Data Doctors Tech Tips
Tech Tips for Non-Tech People
We give quick, one minute tech tips each weekday! Join us on a radio station near you as we talk tech. It's Tech Tips for Non-Tech People! You can post questions on Facebook anytime!
When your computer starts to run a little slow, many of you assume that means it's time to get a new computer.
If your computer is really old maybe, but there's an inexpensive way to get it running like it’s new again.
It is known as a Hybrid harddrive and it is one of the "best kept secrets" in the computer world.
There are 3 major internal components that have a dramatic impact on how fast your computer will run: your processor, RAM and harddrive.
The hard drive turns out to be the biggest bottleneck and improving this bottleneck will have a huge impact on performance.
And best of all, it's a lot less expensive than buying a new computer.
Hybrid hard drives make use of a super fast solid state memory circuit combined with an old-school magnetic drive and keep the files you use most on the much faster partition.
If you upgrade, you can use the old hard drive as a backup drive by putting it into an external enclosure.
So, before you spend a ton of money replacing an old computer, check to see if a hybrid-hard drive can save you money and pep up your system at the same time!
Weddings are meant to be a joyful experience but the days leading up to the big day are usually filled with to-dos and stress.
One of the biggest decisions is choosing what method you’ll use to create a gift registry.
The options for creating the gift registry are numerous, but just about all of them will limit the gift options to only what the site is setup to sell.
If you know of a couple that’s announced their nuptials, let them know about Zola.com; that’s Z O L A.com
Zola allows wedding couples to create their gift registry from products, services, experiences or even a honeymoon trip, but makes this site different is that the items can be from just about anywhere on the Internet.
Zola creates a single site for everything on the couple’s wish list and then it manages all the transactions in one place as well.
There is also an option to schedule delivery of all the gifts, which is critical for newlyweds that know that they are going to move or delay delivery until the get back from the honeymoon.
You can even create group gifting for more expensive items; it’s like a Kickstarter for weddings.
Zola.com is a modern customizable gift registry that can do it all for the engaged couple.
The initials "PDF" stands for 'Portable Document Format' and it is the de facto standard for publishing documents and forms.
The problem is that when you download a web-form, you have to print it, fill it out by hand and then scan and email it back, fax it back or send it via snail mail.
While you can install programs that will provide the ability to electronically fill out the form, it's a bit much, especially for those that only need it once in a while.
The next time you find yourself needing to fill out a PDF form, checkout a web tool called PDFescape.com.
Because it is a web based tool, there is nothing to download and install, so you can fill out and modify forms whenever you want from any Internet connected computer.
All you do is upload your PDF to the site and fill in the existing text boxes or use their 'Text' tool which allows you to add text anywhere on the form. When you're done, just save the updated form on your computer so you can email it back.
http://pdfescape.com is worth bookmarking!
I’ve discussed many travel apps over the years, but when the big boss, better known as my wife tells me she’s found the ultimate travel app, I paid attention.
She's always been the most detailed trip-planning person I have ever seen work so my many past app suggestions have never impressed her.
Trip Rider is an app that appears to have cut through the noise and actually has my in-house travel agent proclaiming its greatness.
The app helps you store and track every single detail of your adventures in a single place and is very flexible, so you can easily make changes to your itinerary without having to start all over.
By adding quick notes before, during & after your journey, the app also makes it easy to create journals of your adventures.
It even incorporates a virtual-wallet for all those critical documents that you need, like ID cards, passports and credit cards.
Even if you aren't a hard-core travel fanatic, you should look into the checkout http://triprider.com app, which is currently available for iphone users only.
Incorporating long and complex passwords unique to each of your online accounts is a critical part of protecting your personal information.
But trying to remember all those complex passwords is virtually impossible, so using a password manager to help you stay safe is essential these days.
If you're still searching for a management system that works for you, take a look at features of http://RoboForm.com.
RoboForm is not only a solid password manager program, it can help you fill out online forms with your recurring information, which can be a big time saver especially for online shopping.
Another great feature is the batch login option which can automatically log you in to the three or four of the sites that you use everyday, all with one click.
As with all password managers, once you get it setup, all you need to remember is one password for your Roboform account to sign into all your online accounts.
The basic features are free and there are optional mobile apps that you can buy at RoboForm.com
Think of the many ways we use to communicate with the mountain of contacts we have in our smartphones.
