Ammo Can Organizer

I can’t believe it took me this long to find this set of three organizer trays that stack neatly inside a common .50 caliber ammo can (available at any military surplus store, or here on Amazon).

The three sturdy  trays contain a total of 22 compartments of varying sizes and can be stacked in any order. The largest compartment runs the length of one of the trays and is large enough to hold a couple of screwdrivers. The organizer is made in the U.S.A. from chemical-resistant polypropylene.

Combined with the toughness of a .50 cal. ammo can, it should be a waterproof and practically indestructible small parts storage solution.

-- Curt Nelson  

Win a signed copy of Maker Dad

We are giving away a copy of Maker Dad, signed by me. To enter in the drawing, subscribe to our free weekly Cool Tools newsletter. (If you are a current subscriber, you are already in the running). We will select one person at random on July 15, 2014 at Noon PT, so make sure you sign up before that.

See photos of Maker Dad at Wink.

What are you doing this weekend? I’m going to try to set up a Minecraft server on a Windows laptop.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

Maker Dad

Available from Amazon


The Truth Behind Old Comic Book Novelties and Other Great Books

Wink is Cool Tools’ website that reviews one remarkable paper book every weekday. We take photos of the covers and the interior pages of the books to show you why we love them.

This week we reviewed:

R. Crumb: The Weirdo Years (1981 – 1993) – All of Robert Crumb’s work from his fantastic Weirdo Years

Mail-Order Mysteries – Revealing the truth behind the outlandish gizmos advertised in comic books during the 1960s-70s

Warhammer 40,000 (7th Edition) – New rules, new game direction, and surprisingly lovely new rulebooks for the popular tabletop role-playing game

The Red Book – Carl Jung’s amazing self-illustrated dream journal

The Day-Glo Brothers — The story of Day-Glo paint, told with Day-Glo inks

Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities —  Striking artifacts from one of the masters of fantasy and horror

Take a look at sample pages from these books and many others at Wink. And sign up for our Wink newsletter to get all the reviews and photos delivered once a week.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

What’s in My Bag? – Ryan Holiday

I travel a lot. For work mostly. But I love it because I get a lot of work done on the road. Whether it’s reading books, or writing or catching up on email, I tend to have bursts of productivity while I am traveling and then I get to enjoy myself on the trip. This is the bag I take as my under-the-seat carry on (never check bags! It’s a rookie mistake). It has everything I need to stay busy no matter how long the flight (most recently the 20 hours back from Sydney to Austin).

Most recently I was on the road for my third book, The Obstacle Is The Way, which came out with Penguin in May. I also run my marketing company, Brass Check, and am the Director of Marketing at American Apparel. As if I wasn’t busy enough I’m also an editor at large at the New York Observer/ and I write for my own site and Thought Catalog.

(click images to embiggen)


Writing Materials: To research for my books, I always bring 4×6 ruled index cards with me wherever I go. It’s where I jot down notes or sayings that I might want to use down the line. I also carry this Sony digital voice recorder ($55) for interviews.


Travel Documents: For international travel, the right documents matter. I have my passport and of course, my Global Entry card (which is worth every penny). It lets me skip lines with pre-check domestically and breeze through customs when I’m entering the country. Customs in other countries are usually no sweat, but anyone entering the US through JFK knows how long the line can be. This is where Global Entry saves a lot of time. I also carry business cards for my gig at the New York Observer and my marketing company Brass Check.

image (2)

Books: Only physical books for me. On this trip, I read Emerson’s Representative Men, The Gods of Olympus (which my UK publisher gave me in London the week before) and I just got an early copy of Zack Greenberg’s bio of Michael Jackson’s music empire. I always try to keep a copy of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (this copy is 8 years old and filled with notes). I also have a copy of my new book, The Obstacle Is The Way, in case I need to give one to someone. I usually keep a few other books in my suitcase as well. In the middle is my Moleskine in case I need to take notes in a meeting.



Electronics: I carry a MacBook Air ($950) with a black plastic case. My phone is an iPhone 5 with a Mophie battery case ($80). With my phone, I use the Phillips Sweat-proof headphones ($20) with a mic and with my iPod Shuffle ($69) I use the same headphone sans mic. This way I can go for a run with either. The respective chargers for all the devices are in the bag as well.


