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!
All of the major wireless carriers are engaged in battle to try to win your business with various new sensational sounding offers just about every week.
But if the data and voice service and reliability in your neck of the woods is spotty, a sensational deal means nothing.
Before you decide to make the jump from one carrier to another, I’ve got a resource that will let you do your research.
You can evaluate all four of the major networks, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint where you live, work and travel at a website called Rootmetrics.com.
You start with the area you live in to get an overall performance rating for each carrier that includes reliability and speed indexes as well as data, call and text performance so you’ll know the strengths of each network where you’ll actually use them.
One of the best features of the site is the CoverageMap because you can get detailed maps of where the call quality is bad or good, where data is slow or fast and whether 4G LTE service is available from each carrier.
There’s also a mobile app which allows you to help build the performance database no matter where you are traveling.
I’v posted the all the Rootmetrics links at DataDoctors.com/radio
Find your city reports: http://www.rootmetrics.com/us/rsr/usa-metros?z=united-states
Explore the Coverage Map: http://webcoveragemap.rootmetrics.com/us
Mobile apps: http://www.rootmetrics.com/us/products/coveragemap-mobile-app
Augmented reality apps, like Pokeman Go, that overlay information on your smartphone camera screen are growing in popularity.
One of the more usefull uses for augmented reality is for real-time language translation, whether it's on a street sign, a restaurant menu or those description plaques in a museum.
When you’re in a foreign country, it’s especially helpful to know what keywords mean so you can know what you are about to eat or where you are going.
An app called CamDictionary provides real-time translation that's so much easier and faster than looking words up in a translation guidebook.
You just open the app, point the camera at a word then tap the screen on that word to get it translated in real-time.
It turns your camera into a dynamic dictionary to translate any word you point at in up to 54 languages.
CamDictionary is it’s far from a complete translation app, because it can only translate one word at a time, but understanding one or two words can make all the difference in the world.
The basic CamDictionary app is free for both Android and iPhone users, so make sure you have the app before you leave on that next trip abroad.
Whenever you are having trouble getting to a specific website, sometimes the problem is the website your trying to vidi and other times it’s your equipment that’s having the problem.
When you’re having an issue getting a specific website, before spending any real time checking your own equipment, take a minute to make sure that the website you’re trying to access isn’t down for the moment.
A web resource called IsItDownRightNow.com can provide you with some information to quickly determine if the site is down or not.
Not only can it let you know if the website is up or down, it can provide current response times and a recent history of availability for major sites.
When the site has been confirmed to be up and running, it’ll provide you with some troubleshooting suggestions to help you figure out why you can’t currently access the site.
Conversely, If others are having an issue with the same website, posted towards the bottom you will see others that commenting about the same problem, so you don’t waste your time.
If IsItDownRightNow.com determines that a site is down, they’ll provide you with a list of alternative sites that may be able to provide the information you seek.
IsItDownRightNow.com is bookmark worthy!
Food photography has both haters and lovers of this growing social media phenomenon.
If you’re a lover of this common act, there are a few things you should remember, especially if you’re in a restaurant.
The first thing is turn off the flash...not only is it an irritation to others around you, it’s going to distort the actual colors of the food and turning it into plastic food.
In low lighting situations, be sure you turn down the brightness of your screen as another courtesy and use a candle when possible to warmly light your dish.
Another big irritant to those around you is the shutter sound every time you take a picture, so silence that too.
The app you choose to take the shot can make a huge difference in the results, so instead of opting for the built-in picture app, give VSCO’s Cam app a try.
It’ll give you lots of editing options for low lighting images after you take the shot.
And remember, you’re there to enjoy the food, so posting your meal can wait until after you’ve eaten.
If you’re ever tasked with the chore of transcribing a recorded voice message, interview or sound file, you’ll be confronted with an inefficient process.
You'll have to open multiple tools on your computer and then bounce back and forth between them to start and stop the audio to properly capture all of the words.
I’ve got a better way through an awesome free utility for you to bookmark, whether you have to do this on a regular basis or on that rare occasion.
It’s called oTranscribe.com and it’s extremely simple to use.
You just upload the audio file through their web interface and viola, everything you need to get the task completed will be in one place.
The included online word processor provides the controls for the audio file built right into the interface with keyboard controls for all of the commands.
Need to slow down or speed up the audio to match your typing speed? No sweat!
Want to start and stop the audio? No need to reach for the mouse, just tap the Escape key.
It’s really awesome!
Bookmark this one! - http://otranscribe.com
If you’re a parent of a teenager, you know the frustrations of getting them up to speed on doing their own laundry.
