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!
No matter how technical you may or may not be, there is one thing that everyone knows: backup the data files you care about
Because we specialize in data recovery, we’ve seen virtually every scenario over the past 30 years when it comes to critical data that has been lost.
Beyond equipment failure and traditional data loss, we all now need to be concerned with the growing instances of ransomware.
Just having a local external backup drive isn’t enough these days because everything from ransomware to a fire or flood could render that local backup useless.
We recommend the 3-2-1 backup philosophy which means that you have 3 copies of your data on two physical storage devices with one copy that exists off-site, such as an online backup service like Carbonite. T
hat means that your primary copy lives on your computer’s hard drive, the second copy lives on an external hard drive connected to your computer and a third copy is stored in the cloud.
If you do this, it covers every possible data loss scenario that we are aware of at this point in time.
When it comes to the holidays, some of the most popular gifts are without a doubt electronics.
This invariably leads to the disposal of our older tech, which if done improperly, can be a very bad thing.
Unfortunately, most consumers have no idea just how many toxins are used to manufacture our gadgets, so they just throw them in the trash.
To keep these toxins from polluting our ground water, consider repurposing your old tech as someone else may be able to use it.
Charities, homeless shelters and local schools are just the beginning of possibilities for repurposing your old tech.
If that’s not an option, finding a responsible electronic recycling program in your area will be your next search.
E-waste is generated by the hundreds of millions of tons each year, so we all need to do our part to keep it our of our landfills.
It’s no secret that as the weather gets colder, the number of people that get sick increases as a result.
Being exposed to those that are sick is how most of us become sick ourselves, so knowing where a large number of people are sick can be helpful.
An app called SickWeather acts as a forecasting tool that shows you where lots of people are saying that they are experiencing symptoms.
It does this by scanning social media posts and other data sources to gather signals of areas that show hot zones in your area.
Knowing about these areas can be helpful so you can avoid them as this app serves as an early warning system for outbreaks.
Their ability to predict outbreaks is pretty impressive based on the technology they’ve developed.
Get the info and the apps: https://www.sickweather.com
With virtually every interaction we have online, there’s a good chance that you’ll be asked for an email address as part of the process.
For those interactions where you only need to have a valid email address to get something you want, but won’t need to interact with them ever again, there’s a clever and free option.
A website that calls itself ’10 Minute Mail’ provides random email addresses that are only good for ten minutes.
Start by visiting https://10minutemail.com which will publish a generic email address and a counter that starts at 10 minutes.
You stay on this page to also receive the intended message and if you need to extend the time that you use the account, simply tap the button to add another 10 minutes.
Keep in mind, this is a really bad option if you’ll ever need to reuse the email address because no matter what address you use, all messages are deleted after 10 minutes and you can’t request the same one again.
The days of manually searching through classified ads in the physical world was disrupted by a website we all know as Craigslist.
Searching for those one of kind or used items has gotten easier via the Internet, but today’s tip will take it to another level.
If you spend lots of time searching for items on Amazon, eBay or Craigslist, today’s tip is for you.
An awesome all-in-one search tool exists for all three sites at Search Tempest https://www.searchtempest.com
Instead of having to go to each site to search for the same item, switch to Search Tempest to make it much more efficient and eliminate some of the geographic issues that exist on Craigslist.
Bargain shoppers will find this to be a power tool because of all the awesome filtering options that make it more efficient to do extensive item searches.
Those wonderful apps have turned what was once simply a voice communication device into miniature marvels in the palms of our hands.
On top of that, how wonderful is it that there are so many free apps to choose from?
As it turns out, free is not always free when you consider the big picture of these apps.
Both your cellular data usage and battery usage can be impacted by the use of free apps on the regular.
Researchers have actually studied this issue and published real data on the consumption of power and data which can be significant.
They can also chew up valuable memory with the ads they deliver, which can impact everything you do on your smartphone.
An additional consideration is the privacy implications of ‘free’ apps since they can only make money from tracking your usage.
The next time you have to choose between a free app and one that might cost a buck or two, it may be a very good return on investment.
Computer hardware is pretty useless without useful software programs, which can end up costing as much, if not more, than your computer.
While the big-name programs are what most people end up buying, there are alternative programs that can perform the same function at a much lower cost.
There are many software programs that are known as ‘open source’ options that are available to anyone that wants to try them out.
A great tool for finding this type of inexpensive software is located at: https://alternativeto.net
Not only can it help you discover these new options, but the website also provides feedback and comments from others that have already tried each program.
Just type the name of the expensive program into the search bar at the site and you’ll get a list of alternatives that could be just what you’re looking for.
