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!
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.
The Consumer Electronics Show is always a great place to find unusual technology and accessories and this year’s show was no exception.
If you often find yourself trying to be productive on your smartphone or tablet but you just can’t type fast enough, a company called TrewGrip may have an unusual solution for you.
It’s a handheld rear type QWERTY keyboard that’s split in half and looks kind of like a formula one steering wheel that came off.
It comes with a universal mobile dock that uses a suction mount for your mobile device and it connects via Bluetooth.
There are navigation keys on the front to move cursors around or to control your apps and software programs.
It’s also able to become the keyboard for a computer or some smart TVs so it can go beyond your mobile devices.
As with any new typing interface, you’ll have to get used to this new interface, but it could make you more productive when you’re forced to use an on-screen keyboard.
If you’re the parent of a teenage driver, you’re in a constant state of anxiety whenever they get behind the wheel, especially when they’re just getting started.
Add in the new concern of distracted driving because of smartphones and your anxiety heightens not to mention the concern over basic care and maintenance of the vehicle.
That’s where Car Connection from Audiovox comes in. It’s a complete system for monitoring vehicle health, location and usage with a side of smartphone restriction technology.
You can monitor fuel consumption, maintenance alerts and know when the vehicle goes out of your pre-set safety zones.
It also allows you to provide coaching to your new driver based on the data that shows driving habits.
The system works on all cars 1996 or newer by plugging a small device into the port your mechanic uses to get error codes and loading the smartphone app.
It’s also worth considering if your business has a fleet of company vehicles that you’d like better data on.
This type of tracking and monitoring may not be for everyone, but if you’re looking for something to give you some peace of mind, give this system a look.
If you’re like me, you love to surround yourself with live plants indoors and attempt to grow things in your garden every year.
And if you’re like me, you get busy and lose track of proper care and feeding of your precious flora resulting in a lot of brown.
Well, there’s an app for that! Actually it’s an app and a wireless plant monitor whether your plants are inside or outside.
Parrot’s Flower Power system takes precision gardening to a new level because it allows you to easily monitor moisture, temperature, sunlight and fertilizer levels.
Just stick the low-power Bluetooth stake in the ground, load the app on your iPhone and you’re no longer gardening in the dark.
Now whenever you’ve been neglecting your plants, you’ll get a gentle reminder on your iPhone that it’s time to show your plants some love!
Their plant database has over 1000 species so the device will know what the optimum conditions are for the best results.
They even include guidance like when you should plant and interesting facts like basil likes to be around tomatoes.
CES just wrapped up in Las Vegas and one of the more significant bits of news that got lost in all the hype surrounding new gadgets came from Google, Amazon and Netflix.
They all announced support for 4K video streaming for the new Ultra High Definition sets that were all the talk of this year’s show
Ultra High Definition TVs have 4 times the resolution of your current HD TV, but hey initially cost $20K and $25K and no content to speak of.
This year we saw Ultra HD sets from every major manufacturer with prices slated to hit the $1000 mark before the end of the year.
With the widening support of 4K content and affordable 4K video cameras from companies like Sony and GoPro, the Ultra HD platform is well on its way.
Based on development cycles and marketing calendars, I’m predicting the sweet spot for upgrading your TV this year will be in the fourth quarter so don’t get too excited just yet.
BTW, as with all electronics, avoid the lowest priced models, especially when it’s new technology as it usually means that they had to cut corners to hit a price point.
Back when Apple released iOS 7 for iPhone users, it included a lot of new features so it’s easy to have missed some of the more beneficial updates.
One very useful feature that still seems to be unknown for a lot of users is the ability to easily block callers so they can no longer bother you.
The next time you get a phone call from someone that you want to make sure can’t call you again, simple go to your call log and tap on the “i” next to the number.
When you scroll to the bottom of the information page, you will see an option to Block this Caller; tap it and your work is done!
Now if this person calls you, your phone won’t ring and it will go straight to voicemail; if they leave you a message, it goes to the blocked callers section of your voice messages.
