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’ve seen a RSS button on websites and wondered what it actually does, then today’s tip is for you.
RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication and it is an automated process for getting information as it’s updated.
Virtually every news or info site offers a RSS feed that allows you to tap into through a RSS reader.
If have yet to try RSS, a website called http://feedly.com is a good place to start.
It's one of the easiest and most powerful RSS readers available and they also have an app for your smartphone.
You begin by searching for info sites you want to connect with based on topics or by directly searching the name of a resource. Once it’s been added to your reading list, Feedly automatically updates any information as it’s published to each site.
It’s essentially a customized and dynamic news source that only provides you with the type of information you are interested in gathering.
It’s pretty handy; try it out at http://feedly.com
The weekend is upon us and I have a fun tip for creating truly memorable videos of your weekend activities.
If you have ever wanted to direct a block-buster special effects action movie, did you know that you can with just your smartphone & an app?
An app called FXGuru is a pretty cool and makes it really easy to create special effects videos out of anything you record on your smartphone.
It includes twelve free effects in the basic program including UFO shuttles, satellites crashing & skeletons dancing with lots of other effects that you can buy for a buck each.
Unlike other movie effect apps I’ve used in the past, the FXGuru app has 'virtual decals’ which show you where on the screen your effect will be used. It makes it much easier to line up the effect when you’re shooting your video.
Your only limitations in awesome movie making this weekend is your own imagination, so if you want to record a UFO invasion in your backyard or blow-up your golf partner on the 18th tee box because he’s beating you, FXGuru can make it happen.
You can download the iPhone or Android version at http://www.fxguruapp.com
Most of us have a love-hate relationship with our tech gadgets because they keep us entertained and productive, but that also makes us slaves to the machine more often than not.
Most of us feel naked and uncomfortable if we're separated from our phones, tablets or laptops and can’t check social posts or emails.
If this description fits you or someone you know, it may be time for a ‘digital-detox' to introduce some balance into digital life.
An old friend of mine has raved about an unplugged-retreat he took among the redwood trees of California with an group called Digital Detox.
Think about it; no tech gadgets or screens, no clocks or networking...just the chance to get recharged and refocused without stressful technology.
Digital Detox offers device-free events, workshops, retreats, adult summer camps, corporate training and aims to help you bridge the gap between connecting & disconnecting in the real world.
If you’re looking for help in taking a step back from your fast-paced digital existence, something you see at the http://TheDigitalDetox.org website might give you the motivation to truly disconnect.
As I’ve suggest many times, 2-factor verification is one of the best ways to protect all your online accounts, but when you turn it on, there’s an additional step you’ll want to take.
Remembering that 2-factor verification incorporates your phone to prevent unauthorized people from accessing your accounts, the site has to be able to send a text message with a code whenever they detect a new device or location being used.
That means when you’re on an airplane and choose to purchase in-flight wifi, having 2-factor authentication activated presents a problem because you can't get text messages while in flight. Having backup codes stored on your computer will save the day!
Being unable to get into social accounts like Facebook or Twitter aren’t the end of the world but if you’re a business traveler and get locked out of your e-mail during a long flight, that’s a whole other story.
To find the backup codes, just go to the setup screen for your accounts and search for 'backup codes'.
Most often they’ll create up to 10 temporary one time use codes, so make sure you store them somewhere on one of your devices.
Or you can use the 'old school' write them down on a note or other non-descript document to keep in your laptop bag, purse or wallet.
I’ve posted links for most of the popular sites at https://www.datadoctors.com/radio
Or you can search “2-factor backup codes for XXXX” where XXXX is the name of the online service
Once again, a compromised Gmail user asked for help because they were locked out of their own account because they were compromised.
Google has a number of resources for recovering an account that's been compromised, but something they should have done long ago would’ve prevented the being a victim in the first place.
I’m talking about 2-step verification and it’s really simple to setup.
With 2-step verification activated, even if a hacker steals your password, they wouldn’t be able to gain access to your account and here’s why:
Google can track when a strange computer tries to access your online accounts and they will text a short code to your phone when it detects any unusual access.
Without having the special code, whoever stole your password won’t be able to get in. It is also the perfect way to know when your password has been stolen.
With it turned on, when you get an access code message on your phone out of the blue, you’ll know that someone has acquired your password and you’ll know it’s time to change it.
Gmail isn’t the only account you can protect, as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Paypal, Microsoft, Apple and just about every online service offers some form of 2-step verification.
If you’d like instructions for most major sites, I’ve posted a link at DataDoctors.com/radio.
