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!
Do you seem to be more productive when you’re at your local coffee shop than you are at your home or office or home?
Does coffee made by other really make it more productive or could it be the environment?
Research seems to suggest that it’s the ambient noise that can make you more productive and creative.
A really quiet environment or a really noisy and distracting room can be counter-productive, so the low rumble like you'd hear in a typical coffee shop is maybe just right.
If you’re interested in testing out the warming vibe of a coffee shop without leaving your home or office, there’s actually an app (& a website) for that.
It’s called http://coffitivity.com and it’s a quick way to generate ambient noises that mimic a coffee shop, lunch lounge or campus cafe whenever you’re trying to boost creativity or productivity.
If the website works for you, you can download the app for your smartphone, so you can take the ambience with you everywhere you go.
Some people have even used the Coffitivity tool to drown out the noises in their own place of work.
How many times have you wanted to meet someone at a mutually convenient place because you both are kind of far apart?
For those familiar with the general area, you may be able to figure a location out, but those that aren’t can waste a lot of time and energy trying to choose a place to meet.
The next time you have this problem, there’s a website and an app for that! Android smartphone users can download an app called Meet Me Halfway.
With the app, you put the two starting points in and the general halfway point will be shown with various possibilities for a meeting place.
The app can use addresses, just zip codes or the city to generate results and when you tap on the various pins, it will tell you if the location is currently open or closed.
You can also filter the results for specific categories of locations which allows you to zero in on your preferred type of meeting place.
For more details on any location, you just open the location in Google Maps and you can share the location with the other party.
The website option is at https://MeetWay.com and it'll works on computers or mobile devices.
Android App: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jonathannakhla.meetmehalfway
Trying to speak foreign languages can get intimidating fast, especially when you’re self-conscious about how you’re pronouncing things.
Hearing others familiar with the language speak properly can greatly increase your confidence, but contacting a bilingual friend every time you need to hear a phrase is just not practical.
A web resource called http://forvo.com has been setup to act as your virtual multi-lingual friend who can speak and pronounce words in over 300 languages.
This awesome crowdsourced site allows users from around the world record how they would say things in their native tongue, so even when a word or phrase is not in the database, a volunteer can record the proper pronunciation for you.
Anyone about to embark on a trip to just about any foreign land should consider downloading the audio for various words and phrases so they can rehearse and listen to them on demand.
For words that you need to translate from English first, use Google for the translation then use Forvo to hear how to properly pronounce them.
Build your confidence before your next trip so you can order that first meal in a foreign cafe!
I’ve provided many tips in the past for extending your smartphone's battery life and most of those same tips will also help extend the battery life of any laptop.
The #1 tip for any mobile device is to turn down the screen brightness because powering the screen is generally 50% of your drain. And, as with your smartphone, turning off Wifi & Bluetooth when you aren’t using them will also help.
Any device plugged into the USB ports can also be a drain, so unplugging them when you aren’t using them will keep your computer from constantly querying them.
One of the biggest battery killers is extreme temperatures, so avoid turning on or charging your computer when it’s really hot or cold to the touch.
It’s best to wait until the battery has returned to room temperature which can help lengthen battery life.
Also, try to avoid using your laptop on soft surfaces like a pillow or blanket because they can block cooling vents, causing your laptop to overheat.
Those cute screen savers that display your photos might be enjoyable, but they also chew up power your battery, so for the best results, switch to a blank screen.
If you are one of the many that has always wanted to play something cool on a guitar but unwilling to commit to guitar lessons, there's an option for you.
Visualization can be very helpful when you’re trying to learn new things and an app called CoachGuitar takes the visual approach in teaching.
Throw out learning music theory, chords and something called tablature. If you just want to strum some lines from Stairway to Heaven or Stand By Me, this is your app.
CoachGuitar takes you through the steps to play riffs from popular songs using videos and animated fretboards.
It visually shows you where to put your fingers and which of the strings you should strum to help you quickly learn those familiar songs.
CoachGuitar is like having a virtual teacher right on your smartphone!
While the basic lessons are free, If you really get into the swing, you can purchase additional lessons for lots of popular tunes.
Coach Guitar is now available for iPhone, iPad and Android users.
If you think you're ready to start ‘shredding’ on a guitar, checkout http://coachguitar.com to get started.
