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!
Take a look around your living room to see how many remote controls you have laying around…it’s a bit much, isn’t it?
Even if you have managed to program everything to a universal remote, how often does it go missing between the cushions or under the couch?
Since you always have your smartphone in your hand, think about how awesome if would be if was your universal remote?
Some of you may already have a device that is equipped with the ability to be just that and you only need the app to make it work.
Some Android devices actually have an infrared transmitter, so simply installing the free Peel remote control app is all you need.
iPad and iPhone users can buy a device called the “Pronto” which will pair with the Peel app to convert them into your remote.
Pronto is a multi-directional receiver transmitter with a range of about 80 feet and will run you about 50 bucks .
It uses regular AA batteries, which should last a year or so, which allows you to set it up just about anywhere.
(Pronto currently only works with iPhones and iPads.)
It’s not uncommon for someone to be left out of group shots because they are the ones that have to take the picture, so today’s focus is on this common problem.
Even if you can get some stranger to snap the shot of the entire group, they’ll generally be unfamiliar with your camera which can end up creating blurry or poorly composed images.
If you own one of the many Samsung Galaxy phones, many of them have the ability to capture our pictures using the front and back camera simultaneously so the person taking the picture isn’t left out of the memory.
If you smartphone doesn’t have this feature, you don’t have to be envious anymore because you can get this feature using the Frontback app.
This free app allows you to easily create images using the front and back cameras so you get a different perspective of that moment in time.
It’s not as easy as having the feature in your primary camera app, but it will allow you to include the photographer in the picture from then on!
Flash memory USB drives have become about as ubiquitous as floppy disks were back in the beginning of computing. At this point, most of us have a drawer loaded with drives that are just too small for today’s huge file sizes.
For those that do, there’s an interesting use for those old USB drives: you can convert them into a dog tag!
Several users on Instructables.com came up with the idea as a high-tech option for recovering a lost dog.
Just create a text file or a document or even a PDF that provides instructions for contacting you should your dog get lost and copy the instructions to the USB drive.
This approach allows you to provide a variety of additional info such as vaccination records, notes on the dog’s demeanor, how it gets on with other pets and even if your dog has a microchip.
Then add it to your dog’s collar and wrap it tight to help protect it from the elements and you’re good to go.
Remember, a chipped dog will need to be taken to a vet to be ID’d, but with a USB drive anyone these days can use it to identify the owner.
The technology that powers voice recognition is improving exponetially as an interface and in the not too distant future, you'll most likely find yourself rarely using your keyboard or mouse.
Both Apple and Google are market leaders in the smartphone category, but a startup in California seems to be substantially ahead of both leaders.
An app known for its music recognition called Soundhound, posted a demo of their extraordinary voice recognition app they are calling 'Hound'.
They are proclaiming their "speech-to-meaning" tech is far superior and based on their demo, it's very impressive.
The demo shows the Hound app responding quickly to very complicated queries such as 'when will the sun rise 2 days before Xmas of 2021 in Tokyo Japan".
The quickness in the video in which it's able to reply to super complicated questions makes it seem unbelievable, but lots of third parties are claiming the tech and the video are real.
If you want to experience the near future of voice recognition, checkout the links I have posted to both the demo and the app download:
A powerful mobile device that has been around for quite a while may become a bit more viable for many users this year.
It’s known as the 'Google Chromebook', which works a lot like a regular basic laptop, but it costs a lot less to own.
By using Google’s 'Chrome Operating System' as well as their suite of online apps, like that that can also be used when you're not online.
Chromebooks can't make use of traditional Windows programs, so they aren't that usable for everyone, but anyone that spends most of their time online could find it to be a decent alternative.
Young children and seniors will benefit from this platform because of its low-cost, simplicity and best of all, it will bypass all the nasty malware that goes after Windows and Mac users.
If you live your life primarily in the cloud, Chromebooks may be worth taking a look at the next time you need to make a change.
Android smartphone users will benefit from the integration between the smartphone and Chromebook apps as well.
Learn more at http://google.com/chromebooks
The popularity of smartphones and tablets continue to grow primarily for one simple reason: apps!
Anyone thinking about creating apps for their organization generally runs into a budgeting problem, so today’s tip is for those facing this common hurdle.
