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!
Summer is here and so is travel season which can lead to vacation road trips filled with amazing and unexpected experiences.
I really enjoy finding those "off-the-beaten-path" or truly quirky joints on my excursions and generally find that talking to a local is one of the best sources of discovery.
If you love finding the fun and unusual on your road trips, checkout a website called Roadtrippers.com.
You can search for attractions, accommodations, entertainment, food and drink, history, nature or just about anything that will make your road trip interesting by setting your starting and ending points to get started.
By adding stops along the way, you can calculate how long the trip will take and even get a general prediction of what you'll spend in gas to make it happen.
After you've created your road trip, you can sync it to their mobile app for turn-by-turn directions to every destination on your road trip.
If all that sounds like too much of a hassle, you can use any of the pre-existing road trips like Haunted Hotels or Route 66 and then modify the itinerary to meet your needs.
Anyone planning a summer road trip should checkout RoadTrippers.com
Fashion magazines use the process of photo retouching to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary but usually with really costly software programs like Photoshop.
Not only are these programs expensive to buy, they are complicated and have a large learning curve.
The examples of them overdoing it are posted all over the Internet, but that shouldn't keep you from making use of basic touch-up tools for your own images.
An app called Perfect365 offers quick and easy retouching options which you can use on your smartphone or tablet, eliminating the need to download them to your computer in order to get the job done.
There are makeover settings and predefined one-touch clean-up settings or you can manually work with any part of a image on your own.
Perfect365 can remove blemishes and dark circles from your eyes as well as soften skin and whiten teeth with a few taps of the screen.
You can even get crazy and give yourself a virtual nose job or facelift.
If you get the urge to take your images from drab to fab, checkout Perfect365 for just about any mobile device: iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows 8 or Windows Phone.
Check it all out for yourself at DataDoctors.com/radio
Let's start today's tip with a review of a little geek speak: word cloud
A word cloud is a visual depiction of a large amount of text, with the most prominent words specially placed with bold colors or larger fonts.
I've found that the best way to easily pull important themes in large bodies of text is by using word clouds.
If you’re a business that with customer feedback, for example, instead of having to manually review each one to compile themes, you can quickly mine the data with an online word cloud generator.
One of my go-to tools is at http://tagcrowd.com because it's quick and easy and powerful.
You start by creating a single plain text file with all of the information you want to work with without worrying about formatting or structure.
You then copy and paste the text into the site or you can upload the text file, CSV spreadsheet or document or even point at test via a web URL.
I find TagCrowd, that’s T A G C R O W D.com to be an excellent tool for presentations and meeting especially when discussing large chunks of data.
Many of us have to use reading glasses to use our smartphones, but get frustrated trying to keep track of where you used them last.
Buying a large number of them so you can leave them where you typically use them is one solution, but wouldn't it be more effective to keep your reading glasses with your smartphone all the time?
A company called ThinOptics feels your pain and created a pretty clever solution to this common problem: super thin reading glasses that fit into your smartphone case.
The got rid of the arms and you just clip them onto your nose, making them thin enough to be stored in the case of your smartphone.
The cases work with iPhone or Galaxy phones directly or you can get the universal add-on pad for just about any case.
If you suffer from 'where did I put my reading glasses' syndrome, Thinoptics solution runs between $25 to $39, so it could be more cost effective than buying a large stash of glasses.
Learn all about them at http://ThinOptics.com
I've been assisting people with their technology for decades, but one consistent behavior continues to exist; users know the importance of backing up but just never seem to get around to doing it.
If getting an automatic backup setup has been on your to-do list, hopefully this will get you to take action.
Hackers have stepped up their ransomware attacks, which when successful locks down all your critical files that includes any attached backup drives.
They've found ways to spread the threat in ways never seen before with the latest versions.
If you don’t have a secured off-site backup and you get hit with ransomware, you have one of two choices: lose everything and start over or pay a hefty ransom to get your personal files back.
We highly recommend using an online backup service, Carbonite being our choice as the best way to avoid having to pay the ransom. Online backups are not vulnerable because they are not physically attacked to your computer.
If you don't have a secure off-site backup automatically running every day, consider this your wakeup call.
Although you've heard over and over again that using public Wi-Fi can be dangerous, there's something about it that you may not have known.
Without you realizing it, it's possible that your computer is sharing files with everyone else that's using the same hotspot at the coffee shop or hotel.
You could be offering up some of your files or allowing others to save infected files on your computer if you have publicly shared folders turned on.
Generally speaking, this isn't the biggest threat to your personal information, but it's potentially open access to your computer when you're on public Wi-Fi.
