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!
Everywhere you turn, you see people holding their smartphone in front of their face and taking the now ubiquitous selfie!
The word Selfie was 2103’s Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year because of the popularity of taking a picture of yourself with your smartphone.
The selfie has become an artistic expression for a lot of people and if you’re looking to take this narcissistic pursuit to the max, have I got an app for you!
Selfie360 takes the dull boring single flat image selfie to a new level with various ways to create an animated 3d or panoramic selfie.
You can create a portrait selfie that’s an animated 90 degree rotation of your face or a panoramic selfie that shows a 360 view of where you are taking the picture.
If you really want to go for it, you can create a full 360 degree 3D selfie, although it’s technically not a selfie because you’ll need someone else to take it for you.
Once you create your selfie on steroids, you can share it via text, Instagram, Facebook or email.
Selfie360 is free but only available for the iPhone
If your mobile devices are on a data plan that has a cap, keeping your data usage under that cap is vital.
One of the best ways to do that is to switch to the Opera Mini browser for all your web surfing.
Opera has an option to switch to off-road mode which reduces data usage while you’re surfing the web and shows you how data it saved while using it.
Opera does some interesting things with compression before your phone actually downloads the information so it uses less bandwidth than other mobile browsers when in the off-road mode.
In some cases, this compression can actually speed up internet access especially on slow connections or it can cause irregularities on dynamic sites, which is why you need to the option to turn it on and off.
Opera also has speed-dial for your favorite websites; think of it as a more visual version of the bookmarks you’ve always used.
Want to give Opera Mini a test drive?
Just grab your mobile device and go to m.opera.com and they’ll automatically provide you with the proper link.
If you have young children, having a baby monitor of some sort is a pretty standard device.
If you’re looking for an alternative or want something that’s really convenient when you take the kids on a trip, checkout the Android app called Dormi. that’s D O R M I
Dormi is an app that turns any two Android phones or tablets into fully functional baby monitors that work from any distance.
Unlike a traditional baby monitor, Dormi works with wifi or cellular connections, so it can work in the next room or the next county.
You can even push a button to talk to your child if you need to provide a calming voice and Dormi keeps you posted on the battery level of the monitor phone.
The basic service is free and allows for up to 4 hours of monitoring a month or you can get unlimited use forever by buying the app for $7.
If you have an old Android phone sitting in a drawer somewhere, this could be the perfect way to bring it back to life.
Take a quick look at the photos on your smartphone; it’s a big long string of unorganized images that you have to scroll through to find anything.
Some phones have some automatic organization built-in but even then it’s somewhat limited or confusing.
If you want to tidy up your smartphone pictures, check out an app called Tidy that gives you lots of ways to get them organized.
By default, Tidy will allow you to quickly group your images by when they were taken; by the hour, day week, month or year.
You can also group the images based on where they were taken or which app took the picture.
You can quickly start archiving images you don’t really care about anymore and build albums around categories or interests for pictures you do care about.
You can display the images in your albums in columns or a collage to make it even more interesting to look at.
As with any organizational app, the more time you spend working with it, the more organized you’ll become.
Tidy is available for both iPhone and Android users and it’s absolutely free.
Check it out at TidyAlbum.com
Whenever you get a new computer, one of the first things you end up spending a ton of time on, is getting all your programs and utilities installed.
Alternative browsers, Internet tools, file managers, media players, productivity tools and countless utilities are just the beginning of what needs to get installed.
You don’t really realize how many things you need to make your computer fully functional until you go through the hours of downloading and install all of it.
Well, the next time you’re in this situation, I’ve got a much better solution for both Mac and Windows users.
We’ve told Windows users in the past to go to a website called NiNite (that’s N I N I T E.com) and click on all of the browsers, utilities and program they want installed in one neat little automatic package.
And if you’re next computer is a Mac, you can go to GetMacApps.com to do the same.
If you’re in charge of the computers at a business, these sites are huge time savers because you can create a single install program to get all your new computers setup exactly the same.
http://getmacapps.com and http://ninite.com
If you’ve listed to our tech tips for a while, you know that we’re constantly searching for new apps and tools for digital photography.
