Data Doctors Tech Tips
Tech Tips for Non-Tech People
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How irritating is it when you expect a solid internet connection, but you can’t seem to get anywhere quickly either at home or on the road.
Figuring out why your connection is less than useful can get a bit complicated as you don’t know if it’s your device or something along the connections of the network you are on.
When it’s your computer and your own network, you have a little more control over tracking down the problem, but not so much when you are using someone else’s connection.
To help narrow down where the problem may be, checkout this cool add-on called ‘Connectivity Diagnostics’ for the Chrome browser that will diagnose your connection in real-time.
Adding this tool to your browser allows you to thoroughly test your connection and shows you any potential issues that could impact performance.
If you’re not tech savvy, you may be looking at a bunch of info that looks like Greek to you, but it’s useful info when you reach out for help from someone technical.
Check it our for yourself at:
What has made our smartphones so much more than just a calling device is the power of the apps we download and use.
If you or someone you know has been considering creating an app of their own for their business, today’s tip is for you.
An interesting web resource at https://appmachine.com could be an inexpensive way to accomplish what is usually an expensive proposition.
As long as your apps features are fairly simple, you should be able to generate something useful without having to know how to write code.
You can use the content on your website to help generate the basis for your app or build it from scratch using their building blocks.
Creating your app costs nothing as they make their money when you decide to publish the app via one of the two app stores.
Since there’s nothing to risk other than your time, giving it a go is as simple as visiting https://appmachine.com
Malicious websites have been setup all around the Internet just waiting for you to click on so they can attempt to exploit any unsuspecting visitors.
Lots of people preach that you shouldn't go to strange websites unless you know something about it, but that's a completely useless bit of advice in reality.
The next time you have to try to make a decision about whether you should take the risk of visiting a website that you aren't familiar with, checkout the free Site Safety Center from Trend Micro at: https://global.sitesafety.trendmicro.com
The site is a huge database of websites and their associated reputation as well as real-time evaluation tools that will check for signs of a questionable or downright dangerous website.
Each website address you paste into their 'Check Now' section will came back with one of four ratings that range from safe, dangerous to suspicious or if it comes back as untested, it will be added for future testing.
The tool will also present you with information on the generaly category of information posted at the website for a better understanding of the posted content.
Making an informed decision about whether a website is safe or not is made a lot easier at: https://global.sitesafety.trendmicro.com
The currency of the Internet is data and more specifically your behavioral data as you wander around the web. Everything you do is being tracked in one way or another, mostly to determine how best to advertise to you.
If you're interested in better understanding which websites and advertising networks are attempting to track you and provide you with some controls, checkout a web browser add-on called Disconnect: https://disconnect.me/disconnect
Disconnect provides you with total transparency of what types of requests are being made in the background as well as the ability to decide which ones are granted permission and which are blocked.
The free basic tool can be installed in most of the major browsers as well as a Pro app for iOS devices.
The tool changes the way that your computer is evaluated because it's being masked by the Disconnect platform.
By blocking a lot of the extra background requests, web pages can load a lot faster as well.
For a complete overview on how the tool works, go to: https://disconnect.me/disconnect/help
If you've been looking for a way to regain control of your internet activities, checkout the Disconnect add-on!
It seems that no matter how many ways we try to filter out junk email messages, some of it find a way into our Inbox.
Spam filters use a myriad of processes to screen out spam, but they aren’t perfect which means that some good messages can get caught up in the junk filters.
The various rules used to try to determine whether a message is ‘ham’ or ‘spam’ can be thrown off by the use of certain words or images in the message.
With this in mind, we wanted to remind you all to periodically check your junk folders for messages that were improperly marked as spam. If you don’t check it regularly, you won’t be able to catch these mistakes made by the automated filters, which can be trained.
If you’re folder is loaded with old messages, rather than scrolling through the whole list, try searching through the messages using keywords or names of people you’ve been waiting to hear from.
If and when you run across a message that was improperly filtered, you can tell your email program that it’s not junk so it will know not to filter them in the future.
This routine housekeeping is easiest when you do it on a regular basis, so consider creating a reminder to check your junk folder regularly.
