21 February 2020


Mike Streetz, Citrix Consultant

Cool Tools Show 214: Mike Streetz

Our guest this week is Mike Streetz. Mike is a new dad, home automation aficionado, electronics tinkerer/maker, and IT Consultant by day. He hails from Sydney, Australia, and is currently based in Los Angeles with his wife and son. You can find him on Flicker and Twitter @O_P.

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Show notes:

Lifetime Folding Table ($40)
It’s a white plastic table. It’s got a hinge in the middle. It’s about double the width of a card table. It has sort of metal legs on either side with a crossbar between the legs, but there’s no crossbar going across that would hit your legs, so it’s all nice and out of the way in that regards. I use it for a lot of things. At the moment, I’m using it basically just to clean up my main desk and move stuff off of that, but I used it over Christmas, actually, as a present wrapping station because you can raise the height to standing height and work with it that way. It’s great for when you need extra space to sort out the contents of some boxes, also doubles as a work surface.

Synergy from Symless
Synergy is a keyboard and mouse sharing software essentially. You run the software on every computer that you want to share the keyboard and mouse with. You said it up as a server on the machine that the keyboard and mouse are plugged into, and then all the other machines are clients. It has a configuration screen where you can show the physical location of the monitor that you want to move into. Basically, you just drag your mouse to the edge of the window and it automatically jumps onto the window of the other machine. To give you an example, I have on my desk in front of me now a Mac laptop and a Windows laptop, and my Mac laptop is to the left of me and my Windows laptop is to the right. I’ve got two external monitors plugged in. If I’m doing work on my Mac, which has my keyboard and mouse plugged into it, I can start typing. I can copy a block of text. I can move my mouse all the way to the far right corner of the screen. It will automatically move into the Windows screen, and then I can control V and it will paste the contents of the clipboard from my Mac into my Windows machine.

NEBO Ratcheting Screwdriver ($22)

I don’t even remember how I found out about this, but it’s one of the best screwdrivers I own and I never see it pop up on anyone’s lists despite how good it is. It has a great ratcheting mechanism, comfortable and grippy handle, can work at 45, 90 degrees straight and has a bit holder in the handle and holds both SAE and metric sockets in the supplied case. I’ve had mine for 2 years and use it multiple times a week. The main advantage to this one for me is that it’s a ratcheting screwdriver and a ratcheting socket wrench essentially. You can move back and forth from one tool to the other just by swapping the head out really quickly. My only complaint would be that the base cap should have been reverse threaded, as if you apply pressure when driving a screw or ratcheting, it will unscrew itself.

PortPlugs SIM Card Removal Tool Set ($6, 6pk)
I kind of went down a weird internet rabbit hole trying to find a tool that was the right diameter, the right length, and that was sturdy enough to use as a pin reset tool, but also a tool that could hit the reset holes on all of the electronics that I have around that I need to reset. Pick up any electronic device that’s sitting next to you and you’ll probably see that there’s a little hole with “reset” written underneath the hole. Essentially what you do is that when you power on the device, if you insert like a paperclip or this specialty tool into that hole, it hits a button that’s recessed and it tells the device to essentially blow away all its settings and go into a fresh configuration mode. I’ve been needing to do that with these little security cameras I have because I changed the Wi-Fi network that they were on. The problem I have with paperclips is that the paperclips that I always have on my desk are never the right diameter to fit into all of the holes. They’re either too big or they’re so small that you try to put them in and they’ll wobble around and they’ll bend. They won’t stay straight and they won’t hit the little button on the back. A paperclip is generally not sturdy enough to eject the SIM card on a phone I find. It turns out watch band removal tools are the perfect tool for this. I settled on a cheap 6-pack set of these. 
This looks like a better tool though as it has a cap and a replaceable pin, it’s also a little longer for certain recessed reset buttons.


20 February 2020

Colored Gels for Segmented Displays

Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #35

Colored Gels for Segmented Displays

Upgrade your LED displays with colored gels.

Upgrade your LED displays with colored gels.

John Park writes: “Seven (and 14) segment displays are excellent for displaying certain kinds of information, inexpensive, and fairly easy to work with using microcontroller dev boards. However, the bare LED displays can look much, much better if you put a colored gel filter in front of them. Most products that used LED displays take care of this with a piece of tinted plastic, but for DIY projects a small piece of colored gel filter (for theatrical/film lighting) works great. ”

Calculating Load Safety

Mathematician Matt Parker on Adam Savage's Book Club.

Mathematician Matt Parker on Adam Savage’s Book Club.

