Data Doctors Tech Tips
Tech Tips for Non-Tech People
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Email is just an important part of our lives that you likely spend lots of time daily waisting time on meaningless messages because of all the mailing lists you’re on.
With all those auto-opt in mailings, you probably don’t have a clue how you got on many of the lists, but it’s going to keep happening.
If you’re tired of dealing with tons of daily junk mail and uninteresting newsletters, an online service called Unroll.Me is just what the doctor ordered.
Just let it scan your Inbox to start the magic as it’ll alphabetically list every subscription it can allowing you to keep, unsubscribe or add messages to something they call a 'roll-up'.
Their Roll Up is simply a digest of all the subscriptions that you do want to see combined daily into a single message, so no more constant interruptions with junk
If you do want messages, you simply click on the 'Keep in Inbox’ option and you’ll continue to see them as they are sent.
This awesome free resource works with AOL, Yahoo!, Gmail, iCloud, and Outlook.com online mail accounts.
Save your Inbox today at https://unroll.me
Getting a new computer is always a joy, until you realize that you'll have to spend a lot of time downloading and installing all the programs and utilities you need.
Multiple browser programs and other Internet tools, file managers, video or audio players, Office programs and a long list of utilities are just the beginning of it takes to get a new computer functional.
Most people forget about how many things they've installed over time that they count on until they're faced with these frustrating time wasting tasks.
Whether you're a Mac or Windows user, I've got a better way the next time you have to deal with this.
Windows users can go to a website called NiNite (that’s N I N I T E.com) to gather all of the browsers, utilities and program they want installed in a single automatically run install package.
If you get a new Mac computer, checkout GetMacApps.com to do the same.
Business IT folks will really find these sites to be a huge time saver because you can quickly get all your computers setup with the same list of programs.
Links: http://getmacapps.com and http://ninite.com
If your on a limited data plan with a low cap on your smartphone, minimizing your data usage whenever you can is critical.
If you're constantly surfing without a WiFi connect, you should consider switching to the Opera Mini browser.
Opera Mini has the ability to switch to off-road mode which will lower data usage while you’re on your data network and it'll even show you your data savings as you use it.
They accomplish this by using compression on their end before your phone actually starts downloading the websites which is how it uses less data as long as you're in off-road mode.
If you're lucky, the compression might noticeably increase the speed of your Internet connection, especially if you're on the edge of your network.
It can, however, cause irregularities on dynamic sites, which is why you want to be able to turn it off when you want.
They also include their famous 'speed-dial' for your favorite links; it's a visual set of bookmarks that can be used as your start page.
If you want to give Opera Mini a try, just point any of your mobile devices at m.opera.com, which will automatically bring up the proper app download link!
If you use Microsoft Word on a regular basis, you’re likely familiar with something called 'macros' which allow you to work with large chunks of text that you may use regularly with time saving keyboard shortcuts.
We're all spending more time on the Internet creating content, so having this type of capability in your browser can also come in handy.
If you're like me and use Google Docs instead of Microsoft Word on occasion, checkout the free Auto Text Expander add-on for Google Chrome.
You can create shortcuts for unwieldy e-mail addresses, sentences or other large chunks of text you often use and create various signatures for e-mail that you can easily insert with your own custom keystrokes.
For instance, you can use 'bizadd' for a business address or 'persig' when you want to use a personal signature in e-mails or anything you use on a regular basis.
The best part of this utility is that once you've created a shortcut, you can use it in any text field for everything you use on the Internet.
Get it here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/auto-text-expander-for-go/iibninhmiggehlcdolcilmhacighjamp
Although the Internet is loaded with kittens on a treadmill and a plethora of epic fail videos, it’s also a truly amazing place to learn things if you can get past the mindless entertainment.
A site called Learnist is taking an interesting approach to helping people learn and teach what they know.
It’s king of like learning meets Pinterest as it provides users with the ability to create boards of learning that others can engage in and follow.
You can get insight and learning from others on everything from
You can explore everything from art and design to technology and business at this site.
If you want to teach others about something you know,
You can even start your own board of learning and easily add to or update the content if you have knowledge that you want to share with others.
After all, it’s been said that the best way to learn something well is to teach it to someone else.
