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 have been noticing odd items that seem to pop-up on your computer randomly, it’s very likely that they came from apps or programs that you installed.
A common trick these days is to hide 3rd party software inside utility programs like Java or within printer programs during the installation process.
The best way to keep junk programs out and prevent other unnecessary changes to your computer is by paying close attention to what is happening while you are installing any program.
Most companies count on you to not pay attention and rely on users to tap on next, next, I agree.
Another trick to sneak junk software into your computer is by convincing you that the "standard installation" is best and of course the recommended one.
They may make it sound like you have to be a rocket scientist to go with the "custom installation", but when you do choose it, you’ll see what they are trying to sneak past you.
Start making it a point to click the custom or advanced option when installing anything new on your system so you can avoid the junk before it sneaks in.
This tip is the key to avoiding attempts by software companies to take over your browser with additional toolbars, switching the default search engine or changing your start page.
The likelihood that you will end up with some electronic devices this holiday season is pretty high, which usually means you will end up with older tech that you no longer want.
Keep in mind that anything with a power button or that plugs into the wall or uses rechargeable batteries will contain a lot of toxic waste, so please don’t ever throw your old electronics in the trash.
To be responsible, start by checking with your local charities for programs that reuse old electronics. Just because you don't want it anymore doesn’t mean that someone else can't make use of it.
If it is too old, then responsible recycling through a proper e-waste recycler is what you need to do.
All those gadgets contain toxins that range from arsenic to lead to mercury along with a list of other toxic chemicals that wreak havoc on our landfills & groundwater when you just toss them in the trash.
In the US alone, 75% of the more than three million tons of toxic electronic-waste we generate is simply thrown in the trash, which ends up contaminating our landfills because of the lack of awareness of the problem.
Please ensure that you do your part this year by properly disposing of all your electronics and help the world by educating your friends to follow suit!
Not long ago, purchasing a new TV was pretty straight forward because there were only a few sizes to choose from and the increase in price as you got larger was pretty substantial.
With today’s hi-res flat screen displays, your options range from 26 to over 90 inches with small price increases as you get bigger.
Plus, today's UHD 4K screens eliminates the concern about being so close that you end up seeing the actual pixels, so getting a bigger screen is generally always better.
As a shopping rule of thumb, if you measure the distance between your seating area and where the TV will be in inches and divide it by 2, you will come up with the minimum size screen for your room.
For instance, let’s say your seating area is 7 feet from the screen. That calculates to 84 inches, so when you divide by two, you get 42 inches which would be your minimum screen size.
If your budget has room for a larger display, doing so will create a more immersive viewing experience.
And if you opt for a 4K display, the huge increase in resolution will be so high that you could double the size and still not be too close!
This is the time of year that many expect to find the best deals on all kinds of electronic gear as they're always high on holiday shopping lists.
But a word of warning: the cheapest price is rarely the best deal.
When you go shopping for electronics solely on the basis of the lowest price, you're often times playing right into the hands of organizations trying so sell less desirable products.
The most common trick for creating the cheapest product in any tech category is through cutting corners since profit margins on electronics are so tiny.
The resulting outcomes can range from batteries that don’t stay charged as long, software compatibility issues and in some cases, risky security issues with the device itself.
It's better to stick to name brand products from retailers that allow you to return it if it isn't satisfactory.
The general rule with low priced electronics is the lower the price, the more you should research them before making any decisions.
It's pretty easy anymore to find user reviews and feedback on any electronics; just do a Google search for the item followed by the word ‘review’.
If you can not find any type of feedback or online review on an item, take a pass or risk getting a less than desirable gadget.
The holiday shopping season is here and many of you are going to buy as many items online as you can to avoid the crowds.
When you make online purchases, however, they have to be delivered, most oftento your front door while no one is home. This has led to a new type of criminal: Porch Pirates.
"Porch Pirates" will tail delivery trucks so they can check out packages to nab when they figure out that no one is home.
To help avoid this growing crime, try to have your items sent to a friend or neighbor's house that will be more likely to be home or when possible, send the packages were you work.
You can often include special delivery instructions when you are finalizing your purchases or even leave a note on the front door if there is a better location to deliver the packages.
If you're getting packages delivered to your house regularly all year long, consider the installation of a motion-sensing camera at your door that will automatically record any motion and send you a notice whenever anyone is at your door.
Most avid fans of Apple devices likely have both an iPhone and a Macbook that they use virtually every day.
