20 January 2020

19 January 2020


Travel pillow/Library Extension/Remote working tips

Recomendo: issue no. 182

Check out our paperback book Four Favorite Tools: Fantastic tools by 150 notable creators, available in both Color or B&W on Amazon.

Best travel pillow
My 22-year-old daughter used this Ralthy inflatable travel pillow ($17) to snag 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep on a recent flight to Singapore. You set the pillow on your meal tray or your lap and lean forward into it, placing your head in the hole, like you would on a massage chair. I just bought another so I can use it on an upcoming flight to Japan. — MF

Library vs Amazon
Remember libraries, where content is free? Library Extension is a browser extension that will tell you whether a book you are looking at on an Amazon page is available in your local library. If it is you can click on the button to put a hold on the book, or find which branch has it. Very nicely done. Like libraries it’s free. Works on Chrome and Firefox. — KK

Work from home successfully
I work from home four days a week and what helps me be most productive is having a separate work space (not in a bedroom) with lots of natural light, getting dressed as if I’m going to the office, sticking to a 9-5 schedule, and giving myself short breaks every hour to walk around or cuddle with my dog. This article on How to Work From Home and Actually Get Stuff Done has a lot more suggestions for productivity. Eating lunch away from my desk is something I have to get better at, and one thing I hadn’t considered is to do some work before breakfast: “The usual recommendation is to start with a healthy breakfast, to fuel you for your busy day ahead. However, when you’re home all day, breakfast can be a drawn-out luxury, with reading, checking social media, and other distractions preventing you from getting started. Try diving into a quick work task, checking it off the list, and then sitting down to breakfast.” — CD

A better way to connect to stubborn airport WiFi
A while back I recommended some troubleshooting tips for forcing a public Wi-Fi login page to open. A Recomendo reader (“J.C.”) sent me a superior tip: just enter “http://neverssl.com” and the access point’s login page will load. On my last trip I used it at the airport and on the plane and it worked like a charm. — MF

Extend the life of your produce
My husband bought these Rubbermaid FreshWorks Containers ($27, set of 3), which prevents produce from spoiling by keeping excess moisture away, and for the first time ever, I was able to finish a bag of spinach without it going bad. Usually I have to throw out my spinach after a week or less, but this container kept it fresh for more than two weeks. It’s amazing! — CD

Cheaper car charging
Setting up a charger in your garage to charge an electric car is currently more complicated than it should be. This primer in Forbes by Brad Templeton is a good rundown on what to expect and how to do it the cheapest.  — KK


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-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 01/19/20

17 January 2020


Tywen Kelly, Tech Evangelist

Cool Tools Show 209: Tywen Kelly

Our guest this week is Tywen Kelly. Tywen is a recent college graduate living in Seattle. He is a photographer, media theorist, and official Evangelist for Pixvana, a VR video software company turned 2D video management software company. Outside of work, he’s a student of filmmaking, computational photography, and cybernetics. He’s also the son of Kevin.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

For my personal projects, something that I always do is download YouTube videos either for some B-roll or just to actually capture the sound effects. I often just search for river sound effects just to add some foley to sort of richen up a video. But one problem I always find with downloading YouTube videos is that the sites that I use often get shut down or they just migrate to another domain or something and it’s really inconsistent. So when I started working at Pixvana, a software engineer showed me this tool. It’s basically a free command line tool. And it’s really, really simple. All you have to do is open your terminal, type in youtube.dl and put in the URL of the video you want. And it immediately starts downloading. And I found it to be the most consistent and really, really fast. And you don’t need to go through these websites where there’s all these popups or they’re trying to trick you to download this spyware. This is super, super secure open source, and constantly being updated.

Find My (free built-in iPhone app)
“Find My,” as it’s called now on the most recent iPhone update, is an iPhone app where you can basically track the locations of friends that have consented to being tracked by you. It’s a native app. Every iPhone has it. And similarly you can also track your devices, like your Apple watch or anything Apple. So my roommate showed me this and she brought up the idea that 99% of the time she texts someone is because she wants to know where they are. And I was like, I do that as well. So I started tracking the location of friends. And now whenever I’m home and I don’t see where my roommate is, I check the app before I even text her and see, oh, she is out at a restaurant or something. And it’s also good for the safety reasons. If you go out somewhere to an event, like a concert, you want to keep track of where your friends are as well. What I like about it is it has a feature where you can be notified when the friend leaves a certain location or is near your location. And this is really helpful because I have a friend who comes over a lot, and sometimes it’s a little unpredictable when he gets here. So I set a little notification for when he leaves his house and he’s near mine and it tells me when I have to come down to the entrance of the apartment and let him in. And that’s something I use all the time.

Utility A/V cart with casters used as a standing desk ($121)
This is basically a push utility auto video cart with little casters on the bottom. And I use it as a standing desk for my desktop PC. I originally got it because I had a virtual reality setup and I lived in a small apartment, and I didn’t want to take over the entire communal public space that my roommate and I shared. So I wanted something that you could sort of moderately put away and out of the walking zone of the living room, but also be like an actual desk that I could use if I want to do mouse and keyboard stuff. So that’s what I use it now for. I roll it around the apartment, so I can change where my computer is and also I can roll it out and set up my virtual reality setup so I can track in a wider space. I like it a lot because it’s sort of constrains the desk space. You can just pile stuff up.

