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’re an avid user of Microsoft Word, you’re probably familiar with macros that allow you to insert large chunks of text that you use on a regular basis with a keyboard shortcut to save time.
If you find yourself spending more time on the Internet creating content, having this same feature in your browser can be super handy.
If you find yourself using Google Docs instead of Microsoft Word and want this same capability, checkout a free add-on for Google Chrome called Auto Text Expander.
Whether you want to create shortcuts for long e-mail addresses, phrases you frequently use or create special e-mail signatures that you can easily insert, Auto Text Expander will get the job done.
You can create your own database of shortcuts like bizadd for your business address or persig for a personal e-mail signature or any chunk of text that you use on a regular basis.
Once you create a shortcut, it can be used on any text field for everything from e-mail to social media to your blog site.
Booking airline tickets has become a combination of luck and timing if you’re trying to find the lowest possible fares.
While there is no absolute best time to book the cheapest air fare for every trip, CheapAir.com does have some interesting data to share based on over 4 million trips from last year.
They took every possible booking date from 320 days in advance to one day before to compile their data set.
Based on what they compiled, on average the best time to buy a domestic airline ticket is 54 days before your next trip, which equates to roughly 7.5 weeks.
What their data clearly showed was the absolute worst thing to do is book your ticket less than 14 days before your flight, but you probably already knew that.
What was really interesting was that booking too early could cost you dearly as well and on average the fare changed 92 times before the flight takes off.
The sweet spot across all flights was between 29 and 104 days, so the lesson here is to plan ahead when you can.
If you’d like to read the full report, the link is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
Most of us bounce between our computers and our smartphones on a pretty regular basis, so wouldn't it be great to have an easy way to push information between the two?
If you’ve ever been in a situation where you found something on your computer that you wanted to push up to your smartphone, or vice versa, checkout the free solution at Pushbullet.com
Pushbullet is a web app for Google Chrome combined with a mobile app for Android or iPhone that makes it easy to send things between your computer and your smartphone.
Notes, web links, addresses, lists, pictures or files can all be sent from one device to another with the greatest of ease.
Pushbullet eliminates the steps involved with popular services like DropBox or Google Drive because whatever you push can be accessed without having to download files or open special apps.
You can even use Pushbullet to send things directly to your friends, family or co-workers.
If you’re an Android user, you can even mirror your smartphones notifications right on your computer.
If you’re sufficiently intrigued, we’ve got the direct links for the mobile and web apps 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
Everyone knows that Google is the undisputed king of search, but very few businesses have an understanding of how important Google + is to being found in a Google search.
Whether you use Google+ as a social network or not, if you’re a business with a physical presence, you need to make sure you have a Google+ Local page setup to maximize your exposure.
Google + Local pages can dramatically improve your exposure, especially in local search because Google uses the information on your page to help determine relevance.
It’s figuratively and literally how you get your business on the map, especially when it comes to mobile search.
50% of mobile search queries are local and 61% of those searches generally result in purchases. Think of it as today’s virtual phone book...if you’re not in it, you’re not going to be found.
The best part of this tip is that getting your business found on Google search, maps, mobile and Google+ will cost you nothing but your time and the results can be dramatic.
Getting started is pretty easy, so don’t let the fear of the unknown scare you. I’ve posted the link for getting started at DataDoctors.com/radio
Text messaging has become the go-to method of efficiently communicating with a large number of people for most of us and if something happens to your smartphone, you’re lost.
Well, at some point in your life, you’re going to leave your smartphone somewhere or it will get stolen or broken, so planning for that eventuality is today’s tip.
If you are a Verizon or AT&T customer, you can log into your online account to send and receive text message via any computer as if you still had your phone, but I recommend that you do this before you’re in crisis mode.
If you don’t know your account info or you've never used the online texting interface, do it as a test before you actually need it so you can jump right in when the need arises.
If you’re on a carrier that doesn't support online texting from your account and you’re in a pinch, you can temporarily use a free online texting service such as Textem.net to reach out via your computer.
The only caveat to this service is that you will need to know which cellular provider your recipient is on, so it’s got limited usability.
There are dozens of other methods for sending text messages from your computer, so take a minute to set something up before your next smartphone emergency
Providing an e-mail address when you are interacting with a website has become a pretty common occurrence, but in many cases, it will just lead to more junk messages.
