Ryan Block, Cofounder of Engadget [Cool Tools Show #17]

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Our guest this week is Ryan Block. He’s the co-founder of gdgt, and the co-founder and former editor of Engadget. These days he is VP of Product at Aol, and is co-host of MVP, a show about technology products. Quality and staying power are the primary criteria in Ryan’s list of essential day-to-day tools. His impeccable taste for the tried-and-true tools is revealed in the invaluable picks and advice offers in this episode.

Amazon Prime ($99/year)

“You have the infinite store shelf of Amazon and it shows up in two days. Access to all of the best products in just about anything you can imagine is insanely powerful if you’re a believer in the Cool Tools philosophy and that’s why, to me, Amazon Prime is the uber-tool on top of everything. It allows you to acquire the best of anything at any time.”

Bruer ($79)

“…Bruer is a home cold brewer that is extremely easy to manage, clean to operate…they did a really nice job with it. It’s got really nice high quality glass. It’s not Pyrex so it will definitely shatter if you drop it. It’s got these pretty good silicon seals on it and it’s just ridiculously easy to operate. It makes about 24 to 25 ounces of cold brew at a time and it’s now my primary means of drinking coffee…”


KitchenAid Stand Mixer ($262)

“When you’ve got a stand mixer you find things to do with it that you might not think of normally doing with it. That’s one of the things that makes a great Cool Tool, when you buy it thinking you’ll use it for one thing and you wind up using it for so many other things.”

Tydlig ($2.99)

“In some ways it’s almost like highly interactive spreadsheet in calculator, but it does do a lot of other advanced graphing functions. All the things you would expect a good calculator app would do, it does.”

 



 

Brett Doar, Multidisciplinary Artist [Cool Tools Show #16]

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Brett Doar, an artist/maker renowned for his Rube Goldberg machines, shows us some little tools that can make a big impact. He cites both a penny and the humble paperclip as his two most valuable tools. He also recommends an inexpensive 3D printer for making custom components.

Brett’s Website

Links to Brett’s work:

Baby Mobile of Death

Mobile de Piccinati

rotating thing toy

Survey of Work up to 2006

 

DaVinci 3D printer $500

“…that the filament comes in cartridges instead of just a spool…the cartridges are 28$ for a 600 grams of filament where if you’re doing something like Makerbot or something it’s 50$ for a pound…It’s got a heated bed. It’s all enclosed. It’s a crazy value.”

 

 

Clamp-tite clamp maker

“It’s a wonderful thing to use… Anything that you need to stick together, you can make a little clamp for this. All you need is some semi-flexible wire.”

 

Penny on a String ~$.01

“…because I was making this stuff out of wire…I would mangle my fingers…but if you’re using a penny or something you can use it almost like a thimble. A penny is just about the right size for my finger. It basically fits right at the end of my finger and you just put the string around your neck and you’ve got this tool around your neck.”

Paper Clips $7.50

“One of the reasons that paperclips appealed to me at first was because they were all a set length and so you can use them as a form of measurement. You can unfold it and you basically know that you can connect them end to end and make a wheel and then everything is based on the same sort of unit of measurement…I’ve built things that are three feet wide and a couple of feet tall that are made almost entirely out of paperclips.”

 



 

Co-founder of Quantified Self, Gary Wolf [Cool Tools Show #15]

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In this week’s episode of the Cool Tools Show, Gary Wolf, Co-founder of Quantified Self, shows us how his favorite Quantified Self inspired apps help him stay consistent, motivated and aware about his most important daily routines. If you’re struggling to keep your healthy habits in check, this week’s episode may help you diagnose where those dips in motivation are coming from.

Quantified Self

Gary’s Twitter

Show Notes:

Equanimity: Meditation Timer & Tracker by Robin Barooah $5

“It keeps a record of your meditation sessions, when you stop, when you start. It gives you a field to take notes and gives you the ability to reflect on the patterns in your practice, including CSV export of all your meditation data in a table. A few years into using it I ran a little analysis of what my practice really looked like and I learned so much from doing that. For instance, I learned that I had an average time without a break between days of about nine days.”

