30 April 2017


Flume/24 Meetings/Hunter

Recomendo: issue no. 40

Must listen:
A fantastic two-part podcast episode from Reply All (Russian Passenger, Part 1 + Beware All, Part 2) delves very deep into the mystery of how producer Alex Blumberg had his Uber account hacked by Russians. Could it be malware, phishing, man-in-the-middle exploits, or what? To arrive at a solution required the participation of the full technical teams of Google, Uber, and independent security experts over several weeks, and still the final aha was surprising. Along the way, it’s an entertaining detective story, dishing out a serious but still understandable education in global cyber security. The bottom line: You need a password manager right now. My family and I use 1Password, which has been great. — KK

Handy photo app:
I’m old school: I take photos with a camera that I process on my Mac. That makes it difficult to post to Instagram — the new home for photographers — because Instagram insists you upload photos only from a phone. Flume Pro is a $10 app for Macs that let you drag and drop photos from your desktop directly into your Instagram stream. (The free version is a handy Instagram stream manager.) Works for me. — KK

Hay fever relief:
I’ve been taking nettles leaf capsules for over 20 years to deal with my allergies to dust and pollen. My wife and daughter use it too. Every one of my dubious friends who try it also become true believers. I buy the 100-capsule bottles of Nature’s Way and take 4-6 every few hours during allergy season. — MF

Time zone aid:
I have difficulty with time zones. It’s easy enough to use the world clock on my smartphone to find out what time it is in another country right now, but I don’t trust myself to count forward or backward to figure out what time it will be in Edinburgh when it’s 10am in Los Angeles, for example. I have 24 Meetings bookmarked to do the math for me. A simple slider lets me see what time it will be in different cities. — MF

Fast email finder:
Hunter lets you quickly find personal and support email addresses from any company website. I have the chrome extension and it’s great for when I have a customer service or billing issue and want a response as soon as possible. I cc: all the relevant generic email addresses for the company and so far have gotten a response and issue resolved within hours. — CD

“What ever you cling to, it is not that,” is my new mantra to remind me to not get attached to the stories I create, or my own perspective. It’s kind of like a gentle kick in the butt. I heard it while listening to Pema Chödrön, Coming Closer to Ourselves: Making Everything the Path of Awakening. — CD

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04/30/17 -- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson

29 April 2017


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silverhalide needs suggestions for the best dishwasher safe insulated water bottle?

04/29/17 --

28 April 2017


The Man in Seat 61

Best source for train travel

Train travel is often the best way to get from A to B. It’s civilized, often as fast as flying or faster, and comfortable. But navigating the train schedules and idiosyncracies of train systems around the world is often beyond possible. The Man in Seat 61 is your answer to train travel. A energetic British train enthusiast, Mark Smith, has created a vast website which has become the clearinghouse for train travel world wide. I have used The Man in Seat 61 to figure out and book intercity trains in Vietnam, China, Japan, and Europe. Just about every schedule train in the world is recorded here. For many third world countries, like Burma or Sudan, his website is the *only* place these train fares and schedules exist. For all the countries of the world he does not just list timetables but provides extensive counsel on what each train is like, even recommendations of particular cars or seats to take. The amount of information and guidance is bottomless and priceless, yet the site is free. (You still book directly with the train companies,) If you are contemplating an epic train journey anywhere, or even a short train trip in a country new to you, The Man in Seat 61 will be your best friend.

04/28/17 -- KK

27 April 2017


Victorinox Paring Knife with Serrated Edge

Multipurpose serrated paring knife with thin sharp blade

There have been lots of reviews of knives here and elsewhere. This is one of my favorites: the Victorinox serrated paring knife! These are used by commercial fishermen as deck knives. They are affordable enough that we buy them by the box. Sheaths made of popped bouy material are taped at strategic locations around the boat so there is always a knife at hand. It is also common for sheathes be attached to rain gear bib straps or belts. The blade is thin and incredibly sharp. It will cut a 3/4″ hard laid poly line under tension in one pass. They are also great paring and steak knives, incidentally.

04/27/17 -- Bert Stammerjohan

26 April 2017


Olight i3E flashlight

Best AAA keychain light

The Olight i3E is a tiny flashlight, meant for a keychain. It is similar to the Streamlight Nano (which I have also owned), so I will compare it to that.


