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!
When the battery on your phone dies and your significant other is trying to reach you, it can appear as if you are ignoring them.
Without a response, the anxiety and frustration can grow quickly.
This very scenario is what caused an app developer to create a more useful way to provide status updates to important people in your life.
The app is aptly named Status and unlike other options, it can do a lot of the work for you automatically.
Using motion sensors, phone and calendar information, it can automatically update your status to driving, at work, at home, in a meeting, unreachable and most importantly that your battery is low.
Android users can use the app to ask simple Yes-No questions or flip over to your text messaging app for more detailed exchanges.
Parents may also find this useful so they know not to reach out to a child if they are driving, for instance.
Knowing the status before you try to communicate can save everyone a lot of anxiety.
Get the free app at TryStatus.com
If you’re like most consumers of beer or wine, you tend to stick to the products you know, especially if you aren’t that adventurous.
Even if you are adventurous, trying to pick a new wine or beer from a wall of options can be intimidating.
That’s where an app called NextGlass comes in handy.
NextGlass uses science and technology to help predict how much you might enjoy that next bottle based on what you tell it you already like.
Once you build your taste profile, scan any label to instantly get a personal score while you’re shopping for something new.
You can also use the Glass Match feature to find beer and wine that tastes similar to your existing favorites.
The app even tells you what’s inside the bottle, like calories, sugar content and alcohol level.
If you’ve been looking for help figuring out what to try next, Next Glass is like having a personal expert that knows your taste right in your phone.
It’s a free app and available for iPhone and Android users; Cheers!
This is the time of year that you can count on the best deals for just about any kind of electronic gadget you have on your shopping list.
But a word of warning: the lowest price is rarely the best deal.
Shopping for electronics solely based on the price plays right into the hands of retailers that are only interested in moving product.
In order to be the cheapest in any category, the manufacturer has to cut corners because the gross margins in electronics are so thin.
This can result in batteries that don’t stay charged very long, compatibility issues with software and apps or in some cases, security holes in the device.
Stick to name brand products from retailers that you know that have a liberal return policy.
The cheaper the product, the more research you need to do before making the purchase.
Finding user feedback on any gadget is easy; just search for the device followed by the word ‘review’.
If you can’t find anything online, take a pass or risk becoming a guinea pig!
If you love hiking as much as I do, finding new trails to explore wherever you go becomes a bit of an obsession.
Just because it’s getting colder all around us doesn’t mean you have to give up this great form of exercise.
There are lots of great resources on the Internet for discovering new trails, but I generally start with one in particular: AllTrails.com
With 50,000 trails and 700,000 members, the mind share from this resource is simply incredible.
You can search for trails that are kid or dog friendly, include waterfalls or accommodate mountain biking.
You can see the approximate distance and time of each hike as well as the difficulty and user ratings.
And it’s really easy to find the best hikes nearby based on your location; a great way to find those hidden gems right in your own backyard.
The amount of information you can gather on any potential hike is amazing and http://AllTrails.com‘s mobile apps make it even easier to discover great new adventures everywhere you go.
The ongoing battle to protect yourself on the Internet just got a nice boost from Google.
Since we all have a Google account of some sort, knowing how and when your account has been accessed is a quick way to check for suspicious activity.
Google’s Device and Activity Dashboard makes it easy to see a complete list of all the computers and devices that have accessed your account in the last 28 days, including anything that’s currently signed in.
When possible, they include general location information to help you determine if the device is one of yours.
If any suspicious activity is noticed, there’s an option to immediately take steps to secure your account and change the password.
Even if you don’t see anything suspicious, take a second to click the ‘Secure your account’ link at the top.
It’ll run you through five ways to secure your account including a review of all the apps, websites and devices that currently have access to your account.
I’ve posted the direct link to the dashboard at DataDoctors.com/radio
One of the reasons that the Internet can be a dangerous place these days is from something known as scripts.
Scripts are like macros in your word processor; they're a list of commands that automatically run when you visit the site.
While the use of scripts can range from generating animation to serving ads, they can also be used to coax your computer to execute malicious commands in the background.
