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!
Whether you’re technical or not, you’ll probably run into a situation where you have to make decisions about technology, especially when it comes to the web.
Often times, non-technical decision makers like CFOs and CEOs have to make tough decisions on which web technologies to use for important projects.
Whether you’re a small business owner or the CEO of a fortune 500 company, understanding how others are using web technologies can help you make a more informed decision.
That’s where a website called BuiltWith.com can be a big help in understanding web technology trends.
You can put any web address into their lookup engine and get a comprehensive report on all the technology being used by a competitor, for instance.
You can also look up web technology usage trends to evaluate whether the technology you’re considering is on the rise or falling out of favor.
http://Builtwith.com is a treasure trove of free business intelligence that I highly recommend to anyone faced with web technology decisions.
I recently had a discussion with the mother of a toddler who was asking about preparing her child for the future when it came to tech skills.
In my opinion, one of the best things you can teach a child is how to write code as this second language will serve them well no matter what they decide to do with their life.
You don’t have to be a programmer, web developer or scientist in order to benefit from knowing how to code.
It’s becoming such a fundamental skill set that will allow individuals to better leverage the digital world around them.
One of my suggestions is for parents to checkout MIT’s Scratch project
Scratch allows kids age 8 to 16 to program their own interactive stories, games, and animations.
It fun and helps them learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively; all essential skills for life in the digital age.
It’ll help curious adults learn as well, so checkout this awesome free resource at https://scratch.mit.edu/
Yesterday, I told you about GetHuman.com as a quick way to get customer service numbers for major companies.
Today, I’m going to tell you about a website that works with GetHuman so you don’t have to wait on hold when you do finally reach customer service.
It’s called Lucyphone and when you use it to call recognized support numbers and get put on hold, it’ll wait in your spot for you.
Just press the star button twice when you get put on hold and Lucyphone will call you back when an agent is finally reached.
To use the site, just put the customer service phone number along with your phone number and click the connect button.
You’ll get a call from Lucyphone with the option to connect or get instructions, such as how to record a message for the agent when they pick up the call.
You can even have Lucyphone connect to another number when the agent picks up.
Learn all about this free service at http://Lucyphone.com
From time to time, we all need to get in touch with the customer service department at a large company, whether its to clear up a billing issue or to get help on something we bought.
Sometimes the direct phone numbers are easy to find, but increasingly, it seems many companies are going to great lengths to hide their toll free numbers.
Using Google to search for phone numbers can expose you to a myriad of scams, so I’ve got a better suggestion: http://GetHuman.com
GetHuman has compiled a comprehensive list of various ways to contact major companies that include phone numbers, email addresses, Twitter accounts and live chat options if they exist.
I’m not talking a single phone number, but every phone number for every department known that provides some form of customer service.
In some cases, they can even give you the average wait times to get to a real live human.
Checkout GetHuman.com for lots of customer service shortcuts.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how to avoid waiting on hold!
One of the most common cries for help I get these days is from people that are constantly running out of space on their phones.
It’s especially a problem for iPhone users because there’s no way to expand the memory like you can with an Android phone.
Getting rid of unnecessary apps will free up a little space, but getting rid of old pictures and video will go a lot further.
Deleting videos in particular can free up a good chunk of space because a 2 minute video can take as much space as 80-100 photos.
But one area that most people don’t think about are old text messages, especially those that came with photos and videos attached.
My wife’s iPhone had over 5 GBs of space taken by old text messages because of all of the attached photos and videos.
If you’re one of the millions struggling with this ongoing problem, I’ve posted various tips for managing storage on your smartphone at DataDoctors.com/radio
Amazon’s a great place to find just about anything, but did you know that you could also trade-in your old stuff to pay for your new stuff?
Amazon’s Trade-in program will buy your old phones, cameras, tablet, laptops and other electronics as well as books, movies and video games.
You start by choosing the category of the item you want to trade-in and using the filters to find it or search for it by name.