The next time you’re confronted with a new project that requires some creative thought and for you to come up with an appropriate name or slogan, remember this website.
PickyDomains.com is a crowd-sourced service designed to help you come up with a domain name, slogan or product name for just about anything.
It lets you tap into the ideas of thousands of creative folks around the world by posting a brief of what you are trying to express and especially if you need the website url to be available.
You get to decide the max number of letters or words & any specific words you do not want to use in the name, like a words that competitors might already be using.
You pay a ‘reward' for coming up with a name for your project, which starts at a only $50 and on average, you'll get hundreds of suggestions.
To help the process, you give feedback to all participants to shape the suggestions & when you get that great new name, you pick the winner for your project!
Got a challenging naming project that you’ve been struggling with?
If you are a parent of teens, you’re familiar with the frustration of getting them up to speed on doing their own laundry.
The biggest excuses is always “I don’t know what to do” If that’s a fair excuse, well there’s an app for that!
A free app called Complete Laundry Care for the iPhone has instructions for proper washing, ironing, folding and includes a chart to explain what those 'machine wash symbols' on the tags mean.
The app will walk them through the step-by-step process from sorting, setting timers for washing & drying and provide timer alerts for each load as them are done so they aren’t forgotten.
It’s a pretty solid way to ensure your new college freshman doesn’t destroy their wardrobe in the 1st semester of school using the 'throw it all in together’ method of laundry.
The app can also help save your child from burning holes into their clothing if they decide to attempt ironing.
The Complete Laundry Care app is for anyone of any age that just hasn’t gotten their arms around the whole 'laundry thing’. It could end up saving thousands of dollars over the years.
Hyper Text Markup Language or HTML is truly the base language of the Net.
If you have have a youngster that is interested in learning how to create websites, starting with an understand of the basic code that’s used to build things is the key.
While you may see companies telling you that you can build your own website with their easy-to-use-tools, the reality is that it's limited to their pre-designed templates and tools for creating a site.
HTML may look like a foreign language at first, but once they get started learning the primary building blocks, it suddenly becomes a lot less mysterious.
A great way to start learning web skills is from Mozilla’s Webmaker web resource where you can use simple pre-made test sites to tinker with to see what happens.
It turns out that breaking things can be a really great way to learn basic web skills and Webmaker allows you to it without causing any problems.
A solid understanding of HTML has become a primary skill for more than just website creators and Mozilla’s aim is to move millions of people from just using the web to helping create it.
Mozilla’s project is at http://Webmaker.org and it is a good place for anyone that’s inquisitive about how the web really works!
A pretty consistent question that I have been asked by businesses, is where to send employees to get software training.
Old timers like me, generally think about taking a class or reading a book to learn what we don’t know, but that isn’t the way most people learn these days.
The Internet allows for a much more interactive and visual way to learn things and a website that offers a comprehensive online library of easy to follow lessons is at Lynda.com.
They have over 2,500 courses using video that range from common programs such as Microsoft Word & Excel to 3-D animation and virtually every type of web programming language or platform in use today.
10’s of thousands of training videos are categorized as beginner, intermediate & advanced and also offer videos with the close captioning option.
Lynda is a subscription service that starts at around 25 dollars a month for unlimited access to all their training videos.
They also offer mobile apps, which allow you to watch courses on your laptop or mobile devices, and switch back & forth without losing your place.
If you are part of a business that’s looking for an inexpensive online visual training system, give http://lynda.com a good look.
Just about every ‘reality show' incorporates some form of ‘makeover', but not many of us want to become a public spectacle while doing it.
If you have ever considered some radical new hair style, a complete makeup makeover or just wanted to see what you would look like with different color eyes, I've got a tool for you!
A site called Taaz, that’s T A A Z.com has an interesting virtual makeover platform that is really simple to use and generates results in just minutes.
You simply upload a head shot of yourself and then start modifying your lips, skin, eyes, hair or even add accessories.
Better yet, if you have always wondered what you’d look like with a certain celebrities look, you can get that look on your head shot with a click of a button.
They even include Halloween ideas so you can see your Mad Hatter look, become a character from Avatar or see which one of Lady Gaga’s styles fits you best.
While Taaz is clearly setup to help women in makeover decisions using specific brands of makeup, us guys can also use it for more subtle makeovers as well.
If you’ve got younger kids, using some sort of a baby monitor is standard practice these days.
If you’re looking for something that’s really convenient or as an alternative for when you take your little ones on a trip, look into an Android app called Dormi.
The Dormi app can turn just about any 2 Android devices into a fully capable baby monitor system that can work from any distance.