A startup called ‘AppMachine’ has created a platform that allows anyone to simply create mobile apps in a few minutes even without any coding experience.
This simple Do-It-Yourself builder isn’t going to create apps like a professional app builder would, but for those that want to create a truly simple app, it’s worth checking out.
Their site shows examples for musicians, restaurants, athletes, healthcare, tourism and many others. If you have an app idea, this easy approach may be just what you need.
Using the app builder is free but you will have to pay monthly fees if you decide to submit your app to the various app stores.
Start building your first app or learn much more at http://appmachine.com
The awesome blockbuster summer movie season is in swing and ducking into an air-conditioned theater with a tall cool beverage is ab excellent way to escape the heat.
Today we remind you of one of our classic tips that will help when that massive drink causes you to need the loo in the middle of the movie.
RunPee is a free app that lets you know when the most opportune times are to run to restroom during the movie.
Rather than randomly guessing when to go, the app will vibrate your smartphone during slow portions of the movie so you can avoid missing important scenes during your restroom break.
The app finds 3 to 5 minutes of the movie that are less important to the story so you’ll not miss funny, exciting or crucial moments important to the movie’s plot.
Parents will love using RunPee to be pre-emptive with your child’s bathroom breaks to avoid missing anything important.
Runpee provides you with a brief overview of what you missed while you were away, so no whisper updates are required from your friends.
RunPee works for iPhone and Android users and can be downloaded all at https://RunPee.com
We have come to expect a high level of performance whenever we connect to the Internet so when things don’t go the way we’ve come to expect, frustration is sure to set in.
When you don’t know if it’s the computer you’re using, the connection or any of a number of other confusing possibilities such as a DNS issue or a firewall preventing your access can make solving this common problem complicated.
This issue can be even more problematic when you’re on the road, especially when you have a deadline and are forced to use a connection at a hotel or coffee shop with questionable service.
A diagnostic from Google for their Chrome browser can help demystify your connection issues. It’s called the ‘connectivity diagnostic browser app’ and it can be a quick way to diagnose most of the issues that can impact connectivity.
Once installed in your browser, you can click on it and a thorough test is run which checks nine connectivity items and then it lets you know which one may be causing your problem.
Even when you have no idea what the tool is telling you, the info will be useful if you have to call someone for help!
Get it here:
Apple's iPad has always been a wonderful tool for both education & entertainment, but used improperly, they'll tend to keep youngsters from interacting in the real world.
Anyone with kids and an iPad should checkout the Osmo interactive platform which combines the digital world and the physical world using the iPad as a base.
It provides educational game play by using physical items that will interact with the app which extends the activities outside of the physical iPad.
The basic components of the platform are the stand and a plastic cover with a mirror in it, which sits over the iPad's front-facing camera. This is what allows the app to see items on the surface directly in front of the iPad's display.
The startup kit offers various activities ranging from word games to puzzles, but I really like the Masterpiece activity.
Think of it as a 'virtual lightbox' allowing young aspiring artists to trace out items displayed on the screen to the paper right in front of the iPad.
The Osmo platform is for kids six or older, with all the details at https://PlayOsmo.com
What are the chances that you’ll do something really worth remembering today?
That is the question that the ‘1 Second Every Day’ app is designed to make you answer.
It was inspired by a gentleman named Cesar Kuriyama who decided to record a year-long trip by simply recording 1 second of video each day.
When he completed the compilation, it allowed him to easily recall lots of moments of that year that for most of us would just drifted away.
It may sound a little crazy at first, but it can be an awesome way to document a the many events in your life in a way that is a lot easier to digest.
Simply viewing a one second video can easily take you back to an entire day of memories.
Anyone going on a summer vacation will find this an easy way to record what you did each and every day in a short but enjoyable video form.
It’s essentially a way to make a short documentary video that you will most fully appreciate.
Checkout the original video that inspired the app and download it as well at: 1secondeveryday.com
One of the many ways that today's Internet has become so dangerous to use is because of something called 'scripts'.
Scripts are essentially good technology, something like a macro in a word processor. It's just a simple list of commands that will automatically run when you visit certain websites.
These helpful scripts range from creating animations to delivering ads, but unfortunately, they are also used to tell your computer to run dangerous commands, silently in the background.
A solid way to avoid becoming the victim of rogue scripts is to install a popular Firefox add-on called NoScript.