If either of these scenarios sounds interesting, check it all out at http://learni.st
These days, all of your mobile electronic devices have the capability to take pictures, which generally includes a flash of some sort.
Assuming that the flash is only for low lighting situations could be keeping you from getting great shots.
Outdoor pictures that include people can often end up with harsh contrasts and major shadows, which can ruin the image.
Both of these scenarios can often be fixed by using your flash, turning that unusable picture into a minor work of art.
With the flash on your smartphone, you need to make sure you're close enough to make what is generally a weak flash effective in bright sunlight.
On super bright days, try putting your subjects in a shaded area to eliminate squinting and use the flash to fill in the needed light.
Knowing when to use your flash outdoors and when not to use it indoors can have a major impact on the quality of your pictures.
The best way to know what works best with your cameras is to experiment before you’re in a situation where you need everything to be perfect!
If cyber-thieves can access your e-mail account on your smartphone, they can get password reset messages sent to the phone from just about any of your online accounts in a matter of minutes.
Today’s phones are loaded with tons of sensitive information that make stealing your credentials very easy, so if you haven’t setup an access pass code just yet, do it right away.
Keeping this in mind when you plan on trading in, selling or getting rid of any smartphone; you have to make sure that you do a factory reset to get rid of you personal info.
Getting your phone reset so it’s a pristine as the day you got it is pretty easy to do and generally done via the Settings menus.
Android users should also remember to either wipe or remove the expansion micro SD card before allowing the phone to leave your possession.
Formatting the micros SD card is the best way to protect yourself if you’re selling the phone with extra memory.
The SIM card from your cellular provider should be removed as well, just for good measure as it won’t be of any use to the next owner.
For specific instructions on how to reset you phone, just use Google to search the word reset and your exact model number.
I’ve posted additional instructions at: http://www.datadoctors.com/help/columns/21892-Wipe-Before-You-Get-Rid-Of-Your-Old-Smartphone/
Many of the legal documents or registration forms we deal with every day usually come in a universal file format known as a PDF file.
But when you have to sign a document and send it back, you’re usually printing the document, signing and scanning or faxing it in order to get it back to the sender.
Dealing with forms that have spaces so small that it’s hard to fill it out or sign is another common issue.
Typing directly into the form is so much more efficient and it’s easy to do with a site called PDFzen.
PDFzen doesn’t require you to install any software on your computer because it’s all handled online.
You simply upload your PDF document to the site to use any of their tools that include typing into it, highlighting text, drawing anywhere or signing the form and you can even add comments with just your web browser.
What makes it even better is that it’s also functional on your smartphone or tablet and there’s nothing to sign up for or register to get started.
PDFzen is one of those utilities that’s a life saver when you need it.
If watching YouTube videos when you aren’t online or if you like a music video and want to grab just the audio as an MP3 file are of interest, there’s actually a simple way to do it.
Of all the sites that are offering to provide this type of help, one of my favorites is a site called http://dirpy.com because you don’t have to be a nerd to use it.
All that’s required is copying the YouTube video link from the video and pasting it into the Dirpy interface to get your options.
If you just want the generate a music file, you just choose the audio quality and tap the download button.
If you want more, like a complete video, you can select a low resolution to save space or high resolution to get a 720p copy of the video that you can watch whenever you want.
Once you grab the video or audio that you desire, It’ll be on your hard drive or you can transfer it to your mobile devices and for on demand viewing or listening.
Dirpy is really useful if you’re going on a long trip with young kids, because you can keep them entertained without a WiFi connection and it’s free!
A friend recently asked me to help them find an online resource for setting appointments at their business, that eliminated all the runaround when using e-mail or the phone.
He asked for something simple, preferably free and capable of allowing customers to pay online down the road.
So I suggested a site called http://www.acuityscheduling.com
If you’re in a position that necessitates that you set appointments, using a resource that allows your customers to book their own appointments is really efficient and Acuity Scheduling could fit the bill.
Although the basic service is free, if you require customization or want to take credit cards through the system, it’ll cost you $10 to $20 a month.
The simplicity and convenience of the site made getting things setup a snap and all they had to do was create a book an appointment link on their website.
