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!
Anyone that works with spreadsheets all day long knows that working with large data sheets can make it very difficult to analyze the data.
Graphs and charts are an excellent method of taking large data sets and turning them into more digestible or understandable reports.
While the built-in tools for generating charts and graphs can be adequate, there are more elaborate resources available if you want to step up your game.
An open source and free option that’s available is called RAW.
As the missing link between spreadsheets & vector graphics, this tool is really cool.
You start by using copy/paste or drag a file into the interface.
Next, you select a layout type and then drag datasets to map the dimensions you want to display to the categories you want to use.
Once the basic data is setup, you can customize what will become the visualization of your data to fit your needs.
When it's finalized, you can download the graphics and use them any way you want.
It’s really powerful stuff!
The link to RAW is http://raw.densitydesign.org
The influence of social media has become very apparent in virtually every aspect of our lives.
Everything from basic buying decisions and politics to the financial markets and global conflicts are being influenced by social media every single day.
This popularity has created a technology known as the 'social bot' which is simply software programs attempting to appear as humans.
They are often used by companies for creating automated posts while spammers use them to hit our profiles with junk advertising and in some cases, governments use them for propaganda campaigns.
On the dark side, social bots can be used to infect other accounts by circulating malicious links, so it is always best to avoid them if you can.
Twitter in particular seems to have a large percentage of profiles that seem to be leveraging social bots, which was the impetus for a research project at Indiana University.
The "Truthy Project” Botometer tool was created to try to analyze Twitter profiles for signs that they are using social bots.
While it’s far from a definite analysis, it can be a helpful tool to avoid getting tricked by a profile that may seem to be a real human user.
I’ve posted a link to the project at DataDoctors.com/radio
If you are ever the one stuck with the task of transcribing a recording, voice message, interview or any sort of spoken word sound file, it can be an inefficient process.
You will need to use multiple tools on your screen and bounce between them to start/stop the audio in order to have the time to properly capture all of the words.
There's a much better way to get the job done by using a simple utility, whether it's a regular task or a once in a while need.
The website is called oTranscribe.com and it is really simple to use.
You simply upload your audio file via their web interface and suddendly, everything to complete the job will appear in one place.
They have a simple word processor which also has controls for the audio file built-in to the tool with basic keyboard controls for all your commands.
When you need to slow down or even speed up the playback to match your typing speed, it's no sweat.
Starting and stoping the playback won't require you to reach for your mouse; you can simply tap the Escape key.
This web resource is certainly bookmark worthy - http://otranscribe.com
Twitter is a great business communication tool but if you are posting tweets at the wrong times, they aren't going to get much engagement.
There are a plethora of sources that can suggest the best times and days to post your tweets, in general.
One researcher says that brands will get better engagement on weekends, while another suggests tweeting late on weekdays is better.
All these 'general' suggestions are all well and good, but for the best results, you are much better off determining when your network is active on Twitter.
A free and very simple resource to use that will analyze your actual network is at http://Tweriod.com.
By specifically analyzing your followers and your past posts, Tweriod can generate insight into when you are most likely to get the best exposure and real-time engagement.
It breaks the data down into weekends, weekdays, Sundays and Mondays so you will no longer be guessing when the best time to schedule your posts.
Using Twitter without any type of strategy is why most give up on the network, so look into http://Tweriod.com for best times for YOU to tweet!
For any avid iPhone smartphone photographer, there's little that's more frustrating than taking what looks like "the perfect shot" just to have the image come out all blurry.
Taking several pictures in a row is one way to improve the odds of a better shot, but many times, movement is being generated every time you tap to snap the image.
The art of 'holding still' and gently tapping to screen goes a long way to help create better pictures, but there are several other ways to take the shot that a lot of people may have forgetten they have.
One option is to use either of the volume buttons on your phone, which feels a lot more like an old-school camera when you're holding phone sideways.
If you have those famous white Apple headphones plugged in, you can use also use the volume buttons on the headphones to snap the picture as well.
Using your headphones to snap the picture comes in very handy, especially when trying to capture those candid shots or when you're using a tripod.
Whatever you do, remember to always hold still longer!
