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!
Keeping our mobile devices charged continues to be one of the biggest challenges in the digital age.
Having the right cable and the right charger for each of your devices means lugging around a small warehouse of cables and wall plugs...I can’t wait for universal wireless charging to get here!
The promise of a truly wireless future is something we all look forward to AND one of the more promising technologies for wireless charging is called WiTricity.
Originally a research project at MIT in 2007, it’s slowly evolving into a technology that we could see all around us in the near future.
Imagine having wireless charging transmitters hidden under desks, kitchen counter tops and the center console of your car.
Everything from our smartphones to our electric vehicles may be recharged wirelessly just by being near a charger when WiTricity based products eventually hit the market.
WiTricity achieves wireless energy using resonant energy transfer based on Synchronized Magnetic-flux Phase Coupling phenomenon; yeah I don’t get it either, but I want it.
You can check out existing products that are being tested and the potential applications for this exciting technology at http://WiTricity.com
To understand how to better protect yourself online, it helps to take a slightly different tact from the norm by thinking like a hacker.
Your personal information is very valuable on the black market, so finding ways to sneak in by tricking humans is a very common plan of attack.
They figured out a long time ago that the best way to get to mom and dad’s information is through your kids.
Enticing your kids to download free games, screensavers, music, movies or programs that would normally cost hundreds of dollars allows them to sneak malicious programs into your computer.
One of the reasons that this is so effective is often times, mom and dad are using the same user profile as the kids and they generally have full administrative rights.
If this is how your home computer is setup, I strongly recommend you make some changes.
Setting up a separate user account for your kids and limiting the rights of that account can go a long way to protecting everyone in the house.
Each operating system is different, so If you don’t know how to do this, get someone technical to help you...this one’s important.
There are a lot of different tools available that allow you to remotely share your desktop with someone else on the Internet.
Most of them require you to install special software on your computer and on the computer that’s remotely sharing your screen.
Other tools may allow the person on the other end to see more than you intended to share, if you aren’t paying attention.
A tool that’s easy to use, doesn’t require any special software and completely limits the sharing to websites is called Surfly.
It’s the perfect tool for demonstrations, helping friends and family or sharing web-based content with a group.
The hosts pointer is shown with a red glow around it and remote users can’t click on anything, so you’re in complete control.
It won’t allow you to share video content, but for helping non-technical people with basic website issues, it’s pretty handy.
Once you setup a free account, you simply create a special web link with the site you want to share and email it. Your viewers don’t have to sign up for an account, they just click on the link you sent and BINGO, they see what you’re seeing.
Try it for yourself at Surfly.com, that’s S U R F L Y.com
One of the great things about taking pictures with our smartphones is that most of them can automatically push the pictures up to a cloud service by themselves.
But smartphones don’t do a great job in low lighting and they lack optical zoom, so sometimes a real digital camera is a better choice.
Some digital cameras now come with built-in wifi so you can push images directly from the camera, but most don’t.
An inexpensive way to add wifi capabilities to an older digital camera is with the EyeFi Mobi wireless SD card, which has been around for years but is still relatively unknown by non-technical folks.
A recent update to the line added an unlimited cloud storage option called Eyefi Cloud for $49 a year.
This seamless photo storage service can essentially give your traditional digital camera the same auto upload capabilities your smartphone has.
It also works with other cloud storage services such as DropBox or can push them to a Mac or Windows computer.
You can check out the various cards, which cameras they work in and where to buy them at Eyefi.com, that’s E Y E F I.com
If you recently turned on 2-factor authentication to protect your online accounts, there’s an additional step you should make if you travel a lot.
2-factor authentication prevents unauthorized users from accessing your account by sending you a text message whenever an unfamiliar device attempts to use your password.
If you’re on a flight that has wifi and you attempt to access your account, your phone can’t get text messages, so you won’t be able to get in without a backup code.
It may not be a big deal for things like Facebook or Twitter, but e-mail is a different story especially if you’re a business traveler.
Go back to where you setup 2-factor in all your accounts and search for backup codes or something that talks about what to do if you don’t have your phone.
Most sites will generate 10 temporary one-time use codes that you should copy and store somewhere in your travel gear.
You can also store them in a password protected text file on your phone or computer or an unlabeled piece of paper in your wallet or purse.
I’ve got links for many of the major sites posted at http://datadoctors.com/radio
Or search “2-factor backup codes for XXXX” where XXXX is the name of the online service
Are you one of those folks that needs some form of noise to distract your mind in order to go to sleep?
