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!
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!
If you are like most drinkers of beer or wine, you probably stick to bottles that you know, especially if you're unadventurous.
Even the adventurous crowd has a tough time picking something new from a wall of options that they don't recognize.
If you're looking for help, checkout an app called NextGlass.
NextGlass offers to combine science and technology to help predict how much you might like that "next bottle" because of what you've told it you already liked.
After you create your own taste profile, you can scan bottle labels to get a predictive score whenever you’re looking for something new to try.
They also offer a Glass Match feature which shows you beer and wine that tastes similar to your existing favorites.
The app can also tell you what is inside the bottle, like sugar content, calories and alcohol levels.
Anyone looking for help to figure out what to try next, should give the Next Glass app a try. It's like having a personal expert that knows your taste hiding in your smartphone.
The free app is available for Android and iPhone users; Cheers!
Chances are pretty high that you'll acquire some type of electronic gadget this holiday season, which often means that you'll have older tech that you no longer need.
Remember, anything that has a power button, plugs into the wall or uses rechargeable batteries contains toxic electronic waste, so don’t ever throw your old electronics in the trash.
First, check with local charities to see if they have a program to reuse your old tech. Even though you may not be able to use it anymore doesn’t mean that someone else can't.
If it turns out to be too old, then recycling it responsibly through a proper e-waste recycling program is your best bet.
All your electronic gadgets contain toxins like arsenic, lead, mercury and a long list of other chemicals that will wreak havoc on our landfills and groundwater if you just toss it in the trash.
As a nation, 75% of the over 3-million tons of e-waste we generate is still being thrown in trash cans, which end up in our landfills because there's so little awareness of the problem.
Please be sure to do you part and properly dispose of all your electronics and educate your friends so they do the same!
No matter how much you love technology, IMHO nothing compares to curling up to a good book on a porch swing on a lazy afternoon.
No matter what topics you prefer; business, self-help, history, science or fiction, learning about great books from others is always a good way to make decisions.
While Amazon can be a great at recommending new books based on what you've already read, a website called GoodReads.com offers another way to discover new books.
Not only do you get great suggestions because of what you’ve read, you can also connect with your bookworm friends to learn what they don’t like and more importantly what they do like.
It’s kind of like a virtual library that makes discovering great books much easier than wandering the aisles of a traditional bookstore.
The site lets you create queues of the books you’ve read, the ones you’re currently reading and the an book that you want to read.
Goodreads works really well if you can get a group of avid readers to join in as sort of a virtual but private book club.
Hardcore bookworms you can also start or join discussion groups that can be private or public.
Learn more at https://GoodReads.com
A friend recently asked me if I knew of any apps that allowed him to record phone conversations while using his Android smartphone.
He primarily wanted to record calls for training purposes he said.
My first piece of advice was to be sure he didn’t violate any wiretapping laws because they varied from state to state.
The best way to make sure you’re not violating any laws is to notify everyone on the calls that it is being recorded as he began.
After I tested a handful of apps out, I found an app called Call Recorder that was free and did the job quite well.
Once it was installed, a small red dot appeared in the upper left-hand corner whenever the phone was making or receiving a call.
Whenever you want to record a call, you just tap the red dot to start and then again when you are done.
The app will log the caller ID, date, time and duration of the call automatically and then allows you to share the file in various ways.
Call Recorder from Boldbeast can be downloaded from the Google Play store.
Anyone with a security webcam setup in the home or business, will want to pay particular attention to today’s tip.
There are numerous websites that show live feeds from thousand of compromised webcams from around the world mad possible by a simple but common error made by the webcam’s owners.
They didn't change the default password on the device.
Not only do these sites show the brand as well as the default username, password and live stream of the web cameras, they often include the approximate location too.
Most of these sites claim that they're doing this to educate the public on this common mistake.
You should know that every hacker knows the default username and password for any device you own in your home or business, so leaving them at the default increases your chances of being compromised.
Keep in mind, any device that you can access from outside your home is potentially accessible by unauthorized users especially when you make easy for them.
If you don’t have a clue which devices may be at risk or how to make the changes to the settings, get some help. It’s just too important to ignore this one.
When we get a new computer during the holidays, the first step is getting all your programs and utilities installed which can take quite a bit of time.
Installing various browsers, web tools, file managers,
productivity tools, media players and an endless list of utilities are just the beginning of what it takes to get your computer setup.