This is a website service called remove.bg, “bg” as in background I think. And what you do is you upload an image, like a profile photo, and there’s a really smart AI that is specifically tuned to read humans in human form and remove the background behind it. And what’s really amazing is it does hair really well. So it gets fine details. It can actually retain that hair. And what it spits out is like a downloadable file just as a PNG with transparency. It’s free for about 10 of them, and then they start showing ads I think. I use it to take images of coworkers and create custom emojis for them.

This is a way to remotely control a computer from another computer. And I think what’s amazing about it is A: that it always seems to work, and B: for me it’s super low latency. In my use case, I was at home sick one day, and I needed to finish this video and send it out. So what I did is from my desktop at home is I TeamViewer-ed into my desktop at work and I can actually go into my video editing program. And it’s low latency enough where I could actually scrub through the video and get a live preview and edit and ultimately export it in time.


We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $390 a month. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have great rewards for people who contribute! If you would like to make a one-time donation, you can do so using this link: https://paypal.me/cooltools.– MF


16 January 2020


Trim Puller

Removes molding without damage

I’ve had, and have used, this Zenith Industries Trim Puller ($28) for a bit over three years. Its purpose is to get behind and detach trim (molding) around windows and doors, and crown molding, without damaging surrounding drywall or finished surfaces. It seems big and clunky, and looks like it would easily split millwork molding, but it’s never happened.

Its wedge edge isn’t super sharp, but cuts through paint without flaking. Just drive it in with a hammer, and the device will push the trim away from the wall. If the nails are long, you can use the tool to pry. If it gets stuck, you can just tap it back out with the hammer and move it to another location. Saving just a few pieces of molding will pay for this tool.

-- Ed Delaney 01/16/20

15 January 2020


What’s in my bag? — Juliette Devaney

What's in my bag? issue #32

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Juliette Devaney is a Senior Principal Product Manager at Amazon, working on emerging products. She lives in San Jose, CA with her husband and daughter.


About the bag

My bag is the Madewell Transport Tote ($168), which is the biggest tote they make. It’s just a giant bag.

What’s inside the bag

ToteSavvy Deluxe ($95)
I bought this bag insert because I needed a bigger bag, but unfortunately women’s totes never have pockets. So this is a set of pockets that you can take in and out of your bag easily. This particular version has an insulated cooler pouch, which I use to store my breast milk after I extract. It also has a computer sleeve and a bunch of extra pockets for chargers, gizmos, doodads, and everything else that’s basically in my bag. And strapped to the bottom is a rolled-up change mat for babies.

Elvie Hands-Free Wearable Breast Pumps ($500)
These are wearable breast pumps that I love because I can pump in traffic, in the elevator at work, in meetings, wherever. You name it, I pump there. It’s very convenient.

Trader Joe’s Pitted Salted Manzanilla Olives ($10/4pk)
These are my “just a handful” of pitted little olives. They’re sold at Trader Joe’s in individual pouches. They’re delicious. Whenever I’m cranky, I tear one open and eat the whole pouch.

PETZL Tikka Headlamp ($30)
This is my PETZL headlamp, which is one of my favorite brands. It’s a brand I use rock climbing a lot, but I keep it in my bag in case of an earthquake or a power outage when I’m staying at a hotel. I want to be the person that rescues people out of the building with my headlamp.

Bonus items

I always carry my YETI Rambler ($30). It’s fantastic because I fill it with hot tea in the morning before I leave for work, and it stays hot all day. Also in my bag are my Alexa-enabled Echo buds ($129), which I was testing for work and I really liked them so I kept them. And my Clinique Repairwear Intensive Lip Treatment ($31), which keeps my lips nice and hydrated.

-- Juliette Devaney 01/15/20

14 January 2020

Best Demolition Tool

Tear It Apart With a Fubar

Tool: Stanley Tools “Fubar” or Universal Demolition Tool ($30)

Guest: Derek “Deek” Diedricksen
Micro Living ($13)
Micro Shelters ($14)
Derek’s Youtube channel
Derek’s Website
Derek’s Facebook page

“This thing is indispensable. You have like the pry bar pulling nails. This is for wrecking 2x4s — pulling them — a hammer function. It can open a beer on this edge. There’s a bunch of things you can do. It’s a very primitive tool, but it’s good for bash and smash and trash and stuff. And I do a lot of that because I deal not only in construction, but architectural salvage as well. So I’m always tearing things in houses apart, looking for materials I can reuse.”

-- Derek "Deek" Diedricksen 01/14/20

(Cool Tools has a YouTube channel with many more tool reviews — editors)


img 01/14/20

Bamboo Wok Brush

Easy, no-soap wok and pan cleaning tool

img 01/13/20

Scotchlok Butt Connectors

Solder-free, moisture-proof wire splicing

img 01/10/20

Split Loom Tubing

Protect power cords from cable-gnawing cats

See all the reviews


img 10/23/06

Animated Knots

Best knot teacher

img 10/9/07


Cheapest hi-quality photo scans

img 08/28/17

Pumps-A-Lot Water Pump

Simple emergency sump pump

img 07/21/11

Zenni Optical

Best cheap eyeglasses

img 07/28/17

Ortlieb Dry Bags

Heavy-duty waterproof bags

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 209: Tywen Kelly

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 208: Theodore Gray

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 207: Janet Varney

Picks and shownotes

15 January 2020


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.

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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.

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