Data Doctors Tech Tips
Tech Tips for Non-Tech People
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The smartphone in your pocket has exponentially more processing power than everything that NASA had for the lunar landing in 1969.
It also contains virtually every private thought and lots of sensitive personal information that you would never want just anyone to see.
For some reason, we don’t think of our smartphones the same way we do our computers, but they’re essentially the same thing when it comes to our personal information.
That’s probably why so many of you out there still haven’t taken a simple step to protect all that valuable information by activating the lock screen.
The most common reason is that you don’t want to be bothered with entering a code every time you want to use your phone, but the alternative is just too scary.
The likelihood of a lost or stolen phone is very real, so take a minute to protect yourself right now.
All the other security built into your phone is useless if you don’t lock the front door!
There was a time when some folks proclaimed text messaging an anti-social activity, but I think everyone’s figured out how efficient it really is.
If you’re an iPhone user, you probably spend a lot of time using Apple’s iMessage platform, especially if you have a lot of friends that are also using an iPhone.
Unlike traditional texting apps, with iMessage your messages are securely encrypted and you don’t have to be connected to a cellular network in order to send and receive messages.
This can come in very handy if you are traveling abroad and can only connect via wifi.
But there’s a lot more to iMessage then most people realize, like an easy way to send a quick voice or video message or lots of filtering and blocking options.
If you’ve never explored the various options that are available for iMessage users, checkout the 15 power user tips that have been compiled by Business Insider.
Virtually every cyber-security expert is warning the world that smartphones are becoming one of the biggest targets for hackers and thieves.
Most of the really dangerous threats we’re seeing are targeted at users outside the US from third party app suppliers.
Since apps are one of the most likely ways you’ll be compromised at the moment, making sure you only download your apps from the official app store will bypass most of these threats.
Android users should take one extra step to avoid some of the other sneaky tactics we’re starting to see from the bad guys.
Go to the Security section of your phones Settings menu and look for the Unknown sources option.
Make sure this switch is turned off so your phone won’t allow the installation of apps from unknown sources without clearly warning you of the dangers.
Avoiding unnecessary app downloads is not only a good security step, it also reduces potential privacy issues and frees up space for more important content, like music and pictures.
As we all spend more time on the Internet, those with malicious intent spend more time thinking of ways to target us.
Since your web browser is how you actually view information on the Internet, more of the attacks are focusing on exploiting them all.
It’s not unusual to have other problems with your browser from time to time either, so today’s tip will help you troubleshoot issues when they do happen.
Make sure you have at least two different browsers installed so you can quickly narrow down Internet related problems.
When you start experiencing issues, switch to the alternate browser to see if things clear up. If they do, you’ll know that some maintenance is in order such as clearing the browser cache or running a malware scan.
If they don’t change, your problem is more likely with the computer, router or Internet modem, which should all be reset.
Spending time chasing the wrong end of an Internet problem can be avoided with this simple troubleshooting process.
If you’ve started to add home automation devices to your home, such as security webcams or smart thermostats, you know much they rely on your wireless network.
These inexpensive devices are great for remotely monitoring your home, business or rental property but all bets are off if wireless network goes down.
Often times, a simple reboot will reset everything, but that’s a little hard to do if no one is around to flip the power switch.
Some routers can be set to automatically reboot on a regular schedule, but for the best control, installing a remote power switch is what I would suggest.
Not only can you restart your wireless router, you can set these devices to constantly monitor your Internet connection and restart your cable or DSL modem if the connection goes down.
If you’re having to restart your router on a regular basis, I’ve posted troubleshooting suggestions along with links to the remote power switch that I use at DataDoctors.com/radio
Some people wake up with the rising sun without ever needing an alarm clock while many others struggle with multiple alarms.
If you’re in the latter camp and haven’t found the right alarm app just yet, checkout the Mimicker Alarm app.
It’s part of the Microsoft Garage Project and what makes it different is that it requires you to mimic something in order to prove you are awake.
