24 April 2018

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Platypus SoftBottle

80% less weight and bulk than a hard bottle.

For a few years I’ve been carrying this Platypus SoftBottle while backpacking to supplement my Nalgene bottle. For a load of 24g (0.85oz) I’m able to add an extra 1L of water capacity during dry stretches and use around base camp. When not needed, the bottle readily collapses and rolls up to the size of a granola bar. So far it hasn’t leaked once, even under weight, and has resisted punctures from Ontario’s notoriously rocky terrain. The plastic also hasn’t discolored or become brittle from exposure to sunlight. The SoftBottle is available in a variety of colors with a choice of screw-top or push-pull lid, and also comes in a 0.5L size. It’s utilitarian, reliable, and affordable- everything a Cool Tool should be.

-- Nabhan Islam 04/24/18

23 April 2018

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Helinox Chair One Camp Chair

2-lb chair supports can support up to 320 lbs

I bought this camp chair after visiting a friend who had one. He was a pretty large guy, weighing in at about 260 lbs. As he set up his tiny aluminum pole structure and began to pull the fabric onto the frame, I decided to watch the ensuing catastrophe. But instead of collapsing under his weight, the chair bore him up without any hint of distress. He noticed my interest and invited me to sit in the chair (after he got out, of course.) I tentatively settled in and was absolutely amazed at how solid the chair felt, not to mention how comfortable it was. I knew I had to have one.

This chair is not cheap! ($100) But it is built to last, extremely compact, and very easy to assemble because of the amazing engineering that went into designing it. My chair zips up into a small bag not much bigger than a football, so I keep it in the closet by the front door. Because it is so small, I find myself taking it along to events “just in case” I need a comfortable place to sit.

I have never been able to sit cross-legged comfortably, ever since I was a kid and I’ve never found a comfortable way to sit on the ground. But since I bought this chair, both of those issues are gone. It assembles in about 30 seconds. The aluminum tubing is all connected with internal bungee cords so the chair almost assembles itself. The fabric part takes a little effort to get attached correctly, but if you follow the included instructions it’s quite simple. When you sit in the chair, you’ll find yourself quite low to the ground.

I find stretching my legs out in front of me and crossing them is the most comfortable way to sit. The only issues I’ve had are the feet sinking into soft ground and the wind taking it on short flights. The soft ground issue can be resolved with two short pieces of PVC pipe that easily fit in the included carrying bag. Other than sitting in it, I haven’t figured out the wind issue. It does sit quite low to the ground, and I tend to sit cross-legged so sometimes my toosh falls asleep if I sit for too long without shifting.

The chair also makes a great conversation starter. Complete strangers often walk up and start asking questions about it. I usually offer to let them sit in it and enjoy watching them tentatively settle in, not believing it will hold their weight. If you’re looking for something to sit in that is comfortable, light, super-portable and compact, you’ll love this chair!

-- Martin Lange 04/23/18

22 April 2018

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Your timeline/Download FB data/Quotables

Recomendo: issue no. 91

Where Were You on October 21, 2012?
I’m not surprised that Google has been tracking my every move since 2009. I’m sure I allowed it when I accepted its terms of service at some point. What is surprising is being able about to browse this timeline of my location on a world map. This Google page has day-by-day reports of you where you where, the paths you traveled, the restaurants and stores you visited, and any geotagged photos you took on any given day. You can even edit the information if its incorrect. Wow! — MF

Downloading my Facebook data
I’m keeping my Facebook account, but for educational purposes I downloaded all the data Facebook has on me. I highly recommend you do the same, just so you know what the bargain is. Start with this link, follow the directions. You’ll get an email with a new link that will enable you to download a zip file. The folder with the most goodies is the Index page. Go back and adjust your privacy settings as desired. — KK

Quotables
Something I read recently that has stayed with me is the mantra, “You are partly right — When someone congratulates you or criticizes you, you can use this mantra.” (Thich Nhat Hanh, How to Love)

Other quotables from which I am finding inspiration:

“If you limit yourself only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” — Anaïs Nin

“When you let go of who you wish you were, you reclaim your power to be radiantly, magnetically, and creatively who you are.” — HeatherAsh Amara, Warrior Goddess Training

“Nostalgia may be the most tempting and deceptive form of opposition to change.” — Gloria Steinem, Doing Sixty & Seventy
— CD

Good cheap tablet stand
The $9 AmazonBasics Adjustable Tablet Stand was just what I was looking for in a kitchen countertop iPad stand. It’s made of sturdy plastic, adjusts quickly, and doesn’t skid or wobble. It can hold any size tablet — even smartphones. — MF

