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

23 May 2017


We Refreshed Our Website

Our simplified site

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.

-- MF 05/23/17

23 May 2017


FiAir Air Blower/Fast Fire Starter

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

We are lucky enough to live in an 1880s cottage in San Francisco, and we have a great wood burning fireplace. Recently I purchased a FiAir battery powered blower. This device has turned out to be quite good at fanning the dying embers into a hot flaming fire again. Using three AAA batteries, it seems to last for a long time, in fact, I have not run the batteries low after at least three dozen extended uses. The only downside it works too well and makes the fire very hot for your hand holding the blower. I have added a hack, the inner cardboard tube center from the paper towel (slips right over the nozzle) to keep my hand farther away from the heat.

-- Kent Barnes 05/23/17

21 May 2017


Learn difficult subjects/memomize/Kevin’s go-to camera

Recomendo: issue no. 43

How to understand difficult subjects:
This four-step method for learning difficult subjects was developed by physicist Richard Feynman when he was a student at Princeton University. All the steps are important, but the most important step is the one where you have to teach what you’ve learned in a simple way so a new student can understand it. If you can’t do that, you don’t really understand it yourself. — MF

Save text for later:
My current favorite Chrome extension is memomize, which lets you save text for later. Just highlight some text, right click >  Add to memomize, and the next time you open a new tab, what ever you save will be there along with links to its original source. I save subject lines and text from emails and use it as my inbox to-do list. — CD

Nifty email:
I’m old school: email is my chief communication mode, and I primarily work on a laptop or desktop. While there are many things to recommend about Gmail on the web, it’s interface is not one of them. I use Postbox as my mail client to reach my Gmail (it runs on Mac or Windows). I’ve tried other clients now and then but keep coming back to Postbox for its intuitive (to me) design and interface. And I’m still uncovering new capabilities I didn’t know it had. — KK

Wrist relief:
I’ve been using the 18” version of this gel-filled wrist pad for five years (I’m on my second one — they last a few years). It goes behind my keyboard, giving me a soft-but-firm place to rest my wrists. This is essential equipment for me. — MF

Mute individual tabs:
I like to read celebrity gossip for fun, but most of the websites I visit are bloated with ads and videos that automatically start themselves. I recently discovered right click > mute tab on Chrome and Firefox, which makes reading my junk news a little more peaceful, and a lot less annoying. — CD

The camera I use:
I’ve been a very serious photographer for 45 years (!!!). Even though I’ve had one book of my photos published by Taschen, I have never used a state-of-the art professional camera. I have always relied on good-enough amateur level cameras. For the past 10 years, I’ve used Panasonic Lumix superzooms. They suit my cultural photography perfectly. They are silent. They are featherweight (I carry them all day, weeks on end.) They have flip out screens so I can shoot stealthily, with subjects unaware. They are cheap. They super zoom from wide angle to telephoto, very fast. The model I’ve used for the past 3 years, the FZ 300, has a super zoom (600mm equivalent) with a constant 2.8 lens. It’s been great. For my subject — recording the vanishing cultures and peoples of Asia — this camera is perfect. — KK

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder and Claudia Dawson 05/21/17


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Basin Buddy

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

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Vittles Vault Stackable Pet Food Container

Airtight seal keeps food fresh and safe from ants

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Maker Update #34

A roundup of the best maker projects this week

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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.