25 February 2018


Enlightenment Now/Belletrist/Port-out scam

Recomendo: issue no. 83

Proving the reality of progress
I loved Steven Pinker’s brand new book Enlightenment Now. It’s does many things including making an argument for the essential role of reason and science in creating happiness, liberty and wealth. But most importantly it is a broad, detailed, logical case for the reality of progress on our planet. If you have any doubts about whether science, education and technology are making this a better world, I believe you can be persuaded by the evidence in this book. — KK

Literary inspiration
My favorite newsletter right now is from actress Emma Roberts’ female-focused, book of the month club called Belletrist. Weekly emails include interviews with women authors who share their favorite books and articles, among other things. Here’s a link to their archive to check out. I’m also loving the Belletrist Spotify playlists featuring songs that inspired authors while writing their books. — CD

Avoid the port-out scam on your mobile phone
If you use 2-factor authentication that sends a text message to your phone to get a code, beware of the port-out scam. This happens when a bad person impersonates you and tricks your phone company into issuing them your phone number. You can prevent this by calling your carrier (dial 611 from) your phone and telling them to add a security PIN to your account. Anyone who tries to access your account will be asked for the PIN. Read more about port-out scamming here. — MF

Pro-quality tire plug kit
My car tire had a dry-wall screw in it. I bought a cheap tire plug repair kit at the local Pep Boys for about $12. It was hard to use because I had to apply a lot of force to the plastic handle and it was painful. A month later I found another screw in my tire. I left the screw in until I ordered this heavy duty $27 tire plug repair kit. The all metal handles were a pleasure to use. The kit comes with a lot of useful extra tools and parts. Buy one today and you’ll be happy you did when you need it. — MF

Easy shoe lacing
These elastic silicone shoelaces look like regular shoelaces and eliminates the tucked-in hidden knot, which was always uncomfortable. It turns my Keds into slip-ons. — CD

Ultra-light water bottle
I am into ultra-lightweight backpacking, even on day trips. The lightest water bottle is the cheapest, flimsiest disposable bottled water bottle you can find. The cheaper the lighter. — KK

Recomendo now has a Facebook page! Follow us for daily recommendations.

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 02/25/18

25 February 2018


Furniture Sliders

Reusable furniture sliders for carpeted surfaces

Furniture Sliders are smooth polymer sliders, filled with a spongy material (they call it a special grip pad). They are an improvement on the “furniture coasters” my mother used to put under the sofa in that the special grip pad does really work, allowing you to move furniture easily. They work on carpet, though our experience has involved sliding things over berber and low-ply (we’ve never owned shag).

We have moved some pretty heavy furniture using them. You *might* be able to slide an upright piano this way — but I would leave moving a grand piano to the professionals.

These also work well for slipping under boxes on moving day.

-- Martin Schwimmer 02/25/18

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2006 — editors)

24 February 2018


Pocket Caliper

Accurate measurements up to 1/32"

This yellow plastic caliper is lightweight, reasonably durable (I lose it before it wears out) and pocket-friendly (only 4 inches long). I use it frequently during house or auto repairs to ensure the right size replacement part (such as nuts and bolts, or o-rings and sealing washers) comes home with me from the store or junkyard. I find this easier, quicker, and more accurate in many cases than using a small rule. It is not a precision machinist’s instrument. However, in most of the work I need to get done, measurement to the closest 1/32 of an inch or 1 mm will get the right part or a fit which is good enough to work.

-- Ken Johnson 02/24/18

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2006 — editors)

23 February 2018


J.D. Roth, Get Rich Slowly

Cool Tools Show 112: J.D. Roth

We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $365 a month. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have great rewards for people who contribute! – MF


Our guest this week is J.D. Roth started blogging in 1997, before “blog” was even a word. In 2006, he founded GetRichSlowly.org, a site devoted to common-sense personal finance. He sold Get Rich Slowly in 2009 then bought it back in 2017. His mission in life is to help everyday people master their money and achieve their financial goals.

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:

National notebook ($6)
“I am a writer, and I do most of my writing on a computer like most writers do nowadays, and that’s not very exciting. Everyone has their favorite computers. But I also do a surprising amount of writing by hand, and I have my own favorite cheap notebooks. I use a couple of the models from a company called National Brand, and basically there’s this legal supply store here in Portland, and I go down there and I stock up on these notebooks. They’re a little more expensive than Mead spiral notebooks, but they’re also a heavier quality paper. And then I buy Dixon Ticonderoga pencil and BIC Cristal ballpoint pens. I buy them by the case from Amazon. … So those are kind of unsexy tools, but they’re very much tools that I use every day.”

