Kevin Kelly's Blog

July 19, 2017

We have hired an editor to edit the Cool Tools podcast. It costs us $300 a month. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $172 a month to the podcast. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have nice rewards for people who contribute! – MF

Brad Templeton is founding faculty for Computing & Networks at Singularity University, and Chairman Emeritus and futurist of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the leading cyberspace civil rights foundation. He is on the board of the Foresight Institute. He also advised Google’s team developing self-driving cars, and writes about such cars at He also advises Starship on delivery robots and Quanergy in the LIDAR space. He founded ClariNet Communications Corp (the world’s first “dot-com” company.) He also created rec.humor.funny, the world’s longest running blog.

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Show notes:


4K TVs as computer monitors

“[I have] a 50-inch 4K television, and you may think, ‘Wow, that’s really big, how far away do you sit from it?’ I sit the same distance I sat from the 30-inch and the 24-inches that so many people use. In fact, if you think about it, the typical 24-inch HD monitor, that is the most common sort of monitor sold today or a few years ago, that actually is one quarter of 4K and it’s 24-inches, which means it’s basically half of the 50-inch screen. … The great thing though is, they’re selling these TVs really cheap. They’re selling them down, you can get them for five, 600 bucks, even less …They didn’t want you to use these as monitors, they designed them to be TVs. So there’s s few tricks to pull, but if you do you can get something that’s just amazing.”


“I run a voice over IP PBX in my home, that’s a little unusual. You may not need to do that, but there are lots of voice over IP services now, so you can get even your landline phone to travel with you. No matter where you are in the world, even on your cell phone or on your computer or if you want to bring a small phone with you because you like that landline experience, which I happen to. I like the voice quality and the physicality of it for a real conversation. You can get that and proxy it up so that my phone in California, you can call it, and it’s gonna ring at my desk in Paris and I can call you back. It’s gonna look like I’m there. A lot of people are doing that.”


Fire TV Stick ($40)

“I brought [overseas] my Amazon Fire Stick. I have the first generation one, that was my mistake. The second generation one can be programmed to do what you need to do here, which is use a VPN, a virtual private network. Why? Because you want to cheat all these global content controls that are telling me, even though I have an American Netflix account and I’m paying money into it right now, Netflix will not show me the things that I pay for in the US, ‘cause I’m in France.”


Sony cameras

“I like the fact that my cameras keep getting smaller. … I’ve got the Sony a7RII, that’s about the best of the digital SLRs for image quality right now. Now, Sony just came out with their A9 which is possibly better. And then in their line I have their APS-C size, that’s the sensor that’s about half the size of a full 35 millimeter frame. That drops a lot of weight. … I also have, again it’s Sony so this one doesn’t have to be, but it’s one of the nicest little point and shoots. That fits in your pocket, and it’s the DSC-RX100 IV, and that guy does get some great images. But of course it just has a point and shoot zoom lens on it.”


Starship Technologies

“My favorite tool I’m working on right now is with a company that’s based in Estonia, and it’s called Starship Technologies. We’re making a delivery robot. It’s a little robot the size of a big beer cooler, and it’s got six wheels, and it’s not fully autonomous yet, but it’s going to be. It’s going to bring you everything that you want to order in 30 minutes, and it’s gonna cost under a dollar to do it. … Like so many things these days, you won’t be able to get one. You’ll be able to get one to bring you something, or if you’re a delivery company you might be able to buy them. “

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Published on July 19, 2017 13:31 • 15 views

July 16, 2017

Five good crime books:

On the excellent Five Books website Author Simon Brett is interviewed about his five favorite crime novels. Three of his picks (A Kiss Before DyingThe Big Sleep, and The Talented Mr. Ripley) are among my favorites, so I added his other two picks to my wish list. — MF

Summer enjoyment:

I spent almost four hours lounging in this papasan float on the 4th of July and it’s now my favorite purchase of the year. Half my body stays in the water, so I’m able to stay cool while basking in the sun. The only drawback might be how easy it is to relax — time went by so fast, I got sunburned. — CD

Outstanding listen:

You know about Song Exploder, yes? It’s this amazing podcast that takes one well-known song each week and explodes it into its component parts. The musicians who wrote and perform the song take it apart track by track, sometimes beat by beat, explaining what they were thinking as they created the pieces: what challenges and dead-end they met along the way, how the song changed as they worked on it, and why they like the final version. It’s the x-ray into music I always wanted. — KK

Free app finder:

Daily App Advice shows you which paid apps are currently being given away for free in the iTunes App Store. I’ve found many useful free utilities and games here that usually cost between $1 and $10. — MF

Movie night must-have:

Cinesift is a website that combines film ratings from Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB and Metacritic and gives you the average. What I find the most helpful is that I can filter my movie search by genre, and limit results to only those available on Amazon Prime and/or Netflix Watch Instantly. That way I don’t waste time flipping between services searching for a movie. — CD

Best work surface:

