Kevin and Mark’s Four Favorite Tools
Cool Tools Show 195: Kevin and Mark of Cool Tools
DJI Spark Mini Drone ($399)
I’ve been a very, very slow adopter of some of the newest photography technology in the form of drones. I have not owned a drone, and I’ve been kind of slow to get one, in part because there’s a learning curve and part because my photography generally doesn’t kind of lend that style. But I have a particular need for somewhere that I’m going to where I wanted to get high up, I wanted to have some elevated views, and I decided to get a drone. So, as usual, I kind of started low. I wanted basically an entry-level, lowest cost, easiest to learn mode, and so I got a DJI, which is the Chinese manufacturer of most drones. I got their Spark version, which I would say is the size of kind of like a cordless phone. The blades fold up, but the arms actually don’t fold up. It’s a little bit bigger than the palm, but it’s not that much bigger. It will shoot very high res still images, which is what I’m using it for. And the other thing about it is that it doesn’t have a controller. It’s actually controlled through an app that you load on your phone. So it has a limited range of about 100 meters from your phone, because it’s kind of using wifi of some sort. Those were actually not bugs to me. Those were actually benefits, f because I was going to be hauling this around in my backpack, and I didn’t want to have a lot of weight, and I didn’t need it to do fancy things. So this has, so far, proven to be exactly what I wanted it for, which is I can send it up and take mostly still images high up that are very high res, and I can throw it into a little day pack, and it hardly takes up any room at all. – KK
ECOVACS DEEBOT ($720)
I never got a Roomba. They’ve been out for a really long time, but I just thought that they were gimmicks. But I got this DEEBOT vacuum. They sent it to me to review, and I said, “Okay, if I don’t have to pay for it, I’m willing to just try it and see what I think.” And so I set it up. I put the little dock on the ground and let it go. And it’s iPhone-controlled and I could see as it was walking around the room it was drawing a little map of our floor plan, and it took a couple of hours to find its way and feel its way all around. At first I wasn’t able to see if it was cleaning or not yet, but I was really impressed by the way it could get itself out of any tricky spot, and it just, it really felt like it was a living animal navigating around. So it spent like two hours going over everything. And then when I looked, I pulled out the little tray, it was stuffed to the brim with junk, tons of cat fur. It was so gross. I could not believe how much was in there. It was heavy with stuff. So I just dumped all the stuff out, and then I had it do it again after I let it charge, and it picked up more stuff again. I mean, our floor is noticeably much cleaner, and we’ve hooked it up to Alexa, so all we have to do is say, “Alexa, tell DEEBOT to start cleaning,” and it will do its job. And then when the batteries are low, it goes back to its charging station by itself and starts charging, or you can tell it, “Alexa, tell DEEBOT to return to the charging station,” and it will do it. love it, and I’m just sorry that we didn’t get this thing sooner. — MF
Rode Wireless Go Microphones ($199)
Another tool that I’ve been using a lot and have been very, very happy with and kind of thrilled it works so well is something which I use in making video recordings of myself when I’ve been teaching sessions for China. The visual recording is very professional. The lighting’s professional. And what we know from video is that people often judge the quality of the video on the audio. You can have kind of crappy visuals, but if you have really good audio, people don’t notice, and vice versa. So in my effort to kind of up the quality of my audio for these recordings, the tool that works the best, is a pair of wireless microphones and their tether. And the one that I’m most excited by is called the Rode Wireless GO. They’re about the size of a match cover. They’re about two-inch squares or maybe less, and one you put on your camera, and the other one you can put on a person anywhere within 100 meters of the tether. And it’s a microphone that is wireless. And what’s beautiful about these is that it’s kind of total plug-and-play. Right of the box, there’s no going into the menus, there’s just nothing. You just hit a button, they’re on. They’re linked up together. You can use a built-in microphone in the one that you wear, or you can add a little lavalier onto a shirt. It also gives me flexibility, if I’m making something and recording stuff, there’s no wires to to be involved in. So that’s really, really great. The whole set is $200, which, in the realm of high-end audio equipment, is very, very reasonable. It’s a bargain for a wireless microphone. It’s just fantastic.
Nobsound G3 ($47)
This is called a Class-T amplifier, and it’s for listening to music. So typically, I think, a lot of people now don’t have home stereo systems anymore, because they’re using these wireless Bluetooth speakers that they just connect to their phones and they can play their music library. And about a couple of months ago, my wife Carla was saying she wished that we had a nice stereo system in the house with big speakers so that we could hear the music in a fuller, richer way. And I had speakers, but I didn’t have an amplifier anymore. So I started looking around, and I remember a post that Corey made like back in 2013 on Boing Boing about a, at the time, kind of relatively new type of amplifier called a Class-T amplifier. And they’re a much lower a power than typical larger amplifiers, but the sound is still really full and strong and distortion-free. And the price has just been dropping ever since they were introduced. And so I got one on Amazon. It comes with the power adapter, so you plug it into the wall, and it’s got Bluetooth in it. Then it has speaker output, so you just wire large speakers to it. And this little device itself is so small you could hide it behind a speaker. I actually have it up in the attic above the living room, so it’s just hidden there, and then the wires are going to speakers that are actually in the ceiling. Now we just bring a phone into the room, connect it to the Bluetooth, and you’re playing the songs on your phone, and it just sounds great. There’s no distortion. They can get really, really loud. And we’re just using it like crazy. I mean, compared to a nice Bluetooth speaker that costs over $100, this thing blows it out of the water.
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