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!
One of great things about expensive DSLR cameras is the depth of field that the lenses can provide.
You know those beautiful images where the subject is in clear focus and everything in the background is blurred, which can be visually stunning.
Well, if you’re not ready to part with a pile of money in order to get these professional looking shots, checkout some of the background defocus apps for your smartphone.
Several phones have a blur option built into the camera app, so start by checking for that feature.
If not, both Android and iPhone users can try the AfterFocus app which does just what it implies; allows you to change the focus after you take the picture.
You start by dragging your finger over the areas that you want in focus then switch to the background and do the same for what you want blurred.
It doesn’t take long to get the hang of how the tool works and you can even choose multiple items in the shot for some really interesting results.
Crowd-sourcing is a great way to get tasks accomplished that can range from creating a new logo to building a website to getting administrative tasks done through virtual assistants.
Well, now you can add hiring a business consultant to the list with a website called HourlyNerd.com.
Large consulting firms are out of reach for small businesses or small projects, so HourlyNerd is trying to fill the gap.
Their goal is to match you with business professionals and MBAs that can help with just about any business challenge.
And, like other crowd-sourcing sites, consultants bid for your business, which keeps the costs very competitive.
Whether you need help with a business plan, marketing strategy, financial projections or a custom project, HourlyNerd can provide consultants on an as-need basis.
The consultants are current and former MBA students from over 50 colleges from around the world, so it’s a pretty diverse group competing for your project.
You can checkout case studies and see how it all works at http://HourlyNerd.com
Smartphones have been pretty safe from malicious apps as long as you stick to getting your apps from the official app stores and you don’t jailbreak your device.
Jailbreaking or rooting your phone allows you to bypass the controls put in place by the device manufacturer and is generally done by tech savvy users.
But now a new scam is beginning to circulate that can sneak a malicious app onto your smartphone, even if you haven’t modified the controls on your phone.
The scam starts with a cleverly crafted text message or email that links to an app download.
If you follow the link, it can compromise non-jailbroken iPhones or unrooted Android phones.
This underscores the importance of the long standing rule: If you didn’t go looking for it, don’t install it.
Scammers can create some very persuasive messages that appear to be from trusted sources through the hacked accounts, so stay alert.
If you want a little extra protection, checkout the free smartphone security apps at http://lookout.com
We’ve all been in a situation, where we’re trying to find someone in a large public crowd, like a music festival or concert venue.
Well, a couple of app developers have created something they call the dumbest app ever that’s actually pretty clever.
The app is called Look For and it’s essentially a way to turn your smartphone screen into a blinking beacon so your friends can find you in a crowd.
Launch the app, pick a color and hold it up in the air so you can text your friends and tell them to look for the blinking blue light.
It may even help you get the attention of a cab, especially at night.
If you want to applaud their efforts, you can pay the 99 cents for either the iPhone or Android app, but the reality is that there are lots of free flashlight apps that do the same thing.
Just search your app store for ‘blinking flashlight’ and make sure the screen is what blinks.
When you hear the term ‘no-fly’ zone, you typically think of political unrest and war zones, but today’s tip deals with your own personal no-fly zone.
Personal unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as quadcopters or personal drones are starting to fill the skies and the industry is aware of the potential privacy issues.
A new website called http://www.noflyzone.org has been setup as a way for you to tell drone manufacturers that you don’t want their vehicles flying over your backyard.
It’s a free service and all you do is enter your physical address and a valid email address to validate the request and your wishes will be in the database forever.
Your GPS coordinates get added to a database that participating drone manufacturers use to prevent their devices from being able to fly into those areas.
Not all of the manufacturers are currently participating in this voluntary program, so this isn’t a guarantee of drone-free skies in your backyard, but it’s a start.
Securing your accounts and information is more important than ever, but unless we get a gentle reminder, we generally forget to go back and review our security settings.
Google understands this and want’s to help motivate you to review your security settings, so they’ve come up with a pretty decent incentive: free storage space.
