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!
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)!
When we get serious about physical fitness, getting with a personal trainer is certain to accelerate progress and the same will hold true for your mental fitness.
As we age, we recognize some of our mental sharpness diminishing and it can become a regular irritation.
If you’re like me and have noticed this happening, you might be interested in trying out a personal brain trainer. An app called ‘Elevate’ for both iPhone and Android smartphones may be worth a look.
The app uses games based on various scientific research designed in conjunction with various experts in neuroscience & cognitive learning.
You begin by selecting what you want to work on; speaking skills, focus, comprehension, processing speed and more.
The Elevate app will create your own customized ‘daily challenge’ based on your selection and tracks your progress for each section.
The daily basic challenges in the app are free with an unlimited option that you can pay should you get into it.
One user called the Elevate app a ‘daily mental multivitamin’, so for those looking for a better use of their spare time should checkout Elevate at http://elevateapp.com
Science fiction fans that want to create incredivle photos with their iPhones will think today's tip is out of this world!
An inexpensive app called "Alien Sky" uses awesome space effects which can turn your images into something that will really stand out.
The app allows you edit your images with futuristic effects using high resolution space objects or various lens flares to any picture on your iPhone.
The space objects include moons, planets, suns, stars,
comets or various galaxies to take your social media posts to another level.
The Alien Sky app has more than 150 different effects that gives you total control over the customization; you can post fantastic other worldly photos that will stop your friends cold on social media.
Now you can turn those old dull images on your phone and turn them into fantastic visual effects.
The link to learn more is:
A friend recently asked for some help finding an online appointment setting system because they found themselves spending far too much time exchanging emails and voice messages.
The wanted something simple, preferably free and with the ability for somewhere down the road for their customers to pay through the system as well.
Based on those parameters, I suggested they take a look at http://www.acuityscheduling.com
Anyone in any business that has the need to set appointments will find having a single point of contact where customers can schedule their own appointments like what Acuity offers is a big time saver
The free service is really basic, so if you need to customize the system or take payments through the system, you will need to spend $15 to $25 a month.
The simplicity of the tool allowed my friend to get setup quickly which meant they simply needed to create a “book an appointment” link on their website.
Acuity syncs with lots of popular calendars, allows for group appointments and the system knows which time zone each party is in.
Using secure passwords continue to be the weakest link for most users online and I’ve stressed over and over how important it is to use different passwords for all of your online accounts.
If my previous suggestions of password management programs have been a bit overwhelming, there’s a low tech method that I highly recommend for those struggling to keep track of all their passwords; just write them down.
I don’t mean the old use a sticky note on your monitor method, I mean jot them down for storage in a safe place, like somewhere random in your smartphone.
Be sure to avoid using the word “password” in the description or in the file and create your own form of protection in case someone does run across the document.
For example, you can add 4 totally random characters, symbols or numbers at the beginning of the real password and only you will know to ignore them.
My point is, that if the choice is using the same password on all your accounts or writing them down so you can different passwords everywhere, then write them down!
This will keep you from being totally exposed by a single data breach.
We all hate having to search everywhere for a special remote for our streaming devices, an especially common problem when children are involved.
Yesterday, I gave users of the Apple TV a tip for an alternative remote control and today’s tip is for Roku owners.
There are a couple of alternatives for controlling your Roku device using your smartphone or computer.
Using either, simply go to http://remoku.tv, to generate a virtual remote right on your screen.
Start by tapping or clicking ‘Settings’ which will scan of your wifi network and automatically find your Roku device.
Once it’s found, you can use the virtual remote on the screen to control everything.
If you’re a multi-talker, checkout an add-on for the Chrome browser on your computer, which allows you to bring up the remote anytime while you are surfing around.
Apple TV is a very popular way to stream video content, but I have a complaint for the engineers at Apple. That remote control is too darn tiny so I’m constantly losing it.
Whether it hides under magazines on my coffee table or gets wedged between my couch cushions, it always creates the same retort: “has anyone seen the Apple TV remote?”
I found an excellent cure for anyone household full of users with the same problem; add the controls for the Apple TV to your regular TV remote!
You may not know about an option in the ‘Settings’ of the device which allows you to configure an extra input on your regular TV or cable remote that will control it too.
The most obvious option is answered with the question: when was that last time you used a VCR?
It takes but a few minutes to quickly setup this solution and it will change your world for the better.
The link to the instructions:
Tomorrow, I will provide a similar tip for owners of a Roku Box.
There may be a computing technology that has been around for many years that may be a reasonable option for many this year.
It’s called a ‘Google Chromebook’, which actually looks and performs like a standard laptop, but at a cost of only a couple hundred dollars.
It’s based on Google’s Chrome OS as well as their various apps, like Google Docs which can be used offline.
These value-based computers won’t run Windows programs, so they aren’t for power users, but those that spend most the majority of their time on the Net may find it a viable alternative.
Children and elders users may especially find value in this device as it is inexpensive and easy to use and best of all, its not exposed to the malware that infects Windows and Mac computers.