When you find it, you’ll see an ‘up to’ price with a yellow Trade In button that get’s the process started.
You’ll need to sign into your Amazon account to get a price based on the condition it’s in: acceptable, good or like new.
If you decide to sell it, you’ll need to send it in, but Amazon covers the shipping too!
If you’re an Amazon junkie, making use of the trade-in offers can both declutter your life and save you some money, so check it out.
I’ve got the direct link posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
In a couple of days, Apple will unveil it’s latest gadgets, which will get many of you thinking about upgrading your iPhone.
Whether you’re a chronic early adopter or just someone that’s ready to upgrade, there’s a website that’s considered the best place to sell your old iPhone.
It’s Gazelle.com and it’s generally seen as the place where you can get the most from your old iPhone.
They’re currently making offers on phones all the way back to the iPhone 4, but don’t expect more than 5 or 10 bucks for something that old.
If you decide to take them up on their offer, you can get paid by check, Paypal or an Amazon gift card.
Another way to sell your old phone is through your social networks. It’s likely that someone you know is looking for a cheap phone for a child or parent and you can use Gazelle’s pricing offers to determine a price.
If you’re ready to dump your old phone, https://www.gazelle.com is a good place to start.
I love food discovery and I love to cook, especially when I discover new ingredients or recipes.
If you’re looking for better ways to eat with more variety, a handful of Internet startups are offering to help you in that pursuit.
Services such as Blue Apron, Plated and HelloFresh offer up quality ingredients that are pre-measured with recipes and delivered right to your door.
If you’re like most people, you don’t have the time to track down new recipes and go shopping at specialty grocery stores on a regular basis in order to experience new dishes.
These services help you discover those new recipes and ingredients for about $10-$15 a plate, so it’s cheaper than going out to try new dishes too.
These services allow you to participate in the farm to table movement and learn how to cook new dishes at the same time.
If it sounds like an interesting option for your family, I’ve posted links to all three services at DataDoctors.com/radio
The Internet is full of places to get reviews on movies, TV shows, music and restaurants but it’s scattered all over the place.
An ambitious app called Vurb is trying to become the consolidator of all those disparate chunks of information for people, places and things.
Vurb allows you to search for Places, Movies, TV shows, Music, Videos or Events based on your location so it can gather all the information from various review sites in one place.
If you’re looking for info on a movie, once you determine you want to see it, Vurb will even show you showtimes at nearby theaters.
If you’re looking for information about your favorite musician, Vurb can gather recent news, upcoming performances and most popular songs for you.
If you’re looking for a place to eat, the various user comments from popular review sites are all consolidated on one screen along with mapping info and hours.
Vurb, spelled V U R B is free and available for iPhone and Android smartphone users.
If you’re looking to use webcams to monitor your property or business, there’s no shortage of options that are wired or wireless.
Wireless webcams are really not wireless if you have to plug them into an outlet.
Not only can this make it unsightly, it severely limits where you can put your cameras.
If you’re interested in a truly wireless solution, checkout Netgear’s Arlo security camera system.
The HD cameras are weatherproof and use special long-term batteries so they are truly wireless.
They aren’t a good solution if you want to constantly stream video, but if you want a motion sensitive monitoring system, they’re worth a look.
I set them up to monitor the front and back doors of a rental property when it’s not in use so if someone approaches, I get an alert with the option to view a 10 second video to see what’s going on.
Your smartphone becomes your monitoring service!
Learn all about it at https://www.arlo.com that’s A R L O.com
Apps that let you create stop motion video animation with your smartphone have been around for a while, but a new entry called Stikbot takes a slightly different approach.
The free app works like most every other app I’ve ever tried, take a picture and a ghost of the image appears as a guide to help you setup your next frame.
For instance, you can make a fork move around a plate by making sure the plate is lined up in each shot while you reposition the fork.
Where Stikbot differs is through their optional Stikbot figurines that can be purchased for 10 bucks.