If you spend the few minutes that it takes to do a security check up on your Google account, they’ll reward you with an additional 2 Gbs of cloud storage.
A standard account comes with 15 Gbs of free storage, but even if you don’t need the extra space now, you will at some point down the road, so take advantage of the freebie.
Just go to http://Security.Google.com and sign into your account to get to the Security checkup option.
The process only takes a few minutes to review your activity log, recovery and app permissions
If you do it, they’ll credit your account with the additional 2 Gbs of storage on February 28th.
Social networks have become so integrated in so many of our lives that when someone passes away, one of the first places you’ll go is Facebook.
It’s an easy way to connect with grieving family and friends and see so many memories of the departed posted by others.
But if you’re the family of the deceased and didn’t have their username and password, Facebook would eventually memorialize the account and essentially freeze it in time.
Until now...Facebook has finally made it possible for a family member to become an executor of your page with a new feature called Legacy Contact.
Instead of having no ability to update the page and keep it going, if you assign a legacy contact they can continue to update your page, should something happen.
To set this up, go to the Settings menu, then to Security and the last option will be Legacy Contact.
It’s not something any of us like to think about, but take a minute and pick someone just in case something happens.
Fitness monitors are all the rage these days, but at prices that can range from $100 to $300, they can get expensive.
But paying for something that’s on your wrist all day is a lot more accurate than just loading an app on your smartphone, right?
A recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that an app on your smartphone can be just as accurate as a fancy fitness band when it came to tracking steps and activity.
The tests were done on treadmills so they don’t necessarily reflect real life situations where you may not have your phone with you.
But if you’re looking for motivation by tracking your activity everyday, you don’t have to buy an expensive gadget.
There are lots of great apps for your smartphone and many of them are free!
Checkout apps like Argus or Moves for the iPhone and the Runtastic Pedometer app for Android or iPhone.
Anything that motivates you to step up your exercise is a good thing, so get tracking today!
Reddit.com is a popular tool in geek culture, but it can be a little hard to take for the uninitiated.
It bills itself as the front page of the Internet and is a great example of democracy on the Internet.
It’s like a huge message board where articles and postings get voted up and down by the community, so popular content bubbles to the top.
One of my favorite features of Reddit are the AMAs, which stands for Ask Me Anything.
It’s a virtual live interview of famous folks that you can participate in by asking them anything; even the President’s done one.
If you get the Ask Me Anything app, you can search through past sessions and set reminders for upcoming AMAs so you can ask your favorite personalities a question.
If you find Reddit.com to be too much to handle, start with this excellent app.
Reddit is spelled R E D D I T and the Ask Me Anything app is available for iPhone and Android users.
Gathering information on the Internet is like drinking from a firehose, unless you use tools that help you filter out what you don’t want and organize what you do.
One of my favorite apps for doing this is Flipboard, which specifically focuses on your social networks and general interests
Flipboard takes the feeds from Facebook, Twitter and categories like sports, business or tech and presents the information like a magazine.
Until recently, you could only use Flipboard on your phone or tablet, but now you can use Flipboard on your computer.
That means you can now make use of that big, beautiful desktop display to access what you’ve already setup on your mobile device.
If you’ve never used Flipboard, be sure to start by loading the mobile app on your phone or tablet first, so you can add your social networks to the account.
Once it’s setup with your mobile device, go to http://Flipboard.com and sign in to get started on your computer.
Your Twitter feed never looked so good!
There’s a recurring theme that’s surfaced from just about every major hack you’ve heard about lately.
Most of the breaches started with a targeted phishing scam sent to someone in the company.
Cleverly crafted fake corporate e-mails, also known as spear-phishing, are also responsible for many victims of ransomware.
The easiest way to trick someone is to create a fake e-mail message that appears to be from someone else in the same company.
That’s right, you need to start paying close attention to any message that appears to be from a co-worker, boss or administrator where you work.
If your company wants to run a phishing security test on its employees, checkout http://KnowBe4.com.
Their free phishing security test can be used to test up to 100 people to see how many fall for the message that appears to be from the company IT department.
