial design that we’ve ever seen.

In pursuit of the dream docking station

090804-dockMaggie Mason’s recent post on “If I Were In Charge: A Docking Station Wishlist” has me thinking about charging stations for electronic devices. For the most part, PC laptop docking/charging stations are unattractive and cumbersome. It’s one of the reasons that I use a second monitor with numerous USB ports instead of a traditional docking station. Maggie describes what she would like to see in these devices in her article:

… I don’t want a mass tangle of wires — there should be individual drawers with gratifying slots for all my gadgets. And like GBear’s idea for a streamlined dockbook, my dream docking station would connect to my laptop via a single, elegant plug.

Simple and clutter-free to the eye, my docking station would also have muscle, with heavy peripherals like DVD burner/player or secondary processor all built directly into the station, which means my laptop can be ultra light, petite, and purse-friendly.

I agree with her ideas and would add that I would also love a back up hard drive dock. What would you like in your dream docking/charging station? Tell us your ideas in the comments.

Cable clutter at Insuracare in The Incredibles

While re-watching The Incredibles this past weekend, I noticed something particularly interesting about Bob’s cubicle workspace at Insuracare, where he worked as a claims adjuster. If you look at the back of his computer monitor, you will notice about 20 different cables coming out of the back. It’s amazing how such a small detail really adds to the feeling of bleakness in his job situation.


If you’ll remember, the film was released over a year before Disney’s 2006 acquisition of Pixar, while Steve Jobs was still the Chairman and CEO, which almost leaves me wondering if the shot was some kind of subliminal attempt to sell us on the merits of the iMac and its single power cable (at least when used with a bluetooth mouse and keyboard).

Can you think of any other scenes in movies where the disorganization of an environment is purposefully used to create a particular mood or sense of anxiety?

Cordotz clear cable confusion

Reader Tomas recently tipped me off to Cordotz, a cable organizing solution.

I really like the cord identifier straps and the cord identifier buttons for labeling and controlling the mess under your desk or behind the television. Pre-printed labels come with each package, and you can also print your own labels with their DIY sheet. A pack of 10 buttons or straps sells for $10. Oddly, to purchase the items, you need to click on the “locate” tab on the homepage.

CableBox is a box for cables

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.

Bluetooth keyboard with integrated trackpad eliminates wires and multiple devices

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.