E-mail, Phone calls, text messages, Twitter, Facebook's Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, Skype and the list continues on.
With that, we have to decide which method of communication is best for each of your contacts and then manually go to the appropriate app.
Well, there's good news for Android smartphone users because there's a really good solution to this ongoing communication problem.
An app called Drupe, that's spelled D R U P E, presents all your contacts along with your various communication apps on one central screen.
You use the Drupe app by dragging your contacts over to the communication app that is best for reaching them...it’s a much more efficient way to go.
It also works with calendars, reminders, Google Maps and even some payment systems like Venmo and Paypal.
This approach makes more sense these days since communicating with your contacts requires so much more than basic messaging.
Checkout this Android app at http://www.getdrupe.com
A common pet peeve with our computers is when it takes forever to shut down, right?
Well, you may have the temptation to tap the power button to force a shutdown but it turns out to be a really bad idea.
Your computer generates lots of temp files as a normal course of business that generally get tagged for deletion when you go to shutdown your computer.
Windows in particular has an elaborate housekeeping procedure that it executes whenever you shutdown, which you can watch happening through the flashing hard drive indicator light on your system.
When you don’t allow this to be completed, you’re filling up your hard disc with unnecessary junk files.
Remember, a computer that gets low on hard disc space will be impacted by slower performance.
If you know that you’re guilty of doing this in the past, you can use the built-in Disk Cleanup utility to track down the errant files and delete them to free up that valuable space.
When it comes to shutting down your computer, patience is not only a virtue, but a benefit.
By the way, Mac users should also do the same to help keep things running smoothly too!
Once again, the Internet of Things or IOT was prominent at CES with inexpensive connected devices being shown by just about everyone.
I’m really interested in wireless sensor tags which allow you to monitor everything from location to motion to temperature or even humidity on just about anything in your environment.
Inexpensive sensing devices allow you to keep track of things like when your garage door is left open or when any kind of motion is detected. Put one inside your refrigerator and you can get alerts whenever anyone is sneaking into the fridge!
The sensors attached to smartphone apps can start to alert you to just about activity as it happens anywhere in or around your home or business.
While motion sensing is wonderful, monitoring moisture or humidity levels allows you to get updates in the event of a water leak.
This sensing tech that allows you to monitor just about everything you own ranges from $20 to $70.
Wireless tags are the starting point to setup your monitoring system and you can learn all about them at http://wirelesstag.net.
Those of us that live on e-mail usually spend way too much time every day getting distracted by useless messages because we are now on so many junk mailing lists.
You most likely have no idea how your address got into the majority of the lists, but because of hidden auto-opt in traps we encounter daily, it is just going to keep happening.
If you are fed up with useless messages, junk email and newsletters you don't care to read, a free utility called Unroll.Me will help you reduce your daily load.
Once you allow it to scan your Inbox messages, it will automatically list every recognized subscription message alphabetically so you can decide whether you want to keep them, unsubscribe or add less important messages to a 'roll-up'.
Think of a Roll-Up as a digest of the messages from less important sources that get combined into a single message, so you no longer get them all day long.
For those important messages, you simply choose 'Keep in Inbox' to make sure you keep seeing them as they are sent.
The free Unroll.Me service works with popular platforms like Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, AOL, iCloud, and Outlook.com. Check out this awesome service at https://Unroll.Me!
Practically every major cyber security organization in the world is warning the us all that smartphones are fast becoming the biggest target by hackers and cyber-thieves.
The majority of the dangerous threats in the wild are targeting users outside the United States through third party app download sites.
Since the most likely method your phone will be compromised these days is through a rogue app, make sure you only download your apps from the official app store, which will bypass the majority of today's threats.
If you have an Android smartphone, you can take an extra step to avoid the sneaky tactics to trick users that we’re starting to see more of from the bad guys.
Go to your phone's 'Security' settings menu and search for the option marked as 'Unknown sources'.
If you turn off this switch, your phone won’t allow the installation of any app from an unknown source without warning you of the possible dangers.
Not only is it a good security practice to avoid unnecessary app installations, it's also a great way to avoid potential privacy issues and retain valuable space for more important things like music, videos and pictures.
Popular search sites like Google and Bing are wonderful for finding what we're searching for on the Internet, but the trade-off is that these sites gather quite a bit of valuable information whenever we use them.