You’ll quickly know how vulnerable your company is to this growing threat.
I’ve got the link for testing your company posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
A security researcher recently released a list of 10 million stolen passwords that he gathered from around the Internet.
His hope was to enlighten the world that your older passwords are probably floating around cyberspace and for sale.
With each major breach, the list of stolen passwords grows by the millions.
If you’ve been using the same password for more than a couple of years, you can safely assume that someone you do business with has been breached.
One way to check for known breaches that may have included your passwords is at http://breachalarm.com.
Just put the e-mail address that you use for your online accounts in and they’ll compare it to a known stolen password list.
This is especially important if you’re still using the same password on all your online accounts.
Even if the site doesn’t find a known breach tied to your email address, it doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.
If you haven’t changed your passwords for years, take the time to change it to something you’ve never used before.
On a recent airing of 60 Minutes, Leslie Stahl was seen frantically trying to control a car that had been hacked by security researchers.
If you saw this sensational video and you’re thinking about selling your new gadget laden car, hold that thought.
What you saw was a proof of concept hack that took years of DARPA working with GM to pull it off.
What they didn’t show you was what it took to setup what you saw on television.
They used an older GM car with outdated On Star software and had to have prolonged physical access to the car in order to exploit it.
There’s no doubt that the industry must stay vigilant as they add more technology to our cars, but so far, there’s never been a car hacked in the public.
Hacking cars is expensive and difficult and requires very specialized knowledge and there’s no money in it for cyberthieves.
Real hackers are more interested in hacking your smartphone than your car, so don’t let these sensational stories keep you from getting a new car.
The Internet of Things was all the rage this year’s Consumer Electronics Show because inexpensive connected devices were everywhere.
I was particularly interested in wireless sensor tags that allow you to monitor location, motion, temperature and even humidity on just about anything you care about.
These inexpensive devices will allow you to monitor things like when a garage door is opened or when motion is detected. Toss one in your refrigerator door and you’ll get an alert whenever someone is raiding the fridge!
These sensors combined with a smartphone app can alert you to just about anything that happens in your home or business.
Motion sensing is great, but you can even monitor moisture levels, which can alert you to major water leaks in real time.
The technology that’s available to monitor everything you care about from your smartphone ranges from 20 to 70 dollars.
Wireless tags are the basic building blocks to monitoring everthing and you can learn all about their abilities at http://wirelesstag.net
You’ve heard me and others in the tech industry preaching about the dangers of public wifi for years, but there’s something that you may not have realized.
Your laptop may be sharing information with anyone else connected on the coffee shop or hotel wifi you're using without you realizing it.
If your laptop is setup with default or public shares, you may be inadvertently allow others to access or even save files on your computer.
In general, this won’t really impact your personal data, but technically your computer is accessible by any random stranger connected to the same public wifi.
As a precaution, if you never use the public share folder to share files with others, turn it off.
I’ve seen situations where sensitive files have been stored in these publicly accessible folders because the user didn’t realize the whole world could access these folders.
Both Windows and Mac users have these public share folders turned on, so I’ve posted instructions on how to turn them off at datadoctors.com/radio.
Disable public shares in OS X: http://osxdaily.com/2014/02/11/disable-public-folder-sharing-mac-os-x
Disable public folders in Windows:
In my years of helping others with their technology, one constant issue seems to exist; everyone knows that they should be backing up their data, but they just never seem to get around to it.
If you’re one of the millions that have this critical task on their to-do list, but just can’t seem to get around to it, this may help.
The threat of ransomware, which is when sophisticated hackers gain access to your computer and lock down your data, including your backup drive is getting worse.
The latest versions are capable of spreading themselves in ways never seen before.
If you get hit by this attack and don’t have a secured off-site backup, your choices are to lose everything or pay hundred dollars to get your pictures, videos and sensitive documents back.
Online backup services like Carbonite are one of the best ways to avoid having to pay the ransom, because they aren’t connected to your computer when you get attacked.
