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!
If you’re like most people, your smartphone has become the center of your communication universe, so much so, that if for any reason you don’t have the use of your phone, you feel lost.
Having a phone go missing or become unusable is a very real possibility that we all should be planning for, especially for text messaging.
A little known resource that’s available to just about everyone is the ability to send and receive text messages without your smartphone.
Most carriers have an interface that you can set up to do just that, but it’s important to do it before your phone goes missing or becomes unusable.
For those needing a solution in a pinch, there’s an old website located at http://Textem.net that may be of value for emergency communications.
It’s only usable if you know which network the recipient is connected to and of course, their phone number.
If you haven’t gone through this ‘fire drill’ before, I highly recommend that you figure out how to do it well before you need it.
It’s well known these days that using public Wi-Fi can expose you to various security risks, but there’s another lesser-known item that you’ll want to address.
If you use a laptop, it’s possible that every time you connect to public Wi-Fi a part of your computer can be accessed by anyone on the same network.
All of the major operating systems provide an option to use a public folder for sharing items that should be disabled if you don’t use it.
It’s not that others can access the files you in your document folders, but it is possible that they can save a nefarious file to your folder or that you inadvertently saved an important file in the folder.
I’ve run into situations where someone didn’t realize they had files accessible to anyone else in their public folder that someone else may have put there.
Whether you’re using a Mac or Windows laptop, take a minute to close this potential security risk if you haven’t already.
Windows 10: https://www.tenforums.com/tutorials/50179-turn-off-public-folder-sharing-windows-10-a.html
The ability to see things in the dark is possible through the process of thermal imaging.
In the past, unless you had a professional use for these hi-tech cameras, it was difficult to justify the cost, but not anymore.
The processing power of your smartphone combined with an app and a special attachment can inexpensively give you the ability to see in the dark!
A company called Seek Thermal has a series of devices that connect to most major smartphones via their power charging port to provide thermal imaging.
Once connected, you can take pictures or video in the dark to see what the human eye can’t see.
You’re not going to get super-high-resolution images from their system, but if you want to see if something is lurking in the dark, it’s effective.
Beyond the security aspect, these types of cameras are great for seeing where heat is escaping from your home or where your pipes are getting clogged by using hot water in them.
There really quite useful and affordable these days: https://www.thermal.com/compact-series.html
It’s pretty obvious that the Internet can be a very dangerous place, especially when you land on a site that you know nothing about.
Finding sneaky ways to compromise visitors to a rigged website is a standard method incorporated by the bad guys.
You’ll hear lots of security experts telling you not to visit websites that aren’t familiar with, but that’s not very practical advice for today’s Internet.
Fortunately, there are companies that spend a lot of time and effort tracking malicious websites every day and one of our favorites is the website checking tool from Trend Micro https://global.sitesafety.trendmicro.com
They constantly compile information on websites all around the web in a database and make it available to be searched by anyone.
Just copy and paste the URL into their webform and have it check the database for any details that have been gathered.
Beyond the security check, you can get a synopsis of the information on the site before you visit to make sure you know what will be there.
From now on, when you aren’t sure about a website, get a second opinion at https://global.sitesafety.trendmicro.com
The great thing about taking pictures these days is that we no longer have to worry about running out of film.
Despite this freedom, often times a photo that could have been almost perfect is ruined by some background item we didn’t
notice while taking the shot or even worse, a photo bomber.
It can also be something as benign as the reflection off of the glass you had to shoot through and couldn’t avoid while taking that epic shot.
For any and all of the reasons that you can’t go back to recapture the shot, I highly recommend downloading the Snapseed app.
It’s loaded with dozens of amazing tools to help you improve your images, but my absolute fav is the tool known as ‘Healing’.
It lets you take out just about anything in the background of your photos without having to use your computer and fancy software.
You just pinch-zoom to the area of the obstruction then use your finger to erase the unsightly item into the surrounding background colors.
The best part is that you can give it multiple tries before saving to get the image just right.
