Data Doctors Tech Tips
Tech Tips for Non-Tech People
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It’s common knowledge these days that a high percentage of exploits start with a phishing message that’s cleverly crafted.
Phishing is such a big problem that even the most tech challenged users know to be very careful and suspicious with all email messages, which is why the bad guys are focusing on other less obvious places to start cultivating victims.
Something that’s been around for a while is getting more sophisticated and that’s setting traps in the comment section of popular websites.
You’ll see lots of work at home or big money making schemes posted, which are pretty easy to know are spam posts, but that’s not what I want to warn you about.
Cleverly crafted comments from people that seem to be engaged in the conversation may include links to ‘verify’ their positions, but that’s where you need to be paying very close attention.
Avoid clicking the link and do your own search for what they claim is supporting evidence by putting whatever the headline is from the link they posted.
If the info is legit, it will have been indexed by Google, so don’t ever take any link at face value in the comments section of any website.
When you notice a strange vibration or noise while driving your car, you’ll take the time to try to figure out why, right?
For whatever reason, when it comes to your computer, you probably don’t have the same mindset.
Any unusual noise coming from any part of your computer is an indication that something mechanical inside is experiencing a problem.
Any type of grinding sound can be the bearings on one of your cooling fans, so if you notice a noise and then it goes away on its own, that could mean that it’s no longer spinning and cooling.
When a cooling fan stops spinning, not only is it no longer extracting heat, it’s acting as an insulator.
One of the most damaging sounds is clicking, especially when it’s associated with the inability to get your computer to start up. It’s generally a sign that you’ve get a mechanical issue with your hard drive.
It’s natural to want to try to get the computer to start, but repeated attempts to start a failing hard drive can cause further irreparable damage, which can mean that the data will become unrecoverable.
We’ve provided more tips and details at: https://www.datadoctors.com/help/columns/21814
Adding some type of DIY security at your front door with one of the various doorbell camera options is growing in popularity, but before you decide to get one, we’ve got some advice for you.
Using your smartphone to see who’s at your door, complete with video and audio is awesome, but it depends greatly on the strength of the wi-fi signal at your door.
Even the most popular models that have been around for years and have lots of upgraded features will result in poor performance, especially if you want to see live video if your not getting a decent signal.
Because it’s so reliant on a good solid wifi signal, it’s best to do some testing before you decide to spend the money to get one.
Most of them are battery operated, but some require that you have a wire that rang a traditional doorbell for its power source, so pay attention to which one you are buying.
Another challenge for those that have Western exposures is direct sunlight, which can make the images in the video very difficult to make out.
A quick test of the signal strength can be done using your smartphone in airplane mode with the wi-fi turned on as your only connection.
Web-based email service, such as Gmail, have a number advantages over traditional email programs; one of the biggest advantages it that you are no longer tied to a specific machine in order to get to your messages.
Gmail is the most popular and if you use it every day like millions of others, you should learn some of the amazing shortcuts that can make it even more efficient.
Shortcuts are great, because you don’t have to leave the keyboard to navigate to another part of the program that would normally require a mouse click.
Navigation shortcuts generally start by tapping the letter g, then another letter such as a for all mail or d to pop over to the draft section.
You can see you sent messages withe g+t shortcut or get to your contacts by tapping g+c.
To allow these shortcuts to work, you’ll need to go to the Settings menu and turn them on in the General section.
There are so many really useful shortcuts that you can see at Google’s keyboard shortcut resource page:
Anyone that pays attention to tech news has likely seen an increase in the number of security related stories focusing on the MacOS.
It may be time to think about installing some extra protection if you use a Mac computer.
The MacOS does have some protection built-into the platform, but there are situation where that may not be enough.
It's pretty easy to stay safe if you limit what and where you install into your computer and keep things updated, but if you have less attentive users in the house, extra security may be best.
Younger users that have a veracious appetite for anything on the Internet can put your Mac in higher risk situations.
The old mindset of having a Mac and not worrying about the constant threats that we all hear about is dangerous these days.
Any device you use that is connected to the Internet has someone out there attempting to exploit you, so being cautious with all of your devices is important these days.
There’s a common issue that I’ve observed over the decades with the average computer user: they know that they should be backing up their important data files, but they just haven’t put together the process.