The figurines are designed to make stop motion simple through flexible limbs with suction cup hands and feet.
It’s an interesting combination that could be the beginning of a movie making career or a just a fun way to waste a lot of time.
You can see it action and get the free app at Stikbot.toys, that’s spelled S T I K B O T.toys
Last year, someone claiming to be a security researcher went on a national cable news channel claiming that just about every popular flashlight app for smartphones contained malware.
His claims were based on the permissions required by the app that were unnecessary in his opinion.
When I first saw this story surface, I was immediately suspicious of his findings because he was promoting his own flashlight app while bashing many others.
The reality is that free apps generally use in-app advertising as a way to make money, which is the real reason for the additional permissions.
This salacious news segment has recently resurfaced on social media causing some unwarranted hysteria by those that take things at face value.
Remember, free apps are rarely truly free because often times, you agree to allow them to sell advertising based on how you use the app.
As I’ve previously suggested, understanding app permissions and paying a small fee to avoid ads is always something to consider.
If you’re a regular participant in Throw Back Thursday postings, I’ve got an app suggestion that can take it to a whole new level.
The VHS Camcorder app can make any video look like an old-school video from the 80’s.
Imagine creating a video that looks like it was dug up from a lost time capsule from 30 years ago.
The retro effects include tape noise and distortion, grainy video and that telltale running time/date stamp in the bottom left corner.
To help convince your friends that it’s an old video, you can fake the date and time stamp.
It turns your iPhone into a crappy VHS camcorder with the tap of the screen.
At the moment, the VHS Camcorder app is only available for iPhone users, but an Android version is said to be in the works.
I don’t normally spotlight apps that cost money, but if you’re really into the current rage of retro tech, 4 bucks is a small price to pay.
If you love swimming in open water like lakes or oceans and find staying in a straight line a bit of a challenge, there’s now a high tech solution in the works.
A new Kickstarter project called the OnCourse Goggles uses LEDs to help you keep track of the direction you’re swimming.
With a built-in compass, accelerometer and computer chip, it claims it will make swimming in a straight line much easier.
You just look in the direction you want to go, tap a button on the side of the goggles to lock in the destination and off you go.
The LEDs turn yellow as you start to veer off course or red if you’re going in the wrong direction altogether.
The device seems to be focused on triathletes and comes with a hefty price tag, but if you swim on a regular basis and want to cut down on your zig zag pattern, you may be able to justify the $150 contribution.
I’ve posted a link to the Kickstarter campaign at DataDoctors.com/radio
onvenient way to make use of toll roads.
Whether you live in an area where it’s available or have recently rented a car that made use of it, there’s a clever email scam you need to be aware of.
A new phishing scam that poses as a notice of unpaid tolls is making the rounds and it’s not just trying to bilk you out of your money.
If you fall victim to this scam, not only will they get your credit card information, you’ll end up with a hidden virus that allows them to remotely access your computer.
E-Z Pass payments are never collected via e-mail, they’re either deducted directly from your account or a notice is mailed to the address associated with the license plate of the vehicle in question.
Remember, if you recently rented a car with E-Z Pass, the rental agency would be the one to notify or charge you for any unpaid tolls.
A while back, Google created something they call DeepDream code as part of their artificial neural networks which they use to sort and categorize millions of images online.
An offshoot of this open source project has resulted in an amazing image manipulation app called Dreamify.
Dreamify takes anything I’ve ever seen in an image manipulation app to a new high...think Instagram filters on steroids.
The bizarre images that you can create from your own photos are like nothing you’ve ever seen.
It comes with 12 presets with descriptions like Dogify and Psychedelic Topography which can be tweaked to create the most otherworldly images from your ordinary images.
The finished photos can be kept private or shared with the Dreamify community, much like Instagram.
It’s the most unique creativity app I’ve seen in a long time and perfect for those wanting to create images for the upcoming Halloween season.
Dreamify is free and available for both iPhone and Android users in their associated app stores.
