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!
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!
Data breaches are truly nothing new, as they can be tracked back to the late 1800’s in news articles describing the theft of important records.
Today's cyber criminals go where the data is and as we all know, these past couple of years have been some of the worst on record based of the sheer volume and quality of the data exposed in the breaches.
What is really important to understand is that when any account information is stolen, you can never ever use any associated passwords anywhere ever again.
The criminals started creating huge databases of known passwords long ago, because they know so many people still use the same username and password for all their online accounts.
When hackers target a website, they don’t bother trying to guess what a password might be when they can simply cross reference the 'hashed' password against this massive stolen password database.
Knowing whether any of your accounts has ever been compromised is important, so there are are lots of websites that I've posted at DataDoctors.com/radio that allow you to quickly check to see if usernames tied to your email address are part of the known breached sites.
How Many Times Has Your Personal Info Been Exposed?: https://goo.gl/1NzYFN
Using a long password that's different on each site is critical to security, so on Monday, I will share password management tips with you.
We’ve all expect a certain level of performance when we're surfing the Internet these days, so when it doesn't work the way that we want them to, it gets frustrating.
Sometimes it is because of your Internet connection and other times it may be your computer or some other confusing tech term like a 'DNS server' or firewall settings just to add to the fun.
This problem can be even more a problem for road warriors, when work has to get done using coffee shop wifi or a slow hotel connection that isn't cooperating.
An awesome free diagnostic tool for this scenario is available for the Google Chrome brower called the 'Connectivity Diagnostic' add-on. It's a really simple way to do what the name suggests: diagnose the variables that can impact using the Internet.
Once you install the add-on, you simply click on it whenever you want to run an extensive test that will check nine connectivity points and then it lets you know which one may be causing your issues.
Even if you do not know what the tool is telling you, the diagnostic info will come in handy when you call for help!
Do It Yourself home-automation gadgets that are affordable had a huge presence once again at this year’s CES represented by a much larger number of companies promoting their options.
While these low-cost, easy to setup gadgets can be really interesting, deciding on the wrong automation platform can become a big pain down the road.
Major players such as Samsung and LG are already integrating smart home features into most of the appliances they're creating.
If you are considering any type of DIY home automation, something you should look for are the more open standards that will support the various protocols and devices that are on the market.
One of our favorites is still the SmartThings platform, now owned by Samsung, because they use an open standard that will work with over a thousand different automation gadgets including Phillips Hue lightbulbs and the Wemo line from Belkin.
What makes the platform even more powerful is that users can generate new uses for the platform and share those ideas with the rest of the SmartThings community.
A word of caution: since all of these DIY devices use your wireless network, it’s critically important that you have properly setup security on your wireless router before you get started.
Learn all about Smartthings at http://www.smartthings.com
Whenever you plan a trip to a new destination, it's always a good idea to try to get insider information, especially from people that have "been there, done that"!
Well their's a website for that and it's called Viator.
Viator specializes in providing research info on interesting activities around the world which has been developed by real travel experts over the past fifteen years.
Using this resource is not about trying to find the lowest price on anything, although they do offer a price guarantee if you book with them.
I am usually more interested in reliable local experts and operators that continue to get good customer feedback/reviews because nothing can ruin an awesome trip like a crappy experience while trying to save a few bucks.
The recommendations are extensive and cover over one-hundred countries that also includes some 'VIP' tips if you are more into exclusive options.
Each of the posted activities comes with an overview and highlights, what you should expect, reviews and vital logistical details so you are better prepared.
At major destinations, you can also get a complete 'Insider’s Guide' with events during your visit, the top attractions and what 'the insiders' like doing most in the area.
Check it out for yourself at https://viator.com, that’s spelled V I A T O R.
It has always been a little 'iffy' to use a USB drive that you don’t know anything about, but now it has gotten downright dangerous.
Malware of all kinds has always been a threat from unknown USB drives but most up-to-date anti-virus software could detect and block any threats.
But after a recent exploit was demonstrated at this year’s 'Black Hat' conference showing a way for hackers to change the actual 'firmware' on USB devices where they can hide malicious code.
This type of exploit is virtually undetectable by standard securityscanners and basically un-patchable, which means there's no simple fix for what is essentially a design flaw.