It’s one of the most important tasks that every computer user should be performing and with the stakes being raised, it’s critically important.
Loss of data is one thing, but having it held hostage by a hacker because you don’t have a backup has grown to become a very real threat.
The sophistication of this type of attack has grown by leaps and bounds in the past couple of years because it’s generating a lot of money for the bad guys.
If they get to your files, they’ll use military grade encryption to lock you out and demand payment for the key to unlock the files.
If your only backup is an attached local drive, they’ll lock it down as well, so making sure your files are out of reach with an online backup service such as Carbonite will keep you safe and prevent the need to pay them.
If you haven’t been motivated yet, hopefully knowing about this growing threat will help you get over the hump.
Most of us have dreamed of being able to play a guitar but have settled for the air guitar because the learning curve is just too steep.
If you haven’t completely given up on some day being able to play, today’s tip may be just what you need.
A web resource called Coach Guitar provides virtual lessons online and via their app.
You can bypass the theory and traditional lessons and dive right into some of you favorite guitar passages.
They show you how to play some of the most popular guitar riffs through the use of videos and a virtual fretboard.
Because they show you exactly where to put your fingers and which strings to strum, you can quickly be cranking out some familiar tunes.
With the app on your smartphone, you’ll have a guitar coach in your pocket whenever you need them.
You can checkout their method of teaching for free and if you really want to dive in, you can opt for their premium service.
Learn all about it at https://coachguitar.com
It’s the weekend, which might mean that you’ll end up at one of the many popular watering holes that specialize in craft cocktails.
While it’s great to experience it in your favorite bars, it can get really pricey, really fast. You can save a boatload of money when you learn how to make these amazing drinks yourself.
Cocktail recipe books are great, buy they can only cover so many drinks in the given space, so unless you want a pile of recipe books sitting around, checkout an app called ‘Mixology’.
It’s great because you start by inputting the ingredients that you have in your bar and refrigerator to help the search process focus on cocktails that you can actually make.
Who want to scamper off to the grocery or liquor store just to make a cocktail?
There are lots of ways to discover new recipes using your favorite spirits or by randomly searching through the database.
It’s also more than complicated cocktails as you can create special shots, punches and even no alcohol concoctions for the DDs at your party.
Check out this useful pocket guide at: http://mixologyapp.com
Whenever you plan a big gathering or event, you have to figure out how you are going to invite everyone and keep track of who’s coming.
A quick search online will provide you with a plethora of options for sending online invitations with all of the tracking that’s very helpful, but what if you want it to be more personalized and special?
Sending out beautiful physical invitations through the mail really makes a statement since so much of it is done electronically these days.
The problem with making that decision is that it creates a lot more work for you, because you have to collect the mailing addresses, pick out the paper and envelope and select a design that fits the event.
For those occasions, there’s a really cool online option called Paperless Posts https://PaperlessPost.com that can help you with both online and physical invitations.
Because both of the options are combined at the same site, you can use their online tools to gather the info you need for the offline invitations.
You can design everything on their website of through their iOS app
Everywhere you look on social media, you are likely to see photos of food, which some people think is cool while others think is goofy.
For those in the cool camp that plan to continue posting food pics, there are a few things to remember.
Item number one is your flash…never use it when you are taking pictures of food. Not only is it distracting to those around you, but it will make the food look horrible.
Since most restaurants in the evening will be on the darker side, don’t forget to dim the display on your phone so it isn’t a beaming beacon of light.
If you have your phone set to make a shutter sound whenever you snap a pic, turn that off as well while you are in close quarters with others.
Switching to an actual photo app such as VSCO Cam instead of using the default camera app can provide you with more options for making the food pic look great.
Learn more about this awesome photo app at: https://vsco.co/download
Did you know that the internal storage in your computer (the hard disk) is a lot like that frig you have in the kitchen? In both cases, no matter how big it is, you’ll most likely fill it up.
When your frig fills up, you don’t go out and buy a new one, you get rid of the stuff you don’t need or has gone bad and the same holds true for your computer.
The challenge for a lot of you is that even if you do want to free up space, you’re not sure what’s taking it all up.
There are a number of primary targets for getting rid of unwanted files that begins with unused programs, old videos and music as a starter.
