29 May 2017


3M Ergonomic Mouse

Comfortable cursor control

I have used most every kind of mouse over the past thirty years. My needs are pretty simple really; nothing too specialized or out of the ordinary. But like many of you, I use a mouse for hours at a time. Whether it was a standard mouse, one with a scroll wheel or any variety of trackball I always got a sore arm or shoulder after awhile. Over time the problem became acute. Until I got a 3M Ergonomic Mouse. It’s been more than ten years now and no matter how many hours I use it, I never experience any fatigue or discomfort at all.

It looks like a joystick and that is why it takes care of the problem: your hand stays in “handshake” position instead of laying flat. Your thumb works the rocker button on top of the stick. It rocks left and right like a regular mouse. There is also a side button that scrolls with Windows computers but doesn’t seem to work on Macs. You can move it around a mouse pad with ease. They are quite durable. I’m still using the one I bought in 2007. Once about five years ago I knocked it on the floor and the top stick part separated from the base. I glued it back together with Duco cement and that was that. They come in large and small. I use the large. Now they make wireless models. I’d get one of those but the one I have would have to break first and I doubt it ever will.

-- John Coate 05/29/17

28 May 2017


Learning from death/Google tips/Multiple inboxes

Recomendo: issue no. 44

Learning from death:
Frank Ostaseski has accompanied over 1,000 people as they died in a hospice, and in this 60-minute podcast (recorded at a Long Now seminar), he distills what lessons the dying — and death — have taught him. Their wisdom is deep, complex, potent, intimate, unexpected (not cliche) and will shift your relationship to life. Listening (or watching the video) will be one of the best hours in your life. — KK

Kitchen dishtowels:
I love these white, blue-striped kitchen dishtowels. They’re $15 for a set of 12. They are 100% cotton, thick and absorbent. I just retired my former, coffee-stained set to the garage, and bought a new set. — MF

Produce hack:
Buying bulk does save, but when we buy the large plastic container of mixed greens from Costco, it usually gets slimy after 4-5 days. I tried the paper towel hack and placed one sheet in the middle and one on top and it extended its shelf-life by one week! — CD

Google tips:
Type “movies” and your zip code to see what’s playing in theaters near you. Enter a flight number to see the status of the plane. Enter any shipper’s tracking number to see where your package is. — MF

Multiple inboxes:
I use Gmail in my browser, and what I find most helpful is the Multiple Inboxes lab. When I’m working on a project, I create a label for all relevant email and that label becomes an additional inbox. That way, I don’t lose sight of my to-dos by placing them in a folder, and it keeps my inbox from cluttering. Kind of hard to explain, but it simplifies your life once you do it. Here are instructions. — CD

Best way to find photos:
I use Google’s AI to find particular photos out of the 200,000 photos I have taken. First I uploaded all my 200K photos to Google Photos using their app so the upload runs in the background; new photos will automatically be uploaded in the future as well. Then I search through the photos using keywords. I have not labeled, categorized, or captioned any of the images. I type in basic terms, like “barn”, or “procession” or “sailboat.” and Google will find and display all the pertinent images. It can do simple compound queries like “barn + snow” or “procession + umbrella” that are more selective. It is free. — KK

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 05/28/17

26 May 2017


26 Bit Driver Kit for Electronics

Most commonly used bits for phones, laptops and other electronics

This is a Cool Tools reader favorite from 2015 – MF

This a driver kit that comes with a small magnetized screw driver handle. It has bits that are very specific to opening up modern electronics, laptops, cellphones, and cameras routers. I often find I want to open these things up because there’s something small that’s broken that’s really easy to fix.

I had a collection of weird tiny screwdrivers that were easy to lose and the bits were low quality. Something would go wrong — either they wouldn’t fit or they would strip, but these iFixit ones are just fantastic. They are incredibly well tempered and they have all the weird star shapes that you need to get basically anything open.

Just last week my son was out in the back yard. He had been doing some gardening. He had his cheap RadioShack camera and he was taking some pictures of the plants as they were growing to make a stop motion video. He tripped over something and went sprawling and the camera crashed to the ground and cracked open about a half centimeter. And I thought to myself “that will actually pop back together.”

One component was sticking out but I had to get it open and it turned out they have some sort of weird proprietary screw, but it the iFixit had the right bit for it. Open up the camera, shove the component back in. Snapped it shut, done! I only use it once a month but whenever I use it it’s the only thing that will fix whatever stupid little electronic thing has fallen apart.

-- Clive Thompson 05/26/17

(This is from the Cool Tools Show podcast. See all of Clive's picks here. – Mark Frauenfelder — editors)

25 May 2017


Remember the Milk

Powerful task manager

I have been using the task manager, Remember the Milk, since 2009 — the somewhat early days of web 2.0 “free” to-do apps. The free version sufficed for a few years, but when I started using a smartphone, it wasn’t long before I decided to upgrade to enable continuous syncing between the browser and iPhone apps.