You probably won’t realize how many steps it takes to get your new computer fully functional until you go through this normally arduous process.
The next time you’re faced with this common situation, there’s a much faster solution for both Mac and Windows users.
In the past, we have told Windows users that a website called NiNite (that’s N I N I T E.com) allows you to quickly generate one neat little automatic package from everything you need.
For those setting up a brand new Mac, I suggest you checkout GetMacApps.com to do the same thing.
If you’re the IT person at a business, both of these sites can be a huge time saver when trying to get all your computers setup exactly the same way.
http://getmacapps.com and http://ninite.com
If you have young children or grandchildren that you spend time with at bedtime, this tip is for you!
Wouldn’t it be when bedtime story hour came around that you could read a story that stars your child?
Well, a website called Storybots allows you to do just that by customizing children’s stories starring your child with just a few mouse clicks.
You start by uploading a picture of your child to generate their character, then pick one of the many books that cover themes that any child would love and they become the star of the bedtime story.
There is even an option to create 'Starring You Videos’ which are learning videos and activity sheets to extend the fun.
The apps can be used on your computer via the web or on an iPhone or iPad, which makes it perfect for bedtime!
Storybots is a kid safe ad-free resource with no in-app purchases and no unsafe links on any of their tools.
The basic resources are free, but if you want unlimited access to all that they offer, you can become a member for $3 to $5 a month at http://StoryBots.com
In both business and personal situatuions, you may find yourself in need of some basic graphic design work, but it isn't important enough to hire a professional.
The next time this happens whether you are design challenged or just don’t have the software that can get it done, check out a free web tool called Canva...spelled like canvas without the s.
Canva is a really simple, template driven tool that is also web-based, so there's no need to install anything in order to get started.
Should you need anything from a flyer to a poster, business card, graphic images for your website or blog, properly formatted Facebook Cover images or any of the many social media related graphics, Canva is about as easy as it gets.
Just select a design style, then an associated template and get to work modifying the text to fit your needs.
If you need images, you can use your own or purchase professional images from their huge library for as little as a dollar each.
It is so easy to learn, easy to use, cheap and it produces professional looking results in minutes...it’s a design challenged persons dream.
So if you don't have the vision, money, software, skills or patience necessary to create graphics, checkout Canva.com...that’s C A N V A.com
It has always been very risky to plug a USB drive into your computer if you don’t know anything about it, but it’s now downright dangerous.
Strange USB drives have always had the potential of spreading malware and viruses but general speaking, an updated security program should detect and block any threats.
But a recent exploit demonstrated at the annual Black Hat Security Conference showed a way for hackers to modify the firmware on USB devices that allows malware to hide.
This type of exploit is undetectable by general security programs and it’s virtually un-patchable, meaning there is no easy way to fix the design flaw that allows this to be used.
With this in mind, it is imperative that you avoid using any USB drive that you don’t own and you should never plug in a USB drive that someone else may have lost.
If you take a minute to think like a hacker, dropping infected USB drives around college campuses or high target businesses can make it easy to gain access inside secured systems.
The fact that this undetectable exploit exists, requires all of us to be very suspicious of any USB drive, especially if it’s origins are unknown.
Businesses should especially be aware and warn their employees about strange USB drive usage.
We’ve all had to deal with flight delays, cancellations and over bookings when traveling by air.
When they happen, it can completely ruin your day; make you very late for an important gathering or worse yet, miss something altogether.
If you’re lucky, you could end up with a simple meal voucher or a free drink, but that is because the companies that fly you around know that you are most likely clueless about your actual rights.
This most common occurrence caused a number of frequent international travelers to get together and take action by creating a service called AirHelp.
AirHelp is both a website and an app that’s designed to quickly act as your flight advocate when things go wrong.
It takes just three minutes for the system to check if you’re eligible for some form of compensation, so you are more informed before making a decision to accept something from the gate agents.
Getting financially compensated won’t happen immediately, but if the AirHelp service can get you compensation, they'll keep 25% to pay for the leg work the system does on your behalf.
Even if your nightmare flight happened within the last three years and you weren't compensated, you may still have eligible for compensation, especially you were on an international flight.
Learn more at http://GetAirHelp.com
Ever wonder how some people on social media or email are able to post those weird series of characters in their messages?
