THINGS THAT DON’T SUCK: So I’ve got this Black & Decker jump-starter/compressor/power source and I’ve found it very handy for topping off tires. (The RX-8’s combination of low-profile tires and finicky tire-pressure sensors means that I get an alarm whenever the temp drops significantly). I haven’t used it to jump-start anything, but it looks like it ought to work well. On the other hand, this gadget from Duracell has less jump-start power (300 amps instead of 450) but puts out 110v AC, too.

Related: Power Preparedness.

UPDATE: Reader Brian King offers what he calls a “semi-review” of the Duracell 300:

I bought one of these recently – was looking for a compressor, but this one had the extras for not much more money.

So far, I’ve only used the compressor (which did the job … two tires from about 25psi to 35psi in just over 5 minutes each … the pressure gauge is pretty reliable even while pumping, which is nice) and the inverter (to charge a blackberry – I know, what a waste to take DC and convert it to AC only to have the charger turn it back into DC again, but it did the job, too).

When they add a few USB ports, I’ll buy another one!

Not a bad idea.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Bruce Webster writes:

I actually have two of the larger model (B&D Electromate 400):

This model has two 120 volt AC outlets, beside two 12 volt DC (car-style) outlets. I’ve been using them to power the Christmas lights on a live 8′ pine tree at the entrance to our driveway (about 160 yards from our house; it was that or 1/10th of a mile of extension cords). One unit will keep the Christmas lights going 6 to 7 hours; recharge time appears to be roughly 12 hours, but it may be less than that (I’ve been recharging them in the garage, so I don’t really see when they’re done).

Kinda wish I’d bought that one. Or maybe this one, with a USB charger port.