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!
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
Your passwords are most likely to be the weakest link in your security arsenal and you’ve heard me repeatedly warn against using the same password on all your online accounts.
There are lots of options for password management tools, but for some, it’s still just too much to manage.
If you can’t find a tool that works for you, I have an easy low tech method of keeping track of your passwords; just write them all down!
I don’t mean attaching a sticky note on the from of your monitor with your passwords written on them, I mean jot them down electronically and store them somewhere safe, like in an inconspicuous place on your smartphone.
Don’t use the word “password” anywhere in the document of file name and create your own form of encryption in the event someone gains access to the file.
For example, use 4 random numbers or characters at the beginning of the actual password, so you’ll be the only one that will know to ignore those characters.
Frankly, if your choices are to use the same password everywhere or write down unique passwords, then write them down to avoid becoming a victimized on all your accounts from a single data breach.
Those free apps on your smartphone can be really great, especially when they’re used every day because they’re so useful.
But if you are on a limited data plan or you're running out of battery power on a daily basis, those free-ad driven apps could be a bad idea.
They can cost you dearly by eating up your battery power and limited data plan.
A report by researchers at USC and several other schools revealed that those ads in many free apps use up to 79% more of your precious data plan than apps that don’t have regular ads in them.
The report went on to state that they can drain 16% more of your power and use up to 22% more of your phone's memory in order to routinely deliver new ads .
If your smartphone is sluggish and always seems to be running out of batter power, those free games could be a big reason why.
There’s also a privacy component as well, because free apps often request more permissions generally for advertising purposes.
So the next time you’re choosing an app to download, ask the question: To pay or not to pay…
Back in the day, shopping for a TV was really pretty easy, because you only had a few sizes to choose from and the difference in price was pretty substantial as the screen size got bigger.
With all of today's opt, you can buy displays that range from 26 to 90 inches with very small price differences even as you go bigger.
These ultra-high Def screens eliminate the worry about being too close and seeing the actual pixels, so bigger is usually always better.
As a general rule, I recommend that you measure the distance in inches between where you'll sit and the front of the TV screen, then divide by 2 to determine your minimum screen size.
For example, if your viewing distance will be 7 feet, that's converts to 84 inches. Divide 84 by 2 and you’re recommended minimum screen size will be 42 inches.
If you can afford a bigger display, getting a larger screen will provide a more immersive viewing experience.
If you decide to go with a 4K display, the resolution will be so crisp that you'll be able to double the screen size and still not be too close.!
I’m a huge music fan and as such, I’m constantly searching for that next great song, old or new.
I like revisiting older bands by searching for their greatest hits for both discovery and rediscovery.
While searching around last week, I found a website that I had never hear of called TheTopTens.com.
Unlike traditional top ten lists that are put together by a single person, TheTopTens uses the wisdom of the crowds to compile the top ten lists.
Not only will you find music, you’ll find a wide variety of lists like the best nail polish or the best holiday gifts.
And if you want to be part of the crowned and put your two cents in, you can vote on any list and you don’t have to sign up for anything, you just click to vote!
Even better, you can start your own top ten list to see what the crowd thinks about anything you’re passionate about.
So the next time you're looking for a new band, new songs or just doing research for just about anything, http://TheTopTens.com is website worth checking out!
If you’re like me, you're using your smartphone to accomplish more productivity tasks that normally would have required you to wait until you sat down in front of your computer.
Whenever I need to copy several things like a web address, pictures or chunks of text, the constant back and forth is laborious and terribly inefficient.
If you’re an Android user and want a better way to copy things on your phone, checkout an app called Copy Bubble.
Once installed, Copy Bubble allows you to copy just about anything from just about anywhere. When you start to use it, you’ll see an orange bubble with an item count as you go.
Each copied item is compiled in chronological order and is available via your clipboard until you remove it.
The orange bubble floats over any app, allowing you to paste any or all of the information that you’ve copied by tapping the bubble and selecting what you want.
