Excellent starter kit for people interested in learning about Arduino

Arduino is an easy-to-learn prototyping platform that lets you create interactive electronic projects. This Arduino compatible kit is the one I recommend to people who ask me how to get started. The reason I recommend it is because it's very cheap and it has a bunch of components that would cost a lot more if you were to purchase them separately.

Two things it doesn't have, but should if you really want to have fun with Arduino: a potentiometer and a servo motor. This kit, which has these components and many more, is available for about twice as much as the basic kit above.

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A belt that won't set off metal detectors

I have a friend who drives seven hours from Los Angeles to San Francisco instead of flying, just so he doesn't have to take off his shoes at the TSA checkpoint.

I would rather fly than drive, but I can understand where my friend is coming from. TSA security is the worst part of flying for me - the lines, the liquids in a clear plastic bag, the laptop and kindles out, etc.

Fortunately, I pay for TSA Pre, so I don't have to take my shoes off, but my belt buckle always set off the metal detector. Last year I bought a belt with a plastic buckle on Amazon, which allows me to walk through the metal detector without taking it off. I fly a lot, so it's worth it. As an added bonus, there are no holes in the belt. I can make the belt exactly as tight as I want it, rather than deciding between using a slightly too lose, or to tight belt hole. Read the rest

100 knock-off magic erasers at a fraction of the normal price

I've written about melamine foam (sold as Magic Erasers) before. They're great for quickly removing mars, scuffs, and stains from almost any surface. I recommend buying 100 at a time.

Latest use case: Some old stickers on my laptop that I wanted to remove. After peeling them off, the sticky, tough, adhesive remained on the laptop. Magic eraser knockoff to the rescue! It took about 90 seconds of gentle rubbing with a damp magic eraser to remove all traces.



Watch the video below to see different ways to use this wonder material.

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My favorite cheap T-shirts are on sale today

Gildan crew T-shirts are very inexpensive and comfortable. Amazon just knocked the price down to what seems like an all-time low. With shirt this cheap I can slurp my curry with abandon -- if a shirt gets stained, it goes into the cleaning rag / painting / work clothes drawer. Read the rest

Get this highly-rated cordless drill at a steep discount

I've bought a lot of Tacklife tools in recent years, and have always been happy with them. So when learned Tacklife was selling this feature-filled cordless drill at a great price (when you use promo code I9AEAS92), I bought it without hesitation. It has an adjustable torque setting, a light, and a charger. Read the rest

Fujitsu ScanSnap ix1500 -- best way to a paperless archive

[I wrote this review in 2010. I now have a newer model, the ix1500 and have edited the following to include the new features -- MF]

I once left a box of important files out in the rain and wasted a lot of time drying them a sheet at a time, then filing them in cabinets.

It gave me pause. Was I going to have to live with ever-growing stacks of paper files that took up space, were hard to search through, and were fragile?

I decided to try digitizing my paper trail. I started scanning documents on my HP scanner-printer-copier, which is mind-numbingly slow and had a buggy driver that crashed my computer, forcing a reboot about 25% of the time I used it. I then bought a sheet-fed Fujitsu ScanSnap. It lets me insert a stack of up to 50 two-sided documents into the sheet feeder and it whips through all 100 pages in a couple of minutes, saving them as text-searchable PDFs. I was honestly surprised that my laptop was capable of accepting data at such a fast pace. This scanner doesn't hog a lot of precious desktop real estate, either. It's surprisingly small -- about 11.5 inches wide and 5 inches deep, with the feeder and output flaps folded in.

