Data Doctors Tech Tips
Tech Tips for Non-Tech People
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Malicious apps are one of the biggest threats to your smartphone, which is why it’s always safest to get your apps directly from Apple and Google and avoid bypassing the security built into your smartphone.
‘Jailbreaking’ or ‘rooting’ is something that techies like to do, which allows them to remove the protection and install apps from anywhere which puts them at a higher risk.
That was the case until the latest scams that have found a way to sneak malicious apps onto a phone even if it hasn’t been modified by the user.
It starts with a social media post, text message or email bestowing the magnificence of a new app with a link for you to give it a try for free.
The link actually launches a process to attempt to exploit your smartphone with your permission.
It’s always best to take a pass on an app unless you have specifically gone looking for it.
Your friend’s compromised accounts can also send you these malicious links, so even when it seems to be from a trusted friend, be very wary.
One way to tighten the security on any smartphone is to have a virtual set of eyes overseeing all of the typical activities that can lead to an exploit through apps such as Lookout! https://www.lookout.com
One of the common ploys used by hackers is to set up legitimate-looking websites that are actually rigged to check for open security holes when victims land on their site.
A long-standing bit of security advice is to avoid any websites that you know nothing about, but with so many good new websites being added to the Internet every day, this isn’t very practical advice.
Fortunately, there are free tools online that can provide you with an analysis for any website before you decide to land on it like the one from Trend Micro: https://global.sitesafety.trendmicro.com
Trend has been compiling a massive database of websites based on their reputation and via their analyzation tools to help you navigate new websites.
It’s a simple tool to use because all you have to do is type or paste in the web address for any site you want their report on whether they’ve detected anything malicious on it.
The report can quickly summarize what the content will be along with a rating as to its safety.
This is another one of those bookmark-worthy links to have in your browser! https://global.sitesafety.trendmicro.com
As the Internet became a more media-rich environment, the speed at which a page would load also became much slower.
A technique known as caching was incorporated to improve the web experience by retaining previously loaded elements onto the local hard drive.
By eliminating the need to download every item to display a web page, things got much more enjoyable.
There are times when this awesome process can work against you and prevent a page from loading properly.
To prevent this, there is a keyboard shortcut that tells your computer to ignore the cache and download everything from the Internet on a page that you’ve previously visited.
Windows users can press the CTRL and F5 keys together to tell the browser to reload everything from scratch.
Command-Shift-R is the keyboard combination that Mac users use to do the same thing.
If this bypass process allows you to load a page that previously wouldn’t load, it would be advisable to clear your browser's cache - Instructions posted at: https://bit.ly/3uvZq0f
If your entire family is working and going to school from home, you may need some additional computers to accommodate your entire crew.
A cheap alternative to expensive laptops known as a Chromebook is available from a variety of companies.
Instead of running on Windows or macOS, Chromebooks use Google’s Chrome OS and a handful of programs that can work with or without an Internet connection.
Most schools have gone to a complete system that lives in the cloud, which means all you need is some way to get online, which is exactly what the Chromebook is made for.
This solution is more likely to be useful for students because you can’t install traditional business applications into a Chromebook.
Another great reason that it’s kid-friendly is that malware and viruses that target Windows and Mac users are completely harmless to Chromebooks.
If you want to see the latest units available in this class of computer, visit: https://www.google.com/chromebook
Google is the undisputed king of search engines, but using this powerful tool comes at a cost to your privacy.
Search is such an important tool for us on a daily basis, so if you’d still like the power of Google search without the tracking, check out the offering at Startpage.
They’ve created a way for you to avoid the tracking when you’re wanting to search for something with what they claim is the world’s most private search tool.
In general, most every search engine is gathering lots of info about what you’re searching for, your location via your IP address as well as which results you clicked on.
All of this get’s scraped away when you use Start Page because they don’t track any of it.
If you want to avoid having your personal information harvested whenever you use a search tool, you can change your default search engine to Startpage by visiting their home page: https://startpage.com
If you're in business, you spend your days, night and weekends looking at your email inbox.