If you use the same address for everyone, it can make it really hard to figure out who’s responsible for sending you what junk.
You can use an alternative e-mail account for non-essential interactions or if you use Gmail, you can create e-mail aliases on the fly.
For instance, if I wanted to use an alias for anything I do on eBay and my regular address is [email protected] I would use [email protected] as the alias.
By doing that, I can setup filters to automatically direct any mail sent to that address to Trash, apply a label or star, skip the Inbox or even forward it to another account.
What’s great about this method is that there’s basically no limit to the number of aliases you can setup and it’s a great way to track how much junk a site starts sending you because you signed up for something.
If you use Microsoft’s Outlook.com online mail service, you can use the same procedure for creating instant aliases as well.
We’ve all been in those awkward situations where you’re trying to find a graceful way to make an exit.
Wouldn’t it be great to get a phone call right in the middle of that awkward situation so you could politely excuse yourself?
Well, there’s an app for that and it’s called Tickle. Tickle uses your phones accelerometer to detect touches or gestures that you pre-configure so you get a phone call just when you need it!
Once you have it installed, it sits in the background waiting for you to make the gesture that you need to escape and viola, you get a phone call.
The creators of the app claim that the app is so sensitive, it can detect the gesture even if your phone is in your shirt or pants pocket.
You can use subtle touches or wiggles to generate the rescue call as an excuse to excuse yourself!
Tickle is currently in private beta and will initially only be available for the iPhone, but if you think this app could be useful for you, you can get on the waiting list at http://UseTickle.com
By now, you should know that having a long, somewhat complex password is a necessity to help fend off password attacks.
We always recommend adding a string of special characters or numbers to the end of a password you can remember and shoot for at least 15 characters.
But typing that long password in every time you start your computer can get to be a pain, so if you’re running Windows 8, you've got some options for signing in quickly but retaining your complex password.
The first alternative is to setup a picture password that has gestures associated with it.
You basically pick a picture, create three gestures that can include lines, circles or taps on the picture and that becomes a sign in alternative.
The gesture based sign-in is especially handy on tablets or touchscreens, but you can also set it up on standard computers using your mouse.
The other option is to add a 4 digit PIN that can be used as your sign in access code instead of the computer’s primary password.
The step-by-step instructions for setting up these convenient alternatives is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
Social media has become a vibrant communication channel for most of us both personally and professionally.
If you’re a business professional, having an updated LinkedIn profile is an essential tool for what I consider business networking on steroids.
But there’s a lot of confusion for those new to LinkedIn about how to handle connection requests from those that you don’t know.
Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn is designed to help you connect with people you don’t know so you can grow your business contacts.
When you go to a real world networking event, refusing
to take someone’s business card because you don’t know them would be rather strange, right?
Well, the same holds true for LinkedIn. With very few exceptions, I recommend that you give their profile a quick once over and accept all requests to connect if they look like a real person.
The exceptions are accounts that don’t have a picture, have few connections and have very little filled out in their profile.
Remember, you can always kick someone from your network if they abuse your connection.
Want the directions for kicking someone from your LinkedIn network?
They’re posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
If you own an iPhone, iPad or Mac computer, you need to listen closely to today’s tip.
You probably heard recently about a security issue with virtually all Apple devices, but if you’re like most busy people, you just went on with your day.
Apple has unfortunately been training you to ignore security alerts, because so many of them pertain to Windows users, but that’s actually becoming a bad thing.
This most recent discovery of a flaw in how Apple devices verified secure websites, like your bank, was about as dangerous as they get.
There’s a simple way to check any Apple device to see if you’re in danger; just visit http://GoToFail.com for a quick test.
If you get an unsafe report on your device, I’ve posted directions for updating iPhones, iPads and Mac OSX computers at DataDoctors.com/radio.
I’d also recommend that you change the passcodes on any website you’ve used in the last 18 months just to play it safe.
Despite what Apple has been preaching for years, it’s time to start paying attention to security threats because the bad guys are coming for you too.
You’ve been hearing for some time about the impending retirement of Windows XP, and now there’s less than a month to go.
Various research firms are still showing that 20-30% of computers that connect to the Internet are still running WIndows XP, and if you’re one of those folks, you’ll be taking a huge risk by continuing.