Acuity also syncs with popular many popular calendar apps, create group appointments and it automatically knows how to manage time zones.
Hackers have focused their attention on social media networks like Twitter and Facebook because they can leverage compromised accounts to wreak serious havoc on your network of friends.
In most cases, they'll send malicious links to all your friends so they too can become victims using your account.
We’ve repeatedly stressed that activating ‘two factor authentication’ is a solid method way to avoid becoming a victim even if someone discovers your username and password.
By requiring two things to gain access to your account, two factor authentication prevents outside access to your account unless they can also steal your smartphone.
Activating this option in online accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Gmail or any service that offers it, will cause a special code to be generated whenever anyone tries to access your account from a device that isn’t recognized.
Without that specific code, which is also time sensitive, the malicious user can’t get in, even though they have both your username and password.
It also becomes an early warning system for when your credentials are compromised, so turn it on today!
Much of what you do on the Internet is sped up through a process called ‘caching’ which keeps elements of previously visited websites in a temporary space on your computer.
Caching allows sites to load faster because it doesn’t have to pull every image, frame, video or body of text down from the Internet.
Loading these elements from your local hard drive is so much faster, but sometimes this can work against you.
If you’ve ever gone to a website looking for information that you can’t find or a site that doesn’t load properly, it's possible that your just looking at an incomplete cached version of the site from your computer.
The next time this happens, give this a try: hold the CTRL button down and tap the F5 key at the top of your keyboard.
This universal shortcut works on all the major browsers and is a command that tells your computer to skip the cache and download everything from the website.
It’s a really quick way to troubleshoot strange website behaviours because if everything loads properly, you’ll know its time to clear the browser’s cache
More info at: http://www.wikihow.com/Clear-Your-Browser's-Cache
Today’s tech tip is on a rather uncomfortable subject: death.
So much of our lives are tied up in online accounts that if you meet with an untimely death, your family members could be faced with an enormous task in the midst of grieving.
If you pass away and no one in your family has any of your passwords, the process for unlocking online accounts is different for each company, so the process would become very time consuming and frustrating.
The security measures that are in place to keep malicious users from accessing your accounts will become a roadblock when your family attempts to settle your affairs.
Storing your passwords in a safety deposit box or password managing program is good start but your passwords will change over time.
The most important passwords for someone you trust to have is to your e-mail account, since that’s where password reset requests get sent.
Whoever is tasked with settling your affairs can use your e-mail account to know what online accounts you used and get passwords reset if necessary.
It’s not fun to think about, but it’s something you should be thinking about!
A friend recently asked me if I knew of any apps that would allow him to record phone conversations taken on an Android smartphone.
He told me that he was looking for a solution that would help him create training material.
Anyone wanting to do this needs to understand the various wiretapping statutes that tend to vary from state to state.
Unless you know for sure, it’s best to play it safe by notifying anyone on the call that it’s being recorded.
Of all the apps that I tested, a free app called Call Recorder seemed to the job quite effectively.
Once you download and install the app, a tiny red ‘record' dot appears in the upper left corner whenever you place or answer a call.
Anytime you want to record a call, you just tap on the red dot and then again, when you want to end the recording.
It captures lots of great info including the date, time and duration of the call as well as the caller ID, automatically!
Once the recording is complete, you can save it to your phone or share in any number of ways.
The free Call Recorder app an be downloaded from the Google Play store.
Have you seen this video? Can you believe you were caught doing this on camera?
This is an example of a tricky social engineering scam that continues to be used to fool people with e-mail, social or private messages.
The thieves want to get you so worked up over what might be in the video that you let your guard down.
If you click on the link to see the incriminating video, you’ll usually be warned that you need to install something called a CODEC or update your video player in order to see the video.
In your haste to see this embarrassing video, you go ahead and bam, you’ve just been infected with a silent program.
Any time you fall for these tricks and allow malicious software in, the crooks can do just about anything they want and generally without you having a clue they’re doing it.
We’re seeing this approach on the rise, so stay alert and never install anything from a pop up message!
If you’re a road warrior, you probably run into Internet access that’s a bit limited in speed when you’re traveling.
Whether it’s in hotels & coffee shops or on an airplane, your speed is very limited because you’re sharing it with everyone else.
