TNT Newsletter for July 14, 2006
The Fall and Rise of MD, Kitchen Wizardry, Car Camping Made Easy, Simple Tool Organizer, Web Surplus Gone Wild, and Skype on Your Home PhoneDear MAKE: News Reader,
This week, we're sending this inaugural edition of the new MAKE: TNT Newsletter in lieu of our regular MAKE newsletter. Never fear, it will reappear!
MAKE: TNT (Tools-n-Tips) brings you a roundup of the most useful tools and tips submitted by our editors, authors, and readers. And there's a new TNT online center:
where you'll find even more tools and tips, and can submit your own recommendations.
If you like MAKE: TNT, be sure to sign up for it:
We'll be back to our regularly scheduled MAKE newsletter next week!
Associate Editor, MAKE Magazine
Welcome to MAKE: TNT! It will be sent out every other week, so you can read about the tools and tips MAKE authors and your fellow readers love the most. Whether it's something simple or something creative, a favorite brand of tool or an entirely new way of looking at things, we all rely on our friends and neighbors to tip us off to the new and the good.
Be sure to visit for our full online tools and tips directory and to add your own favorites ...
See you next time!
Staff Editor, MAKE: Magazine
Reviewed by Mark Frauenfelder
The Skype Internet Phone Wizard from Actiontec lets you make long-
distance phone calls using Skype on your ordinary phone. The unit
itself is tiny -- smaller than a little Moleskine notebook -- and you
plug it into a Windows computer with the included USB cable. The USB
connection powers the device, so there's no need for a power adapter.
(You don't know how happy that makes me. Power adapters are
depressing to look at.)
You have to install some software on your PC, which works with Skype
to let you make calls. Then you plug your phone and phone line into
the device. If you sign up for SkypeOut, you can make Skype calls to
regular phone numbers. Right now, Skype has a deal that lets you make
free calls to regular phones lines anywhere in the US or Canada until
the end of the year. (The regular price is 1.7 cents a minute).
Reviewed by Jim Doria
Years and years ago, I ordered from Jerryco newsprint surplus catalog. I looked them up on the web recently, and they are now American Science and Surplus. Not only do they have tons of the coolest, most arcane stuff, but they've got a sense of humor, too! And all of their stock is on the website, which is easy to get lost in.
Items are illustrated with whimsical line drawings and photos, and are well-described (although before reading, liberally apply pun-screen). They have the basic hardware covered, but you'll also find military surplus gear from around the globe, school supplies for the daring (or just plain weird) student, low-rent robot parts, and refugees from the Island of Misfit Toys.
They still have a printed catalog, or if you live near Chicago or Milwaukee, you can visit one of their retail locations. You might want to leave your ATM card at home though. Although individual items are usually as cheap as can be, with all the neat stuff they've got it's easy to get carried away.
Reviewed by Corwin Hardham
Try using a big carabiner as a cool means to store your box-end wrenches. The beener keeps all the sizes in order (or more precisely, you can keep them in order on the beener), and the whole mess clips to your belt for easy transport .... and for making more jingling noises than your high school janitor.
Reviewed by Dave Fonseca
Have you ever wanted to run a TV, stereo or other appliance while on the road or camping? For anyone who travels, an inverter will allow you to plug in/recharge all of your gizmos by taking 12 VDC and stepping it up to 120 VAC. Invariably, I find even if I buy a gizmo with a car adapter, I can never find it when I need it; a small inverter will recover its cost on the third car adapter you skip buying.
I'm sure some inverters are better than others, but I figured out that the most important single factor may be to insure that the one you buy will fit in whatever cubby you have in your vehicle when it has a wall-wart plugged into it. Mine makes the arm-rest in our car not quite close...I wish it were slightly smaller! But now there is no longer any danger of forgetting my battery charger in the hotel bathroom.
Reviewed by Arwen O'Reilly Griffith
Ever thought of using your washing machine as an ice chest for parties? How about adding balsamic vinegar to the water you boil eggs in so you can tell them apart from the raw ones in your fridge? The editors of Cook=92s Illustrated have anticipated and solved your every problem in this amazingly complete collection of kitchen tips, beautifully illustrated with black and white drawings.
Some of the tips are a little weak, but others are a totally fresh take on an age-old problem, like preventing ice cream cones from leaking. (Just stuff the bottom with mini marshmallows; why not make a good thing better?) If your bookshelves are already groaning, all the tips are available on cooksillustrated.com for members ($3.95 a month, or $24.95 a year).
Reviewed by Bob Scott
MD isnt dead -- at least not at my house. Last year's release of Sony's Hi-MD portables has made this flexible format even more useful for hobbyists interested in more than just ripping their CD collection (although it's pretty good at that, too). With the native storage capacity of the physical media at 1GB per disc, and enhanced compression and storage formats, the user can now pick from a broad array of recording modes, smoothly trading capacity for fidelity, while remaining backward compatible with older recordings and media.
MD is tough to beat for live recordings of music or other events. The new Hi-MD portables also act as data drives, showing up as removable media when connected to a computer with an included USB cable. You can carry a mix of data and music on one MD, potentially eliminating another gadget from your kit.
Finally, the simple, two-wire, resistance based remote control scheme used by Sony for these devices makes them potentially very hacker friendly. Working up a micro-controller based interface would be straightforward and allow you to use the Hi-MD for a variety of interesting custom applications.