One of best ways to prevent being exploited by rogue scripts is to use an add-on for the Firefox browser called NoScript.
NoScript prevents any script from running unless it’s from a trusted website that you’ve approved, so you can slowly customize the filter.
While most scripts are needed in order for a website to function properly, putting you in control of when and if provides an extra layer of protection.
Now, because NoScript is a free open-source tool, it does require you to spend some time learning how it works, but it’s time well spent.
Check it out at https://noscript.net
Yesterday, I told you about juice jacking which can allow USB charging stations to access your private data without your knowledge.
If you’re a heavy traveler, especially internationally, you might want to invest in a little device called the Juice Jack Defender.
This 15 dollar adapter will allow you to use any USB charging connection with confidence because it blocks access to the data on your mobile device while it takes a charge.
USB ports are designed to both charge and communicate with mobile devices, which is what you want when you’re connecting to your own computers.
But when you’re connecting to an unknown charging system the Juice Jack Defender turns that connection into a one way street.
While juice jacking is more of a possibility than a probability at most public charging stations, there’s no way to detect a safe USB charger from a malicious one.
If you can find an AC outlet and use your own charger, do so. If you can’t, this tiny blocking device will make sure you’re safe.
Learn more at ChargeDefense.com
Keeping your electronics charged while on the go is getting easier as lots of charging stations are popping to help mobile users.
But, if you’re an active traveler, you need to know about something called Juice Jacking.
Juice Jacking can occur when a charging station attempt to gain access to your phone’s data while you’re charging the device.
If you think about it, whenever you plug your phone or tablet to your computer’s USB port, you can instantly access lots of private data.
This same thing can happen with public charging stations if they’re maliciously configured to do so and you’ll never know it’s happening.
While it’s less likely you’ll run into this exploit at US airports, if you’re an international traveler, I’d be much more concerned.
So how do you protect yourself from Juice Jacking?
Using your own AC charger plugged into a wall socket is one way, but tomorrow I’ll tell you about a small blocking device that can give you complete peace of mind whenever you plug your smartphone into any USB port.
I had someone ask me a question that sounded strange at first, but then it made sense after I thought about it.
He asked me if I knew of any way to add Bluetooth connectivity to older non-Bluetooth speakers.
Bluetooth enable speakers are fairly inexpensive, but the cheap ones don’t sound very good.
So if you have spare computer speakers that sound decent or want to stream music to your home audio system from your smartphone or tablet, check Logitech’s Wireless Speaker Adapter.
It’s a pretty simple to setup device that’s about the size of streaming media boxes like Roku or Apple TV that has both 3.5mm and RCA connectors.
The speakers that you use must be powered or connected to an amplifier and you’ll need to plug the Bluetooth adapter into AC power.
At $40, its a pretty inexpensive way to stream music from your mobile device to just about any speaker system you own.
I’ve posted the direct link at DataDoctors.com/radio
The iPhone is an amazing device for entertainment, communications and capturing those precious moments in our lives, but there’s an accessory that will make it even more amazing...a tripod.
Think about how you use your iPhone whether it’s Facetime, taking a group selfie or watching streaming video; you usually end up holding it in your hand.
An awesome new tripod called the Kenu Stance is one of the smartest accessories that I’ve ever seen for the iPhone.
It weighs just over an ounce and is smaller than a pack of gum, but can dramatically change the way you use your iPhone.
Watching a movie on the airplane? Check! Take pictures using the timer? Check! Making a long video call with a friend? Check!
It connects via the Lightning connector and can be used in portrait or landscape mode, so you can position the screen or camera perfectly every time.
This is one of those things that you didn’t know you needed until you see it.
The link is posted at Datadoctors.com/radio
Anyone that has to create presentations on a regular basis knows that keeping your audience’s attention while presenting the information is critical.
There are a number of great presentation platforms, but one that you’ve probably never heard of has an interesting twist...audience participation.
SlideIdea takes a completely different approach because it’s an iPad app associated with a custom website.
