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 no secret that tracking everyone online is a big business and it’s done by virtually everyone you interact with on the Internet.
It may seem like we don’t have any choice in the matter, but there’s actually a lot that you can do to manage just how much of what you do gets tracked.
One of the easiest to use options is called ‘Disconnect’ because it’s a free browser add-on that works in real-time while you surf and search.
They offer their plugin for all the major browsers, so it will work right in the tool you’re already using.
The moment you activate it, your location is no longer trackable as all your requests start to come from the Disconnect servers.
It’s an eye-opening experience to see all the hidden tracking systems that accompany virtually every web page you visit when you start using this tool.
You can now control who gets what information about your Internet usage every time you get online by using Disconnect!:
One of the tools that make productivity programs like spreadsheets so powerful is the ability to record repetitive steps and save them as what is known as a macro.
Power users of Microsoft Office are very familiar with the incredible efficiency that macros provide for things that are done regularly.
If you love macros and have an iPhone or iPad, you can do something similar by using an app called Workflow: https://my.workflow.is
The app allows you to combine tasks that would normally be done manually across multiple apps and record them for future use.
Searching Google Maps for specific menu items from specific restaurants that you like as you travel to new cities is just one small example.
You can create your own workflows or borrow from others that have created and shared their ideas, so the power of the app is instantaneous.
Give it a try today by downloading the app from the Apple App Store (now called Shortcuts): https://apps.apple.com/app/workflow-powerful-automation/id915249334
The concept of a ‘bucket list’ has become well known and even referred to by many of us, but the actual act of creating a list never really materializes.
If you think about it, creating a list of things you want to do is a big step towards actually making your dreams come true.
If you haven’t found the right tool for pursuing your bucket list, check out an app called Soon.
Soon isn’t just about visualizing those life-changing experiences around the world, it about creating lists of all the things you want to pursue.
Whether it’s a restaurant recommendation, musician to discover or a streaming series to binge that’s what this app is designed to help with.
When you add an item to the app, you choose a category that it fits under to help keep your lists organized.
The best part of the app is that it will automatically update the details of certain bucket list items that they have in their database.
If you like to journal your adventures, you can add your own notes to the app to enhance your memories.
Download it at: https://www.soonforever.co
If you’ve had a Facebook account for any length of time, you’ve likely allowed a long list of companies to access your profile via an app or by using Facebook to sign up for another online service or account.
Granting permission to access your profile isn’t limited to when you use their app or service as once it’s granted, they have access until you revoke it.
A regular maintenance tip we suggest you execute on Facebook is a review of the apps and websites that have access to your profile at least every couple of months.
You can do this by accessing the ‘Apps and Websites’ section in the Settings menu of your Facebook account.
For the step-by-step instructions for doing this, visit this Facebook help page: https://www.facebook.com/help/170585223002660
Unless you still have an old-school landline, your only phone number is your personal cell number.
This makes it a bit more difficult to control who gets your cell phone number since it's the only one you have.
Did you know that there’s a free solution to having a second meaningless number to give in less important situations?
TextMe Up is an app for iPhone and Android that provides you with a second phone number that will ring to your cell phone.
It’s like an alias email account only it’s for your smartphone, which allows you to protect your personal number.
Another great benefit is that you’ll know much about anyone calling or texting just by which number it’s coming in from.
So many companies that you do business with ask for a phone number these days, so this is a great way to keep things separate.
Your first number is free at: http://www.textmeup.com
Every parent can remember those first works of art produced by their kids because it’s so memorable.
It’s pretty common to keep those memories and many more as they grow and create more, which leads to the classic ‘where do I store all of this?’ problem.
If you’re interested in a digital solution to this common problem, there’s an for that called Keepy.
Keepy will organize, save, privately share, enrich, and treasure your kids’ memories as they grow.
Whether it’s artwork, schoolwork, awards, or just a photo, the app makes it easy to look back on all these special moments for years to come.
Sure it would be nice to save every item in its physical form for the future, but good luck remembering where you put it all!
Anyone with kids knows about this challenge, so let them know about Keepy at: https://keepy.me
As we begin to be able to travel again in the near future, one of the most helpful resources, when it’s a new area to you, is how to get around.
Most of us default to Google or Apple Maps, but there are more specific resources you may want to look into, such as City Mapper: https://citymapper.com
This resource specializes in showing all the methods available for getting you from point A to point B in an unfamiliar location.
Virtually every major form of transportation is covered including walking routes for those of you that like to get in the exercise.
Many urban areas also offer rental scooters and bicycles, which this app also covers with availability info for nearby stations.
City Mapper can be used in real-time or for scheduled times at a later date which can change your best option.
For the cities they cover, this is about as good as it gets for understanding your options for getting around, so if you’re going to be visiting a new city in the future, check to see if it’s in their database!
There was a time when you could only view one web page at a time until the browsers started allowing tabbed pages.
The ability to have so many different pages open so you can quickly bounce back and forth has been a game-changer with some side effects.
