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's the time of year that you find the best deals on virtually any kind of electronic gadget you might have on your holiday shopping list.
But beware: the lowest price is often not the best deal.
When you shop for electronics only based on the price, that plays right into the hands of companies that are moving less desirable products.
The only way to be the cheapest in just about any category is by cutting corners because the profit margin on electronics are so razor thin.
The result can be batteries that don’t stay charged as long, compatibility problems with software or apps and in some rare cases, major security issues with the device.
You should stick to buying name brand products from resellers that you know that will allow you to return it if it's unsatisfactory.
The rule of thumb with cheap electronics is the cheaper they are, the more research you should to do before making a decision.
It's really easy these days to find user feedback on any gadget; just do a Google search for the item followed by ‘review’.
If for some reason, you can’t find any online reviews, pass on the device or risk becoming a guinea pig!
You’ve probably noticed strange items just seem to pop-up on your computer over time and it’s most likely the result of installing new apps or programs on your system.
A common way to sneak third-party programs onto your computer these days is through other programs like a printer installation program or utility such as Java.
The best way to catch these unwanted programs and unnecessary changes to your system is to pay very close attention to the installation routine.
Software companies are relying on you not to pay attention and just keep hitting next, next, next, I agree.
Another way they try to trick you into allowing junk programs on to your computer is by persuading you that the standard installation is the recommended one.
They make it appear that you’ve got to be some sort of rocket scientist in order to select the custom installation, but that’s the only way that you’ll get to see what they’re trying to put on your computer.
From now on, make sure you always choose the advanced or custom installation button whenever you’re installing any new program on to your system so you can avoid the sneaky junk.
Following this advice is the key to keeping your browser from being messed up with extra toolbars or the irritation of having your default search engine or start page changed.
Google has given us all a boost in the ongoing battle to protect yourself online.
Since it's very likely that you have a Google account of some kind, seeing when and how the account has been accessed is a really good way to check for unusual activity.
Google’s Dashboard for Devices and Activity makes it simple to review the complete list of all the devices or computers that have had access to your account in the last month or so, including devices that are currently logged in.
Whenever possible, they'll include location information as well to assist in determining if the access is from an authorized device.
If you see any suspicious devices or logins, there’s an option to quickly take steps to secure your account by changing the password.
Even if you aren't seeing anything unusual, you should take the extra step of clicking on the ‘Secure your account’ link at the top.
It will review five ways to secure your account including a display of all the apps, websites and devices that currently have access to your account.
The direct link to the Google Security Dashboard is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
Once again the holiday shopping season is upon us and most of us are buying as many gifts as we can online to avoid the crowded stores.
But, when you do buy items online, they’re often delivered to your front door while you are away, which has led to a new concern: Porch Pirates.
Porch Pirates will follow delivery trucks around to check out the best packages to steal when they figure out no one’s home.
To help fight this growing problem, try to have your gifts sent to a friend or neighbor that you know will be at home or if possible, send it to your place of work.
You can generally provide special delivery instructions when you're making the purchase or post a note on the front door if there’s a safer place for the delivery to be made.
If packages get delivered to your house on a regular basis throughout the year, think about installing a motion-sensing webcam that can automatically record activity and sends you an alert whenever it detects someone at your door.
The Internet is once again abuzz about how holiday lighting systems can cause problems for your WiFi network.
While it is technically possible, it’s highly unlikely that you'll actually experience any WiFi problems with standard lighting strings.
Just to play it safe, avoid plugging your light strings into the same outlet or power strip as your WiFi router and if you still think you have an interference problem, there’s an easy way to figure it out.
Simply test your Internet connection speeds without them plugged in and with them plugged using something like http://speedtest.net.
The reality is that you WiFi network is much more susceptible to interference from microwave ovens, cordless phones, baby monitors or typically a neighbor’s WiFi router that’s a short distance away.
You’re WiFi router should have the ability to automatically find the least congested channel, but if it doesn’t, the best channels to manually set it are 1, 6 and 11 to avoid overlap.
Android users can also use an awesome free app called WiFi Analyzer to check your connections.
It’s highly unlikely by now that haven’t heard about the controversy surrounding hover boards as they have been exploding and catching fire around the globe.
The most likely reason is that cheap Chinese manufacturers are using shoddy assembly processes with untested products and dumping them on the world markets in hopes of cashing in on a hot fad.
