Blue Piston Wireless Rechargeable Speaker

One of the drawbacks I have found with iDevices is the limited way they have of sharing sound with others. They work great with an ear bud. You can buy a splitter and have two people listening at the same time, but they have to be close together. Their speaker system is hardly loud enough. You have to be sitting right beside it to hear it. As always, when a problem occurs, industry is quick to find solutions. This problem has been answered with a profusion of speakers that can be used with them. Many of these are not really portable in that you would not carry them around since they are too large. They produce great sound but they are best used in one place. I prefer to have a speaker that is more versatile, one that I can easily take anywhere with me. Logiix has the perfect solution for me, having come up with the Blue Piston Wireless Bluetooth Speaker. I have been using it for about fourteen months and it has worked perfectly for me.

The Blue Piston Speaker gets its name from the compact circular design. You are not limited to the blue color as there are seven colors to choose from, of which blue is one. It is lightweight (180 grams) and compact (Dimensions: Height – 5 cm (2″) Diameter 6 cm (2.5″)), which is perfect for traveling. The Blue Piston even fits in a car’s standard drink coaster. This speaker is designed to communicate seamlessly and wirelessly with any Bluetooth device. The wireless component gives you the freedom to place your speakers anywhere you like. This portable bluetooth speaker has a brushed aluminum military grade shell and built-in low frequency resonance system for a clear sound. The maximum volume that you can get out of it far exceeds what the iPad can give you. You will be able to blast the sound all through the house if you want.

Getting started with the Speaker is a snap. The first thing I had to do was to make sure it was fully charged. I plugged this into my USB plug. It has a special cable that links the speaker to any USB charging plug or your computer. A red LED on the speaker indicated that it was charging. The light turns off when fully charged. It typically takes about two or three hours to fully charge. My biggest complaint with most bluetooth devices is the charging life. The batteries always seem to need recharging. The Blue Piston lasted way longer than any other bluetooth speakers I have tried in the past. The full charge easily lasted 8 hours. The on/off switch helps to decrease the loss of battery life and the speaker is able to turn itself off after about 15 minutes of inactivity. When the speaker’s battery starts running low, an alert tone will sound every 30 seconds and the red LED will start to flash.

This speaker has a couple of extra functions. Besides the charging cable, it comes with an auxiliary cable to link the speaker to any other speaker via the headphone port. This means that the Blue Piston can be used as the speaker for any audio device, even if there is no bluetooth capability. Another plus to this speaker is the ability to control an iPhone. There is a built-in microphone. To answer a call, simply press the multifunction button and start talking. Pressing it again, ends the call. To reject a call, hold down the button until you hear an indicator tone (about 3 seconds). This then provides a hands-free iPhone that you could use when driving.

Lastly, the Blue Piston comes with a small carrying pouch which will hold the speaker and the two cables. That way, you won’t have to look around for the micro USB charging cable when you need it, as infrequently as this occurs. The speaker also has an anti-slip pad attached to the bottom of the base. The only function missing from the speaker that many other bluetooth speakers have is a volume control on the unit itself. You’ll have to rely on the volume control on the source device for that.

The Blue Piston Speaker was mainly made for enjoying stereo sound superior to the iPad’s built-in mono speakers. I like that I can move the speaker to almost anywhere in the house and still enjoy the audio. It has a range of about 10 meters as long as there are no walls in the way. I took it to my basement and there was no loss of fidelity. And the sound quality is superb. It comes with a one year warranty.

For the size, convenience, and price you will not find a better speaker out there.

Logiix Blue Piston Rechargeable Bluetooth Speaker
$30

Available from Amazon



Steripod Toothbrush Sanitizer

I travel for a living, with limited space and staying in campgrounds 6 out of 7 nights a week. Most of my toiletries find their way into a single dopp kit, haphazardly tossed in as I try to avoid setting anything down in that puddle of questionable liquid on the counter.

This year I had the unfortunate experience of discovering what it tastes like to brush your teeth with a toothbrush full of lotion. I had to replace the brush because it wouldn’t lose the taste.

Days later I came across the Steripod Toothbrush Sanitizer. Traditional toothbrush covers don’t easily fit on many electric toothbrushes where these are universal. Gone is the snap cover that doesn’t always hold, replaced with a simple clip. The spring is strong enough that it won’t open on its own in your bag.

A simple rinse of your brush before brushing removes any taste that the sanitizer (which is infused in small pads on the interior walls of the sanitizer and is made from the herb thyme) might leave. I can’t vouch for the effectiveness of the sterilizing feature but the whole package has kept my toothbrush cleaner.

