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Craftsman CompuCarve – Computer-Controlled Woodworking Machine

Cool Tools
June 9, 2007 6 Comments

So I'm trying to find an excuse to to buy the $1899 (plus free shipping) Craftsman 3D Computer-Controlled Carving Machine. The CompuCarve looks amazing!! It not only carves but it can rip, cross cut, miter, contour, joint and route most soft materials. So wood, plastics (polycarbonate or cast acrylic) and certain types of high density foam will work great! For $1899 you get the machine, (1) 1/16 in. carbide carving bit, (1) 1/8 in. carbide cutting bit, a CarveWright Memory Card, the starter software package, (2) 1/4 in. bit adaptors, vacuum bag adaptor, bit removal tool, hex wrench, owner's manual and Quick Start Guide. WOW!

I guess the only drawback is that it can only handle widths of up to 14-1/2" wide and 5" high. I bet you can join your designs if you require wider, taller pieces.

My dad is a fine cabinet maker, he never got into carving, but I have been lucky because I have access to all his tools -- I wonder if I can get him excited about this one?


Oh, and they even have a 3D scanning probe, so you can recreate a design. Perfect for antique restoration!

Update: This is a rebranded CarveWright unit -- Check out this site for even more info.

- Product Page
- 3D Scanning Probe
- Watch Video


Microsoft Virtual Earth — Complete With 3D Maps & Ads!

Cool Tools
January 2, 2007 1 Comment

I was checking out Microsoft's Live Map Search today and noticed they have the option of looking at maps in 3D. Doing so requires the downloading and installation of Microsoft Virtual Earth (Beta)... once installed, I navigated to downtown Seattle where the buildings popup from the ground in full 3D (complete with skins). Amazing! Microsoft is even placing ads on virtual billboards (check out the fullsize image for a better view of a Windows Mobile billboard). When will this technology be available in our cars?

REVIEW: The TrackStick — Follow Its Every Move

Cool Tools
February 18, 2006 1 Comment
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A few weeks back, the kind folks at shipped me a unit to review. At first, I was a bit skeptical about such a device... Can that little stick actually log my every movement? When the FedEx guy finally arrived with the package, I couldn't wait to put this gadget to the test. I have used other GPS devices in the past, so I knew where to set my expectations. If you are thinking you can use a GPS unit inside of buildings, parking garages, or your house, you will be let down. GPS units require clear sight to the sky, but, don't worry to much, the TrackStick is a logging system, it takes "samples" at default or user set intervals, so if you are driving in the city, or through a tunnel, the TrackStick will continue to log until it finds the signal again -- the data will be flagged if it was not locked on a GPS signal.

The TrackStick is 4.10" long, 1.20" wide and a little bit over 3/4" thick. It is pretty basic looking, it has a single button on the side which allows you to turn the unit on or put into different modes. The casing is black, but translucent, allowing you to see the two LED lights which show you what mode the unit is in and if it has a lock on a satellite. It has a carrying strap attached which is nice if you plan on carrying in your hand or hanging it from something. The bottom part of the unit houses a full-size USB 1.1 connector. So when you are ready to download the data, just pop the cover off, plug it directly into your USB port and start downloading.


The most impressive part of the TrackStick is the software. They really thought about everything. The data can be exported in standard HTML, EXCEL, Google Earth KML (both Pushpins and Fly-Thru), and RTF. So what kind of data does the TrackStick log? Well, pretty much everything you need... Date, Time, Latitude, Longitude, Altitude, Status (Speed, Stopped For XX), Course (N,W,S,E), GPS Fix, and Signal Strength. The included software also allows you to change any settings on the TrackStick and monitor the battery level.

I used it for a few weeks and was quite surprised at how well it worked -- better than other GPS units I've used. Again, I must stress, that GPS is a bit finicky, you must wait for a GPS lock before the unit will begin logging and getting a signal lock is dependent on many variables... sometimes it can take minutes, other times seconds. That's the nature of GPS technology, not a issue with the TrackStick. However, the TrackStick was better than expected in the amount of time it took to lock.