The folks at Apple have done quite a bit to make their devices work together quite seamlessly.
But many users may not know that they can tether them together, so that your iPhone will lock your laptop when you step away and unlock it when you return.
This useful and easy security feature is available from an app called ‘Tether'.
Simply load Tether on your smartphone and Macbook, to automatically make this happen.
There’s no need to worry about the Tether app draining the battery on your iPhone to make this magic possible because it makes use of 'Bluetooth Smart' which is a very low energy technology.
Anyone working in an open environment that wants to control those snooping eyes will find this to be one of the best tips I’ve ever provided.
Get more info on this free app for your Macbook and iPhone at http://hellotether.com
Most of us treat our family pets like they are human, but the reality is that they're not human, so they can’t tell us what’s wrong when they aren’t feeling well.
Taking your dog or cat to your vet is an obvious first choice, but when that isn’t an option, PetMD.com stands ready to provide some help.
PetMD.com is one of the most comprehensive websites available for pet health, nutrition care & feeding that I have ever seen.
They offer everything from 'symptom checkers' to a comprehensive health library to an excellent explanation of vet terminology.
If your pet is exhibiting strange behaviors, you can scan the emergency section to try to evaluate what might be at the root of your pet’s problem.
PetMD is more than just urgent issues; they offer a wealth of great info on most breeds, proper care and feeding and they can even help you come up with a name for that new member of the family.
Have you ever wondered why dogs like to eat grass or what you should do when you discover a lump on your pet? PetMD offers those types of answers.
By the way, this site isn’t just for cat or dog owners so pet owners of all kinds will find great information at PetMD.com.
A very common question that I have been asked over the years, is "where can I send my employees to get software training”?
Well, the web allows for very interactive and visual ways to learn and a website that offers a comprehensive library of easy-to-follow online tutorials is called “Lynda.com".
They have more than 2500 video courses that go from the common business programs like Word & Excel to 3-D animation and just about every web language or program in use today.
The thousands of training videos are setup as beginner, intermediate & advanced levels and some include close captioning.
Lynda.com is a subscription service that also offers mobile apps, so you can watch courses on any desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone and then pop back and forth without losing your place in the lesson.
Any business that's looking for an inexpensive video training system should take the time to look into http://lynda.com.
Our powerful smartphones are basically the same as computers because over time, they'll build up a pile of junk files that can fill your device up.
Anyone using an Android smartphone or tablet that seems to be running slower than it used to or is running out of storage space should checkout a free app called "Clean Master” because it finds all the unnecessary junk and free up valuable space in a snap.
I was able to free up almost 2 Gbs of useless files from the Samsung handset that I have been using for testing lots of app over the past year.
The Clean Master app shows you how much storage & RAM you are currently consuming and allows you to discover the memory hogs so you can close them down when your Android phone starts to slow down.
It provides malware detection & real time protection against various web threats in addition to an app manager that makes it really easy to uninstall apps in groups.
Another useful feature is the ability to see how many of the useless apps that came installed on the phone can be disabled.
The Clean Master optimizer is one of my favorites that’s free and available in the Google Play Store.
***This app is ad-driven, so expect lots of ads being thrown your way888
Having remote access to your computer is really nothing new, but all of the great options that used to be free, have become pay services.
Anyone looking for a solid free option that is truly flexible should check out the Chrome Remote Desktop option from Google.
You simply download the add-on to any Chrome Browser on the computer that you want to remotely access.
Then, you can use anything: Windows, Mac or Linux-based to remotely access that computer as if you’re sitting right in front of it!
You can also use Chromebooks, tablets and smartphones to remote in.
This means, if you had to, you could remote into your computer from your smartphone from anywhere in the world, say if you needed to grab a file.
This is the most flexible, easy to use option that I know of and it’s 100% free.
It will only take you a few minutes to setup, so if a solid and free remote access solution is something you’ve been looking for, I highly recommend this one!
I’ve posted all the links at DataDoctors.com/radio
Chrome Remote Desktop Add-on: https://chrome.google.com/remotedesktop
Android remote app: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.chromeremotedesktop
iOS remote app: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/chrome-remote-desktop/id944025852?mt=8
SMS or "text messaging” is now the go to communication method for just about all of us because of its ease and efficiency in having multiple conversations throughout the day.
But as with all technology, the “flies" gather where the “honey" is…aka, spammers & scammers are stepping up their attempts to trick users using text messages.