While the resulting custom search results can be very helpful, with all of the privacy issues we're hearing about anymore, many people are looking for a little more privacy when searching the web.
A web resource called Startpage understands the need for privacy while searching and offers "the world’s most private search engine" or so they claim.
Popular sites usually capture your current IP address, what you're searching for, the site that you came from and what you clicked in the search results.
The Startpage search system doesn't capture any of those things, but it still allows you to use the world's most powerful search engine:Google.
Think of it as a Harry Potter invisibility cloak, as they act as a security blanket whenever you are searching around on the Internet.
Learn all about it and give it a try at https://Startpage.com
I’m constantly reminding everyone I meet that one of the best security measured anyone can take is to turn on 2-factor authentication for all of their online accounts.
It creates an extra layer of cyber-protection that is really hard to beat.
2-factor authentication is actually something you've used on a regular basis for years.
A great example is your debit card because you have to have both the actual bank card and the PIN that’s associated with it.
Can you imagine having a debit card that did not require a PIN to use? Well, it's essentially what your doing with your online accounts if you haven't turned on 2-factor authentication.
Once you tun it on, if a hacker manages to steal your username and password, they would also have to steal your smartphone at the same time in order to actually get into your account.
As an additional benefit, it will become your early warning system should someone ever acquire your username and password because you’ll get a text passcode out of the blue.
Virtually every online service is now offering this important layer of security, so if you want if you want step-by-step instructions for most major sites, I’ve posted the link at DataDoctors.com/radio.
Understanding our financial status while planning for our retirement is something that we all know we need to do, but getting around to doing it can become overwhelming if you are trying to track everything manually.
I recently tried an online resource called https://www.personalcapital.com that greatly simplified tracking all of my various financial accounts.
In a relatively short period of time, I was able to generate a dashboard that now shows me everything I have in one place.
It provides you with simple tools to see everything from your net worth to an analysis of your investment portfolio and even do some ‘what if’ retirement planning so you have a clearer understanding of what it's going to take for retirement.
Now, this isn’t designed for active stock traders, it is really for those of us that just want to go to one place to see all of their financial information.
Personal Capital also has a great smartphone app that'll allow you to quickly review your financial life every day, no matter where you are!
Manage your personal capital at https://www.personalcapital.com.
Yesterday's tip was how to use GetHuman.com to find contact information when you need help from major companies.
Today's tip is about a website that works with GetHuman so you aren't stuck sitting on hold when you do finally reach the customer service department.
The site is called Lucyphone and it can wait in your spot whenever you call recognized support numbers and get put on hold!
Using Lucyphone to call support lines allows you to press the star button twice if you get put on hold so their system can call you back when an agent actually does get on the line.
To use this useful tool, simply put the customer service phone number along with your own number and then click on the connect button.
This will generate a call to your phone from the Lucyphone system with options to either connect or get instructions, like how to record your message for the person answering when they actually pick up the call.
You can even tell Lucyphone to connect to completely different number when the agent finally does pick up.
Learn more about this great free service at http://Lucyphone.com
We all, from time to time, need to get hold of the customer service department at a large companies, either to clear up a billing question or for support on something that we bought.
In some cases the toll-free phone number is easy to find, but more often then not, the company is going to great lengths to hide the phone numbers.
If you try to use Google to find the proper phone number, it can expose you to a variety of scams, so I’ve got a suggestion that's much safer: http://GetHuman.com
GetHuman is a website with a comprehensive list of the various ways to get in contact with major companies including everything from phone numbers to e-mail addresses, Twitter handles and even live chat options if they exist.
We aren't talking about just one phone number, but every phone number for every department that the site knows about that provides some type customer service purpose.
They may even be able to give you average wait times to get to an actual human, in some cases.
GetHuman.com is a great resource for many customer service shortcuts.
Tomorrow's tip will help you avoid waiting on hold!
A relatively new mother recently asked me about preparing her young child with tech skills to improve his future prospects when the time comes.
IMHO, one of the most important things you can teach any child is how to write code as it will serve them well no matter what they decide to do as a career.
It's not just programmers, web developers or scientists that benefit from knowing how to code; it impacts virtually any line of work these days.
It is such a fundamentally useful skill set that will allow anyone with this 'second language' to leverage the exploding digital world all around us.
One of the best places for parents to get their kids started in the world of coding is at MIT’s Scratch project
The Scratch Project website will allow kids age 8 to 16 to create their own interactive games, stories & animations.