750 words by Buster Benson Free

“It’s premised on the theory that doing some free writing in the morning is very good for you, for your creativity. It can reduce stress by keeping you in touch with the random thoughts and random voices that are in your head and discharging some of the internal narrative and it’s also really relaxing. In a sense it resembles a meditation practice — it releases creativity and reduces stress.”

Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora $30

“It’s unlike any other guide I’ve ever encountered. On almost on every page it contains a story of a personal encounter with the mushroom in question, so it’s as close as you can get to walking through the woods with your own great expert.”

Ball Jars with Wide Funnel ~$20 (For 1 funnel & 1 case Ball Jars.)

“We went to the hardware store and got three cases of Ball jars and a nice big aluminum funnel and took every single item that was in a bag or an open box (including everything from tiny little pieces of pasta to crackers) and we put it in the appropriate size jar and my daughter made sticky labels and drawings for it and we filled up the pantry with this collection. It wasn’t very expensive. It didn’t take all that long. Now everything looks great and every time we open the closet we have a laugh.”

 



 

Sword and Laser Host, Veronica Belmont [Cool Tools Show #14]

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mg_72298This week Veronica Belmont stops by to share some of the tools that make her life as a professional podcaster for the show Sword & Laser a little easier. Veronica’s creative, beautifully made picks are highly recommended for anyone looking to break into the audio/visual or social media arenas.

Veronica’s Podcast, Sword & Laser

Veronica’s Twitter

Veronica’s Ello 

 

Show Notes:

Patreon

“It’s a crowd-funding service not too much unlike Kickstarter, except on Patreon people pay per episode or per week or per month and they can chip in as little or as much as they want. So, you can chip in a dollar per episode or per month and you can also put a cap on the amount that you chip in each month.”

 

Every time zone

“I do a lot of meetings with people across the country, a lot of phone calls, a lot of planning for shoots and podcasts and things like that, and I can never keep timezones straight. This site makes it really easy. It has a physical slider at the top that you can drag back and forth and it’ll give you automatically a list of all the times and all the different time zones in order.”

 

Levelator

“Levelator is probably the single most important little app for anyone who does podcasting or any kind of audio editing, really. They’re on their second iteration now. It’s a free tool for Windows, OS X, and Linux and it just works amazingly well. All you have to do is drag in your WAV file or AIFF file and it  basically evens all the audio out.”

Rootcup

“You can do trimmings from succulents or other plants and then you stick them into the Root Cup and fill the cup with water and then it grows roots! It’s that simple, but I just love the design and I love how easy it is… They come in a few different sizes and colors and I just think they’re cute and creative and they look good as potters as well, just having as planters around the house.”


Ello

“It’s pretty neat. It’s a social network that was created by designers and you can kind of see that in the design. It’s really clean and nicely done. They had a pretty big ground swell of people signing up all at once when it hit the Twitters people started sharing it and sending out invites. It’s always hard because new social networks pop up all the time and I always try to figure out what their use case is for me. You want to be able to put the right content in the right places and reach certain audiences in a certain way. I haven’t quite figured out what I want Ello to be for me yet.”

 



 

Bestselling Author and Entrepreneur, Seth Godin [Cool Tools Show #13]

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Seth Godin enlightens us this week with an unexpected assortment of tools that will have you exploring the deepest recesses of your subconscious while, at the same time, enriching your hobbies and lifestyle.