You can choose between mimicking a facial gesture by snapping a selfie, mimicking a color by taking a picture of something specific or repeat a tongue twister that the app listens to, which determine if you’re awake or not.
Slapping the snooze button doesn’t require you to do much thinking, which is why so many have been let down by this convenience. This app requires you to process information and act accordingly.
The Mimicker app is free but currently only available for Android users, so if you know of a chronic over-sleeper, drop them this tip!
We all know that maintenance is a big part of keeping things working properly, whether it’s your car, your pool or your physical fitness.
But for some reason, the concept of maintaining your computer has never hit the mainstream.
Imagine how painful and expensive dealing with your car would be if you never did anything to maintain it!
Well, today I’m hoping to encourage all you Windows users to take a first step in maintaining your computer by using the Disk Cleanup utility that’s built into the OS.
Disk Cleanup does exactly what its name implies, which not only helps to free up space, it can also make your computer run a little better.
You can find the utility by going to your programs and opening Accessories, then System Tools.
If you haven’t ever done this or it’s been a while, it might take some time for the program to gather all the unnecessary files, so be patient.
My suggestion, start doing this once a month!
If you’re a Spotify user that loves Starbucks, today’s tip is for you.
Anyone that’s ever visited a Starbucks will remember the CD rack at the counter that spotlighted various albums over the years.
Well Starbucks has gone digital and replaced the CD rack with a new collaboration with Spotify that’s designed to encourage new music discovery.
The Starbucks mobile app can now tell you what song or playlist is playing when you’re in a location and add the playlist to your Spotify account.
To activate this feature, you’ll need to go into the music section of the Starbucks app and link it to your Spotify account.
It’s just the latest mashup of caffine, music and digital technology from the worlds largest coffee house.
Even if you don’t use their app to pay for your drinks or collect rewards, you can now use it for music discovery.
Even if you aren’t in a store, you can use the app to collect their top playlists in Spotify.
If you’re a sports fanatic, there’s no shortage of ways to interact with your fellow sports nuts and now you can add Facebook to the endless list.
Just in time for Superbowl Sunday, Facebook Sports Stadium debuted during the NFL Championship games as yet another way to cheer and jeer your favorite teams.
Instead of popping back and forth between live update apps, fan sites and media reports, Facebook is offering to bring it all together on their network.
Trash talking, virtual high-fives and the roller coaster of emotion that accompanies most games are now right in your Facebook feed if you want it.
You can find Sports Stadium just by searching for the game in Facebook.
It’s initally being tested with the NFL but Facebook has plans to expand it to basketball, soccer and other sports in the near future.
The complete Sports Stadium experience is only available for iPhone users during the launch but should start appearing on the web and other platforms soon.
We’ve all been there in a large public crowd trying to connect with friends or family, like at a concert venue or music festival.
Well, a couple of app coders created something they like to call the dumbest app ever created, but you may find it pretty clever.
The LookFor (all one word) app is essentially a way to turn the screen on your smartphone into a beacon that blinks so your friends can easily spot you in the crowd.
Open up the app, choose a color and then hoist it in the air so when you text your friends to tell them to look for the blinking light they can see you in the crowd.
Use it to hail cabs, find friends in the club or any scenario where getting someone’s attention in a crowded area is needed.
You can support their creative thinking by paying the 99 cents for the iPhone or Android app, but if you do a little searcing, you find lots of free flashlight apps that do the same thing.
Several flashlight apps use the entire screen to generate the light, so make sure the app you choose isn’t limited to the LED flash on the back.
Smart doorbells that incorporate a high definition camera and wifi have been evolving and getting better, but you need to do some homework before you plunk down a couple hundred dollars to get one.
The concept of having a video pop up on your smartphone whenever someone rings the doorbell is appealing, but wifi signal strength is critical to just about every model available.
Popular devices from companies like Ring and Skybell have users complaining about performance and reliability especially when it comes to video.
If your wifi signal is weak or non-existent at your front door, you’re not going to be very happy with the performance of any of the wireless options.
You also need to pay attention to the devices that require their own power source if you’re current doorbell is not hard wired.