Anyone that's in a job where tracking your mileage is necessary has probably seen that there are numerous apps that will allow you to manually track mileage, but why not use the built in GPS in your phone to make the task more automated?
An app called "TripLog GPS Mileage Tracker" is designed to use the 'smarts' in your smartphone to make tracking mileage much more efficient.
The app can also track toll charges, parking fees, fuel costs or other driving related expenses to create a complete trip report.
The best part is that all that's required for it to work is to plug the phone into a power source or connect to something via Bluetooth, like your car stereo and it'll automatically begin the tracking process once you go faster than five MPH.
When you disconnect the phone or turn the car off, it automatically stops the tracking so it’s dead simple to use.
Triplog is a free app for both Android and iPhone users with some additional premium features available at:
Yesterday, I shared tips for iPhone and iPad owners on how to restrict access to their apps and today, I’ve got the same advice for Android users.
An awesome app called 'Hexlock' is a very flexible way to control privacy & security on any Android device.
Hexlock lets you lock down individual apps with a special passcode or pattern lock screen, which allows you to lend your device to others with complete confidence.
This level of control is also very handy when a child gets to use their parent's phone or tablet.
Hexlock can also act as a security barrier if your device gets lost or stolen while it is still unlocked.
The app allows you to create 6 different profiles; work, home, kids, vacation, etc. which easily protects apps based on where you are using the device.
The free Hexlock app is easy to setup and using it is pretty straight forward.
If it's something you've been thinking of using, simple search for 'Hexlock' in the Google Play Store or go to:http://liquidum.com/hexlock
The iPhone and iPad have become defacto "electronic babysitters" for millions of moms and dads, but handing over a device with full access to a child is pretty risky.
A lesser known feature in all iOS device can easily safeguard any mobile device before you hand it over to a child.
The feature is called "Guided Access" and it lets you to lockdown the device to only allow one app to run.
Once you turn it on, you choose the app you want to run then it locks the system to that one app so you'll know the child can’t get into anything else.
If you want to allow a number of apps to be accessible, using the "Restrictions" setting instead can safeguard individual apps.
Either of these features can quickly get setup in the 'Settings' menu and fortunately, it won't take a rocket-scientist to make it happen, so it’s truly convenient.
I have posted the links with How-To instructions for both of these features at DataDoctors.com/radio
Tomorrow, I'll help Android Users do the same!
Setup Guided Access: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202612
Setup App Restrictions: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201304
The social networking world continues to grow and not just by the most well known ones like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Specialty networks that are based on religion, race, age, gender or just about any special interest are up an running and if you are an enthusiast of fishing, there is now a social network just for you.
“FishBrain" has millions of downloads of the social app that "connects fishing fanatics in over two hundred countries.
It’s a huge resource loaded with information and connections for those that love to fish.
Share or track new fishing spots, compare techniques & baits and even compete on a leaderboard as you record your catches to become the “King of the Water".
There are more than 330,000 catches and 50,000 baits so you can learn from thousands of other fellow anglers right from your smartphone.
The FishBrain network and apps are available for both iPhone and Android users
Anyone on the creative side that owns an iPad should checkout a pretty cool app called ‘Paper'.
Paper by Fifty Three is powerful but easy to use app for Sketching, Writing, Drawing, Outlining and Coloring.
The concept is to allow you to flexibly use an iPad like it's a piece of paper.
You can draw and write using your finger or buy the optional Bluetooth pencil for better accuracy if you’re a serious artist.
What makes this sketch app so powerful is its simplicity; it tends to work the way you think, making it pretty intuitive.
You can also take advantage of their community of 'creators' to discover pre-existing templates so you can avoid having to start from scratch on a new project.
The actual Paper app is free to download and if you wan the accuracy of a stylus, the Pencil sells for about $60.
Checkout examples of what others are doing with this app and download it if you want to give it try at http://FiftyThree.com ; that’s fifty three spelled out, not the numbers.
Cameras that use thermal imaging are able to detect infrared light even when it's dark, allowing you can see things ‘thermally'.
There’s been a recent increase in these devices that work with your smartphone to turn them into thermal imaging devices but they’re pretty expensive.