A cool feature when you copy a web address allows you to preview it in app before you paste it.
Copy Bubble for Android devices is available in the Google Play Store and it’s free!
If the stock market and the world of investing tend to be an intimidating and mysterious place, today’s tip is for you!
As with all things in life, knowledge is power but in this case, you don’t need a degree from a prestigious university to understand how the markets work.
A web resource called WallStreetSurvivor.com, which actually started out as a fantasy stock market simulator has became a great tool to demystify Wall Street.
It turns out that gamification is a pretty good way to learn the ins and outs of investing and trading stock.
Rather than just being told how to do things, you get to actually get involved in market trades without the risk of losing your money.
Think of it as a virtual stock exchange combined with lots of tutorials, articles, courses, and videos.
Not only can you learn the basics, you can setup a practice portfolio and engage in a league to compete with other virtual traders.
If you’re still confused about ‘puts’ and ‘calls’ or the value of stocks versus mutual funds, WallStreetSurvivor.com can help you get a solid understanding.
It’s a really great way to get your kids involved and learning about investing early as well.
Ever cut yourself trying to open one the many insanely difficult plastic packages that seem to be used on everything these days?
Initially, it was expensive electronic items that are small that typically used those obnoxious clamshell containers that are nearly impossible to get open, but now just about any household item like light bulbs can be encased in this nightmarish packaging.
Retailers like them because they help fight theft and make it a snap to hang them on display hooks.
It’s become such a plague to consumers that there’s now a Wikipedia page dedicated to "wrap rage”!
If you’re weapon of choice is a knife or scissors to get the darn thing open, you know how dangerous it gets, especially as irritation grows.
Even when you do get it open, it’s rare to escape without getting nicked or scraped from the sharp edges of the packaging.
Until we can get them to ban this type of packaging, there’s a better and safer way to get them open: start using a can opener!
Not only does it take a lot less strength to get through the plastic by running the can opener along the packages edges, it’s also a lot safer.
Has this ever happened to you? You're on the road and get an email message asking you to fill out a form, sign it and return it via email ASAP.
Getting the form printed out is pretty easy no matter where you are, but scanning the signed document and sending it back is a bit more of a challenge.
When this happened to me years ago, I searched for a solution that would allow me to use my smartphone to take a picture of the forms and convert them to a PDF document that I could email.
While many apps are available that offer this type of functionality, I've continue to use the CamScanner app for this need.
CamScanner is free and really simple to use. Just snap a picture of the form, crop it if necessary and save it as a PDF file.
You can also use the 'batch mode' icon if you need to scan a multiple page document.
Once you scan the pages with your smartphone, you can change the order, rotate pages and add watermarks and annotations before emailing them back.
CamScanner is available in the app stores for Android, iPhone, iPad and Windows phone users.
A great byproduct of the Information Superhighway is that it’s become the world’s greatest library of trivial knowledge at our fingertips.
Don’t we all reach for our smartphones during an argument over the most trivial of information these days?
It’s really great when we stumble on to some truly useful bits of information, especially when we weren’t even looking for it, right?
Well, if learning useful things on purpose is something you love, you should visit a website called Useful Science.
It’s an wonderful collection created by a group of Canadian grad students for all that love the useful trivia that exists online.
For instance, did you know that a quick look at the color green before you start a creative task can increase your creativity?
Or, did you know that tunes with heavy bass can make you feel more powerful?
The passages aren’t just random thoughts that someone came up with, they're directly related to research or reports with real context.
If you’re really into this kind of knowledge, you can submit your own articles and get useful science emails right to your Inbox if you subscribe to their newsletter.
Check it out at http://Usefulscience.org
It’s summer time, which means you’ll be dancing in the streets or twisting by the pool with this tech tip.
If you’re like me, having music wherever you go is a must, so finding a Bluetooth speaker that fits my lifestyle is an ongoing pursuit and I’ve found a winner.
