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Tech essentials for the busy sysadmin

Tools, gadgets and consumables to help make the life of a busy sysadmin just a little easier.
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1 of 11 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Introduction

A sysadmin's day is a busy one, overflowing with most tasks than work hours in order to do them.

Here are a selection of tools, gadgets and consumables that can help a busy sysadmin get more done in a day. For this listing I've only picked the gear that I make use of on a regular basis.

See also:

    iFixit's Pro Tech Toolkit
    2 of 11 iFixit

    iFixit's Pro Tech Toolkit

    I'm truly impressed with this kit, especially given the price tag of only $65.

    It's well thought-out and well made, and unlike most of the cheap toolkits out there it's backed up by a lifetime warranty. This kit is perfect for professionals and amateurs alike. I particularly like the CNC machined bits in the set. Not only do they look gorgeous but also they fit the appropriate fastener perfectly.

    If I had to describe the new iFixit Pro Tech Toolkit in one word, that word would be "perfect."

    Kit contents:

    Here's a detailed listing of all the bits in the driver kit:

    • Phillips 000, 00, 0, 1, 2
    • Flathead 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 4 mm
    • Torx T2, T3, T4, T5
    • Torx Security TR6, TR7, TR8, TR9, TR10, TR15, TR20, TR25
    • Pentalobe P2, P5, P6
    • JIS J000, J00, J0, J1
    • Hex 0.7, 0.9, 1.3, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5 mm
    • Tri-point Y000, Y00, Y0, Y1
    • Nut driver 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5 mm
    • Square 0, 1, 2
    • Gamebit 3.8, 4.5 mm
    • Spanner 4, 6, 8
    • Triangle 2, 3 mm
    • SIM eject bit
    • 1/4" to 4 mm driver adapter

    Price: $65

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    3 of 11 Panasonic

    Rechargeable batteries

    Who doesn't have an assortment of mice and keyboards and trackpads that all take their life-force from AA batteries? Being conscious of my impact on spaceship earth, I'm loathed to power these devices with batteries that are going to get chucked away. That said, I've bought enough cheap rechargeable batteries to know that unless you buy these wisely, they too can end up on the scrapheap.

    My current battery of choice is the Panasonic Eneloop Pro. I like these for two reasons:

    • They offer plenty of kick
    • You can charge them and put them away, and after a year they will still hold around 85 percent of their charge

    Unlike other rechargeable batteries that claim you can charge then a thousand times or more, the Eneloop Pro only lasts for 500 charge cycles, but that still means that if I charged them up twice a week, they'd still last for almost 5 years, which is a lot longer than most have lasted me in the past.

    Price: Around $20 for 4 x AA

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    4 of 11 EasyAcc

    In-car charger

    Why have things charging on your desk when you can charge them on your way to and from work?

    Here is an EasyAcc 4-port 34W 6.8A in-car charger that is not only capable of charging a wide variety of devices, but it can do so safely thanks to its built-in protection against overcharging, overdischarge, overcurrent, and short circuits

    Price: Around $10

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    5 of 11 Leatherman

    Multitool

    While I recommend having a dedicated toolkit for repairing devices, nothing beats having a multitool you can shove into a pocket. It means you have it with you when you want to do some small task, which is a real timesaver.

    My trusty Leatherman Wave is a constant companion of mine. This has taken apart (and rebuilt) everything from PCs to engines.

    Splendid piece of kit.

    Price: Around $80

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    6 of 11 Dymo

    Label maker

    My advice to anyone dealing with tech - label everything!

    Gone are the days where my desk used to be littered with unlabeled cables and chargers. It takes a few minutes to pop a label on a cable or charger, but that saves an awful lot of time down the line.

    I use the Dymo LabelManager 420P for my labeling needs. It does everything I need, plus more! I especially like the fact that it takes industrial quality vinyl labels which can withstand harsh conditions.

    Price: $79

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    7 of 11 Nitecore

    Battery charger

    There are a lot of different types of rechargeable battery out there, ranging from the ever-common AA and AAA to more exotic varieties such as 18650 Li-ion batteries. Rather than crowd my desk out with a load of different chargers I've standardized on the Nitecore Intellicharger i4.

    The i4 is compatible with the following:

    • MR / Li-ion: 26650, 22650, 18650, 18490, 18350, 17670, 17500, 16340(RCR123), 14500, 10440
    • Ni-MH / Ni-Cd: AA, AAA, AAAA, C

    Not only can this recharge a staggering array of different batteries, but there's a version that comes with a handy car cord to keep things charged up when I'm on the road.

    Price: Around $20

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    8 of 11 ArmyTek

    LED headlamp

    I generally find myself working in less than ideal conditions. No matter whether I'm repairing a PC, fixing a network cable, or diagnosing some other random problem I'm always struggling to get light on what I'm doing.

    For a few years now I've been relying on LED flashlights and headlamps. They offer a powerful light and last a very long time. But they have one drawback -- the light the LEDs give off has a blue cast and this can make it hard to identify colors. This isn't a problem when dealing with screws and such, but when I'm dealing with cabling or wiring, it can sometimes be challenging to tell some colors apart.

    This is why I've made the switch to the ArmyTek Wizard Pro XM-L2 Warm. This ticks all the boxes for me:

    • Very variable light output -- From a firefly more to one that feels like "Superman's laser beam melt your face off" mode
    • Choice of batteries -- I can either use two disposable CR123A lithium cells or one 18650 lithium-ion rechargeable cell
    • It's hard anodized to take bumps and knocks
    • The LED color output is a neutral 4000K which means colors look far more normal
    • It features an impact-resistant glass lens with sapphire with anti-reflection coating
    • The supplied headband is comfortable

    Price: $89

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    9 of 11 iFixit

    Entry tools

    With more and more smartphones and tablets about than ever, there's a good chance that you will need to get inside one of these at some point. But the problem is, most post-PC devices are put together with such tight tolerances -- not to mention copious amounts of adhesive -- that opening them up without doing more damage is nearly impossible unless you have the right tools. Don't think you can just stick a knife blade into the gap between a screen and the body of the device to lever it apart -- you'll end up breaking the screen, the blade, or more than likely, both!

    What you need is iFixit's iOpener. This is a kit containing all the tools you need to open even the most tightly put together devices such as Apple's iPhone or iPad, or Microsoft's Surface.

    This kit contains:

    • iOpener - An ingenious pad which you heat in a microwave oven and use to melt the adhesive
    • Plastic Opening Tools
    • iFixit Opening Picks set of 6
    • Small Suction Cup
    • Spudger
    • Plastic Cards
    • Phillips #000, Phillips #00, Phillips #0, Torx T5, Sim Eject, and Magnetic Pickup screwdriver bits and driver

    This is an absolutely indispensable kit for anyone wanting to repair smartphones and tablets.

    Price: $20

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    10 of 11 Amazon

    Cables… lots of cables

    I make sure that I have ample spare cables for charging stuff both at home, in the office, and when on the road. I used to have to shop around for good deals or to find decent quality stuff, but lately I've settled for Amazon Basics cables.

    They're cheap (so if you lose them or they get pinched, it's not the end of the world), yet durable and well made, and come in a good selection of lengths.

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    11 of 11 CyberClean

    Cleaning products

    Dirty peripherals are something I can't stand!

    I use this stuff for keeping my keyboards clean, and this to clean my displays.

    Both do a great job.

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