It's easy to use and fun, so it helps anyone learn to think creatively, use systematic reasoning and to collaborate, which are essential skills for life in this digital world.
BTW, it's not just for kids, so check out this amazing free tool at https://scratch.mit.edu/
I’m a huge fan of dual displays on my computer and couldn’t even begin to imagine functioning without them.
But, when I hit the road and want the extra display space, it isn’t very practical to carry around a second display, unless that second screen is an iPad I already have.
Users of MacBooks have been able to tether their iPads to their laptops for a while, but Windows users can now do the same thing thanks to an app called Duet Display.
By loading Duet on any laptop or desktop and the app on an iPad, you can easily expand your display to your iPad as an extension of your primary screen.
Once you set it up, you simply drag any program from your desktop over to your iPad, which is super helpful when you’re working on a large spreadsheet or do a lot of copy/paste tasks.
Duet works with both Mac or Windows-based computers and extends via iPads or iPhones as long as they are connected via the charge cable.
If you have yet to experience the wonder of having dual screens, give this excellent app a try.
Learn more at http://DuetDisplay.com
Our smartphones have incredible cameras built-in that can generate super-high resolution pictures and beautiful HD video.
The by-product of this amazing technology is that it creates huge files, especially when you shoot a video.
When you try to send or post high-res videos via e-mail or social media, they automatically get compressed, which lowers the video quality.
If you ever need to share your high-resolution or HD videos in all their uncompressed glory, look into an app called WeTransfer.
WeTransfer is an easy to use and totally free method of sending files up to 10 GBs in size right from your smartphone to anyone via an e-mailed link.
The app works on iOS and Android smartphones, with Android users getting the integration option in any app with the Share icon.
Unlike other transfer services, your friends don’t have to create an account or download an app; they simply click the download button in your email to download your original uncompressed image and video files.
Checkout the free app for yourself at http://WeTransfer.com/mobile
Internet-based streaming media boxes have become a common sight in many homes these days.
With various options ranging from Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV and even Xbox, there are many ways to stream TV and movies to your HD TVs.
If you happen to have an Apple TV and an iPhone, it's easy to push whatever’s on your iPhone to your TV.
The same holds true if you use an Android smartphone and Google's Chromecast, but if your circle of friends or family has a mix of both, an app called Allcast may be of help.
The Allcast app is able to connect both iPhone or Android smartphones to a wide variety of streaming boxes or smart TVs so you can stream from just about any smartphone to any popular streaming device.
The free version of Allcast will allow you to get a taste of how it works, but it will limit you to 5 minutes of viewing. If you test it and like it, you can upgrade to the fully functional pro version for $5.
Just look for Allcast in the Apple App Store or Google Play to give it a test drive!
If you’re using a laptop as your primary computer, you’ve figured out that the battery life is amongst the most common irritations.
The more you use it, the faster the battery life diminishes because all batteries have a set number of charge cycles.
With this in mind, a tip that may help you extend the life of your battery is to simply remove it when you know you are going to be using the laptop while plugged-in for extended periods of time, like days or weeks.
It has a little to do with the excessive charging cycles but more to do with the heat that gets generated, which is a big killer of battery life.
The heat from the running laptop over long stretches can have an impact as well as the heat generated by the battery impacting your computer.
An important thing to keep in mind on this tip is to never plug or unplug the laptop battery in while your device is running.
Make sure you always properly shutdown the laptop and make sure it isn't in sleep or hibernation mode.
Another thing to consider is making sure the laptop is plugged into a battery backup whenever you do remove the battery.
Cyber security experts have been warning for quite some time that our mobile devices, especially smartphones are becoming a most desirable target for hackers.
Since everyone loves discovering new apps, it's becoming the latest attack vector being exploited by cyber thieves.
Nothing emphasis the danger more than the discovery of at least eleven malicious iPhone apps that looked very legit and used in what are known as masque attacks.
The malicious apps appear to be popular ones like Facebook, Skype, Whatsapp or Twitter but they actually allow remote hackers to access and monitor just about everything on your device without you knowing.
This type of threat is successful by tricking users into downloading what appears to be a popular app, so we've all got to pay very close attention to the where we are getting our apps.
The most likely ways you'll be presented the malicious downloads is through links on social media or via email, so be sure that you only get your apps from directly from the Apple App store.