'NoScript' stops any script from running unless it is being generated at a trusted website that you have confirmed is OK, which allows you to slowly customize the tool.
Many scripts are helpful and need to be run in order for specific functions to properly work, so the add-on puts you in ultimate control over when and if they run.
Keep in mind, the NoScript add-on is an open-source free tool, so it will require you to spend the time so you understand how it works, but from a security standpoint, it is time well spent.
Learn more at https://noscript.net
Anyone that's used their iPhone for a while is likely to have an enormous number of old pictures on their camera roll.
And it's also likely that a good percentage of those images are useless or meh images that you really don't want, but you have not taken the time to delete them.
As brilliant as the iPhone may be, getting rid of a lot of images on it really isn’t very easy when you're needing to see them with more than just a thumbnail.
An app for iPhones called 'Cleen', makes the task of getting through the camera roll to delete unwanted images a lot faster.
This free app shows the images in full size and uses swiping gestures to efficiently determine what you want to do with each image.
You will swipe up when you want to keep them, down when you want to delete them and to the left when aren't sure what you want to do putting it into a 'do-it-later' queue.
When you are done with a session, you just tap the trashcan to delete them all the junk at once!
Google Maps is an obvious go-to when you're connected to the Internet and a lot less useful when you aren’t.
If you happen to know where you are going to be and you know it won't have access, you can in advance download offline maps, but that doesn't help if you don't.
If you know you'll be in this situation frequently, the 'Maps.me' app will allow you to have offline maps for entire countries or regions which will provide detailed info when you're not able to get online.
As with all mapping apps, it provides basic directions from your location to the destination of your choice without any type of signal.
It's an excellent electronic version of those old-school paper maps without dealing with the ‘get it folded back properly’ problem.
With over 300 countries and islands available in the app, it’s a really helpful app for any international travelers.
It different from Google Maps functionality, so be sure to play with it before you get to your destination.
The free app works with Android and iPhone handsets, so check it out at: https://maps.me/download
Basic smartphone-based translation apps have been around for years but my all time favorite has always been 'WordLens' because it could visually translate words through your smartphone camera.
Google acquired the company quite a while ago and they did 2 things that I really like: they made it free and they incorporated it into the powerful 'Google Translate' app.
This one app can provide visual word translations as well as handwriting and spoken translations.
Beyond using your phone's camera to perform real-time word translations, you can use your mic to translate speech or use the handwriting recognition and keyboard to translate what you want to say.
As translation goes, it isn't perfect and will always work best with short phrases, but it's incredibly helpful, nonetheless.
The instant translation works with a varitey of languages including English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish any many more languages that will help you navigate foreign lands.
Anyone planning to visit a foreign country this summer should download and practice using the most current version of the Google Translate app before you head out on your adventure!
Reminders from our smartphones have become a critical component of our daily lives, but most users seem to set reminders based on time only.
I find that setting reminders more based on a location comes in very handy as well.
For example, iPhone users can ask Siri to ‘remind me to buy air filters when I am at Home Depot’ provided they have a ‘Home Depot’ address set up in their address book.
For you Android user, you can ask Google Now to do the same thing, but because it is highly integrated with ‘Google Maps’, you won’t necessarily have to have the location in your address book.
If you set a Home Depot reminder and choose ‘any location’, you will get a pop-up notification when you enter any Home Depot, which is much more useful.
iPhone smartphone users can also use Google Now through the Google Search app, if they want to use location reminders for locations outside of what’s in their address book.
If you’ve never used location-based reminders, when you do, you will wonder how you’ve ever lived without using them.
We have all seen useful video captured by dash cams that are in taxis, police cruisers and even from citizens that have them in their cars.
These videos can be very handy in many instances, but they can be expensive or complicated, but did you know that you could use your Android phone?
Using the DailyRoad Voyager app turns Android smartphones into a dash cam, provided you install a mount for your phone as well.
Once the app is activated, it will auto-record everything right onto a SD expansion card, but then only critical events will be saved for future reference.
You choose those critical events by simply touching the screen, which is very handy should you ever get in an accident or are a witness to an accident.
The app can also auto-tag locations for photos and videos and when you’d like to share various travel videos with others, you can simply upload them to the DailyRoads website.