I configured my SnapScan to send scanned documents as PDF files to my Evernote account, although this is not required. (If you don't know about the previously reviewed Evernote, it's an outstanding online service that accepts images, sound files, notes, scans of documents, and just about anything else you want to throw in it. Read the rest

My cat loves this cheap self-groomer

Last year I posted a video to Boing Boing of a young cow enjoying a rotating brush called the Happycow. I wrote, "I think my cats would go for a Happycat." It turns out there is something similar - the Self Groomer Cat Toy. I bought one. It's a plastic brush that you fill with a pinch of catnip (included) then attach to a corner with double-sided adhesive tape (also included). I tested it out on our cat. She was sleeping in another room, and I carried her over to it and set her down in front of it. She ignored it and started to wander away, so I picked her up and rubbed her cheek against the plastic bristles. She immediately caught on and started rubbing her head against it and purring like crazy. She uses it multiple times throughout the day. Read the rest

Chrome extension offers a distraction-free YouTube experience

On the left is a screenshot of YouTube on Chrome. On the right is a screenshot of the same video with an extension called "Distraction Free for YouTube" activated. Below is a screenshot of the extension's options.

[via 5-Bullet Friday] Read the rest

Searching for the best wire stripper

The other website I edit is called Cool Tools, which features reader-written reviews of tools they love. For the last couple of years, we've been posting video reviews of tools (subscribe to the channel here), produced by Donald Bell. His latest video is a comparison review of wire strippers. His pick of the batch is the Irwin Vise-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper. Read the rest

If the Anker charger was too expensive for you, here's a much cheaper alternative

Yesterday I recommended the Anker PowerCore 10,000 mAh portable charger, which was on sale but isn't anymore. If you want a great deal on a 10,000 mAh portable charger, consider this Aukey charger. Anker generally has a better reputation for quality, but I've used Aukey gear for years with no problem. When you use code 47OU8KKJ at checkout, you can get this for a fraction of the price of the Anker model. Read the rest

This Anker PowerCore USB power charger is an Amazon deal of the day

Amazon is offering an unusually low price on the Anker's PowerCore II 10000 Ultra Slim Power Bank. I have a number of different Anker chargers and they have performed well for years. This one is 10,000 mAh, which is enough to recharge most smartphones about 3 times. Read the rest

This tiny supercheap Gerber multitool comes with me on trips

The Gerber Shard is a TSA safe multitool that I've been grateful to have on a number of occasions while traveling. It's only 3 inches long and weighs 1/3 of an ounce, so you won't notice it until you need it. Read the rest

Must-have travel gear - inexpensive zipper bags

Ever since I started using these nylon mesh zipper bags, my travel experience has improved. I have one bag for paper stuff and pens, one for medicine and first aid, one for tools and gear, one for cords and portable power, and one for snacks. When I get home I leave the bags in my suitcase, making packing much easier the next time I take a trip. The bags are see-through and very durable.

I just bought another set of these bags to hold components for Raspberry Pi projects. I think I have a total of 36 of these bags now. Read the rest

Reversible Micro USB cables back in stock

In early December Tod Kurt of ThingM recommended these reversible Micro USB cables. I bought a 3-pack on Amazon. They really work and have held up for the nearly two months I've had them. Both the USB male plug and the micro plug can be inserted without regard to the orientation, like a USB C plug. There is no "right side up." They were out of stock on Amazon for a while, but they're available again. Read the rest

Another shoutout for the Tweezerman hangnail clipper

This clipper was designed to cleanly cut off a hangnail. The angled blades make it easy to see what you're doing. It gets right to the nub of the hangnail, preventing it from spontaneously regenerating. I keep one in my desk drawer and another in my travel kit. The tip is sharp, so I think I'm going to make a 3D printed cap for it. Read the rest

Great deal on these locking pliers

Knipex makes high-quality tools, and these 10-inch Universal Jaw-Locking Pliers are no exception. If you've never used jaw-locking pliers, they clamp on to things without you having to keep gripping the handles. I've used mine countless times to grip onto stubborn bolts, nuts, and pipes. The ones here are currently out-of-stock because they are on sale, but you can order them and they'll be shipped when more inventory arrives. Read the rest

This cordless Dremel clone is so cheap you can buy an extra and use it as a milk frother

I've had nothing but good experiences with Tacklife tools, so I didn't hesitate to order this Cordless Rotary Tool, chargeable via USB. I will review it once I get it, but the reason I'm posting it now is that you can use a promo code today and get it at a great discount: B2SRZE34.

It comes with a number of different bits. Read the rest

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