Panda Ultra Wifi 150Mbps Wireless N 2.4Ghz Adapter

Why would you need a WiFi adapter for your laptop, when one is built in? Well, the built in one might be broken, or only support an older standard.

But this tool is really cool when not used as an adapter — but when used as an access-point.

Hotels (and the more expensive ones do this more frequently than inexpensive hotels) nickel-and-dime you on Wifi connectivity. One of the ways they do this is by selling you connectivity to ONE device.

ONE?! I’d bet most hotel guests have at least a smart-phone, in addition to their laptop, and possibly tablets, e-readers, wifi-equipped cameras, etc.

Enter this little tool.

You install it in your laptop (I use it in a Windows 7/64 bit laptop, but other Windows versions, as well as Mac and many Linux versions are supported) and it takes the incoming wifi from the hotel and re-transmits it as an access point, to which you (and your family or buddies) can connect.

It is small enough to simply throw in your kit and carry all the time (though so small you may easily lose it in your gear pack) and cheap enough to be a no-brainer purchase for any frequent traveler.

-- Michael Orr  

Available from Amazon

Kuhn Rikon Auto Safety Master Opener

kuhn rikon.jpg

I’ve used this tool for the last few months, and it far surpasses any other standard can opener I’ve tried. This style of opener, where the lid is removed from the side of the can rather than from the top, was first evangelized via fast-talking TV ads (“but wait, there’s more”), but is now commonly available.

The benefits to this particular model make it best-of-breed compared to its lookalikes. In their attempt to make the device the Swiss Army Knife of openers, they’ve incorporated a beer bottle opener and a few pry-levers into the casing. More importantly, the side of the opener has a tiny set of pliers. These solve the problem that most people have with these style of can-openers. While the lid is separated from the can, it is not totally severed. Manually removing the lid could make a mess, since squeezing the can creates ooze. The pliers make it really easy to pry the lid off without spilling a drop of the can’s contents. The opener doesn’t even get dirty, since it never contacts the contents of the can.

After working through a number of traditional openers, this is the one that I’m going to have forever. Where the legacy technology wears as it rusts and dulls, I’m confident that the Kuhn Rikon will never wear down.

-- James Roche  

[Note: This is an updated review of the previously reviewed Kuhn Rikon can opener. -- Oliver]

Kuhn Rikon Auto Safety Master Opener

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Kuhn Rikon

The Handmade Marketplace

handmade marketplace.jpeg

The giant crafts website Etsy makes it easy list homemade stuff to a potential audience of millions. But the hard part is getting anyone to pay attention and it actually buy it. That requires some basic business and online marketing skills, which are reviewed here, with the home crafter in mind.

-- KK  

The Handmade Marketplace
Kari Chapin
2010, 224 pages

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

What best advice would you offer a crafter who is looking to gain national attention for their work?

Invest in great product photography. Great work sells itself, so you need to do everything possible to make sure the beauty of your work comes through in a way that’s apparent to people reading about you online or in print because most people won’t see your work in person.


Unsatisfied Customers

In a perfect world, everyone would be happy with you and your products all the time. You would always be paid promptly and always get rave reviews. Sometimes, though, things just don’t work out. In this case you should:

Try to remain upbeat. Use positive-sounding words when communicating with customers.

Say, “What can I do to resolve this for you?” rather than “What do you want from me?”

Try to find value in what your unhappy customer is saying to you. It could be that their complaint has some truth to it, which you may find helpful in the long run.


Are you getting some really great feedback about something in particular that you’ve made? Consider posting these compliments in the description of your item.


Keep these customer service practices in mind at all times:

  • The customers may not always be right, but they do deserve your full attention and respect regarding the matter at hand.
  • Apologize first. What if you didn’t do anything wrong? you may ask. Well, while that may be the case, that’s not really the point. You can, in fact, regret that your customer is upset in any regard. Simply recognizing that your buyer has a problem and has had to take the time out of a busy day to alert you to it is reason enough to apologize.
  • Ask what will make the situation right. If what the customer wants is reasonable and you can do it, you should consider it.
  • Taking a hit on a sale is a small price to pay when it comes to your overall reputation and the trust you are trying to build with your market.


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

Screen Shot 2012 03 05 at 7 34 22 PM


Patagonia Rock Guide Pants

Rock Guides.jpg

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)

Available from Patagonia

Patagonia Women’s Rock Guide Pants

Available from Patagonia

Manufactured by Patagonia

3-Inch Widgy Pry Bar


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

Available from and manufactured by County Comm

Dillon Precision RL-550B Progressive Reloading Machine


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

Available from and manufactured by Dillon Precision