It also works for text messaging and Facetime calls so once you’ve tagged them as a blocked caller, you’ll never be bothered with an alert from them ever again.
If you want to unblock a caller, go to the Settings menu, then click on Phone to see the list of blocked callers you can unblock.
When you’re car starts making strange noises, you pay attention right?
Well you should always do the same thing with your computer because strange sounds can be the sign of an impending meltdown.
Whether it’s buzzing, grinding or whirring, it’s generally a sign that a moving part inside your computer is beginning to wear out.
The cooling fans are some of the most common failures and if the noise stops on its own, it could mean that the fan has stopped spinning as well.
Heat is the biggest enemy of electronics and allowing your cooling fans to malfunction is like driving your car with an empty radiator.
If you hear a clicking sound and you can’t get the computer to boot, shut it off immediately and seek help. Clicking sounds generally mean you have a malfunctioning hard drive.
Trying to get it to work can cause irreparable damage and lead to permanent data loss, so be very careful with this sound.
If you were lucky enough to get a new tech gadget during the holiday season, you’re probably in a situation where you have to dispose of your old device.
Before you donate, sell or recycle that old gadget, take the time to protect yourself from the potential of identity theft.
Computers, tablets and smartphones are loaded with personal information and if they fall into the wrong hands, they have everything that a thief needs to assume your identity.
Smartphones and tablets all have a fairly simple process for resetting the device to the factory settings, so it’s just a matter of few taps in the Settings section to protect yourself.
Computers on the other hand, require you to spend a little more thought and time to properly wipe your personal data because retrieving data that’s been deleted is actually pretty easy.
You can install a secure deletion program, use a secure wipe program or remove the hard drive before the computer leaves your control if you aren’t sure what to do.
We’ve got the details and links to protect yourself posted on our site.
If you have a smartphone, downloading a useful or entertaining new app extends the love fest you may already have for your digital assistant.
If you’re like us, you generally look for a free app that will fill a need before you decide to spend your money.
You can spend your time searching for new free apps or us a free app called Apps Gone Free to keep you in the loop.
Every day, hundreds of iPhone apps offer their pay apps for free for a very short period of time to generate some downloads, but if you aren’t aware of them, you’ll miss the window of opportunity.
That’s where Apps Gone Free’s human editors can save you time and frustration because they actually hand pick each app and write a small summary of each to make sure it’s worth downloading.
Just take a peek at the 5-10 featured apps every day to see if any of them fill a need and if they do, you just saved yourself some money!
Apps Gone Free for the iPhone is the ultimate app for saving money on other apps.
The annual tech convention known as the Consumer Electronics Show is set to kickoff tomorrow and we’ll be there to cover it!
We’re expecting to see lots of new and interesting technology advances, along with the usual overabundance of solutions searching for a problem!
Some of the highlights we expect to see this year will come in wearable and fitness technology, biometric interfaces and a slew of new technology in and for your car.
Last year we covered the initial launch of the supremely expensive Super HD 4K television platform that should be much more refined and hopefully affordable this year.
We also expect to see prototypes of the flexible display and advances in the 3D printing world that will likely move it a little closer to being a mainstream consumer device and of course the latest in the tablet and smartphone wars.
The Internet of things and connected home technologies promise to be a really interesting area that could impact you in 2014
We’ll be there seeking out the most interesting and likely to be useful tech, so stay tuned!
Just about every mobile device you own has a camera in it and most of them include a flash of some sort.
Most people assume that flash is just for low lighting situations, when in fact, one of the best uses is just the opposite.
When you take someone’s picture outside, you typically end up with major shadows and harsh contrasts.
Forcing the flash can often fix both of these problems and turn what would be an awful picture into a minor masterpiece.
If you’re using your smartphone’s flash, make sure you get close enough to your subject to allow this weak light to have any effect in the daylight.
If it’s a really bright day, put your subjects in the shade so they aren’t squinting and let your flash fill the necessary light.
Understanding when not to use your flash indoors and when to use it outdoors will convert your pictures from the typical to the magical overnight.
