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!
A pretty consistent question that I have been asked by businesses, is where to send employees to get software training.
Old timers like me, generally think about taking a class or reading a book to learn what we don’t know, but that isn’t the way most people learn these days.
The Internet allows for a much more interactive and visual way to learn things and a website that offers a comprehensive online library of easy to follow lessons is at Lynda.com.
They have over 2,500 courses using video that range from common programs such as Microsoft Word & Excel to 3-D animation and virtually every type of web programming language or platform in use today.
10’s of thousands of training videos are categorized as beginner, intermediate & advanced and also offer videos with the close captioning option.
Lynda is a subscription service that starts at around 25 dollars a month for unlimited access to all their training videos.
They also offer mobile apps, which allow you to watch courses on your laptop or mobile devices, and switch back & forth without losing your place.
If you are part of a business that’s looking for an inexpensive online visual training system, give http://lynda.com a good look.
Just about every ‘reality show' incorporates some form of ‘makeover', but not many of us want to become a public spectacle while doing it.
If you have ever considered some radical new hair style, a complete makeup makeover or just wanted to see what you would look like with different color eyes, I've got a tool for you!
A site called Taaz, that’s T A A Z.com has an interesting virtual makeover platform that is really simple to use and generates results in just minutes.
You simply upload a head shot of yourself and then start modifying your lips, skin, eyes, hair or even add accessories.
Better yet, if you have always wondered what you’d look like with a certain celebrities look, you can get that look on your head shot with a click of a button.
They even include Halloween ideas so you can see your Mad Hatter look, become a character from Avatar or see which one of Lady Gaga’s styles fits you best.
While Taaz is clearly setup to help women in makeover decisions using specific brands of makeup, us guys can also use it for more subtle makeovers as well.
If you’ve got younger kids, using some sort of a baby monitor is standard practice these days.
If you’re looking for something that’s really convenient or as an alternative for when you take your little ones on a trip, look into an Android app called Dormi.
The Dormi app can turn just about any 2 Android devices into a fully capable baby monitor system that can work from any distance.
Unlike those traditional baby monitors, the Dormi app works with either wifi or cellular connections, so it works in the next room or the next state.
You even have a push button to speak to your child if they need to be calmed by your voice and the app also keeps you posted on the battery level of the monitoring device.
The free basic service allows for up to four hours of monitoring per month or for a one time $7 purchase, you can get unlimited usage forever.
If you have an older unused Android device sitting around somewhere, this is a perfect way to bring it back to life.
If your smartphone is on a limited data plan, keeping data usage under that limit is important.
One really good way to do that is to switch to the Opera Mini browser on your smartphone for your web browsing.
Opera has a built-in ability to switch to "off-road" mode which automatically reduces your data usage while surfing the web and displays how much data you saved by using it.
Opera Mini incorporates sophisticated compression before your phone starts to download the info, thereby using less data than other browsers when you use the off-road mode.
Often times, this extra compression will actually speedup your page loads especially when you’re on a slow connection but it can cause issues on dynamically generated sites, which is why there’s an option for turning it on or off.
Opera Mini also incorporates speed-dial for your most visited websites, like a more visual display of your traditional bookmarks.
If you want to give Opera Mini a, just use any mobile device and go to m.opera.com and you’ll automatically be provided with the proper link.
Most of us pop between a computer and a smartphone on a daily basis, so wouldn't it be helpful to be able to push information between these two devices?
We constantly find ourselves in a situation where we find something on our smartphones that we’d like to push to our computer and vice versa. Well you can if you use the free solution at Pushbullet.com
Pushbullet is a Google Chrome add-on paired with an app for both Android or iPhone users that makes sending things between your computer and your smartphone a snap.
Whether it’s a note, web URLs, physical addresses, lists, pictures or even data files, they can be sent from one device to the other with the greatest of ease.
Pushbullet eliminates the process involved with services such as DropBox or Google Drive because what you ‘ ush’ can easily be accessed without having to go through the download process or go to special apps.
Pushbullet also allows you to send directly to family, friends or co-workers.
If you have an Android device, you can also mirror the notifications on your smartphone on your computer screen.
If you are intrigued by this service, the direct links for getting the mobile and web apps is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
Android App: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pushbullet.android
iPhone App: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pushbullet/id810352052
Web App: https://www.pushbullet.com
If you’re like most people, you use Microsoft Word on a daily basis, so you may be familiar with something called 'macros' which allows you to work with large portions of text that you use on a regular basis by simple keyboard shortcuts.
Since we are all spending so much more time online creating content, having this same type of option right in your web browser can be very handy.
If you find yourself starting to use Google Docs instead of Microsoft Word more often, check into the Auto Text Expander add-on for Google Chrome.
With this free add-on, you can create your own shortcuts for long e-mail addresses, sentences or other commonly used chunks of text as well as various signatures for e-mail messages that can be easily inserted using your own custom keystrokes.
For example, you can create a 'bizadd’ shortcut for your business address or 'persig’ for a personal e-mail signature or create anything else you might use on a regular basis.
The best part of this add-on is that when you create a shortcut, you can use it anywhere, on any text field for just about anything you use on the Internet.
Get it here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/auto-text-expander-for-go/iibninhmiggehlcdolcilmhacighjamp
If you’re noticing strange items that just seem to pop-up on your computer screen from time to time, it is likely they're from new apps or programs that you recently installed.
A general practice now a days is to hide third-party programs into a utility such as Java or printer install programs within the installation routine.
The key to keeping these unwanted programs and other changes to your system is to pay really close attention to what’s happening during the installation process.
Most of these companies are counting on you not paying attention and hope you’ll just keep hitting next, next, next and I agree.
Another common trick which allows junk software into your computer is convincing you that a standard installation is the best and recommended one.
They'll make it appear as if you have to be a rocket scientist to select the custom installation, but if you do, that;s where you will get to see what they really want to sneak past you.
From now on, make it a point to choose the custom or advanced option whenever you are installing anything new on your computer so you have a shot at stopping it before it happens.
Doing so is the key to keeping software companies from messing with your browser by adding extra toolbars or worse, changing the default search engine or your start page.
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