David Pogue of Yahoo Tech [Cool Tools Show #001]

In this inaugural episode of The Cool Tools show, we pick the brain of guest David Pogue, founder of Yahoo Tech, for some lesser-known tips, tools, and life hacks. We move from discussing productivity apps, to office products, to kitchen appliances.

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

BusyCal for Mac: $50
“One of my favorite things about BusyCal is that on any other month-view calendar today’s date is where it would fall if it were on a wall calendar, which might be on the bottom row, but by definition you’re looking at a calendar to plan ahead. BusyCal has the option of having today’s date be at the top of the calendar even if it’s the last week of the month. It’s a perpetually scrolling month view and it makes so much sense, so you’re always looking ahead.”

: Free or $5-$10/month Subscription (Click here to get one month of Evernote Premium for free.

Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Canceling Headphones
: $279
“They’re so comfortable, they cut the noise a lot and you listen to your music in great style and great sound. However, I also keep a spare because they have to be charged and sometimes they’re dead.”

Nomad Charge Key and Charge Card
: $29
“It’s a tiny rubberized two inch strip and can go on your keychain. One end slides into your USB jack. The other end slides into your iPhone.”

for Mac: Free
“A really great macro program. I don’t use the dock ever. I open everything with keystrokes: ‘control w’ for Microsoft word, ‘control b’ for BusyCal, ‘control e’ for Evernote etcetera, and then I’ve set up the escape key (top left right across from the backspace key) to be the left handed delete key, and it is life-changing.[I’ve bolded this because it is a great tip! – Mark]

Adobe Voice for iPad: Free
“It hearkens back to the old days of  Mac Paint or HyperCard, or simple tools with infinite possibilities.”

Anchor TrueSeal Food Storage
: $23
“My fridge looks like a commercial, it’s so organized and beautiful.”

: $14
“It’s a cutting board that folds in thirds so once you’re done cutting the thing you fold up the wings and make a chute so the food slides into your bowl without falling off.”

Snuglet: $12-$19
“This tiny little liner for the MagSafe jack, which through some miracle of physics, amplifies the magnetic grip of the power plug so that it does not fall out unless you really kick it or trip on it.”

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

Ladder Hooks

Our recording studio is a cable-rich environment, and we struggled to find a tidy yet accessible storage solution. These hooks are awesome; the screw is fat enough to anchor securely, while the body is slim enough to make hooking the cables over it painless and fast. We installed twenty of these puppies two months ago, and an unexpected consequence is that the studio is tidier more often because people are more willing to put cables back after use because the hooks are so easy to use.

-- Mark Gilbert  

Ladder Hooks

Available from Amazon

Swiss Army Spirit Multitool Plus Ratchet

Over the years of buying many multitools, I realize there is no “perfect” multitool. But the Victorinox Spirit (plus ratchet) comes close. Victorinox is known for making precise tools, and the Spirit is no exception. I bought the Spirit in 2010. Since then, it has proven to be an invaluable accessory in my everyday carry. With ergonomics in mind, the Spirit is designed with curved handles, and you can access other its tools without exposing the pliers. It can be open with a flick of the wrist, allowing for quick deployment of the blunt nose pliers.

Unlike most other multitools, the Spirit optionally comes with a bit set and ratchet.

The only thing I dislike about the Spirit is the fixed pair of scissors it comes with. Unlike traditional Swiss Army scissors, the one that comes with the Spirit lacks mobility. You wouldn’t be able to cut very fast nor large using scissors from the Spirit. Another complaint most people have is with the “butter” blade. Most people prefer a pointed style blade, and that can be easily solved just by purchasing the Spirit X (but it doesn’t come with a ratchet and bit set).

Finished with beautiful stainless steel, the Spirit is certainly my multitool of choice. It’s not as customizable or rugged as a Leatherman, but the Spirit works for my needs. So far, it has not rusted, or failed on me while on the job as an all-around handyman.

-- Jefferson Deng  

Victorinox Swiss Army SwissTool Spirit Plus Ratchet

Available from Amazon

Shredder scissors

What’s handy when you need to shred credit card receipts, or yet another unsolicited credit card offer? A pair of multi-bladed scissors. These scissors have five blades on each side and will neatly crosscut a page to prevent identity theft. They use no electricity and fit in a drawer, which is more than you can say for an electric shredder.

-- Amy Porges  

Multi Blade Shredding Scissor

Available from Amazon

Gerber EAB Pocket Knife

I originally purchased the Gerber EAB a couple of years ago in an attempt to shelter my nicer pocket knives from the abuse of opening and breaking down cardboard boxes at work; cardboard dulls blades quickly. Of course, it’s also great at all the other miscellaneous tasks suited to pocket knives.

The EAB (exchange-a-blade) is essentially a standard utility knife redesigned to be an every day carry knife. There are plenty of utility knives on the market that have been designed to opened up like a folding pocket knife, but this is the only one I’ve found that is small enough and light enough to carry in my pocket every day. It’s just under 2.5″ in the closed position, and weighs about 2 oz.

The clip is wide enough to serve as a money clip, but it’s also stable and deep enough to ride well in a pocket without wiggling loose. The blade itself is reversible, and when it wears out it’s replaceable with inexpensive standard utility knife blades (which sell for about a dollar). The EAB has a nail nick for opening with a thumbnail, but it’s also opened easily enough with one hand by using the set screw as a thumb stud. A liner lock keeps the blade from closing on your finger when it’s in use.