Each new tab chews up a chunk of your active memory, which when done to excess, can slow your computer down significantly.
Clicking the X on tabs you no longer need is a great memory management technique as long as you don’t close the wrong tab, which is so easy to do these days.
Instead of wading through your history to find the page you accidentally closed but needed, there’s a much quicker way to bring it back.
For Windows users, the keyboard shortcut is Ctrl-Shift-T while Apple computer users have the Command-Shift-T shortcuts to do the same.
You can actually continually press these keystroke combinations to reopen tabs that have been closed in succession.
No matter where you go on the Internet, should you ever post anything that wasn’t quite grammatically correct, someone is going to point it out to you.
It’s a bit irritating to have others focus on how you said something instead of what you said, but that’s the Internet for you.
One way to minimize this type of feedback is to have a virtual assistant gently reminding you when there may be spelling or grammar errors through the tools available at https://www.grammarly.com
Whether you use your smartphone, tablet or computer to post things online, their tools can be at your side.
If you decide to try installing one their tools, you’ll suddenly start seeing indicators of possible issues well before you hit the button to save something online.
Another cool feature for serious writers is the feedback for your target audience as well as how informal or formal what you’ve written might be.
This is a freemium service, meaning the basic tools are free and if you want the advances features, you can decide to become a paying customer.
With all of the technology we own that can take a photo, learning some tactics for taking better pictures is always helpful.
An app called ‘Elements of Photography can accelerate your learning no matter what device you’re using to take your pictures.
Think of it as a photography guru at your fingertips to guide you through the settings that you’ve never really understood how to use.
It’s a self-paced teaching tool that uses images and interactivity to help you better understand the lessons.
Getting the primary topics under your belt like aperture and focus is a good start that will lead to your learning a lot more about taking shots on any camera.
What’s really helpful is the ability to jump to a specific lesson when you find yourself in a very setting such as low light or star gazing for instance.
This greatly helpful app is available for both iOS and Android devices at: http://www.elementsofphotography.com
Anyone under the age of 12 has likely grown up staring at some sort of screen for most of their lives, which is why they’re so addicted to them.
If you’re a parent or grandparent that struggles to get the young ones to get some fresh air, there’s an app for that!
It’s called ‘Mission Adventures’ and it uses their fondness of a screen to get them outside enjoying the wonders of nature.
It gamifies exercise like hiking through the use of tasks and a structured plot they can follow.
It’s based on a route that you want to take them on, which can be a trail, the surroundings of a park or a walk through downtown.
When it’s set up, the app will lead them through a variation of adventures through their screen that uses items in the physical world that they will interact with.
Consider it an alternative form of ‘geo-caching’ that you get to control and design for both iOS and Android devices: https://lightarcstudios.github.io/mission-adventure
Weather-related apps are abundant and if all you’re looking for is a basic forecast, any of them will do.
But sometimes you need more detail especially when you are planning on doing something outdoors. This is when I turn to the Weather Underground app.
The incredible amount of information that you can gather via the app is simply amazing.
One of the coolest features of the app is that it can provide hyper-local information from weather stations that belong to others using the app.
Public weather stations are great, but adding the extra layer of private info which shows up in red gives you much better info for a specific area.
Elevation changes can make a big difference in temperature, which is why private reports can be so valuable.
The app also provides the moon phases and air quality information to boot.
For weather data nuts, this is about as good as it gets!
To be a successful student, staying organized is one of the major keys.
A disorganized student won’t be able to locate their notes and study material, which can lead to poor outcomes.
For those with a student struggling to stay organized, there’s help available online via ExamTime: https://www.goconqr.com/en-US/examtime
Their suite of online tools includes MindMaps, Flashcards, Quizzes, Slides and Notes to help students stay organized.
This free resource is also a great hub for study groups that want to keep everyone in the group on a parallel path.
This eliminates the random notes that could be who knows where that a student needs to advance.
It’s not just for students as teachers and business users can benefit from their platform, so if you’re looking for better organization of any type, give it try!
There was a time when a fax machine was a critical part of communicating with others, especially in business.
As archaic as it may seem, there are still some situations when you might be required to send something to an actual fax machine.
With all the tools that make it easy to send documents as scanned files from both your computer and smartphone, it seems silly that sending a fax is still a thing, but it is.
The next time you have a situation that requires you to send something to a fax machine, remember the Fax Zero website https://faxzero.com
This service is absolutely free as long as you don’t need to send more than three pages at a time. If you need to send a larger document, it’s only $1.99 for up to 25 pages.
Once you scan the documents that you need to send, just upload them to the Fax Zero website, add a cover message and off they go to the other side of ancient technology!
This is one of those resources that’s rarely needed, but when you need it, it’s a life saver. Bookmark worthy, don’t you think?
Our screen-obsessed kids learn in a much different way than we did and the Internet has become one of the best places for them to enjoy learning things like math, history and science.
An amazing website known as the Khan Academy is completely free and absolutely the way our kids like to learn new things because it’s video-based.
