19 February 2017

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FFF Tour/OverDrive/Exploratorium

Recomendo: issue no. 30

Enjoyment:
If the Found Footage Festival tour ever comes your way, I highly recommend you check it out. The two guys who host the events scour thrift stores and yard sales for the most obscure and awkward infomercials, public access shows, training tapes and home videos to showcase. I’ve been to four of their shows and I always laugh so hard it hurts. They currently have 8 volumes available on DVD. You can watch videos of some of their findings on the website. — CD

Culture:
The US is basically the only country in the world not using metric. It’s not that hard to learn a rough sense of how many kilometers in a mile, or pounds in a kilo. But it is very hard to convert temperatures between Centigrade and Fahrenheit. The solution is to convert all your thermometers to Centigrade: on your phone, in or outside of your house, on websites. Have any digital device display only Celsius, so you can’t cheat. In about a year, you’ll have a reliable and native sense of what’s cool and warm in degrees C. This is supremely handy if you travel anywhere outside of the US. — KK

Readable:
I feel like an idiot for not discovering OverDrive sooner. It’s a free mobile app that lets you check out ebooks, audiobooks, and videos from your local public library. To use it, you need a a library card from your town or county. I got an Los Angeles Library e-card by signing up online and a couple of minutes later I was reading A Burglar’s Guide to the City. — MF

Destination:
Since I live in the San Francisco metro area, I get a lot of out-of-town visitors. My favorite place to take them is the Exploratorium along the bayside waterfront. It is the original hands-on science museum, and still the world’s best hands-on learning experience. Many of the interactive exhibits now common at science museums around the world began here; the Exploratorium has all of them and many more found nowhere else. This sprawling temple of innovation and maker-goodness can easily occupy me — even after my 50th visit — for four hours or more. (I normally get saturated after only one hour in other museums.) Of course while it is perfect for kids of all ages, every Thursday evening it’s reserved for adults, and crowded with innovators and artists of all types. — KK

Wearable:
I spent the last year buying and returning boots in search of a pair that come close to Lucky Brand Basel boots in comfort and style. I’ve gone through two pairs of them in black in the last 5 years and I finally gave up searching and bought an additional pair in brown. I love these because they’re stylish enough to solicit compliments, and they’re so comfortable that I can literally walk miles in them every day. — CD

Travel:
Would you like to improve your chance of having an empty middle seat when you fly on Southwest? Here’s a trick I’ve started to use that works. When I board, I look for a 3-seat row of chairs where a very large person is sitting in the window or aisle set. I will sit in that row, either in the aisle seat or window seat. As the plane starts to get full, passengers will be reluctant to sit in the middle seat because the big person is encroaching on the space. One time when I did this, the guy sitting in the seat (he was probably 6’5” and weighed 300 pounds) leaned over and said conspiratorially, “No one will sit here. It’s always the last seat they take.“ — MF

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02/19/17 -- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson

18 February 2017

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Ask Cool Tools Featured Question

Share your knowledge with your fellow Cool Tools readers

mamayama recently asked “What’s your favorite dental floss for closely spaced teeth?” and here were the replies.

02/18/17 --

17 February 2017

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BuildTak Spatula

Remove objects from a 3D printer build surface

I love my BuildTak Spatula, I bought it from them at a 3D printing expo, and it was a great investment of twenty bucks. The spatula is designed to remove prints from a 3D printer build surface. I have a stable of 3D printers in my classroom, and the newest printer is big enough for me to lean inside of.

When 3D printing, prints get literally glued to the glass printer bed, and sometimes it’s a struggle to get them up without damaging the print. Printers generally come with a standard issue putty knife for this. I’ve also used a screwdriver. They are not the right tool for the job. The angle is all wrong. You want to come in at the very bottom of the print, flat to the glass plate, a putty knife needs to be flexed strongly to get it in that position. The spatula on the other hand has a head that is at a right angle to the handle so it easily slides along the plate; this means that the you don’t have to flex the blade. The large flat blade makes it less likely to damage a print, and allows for easier use on large prints. The handle is nice and comfortable and allows for quite a bit of force to be applied.

I also use the spatula for cleaning the glue off the bed. I wet the surface and can glide the blade along the bed picking up the left over glue.

02/17/17 -- Andrew Woodbridge

16 February 2017

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Six-Ounce Pyrex Custard Cups

Glass cups safe in freezer and microwave

Glass custard cups do not seem like a cool tool you would use all the time, but once you have them I bet you will. A lot of the Pyrex custard cups I own were hand-me-downs or bought at the flea market. They can be microwaved, placed in the oven (even when taken frozen from the freezer), and do all the things you would expect from good Pyrex products. I use them almost daily, as dipping bowls, to hold condiments, receptacles for hot items like bacon grease, small containers to put in the refrigerator for leftovers with a little plastic wrap on top. Glass is very easy to clean and does not stain or retain odors.

02/16/17 -- Kent Barnes

15 February 2017

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What’s in My Bag? — Marcel Dufresne

A couple’s gadget bag for traveling

These are the contents of my gadget bag when my wife and I go traveling. The contents vary somewhat depending on whether we are camping or traveling outside of North America. All the items in the photo I would consider an essential part of our time away from home.

