Data Doctors Tech Tips
Tech Tips for Non-Tech People
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Most people love their technology but also like the tactile feel of reading a good book.
Discovering great new books to read from others is helpful no matter what genre or topic tends to be your favorites to read.
There are lots of websites that use algorithms to suggest new books solely based on the books that you have already liked or read, but there’s an alternative that takes advantage of other humans called Good Reads.
Good Reads is one of many that uses a suggestion-bot based on what you’ve have enjoyed in the past, but it also offers you the ability to hook up with friends to see what they are reading…kind of what Spotify does with songs that you friends are listening to.
Whichever online method you use to get new book recommendations, it’s far more efficient than randomly roaming the isles of a book store hoping to score a solid read.
To really make the site perform at its best, you can gather a group of your fellow bookworms to create you own private online book club.
There are also public discussion groups that anyone can join to learn more from other at https://www.goodreads.com
The bad actors on the Internet will stop at nothing to exploit users and one of the most dangerous methods they use is malicious scripting.
Scripts, which were created to enhance our experience on the Internet have been hijacked by hackers to take advantage of people without them knowing what’s going on.
Instead of providing you with relevant content based on choices you make or have made in the past, they refocus the technology to silently attack your computer when you visit rigged websites.
Since the vast majority of scripts you’ll encounter are actually safe and helpful, controlling when and where they run is a way to keep the dangerous ones at bay.
A free tool available to users of the Firefox browser is the very popular NoScript add-on.
While it’s not for everyone, if you like pinpoint control over what each website you visit can run, this is a tool that lets you do that.
Valid scripts are important for much of the functionality of the web, so you will have to tinker with the tool to figure out which ones are trying to deliver ads and which ones are providing functionality.
This open source tool is free and will require you to learn how to use it, but if you want supreme protection from rogue scripts, checkout the details at: https://noscript.net
If you and your friends are big fans of movies like Star Wars and you have an iPhone, you’re going to want this app.
It’s called Alien Sky and it will turn any typical photo with open sky into something from another dimension.
It will let you place realistic images of planets, moons, lens flares or other inter-galactic items right into your photos and they look very real.
These head turning effects will be sure to get people to stop as they scroll through their social media feeds.
With over one hundred and fifty effects that you can add to any of your existing photos, there are countless ways to make out of this world imagery.
It’s really fun to play with old pics, especially if you turn them into black and white images before adding the effects from the Alien Sky app.
For iPhone users only:
It’s not often that you find yourself without your smartphone, which is why it’s become our go-to flashlight for just about every situation.
Depending upon your device, the LEDs can be extremely bright and a great way to shine light in a specific direction, but what if you need a more dispersed light?
Did you know that there’s an easy way to turn your smartphone flashlight into more of a lantern-style light?
Just grab a plastic bottle of water and a large rubber band to get the job done.
Start by removing the label from the bottle, then position your smartphone’s flashlight directly into the center of the bottle and use the rubber band to hold it in place.
Not only can it be useful in settings like a campsite or with a group of people trying to follow you, it’s also a great way to notify oncoming traffic of where you are.
The next time you need a different type of light from your smartphone, channel your inner life hacker with this tip!
If you’re like me, it’s abundantly clear that your mental quickness isn’t what it used to be, which is a bit on the frustrating side at times.
If you’ve figured out a plan for physical fitness, you may want to extend that effort to mental fitness as well.
An app we’ve talked about before called Elevate could be of interest for anyone that’s in the same camp as me.
Using games that are rooted in scientific research, the app is an enjoyable way to work on your aging brain.
There are a variety of focuses that you can select to work on, which is customized to create your daily tests and then tracked to show progress as it happens.
A limited version of the app is free (make sure to click the ‘X’ in the upper left-hand corner after you sign up for an account) with subscriptions you can opt for if you want the full program.
Playing games can help sharpen mental skills, but games based on brain science are a better use of your time. Learn more at: https://www.elevateapp.com
If you own an iPhone, you’ve probably marveled at all of the amazing things it can do beyond simply communicating with others, but there’s one thing that it doesn’t have that would make it even more useful….a tripod.
The myriad functions that the iPhone can perform means that you end up using it in your hands for just about every activity.