I am, so I’m constantly looking for something that will help my mind slow down but not annoy my wife.
My latest discovery is an app called Relax Melodies and it’s the most flexible sound generating sleep app I’ve ever used.
It has dozens of soothing sounds that can be mixed together to create your own customized sleep inducing sounds.
Everything from a running river to a waterfall or the slow waves of an ocean can be combined wit h chirping birds, a crackling campfire or the sound of rain hitting the roof.
Add some ethereal music from a piano or flute and you have the makings of a sleep inducing soundtrack that will help you reach the right state of mind quicker.
Relax Melodies is a free app that’s available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone users and I’m really glad I found it.
In fact, I find myself using it at the office in the middle of the day as a relaxing background.
Sounds good doesn’t it?
I’ve got the link posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
Let’s face it, we’re all slaves to our email to some degree or another. Finding better ways to manage the deluge is a key to staying productive.
One of the concepts that many companies are attempting to perfect is turning your inbox into a CRM tool.
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and it’s the backbone of the offerings from companies like SalesForce.
If you haven’t already found something that works for you, an interesting attempt to turn your Inbox into a CRM tool is being offered by a company called Streak.
It was born out of the frustration of constantly having to switch between the inbox and various other systems to keep track of things.
Streak is a free Gmail add-on that has specific templates for everything from sales to customer support, bug tracking to hiring processes.
It also has snippets which are preformatted chunks of text that can be used to quickly respond to a common interaction.
There’s also an iPhone app so you can use their tools while you’re on the go.
If you use Gmail and struggle with the overload, give Streak a look at Streak.com
If you travel for business, you know that a solid Internet connection is a pretty important factor when you choose a hotel.
Unfortunately, most of us learn about a less than desirable level of speed only after we check-in to our rooms.
Well now, you can tap the wisdom of the crowds with a website called HotelWifitest.com.
The data is collected by users that perform speed tests from within the hotels that are listed, so it’s actual data from the actual hotels.
So now, if Internet access speeds are crucial, the next time you want to find a hotel, start with HotelWifiTest.com.
Just type in the city that you plan to travel to and you instantly get a clear picture of the best speeds in the area.
You’ll get hotels sorted by the highest expected speeds along with other useful data such as confidence levels and whether wifi is free or not.
As a road warrior, you can help the community by running a speed test whenever you’re at a hotel to help build the database.
HotelWifiTest.com is a definite bookmark alert for all you road warriors out there!
If you spend any amount of time working with spreadsheets, you know how complex analysing the data can become, especially if you’re working with huge data sets.
Taking a mountain of data in a spreadsheet and turning it into a graph or chart can significantly improve your ability to understand what you are looking at.
The built-in charts can be very helpful, but if you’re looking for more tools to visualize your data, there are some great online resources to do just that.
One of my favorites is an open-source project called RAW with bills itself as the missing link between spreadsheets and vector graphics.
RAW allows you to drag and drop files, copy and paste data or type the data directly in to get started.
You then choose the layout type you want and map your dimensions by dragging datasets to the various categories.
Once you have the basic data, you can easily customize the visualization to fit your needs or your output format.
Once you’ve tweaked it to your liking, you can download the graphic and use it any way you’d like.
I’ve got the link posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
It’s no secret that social media has become a huge influencer in the daily lives of it’s active users.
Everything from politics, the stock market, global conflicts and average buying decisions can and is influenced by social media.
That’s led to the rise of what are known as social bots that are sophisticated software programs that simulate human behavior.
Some companies use them for automated posts while spammers use them to pollute the networks with junk ads and governments to influence their citizens.
Social bots can also be used to infect accounts and spread malicious links, so avoiding them is a good idea.
Twitter in particular seems to have a large percentage of accounts that are using social bots, which led to an interesting research project at Indiana University.
The Truthy Project’s Bot or Not tool will analyse any Twitter account for signs that it’s using a social bot.
It’s a work in progress and not a definitive evaluation, but before you start an online discussion with a new follower, make sure their not an obvious bot.
If you’re somewhat active on Facebook, you’ll see all kinds of posts these days with the TBT hashtag.
TBT originally stood for Throw Back Thursday when people would post old pictures of themselves on their pages on Thursdays.
Well those pictures you’re taking today, will be a memory for you or someone you know in the future.