Since we’re all snapping pictures with our smartphones on a regular basis, the results aren’t always the greatest, so having tools to enhance the images is key.
One of our latest favorites is called Fotor http://www.fotor.com (that ‘s F O T O R.com ) and it’s both a website and an app that’s loaded with features.
You get the usual list of editing features and collage, but one excellent option is creating HDR images.
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and it’s a way of combining multiple shots of the same image at varying exposures into one awesome image.
Now you can take those pictures that were too dark and combine them with those that were too bright to create a much better image.
Fotor also has a whole series of beauty retouching options like wrinkle reduction, blemish removal and teeth whitening and it’s available as an app for all of the major mobile platforms.
Fotor has so many features, it might be the only photo app you need!
If you’re one of the millions that wishes they could play something cool on a guitar but you’re not willing to commit to taking lessons, I’ve got an option for you.
Being able to visualize things is very helpful when you are trying to learn something new and that’s how an app called CoachGuitar approaches it.
Forget the music theory, learning chords and tablature, you just want to be able the strum some lines from Stairway to Heaven or Stand By Me right?
CoachGuitar walks you through how to play riffs from popular songs via videos and an animated fretboard.
It shows you where you should put your fingers and which strings to strum so you can quickly learn some familiar tunes.
It’s like having a virtual guitar teacher on your mobile device
The basic app and lessons are free, but If you really get into it, you can buy lessons for lots of other popular songs.
Coach Guitar is currently available for iPhone and iPad users with an Android version on its way.
If you’re ready to start shredding, visit http://www.coachguitar.com to download the app!
We’ve given you tips in the past on extending the battery life on your smartphone, but did you know that most of those suggestions will also extend the life of your laptop battery?
Turning down the screen brightness is the #1 tip as powering the screen is almost 50% of the drain and just like your smartphone, turn off Wifi and Bluetooth if you aren’t using them.
If you have devices plugged into a USB port that you aren’t using, unplug them so your computer isn’t constantly querying them for updates.
Extreme temperature is the number one killer of batteries, so never turn your computer on or charge it when it’s hot or cold to the touch.
Waiting until the battery has reached room temperature will dramatically lengthen the life of the battery.
You should also avoid using your laptop on a pillow, blanket or any soft surface that might block the cooling vents and cause your laptop to heat up.
And screen savers that display your favorite photos might be fun, but they eat up your battery, so switch to a blank screen for the best results.
Ever want to meet with someone at a mutually convenient location because they are kind of far away?
If you happen to be familiar with the area, you could probably figure something out, but if not, you waste a lot of time trying to figure out where to meet.
The good news is, there’s an app and a website for that! Android users can use an app called Meet Me Halfway.
Just put the starting points into the app and the actual halfway point will be determined with a whole host of possible meeting places.
You can use physical addresses, zip codes or the city to get started and tapping on a pin will tell you if the facility is currently open or closed.
You can filter your results for specific types of establishments so you can hone in on the type of meeting place you prefer.
If you want more details, you can open the location in Google Maps or share the location with the person you’re meeting
Another option is the MeetWays.com website which works for computers and mobile devices.
There’s a component to surfing the Internet that’s known as a DNS server that plays a critical role in getting you to the sites you want to visit.
DNS stands for Domain Name System and it acts like a traffic cop giving your computer directions whenever you type in a web address.
Your DNS settings are generally determined by your Internet Service Provider, but there are some significant benefits to changing from your defaults.
You can increase reliability and Internet speeds and if you’re a parent, you can automatically block adult content or malicious websites for your children.
One of my favorite free services is OpenDNS because it’s fast, reliable, easy to setup and gives you total control over what you want to filter and what you want to allow through.
My recommendation is to change the DNS settings in your home router so that everything in your home has improved performance and protection.
For specific directions, check the support section of the router manufacturer’s website or get some help.
Speaking a foreign language can be pretty intimidating, especially when you are self-conscious about how you are pronouncing words.
Hearing someone else say it properly can greatly improve your confidence, but calling a bilingual friend on the phone every time you want to hear a phrase isn’t very practical.