Get started at: https://snapseed.online
The popular list-making app known as Wunderlist has been acquired and put to rest by the folks in Redmond, Washington, which means it’s time to find a replacement app.
Microsoft is trying to get Wunderlist fans to use their replacement app, but it’s just not up to par.
A while back, I began searching for a solid replacement and found in an app called AnyList.
It provides the same top-notch list-making options but adds some really cool options that I really found useful, like integrating with the various smart-speaker platforms.
This means you can use voice commands t add items to any of your lists.
If you love to cook, the app makes it easy to import recipes from a lot of popular food sites so you have all of the needed items on your shopping list.
While you’re shopping, simply tap an item when you put it in your basket so it goes away or you can share the list with anyone.
It’s a free app with in-app purchasing options and available for all major smartphone platforms at https://www.anylist.com
The pandemic has many of us thinking that isolation is a good time to get in shape with a regular routine, but thinking about it just isn’t enough.
Jogging or even running is one of the first things many consider, so if you are looking for the motivation to get going, an app called ‘Couch to 5K’ may be what you’re looking for.
It’s specifically focused on helping those that have little or no running experience to work their way up to running a 5K.
If you’re willing to commit half an hour a day, 3 days during the week for a stretch of 9 weeks, this app can make it happen.
This isn’t a simple 'ra ra' app to try to motivate you, it’s been created with real personal trainers that know how to get the job done.
While you’re running, you’ll get input to keep you going along with the ability to listen to music that motivates you as well.
Grab your smartphone and head over to https://www.active.com/mobile/couch-to-5k-app to get yourself into shape in a very enjoyable way.
Most of us are used to all of Microsoft’s productivity tools in the Office suite, but more and more of us are adopting Google’s free online tools like Docs or Sheets.
One of the coolest things about these free tools is that you can extend their functionality using a myriad of add-ons.
You can create bibliographies, use music notation, DocuSign, add fonts or even merge for creating labels using these add-on tools.
One of the stark contrasts between Microsoft Office and Google’s online tools are the features, which can be added on specific to your needs.
The next time you’re in a document or spreadsheet, look towards the right side of the menu options for ‘Add-ons’ to get to the workspace marketplace through the ‘get add-ons’ option.
Whenever you add a new add-on, it becomes available for all the Google tools no matter which one you were in when you added it.
The best part is that new add-ons are being created all of the time, so this is one of those options you’ll want to take a look at on a regular basis to discover what’s new.
Clearing out unused or unneeded items is often one of the most common new year’s resolutions.
Much of what we want to get rid of is in perfectly good condition and really just needs to find a new home.
In the real world, larger items are often left on the curbside with a sign that tells anyone that wants it to take it for free.
Not everyone lives where that’s possible so there’s actually an online version of this time-tested way of repurposing your old stuff using the Freecycle network.
It’s an awesome way to keep items out of our landfills and into the hands of others that can really use a gift of sorts.
This location-based community website will help you find someone nearby that can make use of your discarded items and save resources while reducing household waste.
The next time you or someone you know wants to find a home for the stuff they are getting rid of, direct them to https://freecycle.org
Presenting information to a group has defaulted to being done using Microsoft’s PowerPoint, which is often a painful experience for those having to watch.
Keeping your audience’s attention is vital, especially when so many presentations are virtual these days, so we implore anyone having to create a presentation to use a different approach.
A free and much more engaging web-based tool that we love is at https://prezi.com.
Instead of a bunch of text-laden slides, Prezi creates dynamic and graphically pleasing presentations that have a better chance of getting your point across.
Start with any of their awesome templates or import those old presentations from your PPT decks and watch the magic happen.
One of the worst things you can do is create a presentation full of text that you simply read off to everyone watching.
A better approach is to engaging images with bullet point text that supports the concept you are presenting.
Focus on talking to your audience, not to your presentation slides!
Anyone willing to spend the time clipping coupons knows that they can save money, but it can get a bit labor-intensive.