For regulars of our tech tips, you know that I’m on a never ending search for new tools and apps for my digital photography.
We are all taking many more pictures with our phones these days and the results are not always that great, so having options to enhance the images after the fact is useful.
My latest favorite for this need is called Fotor http://www.fotor.com (spelled F O T O R) and it’s both an app and a web tool that is feature packed.
You'll get the usual types of editing features and collages, but one unique feature is the ability to create HDR images.
HDR, which stands for High Dynamic Range, is a way to combine multiple images of the same type with varying exposures into a better single image.
Fodor allows you to take images that are too dark and combine them with images that are washed out to create a much better picture.
The app also has a series of retouching options for the beauty conscious, like blemish removal, wrinkle reduction and teeth whitening. The app is available for all the major mobile platforms.
Fotor has a lot of features, so it might become the only photo app you use!
Many of us that grew up in the 80’s consumed a steady diet of Pacman in arcades and bars.
I even had a buddy that owned one in his house, just so he could master every level.
If the memories of Pacman take you back to your youth, there's endless version of this classic in an app called Pac-Man 256.
It’s called 256 because of a well known bug in level 256 of the original game, taken to another level in this updated version of the game.
in the original version, you could win by completing all the levels, but in this game it's endless.
The controls for the game uses swipe motions on your screen, so you will have to forego the joystick, but ir doesn't take long to get the hang of it.
There are a number of power capabilities new to this game you can unlock as you gobble up the pellets, so if you’re into a bit of nostalgia on your mobile devices, checkout this app:
There are no shortage of ways to discover music through all of the various streaming services that are popular like Pandora & Spotify.
You probably know that Youtube is also a really great place to discover new music if you don’t mind weeding through all the cat videos and prank videos.
Google decided that it needed to make music on YouTube easier to discover, so they created an app called YouTube Music designed to filter out the junk.
With the app installed, you can discover music videos, live concerts and a huge number of instructional videos to teach you how to play your favorite songs.
With over 30 million licensed tracks, YouTube Music allows you to easily search them or it will suggest daily playlists for you.
There’s also an audio only mode which saves your bandwidth or play your music in the background while you do other things.
The free app is available for your iPhone or Android smartphone at https://music.youtube.com
I had a parent tell me the other day, just how proud he was of his daughter who is in a freshman in college because she had started her own investment account.
His was really proud because he convinced her to use an investing app called Acorns and it was working for her.
Acorns can automatically invest spare change using the round-up method whenever she makes any purchase.
It takes the rounded-up amounts and invests them through Acorn Advisors, which is an SEC registered investment advisor.
It’s a really interesting method of getting younger investors started on a portfolio, because for anyone under 24, there are no fees.
It’s also free for any student of any age that has a .edu email address.
Once you’ve set up your account, you can choose from one of five strategies for investing, ranging from aggressive to conservative.
If you’re the parent of a student that wants to get started on an investment portfolio, checkout the Acorns app at https://acorns.com.
Whenever you hear about breaking news, it’s common for us to hop online to try to get more details through a Google search.
It’s also common to believe that you can trust whatever pops up in a Google search, but I am here to proclaim that you can’t and shouldn’t, especially when it comes to breaking news.
Cyber thieves make it a point to target breaking stories by creating fake news sites claiming to have exclusive images that no one else has of the event.
They sometimes place rigged websites through the sponsored links which may be one of the first links.
Google does what it can to police this type of activity, but it is impossible to catch everything that gets thrown their way instantaneously.
To avoid this growing scam, try to stick to news sources that you trust instead of doing a Google search.
Your favorite news sites should be bookmarked on your computer and smartphone or better yet, use the news apps when they’re available.
These scammers constantly study our behavior so they can blend into our daily activities, so consider changing your behavior when it comes to breaking news.
If you’re in business, customer surveys are an integral process these days and there are lots of options available.
Tools such as https://www.surveymonkey.com provide a lot of great features, but unless you really need to send out surveys regularly, it’s probably overkill.
If you occasionally need to send out surveys, there is a free and simple option available in Google Docs.
By using Google Forms to create a quick survey, which allows 9 different question types through text, checkboxes and multiple choice.
You can even randomly shuffle the response order to help improve the quality of the data and have required questions on the survey.
Once you setup the survey, just send out the URL or post it on a website post to start generating responses.