– It takes a single AAA battery, which you are likely to have in your closet already. It can also take AAA size rechargeable NiMH batteries, like the storied Panasonic Eneloops. (It will not take lithium batteries.) The Nano takes weird LR-41 button batteries, which you likely have to order.

– Nonetheless, it is tiny, at about 2.3 inches long. (The Nano is about 1.5 inches long. – It produces far more light than the Nano. The regular versions produce 90 lumens, and the Silver and Copper versions produce 120 lumens. The Streamlight Nano produces 10 lumens.

– (Like the Nano,) it has only two settings: On and Off.

– (Like the Nano,) the switch is just a head that you rotate. But unlike the Nano, the i3E shows no tendency to unscrew itself and thereby disassemble itself in your pocket. The Nano is notorious for dropping the head and batteries somewhere without your noticing, leaving only the rear case attached to your keychain. The usual remedy was a few turns of Teflon plumber’s tape.

– It has an actual TIR (Total Internal Reflection) lens, a combination reflector and lens which together provides a nice, narrow beam pattern, with a very bright hot spot and usable light in a cone around it. The lens also protects the LED from dust and wear. The Nano looks like it could have a reflector, but it really has a bare LED with its molded on lens. Accordingly, its throw pattern is less focused, and can throw glare in your eyes.

– It is relatively cheap, at only $13 or so, although the Nano is about $9.

Disadvantages: – It only has one setting, on or off. It doesn’t have a low or high setting. Olight has similar lights with hi/lo/medium settings, but they are bigger and more expensive.

– The twist switch (as such) is a little awkward for signaling SOS or other Morse code messages.

– It is more expensive than the Nano, though it is cheaper than most other LED flashlights.

Purchasing notes: I got the silver version for the slight bump in output (from 90 to 120 lumens.) The finish is silvery PVD, and after a few weeks, it has some scratches, but otherwise seems to be holding up. I expect the functional parts of it, like the LED, the case, etc. to last forever.

So. Not the absolute smallest or cheapest, but surprisingly bright, relatively cheap, with well-designed optics (and it actually has optics.)

04/26/17 -- Karl Chwe

26 April 2017


Maker Update #31

The best maker projects of the week

This week on Maker Update: an autonomous beach-roving art bot, Kickstarter wants your ideas, a project that makes kits for other projects, GUIs for Raspberry Pi, stipple ceramics, and I’ll show you why digital calipers are cool. Show notes here.


04/26/17 -- Donald Bell


img 04/25/17

Superglue for cracked skin

Helps cracked skin heal quickly

img 04/24/17

Rothco Undercover Travel Vest

Includes a a tablet sized pocket and a hidden passport pocket

img 04/22/17

Ask Cool Tools Featured Question

Share your knowledge with your fellow Cool Tools readers

img 04/21/17

Tangle Tamer

Makes hair detangling fast and painless

img 04/20/17

Fiskars Rotary Cutter

Ideal for cutting multiple layers of fabric, paper, felt and vinyl

See all the reviews


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What's in My Bag? 23 February 2017

Announcements: 09/6/16


CargoRAXX – unrecommended

This appears to be a shill review. Many thanks to Cool Tools reader Matthew Connor for looking into this. He wrote:

Meaghan Hollywood works for CargoRAXX. Meaghan Hollywood put a review up quasi-anonymously on Amazon. A similarly worded review is now anonymously on KK.org.

On Amazon there are two reviews for the product (https://www.amazon.com/CargoRAXX-S1A-Interior-Management-System/dp/B01A6X4MBS). Neither is attributed by name but the one from January 18th, 2016 refers to “my Tahoe” and read similar to the KK.org review. Let us suppose the author is, in fact, the same person.

Clicking on the name for the review – merely “Amazon Customer” brings up their profile (https://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A1CF94IIWSAE00/ref=cm_cr_dp_pdp). This profile contains one Wish List on the left side. Clicking on it revels – the name of “Amazon Customer” – it is Meaghan Hollywood.

Ok. I believe at this point the author of the KK review and the author of at least one of the two reviews on Amazon are in fact the same person and that person’s name is Meaghan Hollywood.

Here’s the kicker, CargoRAXX has a website with a blog feature – their blogger’s name is Meaghan Hollywood. (http://cargoraxx.com/5-reasons-re-organize-suv/)

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.