With this now known, it is vitally important that you always avoid using any USB drive that you do not own or know the owner of and never, ever plug in a USB drive that someone else 'seems to have lost'.
cyber attackers can drop infected USB drives on college campuses and near large secure businesses hoping to make it easy to gain access to those secured systems.
Every business should be warning their employees about this new trick and setup very clear policies on USB usage.
You have likely heard of the wildly successful texting app called 'Snapchat' that allows users to send messages & pictures that disappear after being viewed by the recipient.
You have also likely heard that it is a big hit with younger users and that you can take a screenshot of any message or picture that's send, making the self destruct feature pretty useless.
There are times when you may want to send a message to someone, but the fear of what could happen to the message after you send it that may keep you from sending it.
An alternative app called 'Confide' presents itself as "the confidential messenger" for business users.
Whether you are in the middle of a legal battle or dealing with sensitive negotiations, keeping sent messages confidential and temporary can be comforting.
Confide only allows text messages and the recipient must run their finger over each block to unveil a portion of the text underneath, so the entire message never appears all at once.
Of course, the recipient could record a video while reading the text, so it isn't considered 100% secure, but it's a lot better than Snapchat.
Anyone looking to communicate ‘off the record’ should checkout http://GetConfide.com.
Anyone that spends much time in the outdoors can find themselves in the middle of nowhere with no chance of having a cell signal.
Generally speaking, that's a good thing, but sometimes you would like the security of connectivity if you get lost or need help.
A device called 'goTenna' was designed to offer an option for communicating with your group when phone service isn't an option.
goTenna allows you to send & receive text messages and share GPS coordinates with your friends that have the device as well. The range can be expansive; 1-50 miles, depending upon the surrounding terrain.
Settings like a ski resort for example, would most likely give you better range than a downtown area that has lots of tall buildings.
I just returned from a large music festival where having the goTenna system would have been a much better way to communicate because the cellular networks were almost useless because of the volume of traffic.
To learn more about this device, visit goTenna.com for the details.
Twitter is a useful communication tool, especially in business, but it’s still one of the most misunderstood social networks for casual users.
As with any social platform, if you don’t have some sort of strategy, it isn’t going to create much value.
With Twitter, evaluating who’s following can be helpful in unlocking potential value and a website called SocialRank.com makes this easy.
It’s a free tool that will provide you with intelligence into your most valuable, most engaging and your best followers.
Let’s face it, Twitter is essentially a popularity contest and understanding who actually is popular that is following you can help to strategically engage in conversations.
Location can also be a major factor, depending on the type of business you are in, so SocialRank allows you to filter your followers by location.
You can also filter others by keywords in their bio, making it a lot easier to connect based on user backgrounds.
If you have never thought much about connecting with others that are following you on Twitter, give https://www.socialrank.com a test run.
I have posted in the past about the risky use of images you randomly find online to use on your website or blog and it still continues to be a topic of feedback.
It is clear to me that many people still don’t realize that they are violating a copyright when they post 'public' images on their website.
To avoid getting caught up in a costly legal situation, make it a point to review all the images you have posted on websites or blogs.
If you're not sure where they came from, I would suggest you delete them and replace them with images that will not put you in harm’s way.
Services like Getty Images have opened up large libraries with images that you can use to embed on your site free of charge, as long as you follow their guidelines.
Another option is to look for images that fall under the 'Creative Commons' license which essentially means that image owners have allowed you to use their images for free under certain conditions & uses.
To play it safe, you can purchase images at sites like BigStockPhoto.com for a couple of dollars each.
Taking image copyrights for granted will cost you thousands of dollars per image if you're caught, so don't take it lightly...the link to my advice column on image usage is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
How often have you entered something into your calendar that you really don’t want to do?
Isn’t it about time you started putting things in that you do want to do?
Well, that’s the same perspective some Google engineers had as well, so they rolled out a feature called ‘Goals' for Google Calendar users.
Finding time to do your exercise is a very common goal, so you can choose an activity, set the frequency you want to achieve and your Google calendar will work to find the time in your calendar to make it happen.
Whenever there's a conflict during those goals or you are running late, your Calendar will simply reschedule those goals automatically.
