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!
Once again, the Internet of Things or IOT was prominent at CES with inexpensive connected devices being shown by just about everyone.
I’m really interested in wireless sensor tags which allow you to monitor everything from location to motion to temperature or even humidity on just about anything in your environment.
Inexpensive sensing devices allow you to keep track of things like when your garage door is left open or when any kind of motion is detected. Put one inside your refrigerator and you can get alerts whenever anyone is sneaking into the fridge!
The sensors attached to smartphone apps can start to alert you to just about activity as it happens anywhere in or around your home or business.
While motion sensing is wonderful, monitoring moisture or humidity levels allows you to get updates in the event of a water leak.
This sensing tech that allows you to monitor just about everything you own ranges from $20 to $70.
Wireless tags are the starting point to setup your monitoring system and you can learn all about them at http://wirelesstag.net.
Those of us that live on e-mail usually spend way too much time every day getting distracted by useless messages because we are now on so many junk mailing lists.
You most likely have no idea how your address got into the majority of the lists, but because of hidden auto-opt in traps we encounter daily, it is just going to keep happening.
If you are fed up with useless messages, junk email and newsletters you don't care to read, a free utility called Unroll.Me will help you reduce your daily load.
Once you allow it to scan your Inbox messages, it will automatically list every recognized subscription message alphabetically so you can decide whether you want to keep them, unsubscribe or add less important messages to a 'roll-up'.
Think of a Roll-Up as a digest of the messages from less important sources that get combined into a single message, so you no longer get them all day long.
For those important messages, you simply choose 'Keep in Inbox' to make sure you keep seeing them as they are sent.
The free Unroll.Me service works with popular platforms like Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, AOL, iCloud, and Outlook.com. Check out this awesome service at https://Unroll.Me!
Practically every major cyber security organization in the world is warning the us all that smartphones are fast becoming the biggest target by hackers and cyber-thieves.
The majority of the dangerous threats in the wild are targeting users outside the United States through third party app download sites.
Since the most likely method your phone will be compromised these days is through a rogue app, make sure you only download your apps from the official app store, which will bypass the majority of today's threats.
If you have an Android smartphone, you can take an extra step to avoid the sneaky tactics to trick users that we’re starting to see more of from the bad guys.
Go to your phone's 'Security' settings menu and search for the option marked as 'Unknown sources'.
If you turn off this switch, your phone won’t allow the installation of any app from an unknown source without warning you of the possible dangers.
Not only is it a good security practice to avoid unnecessary app installations, it's also a great way to avoid potential privacy issues and retain valuable space for more important things like music, videos and pictures.
Popular search sites like Google and Bing are wonderful for finding what we're searching for on the Internet, but the trade-off is that these sites gather quite a bit of valuable information whenever we use them.
While the resulting custom search results can be very helpful, with all of the privacy issues we're hearing about anymore, many people are looking for a little more privacy when searching the web.
A web resource called Startpage understands the need for privacy while searching and offers "the world’s most private search engine" or so they claim.
Popular sites usually capture your current IP address, what you're searching for, the site that you came from and what you clicked in the search results.
The Startpage search system doesn't capture any of those things, but it still allows you to use the world's most powerful search engine:Google.
Think of it as a Harry Potter invisibility cloak, as they act as a security blanket whenever you are searching around on the Internet.
Learn all about it and give it a try at https://Startpage.com
I’m constantly reminding everyone I meet that one of the best security measured anyone can take is to turn on 2-factor authentication for all of their online accounts.
It creates an extra layer of cyber-protection that is really hard to beat.
2-factor authentication is actually something you've used on a regular basis for years.
A great example is your debit card because you have to have both the actual bank card and the PIN that’s associated with it.
Can you imagine having a debit card that did not require a PIN to use? Well, it's essentially what your doing with your online accounts if you haven't turned on 2-factor authentication.
Once you tun it on, if a hacker manages to steal your username and password, they would also have to steal your smartphone at the same time in order to actually get into your account.
As an additional benefit, it will become your early warning system should someone ever acquire your username and password because you’ll get a text passcode out of the blue.
Virtually every online service is now offering this important layer of security, so if you want if you want step-by-step instructions for most major sites, I’ve posted the link at DataDoctors.com/radio.