Eyewear: Some polarized Ray Ban glasses ($106) (which I found randomly a few months back believe it or not). And Speedo goggles ($16). I try to swim in every place I go. The rock pools in Australia are maybe the coolest pools in the world…though Barton Springs near my house in Austin is amazing too.


Medicine: If you travel a lot, especially for speaking, you get sick. I carry Dayquil, Pepto pills, Advil, and Emergen-C. I also carry Zzzquil in case I have trouble sleeping. 5 Hour Energy is my caffeine substitute (I don’t do coffee or soda anymore). Who doesn’t love dessert gum? It takes like ice cream! Also Arm & Hammer deodorant — has fewer chemicals than most but actually works unlike Toms.


Dog: I wish I could bring the dachshund, Ms. Hanno. Unfortunately most places I cannot. But I wish. She’s good in the backpack though.

-- Ryan Holiday  

[OK, now it's your turn. Send photos of the things in your bag (and of the bag itself, if you love it), along with a description of the items and why they are useful. Make sure the photos are large (1200 pixels wide, at least) and clear. Use a free file sharing service like Bitcasa to upload the photos, and email the text to See all of our What's in my Bag? posts. -- Mark Frauenfelder]

YouTube: An Insider’s Guide

By internet years, this is an ancient book (2008); Still, it’s the best one I’ve found for exploiting the new medium of YouTube. The millennial generation are not reading books, or newspapers; they are not watching TV, either, and in fact they aren’t really watching many movies. None of these are their cultural center. As far as I can tell their entire discretionary time is spent watching YouTube clips. It’s the source of entertainment and instruction. If you want to reach the young, do it on YouTube.

How? Well this guide is trying to help. YouTube is the newest broadcast/publishing/social medium with new rules and new stars. It will eventually be as important as books and TV combined. What makes a good YouTube station, how do you gets visits, or sell ads? This book is only the first word on those challenges. Since YouTube now offers the option of selling paid subscriptions to niche channels — a development not covered in this book — this is sure to ignite even more newbies to move in. Start with this basic how-to. Let us know when a better handbook comes along.

-- KK  

YouTube: An Insider’s Guide to Climbing the Charts
Alan Lastufka, Michael W. Dean
2008, 304 pages

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

Sample excerpts:

Low numbers can be frustrating for new bloggers and video makers. It’s difficult to invest hours into making a video, only to upload it and find a day later that only some 10 or 12 people have watched it. Trust me when I say this, though — we have all been there. If your content is interesting or funny and your shot isn’t completely out of focus, you will gain more views over time. Faking your views will get you called out very quickly, and the majority of YouTubers will lose all respect for you.


The majority of views on your videos will be lurkers. Lurkers are people without accounts who watch and then move on. Lurkers don’t rate, don’t comment, and definitely don’t make videos of their own. Lurkers are good for views, but not much else. This is why the average video views to comments ratio on YouTube is about 5 percent. Meaning, if you have 100 views, you should probably have about 5 comments; 1,000 views, 50 comments; and so on.

You want users watching your videos. You want people who will get to know, and support, you. The more invested a user feels in your channel, meaning, the more time and energy they’ve put in to watching and commenting and interacting with you, the more likely they are to pass your link around. Your subscribers, the regular watchers, are the ones who will rate your video every time, even if you’re trying a new style of editing or writing. Your subscribers are the ones who will drop you sweet little private messages when you’ve been gone for more than a few days to make sure you’re okay. This is where the heart of YouTube is and where you find your sense of community.


Most users get turned down because they simply don’t have enough views or subscribers to qualify for partnership. The good news is, users without enough views or subscribers can continue uploading and may apply again at a later date. In addition to this “popularity” qualification, users with a history of violating YouTube’s terms of use will not be accepted as Partners. Such violations could include uploading content that you don’t own, uploading obscene content, spamming or harassing other users, and attempting to “cheat the system” for more views or subscribers.


YouTube ads are all paid for on a per-impression basis. Ad rates seem to vary from campaign to campaign, because earnings per view vary each and every month. AdSense ads display next to videos uploaded by Partners. You’ll need to keep your AdSense account in good standing to remain in the Partner Program. This means you should not try to fraud the system by auto refreshing your videos. You should also not click over and over on your own ads; this gives the impression to advertisers that your videos are more popular than they actually are and breaks the contract you sign with YouTube when you become a Partner. (Both YouTube and AdSense have really smart software to detect all fraud techniques, and you will get caught.)