Whether you invest directly in the stock market or through your 401K, unless you do it on a regular basis, it can be a bit intimidating.
You may feel like you’d have to spend a substantial amount of time to really learn how things work, but that may not be the case any more.
A website called https://www.wallstreetsurvivor.com is a virtual stock market simulation tool that also uses entertainment and games to teach people and help demystify the confusing world of stock trading.
Just reading a book or watching a video about trading stocks isn’t nearly as informative as actually doing it, which the site lets you do without risking any real money.
They use all of the media channels to provide you with instructions, lessons and a virtual platform to practice on.
If you really get into it, you can join a league and compete for actual prizes with your virtual portfolio.
If all those terms you hear financial reporters throwing around are confusing, you can get up to speed while having fun at: https://www.wallstreetsurvivor.com
Since it’s entertaining, it will be more interesting for youngsters too, so get them started early!
As much as virtual reality has been hyped up, it’s augmented reality that has a much better chance of providing usable tools for the average user.
Augmented reality combined with location data from your smartphone is proving to be a solid use for the technology. Back when I first tested Google Glass, one of the apps that made use of the platform was called Field Trip and it works just as well on any smartphone.
It’s much more than how Google Maps makes you aware of what’s around you because much of the information can be for things that aren’t even there anymore.
Lots of historic information for things around you can be learned just by opening the app while you are walking around.
You can let the app know what your interested so it can alert you as you wander around familiar or unfamiliar places. The things I’ve learned from the app around where I live an work have been pretty cool.
It can also be a great help when you travel, acting as kind of a virtual insider wherever you are.
Discover things all around you by downloading the app from https://www.fieldtripper.com
Your smartphone is actually a pretty safe way to access important information as long as you stick to apps from two main app stores for iPhones and Android devices and you haven’t disabled the built-in security controls for both platforms.
If you’re a tech savvy user, you may have decided to jailbreak your iPhone or root your Android phone, allowing you to download and install anything from anywhere, which also puts you at the highest risk of loading a malicious app.
That used to be the only way that the malicious apps could bypass the security in place by the two app stores, but those days are over.
Cleverly written text messages, emails or social media posts may entice people to ‘checkout a new app’ with fantastic looking features, which can lead you to a dangerous place.
In some cases, clicking through to the rigged website with the app can start the process of exploiting you with what looks like a totally legit website.
Just remember, only download and install apps that you specifically went in search of, because even what appears to be a legit link posted by a friend could be the result of a compromised social media or email account.
If you don’t have a security app watching over your installs, take a look at Lookout: https://www.lookout.com/products/personal
A relatively unknown feature that’s a gateway to an assortment of additional tools for Google’s free online productivity programs like Docs and Sheets is the add-ons.
The variety of features and options that can be added is amazing and worth the time to explore.
Sending faxes within the platform, creating a quick table of contents, working with labels and inserting your signature is just a sample of what can be added to the programs.
If you switched from Microsoft Office, but miss some of the features, you may be just a few mouse clicks away from beefing up Google’s online programs.
It’s been sitting in the menu bar the whole time, so take a minute and look for the Add-ons option at the end of the menu bar. When you click it, you’ll see the option to ‘Get Add-ons’, which will take you to the marketplace.
What’s helpful about the add-ons is that once you add them, they can be used with any past or future documents.
Once you start to realize how many great tools have been hiding in plain sight, you might want to put an annual reminder in your calendar to explore add-ons because new ones are added all the time.
If you’ve been using spreadsheets or word processors for a long time, you most likely know about the incredibly useful option of creating macros that are a combination of steps all rolled into one shortcut.
Well if you love macros and love your iPhone, then I’ve got a great app for you to checkout called Workflow.
This powerful app gives anyone the option of creating automatic connections with various tasks and apps on your device, which is done by a simple dragging of items within the app.
Virtually every popular app or task that you use on a regular basis can be setup to work together so that repetitive tasks can be boiled down to a single tap.
An example of a use case for this app is for those that try to find the same type of place in Google maps, such as a type of restaurant or juice bar as they are traveling around the country or world.
