The Snarl

By Shamus Posted Saturday Oct 20, 2007

Filed under: Personal 47 comments

You may remember earlier this week the power supply died on my main PC. I had a spare, but it was missing a plug required to regulate the… CPU… voltage… thingy? Something about trans-phase nanoshear causing problems in the distributed flux suspension core, I’m sure. The upshot being that my PC would run, but it was bad for my processor and slightly risky.

On Thursday the new power supply arrived, I dropped it in, we’re all good now. It’s got 480 watts, which is enough to keep my computer running as well as power a phased plasma rifle (they have a 40 watt range) should the need arise.

I also got myself a wireless keyboard & mouse, because that was a great price for a Logitech and because I’m weak. I now have two less wires under my desk, which is a step in the right direction but still a far cry from bringing the mess under control.

At my desk I have 2 PCs, a Playstation, a pair of phones, and the router which is the connectivity nexus for all of the other PCs in the house. And the cable modem. Plus all of the accouterments for the above, which is not limited to speakers, controllers, keyboards, mice, and a nice lava lamp which is not strictly part of the setup but which I include because I think it’s cool and, not to put too fine a point on it, has a wire which needs to be plugged into something. I cannot peer behind my desk without thinking of The Snarl from Order of the Stick. I no longer see it as a collection of various tangled wires, but as a whole, a dangerous and formidable foe with appendages reaching into all of my electronic devices. I am always eager for the chance to cut down on the size of my homemade Snarl. In an ideal world the idiots at NASA would quit screwing around with satellites and space travel and invent me some wireless electricity. More precisely – since some of them may be reading my website looking for something to invent during their lunch break – I need a way to get electricity from the wall outlet to my electronic devices without using wires and without setting the room on fire. If you could do that for me it would be super-great, thanks.

Make sure it comes in black.


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47 thoughts on “The Snarl

  1. lxs says:

    Oh, it’s been done. Only they then decided it would never catch on and apparently gave up.

    Gratuitous link through my own blog:

  2. onosson says:

    I recall seeing this article on slashdot about a wireless power transmission sheet:

    I also came across one on wirelessly powering a lightbulb:

  3. Snook says:

    I was about to say the same as the above two. I was quite shocked when I heard it, although I believe it loses alot of power through transmission, and it involved lots of magnets.

    I’m a little wary about putting magnets near my computer.

  4. Rebecca says:

    I always feel validated when techie-people admit they don’t know the names of the doohickeys. When I worked tech support, I usually would talk along the levels of “Did you check that thing yet? Is it O.K.? Great!”

  5. Blurr says:

    I was laughing out loud the entire article. Well done Shamus.

  6. Shandrunn says:

    Shamus, you’ve made me all curious about your snarl, yet you fail to provide a picture?
    You disappoint me ;-)

  7. scragar says:

    by the theory of energy conservation the excess energy can’t go anywhere, the energy in wireless power is in magnetic field, and the strain on the power source is the same for the wire + an extra resistance equal to the force of the counter magnet times the motion through it’s field(although they rotate the field not the receiver). Basically the wireless energy is only as efficient as normal electric, less a small amount for it being on perminatly(or even less if you have a large field to cover your whole house and rarely turn things off…). Sorry this message is so long, but I had to spread the news. :P

  8. When I bought a new TV and the Xbox 360, I hooked it up to the same plug that were used by the DVD player, the printer, the PS2, the old Xbox, the stereo and what not. I figured it was nice to have all the equipment on a single main switch so that I could prevent all these appliances from wasting power while they were “asleep”. As it turns out, throwing the switch on let all the transformers soak up power, loading their condensators, magnets and whatever ““ blowing the fuse for the living room every single time. I had to move things around so that throwing a single switch dozen power on half a dozen appliances. :)

  9. Mark says:

    “phased plasma rifle (they have a 40 watt range)”

    Hey, just what you see, pal.

    (I love that movie.)

  10. Turgid Bolk says:

    Bah, Tesla already invented wireless electricity transfer. In fact he tried to power the entire Earth, giving everyone instant access to power and information. It’s a shame it didn’t work out. (It may not even be possible, but he never even got to test his theory.) See

  11. xbolt says:

    I always compared my cords to spaghetti. :D

  12. Smileyfax says:

    Mm, I tried out a wireless mouse for a while. It broke after I dropped it a few times. (My wired mouse’s cord functions as a bungee).