Anyone that finds most of what they care about is online will find that a Chromebook may be worth looking at.
Discover more at http://google.com/chromebooks
Today, let’s talk about something you probably already have, but may not be using.
If you’re a user of one of the many Google tools such as Gmail or Google+ you’re getting at least 15 Gbs of free online storage better known as ‘Google Drive’ for your docs, spreadsheets, images, video or any type of file that you’d like to store online.
An excellent way to use this free cloud storage is for your most important archived files and pictures which can be done easily with the use of the Google Drive utility for either a Mac or Windows PC.
Once you have installed the tool, ‘Google Drive’ becomes a folder on your computer which means that files that you save within it will get auto synced to your free space.
Changes made in your computer’s Google Drive folder will be mirrored in the ‘My Drive’ section online. This means that any files you share, move, modify, or send to the trash will be reflected in your online synced account.
It’s just another way to protect your most valuable files while giving you access to them from any desktop or mobile device you own.
Hyper Text Markup Language or HTML is the basic language of all things on the Internet.
Anyone interested in learning how to create a website will need to understand this basic language that is the basic structure for everything you see online.
Those services pitching easy to build websites using their pre-made sites are limited and won’t teach you anything about the actual building of websites.
Although HTML looks like a foreign language at first, learning the basic language will quickly lead to de-mystifying it all.
A solid way to start learning is from Mozilla’s ‘Webmaker’ tools that allow you to take sample sites and play with them to see what will happen.
Experimenting with code is a really good way to start learning web skills and Webmaker allows you to tinker with websites without any consequences.
Getting a handle on HTML has become a vital skill for everyone, especially our kids and Mozilla wants to help millions move from simply using the Internet to helping to creating it.
The Webmaker project located at https://thimble.mozilla.org is an excellent place for anyone with the desire to learn more about how the Internet really works to get started.
Most of us are paying more attention to improving our health on a regular basis primarily through diet and exercise.
Knowing exactly what you are eating is an important step in achieving health and fitness goals which is where a site called Two Foods can help you make good decisions.
This simple web tool allows you to get a comparison between any 2 different items with a breakdown of calories, carbs, fat and protein.
For instance, you can check the difference between apples and oranges when you are looking for a healthy snack.
It’s also helpful when trying to decide where you’d like to eat lunch, because you can also compare various restaurant menu items against one another.
Or, simply type the name of two popular restaurants in which will pull up the info on several popular menu items.
This tool is a real eye-opener for those that don’t normally pay attention to what they’re putting in their stomachs! http://www.twofoods.com
Most of us use our smartphones as a flashlight on a pretty regular basis because we always have them on us.
The bright LEDs are great for pointing light in one specific direction, but on occasion you really need to spread the light around like a lantern.
Today’s tip is a life hack that turns your smartphone into a light spreading lantern instead of just a flashlight.
All that’s required is a rubberband and any type of plastic water bottle that is full.
Start by attaching your smartphone to the plastic bottle using the rubber band, but be sure to point the smartphone's flashlight towards the bottle.
Don’t point it at the label; it’s actually best to remove the label altogether for the better dispersion of light.
This life hack is great when you’re camping or forced to work in the dark on something or when you are trying to lead a group around at night.
This little life hack elevates anyone into a real life ‘MacGyver’!
Yesterday’s tip discussed the dangers of ‘Juice-Jacking' which would allow a malicious USB-based charging device to gain access your private files without you ever knowing.
Those that travel extensively, especially to foreign countries might want to look into a device called a "Juice Jack Defender".
At $15, this simple adapter allows you to safely connect to any USB-based charging system with confidence because it will block any attempted access to your mobile devices while they are charging.
USB ports by design allow both a charge and the ability to communicate with your mobile device. This communication is desired when you’re connecting to your own computer, but not with everything else.
If you connect to any unknown charging system using the Juice Jack Defender, it converts the connection into a one way street.
The dangers of juice-jacking isn’t likely to be a problem at most public charging stations, there is simply no way to know if a USB charger is safe or not.
Using an AC outlet and your own chargers always the safest round, but that’s not an option, then a simple blocking device like this will provide peace of mind.
More at: http://ChargeDefense.com
Keeping all your tech devices charged while you're out and about is a lot easier then it used to be because of all the public charging stations that have been installed.
Those of you that travel around regularly should know about something referred to as 'Juice-Jacking'.
Juice-Jacking is possible if a charging station attempts to access your smartphone or tablet's data while charging your device.
When you plug most smartphones or tablets into a computer via a USB port, often times, it provides instant access to your private data.
This same holds true for any public charging station you might use, if it's setup maliciously and you will have no idea that it’s happening.
While it isn't very likely you will have to worry about this danger in US-based airports, international travelers should be on the alert for this scam.
To protect yourself from Juice-Jacking, try to stick to your own A/C charger plugged directly into a electrical socket, but if that's not an option, I’ll give you a tip tomorrow on a blocking device that provides peace of mind when you are forced to plug into any USB port.