But now, for around $200, you can convert just about any iPhone or Android device into a thermal imaging device with the 'Seek Thermal' camera.
The three inch device just plugs in at the power connector on many popular smartphones allowing them to shoot video or capture photos in the dark.
These images are going to be grainy, low in resolution, but you’ll be able to see if something is lurking in the dark.
This thermal imaging capability also allows you to see where pipe may be clogged, where hot air might be escaping or check the surface temperature on just about anything.
If you have been curious about this technology but the price was too high, checkout Seek’s devices at http://thermal.com
Cloud-based file storage is available everywhere these days: iCloud, Google Drive, DropBox, OneDrive and many more.
They typically start you out with some free storage that ranges from 5 to 15 GBs, which is enough for users that don’t generate much content.
But for all those avid smartphone photographers and videographers, that isn’t nearly enough.
The majority of companies use the “freemium” service model; they give you the basic offering for free and charge for premium options.
If you have topped out on the free limit of your cloud storage mainly because of all your pictures and videos, I have some great news for you.
Google updated its 'Photos’ app and storage system so now you can get unlimited storage for absolutely free.
Both Android and iPhone users can simply install the Google Photos App to start using the unlimited storage service.
Google isn't over-compressing your smartphone pictures or video like they did with Google+ either.
Get this app now especially all you frustrated iCloud users out there!
Surveys are an important process for just about any business and because of that, there are numerous options available.
Popular options such as https://surveymonkey.com provide plenty of great features, but unless you need to send surveys out on a regular basis, it’s probably overkill.
Anyone looking for a simple option should consider the free & easy option through Google Docs.
Using Google Forms, you can create solid surveys using 9 different optional question types which include common text, checkboxes and multiple choice questions.
It allows you to randomly shuffle the order of the options to help with the quality of the data & include required questions.
Once the survey has been created, you just use the associated URL in an email or a web post to start generating responses.
The results are gathered in a Google spreadsheet which allows you to sort the collected data for generating reports.
The next time a simple survey is something you need, checkout https://Google.com/forms
When news breaks of just about any event, most of us jump onto Google to try to get up-to-the-minute details.
Most users believe they can trust the results that come up from a Google search, but I am here to tell you that you can not and should not, especially with breaking news.
Malware creators routinely target breaking news seekers with fake news sites, often with claims of having exclusive images of horrific events.
Google is doing its best to monitor and kill this type of scam, but frankly it is virtually impossible to catch every single thing that gets thrown at them.
The easiest way to avoid these scams is to use your trusted news resources instead of doing a general Google search.
Save your favorite news sites in your browsers bookmarks or use smartphone news apps from your favorite news sites.
Scammers will always study our actions so they can target us, so this is one action that you should consider changing!
Have you heard? Zuckerberg is giving away all his money to one thousand lucky users Facebook. He is getting rid of forty five billion dollars and if you'll just copy and paste this message, you could get a pile of money!
It’s simply amazing how so many of our friends can still fall for these outlandish hoaxes by becoming copy/paste zombies when they see a post that they think everyone should know.
A big part of the problem is that far too many users assume that if their friend posted it, the info must be true and OK to repost.
A single misguided post can get out of hand in a hurry when lots of mindless users become copy - paste Zombies.
We have seen this mistake so many times that we decided to create an amusing warning video that we post whenever we see our friends or family posting things they didn’t bother to checkout first.
The next time you see a friend or family member turning into a copy/paste zombie, feel free to post a link to our video warning yourself which I have posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
I have been reminding everyone constantly to turn on two-factor authentication for your important online accounts because it's an extra layer of security against breaches and other exploits.
You are used to using 2 factor authentication with your debit card because you have to have the card itself and the associated PIN.
Could you imagine having a debit card that did not require you to include a PIN...well that is essentially what you're doing if you don’t turn on two-factor authentication on your online accounts when it's available.
Once you activate it, a thief that gets their hands on your username & password would also need to steal your smartphone in order to gain access to your account.
It is also an excellent warning system because you'll know if someone has stolen your login info.
Virtually every major online web service or bank allow for this protection.
