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!
One of the ways that the Internet can be a very dangerous place these days is through the use of what is known as ‘scripts’.
Scripts are like little macros in word processors; they are essentially a list of commands that will automatically run when you visit malicious websites.
While the use of these ‘scripts’ can range from generating simple animations to serving up advertising, they can also be used to trick your computer into executing malicious commands in the background.
One of ways to prevent being exploited by these rogue scripts is to use a free add-on for the Firefox web browser called NoScript.
NoScript prevents scripts from executing unless it is from a trusted site that you have approved, so it allows you to slowly customize your own filter.
While many web scripts are required in order to allow a website to function properly, giving you total control over when and if scripts run will provide you with an extra layer of protection.
Please understand that since NoScript is a free and open-source tool, it will require you to spend time learning just how it works, but it is time really well spent.
Learn more at https://noscript.net
Doesn’t it drive you crazy when your computer takes forever to shut down ?
While you may be tempted to pop the power button to force a shutdown, it’s a really bad idea.
Your computer generates a lot of temporary files as a normal operational process, which are marked for deletion when you notify it that you are all done.
The Windows operating system uses an extensive housekeeping procedure that's performed when you shut it down, reflected by that fast flashing of the hard drive light on the front of your computer.
Preventing it from performing the normal shutdown process can fill your hard drive with junk files.
Any time your computer gets low on empty disk space, it will dramatically impact your overall performance.
So, if you’re guilty of doing this a few times in the past, you can easily track down those excess files and clean them out using the Disk Cleanup utility.
This is one of those tips that proves patience is a virtue and a benefit.
By the way, Mac users should also follow this rule to keep things running smooth as well.
If you enjoy hiking as much as we do, discovering new hiking trails to explore wherever you go can become an obsession.
There are endless resources on the Internet for finding new trails, but we always start with one resource: the AllTrails.com website.
With over 50 thousand trails and 700 thousand members, the sharing of great hikes from this website is pretty incredible.
They allow you to search for trails that are dog or child friendly, hikes with waterfalls or hikes that accommodate mountain biking.
You can review the approximate length and time of the hikes along with the difficulty and user ratings.
AllTrails makes it easy to find the best hikes near you based on your location; you’ll probably find hidden gems that are right in your own backyard.
The quality of info you can gather on any hike is amazing and don’t forget the http://AllTrails.com mobile app which makes it easy to discover wonderful adventures everywhere you go.
When smartphone’s battery dies and your significant other is attempting to reach you, it can be taken you’re ignoring them.
This common situation is what inspired an app developer to create a useful process for providing status updates to those important folks in your life.
The app, which is called Status, is unlike other methods because it does a lot of the work for you automatically.
Using the motion sensors in your phone along with calendar information, it can automatically update others that you're driving, are still at work, sitting at home, in a meeting, currently unreachable and most importantly lets them know when your battery is low.
Parents of teenagers may find this app very useful so they'll know not to try contacting a child if they’re driving, for example.
Knowing someone’s status before trying to reach out to them can save both of you lots of anxiety.
Download the free app at http://TryStatus.com
If you’re on the road a lot, you’re used to Internet access that’s a bit limited in speed.
When you’re in an airplane, staying in hotels & meeting in a coffee shop, you are sharing a tiny data pipe with lots of others.
In-flight wifi can be particularly challenging with all of the flashy content that is common on most of today’s sites.
You can take the time to optimize your browser for slower speed connections, but it’ll require you to remember to switch when you’re back on high-speed connections.
To minimize this hassle, I tend to use the less known browser Opera whenever I’m on the road.
Opera has a special mode called Turbo that will optimize content on their servers before your computer gets it which reduces download times.
It will also automatically block Flash content unless you click the container which can further reduce the load.
If you are stuck on a really slow speed connection, you can tell Opera not to load any images at all to increase the speed.
I have posted the link to Opera and many other suggestions at DataDoctors.com/radio
Have you seen this??? Can you believe you got caught doing that on this video?
This is yet another example of a clever social engineering scam that continues to be used to trick people via email & social media.
The plan is to get you so concerned about what might be on the video that you abandon your normal cautionary approach.
When you actually get to the alleged site that has the video of you, you will get a pop-up telling you that you need to update a video player or add a CODEC in order to watch the video.
In your rush to see the salacious video, you authorize the malware to be downloaded and installed on your computer and wham!, you have just become the next victim.