The ‘ oal' option for new entries only appears on your mobile app for the moment, but once you’ve entered them, you will start to see your goals on any computer as well.
Since the common problem with achieving goals is simply remembering to do them, the Goal option might be just the kick in the pants you need to start down the path to goal achieving success.
Is your smartphone being throttled? Wouldn’t you like to know if your data provider is throttling back the speed on your unlimited data package?
Several Internet Service Providers have been found to be lowering the bandwidth of unlimited bandwidth data packages once you’ve reached a certain level of usage.
Many people do not realize it is happening, but they sense that everything seems to take a lot longer to load.
If you are an unlimited data package for your smartphone, there is an easy way to test your speeds to see if you are being throttled.
Just get the 'Ookla Speedtest' app and do several speed tests at the start of the billing cycle and take note of the speeds.
At the end of the cycle, do the same tests to see if your speeds are significantly slower. If they are noticeably slower, you are likely being throttled!
What good is an unlimited plan if your data speeds are throttled back because you are actually using it?
The link to download the Ookla app is posted at datadoctors.com/radio.
Food & travel-based websites are growing in popularity, but in most cases, they have a lot to be desired.
Generally light on content and heavy on annoying ads is far too common.
Anthony Bourdain got involved with a website called Roads & Kingdoms a while back and it's brought a lot of attention to this useful site.
It’s award-winning digital journal approach to food, politics, travel and culture make it an excellent resource for anyone interested in any those topics.
They use long-form stories & beautiful images to provide a wonderful way to discover new foods, travel destinations and people from around the world.
The site lets you explore things by continent, food & drink, politics and culture or travel.
My favorite section on the site is called '5 O’clock Somewhere' which will explore a different drinking culture every day.
If you are interested in intelligent writing and beautiful images without the usual distracting ads, checkout http://roadsandkingdoms.com for a breath of fresh air.
Anyone that spends time on the Internet probably opens lots of tabs as you go and as a result, you’ve likely ran into this situation:
While you are in the middle of reading something on one website, you suddenly hear a commercial video starts playing in the background on one of the other tabs but you have no idea which one it is.
This forces you to click through all the other open tabs and scrolling around trying to figure out which one's causing all the annoying noise…it's a hassle!
The folks at Google probably had enough of this irritation themselves, because they added an option to the Chrome browser to fight this annoyance.
With Chrome, when any web page is generating any kind of sound, a tiny speaker icon will appear on the right side of the tab which lets you identify the offending page.
You can either click on the tab to pause the video or simply click on the X on the tab to close it all together.
If you have not tried Google Chrome yet, this is one of many reasons why it’s my favorite!
Today, just about all of our mobile devices have the capability to take photos and generally includes an option for a flash of some sort.
But if you assume that your flash is only for low lighting pictures could keep you from getting those great images.
Outdoor pictures especially when they include people will often end up with harsh white spots along with big shadows, which will ruin the picture.
Either of these situations can be improved by using the flash which can turn useless pictures into minor works of art.
Using the flash on your phone means you need to be close enough to your subjects to make the weak phone flash useful in bright sunlight.
On really sunny days, put your subjects in a shaded area to eliminate them from squinting and use your flash to fill in the shadows.
Knowing exactly when to use your flash both indoors and outdoors can have a major impact on the quality of your images.
The best way to get to know your camera’s abilities is to experiment way before you are in the situation where you need everything to be perfect!
The tech industry preaches about the dangers of public wifi all the time, but there is something that you probably may not have realized.
Your personal laptop may be automatically sharing files with anyone connected on the same coffee shop or hotel wifi you are using.
Most laptops are setup with default or public shares, so you may be allowing others to access or possibly save random files on your computer.
Generally speaking, this isn’t going to impact your personal data, but your computer is still accessible by any random stranger connected to the same public wifi.
As a safety measure, if you have no use for the public share folders sharing files with others, switch them off.
I have actually seen situations where sensitive files were being shared in these publicly accessible folders because the user most likely didn’t realize the whole world can access these public folders.
Both Windows & Mac users most likely have these public share folders turned on, so I have posted the instructions on how to turn them off at datadoctors.com/radio.
Disable public shares in OS X: http://osxdaily.com/2014/02/11/disable-public-folder-sharing-mac-os-x
Disable public folders in Windows: