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!
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
Twitter is an amazing communication tool, especially for businesses, but it continues to be one of the most misunderstood social networks for the uninitiated.
As with any social network, if you don’t really have a strategy, it’s not likely to create much value.
Evaluating who’s following you on Twitter can help you unlock potential value and SocialRank.com makes it easy to do.
SocialRank is a free tool that can provide some intelligence into your most valuable, most engaged and the best followers.
Twitter is for the most part a popularity contest and understanding who’s popular that’s following you can help you strategically extend your conversations.
Location can be a big factor, depending upon the business you’re in, so SocialRank allows you to filter followers by location.
You can also filter your followers by a keyword in their bio, making it easier to connect with others based on their backgrounds.
If you’ve never really thought about connecting with those that are already following you on Twitter, give https://www.socialrank.com a try.
The recent hype over Apple Pay may have created the impression that it’s about to take over the mobile payment world, but it has some significant challenges ahead of it.
For starters, the 225,000 merchants that allow you to use Apple Pay represents a tiny fraction of one percent of the over 9 million retail outlets in the US.
Since Apple Pay only works on their latest devices, a very small percentage of the smartphone carrying crowd can even use the service, so it’s the classic chicken and egg scenario.
Unless Apple decides to make the payment system available to Android users, which is highly unlikely, almost 60% of smartphone users will never be able to use it.
If you are one of the millions that upgraded to an iPhone 6, a new app from MasterCard can help you find retailers that accept Apple Pay near you.
The MasterCard Nearby app is actually available for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone users that want to locate contactless payment terminals wherever you go.
Managing your e-mail is likely to be one of the biggest tasks you deal with on a daily basis.
Lots of companies have tried to find new ways to better manage the inflow, but you have to think they way they do in order to make use of the tools.
Now you can add Google to the long list as they are currently rolling out a new option called Inbox.
If you’re a Gmail wizard, you probably won’t have much interest in this new tool, but if you pretty much let your e-mail manage you, Inbox may be of value.
Inbox will automatically bundle things like promos, purchases and travel in their own silos and provide highlights so you don’t have to actually open a message to get the info you seek.
You’ll also see reminders integrated with your messages as well as a snooze feature for both messages and reminders among other features.
Inbox is currently available on an invitation only basis. You can learn more and request an invitation at http://www.google.com/inbox
Hackers have long used common data files like Microsoft Word and Excel to infect victims, generally through e-mail.
By now, it’s been drilled into your head not to open documents and spreadsheets that come as e-mail attachments unless you’re absolutely sure of the source.
Well now you need to add another popular Microsoft product to the watch list: PowerPoint.
Microsoft is warning of a vulnerability in Windows that would allow a malicious Powerpoint file to fully exploit your computer.
They’ve also determined that this exploit is actively being used, so be on the watch.
They’re working on a patch, but in the meantime, they’ve posted a temporary fix online.
Frankly, I stopped using Powerpoint years ago and prefer the free online tools from Prezi.com...that’s spelled P R E Z I
Not only is it a safer way to share presentations, the templates and built in animation make your information more interesting to view.
I’ve posted the links to both the temporary fix and Prezi at DataDoctors.com/radio
I can’t believe you got caught doing that on video...have you seen this?
That’s an example of a social engineering trick that continues to be used to dupe people via email and social media.
The idea is to get you so worked up over what might be in the video that you let your guard down.
When you get to the site that has the alleged video, you’ll be told that you need to update your video player or add something called a CODEC in order to watch the video.
In your hurry to see this incriminating video, you allow these items to be downloaded and installed into your computer and bingo, you’ve just become their next victim.
Tricking you into installing their malicious software allows them to do just about anything they want and it won’t even be that obvious that you’ve been compromised.
This tactic is on the rise again, so be alert and never install any type of video player update that pops up on your screen.
You may start hearing about Windows 10 as Microsoft begins another development cycle and wonder what happened to Windows 9.
According to Microsoft, they want to let the world know that the next version of Windows will not be an incremental update to Windows 8.
Windows 8 has had such a tough time with both consumers and businesses that Microsoft claims it’s taking a much different approach this time.
At the moment, Windows 10 is a development project, so unless you’re a developer, steer clear of any download offers.
Even when Windows 10 goes into its ‘beta’ phase, avoid installing it.
Whenever you see beta on any program, it’s essentially telling you that the product isn’t done yet and that you’ll be a guinea pig if you install it.
The best estimates so far is that Windows 10 will initially launch in late 2015, so it a long way off.
But now when you hear about Windows 10, you don’t have to wonder what happened to Windows 9, because now you know!
If you spend time in the outdoors as much as I do, you’ll often find yourself in the middle of nowhere without any sort of cell signal.
For the most part, that can be a good thing, but there are times when you’d like the safety net should you get lost or need help.
A new device called goTenna offers an option for communicating with others when your phone has no service.
It allows you to send and receive messages and share your GPS location with others that also have the device. The range can span 1 to 50 miles, depending upon the terrain.
A setting like a ski resort for instance, would likely provide better range than an urban setting with lots of tall buildings.
I just came back from a big music festival where having goTenna would have been a much more reliable way to communicate with friends because the cellular networks where jammed with traffic.
If you want to learn more, visit goTenna.com for all the details.
First it was Target, then Home Depot and most recently Dairy Queen.
Why are so many retailers being breached all of the sudden?
The main reason is because sophisticated hacking groups are focusing on Point Of Sale systems; they offer direct access to valuable personal information.
The Secret Service estimates that over 1000 businesses have been compromised by the Backoff Point of Sale malware and many have no idea that they are infected.
How these hackers are getting into systems in the first place is a huge wake up call for all of us.
Whether you’re a business or an individual, if you are using any type of remote access technology, you need to make sure you secure those connections.
If you’re using remote desktop products from Microsoft, Apple, Chrome, Logmein or other popular companies, you’re being targeted.
The hackers are generally using brute force attacks, so longer passwords, limiting login attempts and changing default ports are just a few steps you should take.
My detailed advice is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
Well, today’s an other decision day for Apple customers as they roll out their latest update called iOS 8.1.
As I’ve previously said, whenever a new update to an operating system comes out, waiting for a while is always the safe play.
Let’s face it, Apple’s track record so for with iOS 8 updates hasn’t been particularly stellar but 8.1 is supposed to change all that.
Various online surveys and feedback suggest that there have been three types of user experiences thus far with those that have downloaded previous iOS 8 updates.
A third that had no problems, a third that had some minor problems and a third that had considerable issues.
So should you download iOS 8.1 today? If you’re a techie and don’t mind dealing with the unknown, go for it, but for the rest of you, give it at least a week to see what happens.
If you’re still on iOS 7, I would definitely hold off on, especially if you have an older iPhone 4s or iPad 2.
If you’ve got young kids or grandkids that you’ll be spending some time with this weekend, have I got something for you!
Wouldn’t it be great when story time comes around and you can read a book that stars your child?
A website called Storybots allows you to customize children’s books starring your child with just a few mouse clicks.
You simply upload a picture of your child to create their character and pick one of over forty books that cover just about any child’s interests and they become the star of the story.
They also have Starring You Videos, learning videos and activity sheets to keep the fun going.
Most of the apps can be used with your computer via the web or through an iPhone or iPad, so it’s perfect for bedtime stories that they’ll be excited to see and hear.
Storybots is kidsafe with no ads, no in-app purchases and no unsafe links in any of their resources.
Lots of the resources are free, but if you want unlimited access to everything, you can become a member for $3 to $5 a month at http://StoryBots.com
By now, you’ve heard of the wildly successful app called Snapchat that allows users to send messages and pictures to others that disappear after being viewed.
You’ve probably also heard that it’s a big hit with the younger crowd and that taking a screenshot of a message or picture renders the self destruct feature useless.
There are times when you’d like to send a message to someone, but the fear of it ever getting into the wrong hands may keep you from sending it.