First, people will unsubscribe if they feel they’re being overtly “marketed to.” YouTube is an alternative to TV. If you make your channel too much like TV, people will go look at another channel.

Second, you’re not going to make tons of money, just some money, so you may as well still have fun doing it, rather than making video production an unpleasant day job. There’s no point in working toward quitting your day job if you simply replace it with another job that doesn’t make you happy (and doesn’t offer health insurance!).



Author and Editor Gareth Branwyn [Cool Tools Show Episode #006]

Author of the new book, Borg Like Me, Gareth Branwyn tells us about the set of household tools he inherited from the former occupants of his house that have proven their usefulness and longevity over the years. In this episode we discuss what makes these tools so special and how we all can prepare to pass on our household’s best suited tools to the next generation of homeowners.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Podcast on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3

Show Notes:

Gareth’s Website

Gareth’s Book: Borg Like Me: & Other Tales of Art, Eros, and Embedded Systems

Here are Gareth’s tool picks, with quotes from the show:

Wiss “Nutcracker” Scissors (Modern Equivalent): $18

“These scissors are basically a kitchen multitool of the fifties. They have a distinctive red handle. They’re just really optimized. Everything is really thought through and they have a lot of little gadgets on it.”

Fiskar’s Scissors: $22

“Years ago on Make I reviewed a pair of Fiskars scissors…Super sharp scissors…and I used those, as you mentioned, for cutting food.”
Super Scraper (Modern Equivalent): $3

“I use the scraper every day. This has gotta be the oldest tool, right? It’s like a seashell or a piece of bone that you use for debarking wood or scraping hides, so I love that.”

Gilhoolie: $15

“It’s a cam-operated jar opener. I have arthritis in my wrists and I’ve been going through a spate recently where my right wrist doesn’t work and the other day I had to open up a jar and I couldn’t even begin to twist it off. It was a pretty wide jar and this thing, even with my wrist not working, cracked the seal with no problem.”

Staonal Black Marking Crayon: $4.25

“…it’s like a marking crayon, like a carpenter’s crayon which has really cool fifties typography on it.”

Door-Ease: $2

“There’s this thing called Door Ease, which is a stick of wax for unsticking drawers and I looked at those things and thought, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ and then one day five years later I had a sticky drawer and I thought, ‘Wait, I have the technology!’ so I went downstairs and got my Door Ease and it hasn’t stuck since.”

Qwikie (Modern Equivalent): $4.50

“[For touching up marks on painted walls] It’s kind of like a nail polish bottle, where the brush is actually in the bottle.”

Empty Touch-up Bottle 2 Oz.: $3

“We’ve been painting all the rooms in our house and when we finish I save a small container of it, like a cup’s worth, in a little jar and then just stash it in a drawer of whatever room we painted in, so that way if you drill a hole or remove a painting and pull a nail out, you can spackle it and paint it over with that paint rather than leaving big jar somewhere rusting away.”


Gareth has also kindly supplied us with images of the vintage tools he inherited with his house.

Thanks, Gareth!

Cool Tools.jpg

Wiss “Nutcracker” Scissors, Super Scraper and Gilhoolie (Links, images and prices for similar products can be seen above.)houseTools_2.jpg

Staonal Black Marking Crayon and Door Ease (Links, images and prices for these items can be seen above.)

-- Cool Tools  


I’m the CTO of a company that employs a whole group of computer repair technicians. At one time, we would remotely diagnose computer problems by connecting to a user’s network using a VPN, then have the user install VNC, and then tell us their IP address. Sometimes there wasn’t a VPN or we had to go through setting up one for the user on their router. (To make things more problematic, most Telus connections started disallowing VPNs.) Each and every one of those steps was very difficult for the average user.

Now we use We just ask users to open a Web page, read off the 12-digit number they see, and click a link, which downloads a small program that they can run to create the connection; then the connection will work through any firewall they have.

Using this I can connect to almost any remote PC. It works with users in UAE on a slow IDSN line. It works with users in northern Canada with a cell phone Internet connection. Of course, it works a lot better with high speed internet connections.

Other tools require a user to view an email (which may not be working) or provide information about their PC, which they usually have no idea about. This tool works as long as you can get the user on the phone and looking at the Web site.

The only difficulty? Some users are so illiterate that when you say “go to” they will instead enter “copilot” into Google. You’d be very surprised how often this happens.