A simple accessory that may make using your iPhone even more enjoyable is the tripod from Kenu called the ’Stance’.
The tiny add-on, which can easily fit in your pocket, laptop bag or purse, can totally improve how you use your smartphone.
Tired of holding your phone to watch long form videos? Want more opportunities to use the camera timer? Kenu may just have what you didn’t know you needed.
This tripod isn’t limited to portrait mode because it’s designed to allow you total flexibility, so if it sounds interesting, pop on over to: http://bit.ly/2AJXoz7
It’s not often that you don’t turn to the Internet to gather information on just about anything you plan on buying.
Another great benefit is the ability to research competitive products for an item you are interested in purchasing.
Often times you won’t be aware of what competitive products exist, which is the point of today’s tip.
Google searches that include a product followed by ‘vs’ as in versus can quickly provide you with comparisons of the most popular items in just about any category.
If you were in the market for a new car and wanted to compare a Honda Civic with all of its competitors, simply type “Honda Civic vs” to get the scoop.
If find this approach extremely useful when I’m looking for apps and don’t want to download the first one that comes up in a search.
This type of search will quite often bring up review websites that are filled with information about a lot of the items that are similar to the one you know about.
Not everything you’re shopping for will benefit from this tip, but more times than not, I’ve found it to be very useful.
Today’s tip is for anyone that uses Google’s productivity software, especially their spreadsheet tool called Sheets.
There’s a free browser plug-in that will add a cool option to Chrome that’s a great help should you ever need to convert any spreadsheet to a document.
Anyone that’s ever had to incorporate a portion of a spreadsheet into a word processing document knows about potential formatting issues.
With the ‘Save As Doc’ plug-in, you can convert an entire worksheet or any portion that you choose to become a document file.
I found it really helpful for converting the results from a Google Survey that I setup into a more usable report for a meeting.
If you typically copy and paste to try to get spreadsheet info into a document, you’ll love this tool.
It’s a pretty simple tool to use and it just sits idly by in Chrome until you need it. Get it here: http://goo.gl/H0ed2B
It’s pretty obvious that social networking has become a major communication method not only for us personally, but professionally as well.
Every working person that’s interested in creating new opportunities or meeting like minded professionals should have an updated LinkedIn profile.
If you haven’t done much with LinkedIn, it’s important that you don’t treat it like a personal social network. It’s not so much about the people you already know and more about making new contacts that could help you many ways professionally.
When it comes to accepting connections, refusing the connection just because you don’t know them would be like refusing to accept a business card from someone you don’t know in real life.
You shouldn’t accept any connection request without first spending a minute reviewing the person’s profile and background.
I don’t accept connections from profiles that don’t have a picture, have very few connections, haven’t filled out their profile or if they’re from foreign countries with no connection to what I do.
You can kick someone from your network just as quickly as you accept them, so don’t be afraid to accept connections once you’ve vetted them.
When they try to force a sales pitch on you or abuse the connection in any way, use these steps to get rid of them: http://bit.ly/2nmk4T7
If you’re in business, help with school events or just tend to be an organizer of any sort, you’ve likely been in the situation where you need some simple design work done.
Hiring someone to do it isn’t generally feasible, so when you have to rely on your own skills to create the piece, there’s an online resource that you should have bookmarked called Canva: https://Canva.com.
Because it’s web-based, there’s nothing to install, download and very little to learn in order to be successful.
They provide a bevy of templates that you can use as a starting point to quickly and easily build professional looking business cards, posters, flyers and most importantly these days, the proper size graphics for all your social media profiles.
What’s great about the templates is that you generally need only to add text once you choose the one that represents the theme you’re trying to relay.
If you have your own images to add, you can or you can purchase inexpensive options from their catalog to really spice up your design.
It’s one of those websites that you may not need on a regular basis, but when you do, having https://www.canva.com at your disposal is a game changer!
Anyone that has to use reading glasses to be able to make use of their smartphone has probably found one without the other on many an occasion.
Lots of us simply buy a pile of reading specs and leave them in our most common daily deer trails.
If you’re constantly searching around for glasses when you want to read something on your smartphone, why not have a pair of glasses attached to your smartphone?
A company called Thin Optics has created a potential solution for people that have this problem - it’s a smartphone case that has a slot for their thin reading specs.
