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!
We’ve all been told to always hope for the best but certainly prepare for the worst.
For anyone that owns or manages a business, this adage applies to their technology and should take form in a disaster recovery plan.
The easiest way to start the process is to ask yourself what you would do if the business was impacted by a flood, fire, theft, ransomware, sabotage or massive mistakes made by their users.
The steps to get your business back up and running may vary dramatically for each of the scenarios, or it may end up being fairly similar.
We’ve seen this for years, where a business has a comprehensive backup procedure in place but has never designated what is to happen in the event of a crisis.
Not training everyone what to do, if something happens means you’re hoping for the best bet never planned for the worst.
Don’t wait to try and figure out how to recover from a crisis in the middle of a crisis; do your fire drills before the fire.
If you’re computer seems to be a lot slower while surfing the Internet compared to when it was new, the problem could be you and not the computer!
A game changer in browser technology that’s taken for granted today is the ability to open multiple tabs instead of having to manually navigate back and forth within on window.
The downside to this awesome feature is that most of us open tabs and leave them open, even though we don’t need them anymore.
Each open tab takes memory, which taken to the extreme can be a big burden on your computer.
A simple way to help speed things up is to start closing the website tabs you no longer need…remember, you can always use your History to get back to them.
Everything you use on your computer, not just the web is impacted by this unnecessary use of valuable memory.
If having lots of tabs open is important, checkout an add-on called One Tab for the Chrome browser.
Once installed, it converts all your open tabs to one single tab with a table of contents for what was open.
It’s a more efficient way of having quick access to your important websites without the memory burden.
A while back, we told you about Adobe's shift from traditional software to an online subscription model for their popular apps like Photoshop and Lightroom.
For those that don’t really need these powerful programs all that often, it’s hard to think about having to pay over $50 a month to use them.
The good news is that there’s a free option for people in this situation from a company called Pixlr.
Unlike Photoshop, there’s nothing to buy, download, install or configure in order to start editing your images and graphics because it’s all browser based.
It’s certainly not as powerful as Photoshop, but it’s got all the important features like red-eye tools, healing, drawing, cloning, sharpening as well as lots of great HDR options.
It’s also able to open existing Photoshop files, which means you won’t have to start from scratch if you use Pixlr.
Give it a try for yourself at: https://pixlr.com
Anyone that has to take multiple medication, especially those that have to do so multiple times during the day knows the potential for confusion.
An app that can both assist in the scheduling and reminders of pill taking as well as save its users from bad interactions is available called Mango Health.
Knowing what you can or can’t eat or drink around pill taking time is another cool feature of this free app.
It’s extremely easy to get setup and use, because all you do is generate your schedule based on your current prescriptions and the app does its magic.
Because most of us can easily forget to take a pill that helps us to improve our memory, but seem to always remember to have our phones with us, this app is such a great tool for pill takers:
Have you ever noticed that the citizens of lots of other countries typically speak multiple languages? Isn’t it about time we stepped up our bi-lingual game too?
Technology has made it much easier to translate small segments of a foreign language, but it’s far from actually learning that language.
If you’d like to try learning a new language in a more interactive and engaging manner, checkout the options at Duolingo.com
By connecting you to your friends that are also interested in learning a new language, you can encourage each other through gamification.
Their approach is to take the boredom out of learning a new language, so if you can commit a couple of minutes every day, you may be surprised how quickly you progress.
Download the app or start using this totally free, but powerful service online at https://www.duolingo.com
If you own or manage a business, do you know what your customers are saying about you online?
Most customers make buying decisions based on reviews, so knowing what people are saying and responding to them is an essential process to manage your online reputation.
A clear first step is use a free but powerful tool from Google called Google Alerts, which will automatically send you an email alert whenever your business is mentioned anywhere online that Google includes in their search results.
It’s quick and easy to start getting alerts just by putting your name in the alert. Be sure to use quotation marks if your business name has multiple words in it, so you don’t get a bunch of meaningless alerts.
Remember, you can’t fix a customer problem that you aren’t aware of, so don’t look at negative reviews as something you should ignore.
It’s actually a great way to show the world that you care when you respond to someone that posts a less than glowing review of their experience with you.
No business is perfect, so stepping up when something goes wrong is a solid approach in today’s online reputation game.
How often do you wonder whether you have the best cellular service where you live and work?
Do your friends have better service than you or is it the other way around?
The reality is that where you spend most of your time day and night will have the biggest impact on which providers is best suited to your needs.
Whenever you’re trying to figure out if it’s time to switch carriers, instead of asking your friends and family, use the real-world coverage map data that’s available at http://rootmetrics.com
It’s based on actual users on a cell-by-cell basis, so you can actually track the specific areas around your place of work and where you live.
You can get a generalized score for your entire city as well, so you get the best coverage around town.
