Lights in the Dark

By David Morgenstern  |  Posted 2006-12-15 Print this article Print

Corners"> Of course, theres more to stocking stuffers than storage. Here are several practical and mostly inexpensive gift ideas that can assist any IT or data center worker:

Checking out the backplane. At a wedding reception a few weeks ago, I asked the assembled IT managers (on the grooms side), for a stocking-stuffer suggestion. All mentioned a mirror to look at the back of a computer or server, even though they admitted that they didnt have one.
One mentioned a dental mirror, meaning the small mirrors that dentists use to inspect the inside of your mouth. It seems to me that this tool would be too small and too short for the task. Another problem is that most of the mirrors on the market are aimed at the automotive industry and often feature a strong rare-earth magnet on the end to pick up a stray bolt or screw. Not so good for IT applications.
Here are a couple of promising candidates: The best of the lot looks to be Fieldpiece Instruments PLM2 Pocket Extension LED Flashlight. This models handle telescopes out to 30 inches in length and has a moderate-sized 2-by-1-inch mirror. The sweet thing is that the light shines into the mirror and illuminates what youre looking at. It costs about $28. A similar extending handle with a mirror but no LED costs about $15. (I have one of the companys PMG1, which is the same telescoping pen handle but with a strong magnet on the end.) On the other hand, some may seek a less analog solution to this remote viewing problem. Searching around online stores, I found a "snake-style" USB Webcam that costs less than $15. The model in question, the Real Digital Life USB 100K Snake PC WebCam, is 18 inches long and provides a focal distance of about an inch (30mm), which is good enough to read a serial number on the back of a box. Light on the subject. I admit that Im a mild LED flashlight freak; "mild" here meaning that I dont buy a flashlight every month or so, but rather just a few a year. But I do check out regularly the specs at Doug Pribis amazing resource. Getting sufficient and proper light on and into the hardware with which youre working is important to success and productivity. My eyes are getting older and need more light. However, I find the usual fluorescent bulbs dont put out enough light to reach the dark spots of enclosures or into the shadowed reaches behind server racks. My favorite light for the server closet is a bit retro but offers a unique technology: the Pelican M8 8020 Recoil LED. This $70 flashlight uses 3 C-sized batteries and is 10 inches long. Real flashlight freaks will howl that the M8 is not the brightest or the lightest for the money—very true. Instead, they would point out models such as Surefires Digital Lumamax series ($150+) or Fenixlights Fenix P1D series ($60). However, the trend in LED flashlights is toward small and cool, with black metal cases. Both of the above models incorporate these values into their industrial design. But this also makes the flashlight difficult to find easily, especially when you drop it in the dark (and you will) and it rolls into a bunch of cables on the floor or behind some machines (done that). I have the black-and-yellow version M8, which really stands out, like a school traffic monitors paddle. Even better is the technology: The Pelican uses a "recoil" architecture to concentrate the light from the LED. The bulb faces backward, toward the user, and is reflected in a parabolic mirror to the front. It has a run-time of 6 hours. In my surfing, I also noticed Lumatec Industries TwinBeamz flashlight, which has two small LEDs on either end of a bendable snake housing. This $29.95 light my not have much power, but it looks easy to suspend off a rack or hang around your shoulders. Next Page: The years techno status symbols.

David Morgenstern is Executive Editor/Special Projects of eWEEK. Previously, he served as the news editor of Ziff Davis Internet and editor for Ziff Davis' Storage Supersite.

In 'the days,' he was an award-winning editor with the heralded MacWEEK newsweekly as well as eMediaweekly, a trade publication for managers of professional digital content creation.

David has also worked on the vendor side of the industry, including companies offering professional displays and color-calibration technology, and Internet video.

He can be reached here.


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