If you really want to dig into what’s taking your space and where, check out a free program called TreeSize (http://bit.ly/33ovEfM)
Think of all the items in your computer being organized like a tree, whereas each folder is a branch and each file is a leaf.
The utility will show you how much space is being taken by each branch (or folder) on your tree so you can strategically determine what’s taking the space.
It’s incredibly important that when you don’t know what a specific folder or file is all about, you don’t ever delete it and make sure you have a verified backup before you start any mass deletion.
Most people love their technology but also like the tactile feel of reading a good book.
Discovering great new books to read from others is helpful no matter what genre or topic tends to be your favorites to read.
There are lots of websites that use algorithms to suggest new books solely based on the books that you have already liked or read, but there’s an alternative that takes advantage of other humans called Good Reads.
Good Reads is one of many that uses a suggestion-bot based on what you’ve have enjoyed in the past, but it also offers you the ability to hook up with friends to see what they are reading…kind of what Spotify does with songs that you friends are listening to.
Whichever online method you use to get new book recommendations, it’s far more efficient than randomly roaming the isles of a book store hoping to score a solid read.
To really make the site perform at its best, you can gather a group of your fellow bookworms to create you own private online book club.
There are also public discussion groups that anyone can join to learn more from other at https://www.goodreads.com
The bad actors on the Internet will stop at nothing to exploit users and one of the most dangerous methods they use is malicious scripting.
Scripts, which were created to enhance our experience on the Internet have been hijacked by hackers to take advantage of people without them knowing what’s going on.
Instead of providing you with relevant content based on choices you make or have made in the past, they refocus the technology to silently attack your computer when you visit rigged websites.
Since the vast majority of scripts you’ll encounter are actually safe and helpful, controlling when and where they run is a way to keep the dangerous ones at bay.
A free tool available to users of the Firefox browser is the very popular NoScript add-on.
While it’s not for everyone, if you like pinpoint control over what each website you visit can run, this is a tool that lets you do that.
Valid scripts are important for much of the functionality of the web, so you will have to tinker with the tool to figure out which ones are trying to deliver ads and which ones are providing functionality.
This open source tool is free and will require you to learn how to use it, but if you want supreme protection from rogue scripts, checkout the details at: https://noscript.net
If you and your friends are big fans of movies like Star Wars and you have an iPhone, you’re going to want this app.
It’s called Alien Sky and it will turn any typical photo with open sky into something from another dimension.
It will let you place realistic images of planets, moons, lens flares or other inter-galactic items right into your photos and they look very real.
These head turning effects will be sure to get people to stop as they scroll through their social media feeds.
With over one hundred and fifty effects that you can add to any of your existing photos, there are countless ways to make out of this world imagery.
It’s really fun to play with old pics, especially if you turn them into black and white images before adding the effects from the Alien Sky app.
For iPhone users only:
It’s not often that you find yourself without your smartphone, which is why it’s become our go-to flashlight for just about every situation.
Depending upon your device, the LEDs can be extremely bright and a great way to shine light in a specific direction, but what if you need a more dispersed light?
Did you know that there’s an easy way to turn your smartphone flashlight into more of a lantern-style light?
Just grab a plastic bottle of water and a large rubber band to get the job done.
Start by removing the label from the bottle, then position your smartphone’s flashlight directly into the center of the bottle and use the rubber band to hold it in place.
Not only can it be useful in settings like a campsite or with a group of people trying to follow you, it’s also a great way to notify oncoming traffic of where you are.
The next time you need a different type of light from your smartphone, channel your inner life hacker with this tip!
If you’re like me, it’s abundantly clear that your mental quickness isn’t what it used to be, which is a bit on the frustrating side at times.
If you’ve figured out a plan for physical fitness, you may want to extend that effort to mental fitness as well.
An app we’ve talked about before called Elevate could be of interest for anyone that’s in the same camp as me.
Using games that are rooted in scientific research, the app is an enjoyable way to work on your aging brain.
There are a variety of focuses that you can select to work on, which is customized to create your daily tests and then tracked to show progress as it happens.
A limited version of the app is free (make sure to click the ‘X’ in the upper left-hand corner after you sign up for an account) with subscriptions you can opt for if you want the full program.