Show Notes:

Strikingly Free or Subscription

“I started using this tool and it turns out it’s a simple bounded web development tool that is all plug and play. It only lets you build a one page website, but it’s hard for me to imagine a website being ten times more beautiful than what you can build with Strikingly…”

 

Wired Magazine Entire Collection

“…every once in a while I’ll take down an issue. This is the behemoth issue from December 1999. It is more than four hundred and fifteen pages long and what’s fascinating about it is the combination of breathless enthusiasm combined with sometimes not particularly long-lasting technology and what I find useful about that is it helps to not take myself so damn seriously…”

 

One Lucky Duck

“Sometimes I would drive twenty miles out of my way to get a single brownie and then drive home and I’m sure there’s no biochemical reason why it makes me feel taller, better, faster and able to jump and run higher, but it does and it’s been interesting to sort of hack my own mental physical barrier…”

Penguin Magic

“I think it’s a great site to go to because the way the site works is every single trick is demonstrated in a high production value video so it’s basically a magic show you can watch whenever you want to and the only way to find out how it’s done is to buy it.”

 



 

Co-founder of ThinkUp, Gina Trapani [Cool Tools Show #12]

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Lifehacker founder and ThinkUp co-founder, Gina Trapani introduces us to a few web based apps that offer elegant design and features well worth their minuscule price-points. Fans of an uncluttered web experience will rejoice to hear what Gina offers up in this installment of the Cool Tools Show.

Show Notes:

Gina’s Website

Gina’s Twitter

Gina’s latest venture, ThinkUp

Forecast.io (Free)

“Forecast.io takes several different weather services and, based on your location, it will make it’s best guess, given multiple data sources, of what the weather is in your position and how long it will be partly sunny or at what point it will start raining. So if you wanna walk your dog and you don’t want to do it in the rain, Forecast.io is the place to look. It’s a very, very smart and well-designed weather app.”

Draft ($4/month or $40/year)

“Draft emphasizes that you get better the more you write so it gives you these great stats about how many words per day you’ve written, what hour of the day you’re most productive, what reading level you’re writing is at. It really incentivizes you to write more and so if you’re doing that with Draft, the subscription is definitely worth that. It’s just a few bucks a month.”

kidpost

KidPost (Free during Beta period)

“Kid Post sends a daily email to whoever opts in to your Kid Post, like Grandma or Grandpa, and it rolls up the photos from all those other services and it sends them out to everyone and includes the photos inline. So everyone in the family who is checking their email gets to see just the photos that you post to these different services automatically.”

Push Bullet (Free)

“Push Bullet mirrors my phone’s push notifications, things that have come pushed to my phone, to my desktop. So if any one of my apps shows me a notification, I see that on my desktop which means I don’t constantly have to be switching between my phone and my desktop.”

ThinkUp ($5/month)

“Facebook and Twitter and Google, they have a lot of information about us because we’ve been using these networks for a long time and I wanted to build an app that was like “what kind of information do they have about me that helps them know more about me. I wanna know more about myself. What am I talking about? Who am I friends with? What are the messages that travel far? How many times do I say ‘thank you’ to people?” so ThinkUp is my attempt at that.”

 



Entrepreneur and Inventor, Dan Shapiro

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Robot Turtles creator Dan Shapiro recommends inventions and innovations that offer a surprisingly valuable experience for their price. If you’re looking for high value on a shoestring budget, you won’t be disappointed by Dan’s picks.

Show Notes:

Dan’s Website

Dan’s bestselling game, Robot Turtles

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

Brushless DSLR Gimbal $450

“…you look at what comes out of it and it looks like you just shot a documentary even though you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s like sprinkling magic fairy pixie dust on any video you shoot. These things are incredible! I’ve been using every excuse I have to shoot video now because it’s so amazing.”

 

 

The Art of Electronics $60- $120

“It’s not theory. It’s not highfalutin. It’s, ‘Here’s how to go build things that work.’”

 

 

Navdy $300

“To get something comparable with your car would be thousands of dollars if it’s even available. I think the Corvette has one that’s a multi thousand dollar option. And then at some point in the future you won’t be able to upgrade the firmware, swap it out. The Navdy you can just plunk on your dash…”

 

 

Cheerson CX-10 multicopter $20

“Its super stable and small, fits in your pocket easily with room to spare and it’s even capable of doing flips. The thing is just remarkable.”

 

 

AliExpress Free

“They have everything from fashion to electronics to lumber, across the board. It’s one of those secrets in my list of suppliers. Everybody knows about Ebay and Amazon. Some people know about these sites like BangGood and Deal Xtreme…but AliExpress is underappreciated.”

