24 April 2017

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Rothco Undercover Travel Vest

Includes a a tablet sized pocket and a hidden passport pocket

I bought this Rothco Undercover Travel Vest several months ago, after becoming dissatisfied with the photographer-style vests. They tend to look sloppy, with baggy pockets hanging off all over them. I found most of those pockets were too small to accommodate my stuff in the places I wanted it.

The Rothco vest presents a smooth surface, but has a lot of pockets, all closed by zippers. One breast pocket and two hand pockets are unobtrusive. The rest of the pockets are inside. The vest is very well made, and sized honestly.

I carry my phone, a pen, penlight, comb, small notebook, keys, a Leatherman, and various other small items. I recommend getting the khaki color, because the material is kind of a lint magnet, and the black vest needs frequent brushing if you don’t want to look dusty.

Only the outside zippers have pull extensions, I suppose to avoid lumpiness, but unless all the stuff you carry is flat, it may cause bigger lumps anyway. The lack of extensions makes it a little fiddly to unzip the inner pockets, so I made some string loops and put them on those zippers.

04/24/17 -- Dan Hoyt

23 April 2017

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Camelcamelcamel/Travel tip/Gratefulness

Recomendo: issue no. 39

Cultural norms:
In most parts of the world business cards are still a cultural norm. I designed my business card in Photoshop, and every few years I update the info and send the file to PS Print online and they mail back a small box of 250 for $18. Easy, quick, cheap. — KK

Better phone calls:
Our house phone sounds awful and we get poor cell phone connectivity at home. But we have wi-fi and I’ve started using FaceTime Audio as much as possible to make phone calls. It works on any Apple hardware and the sound quality is crystal clear, even when using cellular data. — MF

Organizational:
This eBags toiletry bag is the perfect size to fit all essential travel toiletries plus a lot of my makeup. It has four compartments and stays pretty flat, so I can slip it into my large tote if I need to. My favorite feature is the hook for hanging which is great for hotels with little counter space. — CD

Lowest prices:
Prices on Amazon oscillate week to week far more than you might think. Paste an Amazon url into Camelcamelcamel.com to see the chart of an item’s price history. If you are not in a hurry, you can use the chart to set a plausible low target price and Camel will send you an alert and buy button when (if) it reaches that price. — KK

Travel tip:
On a recent trip to Tokyo, I brought along the Sea to Summit TravellingLight Day Pack ($33). It weighs 2.4 oz (my iPhone 6 Plus weighs 6.2 ounces) and zips up into a bundle smaller than my fist. But it holds 20 liters of stuff, and I used it every day to carry water, snacks, sweaters, an iPhone charger, a portable wi-fi, groceries, and things my wife and I bought while walking around. The material feels indestructible. — MF

Easy gratitude:
Gratefulness is the easiest way to practice gratitude. You don’t have to download an app or set a reminder to write in a diary. Just pick a time of day and you’ll get a text asking you what you are grateful for that day. At the end of the week, you’ll get an email of everything you text back. Reading the Public Gratitude Wall is a quick way to smile. — CD

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04/23/17 -- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson

22 April 2017

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Ask Cool Tools Featured Question

Share your knowledge with your fellow Cool Tools readers

rmavrovich is searching for suggestions and experiences with lightning rods.

04/22/17 --

21 April 2017

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Tangle Tamer

Makes hair detangling fast and painless

My two daughters had long hair when they were young. Combing out the tangles after they’d taken a bath was a painful experience for everyone. My three-year-old ran when she saw me coming towards her with a brush and a bottle of spray detangler.

The pain ended when we started using this rechargable electric detangling brush. The motor makes the eight plastic protuberances oscillate at a high frequency. The brush goes through tangled hair like a hot knife through butter. Well, maybe not that quickly, but it is so much better than a comb or brush that there’s no comparison.

04/21/17 -- Mark Frauenfelder

20 April 2017

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Fiskars Rotary Cutter

Ideal for cutting multiple layers of fabric, paper, felt and vinyl

[Here’s a Cool Tools reader favorite from 2003. When Kevin reviewed it, it was $12. Fourteen years later, Amazon sells it for $7.67, as an add-on item. – MF]

Rotary cutters aren’t new tools. It’s just taken me a while to appreciate how great they are. The Fiskars 45mm Rotary Cutter replaces exactos for most heavy-duty cutting jobs in our household. It’s faster, surer, easier and therefore safer to use than razor blades. It will slice through paper, vinyl, cardboard, fabric, and foam board with ease and accuracy. I can only manage perfectly straight long cuts with a rotary cutter and straight edge. Cutting curves is buttery. Seamstresses can add pinking blades. The replaceable blade retracts when not in use; it can be side-switched for left-handers. When I think “cut” I reach for this tool.

04/20/17 -- KK

20 April 2017

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Wealthfront

Lowest cost robot investing

I’ve moved most of my investment money into robo investors.

For the past several decades index funds have outperformed over 80 percent of actively managed funds. Index funds are cheap to run because they are simply a large group of representative stocks that an investor holds — there are no human pickers or human traders. Their yield is equivalent to the yield of “the market” so their financial performance is the market performance, but unlike actively managed funds, they have miniscule fees. If you are patient, inexpensive index funds will give the best total yield on average over the long term, taking into account their extremely low fees. Wise financial advisers have long recommended holding index funds as the best course for most people.

Now with the advent of artificial intelligence these plain unexciting index funds have become smarter and even more profitable. Some of the added value services that trained (and expensive) human advisors could do with funds, can now be done by machines, faster, better and cheaper. This so-called robo investing will automate such fancy operations as rebalancing portfolios in real time, reinvesting dividends at the ideal time, and optimizing tax-loss harvesting. These additional investment techniques, once only available to high net worth accounts, add a few points added yields and can now be applied to any account, including cheap index funds.

There are a couple of Silicon Valley startups running multi-billion dollar index funds enhanced with AI, such as Betterment and Wealthfront. I’ve been using Wealthfront, one the leaders, because of its easy interface. It’s performance success is directly coupled with the market ups and downs (like most index funds), but its AI algorithms add a few more percentage points gain overall, which compound over years, can be significant.

As this method is proven by these startups, you can expect the bigger established investment firms to start offering similar AI-enhanced services. For the time being Wealthfront is out-innovating the established firms, giving me better returns with very little added risk (within the equities market).

04/20/17 -- KK

TOOL REVIEWS

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Aluminum Flashing Tape

Tape for permanent roof repair

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Maker Update: Sun Powered CNC

Favorite maker projects of the week

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Simone Giertz, Robot Maker and YouTuber

Cool Tools Show 074: Simone Giertz

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Aqua Doodle Mat

Large reusable drawing pad uses water for “ink”

See all the reviews

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What's in My Bag? 23 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.