If you have access to a pasta machine you can make a whole pile of pretty awesome simple canes. Bonus points if you have a clay extruder around.
If you want precise, nicely lined up canes use the square edged dies on your extruder first – parts fit together more neatly. Checkerboard squares line up beautifully but you could just as easily do this with right angle triangles. Simple block letters are another great cane. I make ER canes to use as a signature on my clay pieces. Make letters, reduce teeny tiny, and add a slice to your projects.
Burst patterns in white and translucent are great effects on layered cane work designs. Make the burst with a round log in the center and you have a great sun cane to use.
Maureen Carlson had a short craft book called Clay Techniques with a Pasta Machine which goes into much more detail about what sort of simple techniques you can do with just a pasta machine.