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!
Those ‘smart’ doorbells which include high-def video and connect through wi-fi are becoming very popular, but it’s best to do some homework before you spend your hard earned money to get one.
The idea of a video that pops up on your phone when anyone rings your doorbell is attractive, but your homes wi-fi coverage is a crucial aspect no matter what device you plan on using.
Top options from companies such as ‘Ring’ or ‘Skybell’ have lots of complaints from users when it comes to reliability and performance particularly in the video area.
A weak or non-existent signal at your front door is going to result in unhappy results when the device relies on wireless signals.
Also watch out for any device that requires a power source when your existing doorbell isn’t hard wired.
Your video images can also be greatly impacted when your camera points into sunlight.
I’d highly recommend that you test the wifi signal at your current doorbell with your smartphone in airplane mode as your first step.
One of my first loves in mobile movie apps in the early years was an app that made awesome silent movies.
The app made it easy to create videos that had the 20's era silent movie look along with classic text slides and funky piano music.
The current version of the app is called 'Vintagio' and it has added lots of new filters to create movies that look like they're from 50’s through the 80’s.
This final version expanded the options for creating classic looking movies on iPhones and iPads.
The basic 'express' mode is for creating simple videos very easily, but I'd highly recommend going to 'Pro Mode' to create some really awesome gems.
In Pro Mode, you can change the speed of the movie, add a stock soundtrack or music from your own library to play along with it.
There are free competitor apps that seem like they do the same thing, but none of them that I've tried have come close to what Vintagio does for a mere 4 dollars.
If you’ve ever been at a large public gathering attempting to connect with your buds, say at a concert or music festival today’s tip is for you.
A couple of programmers have created what they call “the dumbest app ever created” that’s actually pretty useful in these situations.
It’s called ‘LookFor’ and it’s simply a way to turn your smartphone screen into a blinking beacon so that your friends can find you in a large crowd.
You just open the app, choose your color and hold it high in the air so you can tell your friends to look for that color blinking in the crowd.
LookFo can help you hail a cab, connect in a dark club or just about any situation where standing out in a crowd is helpful.
Now, you can reward this brilliant idea by buying the app for either your iPhone or Android device for 99 cents or you can do a search for one of the many free flashlight apps that may do something similar.
Look for flashlight apps that use your smartphone’s entire screen instead of the flash on the camera that also blinks.
LookFor app website: http://www.lookfor.cl
If you are a Mac computer user and you're paying attention, you've probably noticed some concerning security stories about varioius attacks.
So does this mean it's time to finally install an antivirus program on your Apple computer?
The answer primarily depends on the behavior of the users; Apple has been providing basic malware protection since 2009.
Those that keep their operating systems updated and only download apps from Apple's App store have a higher chance of staying safe.
Households with younger Mac users that typically are not afraid to do much of anything online, may find that the extra layer of protection that comes from name brand Internet security software provides some peace of mind.
No matter what you decide when it comes to installing antivirus software on your Mac, it should be pretty clear to everyone that the days of proclaiming “I have a Mac, so I don’t worry” are long gone.
Anyone connected to the Net is constantly a target regardless of what you are using to get online, so we should all act accordingly!
Web-mail services are handy because they allow your to not be tied to any specific device in order to get your mail.
Gmail is by far the favorite system for most of us and if you use it every day like I do, you should learn all the awesome keyboard shortcuts that can make things more efficient.
The available shortcuts can reduce the need to reach for your mouse to perform common tasks, which makes it more efficient.
A lot of the basic shortcuts start by tapping a ‘G’ (as in Gmail) followed by the shortcut character.
For instance, tapping the ‘G’ followed by an ‘A’ will show you all your mail.
‘G’ followed by a ‘D’ jumps you to Draft messages.
Tapping ‘G’ followed by ‘C’ pops up your contacts.
If you make use of ‘Starred’ messages, typing G followed by S shows them to you while G followed by T will pop up your sent messages.
With more than 60 shortcuts available, using gmail without a mouse will make things fly.
