21 July 2017

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StylusReach Flexible Flashlight

For light in tight places

[This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2003 – MF]

My brother-in-law, who’s a tool salesman, gave me one of these lights for Christmas. It’s a natural white super bright LED light on a flexible, shielded cable. The LED has a rated life of 100,000 hours. The light is extremely tough. My bro-in-law likes to whack the crap out of ‘em to demonstrate how durable they are. Waterproof too. Two settings on the light: blinking and steady. There’s also a blue LED version, which is easier on the eyes. The StylusReach is pen-sized (when the shaft is folded over and clipped to the battery tube) and 14 inches long when extended. It has a pocket clip (and you thought that Fisher Space Pen made you look like a geek!). I use mine for all sorts of hardware hacking and around the house stuff (like looking under the burner on our stove to try and find out why the stovetop heated up to the point where it shattered the tempered glass stovetop inset!) Inside computers, you can actually clip it to the side of the case to direct the light where you want it. It’s also really useful for seeing behind furniture, etc. The light lets me clearly see what I’m going for before I reach and grab.

-- Gareth Branwyn 07/21/17

21 July 2017

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RepairClinic.com

Parts and video instruction for DIY appliance repair

If you have an appliance (especially an older one) that has a minor problem and you want to DIY the fix instead of buying a replacement or buying a repair, consult RepairClinic.com. Type in the model number and you get taken to a page that lists the most common problems. The page for that problem lists – most likely/common to least – the various things that could cause a problem. For example, for our 20 year old washer, the page told us “for a small leak at the front of the machine”, it’s most commonly this part. The part arrived in a couple days and the linked video had crystal clear instructions on how to take apart the machine, swap the part and close everything back up. Best of all, in case I forgot, the emailed invoice even had a link to the video.

-- Burton Strauss 07/21/17

20 July 2017

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Kwik-kut Food Chopper

Chops almost any food item

As a kid, I helped my mother cut out biscuits with this cutter. When I saw one at an estate sale a few years ago, I snagged it. It was only then that my mom let me in on a secret: this tool is useful for so much more than cutting biscuits. She uses it instead of a pastry cutter to make pie crust and biscuit dough, plus chop strawberries, nuts, and vegetables. Sure enough, I haven’t used a pastry cutter since. With just one circular blade, it’s much easier to clean than a pastry cutter with its multiple blades that always seem to get gummed up. Last time I made strawberry jam I used it to chop the strawberries a bit, and it worked so much better than my other options: a knife, which would have taken too long, and a food processor, which would have turned the strawberries into mush. It’s still my go-to cutter for biscuits and is just the right size for donuts. The cutter is made in America and will last for decades. My mom has had hers for at least 35 years, and it still works great.

-- Abbie Stillie 07/20/17

19 July 2017

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Brad Templeton, Futurist

Cool Tools Show 081: Brad Templeton

We have hired an editor to edit the Cool Tools podcast. It costs us $300 a month. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $172 a month to the podcast. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have nice rewards for people who contribute! – MF

Brad Templeton is founding faculty for Computing & Networks at Singularity University, and Chairman Emeritus and futurist of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the leading cyberspace civil rights foundation. He is on the board of the Foresight Institute. He also advised Google’s team developing self-driving cars, and writes about such cars at robocars.com. He also advises Starship on delivery robots and Quanergy in the LIDAR space. He founded ClariNet Communications Corp (the world’s first “dot-com” company.) He also created rec.humor.funny, the world’s longest running blog.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

4KTV
4K TVs as computer monitors
“[I have] a 50-inch 4K television, and you may think, ‘Wow, that’s really big, how far away do you sit from it?’ I sit the same distance I sat from the 30-inch and the 24-inches that so many people use. In fact, if you think about it, the typical 24-inch HD monitor, that is the most common sort of monitor sold today or a few years ago, that actually is one quarter of 4K and it’s 24-inches, which means it’s basically half of the 50-inch screen. … The great thing though is, they’re selling these TVs really cheap. They’re selling them down, you can get them for five, 600 bucks, even less …They didn’t want you to use these as monitors, they designed them to be TVs. So there’s s few tricks to pull, but if you do you can get something that’s just amazing.”

VoIP PBX
“I run a voice over IP PBX in my home, that’s a little unusual. You may not need to do that, but there are lots of voice over IP services now, so you can get even your landline phone to travel with you. No matter where you are in the world, even on your cell phone or on your computer or if you want to bring a small phone with you because you like that landline experience, which I happen to. I like the voice quality and the physicality of it for a real conversation. You can get that and proxy it up so that my phone in California, you can call it, and it’s gonna ring at my desk in Paris and I can call you back. It’s gonna look like I’m there. A lot of people are doing that.”

Amazonfire
Fire TV Stick ($40)
“I brought [overseas] my Amazon Fire Stick. I have the first generation one, that was my mistake. The second generation one can be programmed to do what you need to do here, which is use a VPN, a virtual private network. Why? Because you want to cheat all these global content controls that are telling me, even though I have an American Netflix account and I’m paying money into it right now, Netflix will not show me the things that I pay for in the US, ‘cause I’m in France.”

sonycamera
Sony cameras
“I like the fact that my cameras keep getting smaller. … I’ve got the Sony a7RII, that’s about the best of the digital SLRs for image quality right now. Now, Sony just came out with their A9 which is possibly better. And then in their line I have their APS-C size, that’s the sensor that’s about half the size of a full 35 millimeter frame. That drops a lot of weight. … I also have, again it’s Sony so this one doesn’t have to be, but it’s one of the nicest little point and shoots. That fits in your pocket, and it’s the DSC-RX100 IV, and that guy does get some great images. But of course it just has a point and shoot zoom lens on it.”

robot-lightbulb
Starship Technologies
“My favorite tool I’m working on right now is with a company that’s based in Estonia, and it’s called Starship Technologies. We’re making a delivery robot. It’s a little robot the size of a big beer cooler, and it’s got six wheels, and it’s not fully autonomous yet, but it’s going to be. It’s going to bring you everything that you want to order in 30 minutes, and it’s gonna cost under a dollar to do it. … Like so many things these days, you won’t be able to get one. You’ll be able to get one to bring you something, or if you’re a delivery company you might be able to buy them. “

07/19/17

19 July 2017

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Maker Update: Kreg Rip-Cut

Speeds and simplifies ripping down large plywood and MDF panels

This week on Maker Update: LEDs for your eyes, talking to your lamp, a new marble machine, the poor man’s table saw, and a giant super soaker. Show notes here.

