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!
Last year, someone claiming to be a security researcher went on a national cable news channel claiming that just about every popular flashlight app for smartphones contained malware.
His claims were based on the permissions required by the app that were unnecessary in his opinion.
When I first saw this story surface, I was immediately suspicious of his findings because he was promoting his own flashlight app while bashing many others.
The reality is that free apps generally use in-app advertising as a way to make money, which is the real reason for the additional permissions.
This salacious news segment has recently resurfaced on social media causing some unwarranted hysteria by those that take things at face value.
Remember, free apps are rarely truly free because often times, you agree to allow them to sell advertising based on how you use the app.
As I’ve previously suggested, understanding app permissions and paying a small fee to avoid ads is always something to consider.
If you’re a regular participant in Throw Back Thursday postings, I’ve got an app suggestion that can take it to a whole new level.
The VHS Camcorder app can make any video look like an old-school video from the 80’s.
Imagine creating a video that looks like it was dug up from a lost time capsule from 30 years ago.
The retro effects include tape noise and distortion, grainy video and that telltale running time/date stamp in the bottom left corner.
To help convince your friends that it’s an old video, you can fake the date and time stamp.
It turns your iPhone into a crappy VHS camcorder with the tap of the screen.
At the moment, the VHS Camcorder app is only available for iPhone users, but an Android version is said to be in the works.
I don’t normally spotlight apps that cost money, but if you’re really into the current rage of retro tech, 4 bucks is a small price to pay.
If you love swimming in open water like lakes or oceans and find staying in a straight line a bit of a challenge, there’s now a high tech solution in the works.
A new Kickstarter project called the OnCourse Goggles uses LEDs to help you keep track of the direction you’re swimming.
With a built-in compass, accelerometer and computer chip, it claims it will make swimming in a straight line much easier.
You just look in the direction you want to go, tap a button on the side of the goggles to lock in the destination and off you go.
The LEDs turn yellow as you start to veer off course or red if you’re going in the wrong direction altogether.
The device seems to be focused on triathletes and comes with a hefty price tag, but if you swim on a regular basis and want to cut down on your zig zag pattern, you may be able to justify the $150 contribution.
I’ve posted a link to the Kickstarter campaign at DataDoctors.com/radio
onvenient way to make use of toll roads.
Whether you live in an area where it’s available or have recently rented a car that made use of it, there’s a clever email scam you need to be aware of.
A new phishing scam that poses as a notice of unpaid tolls is making the rounds and it’s not just trying to bilk you out of your money.
If you fall victim to this scam, not only will they get your credit card information, you’ll end up with a hidden virus that allows them to remotely access your computer.
E-Z Pass payments are never collected via e-mail, they’re either deducted directly from your account or a notice is mailed to the address associated with the license plate of the vehicle in question.
Remember, if you recently rented a car with E-Z Pass, the rental agency would be the one to notify or charge you for any unpaid tolls.
A while back, Google created something they call DeepDream code as part of their artificial neural networks which they use to sort and categorize millions of images online.
An offshoot of this open source project has resulted in an amazing image manipulation app called Dreamify.
Dreamify takes anything I’ve ever seen in an image manipulation app to a new high...think Instagram filters on steroids.
The bizarre images that you can create from your own photos are like nothing you’ve ever seen.
It comes with 12 presets with descriptions like Dogify and Psychedelic Topography which can be tweaked to create the most otherworldly images from your ordinary images.
The finished photos can be kept private or shared with the Dreamify community, much like Instagram.
It’s the most unique creativity app I’ve seen in a long time and perfect for those wanting to create images for the upcoming Halloween season.
Dreamify is free and available for both iPhone and Android users in their associated app stores.
Portable devices have become our go to gadgets for just about everything we do these days.
But one problem with these modern marvels of technology is that they all SUCK...battery power that is.
There’s nothing more frustrating then a dead smartphone just when you need it the most.
A must have accessory these days is a portable charging pack that can bail you out of these situations.
In the past, the good ones were bulky and expensive, but not anymore.
Options such as Anker’s PowerCore 20100 can charge an iPhone 6 seven times, a Galaxy S6 five times or an iPad mini twice before it needs to be recharged.
At 6 and a half by 2 inches and only 12 ounces, it’s small enough and light enough to conveniently fit in your pocket, travel bag or purse.
It’s one of the most compact 20000mAh portable chargers available and it’s only $40!
I’ve paid 3 times that much for half the capacity in the past.
I’ve posted the link to learn more at DataDoctors.com/radio
Buying and selling used cars can be a complex and frustrating process that generally requires haggling by one party or another.
Several new tech companies are attempting to take the hassle out of buying and selling cars by connecting buyers and sellers directly.
But a startup called Vroom is taking a completely different approach by actually buying and selling cars via its app and website.
They emphasize their no-haggle pricing for both buyers and sellers and offer to do either no matter where you live.
When buying a car, it includes free shipping and a 7-day return policy, so it’s almost like the Zappos of the auto industry.
If you want to sell your car to Vroom, you can use the app to send them VIN info along with pictures to get a cash offer in minutes.
It’s also a great way to know if a dealer is making a reasonable offer if you’re trading it in on another car.
