23 August 2017

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Johnny Apple Peeler

Cores, slices, and peels apples

The first time I discovered the device known as an Apple Peeler-Corer-Slicer, I was delighted. At the time, I was making a lot of apple pies, and peeling and slicing the apples was the part I liked the least. With this amazing device, you can peel, core, and slice enough apples for a pie in a minute or two.

Once I started drying apples and pears, I appreciated it even more, because there was even more fruit to prepare.

There are a number of competing brands; they all work pretty much the same way: The fruit is impaled on a spike, which is turned by a handscrew to drive it through a coring blade and past a skinning blade, while a slicing blade cuts it into a long spiral. (A single slice down the vertical axis of the coiled fruit spring cuts it into a neat set of rounds.) The main difference is whether they have a suction cup to attach to your countertop (works only on very smooth counters), or a clamp (requires that you have a suitable lip on your counter.)

It works best with regular shaped apples and pears, and requires them to be on the hard side. If they are too soft, the spike on which you turn them will spin inside the fruit rather than spinning the fruit. But you want less ripe fruit for pies and drying in any case, so it just means you have to get your harvest in early! In the video below, you can see what happens when your fruit is too ripe.

-- Tim O'Reilly 08/23/17

22 August 2017

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Zencastr

Best podcast recording tool

Zencastr is the best way to record a podcast (or interview) remotely. For the past two years we’ve recorded our Cool Tools Show podcasts using Zencastr. It’s way better than Skype or phones.

Zencastr is a web-based app that allows 2 or more participants to record a conversation with near studio quality. Each participant’s speech is recorded locally, on their PC, and then automatically uploaded to a Dropbox folder as separate audio files. That means there is no loss of quality over crackly phone lines or stuttering VOIP. While participants may hear low quality voice from distant participants, in reality, Zencastr is only recording what it hears from the participants own nearby microphone. The recording will be as good as the quality of your local mic (use anyone you want), which these days is pretty good.

At the end of the session, the tracks are uploaded in background to a Dropbox folder. Each track can be edited if wanted, and then automatically merged to produce an incredibly crisp conversation that sounds like all participants are sitting in a studio together. In the past year of using it, we’ve had no technical issues. It just works.

It’s super convenient for guests. No one needs to sign up for an account, and there’s nothing to download. You send someone a web link, they add their name, and off you go.

Zencastr is free for minimal use, and has paid levels (which we use) for more frequent use and additional features.

-- KK 08/22/17

21 August 2017

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Owl Shaped Soft Silicone Travel Bottles

Travel bottle with suction cups

I’ve used these very cute silicone owl travel bottles for the past 6 months (traveling overnight four times). Each time I use them I find something I love and something I might change but overall I love them. I know worry less about leaking bottles in my bag. Also, the owl’s eyes are suction cups that actually work! This makes them easy to stick anywhere in a showers with minimal or overcrowded shelf space. I often stay with other people instead of hotels so it’s nice to know that my shower items are tucked out of the way. The bottles have a medium-sized opening which makes them pretty easy to refill with thicker liquids such as face scrub and toothpaste. The squeezable part is made of very squishy silicone which makes them easy to squeeze, almost too easy to squeeze. I often squeeze out a bit too much shampoo in the morning. Also the softness makes them a bit difficult to pop open the cap. I really like the opening and cap. The cap can be completely removed from the silicone for easy cleaning and the cap’s opening is small but flexible so dense liquids like face scrub squeeze out easily. One feature I don’t enjoy or use is the selectable band of labels along the bottom. I find the band hard to twist into place. There is a blank spot in the band so you can write your own in. I just use the color-coding instead. Green is my shampoo. White is my shaving cream. I’ve included an in-situ photo so you can see how they work.

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 8.09.38 AM

-- Rob Ray 08/21/17

20 August 2017

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Kurzgesagt/Hvper/Steelcase Gesture Chair

Recomendo: issue no. 56

One page internet
Every day I get the entire internet compressed into a single page. My first stop is Hvper, which is a super aggregator that collects the top headlines of every news source out there into ONE single page. I see what’s at the top of mind in the both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, plus HuffPo and Fox News, plus Al Jazeera and the Drudge Report. Plus Reddit, Digg, BuzzNews, Twitter, CNN, ABC, Verge, Wired, and on and on. All of it! The whole news media landscape in a one-page dashboard. Each headline is clickable directly to the source. It is fast, clean (no ads!), free and magical. Must read. — KK

Explainer videos
I love good explainer videos. The best are made by Kurzgesagt. Their 5-minute videos are stunningly animated and cover topics such as automation, genetic engineering, gamma ray bursts, and ebola. They often leave me in awe about our universe. — MF

Best seat
I was having some back pain and pinched nerves, so Kevin bought this Steelcase Gesture Chair for my work desk. Those issues are non-existent now. So many different ways to position and sit in it. It’s so comfortable I have to set reminders throughout the day to get up or else I never would. — CD

Fast life
Just as I zip through podcasts at 1.5x speed, I recently learned I can speed up YouTube videos too. So now I go through twice as many tutorials. Just click on the gear-circle at the bottom right corner of the YouTube frame, and in the pop-up menu select Speed and your choice up to 2x. — KK

Stylish shower cap
Some days I skip out on washing my hair. After my reserve of complimentary hotel shower caps ran out, I needed to buy own. These are cheap and long-lasting, but the prints are what sold me — nostalgic and fun. Reminds me of my grandmother in Mexico. — CD

Great sketching pen
My friend Bob Knetzger is a toy inventor. He uses Paper Mate Flair felt-tip pens to sketch out his designs. I bought a dozen for $7 and was reminded why I liked them so much in the 1970s. The lines are smooth and you can vary the line weight by changing the angle between the pen and paper. — MF

 

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-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 08/20/17

18 August 2017

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Door Ease Lube Stick

Unsticks sticky doors, windows, and drawers

Door Ease is a stick of wax for unsticking drawers. I inherited an old stick of it when I moved into a house. The previous owners left it behind. One day 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.