-- Matt Johnson  

Steripod Clip-on Toothbrush Sanitizer
$6 for a 2-pack

Available from Amazon



Rapid Heat Ceramic Glue Gun

Over the years I’ve owned half a dozen glue guns, ranging from $6 craft guns up to $120 semi pro guns. They dribbled glue, took forever to heat up, and couldn’t output much glue.

That last issue is a big problem for big projects – you have to use the glue while it’s hot and if the gun can’t quickly output all the glue you need then you can’t stick the parts together.

I was skeptical that the DeWalt could possibly be as good as the package claimed: “heats up 50% faster,” “outputs 50 4-inch glue sticks per hour.” That’s 1.2 pounds of glue per hour, which is far more than any of the previous guns I’ve used. It’s not in the realm of professional glue guns but those cost hundreds of dollars while the DeWalt is $19.95.

Everything on the package is true. I’ve been using this gun for a month and it heats up very quickly, doesn’t dribble glue when you aren’t pressing the trigger, and outputs a phenomenal amount of glue.

Unless you are sealing cardboard boxes all day long this should have enough capacity for any DIY project. It’s better than guns costing 5 times as much.

-- Hank Thomas  

Dewalt Rapid Heat Ceramic Glue Gun
$20

Available from Amazon



CRC Electronic Contact Cleaner 2000

I first ran into a can of this wonderful stuff when I started my first job, and have found it invaluable since, to the point where I have a can at work, home, and even leave one at my parents’ house.

What this is, is a can of non-flammable, liquid, electronic cleaner that can be pin-point sprayed onto various powered-down electronic contacts which are often unreachable or time-consuming to repair/replace.

Smartphone power button not responding? DSLR knob not switching modes? Static in the line jack? EQ slider no longer smooth? Try some of this spray, and if it’s an electronic contact issue, it might just magically fix it.

Even after you’ve given them ample warning, the look of horror on the faces of your friends and family as you spray a stream of liquid onto their non-waterproof electronics is priceless. Even better is the look of delight when they realize there is no evidence of the liquid, and you’ve fixed their gadget.

Because it evaporates nearly instantaneously, you won’t end up with liquid damage to components or surroundings, is plastic-friendly in that it doesn’t discolor or crack it, and is safe to use liberally.

My personal favorite is the CRC Contact Cleaner 2000, since that’s what I first used, and I also chuckle a little when I use any product with the “futuristic” number “2000″ in it.

There are many fine products from competitors such as Permatex, B’Laster, and WD-40, as well, with varying claims of higher cleansing performance. Perhaps in really tough environments, this may be important, but for my typical home/office use, the CRC Contact Cleaner 2000 has worked just fine. Regardless of what cleaner you purchase, make sure you’re purchasing a version that is explicitly listed as non-flammable and compliant with all 50 states on low VOC (volatile organic compounds).

-- Kaz Mori  

CRC Contact 2000 VC Precision Cleaner, 16 oz
$36

Available from Amazon



Vix Bit

This might seem like a bit of a specialty tool, but for a homeowner or finish carpenter, it makes installing any kind of fixture a snap. “Vix” is a brand name for the S.E. Vick company, more generically it’s a “self-centering” drill bit, and they make a few different sizes, but I’ve only ever used the smaller one — need a bigger hole? Use it as a pilot bit. Hinges, cabinet pulls, shelf brackets, anything you need to fasten to a piece of wood, this bit prevents the tip from wandering so countersunk screws will seat perfectly. I first encountered these as a carpenter — attaching cabinet hardware is usually the last thing on the job, so you really don’t want to screw up at that stage. The vix bit makes it pretty much idiot-proof. I’ve had one for at least ten years, and it still worked great when I lost it a few weeks ago. It was sorely missed until I replaced it.

-- Chris Landers  

Set of 3 Vix Bits
$23

Available from Amazon



Quirky Verseur 4-in1 Wine Opener

In theory, corkscrews are great tools. In practice, however, they’re often either challenging to use, over-engineered, or prohibitively expensive.

But as I opened a bottle of wine on New Year’s Eve, I realized that the Quirky Verseur is by far the easiest, fastest corkscrew I’ve ever used.

Simply slide the flared plastic tube of this odd-looking device over the top of the wine bottle, squeeze gently to hold it in place, insert the corkscrew until the tip pierces the cork, and and start turning clockwise. The cork comes out with hardly any effort. No pulling, no prying, nothing but a clean, extracted cork 100% of the time.

But it’s not just one tool — it’s four tools rolled into one. In addition to being a great corkscrew, there’s a recessed foil cutter in the handle to help you swiftly get to the cork (it takes a few times to get the hang of using this), a pouring spout for drip-less wine delivery, and a minimalist bottle stopper to keep the wine you don’t drink fresh. Everything fits together in one piece for easy storing. It’s a wine-opening multi-tool.

