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!
The proper levels of ambient noise can help creative cognition according to one research paper and I can tell you that I personally have to have some form of background sound when I’m writing.
Soft instrumental music works pretty well for me sometimes but when I really need to hunker down, I open up a website called A Soft Murmur to get into the zone.
A Soft Murmur has a host of ambient sounds that range from rain to ocean waves to crickets and traditional white noise.
You can choose which sounds you want and how loud you want each to be, to come up with the combination that best suits your mood and your productivity or creativity.
My current favorite is the sound of the ocean paired with a crackling fire with a side of chirping birds off in the distance.
It may also help you fall asleep!
You can experience the sounds via their website or on an Android app at http://asoftmurmur.com
Most of us have multiple devices that get charged via a USB cable, which requires that we have an adapter for standard power outlets in order to juice up.
This can result in having to group all your devices in one place instead of just charging them at whatever outlet is convenient.
If you’re looking for a way to make it more convenient to charge your USB devices around the house or office, checkout the Snap Power Chargers.
Snap Power has created replacement power outlet plates that include a side mounted USB port for charging your mobile devices.
They start at $20 with discounts when you buy packs of two to ten charging wallplates.
The installation only takes a few minutes and there are no wires or batteries necessary as the specially designed plates have built in power prongs.
So you just snap the replacement plate on and screw in the center screw to get the job done.
Check it all out at https://www.snappower.com
If you love music, you probably have the Shazam app on your smartphone to figure out what a song is just by having the app listen to it.
If you’re a nature lover, there an app called PlantNet that is trying to become the Shazam for plants.
By taking a picture of any plant or flower you see, you can ask the app to try to figure out what it is.
Plantnet has to try to evaluate nuances in leaves and flowers of sixty four hundred species, so it’s not as accurate as Shazam.
Whether you’re an avid hiker or a dedicated gardner, having an app that can help you identify plants is actually pretty handy.
I know in my case, I’ve been hiking with people that are freaked out by a plant that they think is poison ivy, which is one of the many reasons I have this app on my smartphone.
Search for PlantNet in your app store if you’re interested in trying it yourself.
Uber has become a go to option for getting from one point to another, but it’s not necessarily the best choice in all cases.
If you travel much, you know that one of the decisions you have to make is whether it makes sense to rent a car or pay for transportation as you need it.
The Uber app lets you estimate what the rate may be, but if you’re sitting at your computer booking your travel, you may find a website called UberEstimate.com a little more efficient like I have.
When you put the pickup point and drop off point into their form, they quickly calculate all of the Uber options and include what the surge price increase would be if you request during a busy time.
They even give you an option to send a link with the information to a co-hort if you are conferring with others to make a decision.
If you do a lot of travel planning, add UberEstimate.com to your travel bookmarks!
Google’s by far the most powerful search engine on the Internet, but it also means that you often get millions of results that aren’t really relevent.
To help narrow search results, Google has created a large number of query operators and punctuation that can significantly improve the quality of the information that gets displayed.
One of the lesser known power tools is the ‘range’ variable because it can quickly filter results to only provide information in a given numerical range.
By putting two periods with no spaces between a set of numbers, you’re telling Google to do it’s best to limit the results to those parameters, which is does pretty well.
For instance, if you’re doing historical research for a specific time period, you can use Russian Revolution 1800..1900 or if you’re shopping for a smartphone in specific price range, type smartphones $250..$350.
Keep in mind, including the format of the numbers, dollars for example, will help to further refine your search results.
Both Apple and Google are in a race to become the platform of choice for information and entertainment in the cars of the near future.
If you’re in the market for a new car in the next couple of years, you’ll probably see these optional technologies being offered at a steep price, but you don’t have to wait or spend thousands if you’re interested in this type of tech.
A startup called HeadsUp! is in process of developing an aftermarket heads up display that can be added to any car.
The device sits on your dash and wirelessly connects to most iPhone or Android smartphone to provide a better hands free interaction for mapping, changing music or controlling connected devices at home.
