Best Bookmark Organizer


I have a bunch of bookmarks, and I need a good favorites organizer to make them more usable. What are the best services out there?
– Philntex

While looking for the best bookmarking tool out there I used Delicious for awhile, but eventually switched to Pinboard which is a paid service. I also use XMarks and Instapaper too, just to throw in a tool that’s a bit more than a bookmark organizer. I originally dropped Delicious when they were going through their Yahoo issues. I wasn’t really unhappy with the service but was unhappy with Yahoo. I use each service differently:

1. Pinboard: I store links to individual articles that I want to find again. For example, I’ve many links to individual cool tools in my Pinboard account.

2. XMarks: I use organized bookmarks inside the browser to find sites I want to read/visit on a regular basis. I’ve a link to just the Cool Tools front page in my browser. I then use XMarks to sync these browser bookmarks from my home Mac to my Windows computer at work (and provide an easily restored backup of all my bookmarks). I also have Safari bookmark syncing turned on for my iOS devices. This means I have the same browser bookmarks on iOS, Windows and Mac.

3. Instapaper: I use this to store the full text of articles when i’m interested in reading them offline when I travel or just having because i’m paranoid the article might age away before I get a chance to read it (local news sites can be really bad for this) or if I want an archive of it so I can refer to it later.

Depending on your needs, they’re all good tools.

-- K. Vanh  

[Do you have a better solution? Or, do you need a question answered? Don't forget to check out Ask Cool Tools! --OH]



Pocket Eyes Reading Glasses

P6170028.JPG

After 45 years of perfect vision, I began needing help to see up close. I have prescription glasses for writing long chapters at my desk, and I’ve stashed cheap reading glasses everywhere else in the house. But inevitably, when traveling around the planet, I have struggles with menus and bank documents and so on. A convenient pair of portable readers can be a blessing.

I started with one of those slim fresnel lenses, shaped like a credit card, in my wallet. They’re fine for emergencies but useless for comfortable or extended reading. An ideal solution would be a small pince-nez. But the cheapo versions – with a plastic nose-bridge – soon break, or they pinch and hurt.

What you want is for the bridge to be made of flexible metal, squeezing the two lenses against your nose with just the right pressure. They can slip off, if you’re sweaty, and there are (ahem) some places you do not want to let them drop-off. But the good ones can squeeze together so the lenses overlap and they fit into a tiny pocket pouch. It’s surprising how comfortable they can be, feeling so natural you forget they are there.

Alas, my first trio of pocket pince-nez all broke in the same place; where the metal bridge was riveted into the glass. I searched all over and finally found better ones from Pocketeyes. These have an improved, adjustable metal-to-glass attachment, a corrugated spot on each lens to help grip the nose, and a split pouch that lets you keep the lenses from rubbing against each other in your pocket. The keychain grommet is another plus.

They also have a fun factor. People do double-takes and even strike up conversations asking about them. They won’t help with driving or distance. But if all you need is readers to help while traveling around, this may be your answer.

-- David Brin  

Pocket Eyes
$13

Available from Pocket Eyes



Pentel Sharp Kerry Mechanical Pencil

KerryMP.jpeg

I’ve been testing Pentel’s Sharp Kerry mechanical pencil for over a year now, and I’m ready to give it an enthusiastic thumbs up. I’m a graphic designer by trade and, in addition to everyday use, I find it to be an excellent tool for sketching out ideas on a tracing paper pad. (I’m partial to Bienfang Parchment 100 Fine Tracing Paper.)

This is a precision-made instrument: fairly heavy, made from metal and plastic. It’s unique in that it features a removable cap that when placed on the other end still functions to advance the lead with a click of the button. You pull the cap off and click it back onto the opposite end of the pencil; an action that makes me feel as though I’m about to draw something brilliant.

I found it by searching around for a mechanical pencil that was well-balanced, moderately heavy, and handsome to look at. Do the same and you’re likely to find the Sharp Kerry is mentioned by more than a few pencil aficionados as one of the best.

-- Chuck Green  

[I promptly ordered this pencil after reading Chuck's review as its cap solved a significant problem I have had in the past where sharp pencils tear through pockets. After a week of heavy use, I have to agree that this is one of the best pencils I have ever used.--OH ]

Pentel Sharp Kerry Mechanical Pencil
Available in 0.5 mm and 0.7 mm lead sizes
$15

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Pentel



Screw Pliers

Screw Plier.jpeg

The first time I used these screw pliers I was amazed that I had lived without a pair for so long. These pliers are designed for screw removal in cases of corroded or stripped heads.

Regular pliers tend to have straight jaws. This works if you grab the screw from the side (horizontally), but if you are in a cramped space and attacking the screw from the end regular pliers fail. I have had many pliers slip off a difficult screw because the jaws are straight where contact is made with the screw, which limits the gripping surface area.
Screw Plier Detail 2.jpeg
The jaws of these pliers are curved with teeth on the inside of the clamping surfaces. Since the jaws have both horizontal and vertical teeth, these pliers will bite into the circumference of the screw head regardless of the orientation – this makes stubborn screws very, very easy to remove.