Here’s the direct link to all the Gmail shortcuts:
Anyone with home automation or smart devices in their home, like security webcams or connected thermostats knows that they rely heavily on a functioning wireless network.
Smart devices are a wonderful way to remotely monitor your home, business or rental property but they're pretty useless if the wireless network goes down.
In most cases, simply rebooting your router will reset things, but it's a difficult task to accomplish when no one is near the equipment to reset the power.
Some routers can be configured to routinely reset on a regular schedule, but if you want more control, install a 'remote power switch' like I've done.
They allow you to remotely restart anything plugged into them. You can also set them to monitor an Internet connection and automatically restart the power if your connection goes down.
Anyone finding themselves restarting their router on a regular basis may also find some tips in my troubleshooting guide along with a link to the remote power switch option at:
Virtually every airline offers offers Wi-Fi on their flights, but it can cost anywhere from $5 to $50, depending on the device you’re using and the length of the flight.
If you’d like to save money but still want to be productive the next time you fly, today’s tip is for you.
An alternative to paying for slow Internet access to get content you seek, is to ‘queue’ up your desired info prior to your flight using an app called ‘Pocket’ that will work on all your devices.
Pocket’s ‘read it later’ approach is one of the many tools that gathers content for later access without the need for an Internet connection.
Pocket will work with all your devices, which means when you save content on one device, you can read it later on all your other devices without being connected to the Internet.
The platform won’t let you watch saved videos when you aren’t connected, but Pocket will allow you to create a virtual newspaper with only the information that interests you for your next long flight.
Learn more at: https://getpocket.com
The use of phishing scams have become a primary tool for starting many of today’s sophisticated hacking attacks, even more so when a company becomes a target.
The attackers know that it will only take one person in the company to fall for a well crafted email for them to start their attack.
Whenever I work with business owners on cyber-security, a radical suggestion that I present to them is to quit using e-mail for all inter-company communications.
If you consider that most successful corporate phishing scams look like they’re from someone in the company, you can understand why victims tend to let their guard down.
If you can move your company away from e-mail for inter-company communications, it will make it very easy for all your employees to spot phishing scams.
A very popular option is located at Slack.com, not only allows for a more secure communicate channel, it can also improve efficiency in other ways as well.
The Slack platform works on any type of computing device and you can give it a try with an unlimited time free account!
So called ‘Smart LED bulbs’ were being shown by a large number of companies at CES this year, but one firm in particular, is focused on making lightbulbs do a lot more than just create light.
Sengled has a complete line of bulbs that incorporate other electronics in their lightbulbs that includes everything from wifi boosters to security cameras to speakers.
Pulse Solo, for instance, is a paired set of LED bulbs that have JBL speakers in them to light up your room and get you dancing. It’s designed to work with all your Bluetooth audio devices.
The ‘Boost’ lightbulb also has a Wi-Fi booster built-in, which can come in handy for blacked out areas of Wi-Fi in your house.
My favorite offering is called ‘Snap’, which has a camera, motions sensors & facial recognition built right into the bulb.
You can checkout all of these cool products at http://Sengled.com
Fitness monitors have been all the rage for the past couple of years, but they can get kind of expensive with prices that range from 100 to 300 dollars.
But it’s assumed that a dedicated device on your wrist is more accurate than just using an app on your smartphone, right?
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association states that many apps on a smartphone can be as accurate or in some cases, more accurate than expensive fitness bands for tracking daily steps and activity.
Their tests were performed on treadmills so it may not reflect real-life movements, especially when you don’t have your smartphone on you.
But, anyone trying to find the motivation to exercise through the tracking of their daily activities, isn’t required to purchase an expensive gadget.
There are many solid smartphone apps and lots of them are free.
iPhone users can checkout Argus or Moves or the Runtastic apps which work on both Android or iPhone devices.
IMHO, anything that keeps you motivated to continue to commit to daily exercise is a really good thing, so what are you waiting for?
When Windows 10 was released, it became the fastest growing new operating system with over 75 million users within the first month of its release.