The results will be posted to a Google spreadsheet which then allows you to do some basic sorting of the submitted data.
The next time you need to generate a quick and simple survey, start at https://Google.com/forms
Apple's iPad and iPhone have become popular devices in many homes with young children, so managing what can be done with them is important.
There are some pretty solid parental controls built-in, but if you’re looking for more extensive controls, check out an app from Intego called Family Protector.
It provides parents with more control over what & when your child uses on an iPad or iPhone, and can be managed and monitored remotely.
It allows you to block in-app purchases, adult websites, disable the camera or FaceTime and it creates logs to make sure you'll know exactly where they’re going online.
You can even automatically lock devices when it's mealtime or bedtime to eliminate distractions.
With older kids, you can lock down the devices remotely until your child checks back with you when they are unresponsive.
You can check out the system for 14 days and if you like it, it will cost run $5 a month for up to 15 devices at https://www.intego.com/family-protector
If staying connected to your Wifi network is a constant challenge, today's tip is for you.
In some cases, there may be a simple fix for a consistent dropping of your connection:change the channel!
For the common 2.4 Ghz frequency, there are 11 channels, but which one should you use?
For the most part, the best channels are 1, 6 or 11 because they are known as non-overlapping channels,but it’s still a guessing game, right?
The 2.4 Ghz radio band is on open spectrum that can be shared with just about everything wireless around you: cordless phones, baby monitors, garage door openers and even some Bluetooth earpieces can be just the beginning of the devices that can caues interference with your wifi connection.
Even worse, if you live close to others, the wifi network from your neighbor can also cause some interference in your home.
To help better select your channel, WIndows computers can download the NetSurveyor app which is free and will give you a graphical report on your least used channels.
Mac users can run a built-in utility know as Wifi Scan within the Wireless Diagnostics menu to accomplish the same thing.
I’ve got links on how to use both at DataDoctors.com/radio
The Windows NetSurveyor App: http://nutsaboutnets.com/netsurveyor-wifi-scanner
Mac Wifi Scan directions: http://www.letstalk-tech.com/access-wifi-scanner-macos-sierra
Just about all of us are slaves to our email to some extend and finding ways to better manage the onslaught is one way of staying productive.
One of the ways that lots of companies are trying to manage things is by turning the inbox into a CRM tool.
CRM, which stands for Customer Relationship Management, is the primary offering from companies like SalesForce.
If you are still looking for something that will work for you, an interesting option to turn your Inbox into a CRM tool is available from a company called Streak.
It was created because of the frustration of constantly popping between the inbox and other programs to keep track of things was inefficient.
Streak, which is a Gmail add-on that is free, has specific templates for everything from sales to customer support, tracking software bugs and hiring processes.
It also includes 'snippets' which are preformatted chunks of text that can be used to quickly respond to a common interaction.
There’s also an iPhone app which allows you to use it while you’re on the go.
If you use Gmail and want help with the overload, visit Streak.com
There are many tools on the Internet that allow you to share your desktop remotely with someone else that's online.
Many of them make you install special software as the host and also requires the computers remotely sharing your screen to do so as well.
If you aren't paying attention, some of the tools can also allow the people sharing the connection to see things you didn't intended to share.
For an option that’s really easy to use, does not require you or the person on the other end to install special software and limits sharing to just websites, checkout Surfly.
It’s a great tool for demos, helping your friends and family or sharing web-based content with a small group.
The hosts mouse pointer appears with a red glow around it and those viewing can’t click on anything, so you have complete control.
It doesn't allow the sharing of video content, but when it comes to helping non-technical users with basic website related questions, it’s a pretty handy tool.
Just setup your free account and create a special link to the site you want to share and email it to your viewers. They don’t have to sign up for anything, they just click on the link you send and viola, they see you’re what's in your browser!
Give it a try at Surfly.com, that’s S U R F L Y.com
Someone recently asked me a question that at first sounded strange, but made sense after I had thought about it.
He asked if I had any suggestions for adding Bluetooth to his non-Bluetooth speakers.
While Bluetooth speakers are pretty inexpensive, the really cheap ones don’t sound great.
So if you’re like him and have a spare set of speakers that sound good or just want the ability to stream music to a home sound system from your phone or tablet, check into Logitech’s Wireless Speaker Adapter.
