19 September 2017


Gutenberg Magic Catalog

Thousands of free ebooks for Kindle and other ereaders

I’ve been evangelizing the Gutenberg Magic Catalog to all my reading friends for years and I was floored that it hasn’t been on CoolTools. The Gutenberg Project has been digitizing books in the common (public domain) since 1971 (!?). Most of the great books are actually in this set. You can download the catalog to your Kindle or other ereader and then search for a book and download it.

It may be the single most intellectual democratizing event in history. If you are anywhere in the world and decide to read Charles Dickens or The Art of War, go at it. While probably terrible for Penguin Classics, it’s a step forward for the reading person around the globe. I hope I hear a story about a young person reading from here in India, China, you name it, and having it be the spark that creates the next Naipaul or Melville.

-- J. Sciarra 09/19/17

18 September 2017


SpotClean Professional Portable Carpet Cleaner

Removes stains from carpet, stairs, upholstery, and more

I have had this Bissell Spot Clean Pro Carpet Cleaner now for a few years and it has made my life so much easier. With three dogs one of them is always coming in with muddy paws, having an accident, or who knows what else. With the Bissell Pro Carpet Cleaner I no longer use spray bottles of carpet cleaners which never seemed to work and sometimes left the carpet worse off than before. You simply add water and some cleaning mix to the device, it sprays a mix down then vacuums it up, removing the stain and sucking the dampness out so no spot remains. When done you empty out the dirty water container, rinse it and you are ready until the next accident. The unit is small and light making it easy to grab whenever you need to clean the carpet.

-- Joe McManus 09/18/17

17 September 2017


80,000 Hours/Similar Pages/Great movies for families

Recomendo: issue no. 60

Career advice
80,000 hours is the typical length of the average career. 80,000 Hours is a blog that dispense free career advice based on science, rather than on hunches. As much as possible this non-profit (Cambridge University) gives advice based on the latest academic and scientific research into the nature and economics of work, careers, happiness and the economy. When I am asked for career advice, I point candidates here to their Career Guide. — KK

Google Similar Pages
A couple weeks ago I recommended using “related:url” in your google search bar to find related websites. That’s before I knew the Google Similar Pages chrome extension existed. It does the same thing but quicker. — CD

Great movies for families
75 Classic Movies Teens Should See has a terrific selection of movies for family movie night. My daughter marveled at the young hackers in War Games, and I enjoyed watching it for the third or fourth time. — MF

Make better decisions
Upgrade your pros and cons list by assigning additional value. Rate how important each list item is to you from 1 to 5, and when you’re done add them up to find out which has more points. You might find that even if you listed more items in one column the other might affect your life more. — CD

Selfie helper
We got our teenage daughter a LuMee iPhone case. It has LEDs embedded in the perimeter to illuminate your face when you take a selfie. She loves it and the photos really are a lot better looking. — MF

Legal images
I use Google Image Search anytime I need pictures for a talk, website, presentation, or idea scrapbook. It’s not obvious, but you can filter the search results for those images that let you legally reuse them. Click the Tools button (to the right of Settings) beneath the Google search box, select “Usage Rights” and then choose your filter. (You can also filter by color, size, type, etc. in addition to license directly from Advance Image Search page.) The results will be a pile of select images that have Creative Commons or other fair use status. — KK

Get the Recomendo weekly newsletter a week early by email.

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 09/17/17

15 September 2017


Deejo Folding Knife

Lightweight pocket knife

I came from an Opinel fundamentalist family (No. 8 : 42g), and while I like its simplicity, I have found the wood section inside the virole ends rotting when in humid environments, causing it to break loose at the worst moment. It is also difficult to open one handed and the blade rusts.

A good friend offered me a Deejo folding knife a year ago. I didn’t know about it. Its main point is to be ultralight, but it’s still an excellent folding knife, and the handle isn’t as uncomfortable as it seems.