An app called Confide bills itself as the confidential messenger for the business world.
Whether you’re engaged in a legal battle or in the middle of sensitive negotiations, keeping your message confidential and temporary can be critical.
Confide only allows you to send text messages and you must run your finger over each block to unveil the text underneath, so the entire message never appears on the screen all at once.
A recipient could potentially record a video while reading the message, so it’s still not 100% secure, but it’s a lot more so than Snapchat.
If you’re looking for a way to communicate ‘off the record’ go to http://GetConfide.com
Wearable technology is clearly one of the emerging platforms in the industry, but let’s face it, most of the designs don’t appeal to women.
Smartwatches, Google Glass, fitness monitors and those nerdy hands-free Bluetooth earpieces aren’t going to win any fashion contests.
Once company that is specifically catering to women that are interested in wearable technology is a company called Ringly that is focusing on smart jewelry and accessories.
Ringly’s current wearable device is a ring that connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth and notifies you of calls, app notifications, important emails and text messages with vibrations and light.
The idea is to allow you to keep your phone tucked away but still be aware when important communications come in. Ringly uses four vibration patterns and five colors to alert you to specific types of communications.
As far as wearable technology goes, at $195 it’s a relatively inexpensive device but it’s obviously not for everyone.
There are currently five different semi-precious stones to choose from and they work with both iPhone and Android smartphones.
If you want to see them for yourself, head on over to Ringly.com
We’ve all been there; flight delays, cancellations and overbookings.
When it happens, it can ruin your day; make you late for an important meeting or worse miss it altogether.
At best, you may end up with a meal voucher or a free drink, but that’s because the airlines know that you’re clueless about your rights.
This common irritation caused a group of frequent international travelers to take action, the created a service called AirHelp.
AirHelp is an app and a website that can quickly act as your advocate when the going gets rough.
It only takes about three minutes for them to see if you are eligible for real compensation, so you can make a more informed decision before accepting anything from the gate agents.
Getting compensated won’t happen quickly, but if AirHelp does get you compensation, they keep 25% to cover the leg work they do on your behalf.
If you’ve had a nightmare flight within that last three years and did not get compensation, you may still have a claim, especially if it was an international flight.
Check it all out at http://GetAirHelp.com
It’s always been a bit risky to plug a USB drive that you don’t know anything about into your computer, but now it’s gotten downright dangerous.
Malware and viruses have always been a potential threat from any USB drive but in general, an up-to-date antivirus program could detect and block the threat.
A recent exploit demonstrated at this year’s Black Hat Security Conference exposed a way for hackers to change the firmware on USB devices to hide malware.
This new exploit is basically undetectable by standard security software and virtually unpatchable, meaning there is no easy fix for this design flaw.
Based on this latest news, it’s extremely important that you avoid plugging in USB drives that you don’t personally own and never use a USB drive that someone else seems to have lost.
Think like a hacker for a minute; infected USB drives dropped near college campuses and businesses could make it very easy to gain access to secured systems.
The fact that this new exploit is undetectable requires that we all become very suspicious of any USB drive we don’t own.
Businesses should warn employees and set clear policies on USB usage.
Streaming video has become one of the most common types of content that we all consume on a daily basis.
Most studies show that watching streaming video accounts for more than 50% of all Internet traffic.
Sites like YouTube get 100 hours of video uploaded every minute of every day.
There is so much content available it’s the proverbial drinking from a firehose problem.
If you’re looking for a way to watch streaming content a little more like you watch television, checkout a website called 5by.com.
5by bills itself as a video concierge that will continuously stream video based on your preferences or mood.
For instance, if you’re in the mood to laugh, listen to music or just kill time with random footage, 5by makes it easy because you don’t have to keep finding the next video.
They’ve created dozens of channels that curate high quality videos for you, so it’s a lot more like watching television, but without the commercials.
5by that’s the number 5 B Y is both a website and a mobile app for anyone that wants online video the easy way!
If you come to fork in the road, take it.