  13. Anonymous Coward says:

    Please, don’t say/write “watts”.

  14. The almighty penguin says:

    why on earth not?

  15. Shamus says:

    There is just no end to the crazy people of the internet. Don’t say “watts”? No explanation, no link, nothing to help us make sense of the odd request.

    Crazy old man in the street: The rats! DON’T MENTION THE RATS! FILIBUSTER!

    I assume “watt” isn’t supposed to be pluralized with an “s”, but it sounds stupid otherwise:

    It requires a 300 watt power supply, but I got a 350 watt power supply so I have 50 watt left over.”

    Yeah. That doesn’t work. Anyway, it only seems to bother pushy annonymous people with OCD, so I think we’re good.

  16. DocTwisted says:

    Black? Oh well, and here I was going to try building something for you in a glossy orange paisley.

  17. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    Actually by getting a wireless keyboard and mouse didnt you reduce your cable number by 1 and not 2?I mean,the receiver has a cable after all.

  18. Shamus says:

    Daemian_Lucifer:True, but the cable for the receiver doesn’t need to go anywhere. It sits on top of the PC, so the wires don’t need to out behind the desk and join the rest of the snarl.

  19. Maroon says:

    “Bah, Tesla already invented wireless electricity transfer. In fact he tried to power the entire Earth, giving everyone instant access to power and information. It's a shame it didn't work out.”

    He was actually about to employ his Deathwand given to him by the Volatile faction of the TechnoCore from the future, which would have fried every brain within 1.5 lightyears… wait, wrong reality. Nevermind.

    “Yeah. That doesn't work.”

    I don’t think english is cut out for it, no. Works like a charm in dutch.

  20. Greg says:

    After reading the back story on Tesla’s wireless energy, it seems as if covering the earth with it would have some problems.

    1. How do you make sure a house 5 miles from a tower gets the same amount of energy as a house 1 mile from the tower? Since the atmosphere poses resistance, some of this energy will be changed into heat along the way.

    2. Environmental risks. All this heat being lost would accelerate so called “global warming”, how much or how little, I could not tell you.

    3. How do you make it safe for people? If the average house needs let’s say 10,000 Watts of power, is it safe for people to have this same amount of power constantly going through themselves? Or would rubber suits become the new Versucci? Further, how do you prevent the huge amounts of lightening storms so it’s actually safe to go outside wearing a piece of metal?

    Perhaps it would have been great having all this free flowing energy, but I think I’m perfectly happy having it nicely stored in convenient wires laid neatly about the earth.

  21. Greg says:

    As an addition to the above: Realize I am no scientist, so I could be entirely wrong. The above is just a lay-person’s thoughts on the matter.

  22. Kdansky says:

    Wireles LAN does wonders against wire chaos. And assuming you use current standards, the speed is good enough for anything except big file transfers from one machine to the other.

  23. Sam says:

    And wireless energy transfer will probably never happen on large scale. The problem as usual: if you want to transfer energy, you need to send it. And on the medium (whatever you choose), it still IS energy. So if someone walks through it, they might intercept it (if they can). And since anyone could place any thing/person/object/material/shape in between sender and receiver, it’s impossible to account for that and choose “transmission parameters” (wavelength/frequency) in a way that there will never be interaction. Now in case of radio or WLAN we just live with that, since it is (probably) not harmful. But in the case of 300 Watt, things look different.

  24. Watt says:

    Watts? What’s next? Rices? Watt is a unit that is used for any amount. 1 Watt, 5 Watt, 1000 Watt. Like Volt, Ampà¨re, Ohm and Newton. If it sounds wrong, that only means you’re lacking education, as if you were speaking a foreign language ;)

  25. Greg says:

    Actually, the joke is on you :P The plural of Watt is Watts, as seen:



    And here:

  26. Greg says:

    And as a further addition… volts, amperes, ohms, and Newtons are also perfectly correct :P You can either say, “I have nine volts of electricity in this battery”, or, “I have a nine volt battery.” “I have ten ohms of resistance in this resistor”, or “I have a ten ohm resistor.” “This object fell with 100 Newtons of force”, or “This is seen to be a 100 Newton force.” I’ve not taken physics in a while (being a corpsman means I don’t use these terms very often :P) but I am fairly certain in these words, even if my examples may make a physicist laugh.