I have a large self-healing mat on my workbench, and I have smaller cutting mats I lay on a table if I am working. The non-skid surface keeps parts and pieces stationary, while the cushion prevents dings in the table top beneath. And of course, the self-healing mat is ideal for cutting fabrics, paper, etc. with razors and blades. Also protects from spills better than cardboard. It is easy to clean up: just tilt and wipe. It’s become my default surface for any work. Get the largest size you can. At the minimum, an 18 x 24 inch mat covers well and yet is portable and easy to store. — KK

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Published on July 16, 2017 09:00 • 8 views

January 22, 2017


I’m a big fan of YouTube tutorials by folks who make things. One of the best YouTube channels for cool and unusual doable (by average person) projects is Grant Thompson’s King of Random. He has a well-deserved following of 7.5 million subscribers. His detailed instructions are impeccably researched, his build details clever yet totally reliable, and his project designs extremely fun and even “dangerous” in a good way. His videos are blueprints for projects but also teach me how to do my own. — KK


My first choice for getting money when traveling overseas is to use a credit card with no foreign exchange transaction fees. Credit cards give me the best exchange rates, and it reduces how much cash I carry. (If a card is not accepted, my second choice is local cash issued from an ATM, using a debit card without transaction costs. I don’t bother with Travelers Checks; they are unusable these days. And traditional money exchanges have unfavorable rates.) For a credit card without foreign transaction fees, I use a Chase Sapphire Reserve which has lots of other perks, but a high annual fee. Another good option is the Capital One Venture for $60 per year, but less perks. For the current lowdown on the best travel cards and their perks see ThePointsGuy, a free blog full of travel advice. — KK

Email App:

For many years I’ve used Gmail’s web interface. I’ve tried lots of standalone apps, but they always fell short and I’d return to Gmail. Then I tried Spark (Mac OS X and iOS) and I’m hooked. It’s smart, snappy, and has lightning fast search. I have not used Gmail since installing Spark. — MF


Here’s a funny anecdote from Isaac Asimov’s autobiography, It’s Been a Good Life. — MF


This feels like the golden age of movie theaters. I find myself making more movie dates at either dine-in theaters, like the Alamo Drafthouse or at ones with luxury loungers. Buying tickets in advance for reserved seating makes it really convenient. — CD


A while back I reverted to using an analog to-do list because it forces me to be accountable when I have to carry over my tasks to the next day. Then, this YouTube video on How to Bullet Journal entered my life and took my notebook skills to the next level. — CD


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Published on January 22, 2017 08:00 • 40 views

January 14, 2017

The time AFTER the holidays is really the best time to get gift suggestions. Now we can share the unexpected gifts we may have received from others. Were there any cool tool-ish gifts you got this year worth sharing? Leave a note in the comments, with links please.

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Published on January 14, 2017 08:02 • 15 views

December 24, 2016

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Published on December 24, 2016 08:00 • 11 views

December 18, 2016

Money Saver:

I have a small amount of money in the form of bitcoin. I discovered Purse, which lets me buy things on Amazon using bitcoin at a 15% discount. So far I’ve purchased two items over $100 each, and it has worked without a hitch. — MF


To get as far away from my bubble in Silicon Valley, I am enjoying reading Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger. Written in 1959 (not that long ago) this classic travelog describes the extremely remote path of Thesiger in the Empty Quarter of Arabia. He goes native with the Bedouin, and after years of traveling with them he can convey their alien mindset. They are not just pre-modern, they are pre-literate, primeval. The book plunges me into a wholly different way of seeing the world, which is why I keep reading. — KK


My favorite use for the Fujifilm Instax printer is for printing out small photo gifts. It’s portable, so you can take it to parties and it only takes a few minutes to wirelessly connect and print out photos straight from your phone. — CD


When texting, at the end of sentence hit the space bar twice and it will easily put a period in the right place. — KK

Better C to F:

Recomendo reader Don wrote to tell us, “Your Centigrade to Fahrenheit conversion [from Recomendo #20] works ‘sorta’ as long as the result of doubling the C number is a two-digit number. I’ve always doubled the C number and subtracted 10%, then added 32. Most folks can figure out 10% and subtract it. Also, this doesn’t result in an approximation, but the correct result.” — MF


I’ve used Canvas on Demand twice now and I am very satisfied with the quality of their premium thick wrap canvases. Sign up for the newsletter and wait for their 50-70% off promos, which happen about once a month. — CD

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Published on December 18, 2016 08:00 • 13 views

December 17, 2016

An avid reader and user of the the Cool Tools book sent in this snapshot of how his dad marked up the good stuff. Yeah, it’s all good stuff! I am proud to claim Cool Tools is the best all-around gift for anyone who wants to make stuff or make stuff happen. It’s particularly aimed at the young and young at heart. This large sized book is a much easier way to make use of this site’s vast archive. We’ve done the hard work of culling and only featuring the best of the best tools. At this point there are less than a thousand copies remaining and they have been selling fast. No more will be printed. I doubt any will be left after the holidays.

