Milwaukee Off-Set Power Screwdriver Head

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I have used my offset screwdriver head for around 15 years and it enables me to get to screws in tight places where you might otherwise only be able to use a stubby screwdriver.

I find that the torque transfer is excellent, although sometimes the extra grip does come off. I have used it in my cordless drill as well as hand held, and it is designed for any combination of bits to be fitted. It does require the use of both hands but this means that one hand is being used to steady or apply downward force to a screw while the other imparts the turning force.

-- Wayne Higgins  

Milwaukee Off-Set Screwdriver Head
$36

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Milwaukee



Applecore Cable Manager

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I have really been enjoying these simple rubber cores that cheaply and effectively organize cords of all sorts. They make it easy to wrap a cord around due to the shape (like an apple core…duh) with slits on both ends to thread cord through. I find the hardness of the rubber just right; firm enough to hold the cord, but soft enough to be easy to bend open to insert cords.

There are three sizes: small for something like earbud cords, medium for a phone/ipod etc. charger-size cord, and large for computer charges or appliances. I haven’t tried the largest size yet, but love the ones I have. They come in a variety of bright colors which helps when it comes to finding and organizing cords.

-- David Rosenfeld  

Applecore Cable Manager
Small, Medium, Large
$2, $3, $5

Available from and manufactured by Applecore

(image via GearDiary)



SeatGuru

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If you’ve ever picked a seat on an airplane only to find yourself with half the leg room as the rest of the row, you’ll appreciate this website. I found this site about 2 years ago after sitting in a cramped seat for 7 hours.

Since I have long legs, this site has been a lifesaver. It gives you a visual breakdown of most major airlines seat configurations by model of airplane, color coding the iffy seats yellow and the really bad ones in red. If you’re really lucky, you might find one of the green seats available on your flight, giving you the best seat in the house.

-- Michael Moscheck  

SeatGuru
Free
http://www.seatguru.com/

Sample Excerpts:

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Presso

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The Presso is a minimalist espresso maker that requires no electricity or CO2 canisters (like the portable MyPressi). All you do is pack the grinds into the filter, screw in the filter under the business end, pour in hot water, pull up on the levers, and then crank ‘em down. The amount of pressure on the grinds depends on how much force you apply. Therefore, if you’re an aspiring coffee scientist trying to master precision extraction, this $150 device is probably not for you. The reviews on CoffeeGeek range from ecstatic to “eh” with an overall score of 8/10. My take: If you live off-grid, enjoy car-camping, or simply want a no-frills espresso maker, it’s solid.

I’m not a scientist, but I dabble. I own a Chemex, as well as the previously-reviewed Yama Vac Pot. I grind my beans with an antique Zassenhaus. For almost a year, I’ve turned to the Presso nine times out of ten for churning out a single-serve espresso or Americano almost every morning. The Presso still performs like a champ. Clean-up is a breeze: Dump the grinds, rinse the filter. 

Working from home, I find the process of grinding my beans, heating the water, then cranking out a cup to be a relaxing indulgence. The Presso doesn’t require much muscle, but the physicality is a nice bonus. 

Presso Manual Espresso Maker
$150

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Presso



Most Hackable E-Reader

I’m interested in purchasing an e-reader of some kind (i.e. must use e-ink tech, no LCD screens) and wondering if anyone has any suggestions about which reader lends itself most to tinkering / extending / hacking? Are there any that make it possible to install your own software? (It would be cool to see i.e. Emacs running on one.)

Nook Color, hands down. Unfortunately, your eInk criterion limits you to cheap Chinese knockoffs. If you’re willing to go LCD, you won’t be disappointed with a Nook Color.

Cyanogen makes the ROM for it, and they are nearly impossible to brick. Heck, you can run a custom ROM right off the microSD card, never putting your warranty in jeopardy. And, because it’s Cyanogen, you can read nearly anything, and have full Android Market access.

Christopher

Nook Color
$249
Available from and manufactured by Barnes and Noble

Cyanogen Nook Color Rom
Free
Available from Cyanogen

Have a different answer to this question? Submit your own!

 



VitaMix 5200 Countertop Blender

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At Costco, my wife and I happened upon one of those salesman wearing a headset a-la-Madonna. He was demoing a blender. As we stood and watched, I commented to my wife that all these people were just waiting to try a smoothie; and there was no way this guy would get one of these suckers to pay $350 for a blender. A BLENDER!

But guess who walked out with one? Because of Costco’s liberal return policy, we figured it was worth a shot. So for the next month, we used it…and used it…and used it. Every time, I thought to myself, $350 for a blender!? But man, this thing is an incredible MACHINE.

I once believed that a blender only needed two speeds: Off and High. I was wrong. With ten variable speeds, it makes short work of anything and everything we’ve ever put in it. We use it every single day, often multiple times. The 1380-watt motor surprisingly quiet on low, and a barracuda at high speeds. Clean-up is incredibly quick: Add water, a bit of soap, turn on high for ten seconds, and then rinse and dry.

The 64-ounce Lexan pitcher is amazingly tough. I always figured plastic was plastic, but this stuff is really tough. If you do happen to somehow break it, the company will replace it free of charge through its seven-year warranty. After that, you can simply purchase parts/replacements.