Today’s media rich ad-driven websites can be particularly slow on airplane wifi.
There are ways to manually optimize your browser for slower connections, but it would require that you switch it back and forth or create a second optimzed profile.
My preferred tool for when I’m on the road is the Opera browser.
This lesser known browser has some interesting tricks up its sleeve with options like Opera Turbo which optimizes content on cloud servers first, which can reduce download times.
Blocking unnecessary elements such as Flash ad boxes unless you click on them will also, which reduces the load.
If things get really slow, you can block all images which can get you to your desired text much faster.
I’ve posted the link to Opera along with other suggestions from my advice column which is posted at
Spring has sprung and you know what that means...spring cleaning!
A spring cleaning task you may want to add if you’re an avid Facebook user is to review and cleanup the apps that have access to your profile.
If you haven’t done this in a while or ever for that matter, you may be amazed by how many apps you’ve given access to your profile, knowingly or unknowingly.
Start by opening your Facebook Settings and clicking on the Apps option.
An alphabetical list of the apps that have access to your profile will appear and by floating your mouse over each app, you’ll have the option to either edit the settings or remove it.
If you click on the Edit option, you can modify what the app can and can’t do, including sending you notifications but it you don’t really need it, remove it.
Unfortunately, removing the app won’t revoke the information the app has already gathered, but it will prevent future access.
The love hate relationship with Windows 10 rages on with a large number of you that have made it clear, you don’t want to upgrade from your existing version of Windows.
Microsoft recently made a change to their automatic update system that snuck the upgrade in without the owner realizing what was happening.
Many websites have published various tricks for preventing Windows from auto-updating, but many of them require that you modify or delete files, which can be scary for non-techy users.
Well, there’s an easier way that’s also a lot safer than making manual modifications to your system called Never 10.
Never 10 is a simple utility created by one of my favorite software developers, Steve Gibson and it’s super easy to use.
Just download the tiny program and run it to so it can figure out what you have and how to prevent Windows 10 from sneaking in.
If you’re one of the millions that’s saying Never 10, I’ve posted the link at DataDoctors/radio
Tabbed browsing has changed the way we use the Internet, by allowing us to open multiple sites in the same browsing session.
It’s easy to get carried away by opening lots of tabs, but each tab takes memory, so it’s important to close unneeded tabs to keep your computer from becoming a slug.
But how often have you accidentally closed the wrong tab forcing you to wade through your browser History trying to find something you still want to read?
Well today’s tip is the cure for errant clicks that close the wrong tab.
The next time this happens to you in any browser, just hold down the Ctrl and Shift keys then tap on the letter T as in Tom.
Which ever tab you last closed will suddenly appear in all its glory without the usual hassle.
If you want to restore more than one tab, just repeatedly press Ctrl, Shift T and each one will appear in the order you closed them!
Taking pictures of a group gathering is standard operating procedure these days, but that usually means whoever takes the picture is left out.
Asking a stranger to take the group shot can have mixed results because they didn’t hold still or didn’t compose the shot very well.
Some newer smartphones actually have an option to use both the front and back camera so the person taking the shot can be part of the fun.
If you don’t have this feature on your camera, checkout a free app called Frontback that’s available for both Android and iPhone users.
The Frontback app makes it simple to take pictures from the back and front cameras and combine them into a single image, which can lead to some pretty creative shots.
Selfie addicts will find this app indispensable for making sure they include themselves in every shot.
There’s even an entire online community sharing Frontback shots with each other; check it all out at http://frontback.me
The vast majority of e-mails circulating the Internet these days are junk messages and the technology that tries to filter through it all isn’t perfect.
The specific words you use and what you include in your messages can actually make your legitmate emails look like a junk message to automated spam filters.
Simple things, like unnecessary images or certain words can boost your spam score and the parameters keep changing.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to test your messages to see if something you’re doing is making you look like a spammer?
Well, there’s a tool for just this purpose at http://mail-tester.com that will quickly evaluate your message and give you a spam score.
It’s really simple to use; just send your message to the address that they provide and then click the link below it.
You’ll get a spam score and a detailed report on your message including whether you’ve been blacklisted.
Start testing your messages at http://mail-tester.com