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’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!
Having the ability to remotely access your office or home computer from anywhere in the world is an extremely handy option to have setup.
For the past 10 years we've recommended a great product called LogMeIn because it was simple, secure and best of all it was FREE.
That’s right I said WAS free because they've decided to drop the free service in hopes of converting you to a paying customer.
If you like the service and feel like the additional features you get with a paid account is worth the $99 per year, you’re all set.
For the rest of you, if you want a free remote access alternative because you don’t use it enough to justify the cost, check out TeamViewer.com.
Teamviewer works with Windows, Mac and Linux systems and the commercial version is used by many tech support companies, so it’s very flexible and powerful.
If you’re the go to IT person in your friends and family circles, this tool makes helping them so much easier!
Whether you’ve been a long time LogMeIn user or you've just been thinking about adding the convenience of remote control, checkout Teamviewer at http://www.teamviewer.com/
If you’ve ever been tasked with the chore of transcribing a recorded interview or voice message on your computer, you know how inefficient things can get.
You have to open multiple programs and bounce back and forth to start and stop the audio in order to properly capture all of the words.
Whether you have to do this on a rare occasion or on a regular basis, I’ve got an awesome free utility for you to bookmark.
It’s called oTranscribe.com and it’s brilliantly simple.
Just upload the sound file to their web interface and suddenly, everything you need to get the job done is in one place.
The online word processor has the sound controls built right into the page and all of the commands can be used with just your keyboard.
Want to start and stop the audio? No need to reach for the mouse, just tap the Escape key. Need to slow down or speed up the audio to match your typing speed? No sweat!
http://otranscribe.com - bookmark this one!
We’ve all come to expect a certain level of performance when we use the Internet and when things don’t work the way we expect them to, frustration sets in.
Not knowing whether it’s your computer, the Internet connection itself or some other confusing technical term like a DNS server or a firewall blocking access makes solving the problem complicated.
This can be especially problematic on the road, when you need to get work done via a hotel or coffee shop wifi connection that’s just not working for you.
That’s where a free diagnostic tool for Google Chrome can be a big help. The connectivity diagnostic browser app is a quick and simple way to do what it suggests: diagnose all of the items that impact your connectivity.
Once you install the app, just on click it and an extensive test is run to check 9 different connectivity items and lets you know if any of them is causing your problem.
Even if you don’t understand what its telling you, the information can be very useful when you call someone for help!
Last week, I explained why it’s so dangerous to use the same password on multiple sites, but this always leads to the question of how the heck can I remember so many passwords?
The answer is you can’t, you need to use some form of password manager to create long, secure passwords for each of your online accounts.
Password managers are designed to create and manage all your passwords across all your devices and websites in a secure manner so all you have to remember is one password.
They all have password generators, auto form fillers, encrypted storage of your passwords, 2 factor authentication and integrate with your browsers and mobile devices.
Password managers can get a little complicated to initially setup for non-technical folks, but once its setup, they’re pretty simple to use.
One of my personal favorites is from LastPass which comes in both free and premium versions. Start with the free version and pay the $12 a year if you wan the premium features.
This issue is too important to ignore, so get help setting it up if you need it.
It’s time for another Data Doctors Tech Tip!
Data breaches are nothing new and pre-date computers; there are news articles from the late 1800’s about thieves stealing important records.
Where there’s data, there are thieves and 2013 was one of the worst years on record for the volume of records exposed by data breaches.
It’s extremely important to understand that if any of your accounts are ever breached, you can never use the associated password ever again.
Hackers long ago started compiling huge databases of stolen passwords, because they know how many people use the same password on multiple sites.
Whenever they go after targets, they don’t have to start by guessing, they just simply check to see if the hashed password exists in the stolen password database.
If you aren’t sure if any of your accounts have ever been breached, there are couple of websites that we’ve posted at DataDoctors.com/radio that will allow you to a quick check based on your e-mail address or username.
Keeping track of lots of complicated passwords is hard, so on Monday, I’ll share some tips on how to securely manage lots of passwords!