It uses Amazon’s Alexa Voice Processing technology to allow you to give it voice commands for just about everything.
They are projecting a fall 2016 release for HeadsUp! and offering pre-order discounts for early adopters.
You can learn all about it at https://getheadsup.com
If you have friends that live in an earthquake zone, you know how social media explodes when even the slightest tremors are felt.
Well a couple of UC Berkley scientists are hoping to harness the crowd when it comes to detecting earthquakes as they occur.
They’ve created an app for Android smartphones called MyShake and the plan is leverage the power of the accelerometer in our handheld devices to detect earthquakes as soon as they start.
This crowdsourced data from what they hope will become a global seismic network of sensors could become a life saving warning system for those farther away from the epicenter of the quake in the future.
You or someone you know that lives in an earthquake zone can become part of this citizen science experiment by simply downloading the MyShake app on any Android smartphone.
You can learn all about this really interesing attempt to leverage the power of mobile and join the MyShake community at http://myshake.berkeley.edu
Any time you’re dealing with official documents, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll need to have them notarized.
Traditionally, this requires you to track down a notary and physically get in front of them, which can be a bit of a hassle.
Well, now there’s an app for that and it’s called Notarize.
Notarize is a remote electronic notary service based in Virginia, but it’s legal in all 50 states.
The process is pretty simple; you upload the document, prove your identity, fill out the document and connect with a licensed electronic notary by live video call.
They watch you sign the document and then they can notarize it electronically right through the app.
When you’re done, you can print it, store it or share it electronically.
It’s certainly more convenient, but you’ll pay for that convenience as Notarize charges $25 per notarization.
The app itself is free but currently only available for iPhone users, so the next time you need a notary, keep the http://www.notarize.com app in mind!
Tax time is often referred to as Christmas for Criminals because of all of the tax related fraud and scams that pop up this time of year.
One scam that has been on the rise is the filing of fraudulent refunds because more than 70 percent of tax payers are eligible for an average of nearly three thousand dollars according the IRS.
This scam is essentially tax related identity theft beause thieves can use your stolen social security number to file a tax return before you do.
If this happens, not only will you have spend an enormous amount of time cleaning up the mess, you won’t see your refund check until well after everything has been figured out.
The two things you can do to reduce the chances of this happening to you is to protect your social security number as best you can and if you know you’re entitled to a refund, file your tax return as early as you can every year.
One the best ways to protect yourself when it comes to just about all your technology is to stop and think like a hacker.
Social engineering tactics are most commonly used to trick users because it’s a lot easier than trying to break elaborate security systems.
One thing that hackers figured out long ago was that one of the easiest ways to get to your valuable personal info and passwords is through your kids.
Kids, especially teenagers, are always looking for ways to download things for free from the Internet, whether it’s the latest song, movie, ebook or expensive program or game.
The reason this approach is so effective is because so many households allow kids to share the same computer and the same profile as mom and dad.
This usually means that everyone has full administrative access to everything on the computer, so if this is how things are setup at your home, it’s time for a change.
You should set up separate user accounts for your kids and make sure you limit the rights of that account to minimize what can be done if they are fooled.
This tip is really important, so if you don’t know how to get it done, ask someone technical to give you a hand as every OS has different steps.
2-factor authentication is one of the best ways to protect your online accounts, but when you turn it on, there’s an additional step I’d suggest you take.
Since 2-factor verification uses your smartphone to prevent unauthorized users from accessing your private accounts, it has to be able to send you a text code whenever the system detects a new device being used.
If you’re on an airplane and opt to purchase in-flight wifi, having 2-factor authentication presents a problem because you won’t be able to get the text code; that’s where having backup codes stored saves the day!
Not being able to get into your Facebook or Twitter account may not be that that big of a deal, but a business traveler locked out of their e-mail account during a long flight is a whole other story.
To gather your backup codes, just go back to the setup screen in all your accounts and do a quick search for 'backup codes'.
Most often you can create up to 10 temporary one-time use codes; you should do this and store the codes somewhere in your travel electronics.