You know the standard excuse: “I don’t know what to do”...fair enough...so there's an app for that mom and dad!
The free Complete Laundry Care iPhone app has instructions for washing, folding and ironing clothes and includes a chart to explain what each machine wash symbol means on the tags.
Now your child can literally be walked through each step of the process: sorting, setting the time for each load and drying while providing a timer which alerts them when each load is done so no more forgetting about the laundry.
It’s a handy way to ensure that your new college student doesn’t obliterate their entire wardrobe in the first semester because they won't just throw it all in together when they do their laundry.
If they decide to attempt to do some ironing, the app can even save your child from burning their clothes.
So if you know any teenagers or adults for that matter, that just can't seem to get a handle on the laundry process, the Complete Laundry Care app could save them money, time and frustration!
I’ve posted the link at DataDoctors.com/radio
Having some sort of baby monitor is a pretty standard device if you have young children in the house.
For those looking for an inexpensive alternative or something really convenient when you're on a road trip with your kids, I suggest taking a look at the Dormi Android app.
The Dormi app can turn any two Android phones or tablets into solid baby monitors that can work from just about any distance.
Unlike traditional baby monitors, Dormi can work with both wifi and cellular connections, which allows it to work in the next room, next door or the next county.
There's also a feature that allows you to push a button to talk to your child if you need to and it can keep you updated on the battery levels of the phone being used to monitor.
If you want to try it out, the basic service is free and allows up to 4 hours of monitoring a month or you can get unlimited use forever by buying the app for $9.
This is a perfect way to use that old Android phone that's sitting in that junk drawer and bring it back to useful life.
Providing an e-mail address When we're interacting with various websites these days, its become pretty common to provide an e-mail address, but in too many cases, it can lead to a stream of marketing messages.
If you're in the habit of using the same address for everyone online, it becomes very difficult to determine who is responsible for sending the unwanted messages.
One way to fight this is to use an alternative e-mail account for non-essential interactions but if you're a Gmail user, you can easily create aliases for each of your online accounts.
For instance, if you wanted to create an alias for your interactions on eBay and your regular address is [email protected], then you would use [email protected] as your alias.
By doing this, you can setup filters to auto-file any messages sent to each address to skip the Inbox, send it to the Trash, apply a label or star and even auto- forward them to another account.
What’s great about this approach is that there’s no limit to the number of aliases you can setup and it’s a really solid way to track the garbage any given site starts sending you just because you bought or signed up for something.
Users of Microsoft’s Outlook.com online mail service can also use the same procedure for creating instant for tracking purposes.
Google has created so many incredible free tools that invaluable to business people.
A seemingly lesser known Google resource that’s one of my all-time favorites is Google Trends and it continues to get interesting upgrades.
The Google Trends tool allows you to dig deep into Google’s enormous database of search terms so you can see how often specific keywords and their associated trends.
Not only can you use this awesome tool to find keywords that will drive relevant traffic to your website or blog, it’s also an incredible market research tool.
It allows you to track trends in specific countries, states or languages and provides you with charts that show interest in those keywords or phrases over time.
You can drill down to what happened in the past hour or display a timeline of trends that go back to 2004 and even see the relationship between multiple terms in a given timeline.
It’s a useful way to see seasonality of keywords, which can make business planning for specific holidays much more strategic.
Even if you’re not a business person, if you've never seen what Google Trends can do, I highly recommend making it a point to checkout this amazingly simple but powerful tool
Pop over to http://Google.com/trends if you want to give it a spin!
The summer heat is here and it’s hot enough to make us both uncomfortable and cranky during the day.
Know what else gets really uncomfortable and cranky from the heat?
The batteries in all your gadgets!
Heat is, without question, the most detrimental thing to the batteries in all your gadgets and being aware of this can help promote longer battery life.
Leaving your laptop, smartphone or tablet in a steaming hot car, especially when exposed to direct sunlight will definitely kill your batteries.
Whenever you notice that your electronics have been in a hot setting and are warm to the touch, avoid turning them on if you can and wait for them to return to room temperature.
Another thing to be mindful of is blocking the exhaust vents on your laptop; having it on a pillow or thick bedspread while using it is a good way to overheat the entire system.
Whenever you’re outside with your smartphone, tablet or laptop, do your best to avoid direct sunlight for extended periods of time.
Here’s what you should remember: if you are uncomfortable from the heat, your gadgets will be too!
I written in the past on the riskiness of using images you find online on your website or blog and it continues to generate quite a bit of feedback.
It’s clear to me that many of you didn’t realize that they were infringing on a copyright when they simply posted an image on their website.