There is nothing on your keyboard that allows you to generate the characters but if you hold down the Alt key and tap on some of the numbers, you’ll start to see how they’re doing it.
For example, holding down the ‘Alt’ key and the number 2 will generate the classic trademark symbol.
There are actually 255 various combinations that you can use, but trying to commit to memory which keys correspond to which number combination is a bit of a stretch.
There are many online resources that have charted each character's number keyboard combo, but there’s a much easier way to make use of special characters.
Just go to this site: CopyPasteCharacter.com and you’ll see all of the special characters and then all you’ll need to do is click on any of them to copy them.
Then you can simply paste them into a Facebook or Twitter post or into an e-mail message or into any just about any program that allows characters.
They even offer their iPhone if you want to use it on the go at http://copypastecharacter.com
All of the major cellular carriers are engaged in a heated battle to try to get your business with some really attractive offers these days.
But when it comes to cell service, a good deal doesn’t mean much if the quality of the service in your specific areas is weak, so before you make the decision to hop from one provider to another, you need to do some homework.
A useful resource that will allow you to review how Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint perform in your specific area is posted at http://rootmetrics.com.
You can start with your city to get an overall rating of the performance that includes reliability and speed when it comes to data, call and text so you can evaluate the strengths of each network where you live.
One of the coolest features of Rootmetrics.com is in the CoverageMap section. You can bring up a detailed map of where call quality is solid or spotty, where data speeds are fast or slow and whether you can get true 4G LTE service where you need it the most.
They also have a mobile app that will allow you to generate reports of your own as you travel around and add the findings to their database.
I’ve posted the links to the useful Rootmetrics resources at DataDoctors.com/radio
Find your city reports: http://www.rootmetrics.com/us/rsr/usa-metros?z=united-states
Explore the Coverage Map: http://webcoveragemap.rootmetrics.com/us
Mobile apps: http://www.rootmetrics.com/us/products/coveragemap-mobile-app
Most of us love our pets so much that we often treat them like humans, but when they're sick, they can’t tell us what’s wrong because their not actually human.
Taking your dog or cat to the vet is an obvious first move, but sometimes that's not possible. When you're in that situation, PetMD.com might be worth checking out.
PetMD is a very comprehensive pet health, nutrition, care and feeding online resource that I’ve ever seen.
The resources range from symptom checkers to a complete health library to a robust dictionary of veterinary terms.
If your pet is experiencing strange behaviors, click on their extensive emergency section to help determine what might be the cause of your pet’s discomfort.
The website is a lot more than just urgent health issues, it's full of solid info on breeds, proper care and feeding and they can even assist in finding a name for your newest pet.
If you've ever wondered why dogs eat grass or what you should do when you find a lump on your pet, checkout PetMD.com.
Best of all PetMD isn’t just for lovers of dogs and cats. If you have a pet of any kind, it's a great resource to have in your web favorites.
Smartphones have pretty much been safe from infected apps as long as you made sure to get your apps from one of the official app stores and you didn’t jailbreak or root your device.
Jailbreaking or rooting a smartphone allows the user to bypass the factory controls put in place by the device manufacturer and generally, it’s only done by tech savvy users.
But, unfortunately there’s a new scam that's in circulation that will sneak a malicious app onto your device, even for users that haven’t bypassed the controls on their smartphones.
It generally starts with a cleverly crafted e-mail or text message that includes a link to an app download.
If you click on the link, it will exploit regular non-jailbroken iPhones or unrooted Android users.
This once again emphasizes the importance of my long standing rule: If you didn’t go looking for it, do not install it.
Malicious app creators have generated some very convincing messages that appear as if they're from trusted resources through hacked accounts of your friends, so stay alert.
If you want extra smartphone protection, checkout the free security apps at https://www.lookout.com/products/personal
Not too long ago, shopping for a TV was pretty simple because you only had a few sizes to choose from and the price increase as you went bigger got to be pretty substantial.
With today’s displays, you can select screens that range from 26 to 90 inches with very minimal price increases as you go bigger.
And with today's UHD 4K displays, you don’t have to be concerned about being too close and see the actual pixels, so going bigger can be better.
As a general rule of thumb, if you simply measure the distance between where you’ll be sitting and the TV in inches then divide by 2, you’ll have the minimum size for your room.
For example, let’s say your measured distance is 7 feet. That would translate to 84 inches, which divided by two would give you 42 inches as your minimum screen size.
