There's an old saying about things being the greatest invention since sliced bread. Well, as any computer geek will tell you, one of the greatest things in the geek world is the labeling machine. A popular brand is the Brother P-Touch, but any machine that spits out a label is a wonderful thing. Why? Because it allows you to put the name of an item on said item so you don't go nuts trying to figure out what goes where once you've pulled all those whats apart from their wheres.
Computer folks use these things all the time. And many labelers come with computer software and a cable so you can hook the label machine to your computer. This allows you to enter info on your monitor and have labels printed to the machine. Putting the name of a computer or server on its outside case is a very common practice, so the IT department knows which machine they need to work on through the network without having to figure out the machine's name from within the network.
But it's not just computer professionals who should be using labels. Newbies can find a lot of comfort in using some type of label. If you've ever unplugged a couple cables from the back of your computer to move it and then had to put the cables back in the correct spot, you understand the wisdom of adding a label to a cable.
I recently got a new desk and had to move out just one computer. As you can see from the image below, had I not had labels on that mess of wires once I was done unplugging everything, I would have gone nuts! Heck, just untangling that mass of wires took hours!
Microsoft MVPs have a long-running joke that plays on the Redneck jokes. If you're interested, you can check some of them out here...you might be an MVP, if...
While I was unpacking during the March MVP summit, I realized there was another one that needs to be added to the list..."If you open your suitcase and realize you have more cables in it than you have clothes, you might be an MVP!"
I must say, I'm getting a bit annoyed with the number of cables I have to drag around with me when I travel...or hunt for around the house to find where I left a particular one last. There are power cables for a handful of laptops, video cameras and cell phones. And then there are all the USB cables so I can extract or put information on a dozen other devices, like cameras, phones, GPSes and media devices. And, of course, many devices have proprietary cables, so you can't just have one or two USBs that fit all your devices. No! You need to have the USB cable that came with that device...because it's special!<sigh>
Yes, many cables look the same. That is until you try to plug them in. Then you realize there's some tiny notch that is slightly different than the tiny notch on the other five cables you've tried.
This article came to mind because just a few minutes ago I was attempting to plug in my notebook computer to the cable I kept along the wall in the kitchen, but it didn't fit and I was mystified about what was up. I pulled the yards of cable out from where it was tucked away only to read the label on it and realize that was the power cable for one of the video cameras we have. Okay, so where did I leave my notebook cable last??? Good question. Off I went to hunt it down. I may have never found the right one were it not for the fact that I stuck a little label tag on it saying Convertible Notebook.
So if you're new to computers, I offer you this little piece of advice. If you haven't done so already, you might want to spend a little time putting labels on your computer cables and connectors. If nothing else, be sure to do it before you decide to start unplugging things! Label machines are great because you can create tiny labels that fit just above all the little holes on the back of your computer. But even if you don't have a label machine, use a little mailing label and fold it over the cable onto itself. Or even a piece of tape with a piece of paper stuck to it.
Yes, some cables/connectors are easier to identify these days now that computer companies have started color coding many of the cables, but you'll probably find many that are still black or gray. Adding a little label to the connection location and a matching label tag wrapped around that location's corresponding cable can save you hours of frustration. Plus it'll make even the computer novice feel more confident about unplugging all those cables to move or clean the computers in your home or office.