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!
It has always been a little 'iffy' to use a USB drive that you don’t know anything about, but now it has gotten downright dangerous.
Malware of all kinds has always been a threat from unknown USB drives but most up-to-date anti-virus software could detect and block any threats.
But after a recent exploit was demonstrated at this year’s 'Black Hat' conference showing a way for hackers to change the actual 'firmware' on USB devices where they can hide malicious code.
This type of exploit is virtually undetectable by standard securityscanners and basically un-patchable, which means there's no simple fix for what is essentially a design flaw.
With this now known, it is vitally important that you always avoid using any USB drive that you do not own or know the owner of and never, ever plug in a USB drive that someone else 'seems to have lost'.
cyber attackers can drop infected USB drives on college campuses and near large secure businesses hoping to make it easy to gain access to those secured systems.
Every business should be warning their employees about this new trick and setup very clear policies on USB usage.
You have likely heard of the wildly successful texting app called 'Snapchat' that allows users to send messages & pictures that disappear after being viewed by the recipient.
You have also likely heard that it is a big hit with younger users and that you can take a screenshot of any message or picture that's send, making the self destruct feature pretty useless.
There are times when you may want to send a message to someone, but the fear of what could happen to the message after you send it that may keep you from sending it.
An alternative app called 'Confide' presents itself as "the confidential messenger" for business users.
Whether you are in the middle of a legal battle or dealing with sensitive negotiations, keeping sent messages confidential and temporary can be comforting.
Confide only allows text messages and the recipient must run their finger over each block to unveil a portion of the text underneath, so the entire message never appears all at once.
Of course, the recipient could record a video while reading the text, so it isn't considered 100% secure, but it's a lot better than Snapchat.
Anyone looking to communicate ‘off the record’ should checkout http://GetConfide.com.
Anyone that spends much time in the outdoors can find themselves in the middle of nowhere with no chance of having a cell signal.
Generally speaking, that's a good thing, but sometimes you would like the security of connectivity if you get lost or need help.
A device called 'goTenna' was designed to offer an option for communicating with your group when phone service isn't an option.
goTenna allows you to send & receive text messages and share GPS coordinates with your friends that have the device as well. The range can be expansive; 1-50 miles, depending upon the surrounding terrain.
Settings like a ski resort for example, would most likely give you better range than a downtown area that has lots of tall buildings.
I just returned from a large music festival where having the goTenna system would have been a much better way to communicate because the cellular networks were almost useless because of the volume of traffic.
To learn more about this device, visit goTenna.com for the details.
Twitter is a useful communication tool, especially in business, but it’s still one of the most misunderstood social networks for casual users.
As with any social platform, if you don’t have some sort of strategy, it isn’t going to create much value.
With Twitter, evaluating who’s following can be helpful in unlocking potential value and a website called SocialRank.com makes this easy.
It’s a free tool that will provide you with intelligence into your most valuable, most engaging and your best followers.
Let’s face it, Twitter is essentially a popularity contest and understanding who actually is popular that is following you can help to strategically engage in conversations.
Location can also be a major factor, depending on the type of business you are in, so SocialRank allows you to filter your followers by location.
You can also filter others by keywords in their bio, making it a lot easier to connect based on user backgrounds.
If you have never thought much about connecting with others that are following you on Twitter, give https://www.socialrank.com a test run.
I have posted in the past about the risky use of images you randomly find online to use on your website or blog and it still continues to be a topic of feedback.
It is clear to me that many people still don’t realize that they are violating a copyright when they post 'public' images on their website.
To avoid getting caught up in a costly legal situation, make it a point to review all the images you have posted on websites or blogs.
If you're not sure where they came from, I would suggest you delete them and replace them with images that will not put you in harm’s way.
Services like Getty Images have opened up large libraries with images that you can use to embed on your site free of charge, as long as you follow their guidelines.
Another option is to look for images that fall under the 'Creative Commons' license which essentially means that image owners have allowed you to use their images for free under certain conditions & uses.
To play it safe, you can purchase images at sites like BigStockPhoto.com for a couple of dollars each.
Taking image copyrights for granted will cost you thousands of dollars per image if you're caught, so don't take it lightly...the link to my advice column on image usage is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
How often have you entered something into your calendar that you really don’t want to do?