Protecting yourself, especially if you never use the public share folders is pretty easy...just turn them off.
I have been on connections where publicly accessible folders that contain actual files showed up because the owners had no idea that everyone connected could see these files.
Whether you're a Mac or Windows users, you shouldn't have these turned on if you don't use them, so the instructions for turning them off is posted at datadoctors.com/radio.
Disable public shares in OS X: http://osxdaily.com/2014/02/11/disable-public-folder-sharing-mac-os-x
Disable public folders in Windows:
Just about every major hacking incident you’ve heard about recently, has a recurring theme connected to it.
Most of the scams start by sending a targeted phishing message to lots of people in the company, hoping that just one of them gets opened.
These very convincing fake corporate messages a.k.a. "spear-phishing" are the tool of choice for most of today's ransomware attacks.
The likelyhood of someone falling for a message that appears to be from someone important in the same company is very high and the hackers know that.
This means you have to start paying really close attention to messages that seem to be coming from your co-horts, especially when they are asking you to open a file attachment.
If you'd like to test the users in your company, you can run a phishing security test at http://KnowBe4.com.
The free version of the test can send what poses as a message from the IT department to up to 100 people so you can see who falls for the trick.
These threats are growing and your users are the biggest point of entry for all of them, so educating them is critical.
I’ve posted a link to the free testing tool at DataDoctors.com/radio
If you hate all of the inconveniences of conference calls, especially if you’re on your smartphone or tablet, raise your hand!
My hand is up too and that’s why I’ve been preaching to anyone that will listen to make a chance when it comes to hosting conference calls.
I started using a service called UberConference when I host a conference call because it’s so much better than traditional services.
And no, they have nothing to do with Uber the car sharing service.
No need to type PIN numbers on your smartphone, no more beeping from people joining or exiting the call and no more trying to figure out who’s all is on the call or who’s currently speaking because it’s all on your screen, visually.
As the host, it’s super simple to mute a participants line, like when music starts playing because someone put their line on hold.
You can record the sessions, share your screen and find lots of other great features that will make the calls much more enjoyable for everyone, whether they are using a browser or a mobile device.
The basic 10-person service is free, but if you need more, for $10 a month, you can host up to 100 participants.
Take it for a test drive at http://www.uberconference.com
Web based e-mail programs are awesome because you are no longer tied to a specific machine for getting at your email.
Gmail is still my absolute favorite system and if you’re like me and use it every day, you should checkout the keyboard shortcuts which can make it even better.
Shortcuts can eliminate the need to move your hands off the keyboard allowing you to be more efficient.
Most of the truly helpful shortcuts start with the letter G as in Gmail followed by a another character.
For example, typing G then A will let you see all mail,.
Typing G then D allows you to jump to your Draft messages.
Typing G then C will get you straight to your contacts.
If you use the option for Starred messages, typing G then S will show them and if you type G then T as in senT, you’ll jump to your sent messages.
There are more than 60 keyboard shortcuts that can dramatically reduce your dependence on your mouse to get the job done.
To learn more about Gmail shortcuts, checkout the link that I’ve posted at DataDoctors.com/radio.
From time to time, you probably find yourself in need of some basic graphic design work, but it’s rarely important enough to hire a professional, whether it’s for personal or business reasons.
If you don’t have the software or find that you lack the talent to do it yourself, there’s a website called Canva … like canvas without the s...that you should check out.
Canva is dead simple to use, because it’s a template driven tool that’s also web-based, so you don’t have to install anything on your computer to get started.
You can use it to create flyers, posters, business cards, blog graphics, perfectly formatted Facebook Cover images or any number of other social media related needs, Canva is a great DIY tool.
You start by picking a design style, then choose a template you like and make changes to the text to fit your needs.
You can use your own images or choose from Canva’s large library of professionally generated images; some are free others only cost a buck to use.
It’s a dream tool because it’s easy to use, cost-effective and produces really great results in a very short period of time.
For those that lack the skill, money, vision or the time to generate professional looking graphics, Canva.com is worth taking a look at...that’s C A N V A.com
When your computer starts to run slow, far too often, too many users assume that it’s just time to get a new computer.
If your computer is really old, that probably makes sense, but for most people there’s a much less expensive option to get the system running great again.
It’s known as a Hybrid hard drive and it’s still one of the best kept secrets in the computer business.
There are 3 major components in your computer that primarily determine how fast it’ll run: they are the processor, RAM and hard drive.
The hard drive is always the biggest bottleneck so opening it up can make an old system seem brand new again.
It’s a lot less expensive then buying a new computer.