The bag:

Propandgo
Prop ’n Go Tote ($50)
This bag has enough room to hold all the items (most of them are flat and take up little space). The bag has some padding to keep the contents somewhat protected. There is a small pouch at the top that keeps all the cables and then GNS 2000 (below). Best of all, it allows me to position the iPad at whatever angle I need for comfortable use while reclining.

What’s inside the bag:

Ipad
iPad (Varies)
The iPad is the most important item for me. There are too many uses to list here. I use an old case with it to protect the front glass while in transit.

Amazon Fire
Fire Tablet ($40)
The Amazon Fire is my wife’s ebook reader, as well as email and surfing tool. She needs her own as I am usually using the iPad and not willing to share.

HooToo
HooToo TripMate Elite Wireless Router ($30)
The HooToo Elite serves many functions. It is a charging plug and a spare battery pack. I store movies on my thumb drive and use the Elite to wirelessly connect it to my iPad (no internet needed). Lastly, it is a Wi-Fi booster. The thumb drive I carry is an F80 32G drive from Silicon Power ($19). It is lightweight but very sturdy, being totally metal. There are no caps to worry about and it is supposedly water resistant (have not tried this out). These two items sit in the convenient storage case that comes with the Elite.

3-1 charging cable
3 in 1 charging cable ($7)
The 3 in 1 charging cable cuts down on the number of cables I carry. I can use it to charge the iPad, the Fire and my bluetooth speaker.

GNS
GNS 2000 GPS ($85)
The GNS 2000 is my offline GPS system. It connects via bluetooth to my iPad (which does not have GPS capabilities) and serves to get us around. It enables any map app on my iPad to show our immediate location.

Skross
Skross World Travel Adapter ($40)
The Skross world travel plug is an absolute necessity if travelling abroad. It also has a couple of USB charging slots.

Tune
tuneFRĒQS Share headphones ($30)
The tuneFRĒQS Share headphone cable can by used separately or with my wife’s headphones plugged into it. We can listen to podcasts together at the airport. It also has an on/off button to quickly control the broadcast.

Now for some less used items:

Blue Piston
Logiix Blue Piston Element Speaker ($50)
This bluetooth speaker has my whole music library stored via a micro SSD card. It is water resistant and perfect to carry along. It also serves as an iPad speaker when needed.

Solar Power Lantern
Solar lantern ($17)
A solar lantern is a great flashlight to carry along. I don’t have to worry about batteries for it. I use it to read from late at night when I don’t want to disturb my wife. The placement of lights in hotel rooms is not always suitable.

electroc teacup heater
Portable immersion heater (varies)
Lastly, there is an electric teacup heater. It will heat up a cup of water in no time at all. I picked this item up at a small hardware store in South America.

02/15/17 -- Marcel Dufresne

(Cool Tools Readers! We will pay you $50 if we run your "What's in My Bag" story. Send photos of the things in your bag (and of the bag itself, if you love it), along with a description of the items and why they are useful. Make sure the photos are large (1200 pixels wide, at least) and clear. Use a free file sharing service to upload the photos, and email the text to editor@cool-tools.org. — editors)

15 February 2017

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Boat Hook

Telescoping pole extends from 4 ft. to 8 ft.

I’ve found a boat hook to be surprisingly helpful in several ways when trimming trees in my back yard, usually with a pole saw:

  • If a cut-off branch falls onto another branch and stays there, it can be dislodged by shaking or yanking one or other of those branches with the hook. (This is also helpful after a windstorm.)
  • If a cut branch hangs by a strip of bark that wasn’t cut through, similar shaking or yanking can get it loose; or a helper can pull the hanging branch into a new position where the hinge is more easily accessible by the pole saw.
  • If a branch is inaccessible by the pole saw because of an intervening branch, a hook in the hands of a helper can pull the latter aside. Sometimes this shaking and shoving can be done by pushing with the backside of the hook, instead of pulling with it. This tool can also do small jobs that would otherwise require a ladder, like:
  • Shaking apples loose from an apple tree.
  • Lifting or manipulating a rope or wire (e.g., looping Xmas lights over a porch).

  • Clearing icicles or heavy snow from tree limbs that might break under their weight.
  • Clearing caterpillar cocoons or wasp nests (in winter) from trees or the edge of a roof.
  • Pushing or pulling something that it would be awkward or risky to get close to, such as a toy boat in a boat basin.

I forget where I got my hook from; it was over 30 years ago. Mine has a metal hook with pointed ends on the hook and the shaft. It might not even be a “boat hook,” but a barge-pole, or a who-knows-what. I haven’t found its exact match on Amazon. What I found is made of nylon (enabling it to float). It “telescopes” out from four feet to eight feet, so it can be shipped and stored compactly.

hook

02/15/17 -- Roger Knights

TOOL REVIEWS

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Anti-Steam Ove Gloves

Triple layer heat, flame & steam protection

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Bluetooth Receiver Streambot

Bluetooth adapter plugs into any powered sound system or earbuds

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What’s in My Bag? — Dominic Duncombe

An on-location photographer opens up his bag

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Orange Reflective Mesh Vest

Stay safe in when walking at night

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Multi-Battery Tester

Tests 30 different battery types

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What's in My Bag? 15 February 2017

Announcements: 09/6/16

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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 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.