Or go old school and jot them down on a sticky note or other nondescript note to keep in your laptop bag, purse or wallet.
I’ve posted links for most of the popular sites at https://www.datadoctors.com/radio
Or search “2-factor backup codes for XXXX” where XXXX is the name of the online service
The Internet makes it easy of sell just about anything you own through a plethora of websites.
Determining market prices for a car these days is made easy with sites like KBB.com and Cars.com, but what if you’re trying to sell toys, clothing, electronics or just about any other personal item?
You can try manually searching on popular sites like eBay or Craigslist but there’s a better way.
Whenever you need to determine a price for something that you want to sell or even buy, give an app called Bidvoy a shot.
Bidvoy gathers the data from hundreds of millions of transactions on eBay to help you determine a lot more than just the best price to buy or sell.
It also provides trending data, what the current price is if you were to buy it new and suggests the best time to sell or buy.
Even if you aren’t going to use eBay, this detailed data from this super popular online marketplace is really helpful.
No more wondering if you paid too much or listed it at too low of a price for just about anything you want to buy or sell.
The link to Bidvoy is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
I never get tired of capturing sunsets or sunrises and a great way to really catch the moment is through time lapse photography.
Time lapse movies are created through a large number of still images taken at a constant interval and put together at the end.
Regular point and shoot digital camera’s often have this option built in, as well as some newer smartphones.
If yours doesn’t you can add this feature through an app called Lapse It.
Lapse It allows you to set the interval in minutes, seconds or even milliseconds to capture just about any motion and it’s simple to use.
If you like those old claymation shows we all grew up with, Lapse It can show you how to create stop motion video as well.
The next time you wan to capture slow moving objects like pillowy clouds overhead or ocean tides going in and out and turn them into really beautiful videos try out he Lapse It app.
Getting the basics under your belt could lead to some pretty creative photography in no time.
The apps available for both Android and iPhone users and can be downloaded at http://www.lapseit.com
We’ve all seen those strange things that just seem to pop up on your computer and guess what? It’s most likely from new apps or programs that you’ve installed.
A consistent practice these days by software companies is to sneak their programs into a printer installation program or utility such as Java when it’s downloaded or updated.
The way to catch these unnecessary programs that make changes to your computer is to pay attention during the installation process.
The software companies are counting on you not paying attention and hope that you just keep hitting next, next, next, I agree.
Another way to fool you into allowing crappy software into your computer is by tricking you by suggesting that the standard installation is the 'recommended' installation.
They make it appear as if you have to be a rocket scientist to opt for the custom installation option, but that’s where you’ll get to see what they’re trying to get it past you.
From now on, always choose the advanced or custom installation option whenever you’re adding any new program to your computer so you can control it before it takes over.
Today’s tip is the key to keeping software programs from messing up your browser with extra toolbars or changing your default search system or start up page.
Let’s start today’s tip with some geek speak: word cloud
The term word cloud refers to a visual representation of a large amount of text, with the most commonly used words in large fonts and highlighted colors.
Word clouds are an easy way to quickly pull useful themes in large bodies of text.
If you’re a retail business, for instance, you probably ask for feedback from your customers.
So in place of having to manually review each response, you can use a free online word cloud tool to see what your customers are saying.
One solid option is at http://tagcrowd.com because it gives you multiple options for displaying the data.
Just compile all your text into a single file; you don’t have to worry about the formatting.
You can also paste the text directly into the site’s generator, upload a file or document or even analyze the text on any website by using the URL.
Try it for yourself at TagCrowd, that’s T A G C R O W D.com
Occasionally, when I’m searching for interesting items in technology to talk about, I’ll run across something really amazing that can connect people.
An app called Be My Eyes it that thing this week, and it’s a fantastic idea.
A socially conscious inventor in Denmark created an app that allows blind users to connect with sighted users for help through a video connection.
Sighted volunteers can use the app to be the eyes for the visually impaired to help them with small tasks, such as explaining what a street sign says, describing what’s in a can of food or seeing the expiration date on a carton of milk.