Experimenting with your flash is the key to learning how to use it, so give this tip a try before your next big event!
If you’ve been on the Facebook cruise ship for a while, you‘ve likely accumulated what we call Facebook barnacles on your profile.
Facebook barnacles are those apps that latched onto your profile when you decide to try a new mobile app or play a game that you got bored with in 20 minutes.
Even though you aren’t using these apps any more, they’re still connected to your profile below the waterline.
You’ll probably be shocked to see how many companies that you have given permission to access your profile information.
It’s a new year, time for clean up and renewal so take a few minutes and review the list of apps that you’ve got stuck to your profile.
Click on the gear icon in the upper right hand corner, then on Account settings to get to the Apps section.
Once you’re there, start clicking on the X next to those apps you no longer have any use for…you’ll feel much better afterwards!
It’s the beginning of a new year and we all tend to think about a fresh start for just about every phase of our lives.
While you’re in the mindset, take a minute to look at your smartphone…count how many apps you have installed?
Now count how many of them you actually use? If you’re like most smartphone owners, you have dozens of useless apps clogging up your phone and the ones you use are spread all over the place.
Not only is it good to remove apps to free up space, most apps also asked for permission to access some of your private info when you installed them.
If you really don’t use the app, don’t continue to allow these apps to gather data on you or your social network profiles.
You’re bound to run into apps that you think you might use if you remember you have them, so move then to your home screen to see if you will.
Remember, your smartphone is a treasure trove of information that app companies would love to gain access to…that’s generally the exchange for getting a free app, so make sure it’s worth it!
Facebook has become such a ubiquitous communication channel for our friends and family that we tend to use it everywhere.
If you’ve ever borrowed someone else’s computer to check your Facebook account and realized later that day that you forgot to log out, you’ve got to hope your friend doesn’t decide to play a prank on you.
Whether you forgot to log out from a friends computer or from a workstation at your office, there’s an easy way to cover your tracks!
Facebook allows you to see any active sessions for your profile from the Security section and end them if you are no longer there.
It will list out when it was accessed, what device it was accessed from and the location so you can quickly figure out which session was the one you forgot to log out of and kill it!
It’s actually a pretty handy way to monitor your account as well to make sure that someone hasn’t figured out your password and is using your account without your knowledge.
We highly recommend that you take a quick look at this screen on a regular basis just to play it safe!
Autocorrect on our smartphones is pretty handy since the on-screen keyboards don’t leave much room for error.
But we’ve all seen the hilarious results of autocorrect gone wrong all over the Internet.
If you’re looking for something that takes typing on your smartphone to a new level, checkout the Fleksy keyboard app for iPhone or Android.
Fleksy aims to make typing on your smartphone eyes free…that’s right; I said EYES free meaning you don’t have to look at the keyboard any longer.
Their unique error correcting algorithm can magically figure out what you were trying to type just by your typing gestures.
It takes a little getting used to, but if when you learn to rely on your typing muscle memory, you can actually make the keyboard invisible and regain screen real estate as you type.
The developers of Fleksy have really taken a totally different approach to interfacing with your mobile devices and it’s wicked awesome
Intrigued? You can see it action and download the app to try it yourself at Fleksy.com…that’s F L E K S Y.com
You’ve got your brand new tech gadgets and your super excited about going on your first road trip with your new toys.
But before you hit the road, you might want to think about picking up one very important accessory: a portable charging system.
At some point you’re going to find yourself in a situation where you need to recharge your phone or tablet and there are no outlets in sight.
One of the more notable options is the $80 MyCharge Peak 6000 battery pack because it’s compact and powerful.
The Peak 6000 is just a little bigger than a deck of cards, but has enough power to charge the average smartphone 4 times before needing to be recharged.
Its unique design incorporates multiple connectors which makes it a universal portable charging station and it even has a voice mode to alert you when you’re charged.
You can recharge up to 3 devices at a time and because it has fold out wall prongs, you don’t need a special cable to recharge the battery pack.