If you’re a coupon clipper looking for a better way, there’s actually an app for that called Flipp.
This app is able to provide savings for its users at grocery stores, pharmacies and lots of very popular retail outlets.
Instead of you searching around for coupons when you need them, the app allows you to use a shopping list that then seeks out the best deals for those items.
It’s really useful when you are at a retailer and want to see if they have savings for you in real-time.
It’s also able to accumulate coupons as you find them so you can easily access them down the road when you need them.
Manually reviewing shopping ads also becomes much easier, because you can now do it in a single app.
If all this sound interesting, you can learn more at: https://flipp.com
The immediacy of the Internet often leads to us posting things without reviewing it, which is when we get a notification from those that want everything to be grammatically correct.
Some of the responses may come across as demeaning and usually completely overlooks what you were trying to say.
Using proper grammar is important, so if you’d like a less overbearing way to know when you’ve made an error, check out the tools at Grammarly.com
They range from browser plug-ins, desktop programs, mobile apps or a simple web tool for checking for issues.
You’ll get real-time alerts of items that you’ve typed that might need to be reviewed or retyped.
For more focused feedback, you can tell the apps who your intended audiences may be for additional suggestions.
They have both free and premium options, so no matter what level you’re at, the input can be invaluable.
Check it all out at: https://www.grammarly.com
Artificial intelligence is a technology that continues to evolve and that includes on our smartphones.
Some newer apps, such as Otter take advantage of the power of our smartphones and AI in the voice transcription realm.
Anyone that performs interviews or has to take meeting notes, even for virtual meetings will love the capabilities of this awesome app.
Artificial intelligence plays a role in this app when it comes to identifying the difference in those speaking during the recordings.
It can distinguish the various speakers and assign a number to each, which can be converted to actual names for the rest of the transcription.
The power of this app isn’t just when you are recording something live as it can do the same with a previously recorded audio or video session.
As powerful as it is, it’s not going to be 100% accurate, but it’s still pretty incredible.
There are free and premium options depending upon your needs, but it all starts with downloading their free version at: https://otter.ai
The new year generally leads to new resolutions and many of them are financially based.
Getting a handle on your future financial situation is a very good way to get started.
Some time ago, I discovered an excellent tool that provides so many useful tools for tracking and forecasting your finances.
The tools at https://www.personalcapital.com makes it easy for you to set up a financial dashboard.
You can connect to all of your various financial accounts and assets to create a single place to see it all.
Planning for your retirement is another option you can use with their forecasting tools, so you can clearly see what it will take to achieve your retirement goals.
Using both their website and mobile app, you can track everything on a daily basis to stay connected to all of your financial items.
Check it out for yourself at https://www.personalcapital.com
Cybercriminals are gearing up for one of their favorite seasons of the year - fraudulent tax return season!
There have been so many breaches that it’s highly likely that the social security info needed to file a fraudulent return before you is readily available to the bad guys.
It’s a lucrative ID theft crime that generates millions of illegal returns every year and this year will be no different.
If you become a victim of this crime, not only will you not see your legitimate refund any time soon, but the hassle of getting to the bottom of the situation can be endless.
Despite all of the breaches of government networks and healthcare organizations, you still need to do your best to protect your SSN from others.
The reality is that so many will become victims for the first time this year, so one of the best ways to avoid this scam is to file your return as quickly as you can before cybercriminals do.
An email address has become a crucial component in today’s digital age as both online and offline companies are constantly asking you for yours during any type of transaction.
If you’re like most users, you simply provide them with your primary email address that you use for everything, which just adds to the junk you have to weed through over time.
Using a completely separate email address is an approach to dealing with this problem, but it also requires you to manage a completely separate account, so why not use the alias approach?
Gmail has an easy to use option that allows you to create special email addresses that are associated with your primary address, which makes tracking which messages came from which interaction you had much easier.
