Square Register

This is an unevaluated tool because no one has used it yet. It was just released today. It is an iPad app with a Square credit card reader and it has the potential to simplify retail stores Point-of-Sales, and eliminate “cash registers.” A store owner would get to customize the touch screen to their store, making it dead simple to operate. Restaurants might even put one on each table allowing customers to order their own food. It’s a ingenious and elegant hack. I’d love to hear from anyone who actually uses one.

– KK

Square Register

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Patagonia Rock Guide Pants

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On my recent trip to Bangladesh I wore a single pair of Patagonia Rock Guide Pants for nearly four weeks while in country. Every few days I would wash them in a sink in the evening, hang them up to dry, and in a few hours they would be as dry as anything gets in Bangladesh. After a month of hard traveling and three months of subsequent wear at home I feel confident saying that they are the best travel pants I have ever worn.

One of the reasons why they work so well is their simplicity. They are not overwhelmed with pockets. They have one zippered back pocket, two traditional side pockets, and a single low-profile zippered cargo pocket on the right thigh. The result is a minimalist but perfectly functional pair of travel pants with just enough pocket space. The zippered pockets mean that your belongings are kept secure (especially in pickpocket prone areas, or during bumpy epic bus rides), and the thigh pocket has the perfect amount of space for a passport, a wallet, and a few smaller items (memory cards, coinage, maps, etc). Unlike other travel pants I’ve tried, the Rock Guides don’t scream “adventure,” and are inconspicuous enough to be worn in a variety of environments while traveling (and even on a daily basis at home).

The pants are made out of a lightweight nylon and spandex blend that provides the perfect amount of stretchiness and flexibility. My pair weighs around 11-oz, and unlike every other pair of pants I own they don’t take up much space when packed. Despite being light, they also resist scrapes and scratches. I recently wore them during a long backwoods hike through thick thorns and brambles and they emerged unscathed (thorns are normally a critical weakness in pants I’ve tried in the past). I’ve had my current pair for five months, and they have withstood a lot of punishment while being no worse for wear.

In the past, I’ve tried zip-off convertible pants but always found them cumbersome and uncomfortable. A good idea on paper, but one that has never worked for me in the field. I was initially worried about the lack of flexibility the Rock Guide pants would provide, but quickly found that they were designed to be worn comfortably with pant legs rolled up. The lightweight stretchy material and wider hem allows the legs to be rolled up without risk of unrolling, and the stretchiness minimizes any uncomfortable binding. A recent testament to this came last week when I forgot my running shorts at home and I ended up wearing my Rock Guides on a five mile run. They performed great.

Other nylon pants I’ve worn used thicker fabric and bulkier designs which contributed to them feeling hot, heavy, and burdensome in the pack. This includes pants I’ve tried from REI, North Face, EMS, and Columbia. All had some critical flaw. The Rock Guides remain the best pair of pants I’ve owned. I recently ordered a second pair as I’ve started wearing them on a daily basis. As far as sizing goes, they run a tad large due to their stretchiness. Finally, the most significant criticism I’ve seen about them is due to the lack of different pant lengths. However, it seems Patagonia has incorporated extra fabric in the pant cuff for those who don’t mind re-hemming their pants on their own.

-- Oliver Hulland  

[Note: Patagonia has recently changed the name of the Rock Guide Pants to the Rock Craft Pants. They are nearly identical, and made of the same fabric with a slightly slimmer cut. --OH]

Patagonia Rock Craft Pants (the new model)
$79

Available from Patagonia

Patagonia Women’s Rock Guide Pants
$79

Available from Patagonia

Manufactured by Patagonia



3-Inch Widgy Pry Bar

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I found this 3″ pry bar at CountyComm and have carried it with me everywhere. It is dead simple, strong, and tremendously useful. I use it for everything from small prying jobs to opening the tape on boxes and getting that little bit of extra leverage you need sometimes.

At 3″ long it rides unnoticed on my keys until I need it, and it is always at the ready. County Comm has multiple versions in different lengths, and some lighter more expensive versions that are made out of titanium, but this 3″ model suits me perfectly. It’s surprising how much utility one can find in such a simple piece of metal.

-- Jim McLaughlin  

3″ Micro Widgy Pry Bar
$5.50

Available from and manufactured by County Comm



Dillon Precision RL-550B Progressive Reloading Machine

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In the early ‘70’s I started shooting more frequently and decided to reload my own ammo. I purchased an RCBS reloading press and a powder measure and a scale and a lot of other stuff that was needed to reload my .45ACP ammo. The major fallback was that each and every round had to be resized and de-primed (using the first of three dies); then they all had to be re-primed (installing new primers); then, after adjusting the powder measure to the correct charge of powder, I had to dump the powder into each individual cartridge. After that, I would take a new bullet and put it on each cartridge and using the press with the third die installed, I would seat the bullet and crimp the case. It took about 3 hours to reload 100 rounds. But, that was the way it was done.