Playing games can help sharpen mental skills, but games based on brain science are a better use of your time. Learn more at: https://www.elevateapp.com
If you own an iPhone, you’ve probably marveled at all of the amazing things it can do beyond simply communicating with others, but there’s one thing that it doesn’t have that would make it even more useful….a tripod.
The myriad functions that the iPhone can perform means that you end up using it in your hands for just about every activity.
A simple accessory that may make using your iPhone even more enjoyable is the tripod from Kenu called the ’Stance’.
The tiny add-on, which can easily fit in your pocket, laptop bag or purse, can totally improve how you use your smartphone.
Tired of holding your phone to watch long form videos? Want more opportunities to use the camera timer? Kenu may just have what you didn’t know you needed.
This tripod isn’t limited to portrait mode because it’s designed to allow you total flexibility, so if it sounds interesting, pop on over to: http://bit.ly/2AJXoz7
It’s not often that you don’t turn to the Internet to gather information on just about anything you plan on buying.
Another great benefit is the ability to research competitive products for an item you are interested in purchasing.
Often times you won’t be aware of what competitive products exist, which is the point of today’s tip.
Google searches that include a product followed by ‘vs’ as in versus can quickly provide you with comparisons of the most popular items in just about any category.
If you were in the market for a new car and wanted to compare a Honda Civic with all of its competitors, simply type “Honda Civic vs” to get the scoop.
If find this approach extremely useful when I’m looking for apps and don’t want to download the first one that comes up in a search.
This type of search will quite often bring up review websites that are filled with information about a lot of the items that are similar to the one you know about.
Not everything you’re shopping for will benefit from this tip, but more times than not, I’ve found it to be very useful.
Today’s tip is for anyone that uses Google’s productivity software, especially their spreadsheet tool called Sheets.
There’s a free browser plug-in that will add a cool option to Chrome that’s a great help should you ever need to convert any spreadsheet to a document.
Anyone that’s ever had to incorporate a portion of a spreadsheet into a word processing document knows about potential formatting issues.
With the ‘Save As Doc’ plug-in, you can convert an entire worksheet or any portion that you choose to become a document file.
I found it really helpful for converting the results from a Google Survey that I setup into a more usable report for a meeting.
If you typically copy and paste to try to get spreadsheet info into a document, you’ll love this tool.
It’s a pretty simple tool to use and it just sits idly by in Chrome until you need it. Get it here: http://goo.gl/H0ed2B
It’s pretty obvious that social networking has become a major communication method not only for us personally, but professionally as well.
Every working person that’s interested in creating new opportunities or meeting like minded professionals should have an updated LinkedIn profile.
If you haven’t done much with LinkedIn, it’s important that you don’t treat it like a personal social network. It’s not so much about the people you already know and more about making new contacts that could help you many ways professionally.
When it comes to accepting connections, refusing the connection just because you don’t know them would be like refusing to accept a business card from someone you don’t know in real life.
You shouldn’t accept any connection request without first spending a minute reviewing the person’s profile and background.
I don’t accept connections from profiles that don’t have a picture, have very few connections, haven’t filled out their profile or if they’re from foreign countries with no connection to what I do.
You can kick someone from your network just as quickly as you accept them, so don’t be afraid to accept connections once you’ve vetted them.
When they try to force a sales pitch on you or abuse the connection in any way, use these steps to get rid of them: http://bit.ly/2nmk4T7
If you’re in business, help with school events or just tend to be an organizer of any sort, you’ve likely been in the situation where you need some simple design work done.
Hiring someone to do it isn’t generally feasible, so when you have to rely on your own skills to create the piece, there’s an online resource that you should have bookmarked called Canva: https://Canva.com.
Because it’s web-based, there’s nothing to install, download and very little to learn in order to be successful.
They provide a bevy of templates that you can use as a starting point to quickly and easily build professional looking business cards, posters, flyers and most importantly these days, the proper size graphics for all your social media profiles.
What’s great about the templates is that you generally need only to add text once you choose the one that represents the theme you’re trying to relay.
If you have your own images to add, you can or you can purchase inexpensive options from their catalog to really spice up your design.
It’s one of those websites that you may not need on a regular basis, but when you do, having https://www.canva.com at your disposal is a game changer!