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!
For those in business, technical or not, it’s not uncommon to be in a situation where you're faced with a technology decision, especially when it comes to your web presence.
All too often, a non-technical decision maker such as a CFO or CEO have tough decisions to make on the various web technologies for important projects.
Whether you’re a fortune 500 CEO or a small business owner, understanding how other companies are leveraging web tech can help you make a more informed decision.
A useful website called BuiltWith.com can be a tremendous aid in understanding web and technology trends in general.
Simply type any web URL into the site's lookup engine and you get a complete report on all the technology being used by any website, like by a competitor.
You can even see their reports on web technology usage trends so you can compare the technology that you’re evaluating to see if it is falling out of favor or on the rise.
The http://Builtwith.com web resource is a fantastic free business intelligence tool that I'd recommend to everyone facing web technology decisions.
Have you ever been sitting in a public place using our laptop, tablet or smartphone and got the feeling that someone was snooping to see if they could get a peak at your screen?
There's so much personal information that can be captured by those around you if you're not careful; It even has its own name: Visual Hacking.
Whether it's the nosey person seated next to you on a long flight or the sketchy guy sitting behind you at a coffee shop, there's something simple you can do to protect yourself.
Install a privacy screen, which have been around for a long time for computers and now they're available for tablets and smartphones too.
They obscure your display for anyone that not looking directly at it, so those off to the sides will only see a darkened screen.
On tablets and smartphones, in addition to providing privacy, they add extra screen protection for the glass.
They are really simple to install as well as to remove, so anyone that spends a lot of time operating their gadgets in open public areas should checkout the link I’ve posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
Our smartphones have become pretty handy whenever we need a flashlight because we always have them with us.
They’re especially useful when you need to shine light in a specific area, but there are times when using it more like a lantern would provide better light and make them even more useful.
There’s actually a pretty simple way to turn the LED on your smartphone into a lantern when you need a more dispersed light from it.
All it takes is a rubber band and a plastic water bottle that’s full for the magic to happen.
Simply place your smartphone next to the bottle with the light facing into the bottle and use the rubber band to make keep it in place.
It’s works best if you remove the label from the bottle, but if you don’t, make sure to avoid placing the light on the label.
It’s a handy life hack for campers, when you need to lead a group of people in the dark or in any situation where you’re in need of widespread light at night.
MacGyver’s not the only one that can take common items and turn them into something completely awesome!
Whether you like what Edward Snowden did or not, everyone can agree that he knows a bit about cyber-security.
With this in mind, when Snowden tweets about a messaging system that he personally uses because of its security, you can count on it being about as secure as communication can be.
The Signal app from Open Whisper Systems is the one that was mentioned in the tweet and it's available for both iPhone and Android smartphones.
The app provides secure messaging for text or voice communications and best of all, it does not require you to get an account in order to use it.
Because it uses your current number and personal address book, it requires no separate sign-ins, usernames, passwords, or PINs.
It makes use of very sophisticated encryption technology, but it’s still really easy to setup so you can start using it as your primary messaging app.
It also automatically determines if your recipient has the same app, so it doesn't encrypt messages sent to people that aren’t using the app.
If your business could benefit from secure messaging, check it all out at http://WhisperSystems.org .
If you’re into shopping, the Internet has made it so much more convenient when you want to buy things you know you want, but when you aren’t sure what to buy, how much time do you spend researching your options?
That’s where a startup called Operator, which is the creation of a co-founder of Uber wants to help online shoppers.
They offer human help from the Internet via smartphone apps if you’re shopping for anything from romantic getaways to concert tickets or even if you’re just looking for a new mattress.
They’re goal is to become that trusted friend you tap whenever you want info on something you’re interested in buying.
Think of it as a personal concierge service waiting inside your smartphone, or at least that’s what they’re trying to become.
Since it’s a startup, how quickly someone responds may vary for now, but depending on what you need help with and when, this interesting approach could come in handy.
If you want to give it a test drive for yourself, you can get the app at https://www.operator.com
If you love live music and understand the life of the working musician, you know how grateful they are for tips from those that came to listen.
Jamming money into their tip jar is what most of us do, but some times you may not be able to show your appreciation...like when you don’t have any cash with you.
Since we’re typically using cash less often these days, many in the service and hospitality industry are suffering as a result.