If you don’t want avoid getting tangled up in an expensive legal situation, take some time soon to review all the images you’ve used on your website or blog.
If you have no idea where they came from, I’d strongly recommend you delete them and look for images to replace them that won’t put you in harm’s way.
Getty Images, for instance, opened up a large library in the recent past with images that you can embed on your site free of charge as long as you follow their instructions and posted guidelines.
You can also look for images that fall under a 'Creative Commons' license which means that the owners of the images will allow you to use them for free under certain conditions and uses.
If you want to play it really safe, your best bet is to purchase images at sites like BigStockPhoto.com for a couple of dollars each.
Taking this for granted can cost you several thousand dollars per image, so it should not be taken lightly...the link to all my advice on legal image usage is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
Is there anything as frustrating as searching high and low for a special remote control for your streaming box; it’s especially common if you have lots of younger users in the house.
I told you yesterday how you can setup an alternative remote control for an Apple TV box and today, it’s time to help Roku users.
With Roku devices, you have a couple of alternative remote options for controlling them that include your smartphone, tablet or any computer on the same Wi-Fi network
With any of those options, you simply go to http://remoku.tv, that’s R E M O K U.TV and a virtual remote will pop up on your screen.
You just click on the ‘Settings’ button to start a scan of your Wi-Fi network so it can find your Roku device automatically.
Once it’s located, you just tap the controls displayed on the screen of your smartphone or tablet or you click them with your mouse if you’re using a computer.
If you’re a big time multitasked, you can install the add-on for Google Chrome on your computer, which allows you to pop up an on-screen remote anytime you’re using your browser.
I’ve got links to both of these options posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
Apple TV is an awesome media streaming device for cord cutters, but I have a bone to pick with you Apple. The remote is too small and sleek so it's constantly disappearing.
Whether it disappears under a pile of magazines on an end table or it ends up between the couch cushions of the couch, the question is always the same: has anyone seen the Apple TV remote.
Well, there's a cure for anyone else that has a house full of suffering users; just re-program your TV remote to control the Apple TV box as well.
Most users may not know about an option in the Settings of the device that allows you to make use of an unused input on your TV or cable universal remote to control it.
Since most of us don’t use a VCR anymore, that input is usually a good choice.
It only takes a few minutes to get setup and it can change the world in your house.
The link to the instructions is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio.
Tomorrow, I’ll help owners of the Roku Box with a similar tip
When you are packing for a trip, remembering to grab the right items is critical.
It’s frustrating to get to your destination and discover that you've forgotten essential things, like your bathing suit or an umbrella.
Well an app called PackPoint offers a solid way to reduce the forgotten items travel trauma, because it helps you pack based on what you are doing and where you are going.
You start by answering questions about your gender, destination, number of travel days and what you are planning to do.
It also gathers weather information for your destination and puts together a suggested packing list based on all the parameters.
Once the list is generated, you just scroll down and check the items that are important to you to create your own list, including reminders to take your mobile chargers, business cards and things like a VPN key-fob if it’s a business trip.
When the list is completed, you can share it via e-mail or copy and paste the items to any other program if needed.
PackPoint is available for both iPhone and Android smartphone users and it’s free!
Fitness monitors have become all the rage in fitness, but with prices that can range from $100-$300, they can get a bit pricey.
But obviously, paying for a wrist mounted device you wear all day has to be more accurate than just loading a free app on your smartphone, right?
An enlightening study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association claims that a free app on your phone can be just as accurate as those fancy fitness wearables when it came to step and activity tracking.
These tests were performed on treadmills so they may not necessarily reflect your real life situation where you forget to take your smartphone with you, but if you’re looking for fitness motivation through the tracking of your daily activities, you don’t have to pony up a bunch of cash.
There are lots of great free apps for your smartphone like the Moves app or Argus app for your iPhone or the Runtastic Pedometer app which is available for both Android or iPhone users.
Let’s face it; any app that keeps you motivated to exercise every day is a good thing, so don’t think you have to wait to get an expensive gadget to get started!
Our smartphones have been relatively when it comes to malicious apps so long as we stick to downloading apps from the official app store and avoid jailbreaking your device.
Jailbreaking an iPhone or rooting an Android phone bypasses the downloading controls that the manufacturer puts in place and should only be done by tech savvy users.
But a new scam is changing all of the built-in protection by sneaking malicious apps onto your phone, even if you haven’t broken the factory protection.
It generally starts with a cleverly crafted e-mail or text message with a link to download an app.
If you click or tap on the link and allow the download to complete, it will compromise your smartphone in a whole new way.