In the early ‘80’s I became aware of a device called a “progressive reloading machine”. There were a few on the market, but with a little research, I found that one was being manufactured by Dillon Precision in Scottsdale, AZ. At that time I lived in Phoenix, so I went over to see this device. As I walked in to the showroom, I must say that I was very impressed both by the overall view and by the attention that I received from the salesperson. I was showed how easy that reloading COULD be, and the saving of major amounts of labor hours. Naturally, I became an owner of a brand new RL-550 Progressive reloading press.

They tell me that a guy can reload 500 rounds an hour with this machine. I have only done about 350 per hour but never broke out into a sweat! The fascinating thing about this reloading press is that once you get started, you drop a loaded round with every pull of the handle. Not 5 pulls and two die changes for every round as before.

After a few years of trouble-free operation, I had a problem with the automatic primer feed. I took the machine over to Scottsdale, and they told me that they had seen this problem before and that there was an upgrade that could be done to my machine. At that point I asked how much it would cost to upgrade to the “next level” (RL-550B). I was told that they [Dillon Precision] have a “NO B.S. Lifetime Warranty” and it would cost me nothing to upgrade my machine to the RL-550B Specs. Mind you, I had been using this press for over 13 years!

You just do not find that kind of commitment from very many companies these days.
I moved to Texas in 2005 and eventually got my shop set up so it was time to do some reloading. When I was changing calibers to reload 9mm, I discovered that I did not have the correct primer feed tube. I e-mailed Dillon Precision and got a phone call from one of their techs. Long story short, they sent me what I needed at no charge!

Dillon Precision has a whole line of terrific products and they have the absolute best warranty in the business. I recommend them to everyone!

-- Matt Davis  

Dillon Precision RL-550B Progressive Reloading Machine
$265

Available from and manufactured by Dillon Precision



Brinno Garden Cam

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I love this garden cam. It has a programmable time lapse setting (time between photos) that automatically makes a wmv file for high res movie. It’s easy to use, in fact easier than the Flip! Waterproof, fixed focus, strong but not over-designed. For$140 you can make a HD timelapse of anything. I use it in my workshop, and to show my wife where to plant what in her new garden.

Brinno GardenWatchCam
$140

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Brinno

More setup and demo videos are here -- ES



Andis T-Outliner

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When I started shaving my head many years ago, I sought a cut as close to a wet shave as possible, but wanted an electric clipper for the job, since it’s much easier when I’ve let it go for a few days. Occasionally I’ll use a Gillette Mach 3, but my preference is this trimmer by Andis. (I haven’t tried the Headblade, mostly because if I do want a wet shave, I’ve found the Mach 3 works well.) Andis’ T-Outliner would typically be found in a barbershop, generally used for edgework. Mine came with modified blades , which are the key components for an extra-close crop. With the modified blades, this Andis gives the closest cut I can get without using a razor, much closer than what a standard Wahl without any guide combs would accomplish.

Inside is a small motor that won’t quit, though it gets hot when used for extended periods. To keep my Andis trimmer buzzing, I get the blades sharpened professionally about once a year, and use Oster blade lube for maintenance. This trimmer would not be useful for someone who simply wanted a short ’do, or any sort of styling control, nor will it cut quite close enough for a Yul Brynner-like shiny pate job, though nearly. I’ve also found it gives a great almost-shave when I want to outline/clean up an unkempt beard very quickly—once again, much closer than anything other than a wet shave with a razor.

I’m not aware if anyone does something similar, but I found the modified extra-close-cut blades locally, at a shop called Ross Cutlery in Los Angeles, CA. They’re not set up for online orders, though they do take phone orders and have excellent, old-fashioned customer service. They recommend sending in the entire unit about once a year for cleaning and sharpening ($18, plus $8 return shipping).

-- Elon Schoenholz  

Andis T-Outliner with modified blades
$80 plus $8 shipping
$25 spare blades

Available from Ross Cutlery
Phone orders: (213) 626-1897

Also available for $69 from Shaver Shop



Nomad Sandals

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I picked up a pair of these sandals in Hawaii many years back principally because they looked both good and tough. The latter came in handy over the many years I walked the beaches and drift timber along BC’s west coast, picking out the salvageable logs. As a bonus, they provided the best traction on wet, beachsmooth logs of any footwear I have ever used.

Compared with the previously reviewed Chaco sandals, these have no arch support and they can hang on to moisture for a while, but holding them by the heel and whacking the toe on a solid surface will go a long way toward getting moisture, dirt and sand out. The longitudinal run of the rope and its texture give a nice friction bond with the sole of the feet, so my feet don’t slide around in them even when they get wet. I keep a couple of pairs on the go and could have probably sold a van-load over the years to folks stopping me to ask where they could be purchased.

-- John Marian  

Nomadic State of Mind Traditional JC Sandal
$27

Manufactured by and available from Nomadic State of Mind