It’s a great tool for students, parents and educators looking for an alternative way to learn and teach generally dull and boring subjects.
They get started with the video lessons which will lead them to many of the other learning resources such as challenges and assessment tools.
Every student learns things differently and at their own pace which is what makes this self-paced website so perfect for today’s kids.
If you’re a parent or teacher and haven’t seen this site yet, make it a point to visit today!: https://www.khanacademy.org
Any time there’s a clear night sky, the stars shine much brighter and we see lots of constellations that we don’t always see.
If you’re interested in learning more about what you’re looking at in the night sky, download one of the many stargazing apps on your smartphone.
These apps use the location of your phone along with the accelerometer in your phone to provide real-time info as you move your phone around.
If you’re using an iPhone, take a look at the Star Chart app for an immersive augmented reality experience. Its basic features are free with in-app purchase options for extended features.
An app called Sky Map is an excellent free option for Android smartphones that provides the same type of usage as the iPhone app.
Whether you’re trying to get a child interested in the night sky or it’s your curiosity that needs to be helped, jump into the fun with one of these apps:
Malicious apps are one of the biggest threats to your smartphone, which is why it’s always safest to get your apps directly from Apple and Google and avoid bypassing the security built into your smartphone.
‘Jailbreaking’ or ‘rooting’ is something that techies like to do, which allows them to remove the protection and install apps from anywhere which puts them at a higher risk.
That was the case until the latest scams that have found a way to sneak malicious apps onto a phone even if it hasn’t been modified by the user.
It starts with a social media post, text message or email bestowing the magnificence of a new app with a link for you to give it a try for free.
The link actually launches a process to attempt to exploit your smartphone with your permission.
It’s always best to take a pass on an app unless you have specifically gone looking for it.
Your friend’s compromised accounts can also send you these malicious links, so even when it seems to be from a trusted friend, be very wary.
One way to tighten the security on any smartphone is to have a virtual set of eyes overseeing all of the typical activities that can lead to an exploit through apps such as Lookout! https://www.lookout.com
One of the common ploys used by hackers is to set up legitimate-looking websites that are actually rigged to check for open security holes when victims land on their site.
A long-standing bit of security advice is to avoid any websites that you know nothing about, but with so many good new websites being added to the Internet every day, this isn’t very practical advice.
Fortunately, there are free tools online that can provide you with an analysis for any website before you decide to land on it like the one from Trend Micro: https://global.sitesafety.trendmicro.com
Trend has been compiling a massive database of websites based on their reputation and via their analyzation tools to help you navigate new websites.
It’s a simple tool to use because all you have to do is type or paste in the web address for any site you want their report on whether they’ve detected anything malicious on it.
The report can quickly summarize what the content will be along with a rating as to its safety.
This is another one of those bookmark-worthy links to have in your browser! https://global.sitesafety.trendmicro.com
As the Internet became a more media-rich environment, the speed at which a page would load also became much slower.
A technique known as caching was incorporated to improve the web experience by retaining previously loaded elements onto the local hard drive.
By eliminating the need to download every item to display a web page, things got much more enjoyable.
There are times when this awesome process can work against you and prevent a page from loading properly.
To prevent this, there is a keyboard shortcut that tells your computer to ignore the cache and download everything from the Internet on a page that you’ve previously visited.
Windows users can press the CTRL and F5 keys together to tell the browser to reload everything from scratch.
Command-Shift-R is the keyboard combination that Mac users use to do the same thing.
If this bypass process allows you to load a page that previously wouldn’t load, it would be advisable to clear your browser's cache - Instructions posted at: https://bit.ly/3uvZq0f
If your entire family is working and going to school from home, you may need some additional computers to accommodate your entire crew.
A cheap alternative to expensive laptops known as a Chromebook is available from a variety of companies.
Instead of running on Windows or macOS, Chromebooks use Google’s Chrome OS and a handful of programs that can work with or without an Internet connection.
Most schools have gone to a complete system that lives in the cloud, which means all you need is some way to get online, which is exactly what the Chromebook is made for.
This solution is more likely to be useful for students because you can’t install traditional business applications into a Chromebook.
Another great reason that it’s kid-friendly is that malware and viruses that target Windows and Mac users are completely harmless to Chromebooks.
If you want to see the latest units available in this class of computer, visit: https://www.google.com/chromebook
Google is the undisputed king of search engines, but using this powerful tool comes at a cost to your privacy.
Search is such an important tool for us on a daily basis, so if you’d still like the power of Google search without the tracking, check out the offering at Startpage.
They’ve created a way for you to avoid the tracking when you’re wanting to search for something with what they claim is the world’s most private search tool.
In general, most every search engine is gathering lots of info about what you’re searching for, your location via your IP address as well as which results you clicked on.
All of this get’s scraped away when you use Start Page because they don’t track any of it.
If you want to avoid having your personal information harvested whenever you use a search tool, you can change your default search engine to Startpage by visiting their home page: https://startpage.com