If you help seeing who supports it and how to activate it, I’ve got a link posted to a site with a comprehensive list at DataDoctors.com/radio
If you have to use reading glasses in order to use your smartphone you know that keeping track of them is a recurring source of frustration.
The solution for most of us is to buy a bunch of reading glasses and spread them all over the place.
Wouldn't it be convenient to actually keep your reading glasses with your beloved smartphone all the time?
The people over at ThinOptics had this same idea, so they created something pretty awesome: a phone case that hides a superthin set of reading glasses in it.
The flexible optical eyeware doesn’t have any arms; they simply clip to your nose but stay put, which is what makes them thin enough to be stored in the smartphone case.
They offer options that will work with Apple or Samsung phones or offer a universal option that will attach to the back of any case.
The kits range from twenty to forty dollars, so it's an inexpensive solution to the common question of ‘where did I put my reading glasses’!
Check them out for yourself at http://ThinOptics.com
A while back, I discussed a truly wireless security webcam called Arlo from a company called Netgear.
They are battery-operated Wifi enabled cameras that eliminate the need to connect to a power outlet, so they’re able to be used just about anywhere.
Well now other companies have jumped into the game including the much more cost effective cameras from a company called Blink.
Blink offers the identical technology with wire free motion-detecting, night vision, HD cameras but at half the price of the Arlo options, so wireless monitoring of your home or rental properties just got a lot cheaper to achieve.
Not only is the starter kit cheaper, but adding additional cameras is as well, so you can monitor a greater area for the same money.
With either system, your smartphone is your system monitor so it eliminates the need for you to pay for traditional monitoring.
If you happen to be looking for a cost effective way to setup video monitors, checkout:
Have you ever noticed that you're more productive while working at a coffee shop then when you're at home or the office cubical?
You many think that it's the caffeination that's making you more productive but it's more likely the ambiance!
Researchers have studied the possibility that the ambient noises common in coffee houses can make you more productive or creative.
For many, a really quiet or really noisy environment can be less productive, so that ambient background noise at your favorite coffee shop just right.
You can test this theory out for yourself without ever leaving your home or office because there's a website and an app for that!
A resource called http://coffitivity.com has created a great way to replicate the ambient noises found in coffee shops, cafeterias and campus cafes that you can use whenever you’re trying to be more productive.
If you find the website helpful, you can also download their mobile app to your smartphone so you can take the productivity sounds with you wherever you travel.
Some people have even started using Coffitivity to drown out the distracting noises in their work environment!
There is a hidden, but essential element that allows us to navigate the Internet referred to as a 'DNS server' that plays a huge role in getting us to the websites we seek every day.
'DNS', which stands for 'Domain Name System' acts like a 'data traffic cop' giving your computer directions whenever you tap out a web address.
The default DNS settings for your connection are generally determined by your Internet Service Provider, but you there are many potential benefits when you change those default settings.
Reliability & Internet speeds can often be improved and if you have kids in the house, it can allow you to lock down undesirable content or malicious websites for your entire household.
My go-to options is OpenDNS because it’s fast, FREE, reliable and simple to setup. It provides complete control over what anyone using your wifi has access to no matter what device their on.
You can use this great tool by changing the DNS settings in your router (home or business) so that all your users have the performance and protection you decide to setup.
If you aren't sure how set things up, check the support website for your specific router for instructions.
The link to setup OpenDNS is at: https://www.opendns.com/home-internet-security
Last Friday, I explained the dangers of using the same password on all your online accounts, which then leads to th question: How am I supposed to remember all those complicated passwords?
The answer is YOU CAN NOT; you need help from some for of password management system when using a differnt long, complicated passwords for each of your online accounts.
Password management programs are the best way to generate and manage those passwords on all your devices and websites in the most secure manner.
When you use them, you only have to remember a single password.
They all use encrypted storage of your passwords and offer everything from
password generators to auto form fillers to two-factor authentication, while integrating into the browser on your computer or mobile device.
The setup process may seem a bit complicated for non-technical people, but once the program is setup, it really is very simple to use.
One of our favorites for new users is called LastPass which comes in both a free and a premium version. The free version allows you to test it risk free and you will only need to pay the annual fee if you like the premium options.
If you need help, ask for it because this problem is way too important to ignore!