A cool tool

One of the blogs I keep an eye on is Gizmag, which I’m sure used to describe itself as “the emerging technology magazine”, although it now seems to have dropped that slogan.  According to its “About” page, Gizmag is over 10 years old and is “a celebration of human endeavor”; as you can see from the spelling it’s US based. The Gizmag owners say “We aim to inspire, not ridicule. We cover technology, not the politics or the money behind it.”  All in all, that seems to be a pretty laudable goal and it’s certainly a good blog to follow if you’re interested in technology.

One of the gadgets that recently featured was of particular interest to me as a cyclist.  This was the Nutter, a very cunning looking bike multi-tool.

Multi-tools are very popular amongst cyclists, as they enable you to carry several different screwdrivers and allen keys (and sometimes other things) in one small, handy package.  That’s great for taking with you on a bike for doing roadside repairs and could be used by more generally by cyclists on a tight budget, although I generally find it much easier to use dedicated tools when I’m working in the relative comfort of my own garage.

The small size of a multi-tool, which is one of its main strengths, is also one of its biggest weaknesses, since having very short handles they don’t provide much leverage and therefore make it harder to loosen very tight screws and allen bolts (or, conversely, to tighten them very hard — though for most purposes you can get things sufficiently tight with a good multitool).

The Nutter is designed to overcome this problem, by the simple expedient of making a longer tool.  It does this by combining it with a tyre lever, which is another tool that most sensible cyclists would carry as a matter of course.   From the photos, it looks a bit bigger than the tyre levers I usually use, but again the extra size would give more leverage and make it easier to get tyres on and off.  In any case, the increased size would be offset by the fact you wouldn’t need to carry separate tyre levers as well as the multitool.

In addition to the tyre lever and a fairly standard set of allen keys (aka hex keys) and screwdrivers – which are supplied as removable bits, rather than on separate shafts – the Nutter comes equipped with a 15mm spanner and a spoke spanner, as well as a handy carrying case.

Apparently the Nutter hasn’t yet gone on to the general market but if they become available at a price within my budget I’ll certainly consider getting one, as it looks like a very useful tool to have and a well-designed (and made) bit of kit.

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Kindling a Fire

This morning I received an email from Amazon to say that they are launching their new generation of Kindles in the UK soon (25th October, to be precise). They have been available in the US for a while already.

I have now had my Kindle for about 2 years and I’m still finding it to be a very useful tool. It is a 3rd generation device, one of the ones with a built-in keyboard, monochrome screen and wireless connectivity (I decided against paying extra for the 3G-connected version).

The main benefit, for me, of the Kindle is the ability to store many books in a very small space. This is particularly useful when travelling as I no longer have to decide which 2 or 3 books to squeeze into my luggage; instead, I can take an entire library of several hundred books (I’ve lost count how many are now on my Kindle) in roughly the same space as a medium-sized paperback. The E Ink display is much easier to read than a typical computer screen for extended periods and the size is better than my phone, whose display is cramped (battery life is also significantly better on the Kindle). The loss of ability to easily flick through a book is largely compensated by the ability to search and to set up bookmarks and highlights, although I wouldn’t want to completely replace my existing dead tree library with e-books.

The most obvious feature of the new Kindle Fire devices is the colour display. This would be particularly good for viewing graphic novels and photos within books, although would also make the covers look nicer. Apparently these devices can also be used for watching videos and accessing Skype and other internet services, as well as generally being faster and, presumably, having more storage space than the older models.

At some point I’d certainly like to get a Kindle Fire. However, for now I’m quite content to stick with my old Kindle. I have several computers and a phone which I can use for internet access and I don’t have a lot of e-books with colour illustrations that would benefit from the improved display. I suppose my Kindle will eventually wear out or I’ll accumulate enough books with colour pictures to make it worth investing in a new one. By that time, it’s quite possible that the Kindle Fire will have been replaced by something even better.