There are other potential uses that you may find interesting at: http://DailyRoads.com
Inexpensive and easy to install home automation devices were everywhere once again at this year’s CES with many more companies promoting their special systems.
It’s no doubt that low-cost and the easy to install options can be very interesting, choosing a limited platform can cause integration problems down the road.
Anyone that’s seriously considering any Do-It-Yourself home automation devices should look for platforms with open standards that support a large variety of gadgets that are on the market.
I continue to favor the SmartThings platform because they’ve created a more open system that also works with lots of different popular automation devices including Phillips Hue lightbulbs and Belkin WeMo devices.
Another benefit to the platform is that anyone who’s using it can create custom uses and share it with the rest of the SmartThings community.
But be warned: all of these automation devices work off of your wireless network, so it is essential to setup security protocols on your wireless network before you begin to add devices.
Learn more about the SmartThings platform at http://www.smartthings.com
If your vehicle begins generating strange noises, you’ll be sure to pay attention, right?
If you said yes, then you should start doing the same with your computer as those new noises could be a big warning that your device is about to meltdown.
No matter if it’s a grinding, whirring and/or buzzing sound, it is most likely the sign that one of your computer’s moving parts is beginning to wear out.
For example, your cooling fans are a common point of failure and when they stop making noise, it generally means the fan stopped spinning altogether, leading to a meltdown.
Heat is a primary threat to any of your electronics, so when cooling fans to stop spinning it’s the equivalent to your car’s radiator being empty while the motor is running.
If you should ever hear a clicking sound, and your computer won’t start up, your first reaction should be to immediately shut it off and seek help. Most clicking sounds coming from your computer could mean your hard drive is failing.
Trying to repeatedly restart a clicking computer in an effort to try to get it to work can often cause irreparable damage. This type of damage often leads to permanent data loss, so you should be extra careful when you hear any clicking sound.
Checkout more of our tips on noises at https://www.datadoctors.com/help/columns/21814
Anyone investigating investment strategies knows that the Web is an endless bucket of advice that can range from just tossing darts at a list to sophisticated algorithms that claim to track millions of variables.
If you’re still in search for a reliable resource, have you thought about tracking what billionaires do with their investments?
Well, the ‘iBillionaire’ app does just that; it analyzes the investment portfolios of many famous billionaires like Warren Buffett and Carl Icahn.
It can provide insights into investment strategies used by leading hedge fund managers as well, which can help you confirm your strategies or learn new approach with a different stock invested in by the billionares every day.
These investment strategies are primarily based on the ‘billionaire index’ which was created back in 2013.
If you’re looking for better investment decisions by gleaning from successful billionaires, you should checkout the free iBillionaire app.
If you’d like to compare your portfolio to the world’s wealthiest investors, you can download the app for iPhone and Android smartphones from their associated app stores.
As a travel buff, I’m constantly searching for useful travel apps, so when my wife says she has discovered an amazing travel app, I sit up and listen.
My spouse is a very detail oriented trip planner and most of my past suggestions for apps feel flat for her.
The app she discovered is called ‘Trip Rider’ and if it impressed my in-house travel agent spouse, I knew that I should take a look.
The app is designed to track and store every possible detail of our travels in one place but remains flexible, which makes changes to your itinerary an easy thing to handle.
If you add simple notes before, during and after your trip, the app easily creates a travel journal of your adventures.
It also includes a digital wallet for your important travel documents, like ID cards, passports & credit cards.
Even if you’re an occasional traveler, the http://triprider.com app is awesome.
One of the most common things we hear these days is "damn auto-correct"!
It's one of those love-hate situations with autocorrect, but this tip may help see it more from the 'love' side of the ledger.
Did you know that you can 'hack' your autocorrect to turn it into your own personal shorthand. which is very useful for commonly used chunks of text.
For instance, you can add your address to your autocorrect databases by using abbreviations, such as ADRS as your shortcut.
Once added, you simply type ‘adrs’ and tap the space bar which will cause your address to suddenly pop-up with a minimum of keystrokes.
Every device using autocorrect from your word processor to or your smartphone, can be hacked to make them much more useful.
There's realistically no limit to the number of hacks that can be added, as long as you remember to not use any real words as your shortcut.
Bonus Tip: Use numbers & letters to create shortcuts that aren't real words!