This week, I wrote on Boing Boing about Adam Savage’s interview with mathnaut Matt Parker about his wonderful new book, Humble Pi. In the course of their wide-ranging discussion, Adam shares a great tip. In calculating the safety tolerance of a live load–something that will come under stress–take the stated load rating and multiply by 4. For static loads, 3x is fine. Matt adds that when he was studying civil engineering, they’d get students to calculate load safety and then tell them to add a zero to the result.

Making Sure a Cylindrical Workpiece is Perfectly Vertical

Straighten up, soldier!

Straighten up, soldier!

Emory Kimbrough: “There are numerous jigs to be found on the Internet for holding a cylindrical workpiece exactly vertical. You might, for example, want such a jig to drill down the axis of a dowel or a metal rod with a drill press. These jigs have to be made quite carefully, or the angle they’ll hold the stock at will be something other than vertical. Rather than spend time making one of these potentially finicky jigs, try this instead.

“Just trap the cylinder between two hand-screw clamps that are placed flat and at right angles to each other. One clamp prevents tilt in one vertical plane, and the other clamp prevents tilt in the other orthogonal vertical plane. The cylinder then has no freedom to do anything but point straight up.”

Grease or Lube?

Grease for those hard to reach places, oil for the rest.

Grease for those hard to reach places, oil for the rest.

In this episode of BlondiHacks, about lubricants in the shop, Quinn has a good rule of thumb for when to use grease verses when to use oil. Grease is best used for areas that are harder to access because it will stay in place longer. Grease also collects material (chips, swarf, grit, etc), so in situations where there’s a lot of that, use oil and change it frequently. When in doubt, use oil. In her shop, Quinn uses Way Oil 68, Mag 1 Bearing Grease, and Tap Magic Cutting Fluid as her go-to lubricants. She also recommends this type of piston-pump oiler.

Carrying Electronics in a Hanging Jewelry Bag

Hmmm... should I go with the ribbon cable choker or the Raspberry Pi earrings?

Hmmm… should I go with the ribbon cable choker or the Raspberry Pi earrings?

My friend Jade Garrett offers this really clever idea for traveling with and organizing electronics. She uses a hanging jewelry organizer. She says she’s pulled this out at a hackathon to hilarious reactions.


If you do any sort of small-scale painting/crafting, you need this.

If you do any sort of small-scale painting/crafting, you need this.

Several years ago, my friend Jim Kelly, The Tabletop Engineer, gave me a 3-depression porcelain spot plate. We are both tabletop gamers and miniature painters. I immediately fell in love with these spot plates. They are used in labs for chemical reaction testing. For my mini painting, I mainly use a wet palette, but I like to use these spot plates to hold washes, effects paints, and metallics (which are best not exposed to other paints on a wet palette). If you do any sort of miniatures, scale modeling, dioramas, or any sort of crafting where you are using small amounts of paints, check these out as a possible worthwhile tool. I use mine almost daily.


(Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales is published by Cool Tools Lab. To receive the newsletter a week early, sign up here. — editors)

20 February 2020


Barber Hair Cutting Cape

A smock to keep wood chips away from your skin

A key piece of gear for woodturners is a smock to keep shavings and chips from going inside your shirt or filling your pockets. These need to have a fairly slick surface so as not to accumulate dust or shavings and an adjustable neck closure. I found a barber’s cape to be a very cheap solution to this problem. This can also work for other woodworking or dusty shop activities.

The cape also offers a few other advantages. Because it is very light and open in the back, it is quite cool in summer. The relatively long length falls mid-thigh, so it sheds shavings right onto the floor, not in my pants pockets. This is also a very cheap option.

Obviously there is a risk of a drapey garment catching in machinery, so it is important to tie this back or modify with some hook and loop tape to keep it back and out of the way. These are so cheap that I don’t feel any compunction to trim to size with a scissors. I have been using one of these capes for at least 5 years as a hobbyist. There are many different postings on Amazon and my particular item is no longer listed.

Key things to look for are (1) breathable fabric, not waterproof salon cape, (2) hook and loop neck closure, so that you get a good fit. I also chose one in white so I look like I just stepped out of choir practice when I am in garage. This link is to an equivalent in black fabric.

-- Jonathan Margolis 02/20/20

19 February 2020


What’s in my bag? — Becky Stern

What's in my bag? issue #38

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Becky Stern is a product manager at Autodesk Instructables, and also teaches part time at SVA’s MFA in Products of Design. She publishes DIY project tutorials on her YouTube channel and you can find her on Twitter and Instagram @bekathwia.

The Fraction backpack by Mission Workshop
I love this backpack. It’s waterproof, which is great for city commuting by any method, and it holds a lot of stuff, but can take on a smaller profile when it’s mostly empty. I bought mine in 2015 and use it for everything from day-to-day laptop toting to overnight trips, and I even sometimes use the top flap to strap something big and awkward to it, like a bag of plush stuffing.

