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!
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
If you have a security webcam setup in your home or business, you’ll want to pay close attention to today’s tip.
A new website recently launched showing live feeds from thousand of webcams around the Internet that it was able to access because of a simple error made by the owners.
They never changed the default password for the device.
Not only does the site show the brand, default username and password and live stream of the webcams, it also includes a map with the approximate location.
The owners of the site claim that they put the site together to educate the public on this common danger.
Every hacker knows the default password for every device you have in your home, so not changing them increases your exposure to outside access.
Remember, any device you can access from outside your home can be accessed by unauthorized users if you make it that easy.
If you don’t know which devices are at risk or how to change default settings, get some help. This one is too important to ignore
If you’re an Apple user, you may have heard some disturbing news last week about an exploit in China referred to as the Wire Lurker.
The malware snuck into Mac computers hiding in pirated versions of popular apps like Angry Birds and then compromised iPhones when they were connected to the USB ports.
The good news is that Apple has rendered this exploit useless; the bad news is, it signaled a new focus on Apple users as targets that’s likely to increase.
For the time being, if you stick to getting your apps and software from Apple directly, you can avoid this type of threat, but don’t take security lightly.
It’s becoming even more important that you keep your Mac computer updated as it’s now a potential attack vector for your phones and tablets as well.
Don’t ignore those update notices from Apple that appear in the upper right corner any more.
Is it time to consider installing antivirus software on your Mac computer?
I’ll address that in an upcoming tip.
Every parent dreams of raising the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg whenever they see their child navigating technology with the greatest of ease.
If you want to see if they really have an interest in computer programming, show them hopscotch.
Not the sidewalk chalk game; the free iPad app that makes creating games, animations and interactive programs easy for anyone.
Your kids can learn the basics of computer programming without knowing how to type because Hopscotch is a visual programming platform.
They can create their own programs by dragging and dropping blocks of pre-written code.
Let’s face it, computer science skills are pretty valuable and if your child happens to enjoy creating things, the Hopscotch app could be the start of something amazing.
Even adults that have a passing curio sity in programming can learn lots from this simple to use app.
You don’t have to be a nerd to work with code, so give it a try at https://www.gethopscotch.com and don’t forget to invite me when your child’s company goes public!
Polls are a great way to get market intelligence on just about any subject, but they can be expensive to conduct.
If your polling needs aren’t too sophisticated, a new free social polling network called Pyne may come in handy.
Pyne is an app based system that makes it very easy to ask or answer questions of random users on the network.
You can create yes/no or multiple choice questions and target specific groups by gender.
If you use Facebook to sign up, you can also limit the poll to just your Facebook friends.
When poll questions are answered, they’re tabulated in graph form. The results are also shared immediately with those that answer.
I tested it with a simple question about antivirus programs and got over 25 responses in a matter of minutes.
Pyne isn’t going to replace in-depth professional market research, but if you want quick feedback on something, give it a shot.
Pyne is spelled P Y N E and available for iPhone and Android smartphones.
I was recently asked by a friend if I knew of an app that would allow him to record phone conversations on his Android phone.
His primary reason for wanting to record calls was for training purposes
My first bit of advice to him was to be sure he didn’t violate wiretapping laws as they vary from state to state.
The best way to avoid issues is to always notify everyone on the call that it’s being recorded.
After testing a few apps out, I found a free app called Call Recorder that did the job quite nicely.
Once it’s installed, a small red record dot appears in the upper left corner whenever you make or receive a call.
If you want to record the call, simply tap the red dot and when you’re done, tap it again.
It logs the caller ID, date, time and duration of the call automatically, and allows you to share the file in a number of ways.
Call Recorder from Boldbeast can be downloaded from the Google Play store.
PDF stands for Portable Document Format and it’s become a standard for publishing forms.
But when you download a form, generally you print it, fill it out by hand and then you have to scan, fax or send it back via snail mail.
You can install special software that’ll give you the ability to fill out the form electronically, but that’s a bit of a hassle, especially if you only need it on occasion.
The next time you need to fill out a PDF form, give a sight called PDFescape.com a try.
Because it’s a web-based app, there’s nothing to install, so you can edit and fill out forms whenever you find the need from any computer you own.
You simply upload the PDF you want to work with to the site and either fill in the pre-defined text boxes or use the Text tool to add text anywhere on the form and save the filled out form on your computer to email it.
Thermal imaging cameras are able to detect infrared light in complete darkness, so you can see things thermally.
We’ve seen a recent increase in devices that can turn your smartphone into a thermal imaging camera but most of them are pretty expensive.
But now, for $200, you can turn an iPhone or Android smartphone into a camera that can see in the dark with the Seek Thermal camera.
The 3 inch device plugs into the power connector on most smartphones and allows you to take still photos or a video in the dark.
The images are very low resolution, so they’re grainy, but if you want to see if something is lurking in your backyard or in a dark alley, the Seek Thermal camera can do the job.
Thermal imaging can also let you can see where pipes are clogged, hot air is escaping around your house or check the surface temperature of just about anything.
If you’ve been intrigued by this technology, but didn’t like the pricetag, checkout Seek’s device at http://thermal.com
One of the more exciting areas in the technology world for me is in the Internet of Things.
Connected gadgets like thermostats, smoke detectors, lighting systems are making do-it-yourself home automation both affordable and easy to use.
One of the more interesting gadgets in the home security arena is a device called the Canary.
It’s an intriguing approach to home security because it doesn’t require you to install sensors all over your house.
The Canary is a single device that has a number of sensors that you place in a central area of your home. There’s nothing to install, just plug it in and connect it to your wifi.
Canary monitors motion, noise, air quality, temperature and humidity and learns the rhythm of your home so it can be smart about alerts.
When it senses something unusual, it notifies you with the option to watch a live HD video stream on your phone to see for yourself.
Canary was crowdfunding project last year and is slated to start shipping soon. Check it out at http://canary.is