Motion sensing light bulbs
Motion sensing lights are a rapidly evolving product. Nowadays the motion sensors are built right into the LED light bulb itself; no clunky hardware or switches. The same sensors in the bulb detect night/day. So the bulbs only turn on in the dark with motion of a body, and can be used in any socket. They can be placed outside with a little protection. I’ve been trying out the various Chinese-made versions. This one by Luxon costs about $9 and works good enough in our garage, hallway and porch. — KK

Organize bookmarks bar
I used a link from this page and dragged vertical lines into my bookmarks bar to separate and group related links. This works best if you’ve created an icon-only bookmarks bar and move all your your folders off to the side. — CD

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 04/22/18

20 April 2018

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Braun MobileShave M-60

Easy cleaning under running water

Ten years ago, I picked up a Braun MobileShave M-60 for about the price of a twelver of craft beer. Billed as a no-frills, compact shaver for travelers, this little guy has proven to be a trouble-free, tough, and effective electric razor. Admittedly, I don’t have lumberjack-type beard growth, so I can’t claim to know whether the Braun will handle the kind of whiskers that might best by cut by a small lawnmower. But for my purposes it is a winner.

I shave with a cartridge razor every other day (sorry, but no electric can beat a good blade…), and on the in between days, I use this. It is quick, nimble, and capable. I had a fancier electric razor, but its foils were like gossamer — tearing and having to be replaced about once a year for something like thirty bucks a pop. This little MobileShave has no such problem. I don’t even think I’ve ever replaced the cutter head. It runs forever on a pair of rechargeable AAs, washes clean under running water, and has a nifty cap that rotates to protect the foil and lock the power button into the “off” position. Also, it comes in colors. Colors are the best.

-- Jeremy Jackson 04/20/18

19 April 2018

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Bob Clagett, Maker

Cool Tools Show 119: Bob Clagett

Our guest this week is Bob Clagett. Bob loves making stuff. He loves showing other people how he works to hopefully inspire them and empower them to make whatever is that they’re passionate about.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

Airtable
AirTable + IFTTT
“So Airtable is, like it was mentioned before, it’s kind of an online spreadsheet. And that’s one way that people use it. But the thing that makes it different for me and the way that I use it is more of a relational database. I come from a software background, so when you’re programming you often have a database of tables, and those tables need to relate to each other. … The way that I use that in my business is I have what looks like a spreadsheet that is my project schedule, and then I have a separate one that is project ideas that I come up with all the time and I just dump into this big list, and I use IFTTT for that. … IFTTT is about taking multiple online services of all different types and connecting them together. So if something happens on one, it can cause something to happen on another. And I use that with Airtable. The IFTTT app, I’ve got a little thing set up where I can open an app on my phone that’s just a text field and a button, and that’s all it is. And if I type in a project idea, and I hit that button, it disappears. It’s gone. But in the background it’s sending that to Airtable. It’s putting in my list of project ideas, and it just keeps it there, and then I don’t have to remember it anymore, but I also don’t lose it.”

hellonest
Nest Hello
“The Hello is a doorbell, which seems, for the price it sounds so unrealistic to actually get, because it’s several hundred dollars. But it’s an HD camera built into a tiny little doorbell, and it’s the same technology that they have in their security cameras … It’s small and kind of modern-looking and it hooks right up to the normal hookup for a doorbell. So you don’t have to really do anything special to get this in to place. And it’s got some really cool features. It’s very new, so I think some of the features that will be the coolest have yet to be added. But when you get it hooked up and someone walks up to your door, you get a notification on your phone or device or whatever that shows you video of the person who’s walked up to the door. And you can press a button onscreen, and you can talk to them remotely through the doorbell. It’s got some kind of canned responses that you can just press a button and this voice will say, “Just leave the package by the door,” there’s a few things like that. But one of the coolest things, I think, about it is that they’ve got some facial recognition stuff built in to it. So once it starts to take pictures, it gets this video of the people that come up to your door, and it keeps a log of all these pictures of the people.”