That means Windows 10 had a 5% market share in just one month while the total market share for the Mac is only 7.5%.
If you have Windows 10, there is a helpful feature that you may not know about called ‘print to PDF’ which will appear in your printer options.
A real world use for this new option could be whenever you want to send someone a portion of a spreadsheet or document that they can open it without having the same programs.
For example, with either a Word document or an Excel spreadsheet, you have the option of selecting what you want to send and printing it using the print PDF option, which will create a file that can be easily sent.
It’s a lot quicker then having to scan and send your documents.
Those running an older version of Windows can add this feature using this free utility:
I’m sure that you’ve heard about the exploding batteries in so-called ‘hover boards’ by now as it’s been happening all over the world.
The cause is most likely from the shoddy build process used by cheap offshore manufacturers that like to dump untested gadgets on the world’s markets.
Mismatched charging systems on lithium batteries can be a recipe for disaster, which would explain many of the issues with these hover boards.
What we can all learn from this actually applies to everything we own that uses a lithium ion battery and that is, make sure you are charging with the proper charger.
We constantly have to help laptop owners with various power related issues because they’re using cheap universal chargers when the original factory charger goes bad.
A mismatched charging system can not only cause overheating, but it will most likely shorten your battery life.
If you ever encounter any bulging or higher than normal heat coming from your lithium batteries, you’d be smart to stop charging them so you can inspect or replace them.
Those tiny sensors that attach to keychains or other items which allows you to wirelessly track things when they are lost have been around for quite some time.
The 2 brands that get most of the attention are Tile and TrackR.
On their face, they appear to be similar, but anyone looking for a slight edge should, look into TrackR over Tile.
The TrackR’s thinner sensors can do more and the user replaceable batteries aren’t those special expensive batteries.
An interesting feature of the TrackR devices is that you can also be used to figure out the location of your phone when you can’t figure out where you left it.
Both companies use Bluetooth with a range of roughly 150 feet of bidirectional signal.
When you buy a large number of them, you can get the cost down to $10 to $15 a piece, making it affordable to track lots of items.
Check out the most current options at:
The most common complaint we hear from users of any iPhone model is that it runs out of space quickly and doesn’t allow any memory expansion.
The problem in our household is when we are on the road snapping lots of pictures and taking lots of videos.
The guys at Sandisk felt your pain and created a series of devices they call the iXpand.
The device looks like a typical flash drive that has Apple’s Lightning connector and a standard USB connector.
When you install their app, the iXpand will auto copy your files from your camera roll whenever it’s plugged in.
It’s the perfect solution for those with small storage levels that want to free up space while on the go.
The USB connector allows you to plug it into your computer to transfer your files.
The iXpand now comes in various storage sizes and range in price from $30 to $200.
Learn more about their updated models at:
Today’s tip is for anyone that likes some type of noise that will help distract their mind so they can go to sleep.
I personally need something that helps my mind to slow down without waking up my wife.
One of the more solid discoveries I’ve made is an app called ‘Relax Melodies’ because of it’s flexibility in generating soothing sounds that may be the best I’ve ever found.
It provides a variety of soothing sounds that can also be mixed together allowing you to create custom sleep inducing sounds.
The app allows you to choose soothing sounds like a running river, ocean waves or waterfalls and match them with the crackle of a fire, birds singing or rain hitting on a tin roof.
Finish it off with some ethereal piano or flute music and you have yourself a sleep-inducing background sound that helps you get to sleep much quicker.
This free app is available for iPhone, Android and even Windows phone users:
That iPhone you use every day is a pretty amazing gadget for everything from entertainment to communicating as well as capturing precious memories, but did you know that there is an accessory that can make it more amazing? It’s called a tripod.
If you think of how you use your iPhone; Facetiming, group selfies or just watching a video; you normally holding it with your hand.
A clever tripod called the ‘Kenu Stance’ is a must have accessories if I’ve ever seen one for iPhone users.
At just over an ounce in weight and a bit smaller than a pack of gum, this accessory can change how you use your iPhone.