So we extended our 30-day trial to 90-days, since I still thought it was a lot of money for a blender. Ultimately — after using it EVERY day, usually multiple times a day — I realized it’s worth $350. I hesitated to send this review, because of the considerable expense. Anyone who uses a blender regularly will find this to be the best blender they ever own. My previous $45 blender, which I once thought was pretty good, now sits gathering dust. I’ve been spoiled.

-- Jeff Jewell  

[Tip: Check Costco, if there's one near you. They tend to sell the blender at a discount.]

Vitamix 5200 Professional Blender
$499

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Vitamix



Neat Sheets

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I have a small amount of stuff that I want within easy reach at night, including my cellphone, lip balm, and a small bottle of water. I was considering housing it in a bedside caddy or organizer, but wasn’t thrilled by the idea of buying a uni-tasking extra product just for that one purpose. Searching for a better solution, I stumbled across Neat Sheets sheet sets from a company called Everest Luxury Linens. These sheets come with sewn-on side pockets on the fitted sheets which serve as convenient repositories for whatever you want within reach while you’re in bed.

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Neat Sheets also have sewn-on tags at the foot of the sheet, to (as the company says on its site) help you get the right corner of the sheet on the right corner of the mattress, every time. I hesitated to buy Neat Sheets, because the site had a slightly gimmicky infomercial-style vibe. But a few months ago I did buy them, and they are terrific. They are exactly what’s described on the site, and I find they make my life just a tiny bit easier every single day. As a minimalist and a fan of good design, I’m really pleased.

-- Sue Gardner  

Neat Sheets Sheet Set
Twin to California King
$60-105

Available from and manufactured by Neat Sheets



Naked Binder

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For years I have used two-ring European-style binders from Leitz simply because it was very difficult to find a quality binder sized for US standard paper (8-1/2″ x 11″). However, I recently switched to Naked Binders, and I find them remarkably well made and thought out.

Unlike the readily available, poorly made, vinyl binder with the covers only bonded at the seams, the paper and book cloth covers on these are fully bonded to the board underneath. The result is that a minor tear does not cause the whole thing to fall apart, and they feel like they are built to last. The D-rings are attached to the back cover rather than the spine so the pages lie flat and index tabs line up making a neat and clean presentation.
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The fact that they are environmentally responsible and made in the USA are bonuses. I bought a couple as a test case and quickly ordered more to replace all the binders in my home and office.

-- Scott Hintz  

Naked Binder
$8.50-10.50

Available from and manufactured by Naked Binder



Photon Microlight II

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This is a very handy little light that is small enough to carry around in your pocket on a keychain. It weighs only 4.8-grams and the LED “bulb” is very bright for its size, more than adequate for finding your way around in a dark spot, reading a map, finding key holes, etc, with a simple thumb press on the button. It has a small switch that will lock the light in the “on” position for those times when you need some extended light.

I highly recommend this Micro Light II model over the more expensive Micro Light III. While the Micro III has more features they aren’t that useful and mine used up the batteries in just a few weeks. So I bought a Micro II and have been very happy with it, and the current battery has lasted several months so far.

– Paul Dubuc

As one keen-eyed reader noticed, the review of this item which CT published originally appeared on Amazon but under a different user. The premise of Cool Tools is that reviews are written by users who have used the product and are genuinely enthusiastic about the product. We do our best to filter out shills for companies, or reviewers being paid to recommend something.

Were we being gamed here? We take our credibility seriously so we wrote to the person who had submitted the tool to find out what was going on. As best as we can figure here is what happened. The Cool Tool reviewer Brad Reynolds wrote back:

I have for years been a fan of kk.org and the Cool Tools email and would look forward to and enjoyed receiving it every week. Last year I  was somehow (I am sure inadvertently) taken off the Cool Tools email list and I wanted back in. I took the path of least resistance, by submitting an Amazon review of a tool I really use. I had no idea the Proton Micro Light II review would be published, with 23 comments!

I am sorry.

Can I amend in my own words the review I should have submitted?

This flashlight has served me, my friends and family flawlessly for several years. Proton Micro Light II has, for its size, a very bright LED bulb, and includes two long lasting, easily replaceable lithium batteries which the company says the battery life is about 10 hours.

This handy, durable, light weight and powerful little flashlight is always attached to my keychain and is close at hand when needed. I have owned and given several Proton Micro Light II as gifts and have recommended it highly to other people.

-- Brad Reynolds  

[Though other keychain LED lights may appear similar in size/shape/design, in my experience Photon Microlights have been significantly brighter, and sturdier. --OH ]

Photon Microlight II
$8

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Photon Light

This is a genuine recommendation of the tool, but in the meantime we wrote to the author of the original Amazon review to let him know what happened and asked him if it was okay if we kept his review. So his name now appears on the original review and we've added Brad's review below it.



MULA Stack and Nest Cups

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Priced at under $3, the play and reuse value of these simple plastic stacking cups is just astonishing. Originally bought as a throwaway present, our set is onto their second baby and have become a staple of daily bath-time for all kids.

They stack into a tall tower, they fit together in pairs, some hold water, some have holes, some have a lot of holes, they float, some sink after a while and they fit into a compact package for storage. Each one is unique and serves a different purpose and there’s just enough of them to be challenging for the under-ones to keep track of them all.

We’ve given sets to every family we know and will continue the tradition for as long as they are available. So simple, yet endlessly fun.

-- Robin Green  

MULA Stack and Nest Cups
$3

Available from and manufactured by IKEA

Sample Excerpts:

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