Wet Ones Antibacterial Wipes
I keep a pack of these antibacterial wipes in just about every bag I have. They’re great for wiping away germs after using the subway railings, or for sanitizing your airplane tray table. I also use them to disinfect my phone.

Paracord Zipper Pull
You never know when you’re going to need a small bit of strong cord! I made a tutorial for these paracord zipper pulls a few years ago and attached one to every jacket and bag. Not only are they effective as zipper pulls, they can be untied to become a useful length of strong cord.

BaoFeng BF-F8HP 8-Watt Ham with antenna upgrade
I recently got my ham radio license (I’m KD2SSU), but without an antenna on the roof, I’ve got to be outdoors (preferably up high) to make contact with other hams. This 8-Watt radio is ubiquitous in the ham community because it’s small, affordable, easy to program. I did upgrade the antenna to get better performance.

Bi-fold small parts organizer
When I teach electronics prototyping to design grad students at SVA, it’s useful to have some small parts on hand to demonstrate with and lend to my students. I love this double-sided parts organizer for transporting small things like switches, sensors, LEDs, and small microcontroller boards.

-- Becky Stern 02/19/20

19 February 2020


Book Freak #38: Sharpen your thinking

Short pieces of advice from books

Book Freak is a weekly newsletter with short pieces of advice from books. Subscribe here.

Daniel Kahneman is Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology Emeritus at Princeton University and Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs Emeritus at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He received the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his pioneering work with Amos Tversky on decision-making. Here are four pieces of advice from his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Take notice whenever you surprise yourself
“You are more likely to learn something by finding surprises in your own behavior than by hearing surprising facts about people in general.”

Increase your happiness by controlling your time
“The easiest way to increase happiness is to control your use of time. Can you find more time to do the things you enjoy doing?”

Choose your news
“People tend to assess the relative importance of issues by the ease with which they are retrieved from memory—and this is largely determined by the extent of coverage in the media. Frequently mentioned topics populate the mind even as others slip away from awareness. In turn, what the media choose to report corresponds to their view of what is currently on the public’s mind. It is no accident that authoritarian regimes exert substantial pressure on independent media. Because public interest is most easily aroused by dramatic events and by celebrities, media feeding frenzies are common.”

Know when to jump to conclusions
“Jumping to conclusions is efficient if the conclusions are likely to be correct and the costs of an occasional mistake acceptable. Jumping to conclusions is risky when the situation is unfamiliar, the stakes are high and there is no time to collect more information.”

Book Freak is one our five newsletters from Cool Tools Lab (our other four are the Cool Tools Newsletter, Recomendo, Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Talesand What’s in my bag?).


19 February 2020


PVC-Lock Removable Coupling

Eliminates primer and glue

PVC-Lock fittings are removable couplings for joining standard PVC irrigation or pool plumbing. I came across this last summer at Home Depot while trying to figure out how to do a complicated repair in a very tight space behind our pool pump. Basically these slide on and then lock. For my application this was great because the alternative required gluing together multiple fittings at once and there was not enough space to work. These couplings worked well and there has been no leakage. From reviews this looks similar to Shark Bite system but just for PVC. Also these are rated only for outdoor and cold water uses.

They are definitely a few times more expensive than standard fittings, but perfect for cases where you can’t glue or need to disassemble in the future. In my case, I used standard couplings where I could and then used 3 of these for final assembly.

As you would expect, you need to ensure that the pipe is fully inserted and seated to get a good seal, so you have to be able to apply a bit of force from each side. I also strongly recommend buying the little kit with deburring and disassembly tools. I found it really helpful to “dry fit” and then pop it all apart again.

-- Jon Margolis 02/19/20


img 02/18/20

Giottos Rocket Blaster

Dust-Off alternative

img 02/17/20

Vise-Grip GrooveLock V-Jaw Pliers

Pliers with a button that adjusts the jaw

img 02/14/20

Mike Liebhold, Senior Researcher at IFTF

Cool Tools Show 213: Mike Liebhold

img 02/14/20

Roll Up Truck Bed Cover

Transform bed of a pickup into a safe, dry place store


Making an Anvil from a Log

Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales – Issue #34

See all the reviews


img 02/26/10

Smart Move Tape

Clearest box labeling

img 04/6/10


Self-publishing via Amazon

img 11/15/04


Kindling splitter

img 06/7/11

Photon Microlight II

Ultralight and bright

img 11/27/08

Omega Juicer

Quiet, versatile juice extractor

img 09/24/13

Bissell Natural Sweep

Fastest carpet cleaner

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Cool Tools Show 214: Mike Streetz

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 213: Mike Liebhold

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 212: Meeno Peluce

Picks and shownotes

19 February 2020


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