Mismatched charging systems coupled with lithium ion batteries is a recipe for disaster and that appears to be the primary reason these hover boards are exploding.
The lesson you can learn from this situation actually applies to every device you charge with a lithium ion battery: make absolutely sure you are using the proper charger.
We constantly see damaged laptops with a number of problems because the owner purchased a cheap what claimed to be a 'universal charger' when the original charger went bad.
Mismatched chargers can cause both overheating and a shortening of overall battery life.
Should you ever detect excessive heat or bulging on any of your batteries, especially while you’re charging it, you should discontinue using them and have them inspected or replaced.
Electronic gadgets always the most sought after holiday gift items, but often times, the good stuff is pretty expensive.
If you are seeking an amazing tech related holiday gift that doesn’t cost a fortune, but will amaze both techies and non-techies, checkout something called Google Cardboard!
I’ve featured this wondrous way to experience virtual reality before and if you still haven’t seen it in action, I guarantee, it’ll be the hit of any holiday gathering.
Google Cardboard is simply a small kit that can turn just about any smartphone into a powerful virtual reality headset.
There are numerous Cardboard apps that will amaze you that range from concert videos with Paul McCartney to virtual field trips with the Expeditions app.
You can even experience the 360 degree YouTube videos in a totally immerse way that really makes you feel like you're in video you’re watching.
At between $15 to $30 you won’t find a better all around gift or if you’re the creative type you can make it yourself at https://google.com/cardboard.
If you're holiday shopping is going to be online this year, I've got a tip that will save you both time and money!
We all know how much a coupon code can save you money, but you have to find the right code for items you want.
Websites such as http://RetailMeNot.com can make it easier to search for coupon codes, but often times the codes may be no good which can turn into a major waste of time.
I've got a much easier suggestion for saving money and it's free and easy...it's a browser add on called Honey.
Once you install it in your browser, Honey will automatically search for and apply coupon codes whenever they are available without ever having to the leave the web page you're shopping in.
A greyed out H is the Honey icon which appears in the upper right corner of any browser that it's added to.
Then whenever you are shopping at a site where Honey knows of special deals, the H icon turns orange to let you know.
Add the Honey plug-in to any major browser so you can start shopping smarter faster at https://www.joinhoney.com!
Don’t you hate when your computer takes what seems like forever to shut down?
While you may be tempted to force it to shutdown by hitting the power button, it’s understandable but a really bad idea.
Your computer generates a lot of temporary files through its normal operation which are tagged for deletion when you shut your computer down.
Windows computers have an especially extensive housekeeping procedure that it needs to perform whenever you shut them down, which is reflected by the flashing hard drive light on your computer.
When you don’t allow this process to finish, you can fill your hard drive with junk files.
When your computer starts to get low on hard drive space, it will dramatically impact your performance.
So, if you’re guilty of impatience and have done shut your system down before it could finish, you can track down the unnecessary files and clear them out with the built in Disk Cleanup utility.
This is one of those many times that patience is both a virtue and a benefit.
By the way, if you’re a Mac user, you should heed this same advice to keep things running smooth.
Because we're all spending so much more time on the Internet these days, hackers and cyber-theives are spending more time thinking of ways to exploit us.
Your web browser is how you view everything on the Internet, so more of the exploits are focusing on targeting all browsers.
It’s not unusual to have other issues pop up when using your browser either, so today’s tip is a troubleshooting suggestion when they do occur.
Make sure you install at least two different browsers on your devices so you can quickly track down Internet related issues.
When you start experiencing a problem, try switching to an alternate browser to see if the problem goes away. If it does, you’ll know that the browser may need some attention, like clearing the cache or running a malware scan.
If it doesn't change, your issue is more likely to be with your computer, router or modem, which should all be reset.
Chasing the wrong end of a problem can be avoided by spending some time with this simple troubleshooting procedure.
Just about every security expert is warning that smartphones are becoming one of the biggest targets for cyber-thieves and hackers.
The good news is that the majority of dangerous threats are targeting users outside the US through third-party app websites.
Since installing apps on your smartphone is one of the most likely ways you will be threatened, you need to make sure you only get your apps from the official app stores so you can avoid most of today's threats.
Android users can take an extra step to avoid the other sneaky methods we’re starting to see from the bad guys.