If you have a young child in your extended family, it’s a pretty safe bet that they are enamored with mobile technology such as a smartphone or tablet.
Tablets in particular can actually be used for educational purposes instead of just becoming a digital babysitter.
A platform designed to turn tablets into more of an educational tool is from a company called Osmo.
Instead of creating an addictive app that keeps the child’s eyes solely on the screen, Oslo creates interaction via the tablet with physical items as well.
It does this through a special stand and mirror system that allow the camera on the front to see what’s directly below the tablet.
Your child can be encouraged to draw on a piece of paper in front of the tablet through items displayed on the screen that they can trace.
It’s a really interesting approach that you can learn more about at: https://PlayOsmo.com
Malicious hackers have refined their techniques via social engineering to trick unsuspecting victims into clicking on things they normally wouldn’t.
Phishing scams are one of the more common traps they setup and getting victims to those phishing websites has also evolved beyond phishing email messages.
They know that the comments section is a great place to try to draw victims to their boobytrapped websites.
Typical out of context posts that are clearly someone spamming the comments are pretty easy to spot, it’s the more devious methods that you’ll need to stay aware of.
Posting a link along with a comment that appears to be a legitimate response to a previous comment is pretty common and where the danger lies.
Clicking the link in the comment can be every bit as dangerous as clicking on a link in email, so it’s best to avoid them.
One way to see if the information they are referring to is legit is by doing a Google search using the title of the link, which should come up in the search results if they are.
Isn’t always the case that just when we need to get something really important printed out at home, the ‘out of ink’ message pops up.
I’m not sure how we got to the point in time that the cost of an ounce of printer ink is like buying a precious metal.
The industry took the sell cheap razors to sell razor blades approach years ago but one of the companies decided to buck the trend.
Epson created a line of printers that focused on an economical way to refill the ink in our printers.
Their EcoTank line of printers provides both large ink reservoirs and inexpensive liquid refills that comes in bottles that anyone can manage themselves.
For those that print lots of documents, paying a little more for the printer so that the ongoing consumables are cost effective makes a lot of sense.
Learn all about it here: https://epson.com/ecotank
The vast majority of email messages floating around the Internet is still junk messages that qualify as spam.
Because of this, there are layers of spam filters that every message you send is subjected to and when you innocently use a specific word, phrase or image it’s possible that you message looks like spam.
These filters use a scoring system that isn’t the same as a human reviewing your messages, which will determine the fate of every message you send.
There are many keywords that you should avoid, but without some help, you won’t know what those words may be unless you use the free tool at https://www.mail-tester.com
It’s a simple testing process that will provide technical feedback on any message that you send to the generated email address on the screen.
When someone tells you that they haven’t gotten your message, you can do a quick test to see if it might have been flagged as spam using Mail Tester.
The results can help you quickly understand any mistakes you may be making especially when sending lengthy messages.
Our phones have become a central storage device for our precious memories and personal info, which is why they’re highly targeted by ID thieves.
Getting their hands on your phone, especially if its unlocked could allow them to take over all your accounts via email password reset requests in no time at all.
Make sure you’ve setup some form of unlock code, fingerprint or facial recognition so a stranger can’t just pick up your device and start using it.
Another thing to keep in mind this time of year is that if you’re going to trade-in or sell your old smartphone, there are a number of security steps you’ll want to take first.
Some Android device have extra memory cards, which need to either be removed or reformatted before you part with them.
The SIM card used to connect to your cell provider also needs to be removed and it’s critical to perform a factory reset, which will wipe out all your information, apps and data.
It’s hard to think about how we used to research just about anything before the Internet and Google’s powerful search engine.
The power of search has been elevated by something known as search operators, which further clarify what you want to find.
One pretty useful but relatively unknown one is the ‘range’ operator that allows you to ask for results within a specified numeric range.
This is done by simply placing two periods (..) between the numeric values that you specify.
Let’s say you’re searching for classic Chevy pickups from the mid sixties - by typing chevy trucks 1964..1967, both the search and image results would tend to hone in on those years.
An additional step you can take to help further refine range searches is to add formatting characters such as a dollar sign when you want to find items in a specific price range - ex:Flat Screen TVs $900..$1200
This is the time of year when tech gadgets become hot commodities and the manufacturers know that.
Buying any tech gadget solely based on price is a good way to end up with buyer’s remorse.
The lowest-priced device in any electronic category is rarely ever the ‘best deal’ because of what it takes to make something cheap.
Cutting corners when manufacturing any tech device means that critical components will not perform as well, such as batteries or displays.
One key element in making a good decision is not only what you are buying but who you are buying it from.