In all my time helping people with technology, one consistent problem seems to always pop up - everyone knows about the importance of backing up their important files, but most people never can seem to make it important enough to get it setup.
If this most important task is still on your ‘to do’ list and you're looking for the motivation to make it a priority, see if this helps:
The awful reality of being hit by ransomware, which will lock you out of your own files, including any backup device that’s connected, is getting worse.
The current attacks can even spread by themselves, often using methods that we have not seen before.
Anyone that’s a victim of this scan that doesn’t have an off-site copy of their files data will either have to lose everything or pay hundreds or possibly thousands of dollars in order to regain access to their files.
Secure on-line backup services like Carbonite's unlimited package are the best tool for avoiding ever having to pay, because those backed up files aren’t accessible via your computer when you're attacked.
This is a wake up call for anyone that’s still using the old way of backing up their files!
If you’re like me, you constantly bop between various computers and your smartphone, so having an easy way to push info between them would be great, wouldn’t it?
For those times when you’d like to push something from your computer to your smartphone, or vice versa, there’s a free app called Pushbullet that can do just that!
The Pushbullet system is the combination of a Google Chrome web app and a mobile app for Android or iPhone that makes sending just about anything between your devices really simple.
Everything from your notes, useful web urls, addresses, lists, pictures or just about any kind of file can be sent between your daily devices.
Unlike the steps required by online services such as DropBox and Google Drive, Pushbullet allows you to share without having to download files or open a special app.
You can also use Pushbullet to send items to other people like your friends, family or co-workers.
Android users can also mirror their smartphone notifications on their computers.
Here are the links to get started:
Web App: https://www.pushbullet.com
Android App: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pushbullet.android
iPhone App: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pushbullet/id810352052
We’ve all seen those reality shows that use some form of a ‘make over’ as their theme, but most of us have no interest in becoming a national spectacle during the process.
Anyone that’s ever thought of some minor or major hairdo change, a change of which makeup they use or is just curious what they’d look like with say blue contacts, today’s tip is for you.
A website called https://Taaz.com has a pretty impressive online makeover system that is really easy to use and creates useful results in minutes.
You start by uploading your picture then experiment with various elements like your skin, lips, eyes, hair and finish with accessories.
Anyone thinking of emulating various celebrities can incorporate their look on your picture with a simple couple of clicks of the mouse.
The site also offers Halloween ideas which allows you to see what you'd look like as the Mad Hatter or an Avatar character or the various Lady Gaga options you might want.
This tool is more suited to assist women that are trying to decide on various brands of makeup, us guys can still use it for a basic makeover as well.
Social networks have become a vital communication tool, both personally and professionally for most of us.
If you are in business, keeping your LinkedIn profile updated is vital for what I call "the business networking on steroids".
But new users of the network can get confused about the best way to handle requests to connect from others that you don’t know.
Don't treat it like Facebook; LinkedIn is best suited to help you meet people you may not know at all, which allows you to grow your network of contacts.
If you were at a real-world business event, turning down someone’s business card just because you didn’t know them would be strange behavior, right?
Well, that's how i think of LinkedIn. With just a few exceptions, I generally give their profile a quick check and accept any connection request if it looks like a real profile.
Profiles that don’t have a picture, have very few connections or have little to no info about the person are my exceptions.
Keep in mind, you can always delete someone if you feel like they're abusing the connection.
If you need the steps for kicking someone from your LinkedIn network, here they are:
Today’s tip is based on our need to put a lot of space in your noggin.
Techies that use their tech every day often assume that everyone knows of all the shortcuts available on their devices.
On occasion, someone that sees me doing something quick will remind me that shortcuts are not as commonly known as we assume.
Let's use the space bar for example. It does way more for you than just adding spaces between words as you are typing.
Checkout this tip for when you are browsing the Internet on a computer and you want to scroll the page down that doesn't require your mouse.
Simply tap the space bar and it will scroll your web page down exactly one screen. To scroll back up, you can hold the 'Shift' key and tap your space bar to scroll on screen up.
While typing on your mobile devices and you come to the end a sentence, try tapping your spacebar twice in a row to end with a period. It is much faster than searching around for the period key!
For most of us, using text messaging is a critical daily method of communication with just about everyone we know and when something happens to our smartphones, we’re completely out of sorts.
Whether we leave our phones somewhere or it get’s broken or stolen, it’s bound to happen to all of us.
Did you know that you can log into carrier’s your online account which will allow you to send and receive texts from any computer as if it’s coming from your phone? I’d highly recommend you figure how it works before you’re next crisis!
For those that don’t know their account info or just haven’t ever had a need to use their online text option, get it figured out before you’re in dire need.
If your carrier doesn't support online texting from your phone number or you’re in urgent need to send a text, checkout this free online texting option at https://Textem.net
One downside of this service is that you’ll need to choose which cellular provider your recipient is using or it won’t work.
Texting from something other than your smartphone is vital when your phone goes missing or is broken, so don’t wait until you need it to learn how to do it!