Overall, the EAB has been a workhorse of a knife, and has earned a permanent place in my pocket. I haven’t lost mine yet, but when I do it’s cheap enough that I won’t hesitate to replace it. And I love that I don’t have to sharpen the blades — I either flip them around, or just replace with a fresh one.

-- Brendon Connelly  

Gerber EAB Pocket Knife

Available from Amazon

Square Shopping Pail

Four-gallon rigid-plastic square buckets can often be found for free (although sold online for $5 and up). Try local restaurants, as they often buy frozen fruit or other foods in these containers. I’ve found these to be super useful for carrying groceries. For several years, they’ve been my regular totes. Unlike canvas or other sacks, these can’t leak, stain, or tip over easily in the car. They have a handle. You can load them up with heavy bottles or cans and still easily carry two pails. If there’s a spill, they rinse out. Not in use, they stack. In the store, a nested pair fits on the lower level of the shopping cart. I shop fairly often, so I usually don’t need more than fits in two pails, but one can always drop a couple cloth bags into a pail, for additional carry space, using the pails for the heavier items.

On car trips, they make efficient use of space, packed with rainy-weather gear or various other categories of supplies. They are easy to move around when rearranging things or carrying to and from the car.

They often come with square lids, a little fussy to snap on and off, but not necessary for shopping. With a lid on, the container is weatherproof for use outdoors. I’ve camped with a small tent, and stored things in these buckets outside the tent.

My suggestion is to get some for free.

-- Lynn Nadeau  

4-Gallon Square Pail

Isopropyl Alcohol Liquid Cleaner 99.9%

By now most people have had the unfortunate experience of getting their phones wet and had to wait while it sits in a bag of rice to see if it survived — if you haven’t, consider yourself one of the lucky ones! The best thing to do when this happens is immediately take the battery out of your phone and put it in a bag of rice and wait a few days to see if it will be able to dry out enough to function again.

Recently I dropped my iPhone in a swimming pool and found out the hard way you need a special tool called a Pentalobe screwdriver to remove the battery cover, since I didn’t have one the current and water mixed causing the circuit board to start corroding.

But you still have hope. With a little patience and this video you will be able to take your iPhone apart and scrub the board with a toothbrush and some isopropyl alcohol (90% or better) to remove the corrosion. For a few extra bucks I opted for the purest Isopropyl I could find (99.9%), which has a faster drying time and less residue than the diluted stuff available at most pharmacies.

-- David Dale  

99.9% Isopropyl Alcohol Liquid Cleaner
$5.95 / 100 ml Bottle

Available from Amazon

Flap Wheels and Flap Disks

Anyone working with metal should be aware of these two tools. They make finishing metal a smoother experience. I prefer these two attachments over composite disks, belt sanders, or orbital sanders.

I learned about them as a construction worker while prepping process pipe for welds on oil refineries. Both tools are standards in the steam fitting trade. I’ve since used them on robot creations, blacksmith projects, and anywhere else metal is involved.

Flap disks are more forgiving than standard composite grinding disks. (Use grinding disks and stones to grind, but use the flap attachments to finish.) Flap disks allow the user to treat a work piece like a sculptor. There’s a sense of touch and shaping involved. Less likely to gouge while still smoothing at a fast rate.

The flapper wheel has similar qualities but gets inside tight spots and is excellent on irregular surfaces. Attach it to an end grinder, drill, or set one up on a bench grinder.



Here are before-and-after photos of a railroad spike knife that was ground with a flap-disk. (Actually it is the un-ground side of the knife vs. the ground side). Doing this took less than 2 minutes.

Railroad Spike Knife from Dustin Firebaugh on Vimeo.

-- Aaron Nipper  

Flap Wheels and Flap Disks
Around $10

Available from Amazon

The Losable Knife

I have a lovely little classic Swiss Army knife gifted to me by a former manager who gave them to every member of our team a few years back. It lives in my purse or pocket and gets used almost daily for a variety of tasks — the small scissors, blade and file come in handy. Since it’s on my person most of the time, I’m always worried that one day I’ll forget about it until emptying my pockets at the airport, and then it will be gone (many of my colleagues lost their knives this way).

The Losable Knife is intended to address this problem; it has most of the same features as my brand-name knife (though no toothpick or tweezers), but given that a box of 5 knives costs less than two good cups of coffee, I worry much less about it going astray. After using one for a few months, I have no complaints about the quality of the blades/utensils, and at this price I can afford to spread a few around the house so that I always have one at hand.

-- Ellen Grove  

Vaughan Mini Pry Bar

As a locksmith, holding open a door while working on it (or preventing it from relocking) is a daily event at least, for me. This little bar will jam neatly under most, holding it solid. (In one direction at least. I also carry a 160mm version which will jam it in the other direction too, if needed, or, of course, a second door.)

It turns out it has many other uses, many of them things I’d either not have bothered with or would have (ab)used something else to do the same task. Now I miss it whenever I misplace it.


-- Nigel K Tolley  

Vaughan Mini Pry Bar 5-1/2″
$6, or $32 for a 10-pack

Available from Amazon