USB drives are about as common as floppy disks were back in the day and if you’re like most people, you have a drawer full of older units that are just too small for today’s huge file loads.
If you do, here’s an interesting way to repurpose those old USB drives: turn them into a dog ID tag!
A user on the Instructables.com website came up with the suggestion as a high-tech way for a lost dog to be easily identified.
Simply create a text file, word document or PDF file that contains your preferred way to be contacted in the event your dog gets lost and copy it to the USB drive.
Unlike a standard tag, you can provide lots of additional information like vaccination records, whether the dog is child friendly or gets along with other dogs, or if the dog has been microchipped.
Attach it to the dog’s collar and wrap it with duct tape to help protect it and you’re all set.
A chipped dog has to be taken to a vet to be identified, but a USB drive can be used by just about anyone to identify the owner.
Much of what you do on the Internet is sped up through a process called ‘caching’ which keeps elements of previously visited websites in a temporary space on your computer.
Caching allows sites to load faster because it doesn’t have to pull every image, frame, video or body of text down from the Internet.
Loading these elements from your local hard drive is so much faster, but sometimes this can work against you.
If you’ve ever gone to a website looking for information that you can’t find or a site that doesn’t load properly, it's possible that your just looking at an incomplete cached version of the site from your computer.
The next time this happens, give this a try: hold the CTRL button down and tap the F5 key at the top of your keyboard.
This universal shortcut works on all the major browsers and is a command that tells your computer to skip the cache and download everything from the website.
It’s a really quick way to troubleshoot strange website behaviours because if everything loads properly, you’ll know its time to clear the browser’s cache
Free is one of the most powerful words on the Internet, especially when what you get for free is valuable.
In today’s electronic world of pictures, music, video and other files that take up lots of space, free storage space is pretty valuable.
Most of the online services offer @ 5GBs of free storage to get you started and then charge if you want more space.
One company is offering a lot more free space, if you download their iPhone or iPad app before February 15th.
Box.com is offering 50GBs of free storage space for life to anyone that uses their new app, even if you already have a Box.com account.
Box is one of the many secure file sharing services that allows you to have access to your important files from any computer or mobile device or share large files with others.
Just download and use the Box app before February 15th and a big chunk of cyberspace is yours for life!
Unfortunately, if you’re an Android user, they made this offer last year so you missed out!
If you spend any time on the Internet, you probably open lots of tabs as you go and you’ve probably run into this situation:
You’re in the middle of reading a research paper on one website and suddenly a commercial video starts playing in the background on one of the other open pages but you have no idea which one it is.
You then have to click through all the open pages, scrolling around trying to figure out which one is causing the annoying disruption...what a hassle!
The engineers over at Google must have had enough of this problem themselves, because they recently made a tweak to their Chrome browser to combat this irritation.
Now whenever any website is creating any kind of sound, a small speaker icon will appear on the right side of the tab to let you quickly identify the culprit.
You can click on the tab to find the video to pause it or simply click the X on the tab to close it all together.
If you haven’t given Google’s Chrome browser a try yet, this is just another reason why its one of my favorites!
Today’s tech tip is on a rather uncomfortable subject: death.
So much of our lives are tied up in online accounts that if you meet with an untimely death, your family members could be faced with an enormous task in the midst of grieving.
If you pass away and no one in your family has any of your passwords, the process for unlocking online accounts is different for each company, so the process would become very time consuming and frustrating.
The security measures that are in place to keep malicious users from accessing your accounts will become a roadblock when your family attempts to settle your affairs.
Storing your passwords in a safety deposit box or password managing program is good start but your passwords will change over time.
The most important passwords for someone you trust to have is to your e-mail account, since that’s where password reset requests get sent.
Whoever is tasked with settling your affairs can use your e-mail account to know what online accounts you used and get passwords reset if necessary.
It’s not fun to think about, but it’s something you should be thinking about!
Riding your bike is a great way to stay fit, but if you find yourself riding once it gets dark, you know how dangerous that can be.