Just use the plus sign and any string of characters in the middle of your actual email address:
Example for tracking eBay transactions: [email protected]
When you start to bifurcate your messages, it’s much easier to manage the incoming messages automatically, by sending them to a special folder or to the trash.
What’s great about this approach is that you don’t have to set up anything in advance as you simply create them as you need them!
Any parent of several children knows the chore of getting them to do their chores can be.
Lists posted on the frig, chalkboards or sticky notes are all common attempts, but there’s actually an app that could make this weekly process more enjoyable for everyone.
You can use your kids fondness for their smartphones and an app called ToDoist to keep them on track of their chores.
Instead of being the parent that has to constantly harp on their kids to get their chores done, the app does all of the work for you.
The free version can easily handle most chore lists and households of up to 5 kids, but if you find it useful, it may be work paying for the premium version.
It’s pretty easy to create individual chores that have to be done every week, then assign them to various members in your family.
It becomes a bit of a game as their smartphone will remind them to get their chore done and mark it as completed so the activity chart gets updated for everyone to see.
It’s also a great way to divide up the tasks in a household full of roommates. Learn more at https://todoist.com
There was a time when our browsers could only show us one website at a time, which introduced us all the ‘back’ button.
Fortunately, browsers evolved to allow multiple websites to be opened through the use of tabs.
All this goodness comes with a cost in memory and performance if you get carried away, so keeping the tabs to a minimum is a good thing to do.
This good housekeeping attempt can lead to accidentally closing the wrong tab with so many to choose from.
If you’re still going through the laborious process of searching the history log to find the site that you didn’t mean to close, this tip is for you.
No matter which flavor of browser you use, in Windows the ‘Ctrl-Shift’ combined with the letter T or in the macOS the ‘Command-Shift-T’ will reopen the last tab that got closed.
This can be so efficient, especially for a tab that you may have opened long ago.
I’ve often used it in succession to open many browsers that I may have closed to get back to some info that I suddenly need.
Give it a try!
Human nature has led to a consistent issue that I’ve experienced from computer users for my entire professional career - knowing they need to backup their data but just never getting around to doing it.
As someone that has been in the data recovery business for a very long time, we’ve seen virtually every scenario of data loss, which can be avoided completely with a good backup.
Ransomware is predicted to grow in scale and sophistication this year, so it’s just another reason to get your critical files protected.
Any form of offsite backup is most critical to protect yourself from ransomware attacks as any type of backup that is connected to a computer when it's silently attacked will also become victimized.
The best backup systems are automatic and bug you if they aren’t able to complete the task and are offsite from popular services such as Carbonite:
It’s not hard to understand how younger children are becoming hooked on using an iPad all day long, but it’s not necessarily the best thing for them.
What they’re doing on the iPad all day long is the most important thing to consider and if your kids are in the 5 to 12-year-old range, the folks at Osmo have a platform you might want to check out.
Unlike other iPad apps, Oslo focuses on using the screen to bring the real world into the child’s interactions.
They’ve devised a clever system that incorporates the camera on the iPad along with a tripod and a mirror to allow the app to see what your child is holding.
With so many interactive options to keep your child stimulated and entertained, this iPad app will improve the quality of the time they’re spending on the device.
There’s a wholly interactive and educational world awaiting your child at https://PlayOsmo.com
Life is full of ups and downs even without a pandemic so our true happiness is tied to how we can each deal with those challenges on a daily basis.
Unexpected situations can easily lead to stress and feeling of helplessness or even turn to depression when we aren’t able to manage them.
An app called ‘SuperBetter’ was created as a way to help its users cope with the anxieties of life through a process they call living gamefully.
When we play games, it causes our minds to focus on positive things like creativity, determination and optimism.
This isn’t just a simple game, it's a science-based approach to helping us all become more resilient and have a better outlook on life.
This approach has been used by millions that have read the book by the same name and through the use of their app.
It’s a new year and a time when most of us are thinking about making improvements to our daily routines, so if that includes you, checkout the whole store at https://superbetter.com