Founder of Geek Squad, Robert Stephens [Cool Tools Show #008]

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Robert Stephens, founder of Geek Squad, lets us know how his analog tools and hobbies even out the frantic pace of modern, wired life. His high-tech offerings are especially reflective of his desire to use cutting-edge inventions as tools for personal development. From the whimsical to practical, ancient technology to barely breaking innovations, there’s something in this week’s show for just about everyone.

Show Notes:

A book about building Cob ovens, recommended by Robert:

Build Your Own Earth Oven by Kiko Denzer

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

Flower Press ($17) or DIY

“They say you should stop and smell the roses. I would add to that that I think you should grab them and press them between books for a while!”

 

Watercolor Tin DIY (prices vary) (Use Fimo air-dry clay [$5] for paint reservoirs)

“People have started taking old Altoids mint tins and squirting tubes of watercolor in them and they sell these little paintbrushes at the art store. I was in London a few weeks ago and I was staying in a nice hotel with nice stationary. I pulled out my little tin and I painted a picture of The Ritz hotel while sitting having a coffee and popped a flower I had pressed in there and mailed it to my daughter who was back home.”

Cob Oven DIY

“A Cob is a ten thousand year old technology…. And six feet under just about anywhere on earth is some mixture of sand and clay so it’s safe to use. Clay doesn’t dry in thirty minutes like concrete so it’s very forgiving. And so it’s very natural and it’s all local materials.”

NomadPlus ($39)

“You do is you take your iPhone charging cube and it slides over it like a jacket and it gives you a battery pack, making it about the size of the iPad cube. When you’re on the road you can plug your phone into this and it’s a little battery juice pack.”

Tile ($20)

“Basically it’s a Bluetooth low energy tracking device. I put on on my key-chain. I put one in my car, just toss it in the armrest, and I put one in my backpack. And  whenever it comes within range of my iPhone using Bluetooth low energy, they talk to each other and the phone records where the phone’s location is and therefore it knows when the last time you saw your car.”

Eidetic (Free or $2 for Pro versi)on

“I really like it because I think this is the idea of augmentation. Using technology to help us be more human and personal and one of the things I’m trying to do is exercise that muscle of memory and this is the best one I’ve seen yet. ”

Below are some of Robert’s bonus tool picks that we didn’t have time to discuss this time. Enjoy!

Blaze $200

Crofflr $5

Genius Scan (Free or $7 for Pro version)

Listen to previous episodes of the Cool Tools Show.

 



 

Make 12 Cool Parent-Child Projects

projects

Next week (August 4 and 5) my 11-year-old daughter Jane and I are conducting a free 2-day live video workshop produced by CreativeLive. We’ll show you how to make 12 cool projects, ranging from electronic musical instruments to balloon videocameras.

You can watch the live video of the workshop for free, or if you live in the SF Bay Area, you can come into the studio and participate with me and Jane. (If you want to come into the studio and have a 9- to 13-year-old, let me know in the comments.)

Here’s the link to RSVP to the free live class, and to learn more about the class: http://cr8.lv/markfdiy

Please forward this link to anyone who might be interested. Thanks!

 



Win a signed copy of Maker Dad

We are giving away a copy of Maker Dad, signed by me. To enter in the drawing, subscribe to our free weekly Cool Tools newsletter. (If you are a current subscriber, you are already in the running). We will select one person at random on July 15, 2014 at Noon PT, so make sure you sign up before that.

See photos of Maker Dad at Wink.

What are you doing this weekend? I’m going to try to set up a Minecraft server on a Windows laptop.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

Maker Dad
$13

Available from Amazon



Author and Editor Gareth Branwyn [Cool Tools Show Episode #006]

Author of the new book, Borg Like Me, Gareth Branwyn tells us about the set of household tools he inherited from the former occupants of his house that have proven their usefulness and longevity over the years. In this episode we discuss what makes these tools so special and how we all can prepare to pass on our household’s best suited tools to the next generation of homeowners.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Podcast on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3

Show Notes:

Gareth’s Website

Gareth’s Book: Borg Like Me: & Other Tales of Art, Eros, and Embedded Systems

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

Wiss “Nutcracker” Scissors (Modern Equivalent): $18

“These scissors are basically a kitchen multitool of the fifties. They have a distinctive red handle. They’re just really optimized. Everything is really thought through and they have a lot of little gadgets on it.”

Fiskar’s Scissors: $22

“Years ago on Make I reviewed a pair of Fiskars scissors…Super sharp scissors…and I used those, as you mentioned, for cutting food.”
Super Scraper (Modern Equivalent): $3

“I use the scraper every day. This has gotta be the oldest tool, right? It’s like a seashell or a piece of bone that you use for debarking wood or scraping hides, so I love that.”