It won’t handle stripped countersunk screws (those are suited to the extractor bits on the drill) but for other surface screws or bolts it should be fine.

-- Ezra Reynolds  

Engineer PZ-58 Screw Pliers
$36

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Engineer Screw-Pliers

Sample Excerpts:

Screw Plier Detail.jpeg
A close-up of the pliers inset teeth allowing for vertical traction.




4Sevens Preon 2 Penlight

Preon 2, Stealth Black, R5 Edition.jpeg

I recently discovered that as one ages you need more photons to see clearly. In particular, when skimming the bookshelves at home it’s extremely hard for me to make out titles because my eyes require (a lot) more light than they formerly did.

My wife gave me a 4Sevens Preon 2 penlight last December, and I love it. It weighs 1.6 oz and uses two AAA batteries. No special batteries needed. In addition to the 3 main selections (low – 2.2 lumens; medium – 22 lumens; high – 120 ANSI lumens), it has a strobe and SOS options, not of use to me. When you turn it on, it comes on “low”. Pressing on/off switch slightly then switches to “medium,” pressing slightly again switches to “high.” A full press on the switch turns it off. Actual operation is easier than the explanation suggests.

It gets this much light from the new CREE XP-G S2 LED, a modern LED capable of incredible light output. Low, at 2.2 lumens, is fairly dim, but ideal for reading a restaurant menu in a dimly lighted place. And it’s good that the dim comes on first: the “high” setting seems like flashbulb brightness, which would be annoying in (for example) a good restaurant or if you want to read from the program during a play.

It’s easily carried, and 120 ANSI lumens is a LOT of light and provides excellent illumination. So far as I can tell, this is the current leader in the penlight format. And my life is easier now that I can readily carry sufficient light for my elderly eyes.

-- Michael Ham  

[Wikipedia has a good explanation of lumens for those interested.--OH]

4sevens Preon 2 Pen Light
$40

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by and also available from 4Sevens



Traeger Junior Wood Pellet Grill

Traeger.jpeg

This electric wood-smoke grill is by far the best purchase I have made in a long time for a number of reasons.

Since this grill is electric powered, I can legally use it on my apartment patio because there is no open flame. The grill works by slowly smoking wood pellets and using the heated flavored smoke to cook the food. It is small enough to fit on my patio, yet still holds plenty of food. It can hold two full racks of ribs with some space to spare if needed.

The quality of the grill is superior to others I have used, and the customer service is amazing. Technical support is open 7-days a week if you are ever having issues with the grill. I called them on a Saturday afternoon to troubleshoot connecting the grill to my car at a tailgate. The guy walked me through everything, and saved the day. I was making chicken wings and burgers for about 15 people. The grill fits comfortably in the back of my SUV, and has wheels on the bottom for easy transport.

Lastly, the food is amazing. Cooking with smoke has changed the way I look at grilling. The food usually takes a bit longer to cook, but once the grill is firing on high, burgers can be cooked in 10-15 minutes. And for things such as chicken, ribs, and brisket, you can still cook low and slow. Honestly the chicken that comes off my Traeger rivals any I have ever tasted.

This grill has opened me up to a new hobby and gets me excited to cook. I will more than likely upgrade to a larger model when I have more space, but I will always have a Junior because of its mobility and size. I got mine on sale for $375. I would have paid $500.

-- Michael Zoellner  

Traeger Jr. Pellet Grill
$400

Available from Cabela’s

Manufactured by Traeger

Sample Excerpts:

Traeger Diagram.jpeg




Transfer Punches

TransferPunch.jpeg

These simple punches are incredibly useful when laying out things, yet nobody outside of machinists seems to know about them (some woodworkers know about the special ones for dowel holes). You can get them from most industrial tool distributors (like MSC), but they are also one of the early tasks for apprentices to make on a metal lathe.

Essentially, they are just a set of rods, in standard drill diameters, with a center punch tip in one end. When trying to drill pilot holes for things (say a shelf bracket) clamp it in place, and use them to mark the bolt holes. You wind up with marks dead center in the pattern, no more ovaling out holes so you can get the bolts through.

Similarly, there exist punches for transferring threaded holes – screw them in, and tap the sheet you want to transfer to.

-- Jeff Del Papa  

Central Tools Transfer Punch Set
$26

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Central Tools



EuroSurge Surge Protector and Travel Adapter

EuroSurgeâ„¢ - Surge Protector EA230.jpeg

I’ve been using this travel adapter for over 10 years. It converts one standard European outlet into two US plugs, but best of all is that it has built-in surge protection. That one time in Ireland when I couldn’t be bothered to dig it out of my bag? That’s when I fried my power supply. Ever since then, this is the only adapter I use when traveling.

I’ve never seen another combination surge protector/travel adapter, and the fact that it gives you two-for-one outlets makes this a fantastic tool.

