18 March 2018


Mobile Justice/Daily/Long-term thinking

Recomendo: issue no. 86

Mobile justice
If you spot police officers doing something wrong, you can record them with the free Mobile Justice app from the ACLU. It sends the video directly to an ACLU server so even if the police illegally confiscate your phone they won’t be able to delete the incriminating video. — MF

No-frills To-Do app
I like to blame my To-Do List apps if things don’t get done. I get annoyed with reminders, then turn off notifications, and eventually delete. Daily – Zen Planner’s super simplistic design is non-threatening and easy to use. I type up tasks and move them to either the Today or Soon screen. — CD

Two Rooms and a BoomLong-term thinking
To encourage me to take a long-term view I’m a regular at the Seminars for Long-term Thinking hosted by the Long Now Foundation (where I am a founding board member). The hour-long talks (plus 30 minute Q&A) happen once a month in San Francisco. The topics are surprisingly diverse, ranging from ancient history to speculative futures, from food to nuclear power, from Silicon Valley to the Silk Road — all with a slant to the next 10,000 years. Several hundred past talks are archived and available to the public as free podcasts. For those outside San Francisco, or disinclined to travel unnecessarily, a membership to the Long Now gives you access to a real-time streaming version of each talk; you can even ask questions live. (Next up, next week, Steven Pinker.) — KK

I played this social deception/deduction game with about a dozen other people on the JoCo Cruise a few weeks ago. If you’ve played Werewolf or Mafia you’ll be familiar with this kind of game. In Two Rooms and a Boom, the goal is for team red to blow up the president, and the goal of team blue is to stop them. Each game takes about 15 minutes and if you’re like me, you’ll end up playing multiple rounds until way past your bedtime. It’s addictive — MF

Best scheduler
The best way to schedule a meeting for a bunch of busy people is via Doodle, a free easy website. No need to sign up. Just lay out all possible time slots and let everyone else go to the site, and click the times that work for them. The site sorts out the best time/date. No email tag. Quick, painless, I’ve been using the site for years. — KK

Get rid of frizz and flyaways
My favorite quick-fix hair product is Bumble and Bumble Brilliantine. The product description says it’s unique and hard to define, and it’s true. I use it when I don’t have enough time to heat style my hair. I rub a dime-size amount between my palms and pat it through out my hair to smooth it out, create shine and get rid of flyaways. — CD

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-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 03/18/18

18 March 2018


Retractable Sharpie

Marker pen with no cap

When I saw these retractable Sharpies in a commercial during the Super Bowl I thought finally, an ad that actually influenced me to buy something.

Mine arrived yesterday from Staples and they are everything I’d hoped they would be. The same great Sharpie ink and point, but no more cap to hold on to or put down and lose or forget about.

What the great engineers at Sanford have done is create a minuscule hinged door that operates entirely within the instrument’s barrel, opening and closing like a submarine’s hatch.

-- Joseph Stirt 03/18/18

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

17 March 2018


Wiss 8″ Kitchen Shears

Old-fashioned multi-purpose kitchen shears

In this Cool Tools video review we’re going to take a look at a new pair of classic kitchen shears. These are made by Wiss, they’re Italian made and run about $30. And by using the link in the description to pick them up on Amazon you help support my videos and the Cool Tools blog.

These are all-metal, multi-purpose kitchen scissors. I remember growing up with a pair like these in our kitchen. They’ve got a serious heft to them. This particular design has been made under the Wiss brand since the 1930s. And part of the appeal has always been the extra features they crammed in. This section here works as a bottle opener. Above that you have this nubby section meant for twisting off small lids. It can also work as a nut cracker or crab cracker. There’s a flat section on the handle that can be used as a small hammer. And this little protrusion on the top is supposedly used for unsealing ball jars, or generally unsealing lids that are vacuumed tight. Also, unlike the ones I grew up with, these include a deep notch on the blade that’s perfect for cutting rope, or bundles of stems, without them slipping down the blade. And because there’s a removable screw here, there’s no reason you can’t take these apart to wash them if you use them on food or something messy. It also means you can tension them up easily if they get loose.

Now, the downside for these from my time with them is that the extra weight compared the other scissors in my house makes me a little nervous about dropping them. If these drop on your hardwood wood floor or your foot — you’re going to be crying.

