The Case For Making A Great Case

HPRC2700-face-300pxIn my past life I schlepped equipment all around North America in the process of giving demonstrations. As the most senior field staff it also fell to me to oversee the acquisition of shipping cases for our demo inventory.

Back then the nature of the gear, and the cost of shipping, drove me to select lightweight cases with layered foam inserts. This accommodated the 3-5 RU server chassis. A 2” thick protective layer of foam on all sides provided adequate protection without undue weight or cost.

Some months ago I was again tasked with creating a shipping case for some gear. This time the gear involved was not a server rack, but a small suite of telecom & network devices for demo use. Since this suite of gear was much smaller & lighter than a server I decided to research if/how I might get a nice custom case manufactured. Everyone involved in the project was delighted with the result, so I though I’d share my experience with the vendor and their process.

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A Gift For Geeks 2: A Magic Bus

Anker USB3 hubThere are often little conveniences that we deny ourselves. At least, that’s true around here. To the observant, these can be the basis for a thoughtful and unexpected gift.  For example, do you have a high-quality USB 3.0 hub at your desk? Does your intended giftee? Very few people have such a handy little item. I’ve come to think that an exceptionally good one, the sort we would not buy ourselves, makes a great gift.

A USB 3.0 hub acts very much like a port replicator to a laptop. It allows you to have multiple devices connected at once, far more than the number of ports provided on the laptop. In fact, some ultrabook models now offer only one or two USB ports, making a hub even more useful.

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Lenovo – The Day The Dock Died

Lenovo X1 Carbon and Docking StationThis is the tale of my first interaction with Lenovo on a matter of warranty support. As you may know I’ve owned a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon ultrabook since January of 2013. It’s a nice, light computer. While it’s coming on two years old, it still serves me well enough.

Since a change in career path in April 2013 I’m not the road warrior that I was for so many years. In fact, I’m largely home office-bound. That puts the X1C in a diminished role, secondary to my desktop. Even so, I’ve augmented the little X1C, adapting it to have greater connectivity.


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Why Create A Micro-USB Cable For DC Power Only?

micro-usb-cableOn a shelf in the garage that adjoins my home office there is a set of shelves with a number of boxes of cables. There are cables of various sorts; BNC type video, RCA audio leads, XLR audio cables, IEC power cords, IEEE-1394, Ethernet, RS-232 serial, USB, mini-USB, micro-USB, etc. I try to not discard anything that might still be useful. Call it recycling if you like. Perhaps hoarding if you’re in a less gracious frame-of-mind.

Recently, I went to the shelf to fetch a micro-USB cable with which to remove some files from my Nexus 4 cell phone. I just grabbed one of the 20 cables in the box, using it to connect the Nexus 4 to my laptop. The Nexus immediately indicated it was charging, but the laptop completely failed to acknowledge the attached device.

I found that to be odd. At first I poked at the laptop a little, but eventually fetched another micro-USB cable from the collection. Using the second cable the laptop issued forth the usual tone, indicating that a new device was attached. Evidently the first cable had only two of the four wires connected, so it provides only power.

That got me to thinking…how much did some manufacturer save by including a cable that was not pin-to-pin connected on a USB-to-micro-USB cable? It had to be a trivial sum, hardly worth considering. It’s certainly not worth having to track a different SKU for the charging cable vs the fully-functional cable that might also be used with products requiring real USB connectivity.

With a true commodity item like this kind of USB cable such a short-sighted approach just seems dumb.

Deal Alert: Lenovo X1 Carbon Touch Ultrabook is today offering the Lenovo X1 Carbon Touch Ultrabook for $899 & $999. I own the prior model, which is not touch enabled. Even though it’s coming on two years old I still like it a lot. It was a LOT more expensive than this current deal.

The more costly model on offer is to my mind the better deal. It features 8 GB of memory, a high-resolution (QHD = 2560 x 1440 pixel) display  and a larger battery.

According to Woot they both have Displayport and HDMI outputs, where my earlier model had only DisplayPort. Both models include a 128 GB SSD.

In theory there remains an open mPCIe slot that would allow the addition a of a second SSD. This is what I planned to try if the 256 GB SSD I custom ordered in my X1C was too small for my needs

Good NAS Going Bad

Our household NAS, known as HAL, is suffering. A LaCie 5Big Network Drive, HAL arrived in December of 2008 loaded with five 500 GB hard drives, yielding 2 TB of RAID 5 storage.

HAL was a Christmas present. He addressed my wife’s need for a storage strategy for her digital photographs, amongst other things. Within the family I was widely known as a geek. The fact that she welcomed a NAS as a gift cemented her standing in that regard.

HAL was twice upgraded such that he presently sports five 2 TB Seagate Barracuda hard drives configured for RAID 10 + a hot spare. One drive failed a couple of months ago. At that time it pulled in the hot spare, spending a weekend rebuilding the volume. No data was lost.

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