Isn’t it about time you started putting things in that you do want to do?
Well, that’s the same perspective some Google engineers had as well, so they rolled out a feature called ‘Goals' for Google Calendar users.
Finding time to do your exercise is a very common goal, so you can choose an activity, set the frequency you want to achieve and your Google calendar will work to find the time in your calendar to make it happen.
Whenever there's a conflict during those goals or you are running late, your Calendar will simply reschedule those goals automatically.
The ‘ oal' option for new entries only appears on your mobile app for the moment, but once you’ve entered them, you will start to see your goals on any computer as well.
Since the common problem with achieving goals is simply remembering to do them, the Goal option might be just the kick in the pants you need to start down the path to goal achieving success.
Is your smartphone being throttled? Wouldn’t you like to know if your data provider is throttling back the speed on your unlimited data package?
Several Internet Service Providers have been found to be lowering the bandwidth of unlimited bandwidth data packages once you’ve reached a certain level of usage.
Many people do not realize it is happening, but they sense that everything seems to take a lot longer to load.
If you are an unlimited data package for your smartphone, there is an easy way to test your speeds to see if you are being throttled.
Just get the 'Ookla Speedtest' app and do several speed tests at the start of the billing cycle and take note of the speeds.
At the end of the cycle, do the same tests to see if your speeds are significantly slower. If they are noticeably slower, you are likely being throttled!
What good is an unlimited plan if your data speeds are throttled back because you are actually using it?
The link to download the Ookla app is posted at datadoctors.com/radio.
Food & travel-based websites are growing in popularity, but in most cases, they have a lot to be desired.
Generally light on content and heavy on annoying ads is far too common.
Anthony Bourdain got involved with a website called Roads & Kingdoms a while back and it's brought a lot of attention to this useful site.
It’s award-winning digital journal approach to food, politics, travel and culture make it an excellent resource for anyone interested in any those topics.
They use long-form stories & beautiful images to provide a wonderful way to discover new foods, travel destinations and people from around the world.
The site lets you explore things by continent, food & drink, politics and culture or travel.
My favorite section on the site is called '5 O’clock Somewhere' which will explore a different drinking culture every day.
If you are interested in intelligent writing and beautiful images without the usual distracting ads, checkout http://roadsandkingdoms.com for a breath of fresh air.
Anyone that spends time on the Internet probably opens lots of tabs as you go and as a result, you’ve likely ran into this situation:
While you are in the middle of reading something on one website, you suddenly hear a commercial video starts playing in the background on one of the other tabs but you have no idea which one it is.
This forces you to click through all the other open tabs and scrolling around trying to figure out which one's causing all the annoying noise…it's a hassle!
The folks at Google probably had enough of this irritation themselves, because they added an option to the Chrome browser to fight this annoyance.
With Chrome, when any web page is generating any kind of sound, a tiny speaker icon will appear on the right side of the tab which lets you identify the offending page.
You can either click on the tab to pause the video or simply click on the X on the tab to close it all together.
If you have not tried Google Chrome yet, this is one of many reasons why it’s my favorite!
Today, just about all of our mobile devices have the capability to take photos and generally includes an option for a flash of some sort.
But if you assume that your flash is only for low lighting pictures could keep you from getting those great images.
Outdoor pictures especially when they include people will often end up with harsh white spots along with big shadows, which will ruin the picture.
Either of these situations can be improved by using the flash which can turn useless pictures into minor works of art.
Using the flash on your phone means you need to be close enough to your subjects to make the weak phone flash useful in bright sunlight.
On really sunny days, put your subjects in a shaded area to eliminate them from squinting and use your flash to fill in the shadows.
Knowing exactly when to use your flash both indoors and outdoors can have a major impact on the quality of your images.
The best way to get to know your camera’s abilities is to experiment way before you are in the situation where you need everything to be perfect!
The tech industry preaches about the dangers of public wifi all the time, but there is something that you probably may not have realized.
Your personal laptop may be automatically sharing files with anyone connected on the same coffee shop or hotel wifi you are using.
Most laptops are setup with default or public shares, so you may be allowing others to access or possibly save random files on your computer.