What makes a Hybrid hard drives unique is that is combines a lightening fast Solid State circuit with a traditional magnetic drive and includes the intelligence to keep the files and programs you use the most on the faster portion.
If you go this route, don’t forget you can turn your old hard drive into a backup drive just by getting an external enclosure kit.
If you’re looking for more speed from your computer, check to see if a hybrid drive can save you lots of money and return your computer to the performance you need!
We all face the constant challenge of deciding what to make for dinner but usually end up picking from one of a handful of regulars from our rotation of meals.
If you want a new spin on this regular challenge, There’s an app called Dinner Spinner you may want to check out.
The app is from the folks at AllRecipes.com and allows you select a type of dish you’re interested in, such as a salad, main course or side dish, and a main ingredient, like pasta or fish.
You also include how much time you have to prepare the meal and then give it a spin.
I tried it by asking for a main course that included chicken with less than 20 minutes to prepare it and got 25 different ideas, which all looked appetizing.
When you view the potential matches, you’ll get a long list of recipes that also includes their ratings from other users.
For those that are little more adventurous, try shaking your phone for random recipes that you may never have thought of cooking.
Those with dietary restrictions can use filters to limit the results if you’re looking for low sodium, vegetarian, high fiber or you want to avoid things like dairy.
The many great features in our smartphone’s are awesome, but lots of features can suck...battery power that is.
When you’re traveling and you only have a short window to recharge, maximizing the charge for the little time you have is critical.
A quick way to improve the quality of a quick charge is to shut the phone off while you’re recharging.
Putting the phone into airplane mode is another options which will turn off background tasks as well as wifi and bluetooth so you don’t spin your wheels while trying to recharge.
Don’t forget the TV in your hotel room can be an additional charger if it has USB ports, especially when you have more items than outlets.
The TV needs to be turned on and it won’t charge as quickly as a regular charger, but it can come in very handy in a pinch.
And always be mindful that heat is your phone’s worst enemy. Nothing shortens battery life like excessive heat, so always avoid leaving your electronics in direct sunlight or hot vehicles.
If it’s hot to the touch, you should let it get back to room temperature before attempting to charge your devices.
When you come to a fork in the road, take it!
When we hear or read a famous quote, we often wonder 'who said that?', which can be solved with today’s tip.
A cool website called Quotery.com has done a great job of compiling famous quotes in a database that’s easy to use.
There are over 100,000 quotes, quips and proverbs that you can search directly or by author or topic.
Quotery.com is an excellent resource for those working on research papers, blogs or presentations that rely on accurate information.
They website claims to be an encyclopedia of wit and wisdom, so you can also randomly search for interesting quotes using their tools.
One of my favorite things about Quotery.com is their inclusion of sources and context that can help make better sense of the quote or the person that wrote it.
You can also help improve the information by suggesting edits when you feel you have something to add.
One of my favorite things to do at the site is read the many quotes from the great American philosopher Yogi Berra.
Quotery.com isn’t something you’ll use every day, but the next time you’re trying to figure out who said what, give it a try!
Think about how influential social media has become in virtually every aspect of our lives.
Everything from simple buying decisions to politics, the stock market and even global conflicts are all influenced by social media every day.
This has given rise to a technology referred to as 'social bots' which are nothing more than software programs that attempt to appear to be real humans.
They’re commonly used by companies for automated postings while spam artists employ them to flood our profiles with junk ads. Some governments use them as simple propaganda machines.
Unfortunately, these bots can also be used to infect your accounts and circulate malicious links, so it’s best to avoid them whenever you can.
It seems that Twitter particularly has a large percentage of accounts that are leveraging social bots, which made way for a compelling research project at Indiana University.
The Truthy Project’s Bot or Not tool was created to analyze Twitter accounts for indications that they're using a social bot.
While it's not a definite appraisal, it can be a handy tool to avoid getting fooled by a profile that appears to be a real live human.
The link is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
For all you spreadsheet warriors out there, you know working with huge data sets can make for very complex and difficult analysis of the data.
Charts and graphs are a fantastic way to take an enormous amount of data and turn it into something much more digestible or understandable.
While the tools that are built-in for creating charts and graphs may get the job done, there are superior resources on the Internet if you really want to step up your game.
A free and open source option that’s one of my faves is called RAW.
It calls itself 'the missing link between spreadsheets and vector graphics’ and it’s really cool.
To get started, you simply copy and paste or drag and drop files into the interface.
Once you chose the layout type, you can drag datasets to map your dimensions to the categories you want to use.
Once the basic data is in place, it allows you to customize what will become your visualization to fit your needs or your output format.
Once you’ve got it finalized, download it and use it any way you choose.
It’s pretty powerful stuff!