Gilhoolie: $15

“It’s a cam-operated jar opener. I have arthritis in my wrists and I’ve been going through a spate recently where my right wrist doesn’t work and the other day I had to open up a jar and I couldn’t even begin to twist it off. It was a pretty wide jar and this thing, even with my wrist not working, cracked the seal with no problem.”

Staonal Black Marking Crayon: $4.25

“…it’s like a marking crayon, like a carpenter’s crayon which has really cool fifties typography on it.”

Door-Ease: $2

“There’s this thing called Door Ease, which is a stick of wax for unsticking drawers and I looked at those things and thought, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ and then one day five years later I had a sticky drawer and I thought, ‘Wait, I have the technology!’ so I went downstairs and got my Door Ease and it hasn’t stuck since.”

Qwikie (Modern Equivalent): $4.50

“[For touching up marks on painted walls] It’s kind of like a nail polish bottle, where the brush is actually in the bottle.”

Empty Touch-up Bottle 2 Oz.: $3

“We’ve been painting all the rooms in our house and when we finish I save a small container of it, like a cup’s worth, in a little jar and then just stash it in a drawer of whatever room we painted in, so that way if you drill a hole or remove a painting and pull a nail out, you can spackle it and paint it over with that paint rather than leaving big jar somewhere rusting away.”

________

Gareth has also kindly supplied us with images of the vintage tools he inherited with his house.

Thanks, Gareth!

Cool Tools.jpg

Wiss “Nutcracker” Scissors, Super Scraper and Gilhoolie (Links, images and prices for similar products can be seen above.)houseTools_2.jpg

Staonal Black Marking Crayon and Door Ease (Links, images and prices for these items can be seen above.)

-- Cool Tools  



Cool Tools New RSS feed

Google has gotten out of the RSS game. They’ve recently stopped supporting Feedburner and killed Google Reader. Kevin and I are RSS junkies, and we both used Google Reader. We switched over to Feedly, which is as good or better than Google Reader was (the free version is excellent, and I have no plans to upgrade to the Feedly Pro version for $5/month unless they offer something I can’t live without).

If you used to read Cool Tools on Google Reader, or you have had trouble with our Feedburner Feed, try our new feed!

Here’s the direct Cool Tools sign-up for Feedly, and here’s the link to the RSS file.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  



 

Win a signed copy of Maker Dad

We are giving away a copy of Maker Dad, signed by me. To enter in the drawing, subscribe to our free weekly Cool Tools newsletter. (If you are a current subscriber, you are already in the running). We will select one person at random on May 26, 2014 at Noon PT, so make sure you sign up before that.

See photos of Maker Dad at Wink.

What are you doing this weekend? I’m going to try to set up a Minecraft server on a Windows laptop.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

Maker Dad
$13

Available from Amazon



 

Win a signed copy of Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities

We are giving away a copy of Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities, signed by Kevin Kelly. To enter in the drawing, subscribe to our free weekly Cool Tools newsletter. (If you are a current subscriber, you are already in the running). We will select one person at random on May 19, 2014 at Noon PT, so make sure you sign up before that.

What are you doing this weekend? Kevin and I will be at Maker Faire in San Mateo, CA. If you are attending and see us, please say hi!

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities
$31

Available from Amazon



Wink’s Remarkable Book Picks of the Week

Wink is Cool Tools’ website that reviews one remarkable paper book every weekday. We take photos of the covers and the interior pages of the books to show you why we love them.

This week we reviewed:

X’ed Out and The Hive – A thrilling continuous nightmare by comix master Charles Burns

Towel Origami – Transform your towels into monkeys, elephants, and other fun origami

Bee – An artist looks at the honeybee through the lens of an electron microscope

Alice in Comicland – Lewis Carroll’s famous creation goes on wild adventures in comics

Infrastructure – A field guide to the complex web of gizmos and structures that make up our world

Toy Stories – Photographs of children and their toys from around the world

Take a look at these books and many others at Wink. And sign up for our Wink newsletter to get all the reviews and photos delivered once a week.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  



 

Giveaway: SimplyVibe portable rechargeable radio

We are giving away a SimplyVibe SV-X7 rechargeable FM radio and MP3 player (reviewed here). To enter in the drawing, subscribe to our free weekly Cool Tools newsletter. (If you are a current subscriber, you are already in the running). We will select one person at random on May 12, 2014 at Noon PT, so make sure you sign up before that.

(What are you doing this weekend? Let us know in the comments!)

-- Cool Tools