  27. Shamus says:

    Greg: Thanks for the links.

    Makes me so happies.

  28. Davesnot says:

    Ahh… beaten to the punch.. it all depends on how your are speaking of said watts… as a group.. like your 450 watt power supply .. or individually and plurally.. “It ‘twernt the watts that fried him.. it was the amps.”

    Besides.. the rules of language are flexible.. it is a “dead” language that doesn’t change.. that’s why scientists use a “dead” laguage (latin) in their naming systems.

    Ain’t that the bomb!

  29. Greg says:

    Woo, I feel so recognized :D I’ll be sure to post links more often :P

  30. Rustybadger says:

    As one who has worked around units of electrical measurement for most of my life, I can say with certainty that Greg is right. I have NEVER seen a textbook that used “watt” or “volt” to refer to multiple units of the same. It’s always “amps”, “volts”, and so on.

    Glad to see the references to Tesla, he is my god, for sure. Okay, maybe not God, but definitely the fourth member of the Trinity.

    Wireless power transmission is problematic, mostly because of the variety of device requirements. Also, you have that pesky inverse square law to worry about- the further your gadget is from the transmission source, the more power is required to juice it up. (The intensity of an energy wave radiating from a source is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from that source.) That’s why people who are making “charging mats” are designing them to lay your gadgets right on. Induction charging systems have been around for many years, but they aren’t very efficient, which is why they haven’t really caught on. Mostly they’re used for medical and scientific devices that need to be hermetically sealed, and charging contacts won’t work.

    When I was a kid, my buddy and I used to take four-foot flourescent bulbs out under the high tension lines behind our place and play Star Wars- the bulbs light up under the high-frequency field. You can tap that field, if you want- all you need is a big induction coil underneath it and you’re in business. But the power company will know right away, so it’s probably not worth the trouble.

    As for powering your Snarl wirelessly, it’s more likely to happen via fuel cells than electrical mains. Sorry about that- maybe if we could clone Tesla he’d tell us what he had in mind!

  31. NASAidiot says:

    Speaking as an idiot from NASA :) we have talked for a while about microwave beam power from space. So far it isn’t cost effective but it comes up from time to time when we talk about the inevitable commercialization of space. You could use it behind your keyboard but I wouldn’t suggest ever putting your hands back there…

    P.S. I think I have a new online name too. Unfortunately it could be used by a lot of people I work with… :)

  32. Darin says:

    Pegboard and zip strips are your friend. All the stuff for my computer is strapped to pegboard and attached to the back of the desk. The only things that comes in are the power cord and the cable for the modem.

  33. AndrewNZachsDad says:

    Darin: that is a damned good idea…note to self: investigate possibility of pegboard backsplash for the computer desk.

    Greg: i do not think words (or, yes, even word) can express my gratitude to you for saying what I was thinking. And, for not offending anyone at the same time. Had I been the one to respond – while that tic I have worked so hard to eliminate was coming back – to the suggestions that “watt”, “volt”, “amp” (etcetera, ad infinitum) should never be pluralized, there would likely be people tracking my IP trail in order to apply hurts (Hertz? sorry…) to me. My relieved neurons and unbruised dermis thank you…

    Yours in Snarl-ishness,

  34. ArchU says:

    Efficient wireless power transfer would be so damn useful.

    On the subject of wireless computer devices, I don’t recommend wireless keyboard/mouse bundles as the transceiver almost always bungles. Get the keyboard and mouse seperately if you can help it. Also, unless you’re sitting back well away from your computer, why would you want a wireless keyboard anyhow, Shamus? Just get one of these babies… (oh, look, a new model! Mine has more buttons though) ^_~

  35. Shamus says:



    Yeah. If I had a million bucks, I don’t think I could bring myself to spend that much on a keyboard. I have a hard time spending that much on graphics cards.