Portable devices have become our go to gadgets for just about everything we do these days.
But one problem with these modern marvels of technology is that they all SUCK...battery power that is.
There’s nothing more frustrating then a dead smartphone just when you need it the most.
A must have accessory these days is a portable charging pack that can bail you out of these situations.
In the past, the good ones were bulky and expensive, but not anymore.
Options such as Anker’s PowerCore 20100 can charge an iPhone 6 seven times, a Galaxy S6 five times or an iPad mini twice before it needs to be recharged.
At 6 and a half by 2 inches and only 12 ounces, it’s small enough and light enough to conveniently fit in your pocket, travel bag or purse.
It’s one of the most compact 20000mAh portable chargers available and it’s only $40!
I’ve paid 3 times that much for half the capacity in the past.
I’ve posted the link to learn more at DataDoctors.com/radio
Buying and selling used cars can be a complex and frustrating process that generally requires haggling by one party or another.
Several new tech companies are attempting to take the hassle out of buying and selling cars by connecting buyers and sellers directly.
But a startup called Vroom is taking a completely different approach by actually buying and selling cars via its app and website.
They emphasize their no-haggle pricing for both buyers and sellers and offer to do either no matter where you live.
When buying a car, it includes free shipping and a 7-day return policy, so it’s almost like the Zappos of the auto industry.
If you want to sell your car to Vroom, you can use the app to send them VIN info along with pictures to get a cash offer in minutes.
It’s also a great way to know if a dealer is making a reasonable offer if you’re trading it in on another car.
Check it all out at https://www.vroom.com
Wearable technology continues to improve with each new product and manufacturer that enters the market.
Two of the more popular devices at the moment are the Fitbit activity trackers and the Apple Watch which is a full blown smartwatch.
The Fitbit devices are cheaper and focus primarily on fitness tasks, while the more expensive Apple Watch can do much more.
But an often overlooked option that’s priced like the Fitbit but does more than just health monitoring is the Microsoft Band.
It’s got a larger color display for some primary smartwatch tasks, which also makes it bulkier, but users seem to get used to the extra bulk pretty quickly.
With built-in GPS, you can track your workouts without having it tethered to your phone and the Microsoft Health app works on iPhone, Android and Windows smartphones.
The Microsoft Band isn’t the best solution for everyone, but it’s certainly worth considering if you’re in the market for a lower cost smartwatch and fitness tracker.
If you’ve ever seen professional athletes studying themselves, often times you’ll see that they’re using sophisticated slow motion technology to analyse their movement.
Well your smartphone is a pretty powerful computer that can become a similar tool with an app called Hudl Technique.
Whether you’re an athlete, coach or parent of a an up and coming superstar, you can breakdown and analyse the motion of a golf swing, a pitching sequence or any motion in any sport.
You can add notes and annotations to highlight suggested changes and then share the video with others.
You can even match up and synchronize two videos for a side-by-side comparison so you can see the progress over time or compare the form against a professional.
You can zoom in or pan across videos to focus on any specific details for even better instructions.
The capabilities of this free app are astounding and can help anyone determined to improve in their sport have a useful out of body experience.
I’ve posted the link at DataDoctors.com/radio
Have you ever wondered how people are posting those weird series of characters on social media and e-mail?
There’s nothing obvious on your keyboard but if you hold your Alt key down and tap on any number, you’ll see it’s possible.
For instance, Alt and the number two will generate the ™ trademark symbol.
There are 255 possible combinations that are available, but trying to remember which combination corresponds to which character isn’t realistic.
You can find online resources that chart out each character's number, but I have an easier way to make use of special characters.
Just go to CopyPasteCharacter.com which will show you all of the special characters so all you have to do is click on one to copy it.
From there, you can paste it into an e-mail message, on Facebook or Twitter or into any document or spreadsheet you’re working on.
They even have an iPhone app available if you want to use it on the go at http://copypastecharacter.com