This week’s Cool Tool is the Kreg Rip-Cut. It’s a $32 guide for a circular saw. It’s great if you have a small workshop, or no workshop. If you have a table saw, there’s probably no reason to buy this. But if you have a small garage like mine and you don’t want to surrender the space and money to have a table saw, this and a circular saw are an effective way to accurately break down sheets of wood.

It comes in two pieces. One is a universal adapter that can mount onto just about any circular saw — including left handed ones. This just screws onto the existing plate, and I just leave mine on all the time.

The other is this L-shaped aluminum ruler designed to hug and slide against the straight outside edge of your wood. You latch the adapter plate onto the ruler, measure out where you want your cut, and make it happen, using the edge of the board to guide your cut.

Now, there are two obvious limitations on this. One is that the aluminum guide only extends out up to 24 inches. The other is that you’ll need some kind of spoiler board if you want to cut all the way through your material.

Alternatively, you could buy a long metal guide track or even use a long 2×4, and clamp it down wherever you want and let that guide your cut. But, using the Rip-Cut, there’s no limit to the length of your cut, especially with a battery powered saw. Also, if I want to rip another, identical section, there’s no setup. I just move back to the beginning.

Even more important for me, I don’t have to store a big, long, metal track in my workshop. This thing just hangs out of the way, and it’s small enough I can just throw it in my back seat if I need to take it somewhere.

-- Donald Bell 07/19/17

19 July 2017

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Extreme Duck Tape

Compact emergency tape

[This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2003 – MF]

As part of my ultra-lighting up of my backpacking gear, I stumbled across this cool repackaging of duck tape, perfect for hikers. The tape is “flat-packed” to save space, and the extreme version has super-bright write-on colors. A (nerdy) backpacker’s dream, certain to become a fixture in my fix-it kit.

-- Paul Saffo 07/19/17

ALL REVIEWS

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Lock Laces

Elastic no-tie shoelaces

img 07/17/17

Hennessy Tent Hammock

Light, quick cool shelter

img 07/17/17

Silicone spoon spatula

Thin sharp edges slide cleanly under food

img 07/14/17

Alfamo Cooling Towel

Evaporative body cooling

img 07/13/17

Maker Update #42: Poster Putty

Why you need some in your toolkit

See all the reviews

ASK COOL TOOLS

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How to swim like a fish

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Quiet, versatile juice extractor

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COOL TOOLS SHOW PODCAST

07/19/17

Cool Tools Show 081: Brad Templeton

Picks and shownotes
07/12/17

Cool Tools Show 080: Will Smith

Picks and shownotes
07/5/17

Cool Tools Show 079: Collin Cunningham

Picks and shownotes

WHAT'S IN MY BAG?
23 February 2017

ANNOUNCEMENTS
05/23/17

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We Refreshed Our Website

If you read Cool Tools via RSS (which is the way Kevin and I read blogs) then you probably don’t realize we updated our website design today. We took your feedback seriously and tried our best to simplify the design and make it more legible.

I’m sure we got some things wrong. If you find a mistake or have suggestions about our current iteration, please let us know in the comments.

Thanks for reading Cool Tools and being part of the community.

If I’ve still got your attention, I’d like to remind you that Cool Tools runs reviews written by our readers. Please recommend a tool you love.

ABOUT COOL TOOLS

Cool Tools is a web site which recommends the best/cheapest tools available. Tools are defined broadly as anything that can be useful. This includes hand tools, machines, books, software, gadgets, websites, maps, and even ideas. All reviews are positive raves written by real users. We don’t bother with negative reviews because our intent is to only offer the best.

One new tool is posted each weekday. Cool Tools does NOT sell anything. The site provides prices and convenient sources for readers to purchase items.

When Amazon.com is listed as a source (which it often is because of its prices and convenience) Cool Tools receives a fractional fee from Amazon if items are purchased at Amazon on that visit. Cool Tools also earns revenue from Google ads, although we have no foreknowledge nor much control of which ads will appear.

We recently posted a short history of Cool Tools which included current stats as of April 2008. This explains both the genesis of this site, and the tools we use to operate it.

13632766_602152159944472_101382480_oKevin Kelly started Cool Tools in 2000 as an email list, then as a blog since 2003. He edited all reviews through 2006. He writes the occasional review, oversees the design and editorial direction of this site, and made a book version of Cool Tools. If you have a question about the website in general his email is kk {at} kk.org.

13918651_603790483113973_1799207977_oMark Frauenfelder edits Cool Tools and develops editorial projects for Cool Tools Lab, LLC. If you’d like to submit a review, email him at editor {at} cool-tools.org (or use the Submit a Tool form).

13898183_602421513250870_1391167760_oClaudia Dawson runs the Cool Tool website, posting items daily, maintaining software, measuring analytics, managing ads, and in general keeping the site alive. If you have a concern about the operation or status of this site contact her email is cl {at} kk.org.