Generally speaking, this isn’t going to impact your personal data, but your computer is still accessible by any random stranger connected to the same public wifi.
As a safety measure, if you have no use for the public share folders sharing files with others, switch them off.
I have actually seen situations where sensitive files were being shared in these publicly accessible folders because the user most likely didn’t realize the whole world can access these public folders.
Both Windows & Mac users most likely have these public share folders turned on, so I have posted the instructions on how to turn them off at datadoctors.com/radio.
Disable public shares in OS X: http://osxdaily.com/2014/02/11/disable-public-folder-sharing-mac-os-x
Disable public folders in Windows:
You’re bopping around the Internet and suddenly a scary looking window pops up telling you that your computer has been infected. It can look a lot like a regular Windows screen, so you click on 'OK clean up my computer button' and they’ve got you.
The scam popup will take over and keeps you from doing anything, but they do offer to fix your problem if you will just enter your credit card number.
These very ominous but convincing scams are tricking people all over the world and we’re seeing an increase in these malware attacks lately.
They can use official sounding names like Windows Ultimate Booster or Windows Safety Master and if you click on anything, even the cancel button, they'll do their damage.
If you ever see anything strange pop up on your screen, don’t click on anything no matter how convincing it looks. Instead, use the three-fingered-salute (Ctrl-Alt-Del) to start the Task Manager which allows you to end the process altogether.
If you aren't familiar with this useful process, we have created a step-by-step instructional video so you can sidestep this scam:
You’ve probably noticed that a lot of websites on the web these days allow you to leverage one of your social media profiles to register for a free service.
It will be presented as a much faster way to get setup on the site, but you need to know that you are exposing your profile info just for a little faster access.
Many of today’s apps will also do the same and before you know it, you will have given permission to boatloads of third parties to gain access to your profile info.
Within the settings of each of your social networks is the option to revoke access, but only if you know where to find them.
To make it much easier, a website called http://MyPermissions.org provides help. They have mad it a lot quicker to find the setting for all your major social networks.
Just tap on the icon for Facebook, Twitter, Google or other well known networks you are using and you’ll be taken right to the settings.
My Permissions also allows you to sign-up for alerts when any new app gains access to your profile, as well as mobile apps so you can clean on the go.
Supporting causes you believe in is a good way of contributing to your local community and most often raising money comes into play to help your cause.
While the various traditional ways of raising money are helpful, leveraging social media and digital platforms can greatly increase the likelihood of funding success.
A website that was specifically created for online fundraising is called http://razoo.com
Whether you are fundraising as a non-profit, a foundation, a corporation or as an individual, as long as you have a recognized 501(c)(3), Razoo can help you get started.
They charge one of the smallest fees as a crowdsourcing site, so more of the donations go to the cause.
They also allow you to embed your campaign on a Facebook page or website which makes it easy to promote the fundraising drive by getting the word out.
All donations to your campaign are tax-deductible and for those with ongoing fund raising needs, you can recurring donations.
Better yet, It’s a great resource for finding local charities to support!
If you have ever wanted to snag a YouTube video so you can watch later when you’re offline or if you ever want to convert a music video into an audio file, it’s really simple to do.
While there are numerous sites that offer this type of service, the one I like the most is http://dirpy.com because its really simple and quick to use.
All that you need is the Youtube video link so you can paste it into the Dirpy tool to get a screen of download options.
If, for instance, all you want is the audio, just select the format quality & click the download link.
If you do want the entire video, you can select between low resolution to save space or HD to download a 720p version of the video with just a few clicks of the mouse.
Once you have download the file you want, just save it into your media library or sync it up to your smartphone or tablet and you’re good to go.
Anyone about to go on a trip with children will find Dirpy to be an easy way to gather tons of content that’s sure to keep them occupied for hours!
I really love tech that specifically fills the nooks & crannies of daily life and one of my favorites is a website known as IFTTT or If This Then That.
This awesome and free service helps you put the Internet to work by creating 'conditional statements’ also known as ‘recipes’ which will integrate your online accounts in many amazing ways.
For example, you can create a recipe that will automatically generate reminders on your phone whenever you tap the star on a Gmail message or have your phone automatically text your wife when you leave work.