The Boom Swimmer waterproof speaker is without question my favorite audio gadget, because it’s extremely flexible in how you use it and it sounds great!
The Swimmer comes with a rubber tail that allows you to wrap it around anything to provide sound just about anywhere.
The possibilities are endless: shower heads,
handlebars, backpacks and the list goes on.
It also comes has an optional suction cup mount, so you can slap it on most flat surfaces which also serves to enhance the bass as well.
This awesome speaker isn’t just water resistant, it’s waterproof, so if it falls into the pool or gets soaked when someone does a gainer, it just keeps on booming.
For around $50, the Boom Swimmer Waterproof Speaker is a summer must have gadget for music lovers.
If you feel like you’re living your life on e-mail these days, you’re not alone.
One of the biggest time wasters for all of us, is replying to multiple messages with the same response, when they are spread throughout the day.
Here’s an awesome tip for Gmail users! There is a free add-on that you can activate called Canned Responses that can save you tons of time.
Just turn it on and you’ll be able to copy any chunk of text and make it a canned response that can then be used in any message with just a few mouse clicks!
It eliminates the need to copy/paste any text, phrases or signatures that you use on a regular basis, when you’re responding to or composing messages.
This tool is part of the experimental ones that Google makes available via the Labs program, which is setup in Gmail’s Settings menu.
The link for step-by-step instructions on turning on this incredibly useful feature is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio.
Phishing scams are behind many of the major breaches you hear about these days because cyber theives need only to compromise one computer on a secured network to execute their malicious activities.
The sophistication of today’s phishing scams can fool even the most tech savvy amongst us, so remembering to use the hover trick can help sniff them out.
Whenever you see a link is included, simply hover the mouse over the link to see where it’s trying to take you.
Sometimes the destination address may not pop up, so make sure to look at the bottom left corner of the program you’re in to see the actual link address appears there.
Any time the displayed link doesn’t match the hover results, you should consider it to be a phishing scam.
If you want to improve your phishing scam detection skills, there’s a phishing quiz site that will determine if you can detect a phishing scam from a legitimate message.
I’ve posted the link at DataDoctors.com/radio
IOT or the Internet of Things was certainly one of the spotlights at this past Consumer Electronics Show as inexpensive connected devices were being shown by many.
Wireless sensor tags in particular are interesting, because they allow for the monitoring of your location through motion, temperature and even humidity, not just video.
Many of these devices are really inexpensive which allows you to monitor everything from a garage door opening and closing to a refrigerator door’s movement so you can be alerted whenever the fridge is being raided.
These small sensors work with apps on your smartphone to alert you to just about anything that you’ll want to monitor in your home.
While motion sensing is helpful, monitoring things like moisture levels can alert you when you have a leak in real time.
The great thing about using sensors that monitor everything you care about, is that they range in price from only 20 to 70 dollars.
Wireless tags can really step up your home security so if you want to learn more, checkout http://wirelesstag.net
Our smartphones are pretty safe from downloading malicious apps as long as we don’t jailbreak our devices and only get apps from the associated app stores, like Google Play and Apple’s App Store.
Jailbreaking an iPhone or rooting an Android phone allows you to remove the controls put in place by the device but should only be by tech savvy users.
Unfortunately, a new scam is in circulation that can sneak malicious apps into your device, even if you haven’t bypassed the security controls by jailbreaking it.
The scam appears as slickly crafted text message or email with a convincing link to download the app.
If you fall for the scam and click the link, it can lead to having a non-jailbroken iPhones or unrooted Android phone compromised.
With this in mind, we should all adapt the following mantra: If I didn’t go looking for it, I won’t install it.
Cyber-theives have been able to create some pretty convincing messages that often appear to be from a trusted resource via a hacked account, so be on the alert.
For a little extra protection from malicious apps, consider using this free mobile security app from http://lookout.com