In the Security section of your smartphone's Settings menu, look for the 'Unknown sources' section.
Make sure you switch this option to the off position so your smartphone won’t allow apps installs from unknown sources without alerting you of the potential dangers.
Avoiding unnecessary app installs not only helps from a security standpoint, but it also avoids privacy issues and will free up valuable space for music and pictures.
E-mail, we can't live with it and we can’t live without it! It's become a huge distraction that can really kill our productivity.
For those setup to be constantly alerted when a message arrives, turning the notifications on and off to avoid distracitons is a bit cumbersome
Wouldn’t it be great if you could hit a pause button for your messages for a while sometimes?
Well Gmail users can do just that with a free add-on called "Inbox Pause".
Inbox Pause is a simple app that adds a button to allow you to pause and unpause your email messages with the quick click of the mouse.
It also allows you to notify senders that you're in 'Pause Mode' in case the message is a time sensitive one.
The add-on displays a banner across the top to remind you that you’re in pause mode so you don’t forget to unpause.
The Inbox Pause add-on works in either Firefox or Chrome browsers:
When we want to learn anything about just about anything we turn to Google but when it comes to searching for help with computer problems, you need to be very careful.
Google searches for support on specific products can often be full of fake tech support companies posing as legitimate companies in order to victimize unsuspecting users.
For instance, searching for ‘McAfee Antivirus Tech Support’ can display many companies posing as tech support that have nothing to do with McAfee at all.
Another trick they can use is to post toll free numbers in the ads themselves because so many people will call the first number that comes up in search results, often without clicking on the ad to checkout the company first.
The lesson to be learned is that you can’t trust companies just because they show up in search results, because scammers have figured out how to game the system.
The best way to make sure you are getting the actual support resource for any company is to manually type their address and add a slash and the word “support" at the end.
For example, if you’re looking for McAfee support, you’d type in mcafee.com/support which will take your directly to their support page.
For more tips on avoiding this common search scam, check out my advice at DataDoctors.com/radio
For many of us, our smartphones have become our primary communication tool, but there are moments when you’d rather not give out your personal cell number.
Whether you are selling something or doing business with people in another state or country, you’d probably prefer to keep your personal number private.
For those situations that could require a second phone number, take a look at an app called TextMe Up.
TextMe Up allows you to create special phone numbers, including international numbers, for specific reasons which allows you to keep your personal number private.
You can also text anyone in the world through these secondary numbers, as long as you are willing to put up with ads in the messaging app.
For anyone that wants separate phone numbers for different parts of your private and public life, TextMe Up can be of help.
The app is available for both iPhone and Android users and your first number is free at http://TextMeUp.com
One way to better protect yourself online is to take a different tact from the norm is to think like a hacker.
Your personal info is extremely valuable on the black market, so they’re constantly looking for ways to sneak into your computer by tricking users.
Hackers figured out long ago that one of the best ways to get to your information is through your children.
Enticing children and teens to download free games, screensavers, music, movies or programs that generally cost hundreds of dollars is how they are sneaking malicious programs into your computer.
A big reason that this method is so effective is because you use the same computer and user profile as your children with full administrative rights.
If this is how your home computer is being used, I’d highly recommend you make some changes immediately.
You should setup a completely separate sign-in account for your children and limiting their rights, which will go a long way to protecting everyone in the house.
The steps for doing this is different for each operating system, so If you aren’t sure how to do this, get some help from someone technical…it’s too important to let go.
If you’re one of the many folks that likes some form of noise to distract your mind in order to go to sleep, today’s tip is for you.
I’m always searching for something that can help my mind slow down but not wake up my wife.
My latest find is an app called Relax Melodies and it’s a really flexible sound generating sleep app that’s one of the best I’ve ever used.
It has lots of really soothing sounds that can be mixed together to generate customized sleep-inducing background sounds.
Choose from running river, waterfalls or ocean waves which can be matched with a crackling campfire, chirping birds or the sound of the rain hitting a tin roof.
You can also add ethereal music from a piano or flute to create a sleep inducing soundtrack that’ll help you settle your mind much quicker.
The Relax Melodies app is free and available for iOS, Android and Windows phones and I’m really glad I discovered it.
In fact, I’m even using it at my desk in the middle of the day as a productivity boosting background.