-- Marsh Gardiner  

[Note: The EuroSurge can be adapted for other non-European countries using these Schuko adapters]

EuroSurge Surge Protector
$52

Available from Magellan’s

Manufactured by Voltage Valet



The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook

The-Itty-Bitty-Kitchen-Handbook-Spring-Justin-9780767920162.jpeg

I happened across this Cool Tool at the local library, and the subtitle (“Everything you need to know about setting up and cooking in the most ridiculously small kitchen in the world: Your own”) caught me instantly. The cute cover suggests charm over content, but the book itself doesn’t waste a paragraph. It’s pithy, insightful, inspiring, and entertaining.

Justin Spring grew up on a boat, with a kitchen even smaller than mine — essentially a camp stove, an ice chest, and a bucket. He has huge insight into the problems of small kitchens, including the ‘shut-off point’ where clutter stops most food preparation and the local takeout place gets a lot of business.

He is not hesitant to make solid, practical suggestions, and includes websites for sourcing. He weighs in on everything from the best tool cabinet to repurpose for a kitchen, to the best sources for cheap, lead-free, by-the-stem crystal.

This is a truly holistic guide to getting the most possible use and enjoyment from a tiny kitchen. It includes 100 recipes tailored for the small kitchen (“one-pot, toaster oven brownies”).

I have only had this book for a week, but it has inspired one full day of kitchen cleaning (!) and doubled the number of meals I eat at home. It is not comparable to anything else I’ve seen, either on the web or in print: no glossy photos of gleaming granite countertops, no vague, sentimental, market-friendly prose. The closest thing I’ve seen was Mark Bittman’s guide to stocking a minimalist kitchen, but that was four pages and this is over two hundred.

If you are struggling with a tiny kitchen and have almost given up on eating at home, this book is a lifesaver. If you want to eat well, eat healthily, entertain occasionally, and generally live like a normal person despite your itty bitty kitchen, I can’t recommend it enough.

-- Tricia Postle  

The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook
Justin Spring
240 pages, 2006 (no longer in print)
$12+ used

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

And Also A Quick Word about Blenders
The best new blenders will now do the work of mixers and food processors– and in itty bitty kitchens, where limited counter space cuts down on the possibilities for countertop appliances, multitasks of this sort are particularly valuable. Nearly any blender will do for basic blending tasks (for ten years I managed very well with a used bar blender purchased for $5 at an Episcopal Church tag sale; I have no doubt it blended up many a daiquiri before it came into my life.)

*

The Refrigerator
Consider washing out your refrigerator interior with a deodorizing solution of baking soda and water and (after unplugging the appliance) cleaning the coils on the back– they attract dust, which interferes with the refrigerator’s ability to cool and thus drives up your energy costs. If the refrigerator has wire shelving inside, install sheets of plexiglass over them– they will clean up easier, and your food items won’t topple over so much. Just take the measurements to a hardware store and have the inexpensive Plexiglas cut to order.

arrow See another excerpt




Pure i-20 iPod Dock

Pure i-20.jpeg

For years I have been looking for a reasonable solution to poor audio quality from iPod devices. Their sound has gotten worse and worse with every succeeding generation, and the only way to obtain quality, outboard digital-to-analog conversion has been to purchase two expensive bulky and cumbersome devices: one to translate iPod digital to common standards and then an outboard digital-to-analog converter. The cheapest combination of products I could find cost about $700.00 and took up a lot of space.

The PURE i-20 fixes all that for $100.00. As a dock it also powers iPod-type devices, and provides both video and audio outputs, including analog audio far superior to any iPods (using its own built-in converters) and digital audio for conversion by high-end devices. Finally, its supplied remote control provides greater control of your device than the Apple Remote can.

Although the audio stored in most iPods is compressed, the compression algorithms used are about the best available, and very good. (I’m an audio engineer and remember discussions at the high end of the mastering community when AAC encoding was introduced and the reaction was very positive.) This means iPods have the potential to deliver high-quality sound, but they don’t.

Most of the sound quality issues people complain about with their iPods/iPhones comes from the circuits which convert the digital music signal to an analog one, for headphones and connection to our stereo systems. Among enthusiasts the consensus is that the analog output from iPods has gotten steadily worse for years.

IPods provide a digital signal output through the bottom connector (which would permit high-quality conversion to analog) but it’s hard to access electronically. Until the PURE i-20 came along, there was no reasonably-priced way to improve the audio quality of iPod playback. As mentioned below, it took combining different expensive devices (a special dock with digital outs and a digital-analog convertor). The PURE i-20 outputs a digital signal and ALSO an analog one using its own digital-analog convertor.

I’ve used the PURE i-20 two ways- I’ve listened to its internal analog-digital convertor, and connected its digital output to an outboard $400+ audiophile convertor: the PURE was remarkably competitive with the outboard unit.

A total winner, in my eyes.

-- John Etnier  

Pure i-20 iPod Dock
$100

Available from and manufactured by Pure