The mechanism is a joy to use, with an ideally weighted clicks for locking and folding. The size is perfect for everything from opening boxes and mail to gutting and paring fish, fruits, and vegetables.

It lacks the screwdrivers of the multitools and it’s a little pricey, but I wouldn’t be very disappointed if I lost it.

-- Marc Lacoste 09/15/17

14 September 2017



Never-fail sharp tweezers

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

Most drugstores sell pathetically lousy tweezers. These are blunt, imprecise instruments suitable for plucking eyebrows, if that. They are useless for medical purposes. What you need is a needle-sharp, stainless steel, surgically precise tool that can remove the teeniest splinter from the smallest toe. What you want is a pair of Tweezermans. Their incredibly sharp points should be protected with a plastic cap. They are a joy to use; I don’t think I’ve failed to get what I was after since using them. Backpackers favor a compact medical tweezers called Uncle Bill’s. It does a fine job, although I prefer the longer handles of Tweezerman. (more…)

-- KK 09/14/17

13 September 2017


Greg Gage, CEO of Backyard Brains

Cool Tools Show 089: Greg Gage

We have hired an editor to edit the Cool Tools podcast. It costs us $300 a month. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $261 a month to the podcast. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have nice rewards for people who contribute! – MF

Our guest this week is Greg Gage. Greg is the co-founder and CEO of Backyard Brains, a company started with Tim Marzullo as neuroscience graduate students at the University of Michigan. Greg is a published neuroscientist and engineer, and has helped develop tools, curriculum and experiments that allowed the general public to participate in neural discovery. Greg is a senior fellow at TED and the recipient of the White House Champion of Change from Barack Obama award for his commitment to citizen science.

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:

Neuron SpikerBox Bundle ($130)
“[This is] something that you use to investigate things or to do things. For example, you may wanna use the muscle SpikerBox to control things like turn the light switches out on your room. We’ve done things where in one of our TED Talks, we did the human-to-human interface. We have one person recording the EMG. That sends a command to another stimulator, which makes the other arm move at the same rate … so you can take over the freewill of another person. It’s just limited to your creativity of what you can do when you have access to these signals. What we provide are just the raw materials that give you access to that.”

Google Scholar
Google Scholar
“We use our literature archives, like scholar.google.com because there’s so much that has been forgotten in the literature … we move on so quickly and we forget there’s this entire era about anywhere between 50 and 150 years ago where a lot of cool experiments were going, and those have been quietly forgotten. We’ve been successful is rediscovering these things and bringing them back into fruition … There’s a lot of cool things that are out there.”

“An Arduino and an amplifier is really what you need [as a minimal tool set to do what we do]. …What you need is a way to access the signal. Arduino is a very beautiful way to do that. Then once you have that, then it’s all about the creativity. … What we’ve been playing around on the last few years is wrapping wires around plants and putting them into the Arduino and then recording what happens within there.”

EAGLE PCB design software
“As far as technology tools, we use the EAGLE CAD. … It’s a free software. It’s a way to design circuits. It’s a PCB layout tool, but basically if you have a number of resistors and capacitors and chips, and you wanna wire them together, it’s a way that you can slide them onto the screen and then wire them where you want them to go. Then on flip side, you can see the board and what the chips actually look like. You lay them out and then you draw where you want the traces to go. Then when you’re done, you can either print that out and make your own. It’s really changed the way we do our electronics.”



img 09/12/17

The Fluke Ukulele

Cool cheap instrument

img 09/11/17

Skidmore’s Restoration Cream

Leather and wood clearer, Restorer, and conditioner

img 09/7/17

Maker Update: Hakko CHP-170 Flush Cutter

Trims component wires completely flush to surface

img 09/7/17

Chain mail dish scrubber

Superior to steel wool

img 09/6/17

Ben Baker, Owner of Cigar Box Nation

Cool Tools Show 088: Ben Baker

See all the reviews


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23 February 2017



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.


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.