This free app makes creating presentations from its tap and drag templates quick and easy just like all the rest but the audience engagement component is what really peaked my interest.
You can poll your audience with the voting widget that’s built into the platform, field questions via the messaging tool and use whiteboard tools to make annotations in real time.
Audience members simply go to a special url to engage with the presentation that they’re seeing, so it’s a cool trick to keep them involved.
It’s an especially interesting platform if you’re an educator.
There are lots of other interesting features in Slideidea that you can checkout for yourself at SlideIdea.com
One of the biggest gripes I hear from iPhone and iPad users, including my wife, is the lack of expandable memory.
The problem for us is generally when we’re travelling; taking lots of pictures and videos.
The folks at Sandisk apparently heard a lot of complaints like this because they created a device called iXpand.
iXpand looks like an oversized flash drive with both Apple’s Lightning connector and a USB connector.
Paired with their app, the device can automatically copy photos and videos from the camera roll whenever it gets connected.
This allows those with smaller storage capacities to free up valuable space while they’re on the go.
It can then be plugged into any computer to transfer the files off.
The iXpand comes in 16, 32 and 64 gigabytes and ranges from $60 to $120, so you’ll pay a premium for the convenience.
If iCloud is working for you, you won’t need this device, but if you’re like some people I know, checkout the link I have posted at datadoctors.com/radio
If you use a laptop on a regular basis, you know that battery issues are amongst the most common irritations.
The more you use it, the faster the battery deteriorates because it has a finite number of charge cycles.
With that in mind, one tip that can help you extend your battery life is to remove it when you know you’re going to be plugged in for an extended period of time, like days or weeks.
It has less to do with excessive charging cycles and more to do with heat, which is one of the biggest killers of battery life.
The heat generated by the running laptop over time can have an impact and the heat from the b attery can also impact the computer.
One important reminder for this tip; never unplug or plug your laptop battery in while it’s running.
Make sure you’ve properly shutdown the unit and that it’s not in sleep or hibernate mode.
If you do this, make sure your laptop is plugged into a battery backup in case the power ever goes out.
The weekend is upon us and if you’re like me, music will play a big role in enjoying your personal time.
Whether I’m entertaining friends or cleaning out the garage, I love having music to keep a hop in my step.
Most of the streaming music options like Pandora and Spotify require you to pay if you don’t want to have advertising messages inserted periodically.
One lesser known streaming option that does not insert audio ads, even though it’s free is a service called Songza.
Acquired by Google last summer, Songza also approaches the suggested music process different by using human curated playlists.
DJs and music journalists are the ones curating the various playlists, so I tend to hit the skip button a lot less.
Songza, that’s spelled S O N G Z A is available via the web or apps for iOS, Android and Chromecast.
If you’re looking for a fresh new take on streaming music that focuses on your mood, give Songza a try!
Have you noticed that some advertisers on the Internet seem to follow you around no matter where you go?
It’s called retargeting and its one of many technologies that the digital advertising community uses to make decisions about what we see.
Personalized content can also extend to the prices we see when we’re shopping online, according to researchers at Northeastern University.
They recently analyzed how sites customize pricing based on a wide variety of items that ranges from our location to what type of device we are using.
Though some of the methods have been challenged by the industry, what’s clear is that pricing can change depending upon how you interact with a site.
I know I’ve gotten different pricing results on occasion when searching from my computer versus my smartphone.
Ever since then, I’ve always double-checked just about any major online purchase by using both my computer and my smartphone to get pricing, especially when it comes to travel related sites.
It’s rare to see major differences, but for me, it’s worth the extra time.
If you’re an avid Facebook user, you may want to checkout a new tool that was recently released called Say Thanks.
It lets you quickly create a personalized ‘Thanks for being a friend’ video for anyone you’re connected with on Facebook.
It presents you with a collection of images that you’re both tagged in and a couple variations of the thank you video.
All you do is pick a video template and the items you want to include and the tool takes care of the rest.
It randomly places photos and posts in the pre-made templates and then allows you to preview the video.