-- Cool Tools  



Blogger and Author, David McRaney [Cool Tools Show 010]

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Blogger and author David McRaney introduces us to some lesser known creative solutions to life’s tiny nuisances that will help you untangle your wad of keys, opt for a better YouTube experience, and explore the future of musical experimentation.

Show Notes:

David’s Blog, You Are Not So Smart

You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney

You Are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney

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

Keysmart $20

“You don’t have a big wad of keys and they just swing out like a pocket knife and go into the door and you twist it, open a door and then swing it back in. It’s all nice and tight and compact and I like it. ”

Hercules Stands Wallmount Guitar Hanger  $15

“You may have seen something like this in a guitar store. That’s how I started looking for it because I used to have all my guitars around my house and my basses on stands and it only takes two or three and suddenly a whole side of your room is taken up by the stuff. ”

Source Audio SA115 Hot Hand 3 Wireless Adapter $150

“The way I was first introduced to this is there’s a band called Pinn Panelle and they had a video where they did a live cover of Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites“…and the bass player was able to make the dubstep bass sound by using this controller…His name is Nathan Navarro and he’s got some really face melting bass solos that he’s created using this device and his album even comes with tablature for his solos.”

AlienTube Free

“Everyone knows that YouTube comments are the worst place on the internet. They are so horrible. I hope that if some sort of extraterrestrial intelligence is scanning our database of knowledge that they don’t ever see the YouTube comments. But usually Reddit comments about a video are pretty good and sometimes really amazing things can be in a Reddit thread…”

-- Mark Frauenfelder  



 

Bestselling Author and Journalist, AJ Jacobs [Cool Tools Show #009]

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This week AJ Jacobs, bestselling author and journalist, shows us how he rids himself of life’s common nuisances and hazards like an untied shoe, a noisy environment, or a half hour wasted in traffic so he can focus on larger pursuits, like bringing the world together in one great big family reunion. AJ reminds us that we are all cousins and encourages all of us to explore just how we are related by hitting up some of his favorite genealogy resources. Oh, and we’re all officially invited to The Global Family Reunion on June 6th, 2015. Don’t forget the potato salad!

Show Notes:

AJ’s Website

The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs

Drop Dead Healthy by AJ Jacobs

AJ’s recent project, The Global Family Reunion

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

Lock Laces $8

“…they are as tight as your regular shoe laces and they cost about ten bucks. I haven’t tied my shoelaces in about a year…”

Surefire EP4 Sonic Defender Ear Protection $9-$46

“They’re great because they reduce noise a lot and they are molded to your ear so they kind of look like a seashell and they stick into the folds of your ear so it’s hard to lose them, which I found was a problem with a lot of earplugs.”

Geni Free or $100/yr subscription

“It’s a lot easier to search how people are related. So if I put in the name Albert Einstein and it’ll search and tell me ‘Albert Einstein is my fourth cousin’s aunt’s uncle’s brother’s sister’s fourth niece.’ It’ll show you the exact track of how you’re related to everyone in the world.”

WikiTree Free

“It’s very much the Wikipedia model, so you can get someone who says Jimi Hendrix is Paul Revere’s son, but the idea is that the community will then correct it. Instead of having one set of eyes on it you’ve got thousands of sets of eyes trying to correct these things and add documentation and I do think it’s getting more and more accurate. There are some branches that require serious leaps of faith and are not documented, but I do think it’s getting better.”

FamilySearch Free

“I always thought genealogy was this staid and dusty pursuit but now it’s gone through this fascinating revolution and actually we are going to have a family tree of the entire world, all seven billion people probably in like five years, maybe ten.”

Waze Free

“I did an experiment a couple of weeks ago where I was in a car with Waze and my friend was in another car and this friend had Waze but refused to believe that Waze had the best directions, so she ignored them and she paid the price! She was about fifteen minutes behind us.”

 



 

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.