Microsoft has already stated that you’re 6 times more likely to be hacked running Windows XP, even with the security patches, so after April 8th, you could be a sitting duck for hackers as new exploits are discovered.
Since transitioning to a new computer always takes more time than you think, waiting until the last minute with something this important is a really bad idea.
At the moment, you still have a choice of migrating to Windows 7 or WIndows 8, but that won’t last for long, so make the move while you still have a choice.
You’ve probably noticed that data breaches via compromised computers seem to be occurring on a regular basis these day, so consider this a wake up call if you’re still running Windows XP
Everywhere you turn, you see people holding their smartphone in front of their face and taking the now ubiquitous selfie!
The word Selfie was 2103’s Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year because of the popularity of taking a picture of yourself with your smartphone.
The selfie has become an artistic expression for a lot of people and if you’re looking to take this narcissistic pursuit to the max, have I got an app for you!
Selfie360 takes the dull boring single flat image selfie to a new level with various ways to create an animated 3d or panoramic selfie.
You can create a portrait selfie that’s an animated 90 degree rotation of your face or a panoramic selfie that shows a 360 view of where you are taking the picture.
If you really want to go for it, you can create a full 360 degree 3D selfie, although it’s technically not a selfie because you’ll need someone else to take it for you.
Once you create your selfie on steroids, you can share it via text, Instagram, Facebook or email.
Selfie360 is free but only available for the iPhone
If your mobile devices are on a data plan that has a cap, keeping your data usage under that cap is vital.
One of the best ways to do that is to switch to the Opera Mini browser for all your web surfing.
Opera has an option to switch to off-road mode which reduces data usage while you’re surfing the web and shows you how data it saved while using it.
Opera does some interesting things with compression before your phone actually downloads the information so it uses less bandwidth than other mobile browsers when in the off-road mode.
In some cases, this compression can actually speed up internet access especially on slow connections or it can cause irregularities on dynamic sites, which is why you need to the option to turn it on and off.
Opera also has speed-dial for your favorite websites; think of it as a more visual version of the bookmarks you’ve always used.
Want to give Opera Mini a test drive?
Just grab your mobile device and go to m.opera.com and they’ll automatically provide you with the proper link.
If you have young children, having a baby monitor of some sort is a pretty standard device.
If you’re looking for an alternative or want something that’s really convenient when you take the kids on a trip, checkout the Android app called Dormi. that’s D O R M I
Dormi is an app that turns any two Android phones or tablets into fully functional baby monitors that work from any distance.
Unlike a traditional baby monitor, Dormi works with wifi or cellular connections, so it can work in the next room or the next county.
You can even push a button to talk to your child if you need to provide a calming voice and Dormi keeps you posted on the battery level of the monitor phone.
The basic service is free and allows for up to 4 hours of monitoring a month or you can get unlimited use forever by buying the app for $7.
If you have an old Android phone sitting in a drawer somewhere, this could be the perfect way to bring it back to life.
Take a quick look at the photos on your smartphone; it’s a big long string of unorganized images that you have to scroll through to find anything.
Some phones have some automatic organization built-in but even then it’s somewhat limited or confusing.
If you want to tidy up your smartphone pictures, check out an app called Tidy that gives you lots of ways to get them organized.
By default, Tidy will allow you to quickly group your images by when they were taken; by the hour, day week, month or year.
You can also group the images based on where they were taken or which app took the picture.
You can quickly start archiving images you don’t really care about anymore and build albums around categories or interests for pictures you do care about.
You can display the images in your albums in columns or a collage to make it even more interesting to look at.
As with any organizational app, the more time you spend working with it, the more organized you’ll become.
Tidy is available for both iPhone and Android users and it’s absolutely free.
Check it out at TidyAlbum.com
Whenever you get a new computer, one of the first things you end up spending a ton of time on, is getting all your programs and utilities installed.
Alternative browsers, Internet tools, file managers, media players, productivity tools and countless utilities are just the beginning of what needs to get installed.
You don’t really realize how many things you need to make your computer fully functional until you go through the hours of downloading and install all of it.
Well, the next time you’re in this situation, I’ve got a much better solution for both Mac and Windows users.
We’ve told Windows users in the past to go to a website called NiNite (that’s N I N I T E.com) and click on all of the browsers, utilities and program they want installed in one neat little automatic package.