Convincing you to willingly install malicious programs allows remote hackers to do just about anything they want and it won’t be obvious that you’re computer has been compromised.
This type of approach is constantly being revised, so always be alert and don't install anything claiming to be a 'video player update' unless you specifically went searching for it.
A friend recently asked if I knew of an app that would allow them to record phone calls on their Android phone.
The primary reason for their desire to record calls was for training purposes only.
My first piece of advice to them is to be sure they don’t violate the law as they can vary from state to state.
The very best way to avoid the legal issues is to notify everyone on the call that it is being recorded.
After testing out a few apps, I did find a free app from Boldbeast called Call Recorder that seems to do the job very nicely.
Once I installed it, a small record dot appeared in red in the upper left corner whenever I made or received a call.
If I wanted to record any calls, I simply tapped on the red dot and again at the end to stop the recording.
It then logged the caller ID, date, time & length of the call automatically and also allowed me to share the files in a number of ways.
The 'Call Recorder' app can be downloaded from the Google Play store and it's free!
If you setup a webcam for security in your home or business, you will want to pay close attention to this tip.
Several websites have launched displaying live feeds from thousand of webcams from around the world that which was made possible because of one simple error made by the owners: they never changed the default password for the camera.
Not only do these sites show the brand, default login name and password and any live streams from the webcams, it also includes approximate location information on a map.
The owners of these websites claim that they are doing it to educate the public on this common mistake.
You need to know that every hacker can get the default password for any device you have in setup in your home, so not changing the factory default dramatically increases your exposure to the outside world.
Keep in mind that any device you can access from outside your home can also be accessed by others if you make it easy.
If you do not know what devices are at risk or how to change out the default login credentials, get some help. This one is way too important to ignore!
Keeping your mobile devices charged will always be one of the biggest challenges in the current digital age.
Making sure you have the right cable and charger for each and every device usually means carrying a small warehouse of cables and wall warts, which is why I can’t wait for wireless charging to get here!
The future of truly wireless charging is something that we all are looking forward to AND one of the more interesting technologies for the technology is called WiTricity.
It started as a research project at MIT and it is slowly developing into a technology that we could see around us in the very near future.
Just think about wireless charging transmitters hidden under your desk, kitchen counters or even the console in your car.
Wireless charging for everything from your smartphone to your vehicle just by being near a charger when all of the WiTricity based products begin to hit the market.
WiTricity achieves its wireless energy through resonant energy transfer based on Synchronized Magnetic-flux Phase Coupling phenomenon; yeah I have no idea either, but I want do it.
You can learn about existing products currently under testing and the future applications for this exciting technology at http://WiTricity.com
A wonderful byproduct of the Internet is that it has become an amazing library of trivial knowledge at our own little fingertips.
Don’t we all tend to reach for our phones during any argument over the most trivial bit of information these days?
It’s truly awesome when we stumble onto something truly useful or educational, especially when we aren’t even looking for it!
Well, if learning something useful on purpose is something you'd love to do, take a few minutes to check out a website called Useful Science.
It’s a well designed collection created by a group of graduate students for anyone that loves all that useful trivia that lives online.
For example, did you know that a staring at the color green before you start a creative task can help improve your creativity?
Or, that music with heavy bass notes can make you feel much more powerful?
These quotes aren’t simple random thoughts that someone came up with, they are sourced in research or reports with real context.
If you are truly into this kind of trivia, you can submit your own entries or get useful science e-mail messages right to your Inbox when you subscribe to their newsletter.
Check it at http://Usefulscience.org
Summer’s here and it is hot enough to make us uncomfortable & cranky from the heat during the day.
Do you know what else gets really uncomfortable & cranky from the higher heat?
The batteries in all your devices!
Without question, excessive heat is the most damaging thing to your batteries in all those devices you love, so being aware of this problem will help improve your battery life.
Forgetting your laptop, smartphone or tablet in a super hot car, especially when they are exposed to direct sunlight, will most certainly kill the life of your batteries.
When your devices have been exposed to a hot setting and are still warm to the touch, avoid using them until they return to room temperature if at all possible.
Another thing to remember is to not block the exhaust vents on your laptop; using it while it's on a pillow or thick bedspread is a great way to overheat the entire system.
When you are outside with your gadgets, do your best to avoid any kind of direct sunlight on them for extended periods of time.
Here’s how to remember this: if you’re uncomfortable, your gadgets will be too when it comes to heat!