If you just take it as it comes in, it can be like drinking from a firehose, but there are tools that can help you manage it all.
Most companies incorporate some form of customer management relationship (CRM) whether it’s a platform or just paper and pencil, but you can use Gmail in the same way.
The folks at https://www.streak.com have created a tool that allows you to use Gmail as your CRM.
They created this tool because so many people spend so much time bouncing between their Inbox and other programs to stay on top of time-sensitive tasks.
When you add their tool to your Chrome browser, useful templates are at your fingertips for those repetitive tasks you do throughout your workday.
The snippets tool allows you to build a library of commonly written messages to save time when responding.
They also provide mobile apps to extend the power of their platform which you can learn more about at: https://www.streak.com
If you’re like most people, your primary form of communication has gone from making phone calls to sending text messages.
It’s so much more efficient, which is why it’s become so popular and why it’s now another scammer/spammer targeting tool.
Legitimate text messages can come from those that aren’t in your contacts so you can’t simply dismiss any message that comes from an unknown number.
Scam phone calls are also on the rise thanks to robocalling, so you can fight both these challenges with an app from Truecaller: https://www.truecaller.com
It’s a community-based reporting app a.k.a. a crowdsourced database of junk and scam calls and messages from millions of users around the world.
It can also provide some more details for calls and texts that aren’t in your contact database, so you can make better decisions about them.
It’s another company attempting to stay ahead of the bad guys that you can try for yourself at:
The iPhone has become one of the best devices for taking pictures, not only because of the extraordinary technology but because you always have it with you.
Often times the images that you snap with your iPhone come out blurry, which can be frustrating.
Part of the problem is that the actual process for taking the picture can create movement just as the camera is snapping the picture.
Taking a number of pictures in succession can help improve the odds, but if you aren’t holding still while tapping the screen indicator, all bets are off.
There are alternatives to the screen button for taking pictures including either of the volume buttons, which is useful in either portrait or landscape mode.
Those old-school wired Apple headphones can also be used by pushing the volume buttons as well.
The headphones are especially helpful when prop up your phone on a real or impromptu tripod, such as a rock.
This single biggest skill that will have the biggest impact will always be focusing on holding still for a longer period of time.
If the middle-of-the-week doldrums have started to creep in, why not do something fun and entertaining to brighten things up?
An app called ChatterPix may do the trick because it makes it easy to make anything in your pictures look like it’s talking.
It’s really easy to use as you can draw a line in your images where you want the mouth to be, then record yourself with the message you want it to say.
When you’re happy with the talking side of the image, you can embellish it even further using filters, frames and stickers before you share it in all the usual places or just save it to your camera roll for later.
There’s also a limited version for younger kids called ‘ChatterPix Kids’ that eliminates the ability to share the images.
The folks that offer this app have lots of other apps that are made just for kids that can help keep them occupied and laughing at https://bit.ly/3andxgt
Anyone that’s trying to improve their athletic movements has probably seen the expensive technology that pros use to study themselves in slow motion.
Thanks to the incredible technology in an iPhone and an app known as Hudl Technique, you can replicate this helpful process for any athlete.
Coaches, parents or athletes themselves can use the app to study the various motions involved in swinging a bat, golf club or tennis racket in slow motion.
These videos can be shared with coaches or have notes attached if you’re the one helping an athlete to improve their technique.
The ability to place videos on a split-screen to watch for differences in either the same person or compared to how a pro moves is pretty awesome.
There are lots of other useful features in the app that are designed to help anyone looking for those small but significant improvements in their technique to do so.
Learn more at:
The most popular email services live in the cloud instead of on your computer, which provides users with security, data backup and access from any computer connected to the Internet.
Google’s offering known as Gmail is by far the most popular because it’s so powerful and feature-packed.
Making use of all those wonderful features is made easier through the use of shortcuts, which allows you to access them without reaching for your mouse.
Gmail shortcuts have to be turned on in the Settings menu under the General heading.
Once they’re activated, some of the more useful shortcuts start with the letter G for Gmail followed by any number of other letters.
The All Mail view is accessed with G-A or see your draft messages by pressing G-D.
