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Cable management

Published: 03/23/2009

My company recently acquired a couple of Dell Latitude E6400s as test machines and I noticed that when provided power from the wall, the end which plugs into the laptop glows blue. Behold:

This is technically a UK-based unit, but I'm assuming the US versions are the same. In any case, this is just another case of, "Oooh, shiny shiny" syndrome. This isn't that important. MacBooks have this too in their own Apple-ish way. But what is important to me is how Dell power supplies have a nice built-in feature for wrapping your cables somewhat neatly. Take this old Latitude power supply as an example:

Isn't that nice how it's neatly coiled and bundled up, ready for travel in a laptop bag? When you pass through airport security and show the contents of your bag to the screeners, they can take delight in knowing that you are a good, organized citizen who is keeping up with gadget accessory hygiene.

However, let's move onto the average ThinkPad power supply:

I mean, really, what is this? Couldn't the Big Blue come up with a more innovative solution? Is it that hard to design a power supply with self-winding cords that retract in so when your plane is about to take off and you have to board, all you have to do is press a button and in an instant your haywire mess is neat and proper? Oh yeah, sure, one can just coil the snake around the power supply housing, but the point is that the adapter doesn't have any groove / channel provisions in its external shape to coil the cable into. Out of all the business laptop series I've used, ThinkPads for me are the clear winner, hands down. But these power supplies need an overhaul. Seriously, this is the 21st century.

Which brings me to my next point. I hate cables of any kind that come bundled from the manufacturer like this:

This is simply wrong. Cables should not be "folded" in such a manner that it comes pre-kinked out of the box. Cell phone adapters, mice, keyboard cables, USB cables... Virtually all of them come this way and it's annoying when trying to maintain a clean-looking desk. Back in college when I took an introduction to broadcasting course, I was told that if you coudn't coil (expensive) audio / video cables properly, you'd be fired on the spot. After all, you don't want to break the shielding on those rather pricey balanced runs with TRS or XLR ends on them. Besides, running kinked cables (whether Cat5 or power cables) through cable management systems in a server room looks really messy if you don't tie them together every few inches.

I'm a big advocate of the over / under coiling method:

It's all in the fingers. Or the wrist, if you want to do it the hard way. For some things, such as a rollover cable, I do the straight coil since it's not "round" like a normal cable housing but rather flat. That one should be self-explanatory.

Go back to my list of rambles.