If you download their app and use it around town, you will be contributing to the communities data, so others that are trying to make a decision can do so based on current measurement data that you helped provide!
Do you have friends or family that just can’t remember that Google has the answers for most of what they keep asking you?
If you’re the one that’s always being asked questions that are simply available by asking any of the search engines, today’s tip is for you.
Start amusing yourself when asked those simple questions by making use of Let Me Google That For You or http://lmgtfy.com
You just type in the simple question that they could have typed themselves and the website does the rest.
You simply copy the link that the site generates based on your question and send it to the person that could use a gentle nudge to start using Google themselves.
When they click on the link that you send, not only does it show them to go to Google, it shows them step-by-step in an animated way what they could have done for themselves.
Not only can it help you educate your friends and family, it’s a ton of fun at the same time!
Did you know that you can find inexpensive or even free alternatives to those expensive programs that you thought you had to use?
It’s still a lesser known fact that there are lots of programs referred to as ‘open source’ that can provide the utility that all the well known brand-name programs have even offering.
Because of the open source movement, programmers from around the world contribute to improving software that can them be used by anyone that wants to try it.
Our go-to resource for finding these alternatives to mainstream software is at https://alternativeto.net
It’s really easy to find any alternatives for a software program that you don’t want to spend big bucks on when you use the search function at the website.
The programs listed as alternatives work with just about every major operating system you are using.
This is another obvious bookmark opportunity so you can quickly find a cheap alternative the next time you need one!
If you have noticed that popping around the Internet has become a bit slower, you’re probably not imagining things, especially if you like opening a lot of different pages at the same time.
it’s really great that we can have lots of different web pages open at the same time, but that can come at a cost.
Separate tabs are great because it makes it easy to go from one unrelated page to another.
The problem with this helpful option is that it will consume lots of working memory with each new tab that you open.
The best approach to this awesome capability is to not get overly generous with the number of tabs you open.
The reason that you should pay attention to how many websites you open at the same time is that it can reduce the speed of everything you do on your computer.
For those that have a chronic problem with too many tabs, there’s an add-on for that if you use Google’s browser.
Instead of piling up the open websites, the OneTab add-on will consolidate all of the background tabs into one page.
By doing so, it frees up lots of wasted memory so your computer can run more efficiently even though you are a tab-o-holic!
Get this cool add-on at https://www.one-tab.com
It’s the 4th of July and that means that we’re all going to be watching the sky light up with fireworks.
Anyone that’s struggled to get a decent picture of the light show in the sky, should listen closely to today’s tip.
If you don’t understand what it takes to be successful, it’s nearly impossible to get that perfect shot as the flashes pop above you.
With just a few quick adjustments to what you’ve been doing can easily improve your results.
Keeping your camera perfectly still is critical, so start by getting a tripod that will make it possible.
The flash is useless, so turn it off and look for either a night or better yet, a fireworks setting.
For even better results, look for a ‘burst’ mode, which take a lot of pictures in succession.
Try to setup at a place where you aren’t shooting straight up, but rather from a far enough distance that the show is more in front of you.
For those with cameras that offer manual setting options, a more detailed list of suggestions is posted
Today’s tip will help keep you from missing shows from your favorite bands that come to your area.
Rather than having to track your favorite bands individually via social media or a fan website, here’s a way to track them all in one place.
Start by visiting the https://www.bandsintown.com website, where you can get the app for your smartphone and connect your Facebook profile for a much easier way to track show for your favorite groups.
Once you’ve get it all setup, you’ll get a notice every time one of your favs is set to play in your town as well as provide options of similar bands.
The real power of this app is how it cultivates the lists of the bands you love so you don’t miss their next gig.
It does it by scanning the various music apps on your smartphone along with the songs that you listen to a lot and the bands that you like on Facebook.
With Bands in Town you can let technology do all the work so you can catch your favorite artists when they come to your town!
The single most important security protection you have is your passwords and it’s critical that you avoid using the same one everywhere.
There are many free password management tools available including one of our favorites called LastPass, but we also understand that apps may become overwhelming.
As much as I love technology solutions for common problems, there’s a non-technical option that you can use: just write them down.
Don’t display them in plain sight, but rather keep them written down in a safe place like a file on your computer or smartphone.
Avoid making it obvious that it’s a password list and use a way to mislead anyone that happens to find the file.
Create your own special encryption like add four or five random characters in front or after your real password so only you will know what the actual password is.
Remember that a single company that you have an account with will expose the password you’re using everywhere, so instead write them down so they’re all different.
Let’s start today’s tip with a little explanation of a tech term: Word Cloud
You may not have ever heard the term, but you’ve most likely seen a word cloud.
It’s those visual clusters of random words in a graphic image that shows the words used the most in the largest font or brightest color.
Taking a large amount of text and viewing it through a word cloud allows useful themes to emerge.