Understanding our financial status while planning for our retirement is something that we all know we need to do, but getting around to doing it can become overwhelming if you are trying to track everything manually.
I recently tried an online resource called https://www.personalcapital.com that greatly simplified tracking all of my various financial accounts.
In a relatively short period of time, I was able to generate a dashboard that now shows me everything I have in one place.
It provides you with simple tools to see everything from your net worth to an analysis of your investment portfolio and even do some ‘what if’ retirement planning so you have a clearer understanding of what it's going to take for retirement.
Now, this isn’t designed for active stock traders, it is really for those of us that just want to go to one place to see all of their financial information.
Personal Capital also has a great smartphone app that'll allow you to quickly review your financial life every day, no matter where you are!
Manage your personal capital at https://www.personalcapital.com.
Yesterday's tip was how to use GetHuman.com to find contact information when you need help from major companies.
Today's tip is about a website that works with GetHuman so you aren't stuck sitting on hold when you do finally reach the customer service department.
The site is called Lucyphone and it can wait in your spot whenever you call recognized support numbers and get put on hold!
Using Lucyphone to call support lines allows you to press the star button twice if you get put on hold so their system can call you back when an agent actually does get on the line.
To use this useful tool, simply put the customer service phone number along with your own number and then click on the connect button.
This will generate a call to your phone from the Lucyphone system with options to either connect or get instructions, like how to record your message for the person answering when they actually pick up the call.
You can even tell Lucyphone to connect to completely different number when the agent finally does pick up.
Learn more about this great free service at http://Lucyphone.com
We all, from time to time, need to get hold of the customer service department at a large companies, either to clear up a billing question or for support on something that we bought.
In some cases the toll-free phone number is easy to find, but more often then not, the company is going to great lengths to hide the phone numbers.
If you try to use Google to find the proper phone number, it can expose you to a variety of scams, so I’ve got a suggestion that's much safer: http://GetHuman.com
GetHuman is a website with a comprehensive list of the various ways to get in contact with major companies including everything from phone numbers to e-mail addresses, Twitter handles and even live chat options if they exist.
We aren't talking about just one phone number, but every phone number for every department that the site knows about that provides some type customer service purpose.
They may even be able to give you average wait times to get to an actual human, in some cases.
GetHuman.com is a great resource for many customer service shortcuts.
Tomorrow's tip will help you avoid waiting on hold!
A relatively new mother recently asked me about preparing her young child with tech skills to improve his future prospects when the time comes.
IMHO, one of the most important things you can teach any child is how to write code as it will serve them well no matter what they decide to do as a career.
It's not just programmers, web developers or scientists that benefit from knowing how to code; it impacts virtually any line of work these days.
It is such a fundamentally useful skill set that will allow anyone with this 'second language' to leverage the exploding digital world all around us.
One of the best places for parents to get their kids started in the world of coding is at MIT’s Scratch project
The Scratch Project website will allow kids age 8 to 16 to create their own interactive games, stories & animations.
It's easy to use and fun, so it helps anyone learn to think creatively, use systematic reasoning and to collaborate, which are essential skills for life in this digital world.
BTW, it's not just for kids, so check out this amazing free tool at https://scratch.mit.edu/
I’m a huge fan of dual displays on my computer and couldn’t even begin to imagine functioning without them.
But, when I hit the road and want the extra display space, it isn’t very practical to carry around a second display, unless that second screen is an iPad I already have.
Users of MacBooks have been able to tether their iPads to their laptops for a while, but Windows users can now do the same thing thanks to an app called Duet Display.
By loading Duet on any laptop or desktop and the app on an iPad, you can easily expand your display to your iPad as an extension of your primary screen.
Once you set it up, you simply drag any program from your desktop over to your iPad, which is super helpful when you’re working on a large spreadsheet or do a lot of copy/paste tasks.
Duet works with both Mac or Windows-based computers and extends via iPads or iPhones as long as they are connected via the charge cable.
If you have yet to experience the wonder of having dual screens, give this excellent app a try.
Learn more at http://DuetDisplay.com
Our smartphones have incredible cameras built-in that can generate super-high resolution pictures and beautiful HD video.
The by-product of this amazing technology is that it creates huge files, especially when you shoot a video.
When you try to send or post high-res videos via e-mail or social media, they automatically get compressed, which lowers the video quality.