Consider this a wake up call, if you don’t have a secure backup in place!
I love technology that fills the nooks and crannies of our daily lives and one of my long-time favorites is a web service called If This Then That or IFTTT for short.
This free resource helps you put the Internet to work for you by creating conditional statements called recipes that integrate your online life in amazing ways.
For instance, you can use a recipe that automatically creates a reminder on your iPhone whenever you star an email in Gmail or text your wife whenever you leave work.
IFTTT works with 160 different Internet services and has a treasure trove of recipes that have been created by millions of users.
If your imagination is willing, you can create your own custom recipes and share them with the IFTTT community.
IFTTT is a free service with apps for iPhones, iPads and Android devices to really leverage your technology in meaningful ways.
If you’ve never explored the IFTTT world, do yourself a favor and go to http://IFTTT.com and join in on the fun and productivity.
For those seeking an investment strategy, the Internet is filled with advice that ranges from throwing darts at the newspaper to exotic algorithms that track millions of market variables.
If nothing you’ve researched is resonating with you, how about tracking what a bunch of billionaires are doing with their investments?
An app called iBillionaire does just that; it breaks down and analyzes the investment data of leading billionaires like Warren Buffett, George Soros and Carl Icahn.
It also provides insights into the investment strategies of leading hedge fund managers to help confirm your ideas or discover opportunities with a different billionaire stock every day.
The investment strategies are based on the billionaire index that was created in 2013.
If you’d like to make better investment decisions by learning from the most successful, self-made billionaires in the world, checkout the iBillionaire app.
It’s available for iPhone and Android users in their respective app stores so you can start comparing your portfolio to the world’s wealthiest today.
For those of you that have discovered the benefits of yoga movements, something that I saw at CES this year may be of interest.
It’s called the SmartMat and it’s a yoga mat that’s loaded with 21 thousand sensors and pairs with a special app.
The combination becomes a virtual yoga instructor that helps you track, improve & perfect yoga poses.
It rolls up just like a standard mat, so you can take it to yoga class to track your progress or use it in the privacy of your own home.
A special stand allows you to set your smartphone or tablet at the front of the mat so you can follow the lessons and get real-time feedback to help you improve.
Whether you’re at the beginner level trying a downward facing dog or after advanced poses like the One-Legged King Pigeon, the Smartmat is a new option for learning.
The Smartmat isn’t available yet, but it can be pre-ordered at a discounted price by visiting http://SmartMat.com
If you use reading glasses to work with your smartphone, keeping track of them can become a constant source of frustration.
The solution for many is to buy a bunch of reading glasses and leave them all over the place.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could keep your reading glasses with your smartphone at all times?
That’s what the folks at ThinOptics thought, so they came up with something pretty inventive: a smartphone case with superthin reading glasses stored in them.
Their unique flexible optical design doesn’t have arms; they just clip onto your nose and stay put, which is why they’re thin enough to be stored on the back of your smartphone.
They offer cases that work with iPhone or Galaxy phones or a universal pod that can attach to the back of any case.
The kits range from $25 to $39, so it could be an inexpensive solution to the ‘where did I put my reading glasses’ problem!
You can see how they work and where to buy them at http://ThinOptics.com
Bitcoin, the virtual digital currency, is understandably something that most people have a tough time getting their head around, even those in the banking industry.
Because there is no regulatory body, it’s always been considered somewhat of a risky thing to get involved in, but a new company called Coinbase might be the first signs of legitimacy.
With $75 million in funding from investors such as the New York Stock Exchange and Spanish banking giant BBVA, Coinbase claims to be the first licensed US based bitcoin exchange.
At the moment, they are only licensed in 24 states as they must get approval on a state-by-state basis, so they’re just getting started.
Knowing that a legitimate financial entity is behind the exchange still won’t impact one of the biggest problems with bitcoin: extreme volatility.
If you are going to dip your toe into the bitcoin pond, Coinbase is probably your best bet at the moment, but I wouldn’t exchange any amount that you’re not willing to lose.
You can learn more at http://coinbase.com