If you don’t like the images that are being used, uncheck them and add others to replace them.
Once you’re happy with the video you can share it with your Facebook BFF with a couple clicks of your mouse.
It’s a clever way to use old memories to help people stay connected.
Try it for yourself at Facebook.com/thanks
Don’t you hate it when your computer takes forever to shut down ?
While the temptation to hit the power button to force it to shutdown is understandable, it’s a really bad idea.
Your pc creates lots of temporary files as a normal course of operation that are tagged for deletion when you tell it you’re all done.
Windows has an extensive housekeeping process that gets performed whenever you tell it to shut down, reflected by the flashing of the hard drive light on your computer.
Not allowing it to finish can fill your hard drive with junk.
When a computer starts to get low on disk space, it can dramatically impact the performance.
So, if you’ve done this a few times in the past, you can track down the junk files and get rid of them with the built in Disk Cleanup utility.
This is one of those times when patience is a virtue and a benefit.
By the way, you Mac users should follow the same rules to keep things running smooth.
If you’re an Apple user, you may have noticed lots of scary security stories about Wirelurker and Masque attacks.
Both of these exploits use an infected Mac computer to exploit any iPhones or iPads that connect to the infected computer’s USB ports.
So is it time to install antivirus software on your Mac computer?
The answer really depends upon the behavior of the users of the computer as Apple started providing basic antivirus protection back in 2009.
If you keep OS X updated and stick to getting your apps directly from Apple, you’ll be in good shape.
If you have younger users that aren’t afraid to try anything on the Internet, the extra protection from a third-party security program may be a good idea.
Whether you install antivirus software or not, it should be obvious to all Apple users that the days of saying “I have a Mac so I don’t have to worry” are over.
If you’re connected to the Internet, you’re a potential target no matter what you use, so act accordingly!
Google Earth has always been a wonderful tool that allows you to explore any part of the globe from the comfort of your home or office computer.
Well, it’s even more interesting with a project that combines the Google Earth Engine with annual landsat images in a time lapse that stretches from 1984 to 2012.
This means you can select any region of the planet and see how it’s changed over nearly 3 decades.
You can see the incredible growth of Las Vegas, the deforestation of the Amazon or the expansion of the famous coastline of Dubai with their preset sites.
Once you’re in there, you can type any destination you want to see; where you live, where you were born and watch the timelapse for that area over the 28 year stretch.
You can zoom in and out and go year by year for an eye opening presentation of just how much the earth has changed in such a short period of time.
I’ve got the direct link posted at DataDoctors.com/radio.
If you’re a really small business that needs to occasionally invoice your customers, you’ve probably found that most of the options available are either too complex or too expensive.
Creating invoices, estimates and purchase orders shouldn’t be rocket science and a company called Invoice2go may be a good fit for micro businesses.
The platform works on phones, tablets and computers and syncs all your documents across all your devices.
You can create customized invoices with your logo or create a logo if you don’t have one for a professional presentation.
The system can also help you track your receivables, expenses, time on a job and allows customers to sign estimated and invoices right on your mobile devices.
You can use the free trial version and create up to 3 invoices to test the system out. If you like what you see, it starts at $49 a year for up to 100 invoices.
It works on both Android and iOS devices; if you want more info, go to invoice2go.com, that’s Invoice the number 2 go.com
If you travel much, you often run into Internet access that’s a bit limited in speed.
On airplanes, hotels & coffee shops, you’re generally sharing a small pipe with lots of other users.
Airplane wifi in particular can be very challenging with all of the rich content thats common on most websites.
You can optimize your browser for slower connections, but that requires you remember to switch it back or create a second profile.
To reduce the hassle, I prefer to use the lesser known Opera browser whenever I travel.
It has a special feature called Opera Turbo that optimizes content on their servers before you get it to reduce download times.
It also automatically blocks Flash content unless you click on the item, which further reduces the load.
If you’re on a really slow connection, you can also tell it not to load any images to further increase the speed.
I’ve got the link to Opera and lots of other suggestions posted at DataDoctors.com/radio