Also, the paint on the handle started to chip after just lightweight use. I see 50 year old versions of these on eBay where the paint has held on — so chalk that up to they just don’t make them like they used to. If you can find an old pair and restore them, that might be the best way to go. But even then, an all-metal handle isn’t super comfortable no matter what the paint looks like.

-- Donald Bell 03/17/18

17 March 2018


Ridgid Pro Pack

Rectangular Vacuum Cleaner

Like many people, I’ve had a lifetime of those round shopvacs on wheels with various attachments strung out around the house. The Pro Pack solves a lot of the problems that the traditional shopvacs had. It’s in a rectangular form factor much like a giant toolbox, right down to a sturdy handle and storage compartments for all of the attachments and the power cord. The shape and light weight make it easy to carry and store, and because the vacuum is so powerful — 5.0 peak HP — you can pick up all sorts of things. To empty, just pop off the top and pour the contents out. It’s easy enough to manage that I’ll probably be using it around the house almost as much as my regular vacuum cleaner.

-- Annette S. Leung 03/17/18

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

16 March 2018


Zach Supalla, CEO of Particle

Cool Tools Show 115: Zach Supalla

Our guest this week is Zach Supalla. Zach is the CEO and one of the founders of Particle, the most widely-used IoT platform. Particle is used by more than 140,000 developers and 8,500 companies to build IoT products ranging from the smart home to industrial equipment.

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:

“Superhuman is brand new email software — still in private beta — that is all designed around keyboard shortcuts. Extremely low-friction email software, and besides being super well-designed, the team there has been incredibly hands-on during the private beta and super open to feedback. Great company, thinking about product in all the right ways.”

Glowforge laser cutter
“Glowforge laser cutter is a desktop, consumer-friendly laser cutter … It’s got a web application that you use to interact with it. It comes with tons of templates for designs that are already sort of built in, and they send you a set of materials that are designed to work with it that it can automatically recognize and adjust the laser strength accordingly. So it comes with cuts of leather, it comes with cuts of acrylic, it comes with wood and wood veneer, and all that stuff just works right out of the box. So I got it up and running in probably 20 minutes and learned how to use it in 15, and had cut out my first thing in about half an hour after setting it up, which was super cool.”

Bullet journal
“Bullet Journal is a system for using a notebook to keep track of things. I have tried every piece of task management software ever created (Asana, Trello, Wunderlist, etc. etc.) and a good notebook with this system trumps them all.”

AeroPress Coffee Maker + Porlex Coffee Grinder
“I love great coffee, and I have a whole complicated setup at home. But when I’m traveling, I carry an Aeropress coffeemaker with a Porlex coffee grinder, which somehow perfectly fits inside the Aeropress, a la ‘things fitting perfectly into other things.’ With the two you can make delicious coffee anywhere, even on a plane.”


We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $371 a month. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have great rewards for people who contribute! – MF


16 March 2018


Motion Sensor Light Bulbs

Light bulb with built-in motion sensor

Six months ago, I tweeted about my new motion sensing LED lightbulbs and Mark said I should check back now. They’re still great – probably one of my best purchases of 2016 (along with Stabilicers) We have them outside our front door, so when we come home at night they automatically go on and let us see which key is the right one. Recently there have been some robberies in the neighborhood, so it’s another comfort as well. But really, this is such a helpful tool. I remember wondering if it existed, googling “motion sensitive lightbulbs” and then finding that the world is a magical place sometimes. Anyway, these specific bulbs are pretty good. I guess my one minor complaint is that they aren’t super beautiful or anything, but utility over prettiness, amiright?

-- Max 03/16/18


img 03/15/18

Indestructible Field Book

Waterproof, tearproof, weatherproof notebook

img 03/14/18

Suncast Garden Tool Hanger

Keeps broom bristles straight

img 03/13/18

Waterproof RGB LED Strip

Cheap, quality source of 5 volt programmable colored LED strips

img 03/12/18

The Garlic Twist

Simple garlic masher

img 03/12/18

Dremel Sharpening Kit

Restores edge on garden tools such as shears, hoes, and shovels

See all the reviews


img 12/1/06


Classic puzzle in great package

img 01/6/10

Adobe Lightroom

Photo organizing, manipulating

img 12/20/10

Park Team Race Stand

Essential bike maintenance tool

img 04/4/05

Snap Blade Knife

Bargain pocket knife

img 06/22/09


Realtime budget overview

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 115: Zach Supalla

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 114: Scott Smith

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 113: Madeline Ashby

Picks and shownotes

23 February 2017


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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.

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