A site called http://forvo.com is setup to be your multi-lingual virtual friend that can help you pronounce words in over 300 languages.
This crowdsourced site allows people from around the world record how they say things in their native tongue, so even if the word or phrase isn’t in their database, someone will record the proper pronunciation for you.
If you’re about to embark on a trip to a foreign country, you can download the audio for words and phrases you want to rehearse and listen to them whenever you want.
If you need to translate from English first, ask Google to translate it then go to Forvo.com to hear how it’s pronounced!
Now you can go forward with confidence when you order that next meal in a foreign cafe!
If you’ve ever done research on the web, you know that you shouldn’t assume the information you find on a single site is totally accurate.
Finding similar sites to verify or dispute the information you’re researching is one way of validating, but finding those related sites can get laborious.
That’s where a search engine called http://www.similarsitesearch.com can speed things up.
It’s a search engine that focuses on finding sites that are similar, related or alternatives based on keywords, topics and categories.
Just put a website into the search engine and it will bring back a list of sites that are similar ranked by their popularity.
It’s truly a quick way to get a massive list of potential resources for just about anything you’re researching.
You can help the site improve its rankings by giving each suggestion a thumbs up or thumbs down based on how accurate you feel the results are.
It’s one of those resources that you’ll love when you need it, so bookmark it!
Do you find yourself being more productive at your local coffee house than you do in your office or home?
Is it the coffee that makes it more productive or is it the environment?
Well research suggests that it may be the ambient noise that’s making you more creative or productive.
Totally quiet environments or a really loud distracting one can be counterproductive, so the low rumble at a coffee shop may be just right.
If you want to test the vibe of a coffee house on your productivity without leaving your desk, there’s an app and a website for that!
It’s called http://coffitivity.com and it’s simply a way to generate ambient sound that recreates a coffee house, lunch lounge or campus cafe wherever you are trying to be productive.
If you find it helpful, you can even download the Android or iPhone apps to take the ambience with you on your next plane trip.
Some people have posted that they use Coffitivity to drown out the distracting noises in their workplace, but your mileage may vary!
Getting involved in causes you believe in is an important part of contributing to your community and often times, raising money for that cause comes into play.
While all the traditional methods of raising money are valid, leveraging social networks and digital tools can greatly increase your chances of funding success.
One of the sites that’s specifically setup for online fundraising for a cause is called http://razoo.com
Whether you’re raising money as a non-profit, a foundation, a corporation or as an individual, as long as it’s for a recognized 501(c)(3), Razoo can make it easy to get started.
They also charge one of the lowest fees for these types of sites so more of your donations will go to your cause.
They even have the ability to embed your campaign on a Facebook page or a website so you can easily promote your fundraising and get the word out.
Every donation to these campaigns is tax-deductible and if you have an ongoing fund raising need, it’s setup to accept recurring donations.
BTW, It’s also a great site to find local charities to donate to!
Smartphone apps are great, but how many of them have downloaded and forgotten about? How well organized are your apps, so you even remember that you have them?
That’s the challenge an Android app called http://everything.me takes on and it’s a really interesting way to interface with your smartphone.
EverythingMe monitors your usage of apps throughout the day and rearranges them based on the time of day so you’re presented with the apps you use most when you use them most.
It also reassembles similar types of apps in Smart Folders and has a much faster search system when you are trying to find an app.
In the morning, your weather and news apps will be presented but when you hit the road, location specific apps will come around.
At night, more of your entertainment apps will become prominent. It also makes you aware of apps that you haven’t downloaded yet, but could be useful based on what you already use.
It takes a little time to get used to the new arrangement, but I’m finding it to be super helpful.
I’ve always been a music junkie and I’m constantly on the prowl for new technology that enhances or extends the experience.
We all have lots of different speaker systems throughout the house, but wouldn’t getting the same music to play on all of them at the same time be great?
An interesting gadget that’s getting some attention these days is from a company called Beep.
If you didn’t pre-wire your home for music everywhere or don’t have the budget for the Sonos system, take a look at Beep.
It’s a wireless device that plugs into speakers and let’s you synchronize your music everywhere in the house.
You can plug it into an old boombox, clock radio, powered computer speakers or any device that has a standard audio input and then control it from your smartphone.