Open contacts with G-C while sent messages can be displayed with G-T.
There are actually many dozens of useful shortcuts for things you’ll regularly use in Gmail, which are listed here:
More and more options exist to add video cameras to our doorbells and spotlights, which is amazing when it works and frustrating when it doesn’t.
The sense of security that comes from having an app on your phone that will alert you whenever the camera or the doorbell sense any activity is awesome, but it relies on having a solid wireless signal from your router.
Common complaints about performance on many of the popular models is often not an issue with the device, but an inadequate wifi signal for streaming live video.
This means that anyone considering the purchase of any of these devices should first thoroughly test the wifi signal in the areas that they intend to set them up.
It’s also important with video doorbells to know if you’ll have power wired to the door so you’ll know whether to purchase a battery-operated version instead.
All security cameras are going to have challenges in the afternoon if they are pointing due West because of the setting sun.
The easiest way to check the signal quality where you plan to install a camera is by putting your phone in airplane mode and turning on wifi to do the test.
Gathering with your coworkers to come up with new ideas or to solve a common problem, whether in-person or virtually means that someone has to be responsible for taking all of the notes for the session.
If you’re that someone, there’s an app that was designed for lots of business uses that could be a big help.
The Microsoft Office Lens app allows you to gather notes from handwritten pages, whiteboards, on a screen or chalkboard and convert everything into a PDF file.
Some of the cleanup tools like off-angle image straightening can seem downright magical when you use them.
Once you captured the notes and images, they can remain images or be converted to a variety of document formats for editing and distribution.
Even if you’re not the designated note-taker, this app is great for capturing business cards and converting them into contacts.
It’s a great app for any business professional for mobile devices and desktops alike:
Android Devices - https://bit.ly/2Z4MzUn
Apple Devices -https://apple.co/3p2WZyw
Windows Computers - https://bit.ly/2yIPfgr
One of the best ways to break out of the pandemic’s “lockdown blues” is to get out and get some fresh air.
Hiking trails are one of the best ways to get some exercise and commune with nature.
Most of us have a few trails that we love and use on a regular basis, but I’m always interested in trails that I’ve never been on to discover new areas.
The way we’ve done this for years is through an app called AllTrails.
With millions of avid users and tens of thousands of trails around the world, the helpful information can help you weed through the ones that don’t work for you.
Whether you want to bring your dog on the trail or ride your bike instead or avoid strenuous options, the AllTrails app and website are my go-to: https://www.alltrails.com
No more guessing about how long the trail is, how difficult it might be, how heavily trafficked it is or how much time it’ll take to enjoy with this app.
It’s really great when you are in unfamiliar areas because it can quickly show you what trails are near you.
If you’re an avid hiker, it’s worth paying for the premium services such as recordings from previous hikers so you don’t get lost!
Our window onto the Internet has become one of the most targeted programs we use, that being your web browser.
It’s at the front lines of our daily usage and will continue to experience challenges on a regular basis.
Our tip for this day also provides you with some ability to troubleshoot issues when you’re experiencing problems while surfing the web.
Whether it’s your primary computer, tablet or smartphone, having at least two different company’s browsers is a smart way to go.
Once you’ve got them available, you can quickly switch between them whenever you’re having a problem accessing the web.
If switching browsers alleviates the problem, you’ll know that your issue is browser-based and can act accordingly to check for malware or a corrupted cache.
When you switch and the same problem persists, you’ll know to pursue connectivity items to solve your problem.
This is a quick way to know which path to follow so you don’t waste time fixing something that isn’t the problem.
We love our pets but too much love can make them a bit unhealthy and overweight.
Today’s tip is for anyone that has a dog that might be tipping the scales.
The key to fitness is activity and technology can help you determine how active your dog is throughout the day.
The FitBark activity monitor is designed to track your dog’s BarkScore.
Why should activity monitors only be for us humans?
Just like with human monitors, the FitBark monitor can provide great insight into your dog’s daily routine.
It’s also a great way to monitor how anyone watching your pet is managing their activities while you are away.