If you’ve ever heard or read a famous quote and wondered, who said that, today’s tip is for you.
A nifty internet resource called Quotery.com has done a great job compiling and presenting famous quotes in an easy to use database.
You can search for over 100,000 quips, quotes & proverbs directly or by author or topic.
Whether you’re doing a research paper, working on a presentation or writing a blog, Quotery.com can be an extremely useful resource.
They bill the site as an encyclopedia of wit and wisdom, so its fun just to randomly search the database for interesting quotes.
What I like about Quotery.com vs other quote websites is that they include sources and context around the quote and author.
They even allow anyone to suggest an edit to help keep the information as accurate as possible.
Want to have some real fun? Go read all the rest of the awesome quotes from the great American philosopher Yogi Berra.
You won’t always need Quotery.com, but when you do, you’ll be glad you bookmarked this tip!
The Internet’s an awesome tool for finding comparisons of products or services that you are researching, but what do you do when you don’t know what to compare?
Here’s what I do when I know of a product but don’t necessarily know about any specific competitors.
I simply put the letters VS as in versus behind whatever it is that I am researching.
For instance, if I’m car shopping and want to see lots of comparisons to a Honda Civic, I just type Honda Civic vs and hit the enter key.
I find this especially helpful when I’m trying to find the best mobile app in just about any category. Once you find one app, you can generally discover lots of others that compare with this trick.
This seems to be especially helpful with anything in the technology category, since there are so many people comparing gadgets, software and websites all over the world.
It’s not a foolproof way for everything, but I find that it’s pretty effective most of the time because Google’s algorithm combines the keywords you’re typing with their popularity ranking.
If you work in an office full of cubicles, I refer to it as a cube farm, your computer can be accessed by just about anyone when you step away from your desk.
If you work with a bunch of pranksters, this can become a bit of an annoyance if you don’t remember to lock down your desktop before you leave.
Getting in the habit of using a keyboard shortcut before you step away, can save you lots of grief and keep snooping eyes off your work.
If you’re using a Windows desktop, just hold the Windows Icon key down and tap the letter L for lock.
If you using a Mac, holding down Control+Shift+ Eject at the same time will do the trick.
If you have a Mac that doesn’t have the Eject key, use Control+Shift+Power to lock it down.
All of this is predicated on having a login password setup, which is generally the standard operating procedure at a business.
Mom and dad, you can use this process at home too if you want to prevent a child from using your profile without permission.
Web based email services are great because you are no longer beholden to a specific machine for using email.
Gmail is still my favorite webmail system and if you use it every day like I do, learning some keyboard shortcuts can make it even better.
Most of the really useful Gmail shortcuts start with the letter G followed by a second character.
For instance, if you want to see all mail, you type G A
If you want to jump to your Draft messages, type G D
If you want to get to your contacts, type G C
If you only want to see your Starred messages, type G S and if you want jump to your sent messages, type G T as in senT.
There are actually over 60 keyboard shortcuts that address just about everything you would normally use your mouse to execute.
They can eliminate the need to take your hands off the keyboard, making you more efficient.
I’ve posted a link to all the shortcuts in Gmail so you can print them out at DataDoctors.com/radio
Ok, I admit it! I was a chess nut when I was growing up and I don’t mean the kind that grows on trees.
I mean the game of chess and it’s still one of the most challenging games ever created.
But since I haven’t actively played the game for years, I went on a search for resources that could help me regain some confidence in playing.
One of the best sites that I found was called Chessacademy.com because it presented lessons in a fun and easy to understand way.
If you don’t know a rook from a pawn or you’re a regular player looking to build new strategies, Chessacademy.com is a great resource.
A 7-time world champion joined forces with a couple of tech wizards to create lots of free online video lessons that can teach anyone how to play chess.
Once you feel like you’ve learned enough to give it a go, you can click on the Train option to work with specific scenarios to gain strategic knowledge.
If you’ve ever wanted to become a chess nerd, I can’t think of a better place to start than Chessacademy.com