What’s great about the platform is that you don’t have to know how to create a workflow to use the app, as others have shared their workflows that you can try.
This app can take your productivity to a new high, so if it sounds interesting, check it out at: https://my.workflow.is
It’s common knowledge these days that a high percentage of exploits start with a phishing message that’s cleverly crafted.
Phishing is such a big problem that even the most tech challenged users know to be very careful and suspicious with all email messages, which is why the bad guys are focusing on other less obvious places to start cultivating victims.
Something that’s been around for a while is getting more sophisticated and that’s setting traps in the comment section of popular websites.
You’ll see lots of work at home or big money making schemes posted, which are pretty easy to know are spam posts, but that’s not what I want to warn you about.
Cleverly crafted comments from people that seem to be engaged in the conversation may include links to ‘verify’ their positions, but that’s where you need to be paying very close attention.
Avoid clicking the link and do your own search for what they claim is supporting evidence by putting whatever the headline is from the link they posted.
If the info is legit, it will have been indexed by Google, so don’t ever take any link at face value in the comments section of any website.
When you notice a strange vibration or noise while driving your car, you’ll take the time to try to figure out why, right?
For whatever reason, when it comes to your computer, you probably don’t have the same mindset.
Any unusual noise coming from any part of your computer is an indication that something mechanical inside is experiencing a problem.
Any type of grinding sound can be the bearings on one of your cooling fans, so if you notice a noise and then it goes away on its own, that could mean that it’s no longer spinning and cooling.
When a cooling fan stops spinning, not only is it no longer extracting heat, it’s acting as an insulator.
One of the most damaging sounds is clicking, especially when it’s associated with the inability to get your computer to start up. It’s generally a sign that you’ve get a mechanical issue with your hard drive.
It’s natural to want to try to get the computer to start, but repeated attempts to start a failing hard drive can cause further irreparable damage, which can mean that the data will become unrecoverable.
We’ve provided more tips and details at: https://www.datadoctors.com/help/columns/21814
Adding some type of DIY security at your front door with one of the various doorbell camera options is growing in popularity, but before you decide to get one, we’ve got some advice for you.
Using your smartphone to see who’s at your door, complete with video and audio is awesome, but it depends greatly on the strength of the wi-fi signal at your door.
Even the most popular models that have been around for years and have lots of upgraded features will result in poor performance, especially if you want to see live video if your not getting a decent signal.
Because it’s so reliant on a good solid wifi signal, it’s best to do some testing before you decide to spend the money to get one.
Most of them are battery operated, but some require that you have a wire that rang a traditional doorbell for its power source, so pay attention to which one you are buying.
Another challenge for those that have Western exposures is direct sunlight, which can make the images in the video very difficult to make out.
A quick test of the signal strength can be done using your smartphone in airplane mode with the wi-fi turned on as your only connection.
Web-based email service, such as Gmail, have a number advantages over traditional email programs; one of the biggest advantages it that you are no longer tied to a specific machine in order to get to your messages.
Gmail is the most popular and if you use it every day like millions of others, you should learn some of the amazing shortcuts that can make it even more efficient.
Shortcuts are great, because you don’t have to leave the keyboard to navigate to another part of the program that would normally require a mouse click.
Navigation shortcuts generally start by tapping the letter g, then another letter such as a for all mail or d to pop over to the draft section.
You can see you sent messages withe g+t shortcut or get to your contacts by tapping g+c.
To allow these shortcuts to work, you’ll need to go to the Settings menu and turn them on in the General section.
There are so many really useful shortcuts that you can see at Google’s keyboard shortcut resource page:
Anyone that pays attention to tech news has likely seen an increase in the number of security related stories focusing on the MacOS.
It may be time to think about installing some extra protection if you use a Mac computer.
The MacOS does have some protection built-into the platform, but there are situation where that may not be enough.
It's pretty easy to stay safe if you limit what and where you install into your computer and keep things updated, but if you have less attentive users in the house, extra security may be best.
Younger users that have a veracious appetite for anything on the Internet can put your Mac in higher risk situations.