Unlike those traditional baby monitors, the Dormi app works with either wifi or cellular connections, so it works in the next room or the next state.
You even have a push button to speak to your child if they need to be calmed by your voice and the app also keeps you posted on the battery level of the monitoring device.
The free basic service allows for up to four hours of monitoring per month or for a one time $7 purchase, you can get unlimited usage forever.
If you have an older unused Android device sitting around somewhere, this is a perfect way to bring it back to life.
If your smartphone is on a limited data plan, keeping data usage under that limit is important.
One really good way to do that is to switch to the Opera Mini browser on your smartphone for your web browsing.
Opera has a built-in ability to switch to "off-road" mode which automatically reduces your data usage while surfing the web and displays how much data you saved by using it.
Opera Mini incorporates sophisticated compression before your phone starts to download the info, thereby using less data than other browsers when you use the off-road mode.
Often times, this extra compression will actually speedup your page loads especially when you’re on a slow connection but it can cause issues on dynamically generated sites, which is why there’s an option for turning it on or off.
Opera Mini also incorporates speed-dial for your most visited websites, like a more visual display of your traditional bookmarks.
If you want to give Opera Mini a, just use any mobile device and go to m.opera.com and you’ll automatically be provided with the proper link.
Most of us pop between a computer and a smartphone on a daily basis, so wouldn't it be helpful to be able to push information between these two devices?
We constantly find ourselves in a situation where we find something on our smartphones that we’d like to push to our computer and vice versa. Well you can if you use the free solution at Pushbullet.com
Pushbullet is a Google Chrome add-on paired with an app for both Android or iPhone users that makes sending things between your computer and your smartphone a snap.
Whether it’s a note, web URLs, physical addresses, lists, pictures or even data files, they can be sent from one device to the other with the greatest of ease.
Pushbullet eliminates the process involved with services such as DropBox or Google Drive because what you ‘ ush’ can easily be accessed without having to go through the download process or go to special apps.
Pushbullet also allows you to send directly to family, friends or co-workers.
If you have an Android device, you can also mirror the notifications on your smartphone on your computer screen.
If you are intrigued by this service, the direct links for getting the mobile and web apps is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
Android App: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pushbullet.android
iPhone App: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pushbullet/id810352052
Web App: https://www.pushbullet.com
If you’re like most people, you use Microsoft Word on a daily basis, so you may be familiar with something called 'macros' which allows you to work with large portions of text that you use on a regular basis by simple keyboard shortcuts.
Since we are all spending so much more time online creating content, having this same type of option right in your web browser can be very handy.
If you find yourself starting to use Google Docs instead of Microsoft Word more often, check into the Auto Text Expander add-on for Google Chrome.
With this free add-on, you can create your own shortcuts for long e-mail addresses, sentences or other commonly used chunks of text as well as various signatures for e-mail messages that can be easily inserted using your own custom keystrokes.
For example, you can create a 'bizadd’ shortcut for your business address or 'persig’ for a personal e-mail signature or create anything else you might use on a regular basis.
The best part of this add-on is that when you create a shortcut, you can use it anywhere, on any text field for just about anything you use on the Internet.
Get it here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/auto-text-expander-for-go/iibninhmiggehlcdolcilmhacighjamp
If you’re noticing strange items that just seem to pop-up on your computer screen from time to time, it is likely they're from new apps or programs that you recently installed.
A general practice now a days is to hide third-party programs into a utility such as Java or printer install programs within the installation routine.
The key to keeping these unwanted programs and other changes to your system is to pay really close attention to what’s happening during the installation process.
Most of these companies are counting on you not paying attention and hope you’ll just keep hitting next, next, next and I agree.
Another common trick which allows junk software into your computer is convincing you that a standard installation is the best and recommended one.
They'll make it appear as if you have to be a rocket scientist to select the custom installation, but if you do, that;s where you will get to see what they really want to sneak past you.
From now on, make it a point to choose the custom or advanced option whenever you are installing anything new on your computer so you have a shot at stopping it before it happens.
Doing so is the key to keeping software companies from messing with your browser by adding extra toolbars or worse, changing the default search engine or your start page.
Do you seem to be more productive when you’re at your local coffee shop than you are at your home or office or home?
Does coffee made by other really make it more productive or could it be the environment?
Research seems to suggest that it’s the ambient noise that can make you more productive and creative.
A really quiet environment or a really noisy and distracting room can be counter-productive, so the low rumble like you'd hear in a typical coffee shop is maybe just right.
If you’re interested in testing out the warming vibe of a coffee shop without leaving your home or office, there’s actually an app (& a website) for that.