-- Gareth Branwyn 08/18/17

(This review was excerpted from our Cool Tools Show podcast interview with Gareth. Listen to it here. — editors)

17 August 2017

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Maker Update: Self-Centering Drill Bits

The best DIY projects of the week

In Donald Bell’s latest Maker Update video, he looks at acoustic levitation, an Arduino made by Sony, a new kit by Anouk Wipprecht, self-centering drill bits, and a turning old monitors into a video wall. See show notes here.

From the video transcript:

For this week’s Cool Tools review we’re going to take a look at this self-centering drill bit set from Bosch. Great for makers and DIY home repairs. I wish I’d bought these years ago. This set cost me around $23, and if you want the same one, clicking the Amazon link in the show notes helps to support my videos and the Cool Tools blog.

If you’ve ever tried to attach some pre-drilled piece of hardware to something — a hinge, a latch, a coat hook — you’re probably familiar with the challenge of placing the hardware, marking where the holes need to be, and then carefully drilling. But if your pilot holes are just a little off — even in just one hole, the whole placement of the hardware will shift. It bugs the crap out of me.

A self-centering drill bit makes this process foolproof. The bit has a spring-loaded collar that sits into the hardware you’re attaching and keeps the drill bit dead-center. So long as your hardware doesn’t shift, the holes will be perfectly center.

This set from Bosch comes with three common bit sizes — a #6, #8 and #10. They’re also a quick change design that can just drop into an impact driver, making it easy to drill and screw with the same tool.

I will say that if you’re only using this occasionally, you could spend less and just get the smallest size. That will give you a centered pilot hole that you can expand with any regular drill bit. That said, for bigger projects, having the right size bit keeps you from having to drill the same hole twice.

-- Mark Frauenfelder 08/17/17

ALL REVIEWS

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Daiso Dollar Tools

Tools for a buck-and-a-half

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Rob Reid, Bestselling Sci-Fi Author

Cool Tools Show 085: Rob Reid

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Self-Grip Self-Adhering Tape and Bandage

Flexible, secure, easy to administer

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Wacaco Minipresso GR

Hand operated, no batteries, portable espresso

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Maker Update: Bobbleheads & Burrs

Pivot blade allows easy burr removal from iron pipe, copper and PVC tubing

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Semi-rigid Endoscope Inspection Camera

Small camera mounted to a bendable semi-rigid cable

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08/22/17

What’s the best way to store large rolls of tape?

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What’s the best way to store large rolls of tape?

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WHAT'S IN MY BAG?
23 February 2017

ANNOUNCEMENTS
05/23/17

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We Refreshed Our Website

If you read Cool Tools via RSS (which is the way Kevin and I read blogs) then you probably don’t realize we updated our website design today. We took your feedback seriously and tried our best to simplify the design and make it more legible.

I’m sure we got some things wrong. If you find a mistake or have suggestions about our current iteration, please let us know in the comments.

Thanks for reading Cool Tools and being part of the community.

If I’ve still got your attention, I’d like to remind you that Cool Tools runs reviews written by our readers. Please recommend a tool you love.

ABOUT COOL TOOLS

Cool Tools is a web site which recommends the best/cheapest tools available. Tools are defined broadly as anything that can be useful. This includes hand tools, machines, books, software, gadgets, websites, maps, and even ideas. All reviews are positive raves written by real users. We don’t bother with negative reviews because our intent is to only offer the best.

One new tool is posted each weekday. Cool Tools does NOT sell anything. The site provides prices and convenient sources for readers to purchase items.

When Amazon.com is listed as a source (which it often is because of its prices and convenience) Cool Tools receives a fractional fee from Amazon if items are purchased at Amazon on that visit. Cool Tools also earns revenue from Google ads, although we have no foreknowledge nor much control of which ads will appear.

We recently posted a short history of Cool Tools which included current stats as of April 2008. This explains both the genesis of this site, and the tools we use to operate it.

13632766_602152159944472_101382480_oKevin Kelly started Cool Tools in 2000 as an email list, then as a blog since 2003. He edited all reviews through 2006. He writes the occasional review, oversees the design and editorial direction of this site, and made a book version of Cool Tools. If you have a question about the website in general his email is kk {at} kk.org.

13918651_603790483113973_1799207977_oMark Frauenfelder edits Cool Tools and develops editorial projects for Cool Tools Lab, LLC. If you’d like to submit a review, email him at editor {at} cool-tools.org (or use the Submit a Tool form).

13898183_602421513250870_1391167760_oClaudia Dawson runs the Cool Tool website, posting items daily, maintaining software, measuring analytics, managing ads, and in general keeping the site alive. If you have a concern about the operation or status of this site contact her email is cl {at} kk.org.