The old mindset of having a Mac and not worrying about the constant threats that we all hear about is dangerous these days.
Any device you use that is connected to the Internet has someone out there attempting to exploit you, so being cautious with all of your devices is important these days.
There’s a common issue that I’ve observed over the decades with the average computer user: they know that they should be backing up their important data files, but they just haven’t put together the process.
It’s one of the most important tasks that every computer user should be performing and with the stakes being raised, it’s critically important.
Loss of data is one thing, but having it held hostage by a hacker because you don’t have a backup has grown to become a very real threat.
The sophistication of this type of attack has grown by leaps and bounds in the past couple of years because it’s generating a lot of money for the bad guys.
If they get to your files, they’ll use military grade encryption to lock you out and demand payment for the key to unlock the files.
If your only backup is an attached local drive, they’ll lock it down as well, so making sure your files are out of reach with an online backup service such as Carbonite will keep you safe and prevent the need to pay them.
If you haven’t been motivated yet, hopefully knowing about this growing threat will help you get over the hump.
Most of us have dreamed of being able to play a guitar but have settled for the air guitar because the learning curve is just too steep.
If you haven’t completely given up on some day being able to play, today’s tip may be just what you need.
A web resource called Coach Guitar provides virtual lessons online and via their app.
You can bypass the theory and traditional lessons and dive right into some of you favorite guitar passages.
They show you how to play some of the most popular guitar riffs through the use of videos and a virtual fretboard.
Because they show you exactly where to put your fingers and which strings to strum, you can quickly be cranking out some familiar tunes.
With the app on your smartphone, you’ll have a guitar coach in your pocket whenever you need them.
You can checkout their method of teaching for free and if you really want to dive in, you can opt for their premium service.
Learn all about it at https://coachguitar.com
It’s the weekend, which might mean that you’ll end up at one of the many popular watering holes that specialize in craft cocktails.
While it’s great to experience it in your favorite bars, it can get really pricey, really fast. You can save a boatload of money when you learn how to make these amazing drinks yourself.
Cocktail recipe books are great, buy they can only cover so many drinks in the given space, so unless you want a pile of recipe books sitting around, checkout an app called ‘Mixology’.
It’s great because you start by inputting the ingredients that you have in your bar and refrigerator to help the search process focus on cocktails that you can actually make.
Who want to scamper off to the grocery or liquor store just to make a cocktail?
There are lots of ways to discover new recipes using your favorite spirits or by randomly searching through the database.
It’s also more than complicated cocktails as you can create special shots, punches and even no alcohol concoctions for the DDs at your party.
Check out this useful pocket guide at: http://mixologyapp.com
Whenever you plan a big gathering or event, you have to figure out how you are going to invite everyone and keep track of who’s coming.
A quick search online will provide you with a plethora of options for sending online invitations with all of the tracking that’s very helpful, but what if you want it to be more personalized and special?
Sending out beautiful physical invitations through the mail really makes a statement since so much of it is done electronically these days.
The problem with making that decision is that it creates a lot more work for you, because you have to collect the mailing addresses, pick out the paper and envelope and select a design that fits the event.
For those occasions, there’s a really cool online option called Paperless Posts https://PaperlessPost.com that can help you with both online and physical invitations.
Because both of the options are combined at the same site, you can use their online tools to gather the info you need for the offline invitations.
You can design everything on their website of through their iOS app
Everywhere you look on social media, you are likely to see photos of food, which some people think is cool while others think is goofy.
For those in the cool camp that plan to continue posting food pics, there are a few things to remember.
Item number one is your flash…never use it when you are taking pictures of food. Not only is it distracting to those around you, but it will make the food look horrible.
Since most restaurants in the evening will be on the darker side, don’t forget to dim the display on your phone so it isn’t a beaming beacon of light.
If you have your phone set to make a shutter sound whenever you snap a pic, turn that off as well while you are in close quarters with others.
Switching to an actual photo app such as VSCO Cam instead of using the default camera app can provide you with more options for making the food pic look great.
Learn more about this awesome photo app at: https://vsco.co/download