Check it all out at https://www.vroom.com
Wearable technology continues to improve with each new product and manufacturer that enters the market.
Two of the more popular devices at the moment are the Fitbit activity trackers and the Apple Watch which is a full blown smartwatch.
The Fitbit devices are cheaper and focus primarily on fitness tasks, while the more expensive Apple Watch can do much more.
But an often overlooked option that’s priced like the Fitbit but does more than just health monitoring is the Microsoft Band.
It’s got a larger color display for some primary smartwatch tasks, which also makes it bulkier, but users seem to get used to the extra bulk pretty quickly.
With built-in GPS, you can track your workouts without having it tethered to your phone and the Microsoft Health app works on iPhone, Android and Windows smartphones.
The Microsoft Band isn’t the best solution for everyone, but it’s certainly worth considering if you’re in the market for a lower cost smartwatch and fitness tracker.
If you’ve ever seen professional athletes studying themselves, often times you’ll see that they’re using sophisticated slow motion technology to analyse their movement.
Well your smartphone is a pretty powerful computer that can become a similar tool with an app called Hudl Technique.
Whether you’re an athlete, coach or parent of a an up and coming superstar, you can breakdown and analyse the motion of a golf swing, a pitching sequence or any motion in any sport.
You can add notes and annotations to highlight suggested changes and then share the video with others.
You can even match up and synchronize two videos for a side-by-side comparison so you can see the progress over time or compare the form against a professional.
You can zoom in or pan across videos to focus on any specific details for even better instructions.
The capabilities of this free app are astounding and can help anyone determined to improve in their sport have a useful out of body experience.
I’ve posted the link at DataDoctors.com/radio
Have you ever wondered how people are posting those weird series of characters on social media and e-mail?
There’s nothing obvious on your keyboard but if you hold your Alt key down and tap on any number, you’ll see it’s possible.
For instance, Alt and the number two will generate the ™ trademark symbol.
There are 255 possible combinations that are available, but trying to remember which combination corresponds to which character isn’t realistic.
You can find online resources that chart out each character's number, but I have an easier way to make use of special characters.
Just go to CopyPasteCharacter.com which will show you all of the special characters so all you have to do is click on one to copy it.
From there, you can paste it into an e-mail message, on Facebook or Twitter or into any document or spreadsheet you’re working on.
They even have an iPhone app available if you want to use it on the go at http://copypastecharacter.com
Raise your hand if you’ve ever cursed at your inkjet printer because it ran out of ink right in the middle of an urgent project!
We’ve all been there and know that printer ink has become one of the most expensive liquids in the world.
Well, the folks at Epson have come up with something that may be worth considering; their EcoTank line of printers.
Instead of using those puny ink cartridges that are common in most printers, Epson is incorporating large ink reservoirs that hold the equivalent of 20 to 50 ink cartridges depending upon the model.
It’s enough ink to last a year or two for most home users and the best part is, you buy bulk ink in squeeze bottles to refill the tanks when they get low.
You pay more upfront, but the ongoing cost of ink refills is substantially lower because you're buying in bulk.
It’s a breath of fresh air in printer technology; check it out at http://epson.com/ecotank
Using a smartphone as a flashlight has become a pretty handy tool for most of us because we always have our phones with us.
It’s great when you want to shine light in a specific direction, but sometimes you might find it more useful if it was more like a lantern.
Well, there’s an easy way to turn your smartphone’s flashlight into a lantern for better dispersion of light.
All you need is a rubberband and a plastic bottle of water that’s full to make it happen.
Simply attach your phone to the water bottle with the rubberband making sure your phone's flashlight is facing into the bottle.
Avoid pointing it at the label or better yet, remove the label from the bottle altogether for the best results.
It’s a handy trick for camping, when you’re forced to work on something in the dark or leading a group of people around at night.
This little trick will make you look like a real life MacGyver.
Many of us are focused on improving our overall health on a daily basis mainly by concentrating on diet and exercise.
Knowing what you’re eating is essential to achieving your health goals and a website called TwoFoods.com can make it a little easier to make good decisions.
It’s a simple site that allows you to compare two different foods to get a breakdown of calories, carbs, fat and protein.
For example, you can see the relative differences between an apple and a banana if you’re looking for a snack.
It can be especially helpful when you’re trying to decide where to eat lunch on a busy day, because you can quickly compare actual restaurant items against each other.
You can even just put the name of two restaurants in to get reports on popular menu items to compare.
This comparison engine can be a real eye-opener if you haven’t been paying much attention to what you’re eating so check it out for yourself at http://www.twofoods.com
We all know that email is not a secure way to send sensitive information like account or credit card numbers, because it’s plain text that can be seen in a number of ways.
Another problem is that once you send it, you can’t control what happens to the information.
A free Chrome plug-in for Gmail called Dmail aims to help.
Dmail allows you to send sensitive information that’s encrypted and will self destruct based on a time you choose.
You can set it to destroy in an hour, day or week or choose never to allow you to manually revoke it whenever you want.
I don’t recommend this for everyday use; it’s only when you’re going to send sensitive information you know you shouldn’t be sending via regular email.