If your new TV budget has room so you can go larger, doing so will help you create a much more immersive viewing experience.
If your budget allows you to opt for a 4K display, the increased resolution will be high enough that you can double the size of the screen and still not be too close!
If you're into hiking as much as I am, discovering new trails to explore wherever you go can become a bit of a travel obsession.
And just because it’s getting a little chilly all around us, that doesn’t mean we have to give up hiking as a regular form of exercise.
While there are a plethora of useful resources on the Internet for discovering new hiking trails, I always start with one site in particular: AllTrails.com
With over 700K members and 50K hiking trails, the wisdom of the crowds from this single source is pretty amazing.
Search for trails that range from kid or dog friendly to those that include a waterfall or accommodates mountain biking.
You can get the vital information such as the approximate distance and time of each trail as well as the difficulty rating and user reviews.
It’s super simple to find the best hikes nearby based on your location which is great for travellers or it will help you find those hidden trails where you live and work.
The depth of quality info you can acquire on any potential trail is second to none at http://AllTrails.com and their mobile app makes discovering great new adventures everywhere you go easy to achieve.
It's the time of year that you find the best deals on virtually any kind of electronic gadget you might have on your holiday shopping list.
But beware: the lowest price is often not the best deal.
When you shop for electronics only based on the price, that plays right into the hands of companies that are moving less desirable products.
The only way to be the cheapest in just about any category is by cutting corners because the profit margin on electronics are so razor thin.
The result can be batteries that don’t stay charged as long, compatibility problems with software or apps and in some rare cases, major security issues with the device.
You should stick to buying name brand products from resellers that you know that will allow you to return it if it's unsatisfactory.
The rule of thumb with cheap electronics is the cheaper they are, the more research you should to do before making a decision.
It's really easy these days to find user feedback on any gadget; just do a Google search for the item followed by ‘review’.
If for some reason, you can’t find any online reviews, pass on the device or risk becoming a guinea pig!
You’ve probably noticed strange items just seem to pop-up on your computer over time and it’s most likely the result of installing new apps or programs on your system.
A common way to sneak third-party programs onto your computer these days is through other programs like a printer installation program or utility such as Java.
The best way to catch these unwanted programs and unnecessary changes to your system is to pay very close attention to the installation routine.
Software companies are relying on you not to pay attention and just keep hitting next, next, next, I agree.
Another way they try to trick you into allowing junk programs on to your computer is by persuading you that the standard installation is the recommended one.
They make it appear that you’ve got to be some sort of rocket scientist in order to select the custom installation, but that’s the only way that you’ll get to see what they’re trying to put on your computer.
From now on, make sure you always choose the advanced or custom installation button whenever you’re installing any new program on to your system so you can avoid the sneaky junk.
Following this advice is the key to keeping your browser from being messed up with extra toolbars or the irritation of having your default search engine or start page changed.
Google has given us all a boost in the ongoing battle to protect yourself online.
Since it's very likely that you have a Google account of some kind, seeing when and how the account has been accessed is a really good way to check for unusual activity.
Google’s Dashboard for Devices and Activity makes it simple to review the complete list of all the devices or computers that have had access to your account in the last month or so, including devices that are currently logged in.
Whenever possible, they'll include location information as well to assist in determining if the access is from an authorized device.
If you see any suspicious devices or logins, there’s an option to quickly take steps to secure your account by changing the password.
Even if you aren't seeing anything unusual, you should take the extra step of clicking on the ‘Secure your account’ link at the top.
It will review five ways to secure your account including a display of all the apps, websites and devices that currently have access to your account.
The direct link to the Google Security Dashboard is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
Once again the holiday shopping season is upon us and most of us are buying as many gifts as we can online to avoid the crowded stores.
But, when you do buy items online, they’re often delivered to your front door while you are away, which has led to a new concern: Porch Pirates.
Porch Pirates will follow delivery trucks around to check out the best packages to steal when they figure out no one’s home.
To help fight this growing problem, try to have your gifts sent to a friend or neighbor that you know will be at home or if possible, send it to your place of work.
You can generally provide special delivery instructions when you're making the purchase or post a note on the front door if there’s a safer place for the delivery to be made.
If packages get delivered to your house on a regular basis throughout the year, think about installing a motion-sensing webcam that can automatically record activity and sends you an alert whenever it detects someone at your door.