Another great use of this device is when your furry friend isn’t feeling well and your vet wants info on their recent movements.
The value of having more information about your dog’s health and fitness can be invaluable, so check out the FitBark device if you’re interested!
Ever been out with a group of friends having a great time and when things wind down, you end up in the awkward process of figuring out who is going to pay for what?
A generous friend will sometimes offer to pay the bill and let everyone pay him for their share, which is fine if everyone has some cash to cover their end.
But who carries cash anymore? The modern-day solution for this and many other situations where a small amount of money needs to be transferred is an app called Venmo.
Instead of trying to figure out if someone has proper change so you can pay your share, Venmo allows you to pay any amount to others.
It’s such a convenient way to send money to just about anyone because it so easy to use.
There’s no transaction fee to use the service when it’s tied to your debit card, which is what makes it so useful.
This slick service is great for roommates, family group purchases and a variety of other common real-life situations.
Getting Venmo on your phone and set up to pay others will come in very handy: https://venmo.com
When you notice some new sound when you are driving your car, you know that ignoring it could lead to some very expensive repairs.
If you don’t use the same caution when you hear new strange sounds from your computer, the same expensive outcome could greet you.
Generally speaking, any rubbing or grinding sound coming from any computer means that a moving part has deteriorated or is about to fail.
One of the most important items to function properly on any computer are the cooling fans, which also commonly make noise before they fail completely.
What can be even worse is when those strange noises stop on their own and you just go about your business.
When a cooling fan completely goes dead, it will stop making noise and allow severe overheating issues to occur.
Popping, clicking and whirring sounds that are new are all early indications of a potential mechanical failure, so be sure you pay attention when your computer is trying to tell you something!
Our other signs of a potential meltdown are posted at: https://www.datadoctors.com/help/columns/21814
The iPhone has long been known for its camera technology, which is why so many use it as their primary camera all of the time.
These amazing high definition captures have a downside as they take up a lot of space, especially if you’ve had your device for a while.
There’s no doubt that many of the images on your phone are probably junk and can be deleted, but Apple doesn’t make it very easy to manage a large library.
Trying to make a decision based on a tiny thumbnail can be difficult, so if you’re interested in something a bit more efficient, check out the Cleen Classic App in the Apple App Store.
Instead of working with thumbnails, it allows you to view larger images that can be seen in full with an additional tap.
The best part of their management system is that you use simple swiping motions to either keep the image, get rid of it or decide later what you want to do.
When you’re done for that session, simply tap the trash icon to verify that you want to delete them all and bingo, you’ve just freed up a bunch of space for new images and videos!
Download it at: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/cleen-classic/id1334576825
It’s not hard to take having a solid Internet connection for granted these days, so when your connection becomes problematic, it can get irritating.
There are so many variables that can impact your Internet connection and if you don’t know where to turn or what to check, it feels hopeless.
Learning how to diagnose connectivity issues is very helpful both at home and when you’re using a public hotspot.
If you have the Google Chrome browser installed on your laptop, there’s a great free add-on that can quickly check some of the most common causes of connection issues.
The ‘connectivity diagnostic browser app’ will automatically run tests on various items that can be the cause of your issues so you aren’t completely in the dark.
It’s potentially going to generate some technical data that may be a complete mystery to less tech-savvy users, but the information can be essential when you are asking for help from someone more technical.
The link to download the tool is at:
If you’re like most people, your smartphone has become the center of your communication universe, so much so, that if for any reason you don’t have the use of your phone, you feel lost.
Having a phone go missing or become unusable is a very real possibility that we all should be planning for, especially for text messaging.
A little known resource that’s available to just about everyone is the ability to send and receive text messages without your smartphone.
Most carriers have an interface that you can set up to do just that, but it’s important to do it before your phone goes missing or becomes unusable.
For those needing a solution in a pinch, there’s an old website located at http://Textem.net that may be of value for emergency communications.
It’s only usable if you know which network the recipient is connected to and of course, their phone number.
If you haven’t gone through this ‘fire drill’ before, I highly recommend that you figure out how to do it well before you need it.