Whether it’s watching a movie, taking pictures via your timer or engaging in a video, the Menu Stance makes it more efficient.
Because it connects through the iPhone’s Lightning connector, it can be helpful in both portrait or landscape mode, allowing you to position your screen or camera in the best way, every time!
Check it out at:
If it seems that your mobile data usage doesn’t seem to go as far these days, you may not be imagining things.
Anyone that is actively using Facebook every day on their smartphones may find that it’s a big reason why.
If you’ve noticed that videos in your newsfeed automatically play as you scroll past, it can eat a hole in your data plan if it’s not unlimited.
Take a second to check the settings in your Facebook app specifically to check the Video Auto-play setting.
When it is turned on, it is eating up your data plan when you are scrolling past the videos.
If you enjoy the auto-playing of videos, you can change the setting so that it will only work when you are connected to Wi-fi only to preserve your mobile data plan.
If you have no need to have videos ever auto-play, turn it off so that you have to tap the videos when you want to see them.
Now if auto-play comes back, you will know that your default setting has changed.
The link to change the settings is posted at:
A report by Kansas State University researchers has suggested that regularly taking really short breaks of a minute or so to switch your focus to a game or textng your friends may improve your productivity.
With this in mind, the next time you’re going to take a break, instead of reaching for a mindless game, try something that can distract your mind and educate you.
Google's ‘SmartyPins’ game allows you to test both your trivia & geography during your break.
They’ll pop up a trivia question with instructions to place a pin in the location that is your answer in Google Maps.
Trivia questions can be random or from specific categories such as science & geography, arts & culture or history & current events.
When the question pops up, you will score bonus points when you answer within fifteen seconds.
They also provide hints so you can click the button and place your pin. They spot 1000 miles as point, so every wrong answer will subtracts the actual miles between the correct answer and your answer pin.
Enjoy educational break time at https://smartypins.withgoogle.com
A very common request for help I get from people of all degrees of tech knowledge centers around the constant issue of space on their smartphones.
It is especially common with iPhone users because of the lack of a slot to expand memory that is common on most Android smartphones.
Uninstalling any apps you no longer use is a good start, but getting rid of as many old images and videos will generate a lot more free space.
Dumping videos especially can create lot of free space considering that deleting a 2 minute video can free up as much space as a large number of pictures.
A lesser known area that most users may not think about are the endless number of old text messages, especially those that have images or videos attached.
I was able to free up over 5Gbs on my wife’s iPhone by going through all of her old messages that had tons of attachments.
If you’d like more of my tips for freeing up storage on your phone, go to:
Despite email’s tendency to be an inefficient and even dangerous form of communication, it’s still the primary method for most everyone in business.
If you’re not getting timely responses or responses at all to your business related messages, there’s a possibility that when you’re sending them may be contributing.
A marketing firm called Yesware took the time to analyze 500 million messages and what they discovered was that response rates appear to be higher on weekends. This may be because weekend messages don't have to compete with nearly as many messages as they would typically on any weekday.
They’re also suggesting that messages sent between 6 & 7am or later in the night around 8pm will get higher response rates.
You can easily test out these theories by learning how to set your messages to go out on a time schedule. Virtually every popular e-mail program has this ability or can be added through plug-ins so you can send your messages at a potentially better time.
For complete details on this study, go to:
Google is by far the most sophisticated search engine which can also mean that you are going to be presented with millions of search results most of which aren’t relevant.
You can dramatically improve the quality of your search results using one of the many of what Google calls 'query operators' if you understand how to use them.
One 'power tool' that few people know about is the operator for “range” which will filter results in a given numerical range.
Just by using two periods between two sets of numbers, Google knows to limit your search results to links within those parameters, which it does very well.
For instance, say you’re doing a little research for a specific period in time you could type “Russian Revolution” 1800..1900 or when you’re shopping for a used smartphone in specific price range, you can type “smartphones $250..$350”.
To further improve your results, try including specific formatting for your numbers (dollars or feet for example)!