21 January 2018


Extract Kindle highlights/Coin Talk/Crashtag

Recomendo: issue no. 78

Your Kindle highlights
As you read a Kindle you can, with some effort, highlight a passage. The best way to extract those passages so that you can cut and paste them later, or so you can insert the text into an article, or otherwise use a highlight as text, is to go to this page and login with your Amazon credentials. You’ll see your highlights book by book. There you select texts and copy them. Or on that page use Bookcision, a browser bookmarklet, that will download each book’s passages as a text file. — KK

Cryptocurrency podcast by newbies, for newbies
Coin Talk has only two episodes so far but it shows promise. Created by a couple of self-deprecating podcaster/journalist/crypto investors — Aaron Lammer (Longform) and Jay Caspian Kang (HBO’s Vice News Tonight/NYT Magazine) — Coin Talk looks at all the crazy happenings in the cryptocurrency sphere with a high-level, jargon-free approach. Lammer and Kang are not crypto experts, but they are intelligent, funny, and skeptical. — MF

Better Road ID
My husband wears a Road ID bracelet on long bike rides, but we’re moving soon so I needed to buy him a new ID. I chose Crashtag because he said he preferred a necklace and they have a lot more necklace designs to choose from than Road ID. They also look cooler and the tag doubles as a bottle opener. I had it printed with our new address and my phone number, but there was enough space to include medical information or multiple lines of text. — CD

The Supply Cloud
This article about the Supply Cloud by Alexis Madrigal details how any teenager can make an instant retail store using Instagram, Shopify, and Alibaba. It’s suppose to be a warning about the unreliable ads for interesting stuff in your Instagram and Facebook feeds, but it’s actually a good primer on how to make an instant legitimate store. — KK

Delicious teas
My wife has become a fan of the teas from Wild Foods, based in Austin, Texas. Her favorite is the Organic Pu-erh Black Tea, which is aged and fermented. Every order comes with samples of other products, like flavored salts, and their newsletter has interesting recipes and guides. The owner often includes a hand written with an order. — MF

Juicy chicken recipe
This simple French Chicken in a Pot recipe made the juiciest, most flavorful chicken I’ve ever cooked. It took me less than 2 hours to prep and make. I also had most of the ingredients on hand so all I had to buy was the chicken and some of the veggies which totaled around $10. As someone in the comments said, “It’s idiot-proof.” — CD

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-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder and Claudia Dawson 01/21/18

19 January 2018


Ruben Bolling, Cartoonist

Cool Tools Show 107: Ruben Bolling

We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $359 a month. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have great rewards for people who contribute! – MF


Our guest this week is Ruben Bolling. Ruben is the author of the award-winning comic strip, Tom the Dancing Bug, which premieres each week on Boing Boing.

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:

Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones ($249)
“I think of headphones as being the big bulky things that you put over your ears but the cool thing about these is that these are just the ear buds. A friend of mine showed them to me and I didn’t think they could really work because I thought most of the noise cancellation of these things come from these big cushions that you put over your ears. I was really amazed. You switch it on and it really does, all of a sudden, the volume of everything else, boom, just floors. … My wife got them for my birthday, I think a year ago and they’re just awesome because they really, they just fit right into your ears. They really do work. You can put your head down in bed and go to your side and you don’t have these big bulky things on. I used them on the airplane on the way to Tokyo. That was awesome. These things are essential on airplanes.”

Apple Music
“Apple Music is something, I don’t know if this is a tool really, or it’s a system and of course, everyone’s heard of it. There’s no revelation. I sort of was interested in my reaction to it because this was also a gift that I gave to my daughter because she really wanted it. I’m a guy who, I love my music collection and it’s in my iTunes and it’s curated and it’s organized and I’m really careful about what goes in there and what I get. She wanted this so we got it and it’s just so weird to, I can’t wrap my head around the fact that I listen to literally anything ever recorded any time I want to, wherever I am. … I have to remind myself, I hear something and I’m like, wow, I’d like to hear that. I wish I could. Then, once I do hear it on Apple Music, I still have this instinct or this impulse to say, hmm, now should I get it? Do I want it for my collection? It’s like a totally alien concept to my kids. They’re just like, why do you want to have it. You can listen to it any time you want.”

Citi Bike
“There’s an app that you have on your phone and it tells you where all the docking stations are, where the bikes are kept and whether there are any available bikes at those docks at this time, and also, where you’re going, whether there are any empty docks to put your bike. Instead of owning a bike, you just go and put a little sort of a card into a slot and then you get a bike for an hour and you drop it off somewhere else. I pay an annual fee of a hundred and something. … There’s the helmet issue so it’s hard to do it spontaneously. Sometimes, I bend that rule. The first time I used it, I just took out a bike and I’m riding along and I see someone I know and I wave to them on my bike and it was like I was 10 years old again. Ringing the bell, it was just amazing. It’s really a great service and a lot of fun.”