Another problem with text messaging is often times, you just don’t know who senders are because they aren’t in your address book.
Anyone looking for a solid way to manage both situations should try a free app called Truecaller.
The Truecaller community is made up of over 100 million users that collectively report scams and spam to help automatically block junk messages.
The app also uses the community to help identify who might be texting you when they aren’t already in your address book, so you can avoid the ‘who is this’? reply.
It’s far from perfect, but if your want some help with this growing problem, I’ve posted the link at DataDoctors.com/radio.
The Pandora music service great for discovering new artists based on the tunes you like, but you'll either have to put up with commercials or pay for a subscription.
If discovering new music is something you like to do, but you’d like to avoid subscriptions or commercials, there is another less known service available called ‘Earbits'.
Earbits focuses on discovering new lesser known artists, so you expect to hear tunes from the heavyweights of the music industry.
Their playlists are compiled by music experts and posted as ‘genres' that lets you quickly listen to music that fits your taste.
One of my favorites is the 'Festival Guides' because I’m a regular at music festivals where I always discover new artists in person.
This genre lets you listen to playlists that represent what you will hear when you go to many of the popular music festivals in the world.
You can skip the actual festival and discover these new artists from the comfort of your office or home.
Checkout the service and their downloadable apps at http://EarBits.com
The flu season is upon us so doing what you can to avoid others that are infected is on everyone’s mind.
Doppler radar scans the skies for bad weather indicators and the Sickweather app likewise scans social networks to collect posts from users near you to help determine signs of an outbreak.
The app makes it as easy to check for the chance of sickness in your area as easily as we all check for rain.
The Sickweather tools searches Facebook and Twitter for posts that include phrases such as "I'm sick," "I have bronchitis" and "My son’s got chickenpox."
Public posts which include location info automatically get added to their database in real time combined with reports from users of the app.
Sickweather was actually able to detected the early start of the flu season 6 weeks before the CDC in 2012, so this app may be what the doctor ordered!
The free app is available for both iPhone and Android users or you can view live maps online at http://sickweather.com
Most of us have become slaves to our e-mail programs to one degree or another, so, discovering more efficient ways to manage the incoming message storms can vastly improve productivity.
One of the ways that several companies are offering to improve efficiency is by turning the Inbox into a "CRM tool".
CRM which stands for "Customer Relationship Management" is the basis of the primary offering from SalesForce and other expensive services.
If you have yet to find something that helps you manage email loads, checkout this interesting tool from a company called 'Streak' to turn your Inbox into a CRM tool.
It was created out of the constant frustration of having to pop back and forth between email and variety of other programs in order to keep track of things.
'Streak' is a Gmail add-on that's free and it has CRM templates for tasks that range from sales to customer support, bug tracking to the hiring processes.
It also includes 'snippets' which are pre-formatted bits of text that can be used to quickly reply to your common interactions.
There is also an app for iPhone users which allows you to use the tool while you are on the go.
Anyone using Gmail and struggling with the overload should checkout 'Streak' at Streak.com.
Trying to shoot a video using your smartphone is useful as long as you aren’t moving around while you're shooting it. We have all seen videos online that are nearly unwatchable because of the movement.
Movie producers can solve this problem by using very expensive stabilization gear, like a Steadicam while others have attempted similar contraptions for smartphones.
But did you know that you don’t need to buy any special hardware if you are using an iPhone? The engineers at Instagram created a free app that makes taking smooth video even if you are moving around a lot very easy.
The app is called ‘HyperLapse' and it doesn’t require you to be an Instagram user in order to download and use it.
HyperLapse uses the gyro in your smartphone in a very clever way to totally stabilize your video without having to involve some expensive video editing process afterwards.
The app also has the ability to create various speed time lapse videos, so it’s a great app for anyone that shoots video with an iPhone.
It’s a really simple app to use because the only setting you have to mess with is the speed of the playback.
Just search for ‘Hyperlapse’ in the Apple App Store to get started!
Anyone that works in an office full of cubicles, aka a "cube farm", knows that their computer is potentially accessed by any passer-by while they are away from their desk.
Worse yet is when you are surrounded by pranksters, it can become a constant annoyance when you forget to lock down your computer before you leave the desk.
If you can get into the habit of locking down your desktop with a few simple keystrokes, you can save yourself a lot of grief while keep snooping eyes off your private items.
Windows users can simply hold down the 'Windows Icon' key while tap[ing the letter ‘L’ as in lock.