Passwords are still likely to be the weakest link in your security and you have heard me constantly warn against using the same password everwhere online.
While there's no shortage of options for password management, it can just be too much to manage for some of you.
If you can’t find a password management tool that works for you, I have a really easy low tech system for keeping track of your passwords; write them down!
Now, I do not mean attach sticky notes on the front of your display with passwords jotted down on them, I mean document them and store them somewhere safe, like deep within your smartphone.
Make sure you avoid using the word 'password' anywhere in the document or the filename and develop your own form of encryption just in case someone gets to the file.
For instance, use four random characters at the beginning of the real password, so you will be the only one that knows to ignore those for four characters.
Honestly, if your choosing between using the same password everywhere or writing down unique passwords for each site, then write them down to avoid becoming a victim on all your accounts because of a single data breach.
If you own a home, you can most likely relate to the Tom Hanks movie called 'The Money Pit'.
Even if your home hasn’t become as big of a 'money pit' as the one in his movie, it can still seem like an endless list of maintenance issues are always waiting.
One of the best to avoid those big surprises is by being proactive with your maintenance for items you know are going to need to be addressed over time.
If you are in need of a little help in the learning and remembering areas of home maintenance, checkout an app called BrightNest.
BrightNest will provide you with a customized list of tips and it helps you schedule tasks based on what your home really needs because you provide it the kind of appliances you own, your flooring and countertops and whether you have a pool or not.
Beyond simple maintenance, they provide a huge collection of tips on cleaning, organizing and maintaining lots of common spaces in your home.
The mobile app even provides you with alerts and reminders. It also serves as a reference guide when you are at the hardware store.
We all could use a hand staying on top of those endless tasks of owning a home and BrightNest.com is free and waiting to help.
Your smartphone has been relatively safe when it comes to malicious apps as long as you only download apps from your official app store & avoid jailbreaking your device.
Jailbreaking iPhones or rooting Android smartphones essentially sidesteps the controls that the manufacturer puts in place and should only be done by tech savvy users.
A new scam is now bypassing all of the built-in protection by sneaking malicious apps onto your phone, even if you haven’t rooted or jailbroken the factory controls.
It usually starts with a well crafted e-mail or text message accompanied by a link to download a special app.
If you click or tap on the link which can allow the download to be completed, it can compromise your smartphone in a new way.
Once again, this underscores the importance of our long standing advice: If you didm not go searching for it, don’t install it.
These crafty cyber-crime rings are creating very persuasive looking messages that will most often look like they are from trusted resources through a friend’s hacked account, so stay alert.
If you want a little extra help identifying those malicious apps, checkout the free smartphone security apps at http://lookout.com.
When you’re packing for any trip, remembering to take the right things is critical.
Isn’t it frustrating to get to your destination and learn that you have forgotten something important, like a bathing suit or an umbrella?
An app called PackPoint offers a better way to eliminate the forgotten items travel drama, because it helps you pack based on where you’re going and what you are doing.
You begin by answering a few questions including your gender, destination, number of travel days and what you’re planning to do.
It also checks weather info at your destination and pulls together a suggested packing list based on all those parameters.
Once you generate the list, you simply scroll down and check the items that you want to create your own list, including reminders to take things like mobile chargers, business cards and if it's a business trip, you VPN key-fob.
When you finalize the list, you can share it via e-mail or copy and paste the items to any other program if you want.
PackPoint is available for both iPhone & Android smartphones and it’s free!
Internet based email options are awesome because you are no longer tied to a specific computer or device to get your email.
Google’s Gmail is still my favorite system and if you are like me and use it virtually every day, you should get up to speed on the keyboard shortcuts which can make it even better.
Shortcuts eliminate the need to move your hands off your keyboard which allows you to be more efficient.
Most of the truly helpful shortcuts start with the letter G as in Gmail followed by a another character.
For example, typing G then A will let you see all mail,.
Typing G then D allows you to jump to your Draft messages.
Typing G then C will get you straight to your contacts.
If you use the option for Starred messages, typing G then S will show them and if you type G then T as in senT, you’ll jump to your sent messages.
There are more than 60 shortcuts that can dramatically reduce your dependence on your mouse to get the job done.
To learn more about Gmail shortcuts, checkout the link that I’ve posted at DataDoctors.com/radio.
That wireless router in your home is your primary defense against many common threats, because it prevents the outside world from gaining access to your computer.