It’s also powerful enough to recharge tablets, so if you do any kind of travel at all, you’ll be glad that you slipped this life saver in your bag!
If you got a new computer during the holiday season, as the excitement of that new shiny speedster starts to wear off, a small bit of reality kicks in…
Your new computer doesn’t have all your precious data, bookmarks, contacts or anything that makes your computer, your computer.
There are a number of methods for getting everything transferred but it can get a little labor intensive and time consuming.
The other problem is that you have to know exactly what you want at that moment so you don’t have to do it all over again.
Here’s a suggestion that will give you a little more time to figure out what you want and add another layer of security.
Take the hard drive out of your old computer and put it into an external USB enclosure so it can connect to your new computer.
This allows you to slowly transfer your data, contacts, bookmarks or whatever you want from your old system as you realize you need it.
And, when you’re sure you got everything on the computer, you can turn the old hard drive into a backup drive!
Electronic gadgets continue to be amongst the most popular gifts during the holiday season, which can result in some frustration the day after Christmas.
Getting a new gadget up and running often comes with a learning curve, especially if you’ve never used it before and that’s where we might be able to help.
Every year on the day after Christmas, we hold our annual Help-a-thon via our Facebook page. Ask any tech question about any tech gadget and we’ll do our best to help you through the learning curve.
Need help connecting that new gadget to your home wireless network or how to sync that new tablet with your music collection? We can help
Not sure if you should keep that new gadget or exchange it for something different? We’ll be happy to give you our two cents!
Just hop on over to Facebook.com/DataDoctors tomorrow morning and hit us with all your tech questions so we can make your new gadget less stressful and more fun!
The Data Doctors help-a-thon is our way of being Santa’s tech helpers to those that might need a hand!
As we gather with family and friends during the holiday season, we all pull out our smartphones to capture those special moments.
But many times, what looks decent on our little phone screens looks blurry and washed when we get to see the image in full size.
The two most common mistakes we see are not holding still long enough and not taking light sources into consideration.
The sophistication of the camera on a smartphone isn’t even close to the cheapest point and shoot camera, so you have to be smarter when snapping pics on your smartphone.
First tip: HOLD STILL LONGER…the shutter lag on smartphones is longer than most digital cameras. If you need help understanding when the picture is actually being taken, turn the shutter sound on your camera app.
The second tip: Pay attention to where the light is coming from. Smartphone camera lenses are pretty bad when it comes to dealing with too much or not enough light.
Don’t line people up in front of a window, turn around and have the window to your back so the natural light makes the shot better.
Today’s tip is designed to put a lot of space in your head
Those of us that live and breathe technology every day, often take for granted that everyone knows the basic shortcuts that are available on our various devices.
But once in a while someone will see us do something and remind us that these shortcuts aren’t as well known as we think
Take the space bar on your computer and your smartphone for instance. They do a lot more than just add a space between characters when you’re typing.
The next time you’re surfing the Internet on your computer and you need to scroll down the page, don’t reach for your mouse!
Just tap the space bar and it’ll jump down exactly one screen page. If you want to scroll back up, just hold the shift key, then tap the space bar again and voila!
When you’re typing things on your smartphone and need to end a sentence, just tap the space bar twice. It’s so much faster than switching over to the symbols keyboard then switching back to continue typing!
In one way or another, we all have our Bucket List of things we want to do before we die.
One website called BucketListly is an online bucket list community that wants to be your source of inspiration and give you a chance to leave a mark on this world.
Bucketlistly wants to help everyone unlock achievements in real life and inspire others to do the same through there interactive community.
You start by creating your online bucket list by posting all the goals you want to unlock in real life. This allows you to start a discussion or get advice, tips and tricks from those that have been able to achieve your bucket list items.
You can also connect with others that share a common goal to encourage each other to make it happen.
Whether you want to learn how to surf, trek the Himalayas or meet the Dalai Lama, there are members of the BucketListly community that have been there, done that and willing to share how they pulled it off!
Remember, "You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.".