ISOtunes
ISOtunes Bluetooth Headphones
“They have basically the same features as far as listening that every other headphone in the world. But they have an interesting phone insert on them that you roll it up and you kind of heat it with your finger, between your thumb and your finger, and it squishes it down. And then when you put it in your ear it expands and completely fills the ear canal. So it cuts out basically all the noise that can come in. And the guy that works with me is maybe 10 feet from me right now, and I’ve yelled at the top of my voice his name to try to get his attention with these things in, and it completely blocks it out. But one of the things that I think is even color about them is that they have a, I can’t remember exactly what they call it, but it’s like a consistent noise level suppression. So if there’s a noise in the background, like if you had a saw running that was kind of the same noise the whole time or like a lawn mower or something, it can actively cut that sound out. So you can take a phone call while you’re on a riding lawn mower, and the person on the other end doesn’t really even know that there’s a mower running. They just hear when your voice spikes and things like that. That’s the part that they hear. And I have not heard of any other Bluetooth headphone that does that.”

Prusa3
Prusa i3 MK3 3D printer
“I’ve had several different 3D printers. I use them a lot for my projects. And I’m in a position where a lot of companies will send me things, and I get to try out really expensive things that I wouldn’t ever justified buying myself. But I have a lot of people who ask me about a good first printer. And I think the problem with that question is a lot of people are looking for a good first cheap printer. And what you actually want is a good printer, not a cheap printer, because cheap printers that don’t work very well are gonna make you hate 3D printing and think that it doesn’t work. And so when I’ve looked at a bunch of different ones from the perspective of cost and functionality and tried to find something in the middle, and I got the Prusa I3 Mark 2 a couple of years ago when it came out, and it was fantastic. It was like $699 for a printer that worked almost perfectly every single time right out of the box. You didn’t have to do anything to it, and it was a great printer, I was really happy with it. And then they announced this Mark 3, which is an upgraded version of the same thing. But they added all these features that just make it awesome. It’s now one of my favorite printers just because of its features. And then when you look at the price compared to a lot of other printers, it’s very, very reasonably priced for what you’re getting out of it. … It’s got a panic thing built in to it. So if it loses power, it has a little bit of a battery or capacitor in it somewhere that if it senses power dropping it will write the state of the print to some sort of a memory. And then when power is reapplied it’ll ask you, “Do you want to continue to print?” And you hit yes, and then it re-homes the print head, just goes over to the corner, and then comes right back and starts printing. It’s amazing. I’m sure there are other printers that do that, but I’ve never seen one, and it works great.”

Also mentioned:

Making Time by Bob Clagett

 
 
We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $346 a month. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have great rewards for people who contribute! – MF

04/19/18

19 April 2018

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Ice Cream Spade

Flat blade digs into frozen ice cream

Trouble getting ice cream out of the carton? Bent spoons? Scoops that don’t penetrate? Wondering where the first aid kit is? One solution for parties (when the carton will likely soon be an empty husk) is to just slice the whole thing, paper & ice cream together, with a big knife.

Another solution is an Ice Cream Spade. What’s linked here is very similar to one we’ve been using for years: It’s a chunk of aluminum with a hollow handle that has some sort of “anti-freeze” in it. The relatively flat blade (as compared to scoops) much more easily gets into concrete-like frozen goodness. We’ve got a sister scoop model (same make/construction) but the scoop seriously doesn’t get the penetration the spade gets. And the mass of the metal maintains enough heat to avoid being a contributor to a big frozen/welded problem. And a quick rinse through hot/warm water is like honing a knife – it’s freshly sharpened, so to speak.

Sticking these into a dishwasher is discouraged as 1) the aluminum might corrode and 2) the fluid in the handle might end up being lost. I’m sure ours have been through the machine more than a few times and are still just fine, and hand-washing is easy too. Even if the fluid becomes lost, a hot rinse will help it through the concoctions.

There are a lot of similar models out there; I can’t attest to even the one linked – it may or may not be exactly as ours. A lot of reviewers seem to expect these things to cut ice cream like a Light Saber; it’s not magic, some effort is gonna be required. The one linked might be more expensive than some others though its reviews are pretty good. This summer, avoid the battle and enjoy the relative ease of using a spade like this.

-- Wayne Ruffner 04/19/18

EDITOR'S FAVORITES

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Backyard Sugarin’

DIY sweets from trees

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Nesco Food Dehydrator

Affordable dehydrator

img 10/23/06

Animated Knots

Best knot teacher

img 10/28/08

Ready Meals

Emergency hot meals

img 05/30/11

Snark SN-2

Best Clip-On Instrument Tuner

See all the favorites

COOL TOOLS SHOW PODCAST

04/19/18

Cool Tools Show 119: Bob Clagett

Picks and shownotes
04/13/18

Cool Tools Show 118: Michael Borys

Picks and shownotes
04/5/18

Cool Tools Show 117: Matt Blum

Picks and shownotes

WHAT'S IN MY BAG?
23 February 2017

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.