That’s where an app that makes it really easy for those in the service industry to get the tips they deserve comes in.
It’s the Bravo app and it makes electronically tipping your guides, musicians, parking valets or anyone in the service industry when cash isn’t an option a snap.
I routinely suggest to musicians that they should make a sign promoting the Bravo app next to their tip jar, so those that are listening can download the app and electronically tip them throughout the performance.
Whether you’re using it to tip or to get tipped, I say Bravo to the awesome Bravo app!
It’s not hard to take for granted the amazing technology in our smartphones these days, but they’re more powerful than what NASA used to get us to the moon in the 60’s.
They include amazingly sophisticated camera technology so we can all take incredible images without the need to be a professional photographer, right?
Not so much…
Features like auto-focus, auto-white balance, auto-exposure and auto-color correction can’t help you with your pictures if you don’t understand composition.
The very helpful rule of thirds seems to be a challenge for many emerging photographers and thankfully, there’s an app for that.
The Camera 51 app concentrates its efforts on helping novice photographers with the all important composition.
It uses the sophistication of your smartphone to analyze scenes you’re getting ready to capture to provide you with an on-screen guide to suggest where you should point the camera.
If you’re looking to dramatically improve your pictures through better composition, check out the free Camera51 app for iPhone or Android smartphones.
Today’s tip focuses on the ongoing issue that we all deal with on a regular basis...grocery shopping.
If you’re like most families, you use paper lists, text messages, emails or even a chalkboard on the refrigerator and keeping track of what’s on-hand adds to the fun.
The bigger your family unit is, the more complicated the problem becomes, as requests for items to be added to the list comes from everyone, on any day and through any of the potential channels.
If you’re looking to reduce the hassles of keeping everything on track, checkout the Capitan app.
Think of it as a grocery list on steroids that learns what you’re family regularly buys as well as organize the list to come closer to how things are displayed in the grocery store.
You can even use location services on your phone so the app can remind you of the list when you walk into your grocery store as well as alert your family that you just walked into the store should hey need any last minute items.
Checkout this cool app at http://www.getcapitan.com
Professional football is a national obsession this time of year, with fantasy football leagues that range from one week to the entire season becoming just as popular.
Fantasy football, for many fans, creates a reason to watch meaningless games, which makes it very popular with both the fans and the league.
If you’re looking to add yet another dimension to being part of each game, a real-time prediction app called ringit! Pro is something to check out.
It’s a play-by-play fantasy app that allows you to predict the next play while watching your live games.
You accumulate points for making the right picks, while competing with others throughout the game.
It’s fast-paced interactions that allow you to act like your the coach during the game and compare your skills with your fellow fans.
iPhone users can download ring it! from the App Store, while Android users have to download it directly from their website:
The task of transferring files between a mobile device and a computer is becoming more common these days.
Whether you've got a large HD video you shot on your smartphone and you want to edit it on your PC or a large number of PDFs that you want to review on an airplane that doesn't offer wifi, there’s a cool solution for that.
Infinit is group of free apps for just about any mobile device or computer and it makes transferring files between them all super simple.
If you're one of the millions that now regularly uses multiple operating system platforms, Infinit will be infinitely faster to use than other sharing tools such as iCloud, Dropbox or Google Drive because it eliminates the upload/download process.
Infinit uses peer-to-peer connections, so files can be transferred directly between your devices.
Because I use an Android handset and a Macbook laptop, Infinit allows me to quickly share my files and folders between them with no file size restrictions like all the others impose on users.
It’s also a great sharing tool groups, so give it a go at https://infinit.io
E-mail these days tend to be inefficient and often a dangerous way to communicate, but it is still the method of choice for most businesses.
If your business is not getting a timely response to the messages you're sending, it could be due to your choices in when you send them according to a recent study.
An e-mail marketing company called Yesware analyzed over half a million email messages and discovered that the open and reply rates for email are actually higher on the weekends. Why? Maybe because your message doesn't have to compete with as many other messages on the weekends.
The study also showed that messages sent early in the morning (between 6am & 7am) and in the evening (closer to 8pm) got responses at a higher rate.
If you want to test these times for yourself, learn how to schedule your important email messages as most e-mail programs have an option or an add-in that can send your messages when you want them to be seen.