Mac users can do the same by holding down 'Control+Shift+ Eject’ or for those that don’t have an ‘Eject' key, try 'Control+Shift+Power' to do the trick.
None of this is of value if you don’t have a login password setup, which you should have regardless of your environment.
Parents can also use this habit at home if they want to prevent a child from using their administrative profile without permission.
I love all things tech, but still nothing compares to curling up to a great book on a lazy fall afternoon.
No matter the topic - business, self help, science, history or fiction, discovering lots of new exciting books from fellow bookworms is a pretty good way to go.
Amazon's long ago, created a system for recommending books based on what you have already read, but a web resource called "GoodReads.com" offers yet another way for book discovery.
You not only get book suggestions based on what you have already read, they'll connect you with your bookworm friends to see what they do and don’t like that they’ve read.
It’s a kind of virtual book club that makes discovering new books to read much easier to find than hours in the aisles of a physical bookstore.
Goodreads.com also allows you create queues of the books you have read, the books you are currently reading and any books that you want to read in the future.
The site works best when you get a group of your reader friends to join-in as a private book club.
Anyone can also join or start new discussion groups that can be public or private.
Check it all out at https://GoodReads.com
All of our digital cameras, smartphones and tablets are capable of taking extremely high-resolution images, but with all those extra pixels comes a major side effect.
Super crisp pohotos means very large files, which can easily fill up your computer if you aren’t paying attention and can lead to big problems.
Depending on how long you’ve been storing hi-res images on your computer's hard drive, it is entirely possible that you’re wasting a lot of space with lots of duplicate images.
Trying to track down duplicate pictures manually would be incredibly time consuming, so you will want to look into one of the many duplicate photo finding programs.
Since most duplicates aren't stored in the same file folder, these programs will scan your entire drive to determine how many and where your dublicates are stored.
It’s a much easier way to clean up large amounts of space on your drive from your duplicate photos.
I have links posted to a couple of free programs for both Mac and Windows users at DataDoctors.com/radio.
Windows (this will start the download of the program immediately): http://www.freepicturesolutions.com/files/duplicatephotofinder_setup.exe
Passwords are still the weakest link in online security and you've heard me repeatedly warn about the dangers of using a single password everwhere online.
There are numerous password management programs available to help, but for some users, it's still too much to figure out.
If you don't find a program that works for you, I've got another simple low tech system for tracking all your passwords; just write them down!
I don't mean for you to use sticky notes on the front of your monitor, I mean jot them down and store them in a relatively safe place, like somewhere on your smartphone.
You obviously shouldn't use the word 'password' anywhere in then name of the document and you should include your own encryption system in case it's ever discovered.
Use four random characters, for example, in font of your real passwords, so only you will know that you should ignore them.
Truly, if you're going to choose between using the same password on every account or writing them down so you have unique passwords for each site, then write them down!
It's the best way to avoid becoming a victim on many accounts from the breach of a single account.
You've probably noticed that some phone and tablet chargers seem to take noticeably longer to charge then others?
Well, in this case, you are not just imagining this primarily because the "output current" of your chargers also known as "amperage" or even a bad cable can make a huge difference.
The lower the amperage output, the longer it will take to charge any of your batteries.
For the best results, use the charger included with your device, but if it's not possible, use a charger with the proper matching amperage rating.
Generally, you'd have to have special equipment to measure your output current, but owners of Android devices can use an app called "Ampere" that makes it simple to see the differences in your various chargers and cables.
Ampere can monitor battery charging rates and drainage rates along with temperature and the overall health of the battery.
Using the app while using various chargers and seperate cables can quickly show you the combination that'll work the best.
The free Ampere app is available via the Google Play store
With all the time we typically spend on the Internet these days, hackers and cybertheives are always creating new ways to exploit us.
Because your web browser is how you see most of everything on the Internet, most of the hacker exploits focus on exploting all browsers.
It's also not so unusual to have various issues with your browser either, so this tip is a specific troubleshooting process when they do pop up.
Making sure you have at least two different browsers on all your devices will allow you to track down Internet related issues more successfully.
Whenever you are experiencing an Internet access problem, immediately switch to your other browser to see if the problem stays or goes away. If it goes away, you will know to focus on your primary browser, like clearing the cache or running a complete malware and virus scan.
If changing browsers doesn't help then your problem is much more likely to be with either your computer, modem or router, which you should reset together.
Trying to fix the wrong side of the equation can be bypassed when you use this simple troubleshooting procedure first.