It’s called http://coffitivity.com and it’s a quick way to generate ambient noises that mimic a coffee shop, lunch lounge or campus cafe whenever you’re trying to boost creativity or productivity.
If the website works for you, you can download the app for your smartphone, so you can take the ambience with you everywhere you go.
Some people have even used the Coffitivity tool to drown out the noises in their own place of work.
How many times have you wanted to meet someone at a mutually convenient place because you both are kind of far apart?
For those familiar with the general area, you may be able to figure a location out, but those that aren’t can waste a lot of time and energy trying to choose a place to meet.
The next time you have this problem, there’s a website and an app for that! Android smartphone users can download an app called Meet Me Halfway.
With the app, you put the two starting points in and the general halfway point will be shown with various possibilities for a meeting place.
The app can use addresses, just zip codes or the city to generate results and when you tap on the various pins, it will tell you if the location is currently open or closed.
You can also filter the results for specific categories of locations which allows you to zero in on your preferred type of meeting place.
For more details on any location, you just open the location in Google Maps and you can share the location with the other party.
The website option is at https://MeetWay.com and it'll works on computers or mobile devices.
Android App: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jonathannakhla.meetmehalfway
Trying to speak foreign languages can get intimidating fast, especially when you’re self-conscious about how you’re pronouncing things.
Hearing others familiar with the language speak properly can greatly increase your confidence, but contacting a bilingual friend every time you need to hear a phrase is just not practical.
A web resource called http://forvo.com has been setup to act as your virtual multi-lingual friend who can speak and pronounce words in over 300 languages.
This awesome crowdsourced site allows users from around the world record how they would say things in their native tongue, so even when a word or phrase is not in the database, a volunteer can record the proper pronunciation for you.
Anyone about to embark on a trip to just about any foreign land should consider downloading the audio for various words and phrases so they can rehearse and listen to them on demand.
For words that you need to translate from English first, use Google for the translation then use Forvo to hear how to properly pronounce them.
Build your confidence before your next trip so you can order that first meal in a foreign cafe!
I’ve provided many tips in the past for extending your smartphone's battery life and most of those same tips will also help extend the battery life of any laptop.
The #1 tip for any mobile device is to turn down the screen brightness because powering the screen is generally 50% of your drain. And, as with your smartphone, turning off Wifi & Bluetooth when you aren’t using them will also help.
Any device plugged into the USB ports can also be a drain, so unplugging them when you aren’t using them will keep your computer from constantly querying them.
One of the biggest battery killers is extreme temperatures, so avoid turning on or charging your computer when it’s really hot or cold to the touch.
It’s best to wait until the battery has returned to room temperature which can help lengthen battery life.
Also, try to avoid using your laptop on soft surfaces like a pillow or blanket because they can block cooling vents, causing your laptop to overheat.
Those cute screen savers that display your photos might be enjoyable, but they also chew up power your battery, so for the best results, switch to a blank screen.
If you are one of the many that has always wanted to play something cool on a guitar but unwilling to commit to guitar lessons, there's an option for you.
Visualization can be very helpful when you’re trying to learn new things and an app called CoachGuitar takes the visual approach in teaching.
Throw out learning music theory, chords and something called tablature. If you just want to strum some lines from Stairway to Heaven or Stand By Me, this is your app.
CoachGuitar takes you through the steps to play riffs from popular songs using videos and animated fretboards.
It visually shows you where to put your fingers and which of the strings you should strum to help you quickly learn those familiar songs.
CoachGuitar is like having a virtual teacher right on your smartphone!
While the basic lessons are free, If you really get into the swing, you can purchase additional lessons for lots of popular tunes.
Coach Guitar is now available for iPhone, iPad and Android users.
If you think you're ready to start ‘shredding’ on a guitar, checkout http://coachguitar.com to get started.
For regulars of our tech tips, you know that I’m on a never ending search for new tools and apps for my digital photography.
We are all taking many more pictures with our phones these days and the results are not always that great, so having options to enhance the images after the fact is useful.
My latest favorite for this need is called Fotor http://www.fotor.com (spelled F O T O R) and it’s both an app and a web tool that is feature packed.
You'll get the usual types of editing features and collages, but one unique feature is the ability to create HDR images.
HDR, which stands for High Dynamic Range, is a way to combine multiple images of the same type with varying exposures into a better single image.
Fodor allows you to take images that are too dark and combine them with images that are washed out to create a much better picture.
The app also has a series of retouching options for the beauty conscious, like blemish removal, wrinkle reduction and teeth whitening. The app is available for all the major mobile platforms.
Fotor has a lot of features, so it might become the only photo app you use!