24 October 2016


Aluminet Shade Cloth

Reflects unwanted heat, radiation, and light

I bought a panel of 70% Aluminet shade cloth for my chicken run last spring, and I’ve found that it’s remarkable stuff. Shade cloth is designed for gardeners and greenhouses, and is a knitted or woven fabric that blocks a specific percentage of shade. Most shade cloth is black, but Aluminet is made from an aluminized thread. In addition to shading, it also reflects heat.

The temperature inside my chicken run is usually 5-10 degrees cooler than the temperature just outside. And cooling breezes pass right through this stuff like it’s not even there! I’m planning on buying another couple of panels of this stuff to hang on our upper deck where the temperature goes over 100 degrees (in Seattle!). It’s sturdy lightweight stuff. Mine went through a whole summer resting and rubbing against the cage wire of the run with no perceptible damage except a couple of pulled threads.

My only complaint is that it makes my chicken run look like a giant baked potato! Still, I can live with that. I understand that this stuff is popular at Burning Man, which makes a great deal of sense. It’s not cheap, but it’s well worth the extra cost, because it does such a great job keeping things cool.

10/24/16 -- Amy Thomson

23 October 2016


Event Horizon/Mailinator/Sleep hack

Recomendo: issue no. 13

A crazy Kickstarter project I funded (still open) is Event Horizon, which is a LARP — a live action role playing game. Think of an improv weekend where the audience is the players. This one convenes 150 people to pretend they are in a space opera on a distant planet with costumes, characters, roles, sets, drama, and lodging for the weekend. Nerd city. — KK

Web tip:
Mailinator offers free, disposable email addresses. When you visit a website that requires an email address (and sends you an email to confirm that the email is valid), you can give them any word followed by @mailinator.com. Then, visit Mailinator to access the email. It’s a great way to reduce spam. — MF

Sleep hack:
Sticking one bare foot outside of the covers definitely helps me when I wake up in the middle of the night and want to fall back asleep ASAP. Here is a video about it. — CL

I’m blasting through the last book in Ramez Naam’s fantastic science fiction trilogy about technological telepathy. Start with Nexus, then onto Crux and Apex. He fleshes out not only the benefits of a global mind meld but also its problems, so as the series proceeds he keeps changing my mind on whether I want this invention or not. That’s great reading.— KK

For many years, I paid $275 a month for an AT&T mobile phone plan (for a family of four iPhone users). Then I switched to T-Mobile. It’s $175 a month, we get unlimited data, and best of all, international data is free. It’s great to travel to another country and freely use the Internet (for maps, reviews, texts, Instagram, etc). Phone calls are also free in Mexico and Canada, and international calls are usually $0.20 a minute. — MF

My husband likes to fall asleep listening to podcasts, but I don’t. These SleepPhones make us both happy. The wireless ones let him shift in his sleep, so he can wear them all night, and are machine washable. — CL

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10/23/16 -- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Lamar

21 October 2016


Elevator Bolts

These bolt heads need only a 1/8" countersink

I was building a base for two new tools (chop saw and sander) and wanted to bolt the tools to their base rather than screw them. I wanted the bolts to stick up from below, but with only a 1″ plank, any hex-head or carriage bolt, plus the necessary washers, would have to be counter-sunk so far that it would weaken the base significantly. I looked at cabinet connectors, but their heads were not flat. I found elevator bolts at OSH, and they are perfect: they have large, flat heads (removing the need for a washer), a small hex head to hold the bolt from turning, and standard threaded shaft (in all the standard sizes). I used a forstner bit to add a 1/8″ countersink (so the underside of base would be completely smooth), but cranking down the bolt tightens it’s head snugly.