The video quality can also be impacted if the camera is pointing directly into sunlight and be sure to test your wifi signal at your front door with your smartphone in airplane mode first.
The resurgence of vinyl records has traditional audio equipment manufacturers scrambling to create turntables that appeal to the hipster crowd that loves them.
Well, at CES this year, Audio-Technica unveiled a traditional turntable that could be connected to a standard stereo amplifier with or without a phono input or via Bluetooth.
This turntable has it’s own amplification, so if your digital stereo doesn’t have a phono input it’ll still work.
What makes it really unique is the ability to connect up to 8 Bluetooth speakers directly to the turntable, if you don’t have an amplifier.
It adds a lot of flexibility and mobility as to where you can set it up in your home or at a party.
If you’re an audiophile, you know that Bluetooth is going to compress the audio but for the average consumer that can’t hear the difference, the flexibility may be more important.
It’ll be available later this month and will come in black, white or navy blue for $180.
This year’s CES was full of automotive technologies, but one that could really have a big impact was from a company called Harman.
They were showing a pupil-based driver monitoring system that goes way beyond the ability to detect when a driver is tired.
Distracted driving has become a much bigger problem these day and Harman’s technology combined with automated driver assistance technology could dramatically reduce driver related accidents in the future.
What was particularly interesting about the system was that the driver facing camera didn’t require additional sensors or direct physical contact with the driver in order to work.
The sophisticated algorithm can detect slight changes in the pupils to analyze the cognitive load and potentially activate other safety devices when the system realizes that the driver is distracted or tired.
Self driving cars will eventually eliminate distracted driver issues, but until then, technology like what Harman is working on could save lives.
Hopefully we’ll start seeing it integrated into new vehicles in the near future.
Serious athletes are surrounded by personal trainers that constantly give them feedback on what they’re doing.
Most of us don’t need and can’t afford that level of feedback, so for the rest of us, Oakley is working on the Radar Pace sunglasses.
It’s a joint venture with Intel that are sunglasses powered by a Siri like interface that provides constant feedback about your workouts.
Radar Pace will reportedly integrate with other sensors and a workout program so you can say things like “Hey Radar, what's my workout today?” or “How’s my Pace” and get immediate feedback.
You’ll also get feedback through the earpiece from your virtual coach when it feels like you can push a little harder, so it can act more like a coach would.
Oakley has not confirmed a release date or even a price, but with several other companies like Garmin and Recon working on similar activity headsets, expect to see products in this category hit the market later this year.
Virtual Reality headsets are finally coming to market this year, but most consumers that aren’t hardcore gamers probably won’t see much of a use for them.
A more likely situation you’ll experience virtual reality in a meaningful way is from companies like Lowes that are exploring their use as a design tool.
They’ve been slowly expanding their Holoroom experience, which allows you to virtually tour a bathroom or kitchen remodel project using one of these sophisticated VR headsets.
The idea is to allow you to virtually walk through and around your newly redesigned space before you commit to a remodel project.
You can also view your designs via Youtube360 videos and Google Cardboard as your virtual reality interface, but it won’t be as immersive as the real deal in the stores.
As more companies learn how to use this new interface, you’ll likely see more tangible uses for virtual reality.
In the meantime, if you want to see where the Lowe’s program is available, visit http://Lowes.com/holoroom.
Of all of the technology in your home, one device has the biggest impact on virtually everything you do: your wifi router.
One of the most common problems we all experience is the performance and reliability of our wifi routers and a company called Portal thinks they may have the cure.
Portal is working on what they claim to be the biggest breakthrough in wifi in 15 years, because they can take advantage of previously restricted spectrum to expand it by 2 and a half times.
Portal’s router is aimed at those that live in congested wifi areas, like an apartment complex or for those surrounded by gadgets that can interfere with wifi, like microwave ovens, cordless phones and baby monitors.
They’re aiming to provide the technology used in expensive corporate level routers in an affordable consumer product that eliminates the need to be a tech expert to setup.
The Portal router is due to be released in 2016; you can keep tabs on their progress at http://getportal.io.