Having the option to return or exchange the device after you’ve had some time with it can dramatically improve the outcome.
Doing your research on any electronic purchase is both essential and easy, but it’s especially important to see what others are saying on low cost items.
Their feedback will tell you where the manufacturers cut corners so you can determine if it matters to you or not.
One of the most frustrating situations when dealing with a large company is that getting to the human that can actually address your issue is very difficult.
Increasingly, these big firms are doing their best to bury telephone numbers online as a means to reduce the number of calls they get.
There was a time when using Google to search for the proper number was effective, but with all the scammers setting traps these days, there’s a better way.
A web resource called Get Human has done its best to compile as much contact information on major organizations as it can.
For most of the fortune 1000, the contact options beyond support phone numbers are also part of what will come up when you type the company’s name.
Big organization contact info constantly changes, so you may get more updated info by going directly to Get Human.
Bookmark it: https://gethuman.com
The cellular phone providers are constantly marketing to all of us as to why their network is the best in the country.
What they never talk about is whether their ‘awesome’ service will actually be available where you need it, like where you work and live.
Fortunately, there are resources that aren’t based on marketing campaigns that can help you make the best decision for you.
Unless you live in a very rural area, the data available via the Root Metrics website is very helpful right down to each cell in your area.
You can certainly look at what the overall coverage for your metro area may be, but the good stuff comes when you zoom into the areas that you spend the most time in.
It’s an awesome dataset assembled by those that use their app to report actual speed and coverage info which gets compiled for everyone to see.
Check out these resources:
Metro Areas - https://www.rootmetrics.com/en-US/rootscore/map
Coverage - https://webcoveragemap.rootmetrics.com/en-US
iPhone - https://apps.apple.com/us/app/cell-phone-coverage-map/id399701910
Android - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.rootmetrics
With broadband Internet service being the norm these days, we all need a way to allow more than one device to share the connection, which is known as a router.
The router’s job also includes protecting your devices from the outside world by creating a hardware firewall between you and the Internet.
This very important device can be exploited when the user never updates the default password that’s encoded on the router at the factory.
This is known as the admin password, which is different from the wifi connection password.
Default router passwords are easy to get - check out http://RouterPasswords.com, so changing them to something only you will know is a good security measure.
In some cases, the default router password is printed right on the device, which makes it really easy to grab if a stranger enters your house.
Don’t forget to document the new password somewhere safe as you’ll need it to make administrative changes in the future.
Google Maps are the gold standard for knowing what is around us in the present day, but did you know that it’s also able to show you the past as well?
Because their mapping vehicles have been capturing ‘street views’ for over a decade, there are multiple versions of what those streets looked like from every pass they have made.
If you’ve ever picked up the yellow pin man and dropped him on a street on a computer, there’s an entire library of street images at your fingertip.
In the upper left corner of the street views is a small icon that looks like a clock that unlocks the library of views that’s available for any given location.
Each dot in the timeline that comes up is an indication of a recording of the street view from the past.
It’s not limited to just the street you’re on as you can continue to virtually ‘drive around’ during that past period of time.
Go check out the street that you grew up on or where you might have worked going back to 2008 via the ‘time machine’ option in Google Maps!
When it comes to our computers, it’s easy to get impatient when it isn’t doing what we want it to do quickly, which can tempt some users to simply hit the power button to turn everything off.
If this is something you’ve done or are still doing, you should know about the residual issues that can become a problem as a result.
The standard operation for a computer includes the creation of lots of temporary files that are supposed to be thrown out when you decide to shut down or restart your device.
This removal of temporary files will be interrupted when you prematurely shut the computer down, which leads to junk files building up on your storage drive.
If done enough, it can lead to a shortage of necessary space on the hard drive for proper operations.
If you know you’ve done this in the past, it would be a good idea to track down the junk files and get rid of them via the Windows Disk Cleanup tool.
Both Windows and Mac computers have the same housekeeping process during shutdown, so do your best to always let the computer turn off by itself when you start the shutdown process.
Virtually every business will at some point end up needing a type of project management system to accomplish a goal.
Sophisticated project management software is complicated and expensive and isn’t appropriate for one-off project needs.
When you need a powerful, but easy to use platform for this type of task, look into the free tools at https://trello.com
It doesn’t require everyone involved to go through an intense training program to use and it works on virtually every type of device employees use.
The simple drag and drop interface is similar to the old-school corkboard method of managing tasks.
The organization tools along with the ability to attach important images and documents add to the power of the platform.
If organizing a group of people around a project is something you’re responsible for, this could be just what you have been looking for!