Making sure you’re wearing bright clothing and numerous well placed reflectors is a good start, but if you really want to kick it up a notch, why not create your own highly visible bike lane wherever you go?
That’s the concept behind the X-Fire Bike Lane Safety Light; it uses lasers built into the taillight to project a virtual bike lane on the road around your bike.
By creating a visible boundary around your bike, drivers are more likely to be aware of how close they’re getting to you and hopefully keep their distance as a result.
The system runs on two AAA batteries and uses bright red lasers to project the lines on the road well back from either side of your rear tire, so it’ll be really hard to miss you since it’s visible for over a mile.
The standard unit sells for $30 and a USB rechargeable version sells for $40, a small price to pay to make drivers take notice if you ride at night.
It’s that time of the year when we all start making resolutions that we intend to accomplish this year and just about every year, fitness resolutions are at the top of the list.
There are so many new gadgets and apps that can help you stay on track but before you buy anything, you need to find something that will help you maintain a routine.
One of the ways you can stay focused on your goals is have your friends encourage you and hold you accountable.
An interesting app for iPhone and iPad users that combines an exercise app with fitness training videos is called FitStar and you can use the basic system for free.
FitStar creates a customized workout based on your interactions, sort of like a virtual personal trainer and has a library of 80 different exercises.
To keep you from getting tired of the same old exercises, FitStar presents you with a new routine every time you start the app to keep things from getting monotonous.
The app can also connect with Fitbit and Jawbone UP devices for even more data to help manage and customize your workouts.
One of the cool things that you can do on your smartphone is use one of our own pictures as the default background, known as the wallpaper.
One of the little frustrating issues that many iPhone users experienced with the most recent iOS 7 update is getting pictures setup as wallpaper properly.
When you choose one of your pictures for your custom wallpaper you don’t have a lot of control over what ends up being displayed.
Because the phone automatically sizes the image, it can often zoom in to the wrong part of the image or cut off limbs or heads with no option to move things around.
If you want a lot more control over what actually gets displayed as your default image, checkout an app called Wallpaper Fix.
Wallpaper Fix gives you pinpoint control so you can resize, rotate and position the image to exactly the way you want it displayed.
The app essentially allows you to modify an image in a way that will cause the automatic sizing in iOS 7 to properly display it without the zoomed in or misaligned results.
Wallpaper Fix works on the iPhone and iPad and costs 99 cents in the iTunes store.
One of the great uses for your social networks is when you have a question about something that you’d like to get your friends input on.
Whether it’s a purchasing decision, product review, travel destination or health related question, asking your trusted friends is something we tend to do both online and offline.
Most of us turn to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to ask a question, but one of the co-founders of Twitter is hoping you’ll try something new called Jelly.
Jelly has a simple interface that allows you to post an image and ask a question, which can be answered by those folks that you are already connected to on Facebook and Twitter.
Jelly is currently a mobile only platform for both Android and iOS devices so there’s a 240 character limit to anything you post.
When someone answers your question, you’ll get an alert on your mobile device so you can gather the wisdom of the crowds.
If you want to help others with their questions, simply flick through your networks questions and add your two cents.
It’s a brand new social network that’s hoping to break through, so if you have a question about anything, give it try!
Affordable home automation solutions had a big presence once again at this year’s CES with a much wider variety of companies pitching their systems.
While the low cost and ease of installation can be very attractive, if you choose the wrong platform, you may be limited in what you can do.
Large electronics manufacturers like Samsung and LG are integrating smart home features into many of their products but they aren’t likely to support devices outside of their limited partnerships.
If you’re serious about DIY home automation, a better choice is to use a more open standard that supports the various protocols and gadgets that exist.
My personal favorite is the SmartThings platform because it’s an open standard that’s currently compatible with over 1000 automation devices including Belkin’s WeMo devices and Phillips Hue lightbulbs.
What’s even better is that anyone can create new uses for the platform and share it with the rest of the community.
One note of caution: since these system work off of your home wireless network, it’s essential that you have good security setup on your wireless router before you start adding devices.