Hobonichi Techo Planner ($33)
“It’s a Japanese calendar. It’s A6 size. … It’s by a company Hobonichi, and it’s just a big … Instead of having all sorts of lines and times and all that, it’s basically just a big blank slate. Each page has a date, and it shows noon, and it shows dinnertime, and other than that it’s just squared paper for you to jot down your thoughts or to jot down your schedule. And for me, it works like a charm. Until my girlfriend convinced me to go digital, this was my source. I carried this with me everywhere.”

The Maker’s Bag ($130)
“I am a bag nerd. I have probably a dozen backpacks and messenger backs, and I use all of them. I like Filson bags, but they’re expensive. For the past two years, my daily bag is the Maker’s Bag from Tom Bihn. … I like it because it’s not overly complicated, for one…. It’ll hold a 15-inch laptop but not much more than that. And then it will hold several books and magazines, plus there are maybe a dozen pockets. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but it seems like there’s tons of different pockets and zippered places so that I can tuck all sorts of different stuff in there. I tend to travel a lot for work, and so on the plane I want to be able to have all of my stuff compartmentalized, and with the Maker’s Bag I’m able to do that, and yet it’s not overwhelming.”

SleepPhones ($40 – $100)
“So, this is something I originally got for travel. So what SleepPhones are is if you can imagine an elastic headband that inside is a set of earbuds, but they don’t actually go in your ear, they just kind of rest outside ear. That’s what SleepPhones are, and the kind I have are wireless. You do need to plug them in to charge them, although I think they have a model now that uses induction charging. So at night, when you’re getting ready to go to sleep, if you want to listen to something you put the SleepPhones around your head like a headband — or I actually use it to double as an eye mask to keep out light — and then you listen to whatever you want to listen to. And like I said, I originally got them for travel, but because my girlfriend and I both have trouble sleeping, we now both use them to listen to stuff at night.”

Icebreaker Merino wool clothing
“I am a HUGE fan of Icebreaker merino wool clothing. I discovered this stuff in 2010, and have been hooked ever since. It’s warm when it’s cold and cold when it’s warm. It itches, but only a very little. The best part? Wool does NOT retain odors. That means you can wear an Icebreaker shirt (or a Smartwool shirt) over and over and over again without washing it and there are no consequences. This makes wool clothing ideal for travel. I know people who travel for months at a time with only two Icebreaker shirts. They take two because it does help to alternate them, to air one out after you use it — especially if you’ve been running in the shirt. No specific Icebreaker item to recommend. Just love their stuff.”

Also mentioned:

You Need a Budget
Personal Capital
New Retirement


23 February 2018


Magnetic Drive Guide

Eliminates wobbling and slipping while driving screws

Long ago a contractor friend of mine turned me onto a simple fixture for a power drill. It’s an inexpensive gizmo that allows anyone to drive long screws in straight and fast. That’s a huge plus now that sheetrock screws have replaced nails for most homestead projects. The guide fits into any chuck. You slip the screw head-first into the extended tube. A magnet at the bottom holds it. You place the loaded guide with the tip of the screw poking out over the place where you want to screw and the tube collapses as the screw goes in. The result: no muss, no-hands, quick, straight-in screw first time. Kids and newbies really love it. I keep one permanently affixed to my drivers. I use it for short as well as long screws. In fact I had forgotten how dependent I had become on the guide until I misplaced one recently and had to work without it. Now I have multiple backups. I don’t think the brand matters; I use a $5 one. Make your life easier: keep one on your driver.

-- KK 02/23/18

22 February 2018


Speed Square

Combo tri-square, miter square, protractor, line scriber, and saw guide

This is the best tool for drawing lines, guiding saws, and basically all carpentry that requires a 90 degree angle. One edge is set perpendicular to the rest of it so you can quickly push it up against a straight side and have a 45 degree angle and a 90 degree angle to mark or saw with, etc. Hard to explain, but once you have one, you won’t know how you lived without it.

— Peter Lawrence

A good metal square is an essential tool for home building, especially framing. It helps you figure out rafter cuts quickly and easily, and it also has a ruler for quick measurements.

There are a number of different models of square out there, but Swanson’s Speed Square is the best. Why? Well, sturdy aluminum alloy construction makes it nigh indestructible, and the recessed tick marks and numbers are colored in black so there’s good contrast for legibility.

The metal construction also makes it super-handy for making square cuts on lumber. Just snug it up and use it as a guide for your circular saw. Plus, all this utility fits in the pocket of work pants without any trouble.

-- Keith Pelczarski 02/22/18


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Floating Water [Maker Update #72]

The best maker projects, tools, and tips of the week

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Post Level

Levels posts and beams

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Three Jaw Brace

Human-powered driver

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Cool Tools Show 112: J.D. Roth

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Cool Tools Show 110: Kevin Rose

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23 February 2017



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/)


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.