The link to create your relaxation soundtrack is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
We all take lots of smartphone pictures, but we tend to have way too many to share, so most of our pictures end up stored and hidden on our phones or computers.
One of the ways we share lots of images on our social networks is by creating slideshows, which are pretty simple to do.
The next time you have a bunch of images from a wedding, a child’s play or any special event, there’s an easy way to make a movie out of them.
One of my go-to options for generating creative slide shows in a few minutes is called Slidely.
Slidely can work with the images on many of your online accounts like Facebook, Instagram, Picasa, Flickr and Dropbox or you can use the pictures from your computer.
You can use up to 90 images and add a music bed from a library of great songs in the app.
You can also select music from any of the great artists or theme songs from your favorite movies and TV or upload your own music to give your show some zip.
Any of the albums that you have setup on Facebook can create an animated keepsake in just a few minutes.
It’s a lot easier to use than most and you can try it for yourself at http://slide.ly
Pets can make a huge difference in your daily lives and when you responsibly adopt, you can do the same for them.
Ensuring that you find a compatible pet for your specific situation is very important and a web resource by the name of AllPaws.com can take pet adoption to a whole new level.
The creator of the website had experience with online dating sites and used that knowledge of proven processes for matching up humans to create an effective resource for adopting pets.
You start by searching for pets by the type you desire to adopt, like dogs, cats, pigs, birds, horses or reptiles with the ability to choose a specific breed if you have a preference.
The results from your search creates a list of profiles of the pets that match your criteria complete with the picture and story of each pet.
They include age range, coat length, size, compatibility with other pets and a number of other details to help you make your connection.
You can send questions to the adoption organization, add them to your favorites list or begin the adoption process if you see your next pet.
Even if don’t have room to adopt another pet, you can help get pets adopted by sharing available pets with your friends and family on all your social networks.
Check it out at https://www.allpaws.com
We all remember the Ice Bucket Challenge which drew attention to ALS and became an amazing online phenomenon in the history of the Internet.
Another lesser known ALS inspired Internet resource is a website called PatientsLikeMe.com
Ben and Jamie Heywood launched it in 2006 because of their brothers ALS diagnosis and it has become an amazing treatment, medical symptom and outcome-sharing community on the Internet.
When anyone you know is diagnosed with a serious illness, it is really easy to feel like they're alone in their battle, but they are not alone.
By connecting with others that are going through the same medical situation and comparing your treatments, symptoms and general experiences, the site becomes a very valuable support system.
It doesn’t matter whether you want to get or provide support with people that are experiencing the same situation, PatientsLikeMe is a really helpful tool for making the connections.
You can even use the site to track your health timelines and provide your data to research if you are so inclined.
PatientsLikeMe.com has over 400,000 members with over 2000 health conditions, so it’s a great way to find lots of other people that can relate to your situation.
Did you hear the awesome news? Mark Zuckerberg is going to give away his money to a thousand lucky users of Facebook! He’s going to give away forty-five billion dollars and if you're lucky, you could be chosen if you simply copy and paste this message yourself!
It's pretty amazing how many of your Facebook friends still fall for these over-the-top hoaxes and turn into copy/paste zombies when they see something they think the world should know.
A big part of the problem is that way too many users just assume that since their buddy posted it, it must be true and safe to repost.
One of these misguided posts quickly gets out of control when the entire network becomes copy/paste zombies.
We’ve seen it so many times, we created a fun little warning video that we poste whenever we see users posting things they clearly didn’t checkout first.
The next time you see someone becoming a copy/paste zombie, use our little educational video which is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio to gently educate your friends.
It's the season for family and friends to gather and if music is something that plays a big role in your get-togethers, I’ve got a suggestion for a very democratic way for deciding which songs get played and in what order.
It’s called Festify and it's a really simple add-on service to Spotify that unlike other options, doesn’t mandate that everyone at your party has to install a special app.
Festify makes use of Spotify Premium accounts, which you can get as a free 30-day trial if you want to test the system out.
Once Festify is setup on your computer, connect it to your sound system and them give your guests a custom link and your party code to connect to the partly playlist.
All of your friends and family can add any song that exists in the Spotify catalogue or vote for songs that are already added to the playlist from any smartphone.
To really get things going, send the info out in advance of your party so your guests can start adding their favorite tunes before they even get there.
It’s the best and easiest group party DJ platform that we’ve ever used.
Check it out at http://getfestify.com