10/21/16 -- Richard Haven

20 October 2016


Plainsman Leather Gloves

Fit comfortably against the hand for maximum control and dexterity

I’ve used these Plainsman Cabretta Leather Work Gloves for a few years now, since my father-in-law gave me a pair. When he first handed them to me, I thought they were too thin and flimsy and would be destroyed in no time. But that thinness is exactly what has made me continue to use these gloves. I have an increased dexterity with these gloves that you can’t get with other, more bulky, leather work gloves. They’ve held up exceptionally well. The cabretta leather stretches and molds to fit your hands, especially when slightly damp. These gloves do a great job of protecting hands from splinters, briars, and blisters.

10/20/16 -- Dan Perdue

19 October 2016


USB TV Tuner

Watch TV on your computer

I have had this little USB TV Tuner for about a year and have ended up purchasing another for my daughter. If you are not familiar with these, it is a small USB powered TV tuner that allows you to watch over-the-air or standard cable TV on your computer. I initially purchased this to use with my laptop in the event of a power outage during severe storms. We get some pretty bad storms with tornadoes in this area and it is good to be prepared. I can simply plug this into our aerial lead and be able to watch the local weather reports without needing internet access.

Since owning this I have found other uses such as recording OTA broadcasts, SD analog inputs and anything else where you need to use a laptop as an A/V monitor. The latest use was to purchase one for my daughter to use in her dorm room. Her school offers free basic cable but she did not really want a full TV in her room. She can plug this into her laptop and watch TV or even record a show to watch later. The antenna that comes with it is pretty weak, but it has worked for my purposes. There are lots of slim OTA antennas out there such as the Leaf that would do a better job.

10/19/16 -- Matt Schirmacher

18 October 2016


Klein Tools Katapult Wire Stripper

Cuts and strips 8-22 AWG wire with ease

This is the Klein Tools “Compound Action” Wire Stripper. Compound action (in this case) means that this product uses the mechanics from energy created by squeezing the handles together to pull the jacket (sometimes called “insulation”, this is rubber or plastic that protects the wire you are trying to expose). It features machined stripping holes for wires from 20 to 8 awg wire. It also features a wire cutter — this kind of “hole” style wire cutter is fantastic for getting really accurate cuts after you strip off the jacket (if you’ve accidentals pulled off more jacket than you needed), but in most cases I find myself also carrying and using a separate standard pair of wire cutters for cutting lengths of wire off of the spool. With this easy stripping action it more than triples productivity. We recently used this product to strip more than 1,800 small strips of 16 awg stranded copper wire. Two of us were able to knock it out in a fraction of the time it would’ve taken with a traditional wire stripper.

10/18/16 -- Jordan Greene


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SculpWood Moldable Epoxy Putty

Use to replace rotted, cracked, or chipped away wood

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Detects unwanted water only 1/32″ deep

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Provides a clean sip of water from your faucet

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CargoRAXX – unrecommended

This appears to be a shill review. Many thanks to Cool Tools reader Matthew Connor for looking into this. He wrote:

Meaghan Hollywood works for CargoRAXX. Meaghan Hollywood put a review up quasi-anonymously on Amazon. A similarly worded review is now anonymously on KK.org.

On Amazon there are two reviews for the product (https://www.amazon.com/CargoRAXX-S1A-Interior-Management-System/dp/B01A6X4MBS). Neither is attributed by name but the one from January 18th, 2016 refers to “my Tahoe” and read similar to the KK.org review. Let us suppose the author is, in fact, the same person.

Clicking on the name for the review – merely “Amazon Customer” brings up their profile (https://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A1CF94IIWSAE00/ref=cm_cr_dp_pdp). This profile contains one Wish List on the left side. Clicking on it revels – the name of “Amazon Customer” – it is Meaghan Hollywood.

Ok. I believe at this point the author of the KK review and the author of at least one of the two reviews on Amazon are in fact the same person and that person’s name is Meaghan Hollywood.

Here’s the kicker, CargoRAXX has a website with a blog feature – their blogger’s name is Meaghan Hollywood. (http://cargoraxx.com/5-reasons-re-organize-suv/)

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 Lamar 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.