For more details on the Yesware study, I’ve posted the link at DataDoctors.com/radio
If you’re just beginning your exploration of the wonderful but confusing world of wine like millions of others, there’s a different kind of wine club that you may want to take a look at.
Think of it as a Netflix for wine when you visit http://TastingRoom.com.
The key to their approach is helping you to figure out your preferred wine profile by using a 6 bottle tasting kit that gets sent to at your initial sign up for the service.
When you get the kit, you simply go to their online guided tasting challenge which helps them learn what flavors and varietals your palate prefers .
Based on this process, you’ll start to get sent wine to you or you can customize the shipment if you know what you really want to drink.
If you don’t like something that’s sent to you, each bottle is guaranteed so you can get it replaced or credited towards future bottles.
The key to refining your choices is to continue to update ratings you give each bottle you get sent, so your wine discovery will tend to be more spot on as you go.
Learn all about it at https://www.tastingroom.com
If you are a photography buff, you'll probably already know that Adobe’s Lightroom image editing software is amongst the best available.
Well anyone that wants to take their smartphone photography to the next level should checkout the super powerful mobile app version of Lightroom.
It has many more refined controls, which will blow away the basic filters that your built-in camera app offers as well as most other third-party apps available.
It offers more than 40 presets that are fine tuned to let you enhance your images with just a tap of a button. It’s a powerful tool that even a novice can make use of.
The advanced manual adjustments will allow you to achieve edits that would never be possible with standard editing apps.
You can also copy any of your favorite edits across multiple photos at the same time.
The free Lightroom app works on the iPhone, iPad and Android devices and give anyone looking to step up their smartphone photo game a huge boost.
I’m always on the hunt for tech that embellishes our daily lives and one of my all-time favorites is the free website known as If This Then That or IFTTT for short.
This awesome website can help put the Internet to work for you by creating something they refer to as recipes that can leverage your online life in incredible ways.
For example, you can use a recipe to automagically create reminders on your smartphone whenever you click the star on a Gmail message or send a text to your significant other when you're leaving work.
IFTTT integrates with over 160 different online services and with a huge library of existing recipes that have been created by others in the community.
If you’ve got a vivid imagination yourself, you can assemble your own recipes and share them with the rest of the world.
IFTTT also offers apps for iPhones, iPads and Android users that allow you to create recipes just about anywhere.
If you’ve never heard of IFTTT, do yourself a favor and checkout http://IFTTT.com to get started with the fun and productivity.
Just how many remote control devices are laying around your living room right now?
And even if you've gotten it down to one universal remote, how often are you having to go search for it?
You always have your smartphone, so wouldn't it be awesome if you could just turn it into your universal remote?
Well, you may have a smartphone that's got the hardware and only needs an app to make it happen.
Any Android handset that has infrared built-in needs only to install a free app called Peel to turn it into a universal remote device.
If you're an iPhone user, you can get a device called Pronto which pairs with the free Peel app to get the job done on iOS devices.
The Pronto costs about $50 and is essentially a multi-directional receiver/transmitter that has a range of about 80 feet.
It uses common AA batteries which should last about a year, so it can be set up just about anywhere in your house.
It's currently designed to work with iPhones only, but a long-rumored Android version is supposedly in the works.
Learn all about it at http://GetPronto.com
If you own one of the iPad models with a built-in camera, you've likely figured out that the image quality that it produces isn’t nearly as good as your iPhone.
The biggest difference is in the optics of iPad camera; they're just not that sophisticated, but I know lots of people that prefer having the large display to get a shot.
If you really want to use your iPad for photography, a way to vastly improve the sophistication is by using one of the photography apps designed to boost the image quality on the iPad.
One of my favorites is called Blux Camera for iPad because it has a number of features that will help you step up the quality of the images you can capture.
Rather than waiting until you take the picture to give you various filters and adjustable photo settings, the Blux app gives you the controls on-screen before you take the shot!
Another helpful feature is called PEAR, which stands for Photographic Environment Analysis and Recommendation.
It's like having an experienced photo assistant giving you suggestions on how to get a better shot based on the environment you are shooting in.
I've posted the direct link to the Blux App at DataDoctors.com/radio
You've probably noticed that many websites will allow you to use one of your social media accounts to sign up for a free service, instead of having to fill out a form.