I’ve tested Todoist, Do, Wunderlist, and probably others, but have always come back to Remember the Milk (RTM) for a number of reasons:

  1. I don’t have to use the mouse; within the app, browsing, searching, and adding complex tasks can be accomplished using the built-in key commands and smart-add language.
  2. It integrates with Quicksilver for Mac, allowing me to quickly add tasks without leaving whatever app I’m in, and if I’m not at my laptop I can email new tasks to the app (I set up an IFTT button on my phone which accomplishes this even faster than opening the RTM mobile app).
  3. I can subscribe to my task feed in Google Calendar — anything dated now appears in my calendar.
  4. Any search, from simple to advanced, can be saved as a smart list. My own “Today” smart list functions as I want it to, which is slightly different than the app’s built-in Today list: it shows tasks that might be overdue by only a day, tasks due tomorrow, and un-dated tasks marked with high priority.

Now the app does much more than keep my tasks organized; I file everything that isn’t an actual file here: links to articles to read, gift ideas, birthdays, web bookmarks, line items to add to my cv, project ideas, packing lists (which can be archived when not in use), etc. The one piece of missing functionality now feels entirely intentional: you can’t save attachments. For some this would be a deal-breaker, but I appreciate the separation of thoughts and digital clutter. This is task-making and note-taking (in plain text!) only, and it does both of these jobs exceedingly well. Now I don’t have to remember where I saved anything — anything worth recalling later I add here.

-- Claire Iltis 05/25/17

24 May 2017


Maker Update #35

The Perfect Summer Robot

This week on Maker Update, Kitty Grabs Gold, a beer cooler that follows you, the Circuit Playground Express, Adafruit and Microsoft, Other Machine Co. and Bre Pettis, Tinkercad Lego export, a great kit for gadget and toy hacking, and Maker Faires. Our featured Cool Tool is the iFixit Electronics Tool Kit.

Check out the show notes.

-- Donald Bell 05/24/17

24 May 2017


Elements of Typographic Style

A guiding philosophy of type

Here’s a reader favorite from 2003. – MF

For a long while I’ve been looking for an expert who could guide me through the complex world of typography. I didn’t need another artsy typographical design book. I wanted a reliable friend who could introduce me to the philosophy of type and then also practically guide me through the jungle of fonts to ones that work best. Mr. Bringhurst is that guru. Under his apprentice I understood for the first time how to architecturally shape a page with text, as if I were building a house. I figured out when to kern, or not. Now I find myself drawn back to his study every time I need to craft a book, a webpage, or format a report. The wisdom and experience in this book is astounding. It’s for anyone who makes words visible. That’s all of us. The book is regularly updated. Blessings on Bringhurst.

-- KK 05/24/17


img 05/23/17

FiAir Air Blower/Fast Fire Starter

Air Blower/Fast Fire Starter for Charcoal Grills, Tailgating, Campfires, Fire Pits, Fireplaces, Wood Stoves

img 05/19/17

Basin Buddy

Universal wrench for metal metal PVC locknuts, couplings nuts and toilet supply nuts

img 05/18/17

Vittles Vault Stackable Pet Food Container

Airtight seal keeps food fresh and safe from ants

img 05/17/17

Maker Update #34

A roundup of the best maker projects this week

See all the reviews


Recent Questions Answers Given Answers Favorited

Duplicate Photo Finder

I have a lot of photos that have been backed up in a lot of places.  I managed to collect …

8 0

Portable Bench Vise

I’m looking for a portable bench vise that will clamp into something as wide as 6″ – everything I’ve found …

5 0

Best dishwasher safe insulated water bottle?

I am looking for an insulated dishwasher safe water bottle. Anything good I find either needs to be hand washed …

3 0
See all the questions


img 08/1/14

Mann Lake Beekeeping Starter Kit

Cheapest way to start bees

img 10/8/03

Ortlieb Dry Bags

Heavy-duty waterproof bags

img 03/15/10

Corrective Swim Goggles

Cheap underwater clarity

img 01/1/09


Personal outsourcing

img 09/19/05

Total Immersion Swimming

How to swim like a fish

img 02/19/04

Mosquito Netting

Cheap worry-free sleeping

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 075: Eri Gentry

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 074: Simone Giertz

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 073: Danielle Applestone

Picks and shownotes

23 February 2017



CargoRAXX – unrecommended

This appears to be a shill review. Many thanks to Cool Tools reader Matthew Connor for looking into this. He wrote:

Meaghan Hollywood works for CargoRAXX. Meaghan Hollywood put a review up quasi-anonymously on Amazon. A similarly worded review is now anonymously on KK.org.

On Amazon there are two reviews for the product (https://www.amazon.com/CargoRAXX-S1A-Interior-Management-System/dp/B01A6X4MBS). Neither is attributed by name but the one from January 18th, 2016 refers to “my Tahoe” and read similar to the KK.org review. Let us suppose the author is, in fact, the same person.

Clicking on the name for the review – merely “Amazon Customer” brings up their profile (https://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A1CF94IIWSAE00/ref=cm_cr_dp_pdp). This profile contains one Wish List on the left side. Clicking on it revels – the name of “Amazon Customer” – it is Meaghan Hollywood.

Ok. I believe at this point the author of the KK review and the author of at least one of the two reviews on Amazon are in fact the same person and that person’s name is Meaghan Hollywood.

Here’s the kicker, CargoRAXX has a website with a blog feature – their blogger’s name is Meaghan Hollywood. (http://cargoraxx.com/5-reasons-re-organize-suv/)


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.