Once you install the plug-in, it defaults to being on, so make sure you turn it off at the bottom of regular messages.
I’ve got the link to the Dmail plug-in posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
The older I get, the more I find myself trying to remember a word to describe what I’m trying to say.
I understand conceptually what I’m trying to say, but I just can’t remember the word that properly conveys my thoughts.
That’s where a web resource called the OneLook Reverse Dictionary can come to the rescue.
It let’s you describe a concept and returns a comprehensive list of possible words related to that concept.
For instance, when I type in ‘constant urge to travel’, I get the word I was trying to remember: wanderlust!
You can also be very general with terms like ‘red berries’ or ‘large fish’ to get a wide variety of possibilities.
The next time a word is on the tip of your tongue, see if the OneLook Reverse Dictionary can help you spit it out!
I’ve posted the link at DataDoctors.com/radio so you can add it to your bookmarks the next time you’re tongue tied!
Security researchers have been warning us for some time now that our mobile devices are quickly becoming a very desirable target for hackers.
We all love finding new cool apps and that’s one of the latest attack vectors being used by hackers.
Nothing underscores this more than the recent discovery of at least 11 legitimate looking but malicious iPhone apps used in what are called masque attacks.
These malicious downloads imitate popular apps like Facebook, Whatsapp, Skype and Twitter but allow remote hackers to silently access and monitor just about everything on your iPhone.
This new threat can be used by tricking someone into downloading any of a number of popular apps, so it’s imperative that you pay close attention to the source of any app you install.
Links on social media or email that prompt you to download an app are the most likely ways you’ll come in contact with these scams, so make absolutely sure you only get your apps from the Apple App store.
I’ve been constantly reminding all of you to turn on 2 factor authentication for all of your online accounts because it continues to provide an extra layer of protection.
You’ve been using 2 factor authentication for years with your debit card because you have to have both the physical card and the associated PIN.
Imagine a debit card that didn’t require a PIN...well that’s what doing with your online accounts if you don’t turn on 2 factor authentication when it's available.
Once you turn it on, a cyber-thief that acquires your username and password would also need get their hands on your smartphone in order to make use your account.
It’s also a great way to know when someone has stolen your login information.
Just about every major online service or bank offers this protection.
If you want to see which services offer it and how to turn it on, I’ve posted a link to a site with a comprehensive list at DataDoctors.com/radio
The Internet of Things refers to everyday objects having sensors and Internet connections to enhance what they can do.
It allow us to remotely control, gather data and create automated alerts for things like thermostats, lighting systems or web cameras and now you can add your bicycle.
A startup called BikeTag is about to launch a smart safety sensor for your bike.
The basic concept of the device is to provide auto-tracking and crash detection by mounting it under your seat.
The aim is to eliminate the need to remember to turn something on in order to track your ride or notify someone where you are if you’re in a crash.
It’ll also allow you to upload your rides to your fitness tracking site when you finish automatically, if you choose.
Now, it relies on the GPS in your smartphone, so it can’t be used to track stolen bikes.
The BikeTag will cost $100 when it’s released, but you can pre-order now at 35% off.
Learn all about it at http://www.biketag.com
If you use your smartphone to listen to music without the headphones, you know that the sound volume can be less than optimal especially in noisy environments.
Well a new company in the smartphone business claims they have the ‘loudest mobile phone on earth’ for music fanatics.
Marshall, the company known for its legendary guitar amps and headphones is about the launch their first Android-based smartphone in Europe they’re calling London.
There are some unique features that are clearly focused on creating the ultimate phone for music lovers like two forward facing speakers, a dedicated music sound processor, Bluetooth with CD quality sound and two headphone jacks with separate volume controls.
It’s got me intrigued!
Unfortunately, it’ll be a while before it’s available in the US, but if you want to keep tabs on their progress, you can get on their e-mail list at https://www.marshallheadphones.com
Today’s tip is designed to help you put your best foot forward no matter what you’re doing.
If you’re favorite pair of shoes have seen better days and you aren’t sure repairing them is cost effective, checkout a site called http://www.cobblerconcierge.com.
It’s a high-tech solution for a low-tech problem with a very simple process.
Their no matter what the problem pricing takes all the guess work out of whether repairing is more cost effective than replacing.
Men’s shoes cost $80 flat, even if you need new soles, heels, patching or stitching work, womens shoes are $40 flat and handbags are $100 flat and all include shipping.
They’re like the Warby Parker of shoe repair!
Checkout the details including before and after pictures at CobblerConcierge.com.
How many pictures and videos do you have on your smartphone? What do you plan to do with them?
If you plan on posting them one at a time to one of the many social networks, you know that most of them will never see the light of day.
If you want an easy way to take a large number of images or video on your smartphone and create a quick movie, checkout the latest version of the FlipaGram app.
You can select a large number of images, arrange them in any order, add effects and text captions in a matter of minutes.
To give it a little punch, you can choose to add music from your own library or use one of the many 30 second music beds from popular artists that are part of the app.
Choose how long you want each image to display or the app can automatically set the timing based on where you plan to post it.
FlipaGram is available for iOS, Android and Windows based smartphones.