It’s simple to setup and each Beep device has it’s own on/off and volume wheel, so you can control them individually or all at once.
Beep https://www.thisisbeep.com is a crowdsourcing project, so the device is still a prototype and is scheduled for a fall release, so you’ll have to be patient.
If you ever want to download a YouTube video so you can watch it when you’re not online or if you want to convert a music video into an MP3 file, it’s actually a piece of cake!
There are a number of sites that offer this service, but the one I like to use is http://dirpy.com because its simple to use and really quick.
All you do is copy the Youtube video link and paste it into Dirpy to get a screen of download options.
If you just want the audio, choose the format quality and click the download button.
If you want the entire video, you can choose low resolution to save space or HD to get the 720p version of the video...it’s just a click away.
Once you download the audio or video you want, just put it into your various libraries or sync it up with your mobile devices and you’re good to go.
If you’re about to go on a long trip with young children, it’s an easy way to grab lots of content that’ll keep em occupied for free!
I recently had a friend ask me to help them find an online appointment setting app for their small business, because they were spending way too much time doing it via e-mail and phone.
The parameters they gave me was that it needed to be simple, free and able to allow customers to pay online in the future.
My suggestion? A site called http://www.acuityscheduling.com
If you’re in any kind of a business that requires you to set appointments, having a single place where your customers can book their own appointments can save you a ton of time and Acuity Scheduling does just that.
The basic service is free, but if you want customization or the ability to take credit cards via the scheduling system, you’ll need to spend $10 to $20 a month.
The flexibility and simplicity of the site allowed me to help my friend get setup in less than 15 minutes so that all they had to do was create a book an appointment link from their website.
You can sync with popular calendar apps, create group appointments and it even knows which time zone everyone is in.
You may have noticed that most sites on the Internet these days will allow you to use one of your social media accounts to sign up for a free service.
They present it as a much faster way to get into the site, but you’re exchanging your profile info for faster access to the info you seek.
Many apps will do the same thing and before you know it, you’ve unwittingly given permission to dozens of companies to access your profile info.
Buried deep in the settings of each of your networks is the ability to revoke access, if you know how to find it.
To make it easier, checkout a website called http://MyPermissions.org. My Permissions makes it really easy to find the setting for all the major networks.
Just click the icon for Facebook, Twitter, Google or whichever network you’re on and you’re taken right where you need to go.
They also allow you to sign up for alerts whenever a new app gains access to your profile and offer mobile apps so you can clean on the go.
You’re surfing along and suddenly an ominous looking window pops up and informs you that you’re computer is infected. It looks a lot like a Windows screen, so you click OK on the clean up my computer button and you’re toast.
The program takes over your computer and doesn’t allow you to do anything, but of course they offer to fix the problem if you’ll just tap in your credit card digits.
These very scary and convincing scams are fooling people into paying and we’ve seen a huge increase in these malware attacks in recent weeks.
They use names like Windows Ultimate Booster and Windows Safety Master and if you click on anything, including the cancel button, they still do their damage.
If you see anything of this nature pop up on your screen, don’t click on anything in the warning. Instead, press Ctrl-Alt-Del to bring up the Task Manager and end the process to avoid infection.
If you’re not familiar with this process, we’ve got a link to a step-by-step instructional video so you can sidestep this scam; it’s posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
It’s time for another Data Doctors Tech Tip!
So many legal documents or registration forms come to us as PDF files these days because it’s a universal file format.
But when someone sends you a PDF form to fill out, do you find yourself printing it, filling it out by hand and scanning it back into your computer just so you can return it?
Or have you ever been sent a form to fill out that had lines so small that writing in the allotted space is nearly impossible?
Wouldn't it be great if you could just type into the PDF instead? Well you can with a resource called PDFZen.com
PDFzen is an online resource so there’s no software to install or configure. Just upload any PDF form and you can instantly type into it, highlight text, draw or sign the document and even add comments all right from your web browser.
It can even be used on your smartphone or tablet and there’s no sign up or registration required to get started.
PDFzen, yet another bookmark worthy tip from the Data Doctors!