It’s a quick way to make sense of lots of feedback from your customer reviews, instead of having someone read them one at a time.
An easy way to start making your own word clouds is at a site called TagCrowd which allows you to copy and paste your text, upload a document or even evaluate any web page.
I’ve used it in presentations and for leading team meetings and recommend that everyone in business take a minute to see if a word cloud can make an impact in your business: https://tagcrowd.com
It’s no secret that most US citizens have a hard time saving money, though most would like to make it happen.
Younger people have little to no savings and generally don’t begin saving until their mid-30’s.
One of the many companies trying to help people start painlessly saving money is called Digit.
Their approach examines your personal spending needs and habits to figure out what you can save without missing other payments.
By understanding your financial patterns, it can figure out the spare amounts that you won’t need for your regular expenses and put it into a separate account.
The FDIC insured account gets built up with small, but regular amounts of money that you won’t need. This account won’t generate any interest, but not much is available that will these days.
Anyone looking for a way to start saving or help someone else start to save money should look into how Digit works at https://digit.co
Did you know that the very common file type used for online forms, known as a PDF stands for portable document format?
Just about any official form you will ever recieve will be a PDF file, which you generally have to print out to fill out manually. After all that, you still have to figure out how to get it back into your computer so you can send it back.
There are lots of programs you can install on your computer that will allow you to fill out forms electronically, but why bother for that occasional need.
A better approach for those of you that have an occasional need to electronically fill out a form is at https://www.pdfescape.com
While you can download and install their editing tool, using their website to upload your form is fast and hassle free.
You can create new forms, upload your own or even load them from another website. To fill out the form, simply use the text menu to start typing just about anywhere on the form and save it back to your computer when you finish filling everything out.
It totally bypasses the download, print, fill out, scan then send process so many are still using!
This tip is a very important one for anyone that has setup an Internet connected camera for their business or home.
There are websites that have been setup to expose weakly secured webcams by the thousands by showing the live feed because whoever set them up left them with a well-known password.
The webcams are not only giving up their live streams, they provide location information as well because they're still setup using the factory installed sign in info.
The people putting these websites together see themselves doing public service by exposing this all-too-common oversight.
The factory set password can be found by anyone, not just hackers, for virtually every gadget you own, so leaving devices that are connected to the Internet without changing this password is a bad idea.
Remember, if you can access something remotely, potentially the entire Internet can if you make it possible.
Make sure you change the default username and password on every device connected to your network and the Internet or take the risk of unwittingly sharing it with the world.
Owning a rental property is a great way to build assets for your family, but collecting the rent every month can be an ongoing hassle.
If you haven’t adopted some form of electronic rent collection as of yet, have I got a tip for you!
A free service to both the landlord and the tenant can take the hassle out of manual rent collection.
For the property owner, it takes no time at all to setup your account so you can convert to electronic payments.
For your renters, especially if there are multiple parties, splitting up the rent amount is a snap and eliminates the excuse of needing to track down a roommate.
The Cozy platform doesn’t charge a fee for either party in hopes that it can convince the property owner to use many of its other services like electronic applications, tenant background checks and even rental listings via their network.
You may have to wait a couple days longer than the 1st of each month to get your payments, but getting rid of the hassle could be just what many landlords are looking for: https://cozy.co
If you’re a person that has a very active mind, you may have trouble shutting down in order to get a good night’s sleep.
I’m in that camp and routinely testing various sleep aid apps that I can use in an unobtrusive way when I go to bed.
If you like a lot of soothing sounds of nature, check out an app called ‘Relax Melodies’.
It goes way beyond a handful of pre-programmed sounds and you have total control over all the elements used in making your own sleep sounds.
Birds, waterfalls, rain, ocean waves, running rivers and thunder are just the beginning of the options.
When you’re done with nature’s sounds, you can add any number of etherial music beds to complete you custom made tracks.
It’s available for free on all the major smartphone platforms with a premium option if you really want everything they have to offer.
By the way, it’s not just for going to sleep; you can create sounds that will help you be more productive during the day as well.
There are millions of apps available for our smartphones and many of them are free to use, which makes them very popular.
One possible downside to many of those free apps is that they use advertising to pay for them, which can be a hidden cost for those that don't have an unlimited data plan.
Another 'tax' that ad-based free apps typically put on your smartphone is a reduction in battery life.
There have been research papers done on this issue that show that the ads use eighty percent more data than apps that don't use ads to pay for them.
Since they tend to load the ads in the background, they can take up more memory and drain batteries faster.
Anyone that's constantly bumping up against their data plan's limits or has to recharge their phone in the middle of the day should pay attention to how many ads are being served in the apps they use.
Free apps may be encroaching on your privacy as well, which you inadvertently gave permission to as another way to pay for 'free apps'.
If you like a free app and they offer an ad-free version for a buck or two, it may be money well spent!