    I want a wireless keyboard because, as I pointed out above, that will be two less wires going from my PC, through the tangle, to the spot where I sit. These cables rub and tug on one another, so that when I pulled my mouse towards me I’d feel resistance as the mouse cable generated friction with all those others. Now I am wire free. No tugging, no tangle.


  36. Greg says:

    @AndrewNZachsDad: Don’t worry, I kinda have to be polite. See, I work in a pediatrics department of a Navy Hospital. Not ONLY do I have to try to keep people from being hurt, I have to be polite while doing so because most the parents I deal with outrank me!

  37. krellen says:

    There’s too much wireless already in the world; we don’t need more. Wires are nice, they’re reliable, they’re simple and efficient. Wireless is spotty, invasive, insecure and wasteful. Why does everyone try to substitute wireless technology for good design and space-planning?

  38. Shamus says:

    krellen: Just that? All I need is good design and space planning? You don’t even need to see my setup to understand the scope of the problem or what my particular needs are? You can just hand-wave the entire problem away with the lazy assertion that there is “too much” wireless?

    Too much for whom? And who are you to judge?

  39. krellen says:

    Shamus: I work in IT, and have to deal with the various vagrancies of wireless on a daily basis. The best solution to most wireless problems comes down to “get a wire”.

    In the two decades I’ve been working with computers, I have not encountered a tangle of wires that could not be resolved with a bit of untangling and redistribution of devices. Sometimes the redistribution meant moving something to another part of the house, or adding a desk, but it still came to a happy solution.

    As for who am I to judge, I’m some random person speaking his opinion on the internet, just like everyone else here. I thought that was a given. :D

  40. TalrogSmash says:

    Tesla got wireless to work, then the power companies killed him because THEY couldn’t figure out a way to charge people. Not his problem but he got the bullet anyway.

    oh yeah, and they stole the rest of his life’s work and hid it away somewhere, still unfound.

  41. ArchU says:

    Shamus, sometimes you’ve just gotta splurge! But since you pointed out longevity issues with your keyboards that pricetag could certainly become an issue.

    Tackling the tangle is helpful (I wish my PC speakers were wireless) but how often do you find yourself shifting your keyboard around?

  42. Miral says:

    The trick to detangling power cords is:
    get shorter power cords
    get an extension cord
    get a desk or something you can hide things behind

    So, you have minimal-length cables (preferably cable tied) going to a power board as close to the physical units as possible, then take a single extension cord from there to wherever your wall socket is. And then tuck the power board out of sight.

    Don’t make it too hard to get at, though, or you’ll curse it profoundly when you need to add/remove a device.

    Of course the downside to that is that it’s not good to collect lots of power cords together in a coil-like formation. Starts forming some hefty magnetic fields…

  43. Thomas says:

    /me peers at the mess of cables behind his computer.

    Yep, on the way to Snarl-hood here. And I’ev got some more bits to add – I actually only have one free backplane (two free PCI slots, but one’s got some extra USB sockets from the motherboard), and that’s earmarked for a SCSI card for an old film scanner.

    Methinks I should do a major upgrade, although I may be scuppered as I’ll need at least 3 traditional PCI slots (TV tuner, IDE card, SCSI card).

  44. Justin says:

    I have heard that it’s possible to send power wirelessly through microwaves. The downside is that the more power being sent, the larger area you need to spread it out over. We could beam solar energy in from space, and the receiver antennae could be spread out so that Wyoming would not be such a waste. Cows could even graze safely under the antennae, but if I were to try and run my Xbox on a wireless power supply with an unobtrusive system, my cat would be cooked the first time he walked between the source and the receiver. Navy ships have some sort of microwave detection array that makes birds explode when the system is active…

  45. Chris Arndt says:

    Where is a picture of the Snarl!?

    I only came to see an image.


  46. Katy says:

    Shamus — The Logitech gaming keyboard link above is listing the price in Australian dollars. It lists on the Logitech website at US$99.99 and I found it at for $78.

    You’ll probably still think that’s four times what you want to pay for a keyboard, though.

    And I suddenly realize this is a 6-month old comment. Huh.

  47. Arndt says:

    Pegboard and zip strips are your friend.

    I use old paper towel rolls and tape.

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