Quirky Verseur 4-in1 Wine Opener
$17

Available from Amazon



Blogger and Author, David McRaney [Cool Tools Show 010]

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

Blogger and author David McRaney introduces us to some lesser known creative solutions to life’s tiny nuisances that will help you untangle your wad of keys, opt for a better YouTube experience, and explore the future of musical experimentation.

Show Notes:

David’s Blog, You Are Not So Smart

You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney

You Are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney

Here are David’s tool picks, with quotes from the show:

Keysmart $20

“You don’t have a big wad of keys and they just swing out like a pocket knife and go into the door and you twist it, open a door and then swing it back in. It’s all nice and tight and compact and I like it. ”

Hercules Stands Wallmount Guitar Hanger  $15

“You may have seen something like this in a guitar store. That’s how I started looking for it because I used to have all my guitars around my house and my basses on stands and it only takes two or three and suddenly a whole side of your room is taken up by the stuff. ”

Source Audio SA115 Hot Hand 3 Wireless Adapter $150

“The way I was first introduced to this is there’s a band called Pinn Panelle and they had a video where they did a live cover of Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites“…and the bass player was able to make the dubstep bass sound by using this controller…His name is Nathan Navarro and he’s got some really face melting bass solos that he’s created using this device and his album even comes with tablature for his solos.”

AlienTube Free

“Everyone knows that YouTube comments are the worst place on the internet. They are so horrible. I hope that if some sort of extraterrestrial intelligence is scanning our database of knowledge that they don’t ever see the YouTube comments. But usually Reddit comments about a video are pretty good and sometimes really amazing things can be in a Reddit thread…”

-- Mark Frauenfelder  



Eclipse Magnifier Workbench Lamp

This is a 5-inch diameter magnifying glass mounted on a swing arm, and the assembly has a vice clamp to mount itself to the edge of a table or desk. It includes a ring of light around the lens to illuminate the work vividly. This allows you to place your work on the furniture surface and swing the magnifier over the work so you can comfortably access tools, the material, and additional lighting when needed. When one does not need it, it can be taken down and stored in twenty seconds, and set back up as needed in almost as little time.

I have used it for 5 years. It allows me to see extraordinarily small things and, when appropriate, make precision repairs, such as cracked or clogged parts in expensive electronics and tiny splinters in skin. Children whose toys are broken sometimes become heartbroken until they are repaired or replaced, and this can allow immediate salve to them. When they get a painful splinter, this not only saves them prolonged pain, but may save the parent a trip to a medical provider. In addition, children tend to adore exploring the world of tiny things such as insects, and manufactured things using these.

headmountFor really tiny detail, one can combine this with a headset magnifier. Most of these headsets allow multiple lenses at one time so you can use only one of its lenses if you want moderate magnification or all three for extreme. The disadvantage of the headset is the disorientation when not looking only at the work, such as looking for tools, parts, and instructions which will seem blurry and distracting unless you continually raise and lower the headset as you look from the closeup work to more distant other things. That is the advantage of the swing arm magnifier; you can look from close to more distant without limitation since the swing arm magnifies only the work you want magnified.

-- John Ward  

Eclipse 5″ Diameter Magnifier Workbench Lamp with Bench Clamp
$64

Available from Amazon



Learning Tower Kids Step Stool

I have been using this for 7 months, since my daughter was 16 months old. I love it! She was constantly wanting to either sit on the counter or have me hold her while I was prepping meals/snacks/drinks. This enables her to climb up and be counter level in the kitchen and I have both of my arms and hands free. It also comes with accessories (like a chalkboard and castle stuff) which I have not purchased, but likely will. What I love about this, versus other products, is it gives her the independence she so desires but is safe (compared to a step ladder or stool of some type).

-- Katie Lee  

Little Partners Learning Tower Kids Step Stool
$200

Available from Amazon



Giveaway! One-Year Membership to TripIt Pro

Cool Tools is giving away a one-year membership to the TripIt Pro (a travel organizing service, which we reviewed here) to one person who writes and submits a Cool Tool review between now and Thursday, September 18 at noon PST. It’s a $40 value. We’ll pick our favorite review (about any tool you love) and notify the person who wrote it. (I won’t send the physical card — just the redeemable gift code.)

If you write a review and you don’t win the gift card, don’t despair — if we like it we will run it here on Cool Tools. We pay $25 for each review we run. Please use our Submit a Tool form to send us your review.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

TripIt Pro
$40/year