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Published on December 17, 2016 08:01 • 9 views

November 27, 2016

Secure Messaging:

Edward Snowden recommends the free encrypted chat and call app Signal. It works on Android, iOS and the desktop. Built by volunteer Open Source contributors and a group of grant-funded developers, Signal is slick and solid. I’m asking everyone I know to start using it. — MF


I’ve come to appreciate blogs more and more. They are reliable sources of informed enthusiasm and news that stays new. I’ve been surprised how few people use a RSS reader to subscribe to their select choices of blogs because a great RSS reader like Feedly is a tool I use every day. With Feedly, I can read the newest posts of any blog I subscribe to on my laptop or phone in a smooth, intelligent form. It is MUCH easier to read a blog on RSS than it is to go to the website, and it also strips away all ads and other marginalia, so I only see the core text and images. Feedly isn’t the only RSS reader, but it’s stable and highly evolved and I love it. — KK


I find that walking a labyrinth is a much simpler way for me to meditate than sitting. I stand at the entrance and contemplate my issue or question, then after some deep breathing and when I feel ready, I enter. As I walk through the winding path toward the middle, I imagine myself shedding all fears and doubts, so that when I arrive at the center I physically feel lighter and open for clarity. — CD


Backyard eggs really do taste better than farm raised ones. At least ours do. It may be because they get a more varied diet: we include our kitchen scraps, which they devour. Chickens will eat anything. I had always resisted raising chickens because of what I imagined would be a daily chore. But they are really very low maintenance. We’ve had half dozen chickens for 6 years now. Their feed trough can hold a week’s worth of feed, and an automatic water feeder keeps them in water indefinitely, so we can leave them alone for days at a time if we need to. We can always find someone willing to pick up some free, yummy backyard eggs. You can buy chicks from a mail order like McMurray Hatchery, but most feed stores, even urban ones, will sell chicks one by one. The best intro book is Raising Chickens for Dummies — KK


The Tomato One is free focus timer for iOS, based on the Pomodoro technique. I use it when I have trouble focusing. The timer goes off every 25 minutes for a 5 minute break. I make sure the sound is turned down so that the timer ding is discreet, and allow notifications on a locked screen in case I don’t hear it. Most of the time, I end up working through the breaks and get more done. — CD


In a sleepy Australian town, a group of long dead people come to life and dig themselves out of their graves. Unlike traditional zombies, they are intact, both mentally and physically. They are as confused as the good natured sheriff who becomes their protector against people who wish them harm. Can wait for season two of Glitch, this intriguing Netflix original series. — MF

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Published on November 27, 2016 08:00 • 11 views

July 8, 2016

Former Cool Tools editor Elon Schoenholz here. My primary line of work when I was editing Cool Tools was commercial photography, and that’s what I’m still doing these days — shooting art and architecture. For many years I used Domke’s journalist bag, but I have so many lenses that I need to keep them in their own secure Pelican case, and I needed a camera bag that would hold two bodies, a bunch of accessories, and a 15-inch Macbook Pro.


I found Tenba’s Messenger DNA 15, and have found it to be a very cool tool. It’s low-key enough that it doesn’t really appear to be a camera bag, which is my personal preference. It can hold a ton of gear, with well-designed external and internal zipped enclosures, that allow for a high level of organization.

One of my favorite features of this bag is that the entire padded interior can be removed, and then it can double as a handy carry-on or overnight bag. It’s not fixed in its role as a photo-specific tool.

What’s inside:


Two Canon DSLRs, one 5ds and an older but still valuable 5d markII as backup.

X-rite Color Checker ($89): I document art for work, and require a high level of accuracy in color reproduction. This is the best tool I’ve found for the job.

Patagonia Houdini Jacket ($99): One of the most versatile and useful things I own. We’re in constant motion while working, but when we break for lunch in an air-conditioned location, or when architectural exterior shots go through dusk, this light layer makes a huge difference. Granted, this is in the context of Southern California. If it cost $30 less, I’d have one stashed in every bag I own.

Macbook Pro, 15” Mid-2010: Swapped out the internal drive for a SSD, and it’s still going. For now.

Think Tank Cable Management 20 V2.0 ($23): A little pricey for a simple zippered bag, but I like that it’s transparent, so I can see if I’ve really put the item I need where I was supposed to, without having to dig around.

TetherPro USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Micro-B Cable, 15 feet ($49): For shooting tethered to my laptop.

VELCRO One-Wrap Cable Management ($5): A cool and inexpensive tool for cable control.

Manfrotto 410PL Low Profile Quick Release Adapter Plate RC4 ($18): I keep three of these in my bag, after having shown up to a job with a tripod, but no way to attach my camera to it.

Pocket Department notepad, and Uniball fine pen.

Leatherman Wave ($97): Phillips head, scissors and needle nose pliers, in order of handiness. I used to carry this on my belt, but it’s too heavy.

Spyderco Tenacious Folding Knife, G-10, partially serrated ($42): Always on my waistband. Always useful.

CF cards: Old 4GB cards. New 64GB cards. Brand not significant.

Anker PowerCore+ mini 3350mAh Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger ($10)

Eneloop AA batteries ($12, 4Pk)

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Published on July 08, 2016 02:00 • 85 views