If you ever need to share your high-resolution or HD videos in all their uncompressed glory, look into an app called WeTransfer.
WeTransfer is an easy to use and totally free method of sending files up to 10 GBs in size right from your smartphone to anyone via an e-mailed link.
The app works on iOS and Android smartphones, with Android users getting the integration option in any app with the Share icon.
Unlike other transfer services, your friends don’t have to create an account or download an app; they simply click the download button in your email to download your original uncompressed image and video files.
Checkout the free app for yourself at http://WeTransfer.com/mobile
Internet-based streaming media boxes have become a common sight in many homes these days.
With various options ranging from Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV and even Xbox, there are many ways to stream TV and movies to your HD TVs.
If you happen to have an Apple TV and an iPhone, it's easy to push whatever’s on your iPhone to your TV.
The same holds true if you use an Android smartphone and Google's Chromecast, but if your circle of friends or family has a mix of both, an app called Allcast may be of help.
The Allcast app is able to connect both iPhone or Android smartphones to a wide variety of streaming boxes or smart TVs so you can stream from just about any smartphone to any popular streaming device.
The free version of Allcast will allow you to get a taste of how it works, but it will limit you to 5 minutes of viewing. If you test it and like it, you can upgrade to the fully functional pro version for $5.
Just look for Allcast in the Apple App Store or Google Play to give it a test drive!
If you’re using a laptop as your primary computer, you’ve figured out that the battery life is amongst the most common irritations.
The more you use it, the faster the battery life diminishes because all batteries have a set number of charge cycles.
With this in mind, a tip that may help you extend the life of your battery is to simply remove it when you know you are going to be using the laptop while plugged-in for extended periods of time, like days or weeks.
It has a little to do with the excessive charging cycles but more to do with the heat that gets generated, which is a big killer of battery life.
The heat from the running laptop over long stretches can have an impact as well as the heat generated by the battery impacting your computer.
An important thing to keep in mind on this tip is to never plug or unplug the laptop battery in while your device is running.
Make sure you always properly shutdown the laptop and make sure it isn't in sleep or hibernation mode.
Another thing to consider is making sure the laptop is plugged into a battery backup whenever you do remove the battery.
Cyber security experts have been warning for quite some time that our mobile devices, especially smartphones are becoming a most desirable target for hackers.
Since everyone loves discovering new apps, it's becoming the latest attack vector being exploited by cyber thieves.
Nothing emphasis the danger more than the discovery of at least eleven malicious iPhone apps that looked very legit and used in what are known as masque attacks.
The malicious apps appear to be popular ones like Facebook, Skype, Whatsapp or Twitter but they actually allow remote hackers to access and monitor just about everything on your device without you knowing.
This type of threat is successful by tricking users into downloading what appears to be a popular app, so we've all got to pay very close attention to the where we are getting our apps.
The most likely ways you'll be presented the malicious downloads is through links on social media or via email, so be sure that you only get your apps from directly from the Apple App store.
Smart doorbells that make use of high-definition cameras and wifi have been around for a while and getting better, but it's important to do some homework before you spend several hundred dollars to get one.
The idea of having a video pop-up on your phone when anyone rings your doorbell is ab attractive one, but the signal strength of your wifi network is very important if you want them to work right.
Devices from the likes of Ring and Skybell have user complaints about the overall performance or reliability most often when it comes to the video.
If signal from your wifi access point is low or virtually non-existent by your door, you are not going to get the performance you're looking for from any of them.
You should also pay attention to those devices that need their own power source if you don't have an existing hard-wired doorbell.
The video quality will also be greatly washed out if your doorbell camera is pointing into the sun. Before buying anything, make sure you test the wifi signal strength using your smartphone where you plan to install it first.
It’s well known that maintenance is a vital part of keeping things properly functioning, whether it’s your vehicle, pool or physical fitness.
But when it comes to maintaining your computer, for some reason it hasn't ever hit the mainstream thought process.
Can you imagine how expensive owning your car would be if you never maintained anything in it?
From this point on, I’m hoping to help all the Windows users listening to take the first step in taking regular care of your computer by getting familiar with the Disk Cleanup utility.
Windows Disk Cleanup does what its name suggests! Not only will it free up valuable space, it will also help let your computer run a little faster.