So, now you are probably thinking this would be a great tool to track your kids or someone... well, yes and no... it would work, but not 100%. They would need to spend most of their time outdoors for it to really work. Where I find the TrackStick useful is for radio control hobbies like car, boats, and airplanes. You can strap the TrackStick on and get speed and altitude recordings. Also, the TrackStick is great for people that are in the service business. If you are a contractor or custom installer and charge per visit, etc. This would be a great tool to have so you can see how many miles you traveled and how many visits you made to a particular area, all easily logged and managed. If you have employees, you can give them a TrackStick, and monitor their route and speed -- it even tells you how long they were stopped at an area for. The only real drawbacks with the TrackStick is that this little bugger loves AAA batteries -- I went through four while testing over a few weeks.

I think the TrackStick is a very cool gadget -- and it works!. At about $300, it's a bit pricy, but the small TrackStick, the impressive logging software and Google Earth integration make it worth it. It's very easy to use, but at times I found myself in areas without good line of sight to the sky (downtown Seattle) which made it useless -- functioning like every other GPS device I have used. I would like to see the next version Bluetooth capable, so it can "stream" the data to a Pocket PC Phone, then you can also use it as a full GPS unit, making the cost more reasonable. If you have any questions about the unit feel free to comment, for more information about the TrackStick, visit I will be trying the unit out again next week as I'm traveling to NYC for a business trip... that should make for an impressive Google Earth Fly-Thru!


The CALIBUG HDTV – It’s Time To Calibrate Your HD Display

Cool Tools
December 7, 2005 No Comments

A properly calibrated display is like sleeping in clean sheets. You get a better nights sleep and it just feels right. In the past, you'd need to get a DVD calibration disc, like Digital Video Essentials or The AVIA Guide to Home Theate, but now, with HD displays, calibrating with DVD quality test patterns is just silly. Just plug the CALIBUG to your USB port and you instantly have access to hundreds of HD quality test patterns. The only way you could get all these test patterns in the past was via a dedicated Test Pattern Generators/Sync Generators which cost thousands of Dollars. Your computer has VGA/DVI output, which is how you will get these HD patterns on your screen. The CALIBUG HDTV comes in a standard keyfob version ($129) and a Swiss Army Knife ($149) version. To order, or for more information check out the itworks website. This is a great stocking stuffer for a Videophile!

Dymo RhinoPRO 3000 – Label Your Cables

Cool Tools
November 22, 2005 No Comments
rhinopro3ks.jpgIf you are setting up your A/V rack, you know how hard it is to keep track of all the cables. The folks that invented the old style embossed labels, Dymo, now have an easy way to label all your cables. The RhynoPRO 3000 labeling system uses flexible nylon or heat shrink tube labels for wire and cable marking, permanent polyester for flat and textured surfaces and metallized permanent polyester for tagging anything else you'd like. It also has a very useful feature called, Text Hot Keys, which help label frequently-used locations and equipment, you know, for all your Audio/Video, Voice/Data and Security equipment.

The Dymo RhinoPRO 3000 retails for about $100 and heatshrink refills will set you back about $30... an investment that will be worth every penny when you go to upgrade or swap out any equipment. Plus, it makes all your cables look very professional.

- -- Dymo RhinoPRO 3000


Cool Tools
November 10, 2005 18 Comments
millermatic175.jpgYes, folks... I'm asking for advise... I want to get into Welding. Why? 'Cause I want to be on Monster Garage -- known as a Master Welder. That would be neat-o... but, that's not gonna happen... the real reason is because I've always wanted to learn how to weld and now I have designed a metal staircase railing that needs welding. My arrogance tells me it should be very easy... I'm good at woodworking and circuit board soldering... so why not make the leap to full blown MIG welding? Should I get the Miller Millermatic 175 (yup... because of the name) or a Lincoln SP-175T? The Miller has infinite variable voltage and the Lincoln has that A/B/C/D voltage setting method, besides that they are very, very similar. I'd like to know which welder you think would be better for me? I'm going to be using it to weld 3"x5lbs C-Channel (for posts), welding on the 1 1/2" flange, to 1 1/2" x 1/2" flatbar. I think the 1/4" weld, this 220v Mig Welder can provide will be more than enough for what I need. I understand that if I fall in love with welding... then I'll need to move up to a more industrial MIG system. Please post your comments, I don't know how many techgeeks are into welding... I hope there are at least a few...

Oh... and what about these Harbor Freight cheapies... any good?