SodaStream ($80)
“I don’t use the flavors, I only use the seltzer. I think seltzer is a regional thing. I think it’s in the Northeast where you can actually buy seltzer. When I travel and I go to a CVS or a convenience store, I find that they don’t even have seltzer, whereas in New York and New England, they have lots of options for different brands off seltzer, plain seltzer, flavored seltzers. … Making it at home with this Soda Stream, you just sort of put a bottle in there and press the button a few times and it makes the water into seltzer. It’s environmental because we used to buy these big bottles of seltzer and all the plastic and transportation. I love it. I usually drink a whole one with dinner.”

Also mentioned:

The EMU Club Adventures, a series of chapter books for kids

And The Inner Hive, Tom the Dancing Bug’s subscription club


19 January 2018


Fiskars X7 14″ Hatchet

For chopping kindling and small- to medium-sized logs

During the winter months we use a wood burning stove for most of our heat. Propane is very expensive for home heating so it’s worth the hassle of using our stove. After many years I have streamlined my methods for fire starting and the process was improved significantly when I picked up Fiskars baby axe, their 14″ hatchet. My old camp axe had gotten a wobbly head and no matter how much I tried I couldn’t get that great of an edge on it. I picked up the smallest Fiskars at my local hardware shop. I use this small axe to chop kindling down into batons for easy lighting. I also use it to create wood shavings for starting my fires. I try to avoid using paper as much as possible, preferring to break wood down so it lights quickly with just a match or two. The Fiskars 14″ hatchet has a great angle for splitting small wood pieces, and is super sharp for making kindling of any size. It holds its edge very well and sharpens right up with a few angled strokes of a file or stone. These hatches come with a lifetime warranty and it’s clear they are made to last. I have the larger splitting maul they make and they are both quality products.

-- Seth Wilson 01/19/18

18 January 2018


Sensor Swabs

Cleans delicate optical and hard to reach imaging surfaces

I shoot a lot of photos with my DSLR camera. I also teach a photography course and am responsible for maintaining over 20 cameras. I travel with my DSLR and am always swapping lenses… dirt and dust just naturally floats in there and can cause spots on longer exposures or shots using a smaller aperture. When the sensor is dirty you don’t want to scratch it by cleaning it incorrectly.

I used to have cameras serviced individually when the need arose, but I got tired of sending them out and all the time (too much paperwork, etc). I ordered a Sensor Swab kit from Photographic Solutions and was really pleased. It just takes a few minutes to clean a camera sensor with this swab kit, the included directions were quite clear and the swab sticks can be re-used with a refill kit. I have resurrected cameras that students have brought in from the depths of their parents closet with this simple cleaning kit.

Cleaning a camera sensor isn’t something that needs to be done often, but when the need arises you don’t want to go sticking your finger in there (cloth can leave more dust in its wake and scratch the sensor) and blowing air just moves or embeds particles deeper in the camera. This swab and solution cleans in 2 swipes, super easy and effective.

-- Seth Wilson 01/18/18

18 January 2018



Better than a power strip

Lets you connect multiple devices, even with big power converters, to a single outlet.

-- Zimran Ahmed 01/18/18

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2006 — editors)

17 January 2018



Multipurpose craft tool

My microspatula is one of the tools I reach for most often in my house. As an archivist, microspatulas are standard issue tools in my profession. They are useful for a variety of careful, fine-motor tasks that come up when handling manuscripts, photographs, or rare books. At this point in my career I rarely have an opportunity to do to the detailed, careful work that requires a microspatula, but at home I’ve used one several times a week for over a decade. It’s a perfect tool for situations that require something strong enough to apply a little force but gentle enough not to break stuff. A microspatula has two blades, one more tapered, the other snub-nosed. Both are useful for scraping, prying, turning, and adjusting things that require delicate persuasion. Whichever blade you use, the other becomes a convenient handle. The more tapered blade is perfect for loosening small, Phillips head screws, and the narrow shaft makes it easy to turn the microspatula quickly in one hand. I use mine frequently to open battery compartments on toys and electronics.

It’s also an ideal letter opener and crease maker. These days my favorite use for my microspatula is prying apart small Lego pieces — a not infrequent task in my house with three young boys. The narrow blades can get between two pieces without either marking the plastic or slipping and jamming into my palm.

The combination of strength, delicacy, and versatility provided by a microspatula has made me reach for screwdrivers, scrapers, and knives less often, knowing they are often too large for a particular task. It took me by surprise when I looked for microspatulas online and saw that their advertised use is for measuring and transferring powders in a laboratory context. I’m certain they can do that ably, but that’s not something I’ve ever used one for. I can’t say exactly which model microspatula I have – mine was a required purchase back in a grad school book repair class. But an apparently identical version on Amazon looks the same and has the same measurements. For just a few dollars I’d replace mine without hesitation were I to lose it.



-- Mike Rush 01/17/18


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23 February 2017



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.


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.