You can locate the built-in tool by going to Programs then to Accessories and then System Tools.
If you’ve never done this before or it has been a while, be patient as it will likely it take a little time for the program to gather all the unnecessary files.
I’d highly suggest that you start doing this at least once a month!
Another new type of pop-up security scam is catching a lot of people off guard because of their authentic looking warning screens.
You will get a pop-up screen that tries to lock down your browser, then warn you that you have been massively infected and that you should call the toll free number posted immediately so a security expert can assist you.
Mac users should know that this type of scam is not limited to Windows, as Mac versions of the scam are also being planted around the Internet.
The scam-artists encode malicious links and post them via hijacked social media accounts, compromised email accounts and as spam in the comments section of many popular websites.
Here’s something to remember; none of the legitimate Internet security companies will ever post any toll-free numbers as your first course of action, because none of them want you to ever call them if they can avoid it.
Solid security programs should be able to block known attacks and malicious websites and limit infection detection to scheduled or manual scanning processes.
None of them will ever pop-up their toll-free number so now you know it’s always a huge red flag.
Any parent of an infant may be asking themselves: 'to iPad, or not to iPad, that is THE question'.
Many older parents have anecdotal advice for newer parents as it pertains to when and where to introduce tech, but personal biases aren't the best lessons to learn.
If you're looking for something a little more data driven, the American Academy of Pediatricians says that iPads are OK for young children.
In their opinion, television, smartphones and tablets are just fine for infants and small children but with a lot of caveats.
They continue to recommend against screen time for children under the age of 2 and limiting time for children over 2 to 2 hours. These recommendations have been updated to include the impact of the digital age that surrounds our kids.
Knowing the difference between passive media like TV and interactive media like apps on mobile devices and when to introduce them to your child is a very keen parenting skill these days.
The complete overview for anyone raising a digital native is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
Gathering with a group to discuss ideas often results in lots of good info on a whiteboard or chalkboard which then requires someone in the group to take down separate notes afterwards.
If you ever become the one that ends up having to spend the time taking down the whiteboard notes after a meeting, there’s actually an app for that!
It’s called Office Lens and it’ll save you a ton of time.
This Microsoft app makes it super easy to snap a picture of any document, whiteboard or chalkboard and then turn it into a PDF, Word document or Powerpoint deck.
Not only does it digitize all your notes it will fix the distortion if you had to shoot it from an angle.
Every time you capture notes from an off angle, you’ll love how well this app gets it done.
Once you have the image, the app lets you save and share it to various Microsoft platforms that include OneNote and OneDrive or you can simply save it as a document or picture.
Another great use of the app is to capture and organize business cards.
The Office Lens app is free & available for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone users.
Social networks are such an integral part of our lives that when a loved one passes away, one of the first places we’ll likely go is Facebook.
The popularity of the network allows us to connect with grieving friends and family while allowing others to post memories of the departed.
But if you happen to be part of the family of the deceased that didn’t have the username and password for their page, Facebook eventually converts it to a memorialized account which basically freezes it in time.
But Facebook has made it possible for a family member to become a sort of executor of your account with a feature called Legacy Contact.
Instead of having no way to update your page or keep it going, anyone who assigns a legacy contact will pass on control in the event something happen.
It’s easy to set it up by going to the Settings menu, clicking on the Security tab and then on the option labeled Legacy Contact.
I know it isn’t something we like to think about, but if you take a minute to pick a Legacy Contact, your family and friends will appreciate it!
In all my years of assisting people with their technology, one very consistent issue has existed; every user knows that they should back up their personal data, but they just never get around to doing it.
If you are one of those that have been meaning to get this critical task done, but can’t seem to get around to making it happen, here’s another reason you should.
The growing threat of ransomware, which allows sophisticated hackers to gain access to your computer and hold your data hostage, including any backup drive that’s connected is getting worse.
The current versions are able to spread themselves in ways we have never seen before.
If you become a victim of ransomware and don’t have an off-site backup, your choices will be to either lose everything or pay hundred or thousands of dollars to get your critical files back.
Online backup services such as Carbonite are among the best ways to sidestep having to pay the ransom, because it isn’t directly connected to your computer when you are attacked.
If you don’t have a secure backup in place, consider the your wakeup call!