And if you’re next computer is a Mac, you can go to GetMacApps.com to do the same.
If you’re in charge of the computers at a business, these sites are huge time savers because you can create a single install program to get all your new computers setup exactly the same.
http://getmacapps.com and http://ninite.com
If you’ve listed to our tech tips for a while, you know that we’re constantly searching for new apps and tools for digital photography.
Since we’re all snapping pictures with our smartphones on a regular basis, the results aren’t always the greatest, so having tools to enhance the images is key.
One of our latest favorites is called Fotor http://www.fotor.com (that ‘s F O T O R.com ) and it’s both a website and an app that’s loaded with features.
You get the usual list of editing features and collage, but one excellent option is creating HDR images.
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and it’s a way of combining multiple shots of the same image at varying exposures into one awesome image.
Now you can take those pictures that were too dark and combine them with those that were too bright to create a much better image.
Fotor also has a whole series of beauty retouching options like wrinkle reduction, blemish removal and teeth whitening and it’s available as an app for all of the major mobile platforms.
Fotor has so many features, it might be the only photo app you need!
If you’re one of the millions that wishes they could play something cool on a guitar but you’re not willing to commit to taking lessons, I’ve got an option for you.
Being able to visualize things is very helpful when you are trying to learn something new and that’s how an app called CoachGuitar approaches it.
Forget the music theory, learning chords and tablature, you just want to be able the strum some lines from Stairway to Heaven or Stand By Me right?
CoachGuitar walks you through how to play riffs from popular songs via videos and an animated fretboard.
It shows you where you should put your fingers and which strings to strum so you can quickly learn some familiar tunes.
It’s like having a virtual guitar teacher on your mobile device
The basic app and lessons are free, but If you really get into it, you can buy lessons for lots of other popular songs.
Coach Guitar is currently available for iPhone and iPad users with an Android version on its way.
If you’re ready to start shredding, visit http://www.coachguitar.com to download the app!
We’ve given you tips in the past on extending the battery life on your smartphone, but did you know that most of those suggestions will also extend the life of your laptop battery?
Turning down the screen brightness is the #1 tip as powering the screen is almost 50% of the drain and just like your smartphone, turn off Wifi and Bluetooth if you aren’t using them.
If you have devices plugged into a USB port that you aren’t using, unplug them so your computer isn’t constantly querying them for updates.
Extreme temperature is the number one killer of batteries, so never turn your computer on or charge it when it’s hot or cold to the touch.
Waiting until the battery has reached room temperature will dramatically lengthen the life of the battery.
You should also avoid using your laptop on a pillow, blanket or any soft surface that might block the cooling vents and cause your laptop to heat up.
And screen savers that display your favorite photos might be fun, but they eat up your battery, so switch to a blank screen for the best results.
Ever want to meet with someone at a mutually convenient location because they are kind of far away?
If you happen to be familiar with the area, you could probably figure something out, but if not, you waste a lot of time trying to figure out where to meet.
The good news is, there’s an app and a website for that! Android users can use an app called Meet Me Halfway.
Just put the starting points into the app and the actual halfway point will be determined with a whole host of possible meeting places.
You can use physical addresses, zip codes or the city to get started and tapping on a pin will tell you if the facility is currently open or closed.
You can filter your results for specific types of establishments so you can hone in on the type of meeting place you prefer.
If you want more details, you can open the location in Google Maps or share the location with the person you’re meeting
Another option is the MeetWays.com website which works for computers and mobile devices.
There’s a component to surfing the Internet that’s known as a DNS server that plays a critical role in getting you to the sites you want to visit.
DNS stands for Domain Name System and it acts like a traffic cop giving your computer directions whenever you type in a web address.
Your DNS settings are generally determined by your Internet Service Provider, but there are some significant benefits to changing from your defaults.
You can increase reliability and Internet speeds and if you’re a parent, you can automatically block adult content or malicious websites for your children.
One of my favorite free services is OpenDNS because it’s fast, reliable, easy to setup and gives you total control over what you want to filter and what you want to allow through.
My recommendation is to change the DNS settings in your home router so that everything in your home has improved performance and protection.
For specific directions, check the support section of the router manufacturer’s website or get some help.