19 January 2017

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Clean/Dirty Half Cube Packing Organizers

Pack clean clothes on one side, and dirty in the other

I’ve been using this for travel since I first noticed them earlier this year. It’s basically the same product as a normal Eagle Creek packing organizer, but with one innovation, which is that there are two sides to the organizer with a barrier panel between them. One side has a white zipper and the other has a gray zipper. This allows you to keep your clean clothes on one side and the dirty clothes on the other.

There are two reasons this is cool. The reason that might be obvious is the ability to keep track of which clothes are clean and which are dirty. But the less obvious and ultimately more important reason for me has been that it permits your packed clothes to retain a consistent and predictable size and shape, so the way you pack when you leave on your trip stays the same as you unpack and repack at various points during your journey. There are various sizes, but I picked one that’s about 10 x 14 that I can use as the “core object” in a bundle wrap if I’m going to be packing more stuff than will fit in the cube.

01/19/17 -- David Zicarelli

18 January 2017

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What’s in My Bag? — J Young

What a fire and water restoration estimator needs out in the field

I am an estimator and project manager for Northwest Professional Services, a cleaning and restoration company. This is my everyday carry bag for days out in the field.

The bag:

OGIO Hip Hop Messenger
Dumb name but truly an amazing bag. This thing is perfectly laid out for everything I need even if it just a little outdated (the cellphone pocket was clearly designed for a flip-phone). So, you can keep your single compartment leather satchel, I’ll stick to this one.

What’s inside:

Dell Latitude E6230 (Used and new from $345)
Truthfully, I could maybe get by with a really nice chromebook for about 70% of what I do (emailing, running Slack and Trello), but the software I use for writing insurance estimates for water and fire damage is heavily GPU intensive and also requires Windows. This machine has been a real workhorse.

32 oz Nalgene Water Bottle ($10)
Hydration … enough said.

Koss PortaPro Headphones ($40)
Although I recently replaced these with Sol Republic Shadow bluetooth buds, these are still my favorite cans of all time. Koss hasn’t changed the design since 1984 and still continues to produce them. Maybe it’s because they got things right with these the first time? In between job site visits, I spend a fair amount of time at coffee shops and libraries writing up repair estimates and emailing reports. The best way to put out the “do not disturb” vibe to people around you is to wear a pair of headphones (sometimes, I don’t even plug them in).

Dewalt Tape measure ($23)
Yes, I’ve seen your fancy lazer. I like my tape.

Oakley Eyepatch II Sunglasses($150)
I do a lot of driving in between job sites to measure and inspect, and these are a life saver in the summer.

Chums Surfshort Wallet ($10)
My qualifications for the perfect wallet are simple: compact, only needs to hold credit and business cards, and will survive getting wet. The bonus with this one is that the card pockets on the sides zip shut, so I’ll never have a card fall out accidentally.

Folding utility blade knife ($8)
I never know when I will have to cut into something when inspecting water damage jobs. Sometimes it means opening sheetrock to chase down a pipe that has split, or taking a carpet sample to match for replacement. I have a few really nice folding pocket knives but nothing beats just popping in a new utility blade for instant razor sharpness.

Galaxy S5 Phone (free w/ Verizon plan)
My phone is probably the most used tool in my arsenal. I use the GPS to map routes from job to job, camera to upload pics to Slack so my team can see what I’m sending them in to deal with, and of course communicate with home owners, sub-contractors, and insurance adjusters. I also track my work hours on it. I recently replaced this one with an iPhone 7 (pictures of flooded basements and moldy sheetrock have never looked so beautiful).

Dewalt Pro Contractor’s Portfolio ($19)
I was wooed into buying this originally because of the tiny LED gooseneck light and the built in calculator. The light broke in the first week and the calculator followed suit soon after, prompting me to velcro my own calculator directly over it.

Logitech Marathon Mouse M705 ($29)
Best mouse ever. Compact, wireless, full of customizable shortcut buttons.

Other necessities:

Rescue meds for migraine and assorted allergy meds, etc.
Stress brings on my migraines and having a job that is built on helping people through unexpected emergencies brings on plenty of it.

Hand Sanitizer
The ironic part about writing estimates for a cleaning company is that all the job sites you visit are deplorably un-clean.

01/18/17 -- J Young

18 January 2017

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Opening Pry Tool Repair Kit

Tools to open cases and repair electronic devices

If you can’t open it you don’t own it. I like to own my stuff, so I rely on tools to help me open those not-easy-to-open things. The last one I opened was an “instant on” food thermometer, because its internal probe contacts needed cleaning.