It's usually presented as a faster process to get started with the site, but what you need to understand is that you’re exchanging your profile information for this faster access to the service or info that you seek.
A lot of apps also offer this same convenience, so if you've opted to use this method, you’ve given your permission to dozens of sites to allow them to access your profile info.
If you know how to find them, there are generally settings buried deep at each of the sites with the ability to revoke their access.
A web resource called http://MyPermissions.org takes all the hard work out of finding those settings for many of the major networks.
All you have to do is click on the icon for the sites you want to revoke, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and you are transported right to the settings to make the changes.
You can even sign up for specific alerts when a new app or service gains access to your info and they offer a mobile app to allow you to clean on the go.
Visit http://MyPermissions.org to get started!
Whenever your car starts making strange noises, you generally pay attention, right?
Well, when it comes to your computer, you should start doing the same thing because those strange sounds can be a warning sign that a meltdown is impending.
Whether it’s grinding, whirring or buzzing, it’s generally a sign that one of the moving parts in your computer is showing signs of wear.
The cooling fans, for instance, are very common points of failure and worse yet, if the noise stops by itself, it could very well mean that your fan stopped working altogether.
Since heat is the single biggest threat to all of your electronics, allowing your cooling fans to stop spinning is like having and empty radiator in your car.
Whenever you hear any kind of clicking sound, especially if you can’t get your computer to start up, you should immediately shut it off and seek professional help. Any kind of clicking noise from your computer generally mean that your hard drive has failed.
Trying to restart your computer in hopes of getting it to work will cause irreparable damage and is almost certain to lead to permanent data loss, so be very careful with this specific sound.
Learn more at http://www.datadoctors.com/help/columns/21814
Home automation devices that are affordable made a big presence once again at this pas year’s CES with a much larger variety of companies promoting their systems.
While low cost and the easy-to-install devices can be very interesting, choosing the wrong platform may become a problem down the road.
Huge players like Samsung and LG are integrating smart home features into many of their appliances, they aren’t likely to support devices outside of their own partnerships.
If you’re serious about Do-It-Yourself home automation, something to look at are the more open standards that supports the many protocols and gadgets that are on the market.
One of my favorites is still the SmartThings platform because they created an open standard that’ll also work with over a thousand different automation devices including the Phillips Hue lightbulbs and Belkin’s popular WeMo devices.
What makes the platform even better is that anyone can generate new uses for the platform and share them with the rest of the SmartThings community.
A note of warning: since all of these system work off of your home’s wireless network, it’s critical that you’ve setup solid security on your wireless router before you start adding these devices.
Learn more at http://www.smartthings.com
Most of us spend a lot of time on the Internet and in doing so, open lots of tabs as you surf, so you’ve probably run into this scenario:
You’re in the middle of reading a news story on a website when all of the sudden some commercial video starts blaring from one of the other sites that you have opened, but you have no idea which one it could be.
You have to then go clicking through all the open tabs to figure out which one of the previous sites is causing the obnoxious noise...what a pain!
The wizards over at Google must have had just about enough of this themselves, because they made a tweak to their Chrome browser to minimize this irritation.
With Chrome, whenever a background website is generating any kind of noise, a small icon that looks like a speaker will appear on the right side of the tab so you quickly identify the offending site.
You can pause the video by clicking on the tab to find the video or simply click the X on the tab to shut the whole page down.
It’s just another reason why Google’s Chrome browser is still one of my favorites!
Today’s tech tip is a bit on the uncomfortable side because it’s about death.
Let’s face it, so much of our lives are invested in online accounts that should you meet with an untimely demise, your friends and family members could end up with a huge task whilst grieving.
If no one in your family has any of your passwords and you pass away, the hoops they have to jump through to unlock your accounts will be different for each site, making the process both frustrating and time consuming.
Those security measures that are created to keep malicious users from accessing your information will also be a big roadblock as your family tries to settle your affairs.
You can store your passwords in a password management program or a safety deposit box but keep in mind, your passwords will likely change over time.
If there’s one set of credentials for someone that you trust to have, It’s your e-mail username and password, because that’s where password reset requests generally get sent.
With access to this single account, you executor can find the online accounts you used and have passwords resets sent there if necessary.
It’s not something we want to think about, but it’s something we should all be thinking about!