The link to RAW is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
If you took our advice and setup 2-factor authentication (2FA) as a protective measure on your online accounts, there’s more thing that those that travel need to do.
Since 2FA keeps others from accessing your account by sending your phone a text code whenever it doesn’t recognize a device, it’s extremely helpful even if someone has snags your username and password.
But, if you’re on an airplane using the on-board wifi, when you sign into your accounts, your phone can’t get the required text code to get in.
This is where backup codes come to the rescue.
If you’re a business traveler, being locked out of Facebook or Twitter may be no big deal, but access to email on a long flight is critical.
The backup codes are generally stored in the same area that you used to setup 2FA in the first place, so go back to your setup menu to find them.
Making a copy of these one-time use codes and keeping them stored in your travel gear will solve this problem.
It doesn’t matter how you store them; on a piece of paper in your wallet or purse or in a password protected file on your computer, just make it something only you will know is the backup codes.
I’ve got links for many of the major sites posted at http://datadoctors.com/radio
Or search “2-factor backup codes for XXXX” where XXXX is the name of the online service
One of the best ways to understand techniques for protecting yourself online, it helps to truly think like a hacker first.
One of the most valuable things sold on the Internet underground is your personal information, so tricking humans into allowing them into your computer is one of the most common tactics.
And rather than directly work on adults, hackers figured out long ago that it’s easier to trick your kids to get to you.
They can sneak malicious tracking programs in by posing as free music, videos, games and expensive programs that kids and teens are more likely to download.
Why is this tactic so effective? Generally, it’s because parents often allow their kids to use the same user profiles as them with full administrative access for complete control over the computer.
If this is how things are working in your house, you should really make a change immediately.
You should setup a separate account with limited access for your younger users as a way to minimize the exposure to mom and dad’s sensitive information.
This is a critically important security measure, so if you don’t know how to get it setup, get someone to help you as every OS has different steps.
One of the biggest issues in the digital age is finding a way to keep our mobile gadgets charged up.
Having the proper charger and cable for each of those devices can sometimes mean you're packed with a small arsenal of batteries and cables…Wireless charging will certainly make this all much easier.
A rather promising technology for wireless charging is a project called WiTricity and it’s starting look like a reality.
From its meager beginnings at MIT in 2007 as a research project, the technology could be ubiquitous in the very near future.
I’m looking forward to hiding wireless charging transmitters in desks, kitchen counter tops and in convenient places like the console in my car.
The idea is to recharge wirelessly just by being near one of these WiTricity chargers with everything from smartphones and tablets to electric cars!
The technology behind this system is referred to as 'resonant energy transfer based on Synchronized Magnetic-flux Phase Coupling phenomenon'; yeah I don’t get it either, but I want it now.
There are a number of existing products being tested with many other potential uses on display at http://WiTricity.com
If you throw house parties that must have music playing all the time, today's tip is for you!
You've probably created playlists in the past, trying to guess what your guests might like but why guess when you can make it part of the party with the Party DJ iPhone app.
Party DJ is the perfect way to create playlists that you're friends will enjoy because they can all help pick and vote for the songs they want to hear.
It's essentially a crowd-sourcing tool that plays songs based on the tunes that have the most votes, which move to the top of the list.
It'll cost the host 3 dollars but all your guests can use the free app or the website to join in on the fun.
All you do is connect your iOS device to a set of speakers or you can use Airplay to set things up.
The host always stays in charge by being able to skip tracks or delete them altogether if someone adds an undesirable track.
Other iPhone users can even add songs from their own libraries through the Party DJ app...it's pretty cool!
I've posted the link to learn more at DataDoctors.com/radio
Setting up remote access to your computers can come in handy, but many of the most popular options that used to be free now charge a fee.
If you can't justify paying for this capability, checkout Google's simple and free Chrome Remote Desktop.
You don't have to be a techie or a nerd to set it up because it's just an add-on to the Chrome Browser on the computers that you want to setup for remote access.
It's super flexible so any Windows, Mac or Linux computer can be used to access your computer remotely; it'll be just as if you're sitting in front of it.
You can even use your smartphone, tablet or Chromebook to remotely access your computers.
I've used it from all over the world to access my computers back home when I need something that's stored on it.
This is one of the easiest to use yet fully functioning remote tools that's still free to use.
Setting the system up only takes a few minutes, so I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a free remote solution.
I've posted all the links at DataDoctors.com/radio
Chrome Remote Desktop Add-on: https://chrome.google.com/remotedesktop
Chrome Remote Desktop for Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.chromeremotedesktop
Chrome Remote Desktop for iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/chrome-remote-desktop/id944025852?mt=8