Data Doctors Tech Tips
Tech Tips for Non-Tech People
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The Internet’s filled with websites that claim to know the best day and time to book airline travel, but it’s much too complex to be that simple.
If you generally plan your trips in advance, checkout the website and app from a company called Hopper.
Hopper helps you with tips on the best time to shop, buy and fly a specific route.
The website lets you run reports to lookup what a good deal is for any trip you’re considering before you start shopping and if you’re flexible, drill down to the best days to fly.
Their data mining also predicts whether prices are likely to go up or down and which airlines are generally the cheapest for your route.
The iPhone app will monitor your desired trip and constantly check prices to find great deals and can notify you the instant you should buy.
If you looking for better information before you book a flight, checkout http://Hopper.com for the app and a link to their travel reports
A couple of weeks ago, you heard all about the new Apple Watch from Tim Cook and his gang.
Despite all the hype, there was something much more important announced at that event that didn’t get nearly enough recognition: the ResearchKit app platform.
Apple decided to help the research community by making it easy for anyone with an iPhone to volunteer to be part of a research study.
Apparently, it’s not uncommon to be limited to 20 or 30 subjects in many research studies and this new platform is already paying dividends.
Stanford University cardiovascular disease research is one of the first 5 apps to launch and in the first day, they had 11,000 people sign up to be part of the study.
According the Stanford, it would have taken 50 medical centers a year to sign up that many participants.
The apps are currently targeting Parkinson's, diabetes, asthma, breast cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
iPhone users can search for ResearchKit in the App Store to learn more.
Today’s tip starts with a quick explanation of some geek speak: word cloud
A word cloud is a visual representation of a large amount of text, with the most prominently used words in larger fonts or special colors.
Word clouds are a great way to quickly extract important themes in large bodies of text.
For instance, if you’re a business that asks for feedback from your customers, instead of having someone manually review each one, you could use an online word cloud generator to mine the data for you.
One of my favorite sites is http://tagcrowd.com because it allows you to mine data in a number of ways.
Simply dump all the text into a single file and don’t worry about the formatting.
You can copy and paste the text directly into the site, upload a text file or document or even analyse any web link in a flash.
It’s great for presentations and meeting, so try it for yourself at TagCrowd, that’s T A G C R O W D.com
If you own an older Apple Macbook Pro and you think you’ve been seeing weird video issues, you may not be imagining things.
Apple recently announced a free repair program for owners of various MacBook Pro models that range from 2011 to 2013.
Symptoms of the problem can include distorted video, no video, or unexpected system restarts due to the known problem.
If you purchased a MacBook Pro in those years, you can check to see if your unit is covered by entering your serial number in their online check for coverage tool.
Or, if you paid Apple to have these specific repairs performed in the past, you may be eligible for a refund.
Even if you aren’t currently experiencing the issues, taking a minute to see if your laptop is likely to have the issue down the road would be prudent.
The affected systems are for MacBooks with either a 15” or 17” display only.
I’ve got the link with details and to check coverage posted at https://www.datadoctors.com/radio
Raise your hand if you hate all of the complexity and problems with conference calls, especially if you’re on your smartphone.
Me too and that’s why I’ve been trying to convince anyone attempting to hold a conference call to make a change.
I discovered a site called UberConference.com a while back and they just keep getting better. BTW, they have nothing to do with the Uber car service.
No more pin numbers, no more beeps every time someone joins or exits and no trying to guess who’s on the call or who’s talking because it’s all visually on your screen.
As the organizer, it’s easy to mute someone’s line if they put you on hold and subject everyone to their hold music.
Session recordings, screen sharing and a host of other awesome features make having web and phone conferences so much better for everyone.
Basic service is free and allows up to 10 callers, while the pro version allows up to 100 callers and costs $10 a month.
Learn more at UberConference.com
Apple Pay, the mobile payment system introduced last year continues to gain traction with retailers and banks, but it’s still got a long way to go.
You may have also heard various Apple Pay Fraud allegations in the news lately, which needs some explanation.
The security used by Apple is about the best we’ve ever seen and these stories may imply otherwise.
The fraud is actually occurring when thieves sign up for Apple Pay IDs with stolen credit cards, not by compromising the Apple Pay system itself.
Apple wanted to make using Apple Pay frictionless, so getting an account setup from a valid iTunes account is dead simple and the weak link that the thieves discovered.
This poses no direct threat to anyone that uses Apple Pay, because no one is hacking the system.
Banks are the ones at risk for this type of fraud, which is likely to change the initial authorization process itself.
Hacking Apple Pay directly is technically pointless, so don’t let the headlines keep you from using it.
Weak passwords continue to be one of the primary ways that hackers gain access to private and secured accounts.
It’s made even worse by the common practice of using the same password on many online accounts.
The only way to make sure you’re using strong unique passwords is to use a password manager; there’s just no way for you to remember them all yourself.
If you still haven’t found a password manager that you feel is secure enough, the folks at Intel are throwing their hat in the ring.
Their soon-to-be-available app called True Key incorporates lots of extra security features such as multi-factor authentication, trusted devices, facial and fingerprint authentication.
By making you your ultimate password, they’re trying to make things both easier and more secure.
The basic version will be free and allow you to manage up to 15 accounts and work on just about any type of computer or mobile device.
The recent announcement of HBO Now as a stand-alone streaming service may cause even more people to think about cutting their cable bill and going strictly to streaming television content.
Initially, you’ll need some type of Apple device to make use of the $14.99 a month HBO subscription, but that’ll change very soon as more options roll out.
If you’re paying for a cable or satellite service just because of HBO, it may seem like your ship’s come in, but you should do the math to make sure.