We all like getting a surprise picture from the past and an app called Throwback makes it easy for you to send pictures to your future self.
Throwback allows you to take a picture, add a message and schedule it to be sent at some future date up to 5 years from now.
You can also use it to send older pictures that are on your phone and you can send it to as many people as you’d like just by adding their email addresses.
It’s a great way to surprise your friends and family with a memory of the past and it allows you to strategically send them on a special day, like a birthday or anniversary.
The Throwback app is free and available for iOS and Android users
Today’s tip is pretty straight forward and really important to follow… Stop using Internet Explorer to browse the Internet.
For years, I’ve recommended that you stop using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and use either Mozilla’s Firefox or Google’s Chrome for speed and flexibility reasons.
Well now, there’s even more of a reason to stop using the Blue E when you hop on the Internet...security flaws.
Internet Explorer has set the all-time record for security flaws this year with 133 of them reported in just the first half of this year.
All browsers deal with vulnerabilities and security flaws, but Internet Explorer has had 3 times more than Firefox or Chrome so far this year.
One of the reasons that Internet Explorer tends to be targeted by attackers is that they assume you’re less tech savvy and easier to exploit if you’re still using it.
It’s the default browser in Windows, so lots of non-technical folks just go with what came with the computer.
If you’re still using Internet Explorer on a daily basis, you really should make the change for safety’s sake.
If you use Google Maps on your smartphone on a pretty regular basis, like me, you may have missed a subtle but powerful addition to the app.
You’re likely familiar with the icon at the bottom corner of the app, which tells the map to find your current location.
Well, if you have the latest update, right next to it is the new Explore icon which is a really handy feature, especially if you’re in unfamiliar territory.
When you tap the Explore icon, Google will present you with nearby places to eat and drink, watch a movie, catch some live music or popular attractions.
By default, it shows what’s near you within a 20 minute drive, but you get to decide what you consider near you right down to a 5 minute walk.
It also defaults to what is near you and open, but you can change the times to reflect what will be open in the morning or at night if you are doing some planning.
There are a lot of apps that focus on finding things around you, but the convenience of having it right in Google Maps is hard to beat.
Whether for business or for personal reasons, we often find ourselves needing some basic graphic design work done, but it’s not important enough to hire someone.
If you’re design challenged or don’t have any programs that can get the job done, check out a web tool called Canva...think canvas without the s.
Canva is an extremely easy to use, template driven site that’s web-based, so there’s nothing to install.
Whether you need to create a flyer, a poster, a business card, a graphic for your blog, a properly formatted Facebook Cover image or any number of social media related graphics, Canva makes it dead simple.
Pick a design style, choose a template and start modifying the text to fit your needs.
You can upload your own images or make use of their huge library of professional images for as little as a buck a piece.
It’s easy to learn, easy to use, cheap and produces wonderful results...it’s a blogger’s dream tool.
If you lack the vision, skill, money or time to create professional looking graphics, Canva.com is definately work taking a look at...that’s C A N V A.com
Today’s smartphone’s have so many great features but for the most part, features suck...battery power that is.
When you’re on the road and only have a few minutes to recharge, you need to maximize what little time you have.
The best way to maximize a quick charge is to completely shut down the phone while you’re charging.
At the very least, put the phone in airplane mode so that background tasks and power sucking radios like wifi and bluetooth don’t negate whatever charge you are getting.
If you get to your hotel room and have more items to charge than outlets, don’t forget that most of today’s TV’s have USB ports that can be used as a charger.
It may not charge as fast as your regular charger and the TV needs to be turned on for it to work, but in a pinch, it can be a lifesaver.
One other thing to remember, heat is your phone’s biggest enemy. Nothing shortens the life of a battery more than heat, so keep it out of direct sunlight and hot vehicles. and never charge a phone when its hot to the touch.
If you’re a runner, jogger, walker or cyclist you know how much weather can impact your workouts and performance.
Environmental conditions such as air quality, humidity, temperature, wind, precipitation, cloud cover and rain can all determine the quality of your workouts.
With this in mind, the Weather Channel has created an interesting app called Outsider that is designed to help runners by tracking all of these environmental conditions.
The app creates a Run Weather Index and displays both a 48 hour and 10 day forecast along with the index so you have better data to plan your outdoor workouts.
You can also use the app for tracking your workouts, the routes you take, play music and track your stride using the GPS and motion sensor in your phone.