This once again highlights the importance of my long standing advice: If you didn’t go looking for it, don’t install it.
These clever cyber-criminals are creating many very persuasive messages that often look like they're from trusted sources through hacked accounts, so be on the watch.
If you want help identifying malicious apps, checkout the free smartphone security apps at http://lookout.com
If you can relate to the old Tom Hanks movie called 'The Money Pit', you're most likely a homeowner.
Even if your house isn’t as big of a money pit as the one in the movie, it can seem an endless list of maintenance tasks is always waiting.
One of the best methods of minimizing surprises is through a proactive process of maintenance for things that you know are going to need addressing.
If you'd like a little help in learning and remembering to get your maintenance tasks done, checkout a web resource called BrightNest.
BrightNest can provide you with customized tips and help you schedule tasks based on your home’s actual needs because you tell it what kinds of appliances you have, what king of flooring and countertops are installed and whether you have a pool or not.
Beyond just maintenance, there are a huge number of tips on cleaning, organizing and maintaining lots of common areas of you home.
Their mobile app can even provide you with alerts and reminders and serves as a reference guide when you’re at the hardware store.
We can all a little help staying on top of those endless tasks of being a homeowner and BrightNest.com is free and waiting for you to use.
If you love science fiction and you love taking pictures with your iPhone, I have an out of this world tip for you today.
If reality is just too mundane for your pictures and you're tired of all those mindless photo editing filters, let your imagination be sparked by the Alien Sky app.
Why put up with boring colorization filters to make your images pop when you can take it to a whole other level with amazing space effects.
The Alien Sky app lets you create futuristic pictures by adding high-res space objects and brilliant lens flares to any of your shots.
How about adding space objects such as comets, moons, planets, bright suns, far away stars and entire galaxies to really catch your friends attention on social media posts.
The app has over 150 effects, giving you complete control over these super effects in the sky, which can create futuristic visions and otherworldly images that will stop people in their tracks.
Turn any ho hum picture into a conversation piece with this two dollar app.
Checkout examples of what the Alien Sky app can do with the link that I've posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
It's the summer blockbuster movie season and popping into a cool theater with an icy drink is a great way to escape the summer heat.
If you're a movie buff, I remind you of one of our favorite apps that will help you when that cold drink causes nature to call in the middle of the movie.
The app is called RunPee and it’s an awesome tool that tells yo the best times to run to the loo during those summer blockbusters.
Instead of guessing when you should go, the RunPee app will vibrate your smartphone during any of the slow points so you can be strategic about restroom breaks.
RunPee generally looks for three to five minute scenes that are unimportant to the story so you don’t miss funny moments , exciting action or crucial plot twists.
If you take younger kids to the show, RunPee allows you to be preemptive with your potty breaks so you don’t miss anything important.
The app even provides a synopsis of what happened while you were in the loo, so you don’t have to have someone next to you whispering an update.
The RunPee app is available on iPhone, Android or Windows Phones and the download links are at RunPee.com
One of great advantages of using expensive DSLR cameras is in the depth-of-field images that the lenses can produce.
You’ve seen those amazing images where the item in the foreground is clearly in focus while everything that appears in the background is blurred, which creates visually stunning photographs.
Well, if you’re not ready to spend a pile of cash to get these professional looking pictures, you should consider using one of the background defocus apps on your smartphone.
Some smartphones come with the blur option in the camera program, so you may already have this ability and not know it.
If you don’t, an app called AfterFocus which is available for
both Android and iPhone smartphones provides just what it implies; the ability to change the focus after you take the shot.
You just drag your finger over the foreground areas that you want to stay in focus then flip to the background layer to do the same on what you want to be blurred.
This process doesn’t take very long to master and you can even select multiple things to keep in focus for some really interesting pictures.
If you love using Google’s online tools like Docs, Sheets and Forms, I’ve got a useful add-on you might want to try.
It’s called Save As Doc and it lets you easily take a spreadsheet and turn it into a document.
It’s especially handy when you are incorporating a portion of a spreadsheet into a report especially when the contents from your spreadsheet is too big to display.
You can either save an entire worksheet or select specific cells that you’ll be able to edit as a document file.
The add-on is really helpful when working with the spreadsheet results of a Google Forms questionnaire.
You no longer have to deal with formatting problems when you copy/paste numbers from a spreadsheet into a document.
You can also force page breaks after each row of numbers, making the results of your report much easier to keep organized.
Save As Doc is a free add-on and only works with Google Chrome.
I’ve got the download link posted at DataDoctors.com/radio