It’s currently available for iPhone users with a desire to help others and it allows you to volunteer to help simply by installing the app.
As part of the app family, you can earn points each time you help someone, which elevates your level in the system, giving you more opportunities to help others.
If you want a cool way to do something that makes you feel good, checkout BeMyEyes.org and get the app.
I needed to find an app that would help with one of our families biggest pains: grocery shopping.
We've used the text messaging method of course forever, but with long lists, keeping track of what’s in the basket already while I’m shopping becomes a chore.
If we were both on the same platform, we could use any number of apps, but since she’s an iPhone girl and I’m an Android guy, I had to dig around a bit.
After trying a number of options, my clear favorite is Wunderlist, that’s Wonder with a U instead of an O.
Now anyone in the family can add or remove items and while I’m shopping, I just tap on each item to make them disappear.
The best part is that Wunderlist is free and supports iOS, Android, Mac OS, Windows and even Amazon's Kindle Fire, so it’s really versatile.
Wunderlist is really easy to use and can be used for a lot more than just grocery lists: favorite songs, work projects, Honey-Do lists, volunteer groups and more.
Try it for yourself at Wunderlist.com
Google’s image search is a wonderful way to find images of just about anything, but using these images without permission from the owner of the image can get you into hot water.
Whether you have a blog, website or even use them in printed materials, understanding the usage rights is very important.
Fortunately, you can use Google’s image search to find images that you can freely use as long as you tell Google that’s what you’re looking for.
You do this by clicking on the Search Tools option just above the images and selecting the usage rights menu.
By default, images are not filtered by their licensing status, so you would select the appropriate commercial or non-commercial reuse option to display images that you can use.
Violating image copyrights shouldn’t be taken lightly as it can result in costly financial penalties if you’re caught, so make sure you play it safe when you need an image.
If you’re currently using images that you’re not sure about, I’d suggest replacing them immediately!
How many times have you seen a dog owner that looked a lot like their dog?
Is it pure coincidence or was there some natural attraction to a familiar looking face?
Well, you no longer have to guess, because now you can use sophisticated computing technology to see what dog breed you resemble the most.
Microsoft’s What-dog.net project allows you to search for or upload a photo of anyone to see which breed they would most resemble.
In my case, depending on which picture I use, it’s either a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, which is strong, driven to prey on smaller creatures and affectionate or a German Shepard, which must be kept busy, is intense and highly intelligent.
As you can imagine, the Internet has gone wild using pictures of family members, celebrities and politicians with some pretty hilarious results.
If you’re trying to figure out which breed of dog will be your next family member or want help choosing the next president, give https://what-dog.net a try!
One of the coolest things that Google Maps allows you to do is jump into the Street View of any location that their mapping vehicles have driven on.
Google’s Street View Cars have been on the road recording our streets since 2007, but in 2014 they added a feature that most of you probably still don’t know about.
When you grab the pegman and drop him on a street, the first image you’ll see is the most recent image.
But you can also travel back in time for that same view by clicking on the little clock icon just below the address in the upper left hand corner your screen.
Generally speaking, you’ll see a dot on a timeline for each view that was captured all the way back to 2008.
Not only can you see the current view in a previous year, you can move around and all of the images will be from that year.
It’s like time travel...check it out for yourself at https://maps.google.com
If you’re like me, you probably have a lot of information stored on various Google properties, whether it’s your contacts, pictures, music, videos or e-mail.
If you do, have ever thought about what would happen to all that info if you were to suddenly pass away?
It’s not the most pleasent thing to bring up, but you really should think about your digital assets in these terms.
Google has an option for you to assign a trustee to your account that can only gain access to your content if you don’t log in for an extended period of time.
You can choose an inactivity interval between 3 to 18 months to automatically send your trustees the access notification.
You can have up to 10 trustees and choose what content is accessible by which trustee as well.
It only takes a few minutes to setup and could really come in handy should something unforseen happen.
I’ve posted a link to Google’s Inactive Account Manager at DataDoctors.com/radio