The IFTTT recipes work with over 160 different online services and already has a huge assortment of recipes that have been created by fellow users.
You can also create your own recipes and share them with the rest of the IFTTT community.
IFTTT also has apps for iPhones, iPads and Android devices which allows you to leverage your mobile technology in awesome ways.
If you have yet to discover the wonderful world of IFTTT, take a minute and check it all out at http://IFTTT.com.
I've provided tips in the past on how to extend the battery life on your phone, but did ya know that most of these same tips will extend the life of your laptop battery as well?
For instance, turning down the brightness on your screen is the most important tip because powering that screen is almost fifty percent of the drain on your laptop and just like on your smartphone, turning off Wifi and Bluetooth when you aren't using them saves power.
If you plug devices into your USB ports that you are no longer using, unplugging them keeps your computer from constantly querying them for updates.
Extreme temperature is a big killer of batteries, so don't turn your hot laptop on or even try to charge it when it’s really hot or cold to the touch.
Waiting until the laptop has reached room temperature will help to lengthen the life of the battery as well.
Be sure to avoid using your laptop on a blanket, pillow or any other soft surface because you can block the cooling vents causing your laptop to overheat.
Those cute screen savers that display your favorite photos seem like fun, but they cam eat up your battery as well, so switch to a blank screen saver for the best results.
Anytime you purchase a new computer, one of the first things you'll end up spending a boatload of time on, is getting all those programs and utilities reinstalled.
Everything from various browsers, tools, utilities, media players, productivity tools and countless other little programs are just the beginning of what you need to be up and running.
Most people do not realize how many things need to be added to your 'new' computer to make it fully functional until they go through the countless downloads and installations.
The next time you are setting up a new computer, I have a much better option for both Mac & Windows users.
We have mentioned to Windows users in the past to use a website called NiNite.com (that’s N I N I T E) to get everything they need installed in one neat little automatic package.
Well, if you are a Mac user, you can do the same by going to GetMacApps.com
If you are the one in charge of the computers at any business, these resources are a huge time saver because you they create a single install file to setup all your computers exactly the same!
http://getmacapps.com and http://ninite.com
Remember when some people proclaimed text messaging to be an 'anti-social activity? I think even those most techno-phobic have figured out how efficient text messages really are.
If you are an iPhone user, you likely spend lots of time using the built-in iMessage app, especially if you're friends with lots of other iPhone users.
Unlike other texting apps, iMessage sends your messages securely with encryption and you don’t need a cellular network connection in order to send & receive messages.
This comes in handy for anyone traveling abroad that can only connect through wifi.
But did you know that there is a lot more to the iMessage app then just tapping out a message, like sending a quick voice or video message or tons of various filtering & blocking options.
If you haven't explored the numerous options available fin the iMessage app, check-out the fifteen power tips put together by the folks at Business Insider.
The Google Earth website has always been a wonderful way to explore any part of our world using your home or office computer.
A project that combines the Google Earth Engine with annual satellite images to create time lapse videos stretch back from 1984 make it even more interesting.
It allows you to select any location in the world and watch how it has changed over three decades.
You can watch the insane growth of Las Vegas, the unfortunate deforestation of the Amazon or the development of the amazing coastline of Dubai using the preset sites.
Because you can examine any location you want, you can checkout where you live, where you were born and view the time-lapse for that area over a long stretch of time.
The site allows you to zoom in and out and manually go year by year for a presentation of just how much the earth has changed in a very short period of time.
I've got a direct link posted at DataDoctors.com/radio.
An app called ‘Companion’, which was developed by students at the University of Michigan is growing in popularity.
Originally designed as an app for students walking home across campus at night, the usefulness of this app has caught on off-campus as well.
In a nutshell, the app will notify friends or family when you're walking somewhere on your own so they can virtually walk with you.
Just put in your destination and method of transport in the app then send out requests to friends or family to tag along.
Those you want to tag along don’t have to have the app installed; anyone in your contact list can become your companion.
When they get your text, they just need to click on the attached link to become a virtual companion on the way to your destination.
The app can monitor unusual movements such as falling or straying from your route which helps keep your companions updated.
Never walk anywhere alone again with the ‘Companion’ app! It’s free for both iPhone and Android users.