At the moment, the app is free but only available for the iPhone, iPad or iPod touch with the motion sensing features optimized for the iPhone 5.
If you’re an avid hiker, this app can really help you make sure you’re picking the best day to take on that monster challenge.
If you want to checkout this great planning tool, the link is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
If you own an Android phone and use a lot of different apps, you know how cumbersome it can be to accomplish simple simple tasks like taking a picture or calling your spouse.
To use your flashlight, you have to tap the screen to wake it up, swipe to unlock, enter a code, go to your flashlight app, then open it.
This problem is being addressed by a unique accessory called Pressy, which offers a simple solution for all your routine tasks on an Android phone.
It’s actually a small device that plugs into your headphone jack and acts as a customizable button for launching apps and executing tasks.
Once you install the button and get the app, you can customize it to instantly take pictures, turn on your flashlight or call someone on your favorites list.
Each shortcut is executed by a series of short and long taps of the button, so now things like turning wifi or Bluetooth on or off, becomes a couple taps of a button.
The device was originally launched earlier this year, but a recent software update has made it even better.
The link to learn more is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
Weddings are joyous to experience but the runup to the big day is filled with tasks and stress.
One of the big ones is choosing what and how you want to create the gift registry.
There are many options for creating a gift registry, but most of them limit the options to whatever that site wants to sell.
If you know anyone that has recently announced their engagement, have them checkout Zola.com; that’s Z O L A.com
Zola allows the couple to create a registry for products, services, experiences or a honeymoon fund, but the unique feature is that they can be from anywhere online.
They create a single place for anything and everything on their wishlist and manage all the transactions from that site.
There’s even a feature that will schedule the delivery of the gifts, which is great for newlyweds that are moving or want to delay delivery until after their honeymoon.
There’s even an option for group gifting for large ticket items...almost like a Kickstarter for newlyweds.
Zola.com is a fully customizable and moderrn registry with a single checkout, it can do it all for the newly engaged.
The Android mobile platform is preferred by techies that like to tinker because it offers a lot of flexibility.
The openness can also make the platform confusing especially for new users or those that have switched from Apple’s iOS environment.
One way to reorganize your Android devices to your liking is by installing what are known as launcher apps.
One of my favorites, especially for newer Android users is the Aviate launcher from Yahoo.
It’s an easy way to simplify accessing a large number of apps from a single screen, so you aren’t swiping through multiple pages to find the apps you use the most.
It also incorporates some intelligence so it presents you with timely information based on the time of day or where you happen to be at the moment.
When you install it, it automatically collects apps and organizes them in categories such as productivity, entertainment, social and photography.
You can add your own categories, press and hold apps to move them around and put the categories in the order you want.
Aviate has lots of other useful features and it’s free. Get it at http://Aviate.yahoo.com
The Internet has relegated the art of the long form article to the back seat as we all seek instant gratification from short snippets of information.
While that has its value, there are times when you really want to dig into a topic or subject that requires more than 140 characters.
When you find yourself seeking more in-depth information, checkout Longreads.com.
It’s one of the best curators of articles over 1500 words that you can search by keyword or topic category.
You can filter the search results by how much time you have to read the articles that range from less than 15 minutes to over an hour.
Each article is accompanied by the author, the source, the publication date and the length of the article in words and approximate time it will take to read it.
Longreads.com is more of an archiving system so it’s not going to be your go-to resource for breaking news.
If you have long form articles that you have written yourself, you can submit them for consideration to be added to their database.
Consider Longreads.com as another bookmark suggestion for your research needs
Craft cocktails are all the rage these days, but having them made at your local watering hole can get pretty expensive.
If you’d prefer to avoid hipster hangouts and save some money, why not learn how to make them yourself?
You can buy lots of books that will provide you with recipes, but a better way to go is with the huge database in the Mixology app.
You start by telling the app what liquor and mixers you have so you can get recipes for the ingredients you have on hand.
Nothing is more frustrating than finding a new drink recipe only to realize that you’ll have to run to the store if you want to make it!
You can get totally random suggestions or pick a specific liquor as a base to get lots of great suggestions.
The database goes way beyond simple cocktails; learn how to make specialty shots, punches, hot drinks, and even non-alcoholic drinks for the designated drivers at your party.
Mixology also has a complete bartender's guide and is a free app for both iPhone and Android users.
It’s a handy resource for extending your mixology skills!