There are other services that do this, however we find this one works on the worst of connections. And of course, the farther away someone is, the worse their connection is, and the more help they need!

I have used Copilot for about 3 years. I pay the monthly subscription fee of $20, but you can also pay $5 to use it for 24 hours, on demand.

-- Perry Doell  

Price plans vary
Free on weekends

Seth Godin on Marketing

The guru of marketing is Seth Godin. He’s done more innovative marketing than most Fortune 500 departments combined and can explain the art of marketing better than anyone I know or have read. In Godin’s view marketing is much more about an approach to life rather than a department in a business (which is the norm). In fact, as Godin preaches, business is more a lifestyle (as in a way of living) than about maximizing money. Money will flow from a finely-tuned approach to life. Your job as a businessperson is to navigate a thousand tradeoffs in the rugged terrain of reality in order to tune your enterprise to maximize learning, difference, and value to others. If you succeed, the process will also produce money. The art of perceiving and managing these tradeoffs (niche of 1 vs niche of 1000? ) is marketing. It is not about advertising.

Godin is a prolific writer. Some of his best advice flows in a river from his daily blog. A distilled version of his messages can be found in the essential three of his many books: Purple Cow, Free Prize Inside and All Marketers are Liars. One thing I really like about Godin’s work is that it is technology independent. He embraces all that social media does (before it materialized) without getting stuck in the minutia of any technology. Read any of his books and blog and you’ll be ahead of this rapidly advancing curve.

-- KK  

Purple Cow
Seth Godin
2009, 224 pages
Available from Amazon

Free Prize Inside
Seth Godin
2007, 256 pages
Available from Amazon

All Marketers Are Liars
Seth Godin
2009, 240 pages
Available from Amazon

Seth’s Blog

Sample Excerpts:

From Purple Cow:

Stop advertising and start innovating.


Imagine how cool Pop Tarts would be if the brand manager was the sort of person who ate them for dinner.


Before you spend another dollar on another brain-dead ad campaign, trade show, or sales conference, spend some time with your engineers and your customers. Challenge your people to start with a blank sheet of paper and figure out what they’d do if they could do just about anything. If they weren’t afraid of failing, what’s the most audacious thing they’d try?


Remarkable isn’t always about changing the biggest machine in your factory. It can be the way you answer the phone, launch a new brand, or price a revision to your software. Getting in the habit of doing the “unsafe” thing every time you have the opportunity is the best way to learn to project–you get practice at seeing what’s working and what’s not.


From All Marketers Are Liars:





There are only two things that separate success from failure in most organizations today:

1. Invent stuff worth talking about.
2. Tell stories about what you’ve invented.

Make up great stories. that’s the new motto.


People are superstitious about whatever it is you’re marketing. You can ignore that superstition or you can rail against it, but both strategies will cost you. The alternative is the only one that works: use personal interactions that are so extraordinary and so powerful that they cause people to tell themselves a different story instead.

If a consumer has a lousy telephone experience with a hotel reservations agent, his impulse will be to hate the service from every person he interacts with when he finally arrives at the hotel. The only solution? It’s not expensive carpeting, lower rates or a better mattress. The only solution is a warm, personal interaction between an authentic and caring individual and your disgruntled customer.

Facts are not the most powerful antidote to superstition. Powerful, authentic personal interaction is. That’s why candidates still need to shake hands and why retail outlets didn’t disappear after the success of Amazon.

Golden Mean Calipers

I absolutely love these things and have used them for a couple of years. Aside from just wandering around with my kids and having them put it up to just about everything (“Dad! this has a golden mean in it as well!” — I’ll never get tired hearing that) you can also use them to bring some simple relational beauty and balance into anything physical that you make.

You can go to this website for some very well made ones (and a little pricey) or just download some plans for a few bucks and make your own.

-- Eric Warner  

Available from Amazon

Victorinox SwissCard

This small, flat, semi-translucent plastic card contains a sharp blade, an even sharper pair of scissors, a file, a tweezers, a toothpick, and a pen. They all slide into the card, and come free of it for independent use. The whole kit is the size of a credit card, and about three times as thick. It lays flat in my pocket and weighs very little. I use it daily. It prompts a smile most every time I do, and it’s a good conversation piece. Highly recommended and undeservedly under-popular.

-- Gru  

Available from Amazon