If you haven’t changed the default password on your router, you're exposed to a major security issue that could compromise everything in your home.
I'm not talking about your WiFi password when you want to connect, I’m talking about your administrative credentials that allows anyone to take control of your router.
Every hacker knows the default passwords for every piece of equipment on the internet through sites like http://RouterPasswords.com which can allow them to attack you.
A group of security experts discovered yet another type of attack that uses rigged e-mails that can allow thieves to sneak into your router if the default login credentials are still being used.
Once they're in, there is very little they can’t do because they can change the configuration to allow them to monitor all your activity and grab various passwords for all of your online accounts without you ever knowing it.
This is one of those threats that no security program can protect you from if you happen to click on the malicious link.
The very best way to protect yourself against this threat is to change your default password; if you don’t know how to do it, get some help!
It's the beginning of the summer movie season and escaping to a dark cool theater with a refreshing drink is the perfect way to escape the heat.
For all you movie buffs, today’s tip is reminder of one of our classic apps that helps out when that cold drink causes discomfort in the middle of the movie.
This app is called RunPee and it is a great resource that tells you when the best times is to run to the loo during your movie.
Instead of having to guess when you should go, the app actually vibrates your phone during the slow moments so you can know when to take a restroom break.
RunPee looks for 3 to 5 minutes that aren’t that important to the storyline so you don’t have to miss funny moments, exciting action or crucial plot twists.
For parents of younger kids, RunPee lets you be pre-emptive with your restroom breaks so you won’t miss anything important.
The app will even provide you with a synopsis of what you missed while you were in the loo, so you don’t have to have someone whispering an update.
The RunPee app is available for iPhone, Android or Windows phone users all available at RunPee.com.
Every one of the major cellular phone companies is engaged in a battle to try to attract your business with some really agressive offers.
But when it comes to your cellphone service, a great deal doesn’t mean anything if the quality of your service where you live is weak.
So before you decide to hop from one cellular company to another, you should do some homework.
A helpful resource that allows you to see how Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint perform where you live and work is posted at http://rootmetrics.com.
You begin with your city to get a rating of the performance including reliability and speed for data, voice calls and text messages so you can properly evaluate the strengths of each network.
One of the most helpful features of the site is in the CoverageMap section. You can bring up detailed maps of locations where call quality is solid or spotty, where data speeds are slow or fast and whether you can get LTE service where you need it most.
They also have mobile apps that allow you to generate personalized reports as you travel around and add updates to their database.
The links to the helpful Rootmetrics resources are:
Find your city reports: http://www.rootmetrics.com/us/rsr/usa-metros?z=united-states
Explore the Coverage Map: http://webcoveragemap.rootmetrics.com/us
Mobile apps: http://www.rootmetrics.com/us/products/coveragemap-mobile-app
Discuss ideas with a large group of people will often result in lots of ideas on a whiteboard or chalkboard which in turn, requires someone to take down separate notes afterwards.
If it’s you that ever ends up having to spend the time copying the notes from the whiteboard after a meeting, there’s an app for that!
Microsoft Office Lens is its name and it will save you lots of time.
The app makes it really easy to take a picture of just about any document, whiteboard or chalkboard and convert it into a PDF, Word document or Powerpoint slide or deck.
Not only can it digitize your notes, but it can also fix any distortion when you have to shoot it from an angle.
Every time you have to capture notes off angle, you’ll love how well this app makes it happen.
Once you have captured an image, you can save it and share it to many of the Microsoft platforms including OneNote and OneDrive or just save it as a doc or picture file.
Another awesome use of this app is for capturing and organizing business cards.
The Office Lens app is completely free & available for iPhone, Android and Windows based phones.
Google is the most powerful search engine by far when it comes to the Internet, but it also means that you’re usually going to get millions of search results that usually aren’t relevant.
To help improve the quality of search results, Google offers a large number of what they call 'query operators' and punctuation that can dramatically improve the quality of the information that gets returned.
One of the lesser used 'power tools' is the “range” variable because it can filter results to quickly provide information in a given numerical range.
By just typing two periods (with no spaces) between any two sets of numbers, you are asking Google to do to limit the results to those parameters, which it can do pretty well.
For example, if you are doing a research project for a specific time period, you can enter Russian Revolution 1800..1900 or if you are shopping for a new phone in specific price range, type smartphones $350..$450.
Remember, including the specific format of your numbers (dollars for example) will help to refine your search results even further.