The kit comes with a stainless steel blade and steel pry bar, tweezers and five nylon “spudgers.” I usually start with cracking a seam open on the thing that I’m repairing with the steel pry bar, but switch to a plastic spudger once there is room for it.

The tools come in a neat roll.

01/18/17 -- Kent Barnes

17 January 2017

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Gerber Diesel Multi-Plier

Multi-Tool features one-handed opening

This tool was a right of passage to manhood in my family. At age 12 you became a man, because that’s when you received your very own Gerber Diesel Multi-Plier. I’ve loved it ever since that exciting day I first opened it. For the longest time this was the only tool I needed, and in many ways still is. When camping I used it to make tools, carve wood, prep and cook food, replace batteries and so much more. I hardly ever, if at all, reached for another tool. What makes this unique over other multi-pliers is those “oh crap” times. For instance, recently I was working on a jewelry frame for my wife. I was lining up cup hooks to be screwed in and had them just right but had forgot to open the pliers. Oh crap. I couldn’t just set it down, but it was okay. With the Gerber I could open it with my free hand with a satisfying “sheenk” sound as the pliers slid free of their housing. A lot of people are fans of the Leatherman and would argue it’s a better multi-tool mainly because you don’t have to open the pliers just to use the knife and that it folds up more compactly. The difference in compactness is negligible, but the knife argument is valid. If you think you’ll be using the knife frequently, not in conjunction with the pliers, then the Leatherman is your tool. For everyone else, the Gerber’s tools lock in place so you don’t worry about them closing on your fingers, and their multi-tool is backed by a limited lifetime warranty (compared to Leatherman’s 25 year warranty).

01/17/17 -- Justin Dyer

16 January 2017

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Rawhide Mallet

Hit things you don't want to damage

The first time I used a rawhide hammer was back in the 60s when I took a leather craft making class from a local Tandy Leather Store. Since then I have used that same hammer for a multitude of uses besides decorating a cowboy belt (Which I still have!). The rawhide has enough mass that it transfers a good amount of energy into the item it is used on without scarring it. Wood and plastic items that have come under the hammer have been persuaded to open or unstick with a few well-placed taps. Dovetailed drawers have been tapped together for gluing without any marring. Like a lot of tools, once you own one you will find many uses for it.

01/16/17 -- Kent Barnes

15 January 2017

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Tiny Cards/New Scientist/Wild Hibiscus Flowers

Recomendo: issue no. 25

Memory Aid:
Tiny Cards is a free smartphone app that lets you make spaced repetition flashcards to help you learn languages, history facts, the elements, constellations, or anythings else. I’m using it to help me with my Japanese vocabulary. — MF

Readable:
One of the few paper magazines I still subscribe to is New Scientist. It is a weekly dose of real science reporting, with broad lay appeal. Of course there is an online version, but I prefer to turn pages and read while I eat my lunch. Either way, it’s the best solid source for new science. — KK

Edible:
These Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup have become essential in my life. They can make any cheap champagne taste like liquid gold. The flowers themselves taste like a sweet fruit and they look so pretty sitting at the bottom of a flute. — CD

Security:
If you are not already using a password manager like 1Password, Dashlane, or LastPass you are inviting trouble. I am not a very security minded person generally, but a password manager on your phone, tablets, laptops and desktops is outright essential today. Let it generate strong passwords for you, keep your credit card and bank info, and supply them wherever and whenever you need them. No regrets. — KK

Travel Tip:
When I travel I take snacks with me: Macadamia Nuts, Starbucks Via instant coffee pouches, and Graze Bars. I recently added a new item: 0.5 ounce coconut oil pouches. They go great with my low carb diet. I can spread it on chicken and vegetables to increase the calories without adding carbs. I love the taste of coconut oil on almost anything. — MF

Fitness:
A friend recommended I download this free 5-minute plank app (iOS) to strengthen my core and I’ve been using it almost religiously. You just press the play button and the timer will alert you to change positions. The visuals are helpful and I was able to up the rest time to 10 seconds between positions. Here is a similar highly-rated app for android. — CD

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01/15/17 -- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson

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What's in My Bag? 18 January 2017

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01/18/17

What’s in My Bag? — J Young

What a fire and water restoration estimator needs out in the field

Announcements: 09/6/16

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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/)

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.