Once you add the cost of a stand-alone Internet service with online streaming accounts like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Sling TV and HBO Now, you may find the total creeping higher than you thought.
Cable and satellite providers aren’t going to go quietly in the night, so you can also count on them getting creative in order to keep their customers.
For now, take a few minutes and use the Cord Cutters Calculator at Slate.com to see if dropping cable TV and paying for streaming services really is going to save you money.
If you’re the parent of a child in a higher level math class, you’ve probably run into the situation where they’ve asked for help on a complex math problem.
If you’re looking for a little help in explaining how to solve complex math equations, checkout an app called PhotoMath.
PhotoMath uses your smartphone’s camera to scan a math problem, attempt to solve it and then it shows you step by step how it was solved.
Most people think about how students will use the app to cheat on their homework, but the same was said about the calculator when it was introduced.
The app can certainly be used to cheat, but it’s been designed as a learning tool to teach how things are solved.
Remember, anyone can use Wolfram Alpha to solve the same math equations, without the explanation on how it was solved.
Cheaters are going to cheat, so don’t let that keep you from making use of this wonderful teaching tool at http://PhotoMath.net.
If you’re on the creative side and own an iPad, you might want to checkout a pretty solid app called Paper.
Paper by Fifty Three is a simple but powerful app that allows you to Sketch, Write, Draw, Outline, and Color.
It does a great job allowing you to use your iPad like you would a piece of paper.
You can use your finger to draw and write or get their optional Bluetooth smart stylus with pinpoint accuracy for the serious artist.
What really sets this app apart from other sketch apps is its simplicity; it kind of works how you think, so it’s pretty intuitive.
You can also leverage their community of creators to find existing templates so you don’t have to start from scratch for your next project.
The Paper app is free and the Pencil stylus sells for $60.
You can get the app and see examples of what others are doing with the app at http://FiftyThree.com ; that’s 53 spelled out, not the numbers.
Booking flights, especially multi-city trips can be extremely time consuming if you want to find the best fares.
It’s not unusual to spend many hours over several days to really find the best flights, especially international flights.
On a recent booking, I decided to try out a service called FlightFox that claims that they have flight hacking experts.
They charge $49 for a single city trip and I wanted to see if they were able to find anything I couldn’t.
You start by describing your trip; destination, dates, flexibility and any other details that will help your expert understand what you’re looking for.
Within an hour, John was engaging with me through the website to drill down on the details.
He clearly found everything I was able to find with my hours of research and some options I hadn’t considered.
In the end, it was clear that they are very thorough and would have saved me more than $49 worth of my time.
See how it all works at http://FlightFox.com
For most of us, our smartphones have become our music players and our navigation systems in our cars.
Having your phone in the proper position to be of use is much safer than fumbling around with it while you’re driving.
An interesting option for positioning your phone on your dash is the AirFrame from Kenu.com.
It’s a lightweight holder that clips to just about any air vent on your dash so that it’s in a better line of sight for navigation and music.
There’s no need for adhesives, suction cups, magnets or special cases and it adjusts to hold just about any size phone, even with a case
The AirFrame costs $25 to $30 depending upon the size of your phone and it’s available at http://Kenu.com; that’s spelled K E N U.com
Keep in mind that if you’re blowing hot air through the vents, it can overheat your phone, so I wouldn’t recommend using it in those situations.
And remember, no texting while you’re driving!
Your wireless router is your primary line of defense against Internet threats, because it prevents the outside world from having direct access to your computers.
Unfortunately, most of you haven’t addressed a major security issue because you’ve left the administrative password at the factory defaults.
I’m not talking about your wifi password, I’m talking about the username and password that allows you to make changes to the router.
Every hacker knows every password for every router on the market through sites like http://www.RouterPasswords.com and now a new threat has emerged.
Security researchers have discovered a new attack that’s sent via e-mail that allows cyber-thieves to sneak into routers that are still using the default password.
Once they’re in, they change the settings so that they can monitor all your activity and steal online credentials for any of your online accounts.
The bad news is, your security software can’t detect this type of exploit.
The only protection is to change the default password, so if you don’t know how, get some help.
Spring training is underway which signals the start of the upcoming baseball season.
If you have kids, they’re likely to play t-ball, baseball or softball at some point and dream of being on a baseball trading card when they make it to the big leagues.
Well, you don’t have to wait for them to get signed to a big contract if you get the Rookies personalized baseball card app.
You just snap a picture, pick the colors and add some text to their retro templates and in no time flat, your kids have their own virtual baseball cards to share online.
You can also have a wax paper sealed pack of cards printed so they can trade their own rookie cards in real life.
By the way, it’s a pretty cool thing for baseball fanatics of all ages.
At the moment, the Rookies app is only available for the iPhone but an Android version is coming soon.
You can learn more and download the app at http://Rookiesapp.com.
Thanks to voice recognition technology like Siri, we’re all spending a lot more time literally talking to our phones.
We can ask our phones all kinds of things and get the information we need and now you can even have your phone tell you how you feel.
An app called Moodies claims it can listen to you speak for 15 seconds and give you a general impression of how you feel.
Their website says: “Based on 18 years of research into the science of emotions, Moodies analyses and presents the current emotional state of speakers in real time, as they speak”.
It presents you with the primary mood, secondary mood and overall general mood group.
I’ve taken it for a couple of test drives and it’s pretty interesting to see what the app does, but I’m not quite ready to rely on it to determine the mood of my wife or co-workers.
Moodies is spelled M O O D I E S and it’s available for both iPhone and Android users
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.