Last year, I told you about the first truly wireless security webcams from Netgear called Arlo.
These battery operated Wifi cameras eliminate the need to have a power outlet nearby, so they can be placed virtually anywhere.
Well as expected, others have now jumped into the fray like the more affordable offerings from a company called Blink.
Blink offers the same wire free motion-detecting, night vision, HD cameras at half the price of Netgear, so monitoring your home or vacation rentals just got a lot more affordable.
Not only are the starter kits less expensive, add-on cameras are as well, so you can cover a lot more property for the same money.
Your smartphone becomes your monitoring system for these cameras, which eliminates the need to pay for monitoring.
One advantage that the more expensive Netgear Arlo cameras offer is that they’re weatherproof, so you can use them outdoors.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to remotely monitor your home or business, checkout http://blinkforhome.com.
Activity trackers such as those from Fitbit were extremely popular at CES, but wearing something around your wrist all the time in order to track your activity may not be for everyone.
There are really expensive shoes that include activity trackers, but there’s a less expensive alternative if you do want to use your shoes to track your fitness.
Digitsole offers a couple of different options for inserting what they call Smartsoles that are Bluetooth enabled and act as activity trackers in your shoes.
By replacing your existing insoles with these Smartsoles, you can turn just about any dress or sport shoe into an activity tracker.
Their latest version that has yet to be released will include the ability to heat your shoes, so they could serve a dual purpose in colder climates.
The basic Smartsoles are projected to sell for around $80 while the top end heated insoles will be around $200.
You can monitor their progress and availability at https://Digitsole.com
Virtual Reality headsets were all the talk of this year’s CES, but something a little more useful for the average consumer was also shown: Augmented Reality.
One shining example of how augmented reality can be useful was from Hyundai with it’s updated Car Care App which is a virtual owner's manual for their vehicles
Any time you get a new car, you can spend weeks, sometimes months figuring out where everything is and how it works.
Hyundai’s app allows you to point your smartphone at any part of the car to get an overlay description of each item and clickable instructional videos.
Where’s the windshield wiper refill under the hood? Where’s the cruise control and how to do you use it? Where’s the tire jack and where do you use it when you get a flat tire?
Augmented reality has been used as a gee-whiz feature in various apps for years, but we’re finally seeing really useful implementations.
Here’s hoping the rest of the automotive industry follows suit!
Smartwatches have struggled to provide true utility for the masses, not to mention they’re expensive gadgets that are very delicate.
At last week’s CES, Casio was showing a smartwatch worth looking at especially if you’re very active outdoors.
The WSD F10 Smart Outdoor Watch is Casio’s first product that uses the Android Wear platform and it’s pretty cool.
Not only does it connect to your smartphone and provide lots of functions outdoor enthusiasts will want, it’s built to last in the most challenging environments.
It’s ruggedized design meets military specifications making it virtually indestructible and water resistant to depths of over 160 feet.
It also has an analog display mode that will stretches battery life up to a month.
If you’ve been waiting to get a smartwatch that can go beyond being a simple extension of your smartphone, watch for Casio’s entry which is expected to hit the market in April.
An average smartphone camera these days has 2 to 3 times the resolution of what was considered state of the art just a few short years ago.
The sophistication of smartphone camera technology has advanced at an amazing pace in recent years.
With these amazing advances comes a first-world problem: large images that are so big they need to be reduced in order to share or post them.
Image file sizes as well as getting the pixel width and height properly set for your social media profiles can help you avoid stretched out or improperly cropped images.
Well, here’s a bookmark alert for whenever you need to make a change to your high resolution images: It’s called WebResizer.com.
The easy to use WebResizer tools allow you to change the file size, exposure, width, height, image quality, contrast, tint, color saturation and makes it simple to rotate or crop images with a few clicks.
There are lots of very sophisticated image manipulation tools on the web, but often times they’re very confusing to use.
If you want a simple one-trick pony that does it’s trick pretty well, bookmark Webresizer.com.
I’ve posted all the link at DataDoctors.com/radio