It’s really easy to setup device that looks like many of the streaming devices like Roku or Apple TV and has both 3.5mm and RCA audio connectors.
Stand-alone speakers must be powered or connected to an amplifier for it to work and the device needs to plug into AC power as well.
At forty bucks, it is an inexpensive way to send music from your devices to any powered speaker system you own.
I’ve posted the link to learn more at DataDoctors.com/radio
If you happen to be sci-fi fan and also love to take pictures with your iPhone, I've got an out of this world app suggestion.
Instead of creating those boring everyday images and using mindless photo editing buttons, the Alien Sky app lets your imagination run wild.
Why keep using common colorization filters to try to make your images pop when you can take them to a whole other level with awesome space effects.
The Alien Sky app lets you create futuristic images by blending in high resolution space images and vivid lens flares to all of your images.
They offer lots of space objects like planets, moons, bright suns, star systems, comets and entire galaxies to really generate conversations on all your social posts.
The app has over 150 effects which gives you complete control over other-worldly customization, allowing you to recreate alien visions and photos that will stop people in their tracks.
Now you can convert those old blasé pictures into fantastic alien-looking photos with this 99 cent app.
The direct link to the Alien Sky app is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
For all those road warriors out there, you know that there are 2 constant issues for all your mobile devices: storage and battery power.
No matter how much storage space you might have, at some point you'll run out of space and be faced with the “what can I get rid of” problem.
And since it's constantly in use, you'll eventually end up with the low battery scenario usually when you are nowhere near a power outlet.
Both of these common issues along with some other potential benefits are the purpose for a product from Kingston called MobileLite Wireless.
It is a card reader that can attach to any smartphone, combined with a battery charger with wi-fi built-in.
It can serve as an external storage device that can also charge your devices and stream content to them as well.
It can also help you upload images to your social profiles from any standard digital camera card without having to use a computer.
It’s a pretty unusually helpful gadget for less than $50 that can expand what you can do while you're on the road.
Sound interesting? Get the link to learn more at DataDoctors.com/radio
The art of photo retouching is what allows fashion magazines to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary using expensive software programs like Adobe’s Photoshop.
Not only are they expensive programs to buy, they're pretty complicated and can take a rather long time to master.
The fashion industry has been chastised for going overboard, but there are actually those times when having basic touch up abilities can come in handy.
An app called Perfect365 provides some quick and easy retouching options on most major mobile devices, so you no longer have to wait until you get back to your computer to make adjustments.
You can use their pre-defined 1 touch cleanup or makeover button or manually touch-up any part of an image yourself.
The app can remove dark circles under the eyes, blemishes or soften skin and whiten teeth with a few taps of the screen.
Ever wanted to give yourself a facelift or nose job? Now you can do it virtually.
For an app that makes it a snap to go from drab to fab, checkout Perfect365 which is available for iPhone, iPad & Android users.
The links to download the free app is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
A favorite web resource of mine has gotten a makeover which makes searching the web’s history a bit easier.
It’s called the Wayback Machine and it's part of the Internet Archive which has been recording the web since 1996, so you can go back in time to see what the web looked like.
They routinely take screenshots of the web and currently have over 279 billion web pages saved.
Want to see what your firm’s website looked like a decade ago?
Just bring up the Wayback Machine and type in the web site and you’ll get a timeline of all of the available screenshots.
The archived screenshots just grab home pages, so that’s all you’ll be able to see, but the update to their technology will allow more items to be archived in the future.
It’s a lot of fun to see popular tech firms like Microsoft and Apple looked like in the past!
Check it out at http://Archive.org/web
Ever noticed that some smartphone chargers seem to take longer to charge then others?
If so, you aren’t imagining things because the output power of your charger known as the amperage or even a bad cable can make a big difference.
The lower your amperage, the longer it’ll take to charge the battery.
Of course, it is always best to use the charger that came with your device, but when that isn’t possible, using a charger with the proper amperage rating is always recommended.
Usually, you need a special type of device to measure output current, but if you have an Android smartphone, there is an app that’ll make it easy to see the differences for your various chargers and cables called Ampere.
The Ampere app will monitor battery charge and drainage, temperature and overall health of the battery.
Bringing up the app while using your various chargers and cables will quickly reveal the combination that will does the best job.
Get the free Ampere app at the Google Play store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gombosdev.ampere&hl=en