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!
We’ve all had to deal with flight delays, cancellations and over bookings when traveling by air.
When they happen, it can completely ruin your day; make you very late for an important gathering or worse yet, miss something altogether.
If you’re lucky, you could end up with a simple meal voucher or a free drink, but that is because the companies that fly you around know that you are most likely clueless about your actual rights.
This most common occurrence caused a number of frequent international travelers to get together and take action by creating a service called AirHelp.
AirHelp is both a website and an app that’s designed to quickly act as your flight advocate when things go wrong.
It takes just three minutes for the system to check if you’re eligible for some form of compensation, so you are more informed before making a decision to accept something from the gate agents.
Getting financially compensated won’t happen immediately, but if the AirHelp service can get you compensation, they'll keep 25% to pay for the leg work the system does on your behalf.
Even if your nightmare flight happened within the last three years and you weren't compensated, you may still have eligible for compensation, especially you were on an international flight.
Learn more at http://GetAirHelp.com
Ever wonder how some people on social media or email are able to post those weird series of characters in their messages?
There is nothing on your keyboard that allows you to generate the characters but if you hold down the Alt key and tap on some of the numbers, you’ll start to see how they’re doing it.
For example, holding down the ‘Alt’ key and the number 2 will generate the classic trademark symbol.
There are actually 255 various combinations that you can use, but trying to commit to memory which keys correspond to which number combination is a bit of a stretch.
There are many online resources that have charted each character's number keyboard combo, but there’s a much easier way to make use of special characters.
Just go to this site: CopyPasteCharacter.com and you’ll see all of the special characters and then all you’ll need to do is click on any of them to copy them.
Then you can simply paste them into a Facebook or Twitter post or into an e-mail message or into any just about any program that allows characters.
They even offer their iPhone if you want to use it on the go at http://copypastecharacter.com
All of the major cellular carriers are engaged in a heated battle to try to get your business with some really attractive offers these days.
But when it comes to cell service, a good deal doesn’t mean much if the quality of the service in your specific areas is weak, so before you make the decision to hop from one provider to another, you need to do some homework.
A useful resource that will allow you to review how Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint perform in your specific area is posted at http://rootmetrics.com.
You can start with your city to get an overall rating of the performance that includes reliability and speed when it comes to data, call and text so you can evaluate the strengths of each network where you live.
One of the coolest features of Rootmetrics.com is in the CoverageMap section. You can bring up a detailed map of where call quality is solid or spotty, where data speeds are fast or slow and whether you can get true 4G LTE service where you need it the most.
They also have a mobile app that will allow you to generate reports of your own as you travel around and add the findings to their database.
I’ve posted the links to the useful Rootmetrics resources at DataDoctors.com/radio
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
Most of us love our pets so much that we often treat them like humans, but when they're sick, they can’t tell us what’s wrong because their not actually human.
Taking your dog or cat to the vet is an obvious first move, but sometimes that's not possible. When you're in that situation, PetMD.com might be worth checking out.
PetMD is a very comprehensive pet health, nutrition, care and feeding online resource that I’ve ever seen.
The resources range from symptom checkers to a complete health library to a robust dictionary of veterinary terms.
If your pet is experiencing strange behaviors, click on their extensive emergency section to help determine what might be the cause of your pet’s discomfort.
The website is a lot more than just urgent health issues, it's full of solid info on breeds, proper care and feeding and they can even assist in finding a name for your newest pet.
If you've ever wondered why dogs eat grass or what you should do when you find a lump on your pet, checkout PetMD.com.
Best of all PetMD isn’t just for lovers of dogs and cats. If you have a pet of any kind, it's a great resource to have in your web favorites.
Smartphones have pretty much been safe from infected apps as long as you made sure to get your apps from one of the official app stores and you didn’t jailbreak or root your device.
Jailbreaking or rooting a smartphone allows the user to bypass the factory controls put in place by the device manufacturer and generally, it’s only done by tech savvy users.
But, unfortunately there’s a new scam that's in circulation that will sneak a malicious app onto your device, even for users that haven’t bypassed the controls on their smartphones.
It generally starts with a cleverly crafted e-mail or text message that includes a link to an app download.
If you click on the link, it will exploit regular non-jailbroken iPhones or unrooted Android users.
This once again emphasizes the importance of my long standing rule: If you didn’t go looking for it, do not install it.
Malicious app creators have generated some very convincing messages that appear as if they're from trusted resources through hacked accounts of your friends, so stay alert.
If you want extra smartphone protection, checkout the free security apps at https://www.lookout.com/products/personal
Not too long ago, shopping for a TV was pretty simple because you only had a few sizes to choose from and the price increase as you went bigger got to be pretty substantial.
With today’s displays, you can select screens that range from 26 to 90 inches with very minimal price increases as you go bigger.
And with today's UHD 4K displays, you don’t have to be concerned about being too close and see the actual pixels, so going bigger can be better.
As a general rule of thumb, if you simply measure the distance between where you’ll be sitting and the TV in inches then divide by 2, you’ll have the minimum size for your room.
For example, let’s say your measured distance is 7 feet. That would translate to 84 inches, which divided by two would give you 42 inches as your minimum screen size.
If your new TV budget has room so you can go larger, doing so will help you create a much more immersive viewing experience.
If your budget allows you to opt for a 4K display, the increased resolution will be high enough that you can double the size of the screen and still not be too close!
If you're into hiking as much as I am, discovering new trails to explore wherever you go can become a bit of a travel obsession.
And just because it’s getting a little chilly all around us, that doesn’t mean we have to give up hiking as a regular form of exercise.
While there are a plethora of useful resources on the Internet for discovering new hiking trails, I always start with one site in particular: AllTrails.com
With over 700K members and 50K hiking trails, the wisdom of the crowds from this single source is pretty amazing.
Search for trails that range from kid or dog friendly to those that include a waterfall or accommodates mountain biking.
You can get the vital information such as the approximate distance and time of each trail as well as the difficulty rating and user reviews.
It’s super simple to find the best hikes nearby based on your location which is great for travellers or it will help you find those hidden trails where you live and work.
The depth of quality info you can acquire on any potential trail is second to none at http://AllTrails.com and their mobile app makes discovering great new adventures everywhere you go easy to achieve.
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