Thursday, March 6, 2008

Managing One's Nest of Cables

This recent Lifehacker article called Top 10 Ways to Get Cables Under Control had some really cool cable management ideas, the most novel of which to me was using binder clips to keep cords from falling off the side of one's desk. This was always a problem to me whenever I needed to run a power cable from the surge protector up through the back of the desk into, say, my monitor. I can't run the cable from top down because of the power brick, so it was always a hassle to put the plug on the desk and get to it from above before the cable's weight caused it to fall off.

My main issue with extensive cable management is that they are meant for setups that don't need to be modular. However, if you're like me and you unplug and move stuff around more than a few times a year, you can't really afford to go through a lot of trouble hiding cables.

The thing that's made a lot of difference to me is simply labeling my power cables. One day I just took some masking tape and a Sharpie and proceeded to put identifying labels on each of the cables plugged in. This has done a lot to make sure that I don't spend more time than I need to on my hands and knees under my desk (::snicker::).

I've also split the cables under my desk into two surge protectors, one for items that should always be plugged in, and another for removable devices like external hard drives. This way I can keep one surge protector more hidden in the back and the other closer up front.

Another thing I've done which is a bit more permanent is always having USB and Firewire cables with varying ends always connected to the back of my tower, and run it around to the front. This way if I ever need to connect a device like a camera or my mp3 player, I don't have to look around for cables and fish around behind the tower to connect them. This concept does require me to have extra cables if I wanted to use my devices on another computer, though.

That being said, it's more of a mess on the outlet by my bed, where not only are my bedside clock and lamp are plugged in, but more modular devices like my cellphone and laptop.

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