Because they don’t actually include the typical arms for reading glasses, they are thin enough to slip into the case.
You can get an entire case with the compartment or add the compartment to just about any existing case you have.
At $20 to $40, this inexpensive option may be just the solution that some of you have been looking for.
Learn more at: http://bit.ly/2nTED9j
How important has text messaging become for you? What would you do if a bad thing happened to your smartphone, like it gets lost or stolen?
There’s a decent chance that you’ll end up with either an unusable or lost phone at some point, so you should act accordingly.
Before you find yourself in this situation, search your carrier’s website for an online text messaging tool, get it setup and learn how to use it.
You’ll need the username and password associated with your phone number in order to use it, so that’s why I’d recommend you doing this before a crisis.
If you do find yourself in a crisis and need to send an urgent text from a computer, there’s a website called Text ‘em (http://textem.net) that might be helpful.
One issue that may prevent you from using the sight is that you’ll have to know which carrier that your intended recipient is using.
Learning how to send text messages when your phone isn’t available is something that is bound to payoff, so it’s a skill that I highly recommend that everyone learns.
Google’s Chromebooks have been around for quite a while and have become very popular in elementary schools, but it may actually be a great alternative for a lot of you.
These inexpensive laptop alternatives are designed for those that spend their lives on the web.
They use Google’s mobile operating system known as Chrome and a bunch of their productivity tools that can be used even without an Internet connection.
It’s not for those that have to run specific Windows or Mac programs or for those that want to edit videos, but for that average web surfer, they could work just fine.
For those with less of a need or as an additional computing device in your family for your younger users, these devices are shielded from the growing malware threat focused on Mac and Windows users.
To get a better understanding of what Chromebooks can offer, visit: https://www.google.com/chromebook
If you’re like me, you use your phone in the car to listen to music, podcasts and provide driving directions on a regular basis.
In order to stay safe, it’s important to have your phone in your normal line of sight instead of in a cup holder or other low places that requires you to look down to see it.
There are lots of devices that use suction cups, sticky glues or even magnets to present your phone in a safe place, but did you know that your air vents can be used as well?
A company called Kenu has a series of holders called the ‘AirFrame’ that simply clips to one of the blades of any of your air vents to hold your phone up high.
The various holders can generally hold any phone of any size including the extra space taken by a case.
Keep in mind that if your air vents or blowing out heated air, that can cause issues for your smartphone, so avoid doing that.
They offer lots of different options that you check out at: https://www.kenu.com/collections/vent-mounts
If you’re selling or buying a home or dealing with any sort of official business, there’s a strong chance you’ll need to have the documents notarized.
In this busy world we live in, tracking down a person that can do the notarization can be a bit of a logistical issue, especially if you are traveling.
Should you ever find yourself in a position of needing a notary fast, check out an app called Notarize.
It’s a completely legal virtual notary service that provides its services via the Internet.
It’s a straight forward process that anyone can execute by uploading the document that needs to be notarized and following their step-by-step instructions.
A licensed notary will connect with you via live video and witness you signing the document.
Everything is documented and saved for legal purposes and once you’re done, you can easily send the completed document wherever you need it to go.
It’s convenient and available around the clock, but that convenience comes at a price: $25
It’s one of those things that is worth every penny for some folks, so bookmark https://www.notarize.com just in case you find yourself in need of this awesome service.
Achieving physical fitness is much more likely to be successful when you can find routines that are easy to follow, don’t cost a fortune and will motivate you to continue.
The approach that avoids the need to spend money on expensive equipment may be a good starting point.
The Internet has made it possible for experienced fitness teachers to develop unique options for helping others, especially through visual aids like at a website called https://darebee.com
These routines use visual outlines to guide anyone through workouts complete with instructions on how many sets to do.
Not only can you get help with long-term routines that will help you get more fit, they also help you with meal planning to go along with your routines.
No matter who you are, if you are looking for something fresh to get you moving, the awesome visual options at Darebee.com are worth checking out!
Part of what makes viewing things on the Internet more efficient is through a background process that happens automatically called ‘caching’.
This process keeps a copy of elements of any website that you’ve visited in the past in a special place on your hard drive, so it doesn’t have to download every item, every time you revisit the site.
While the process, 9 times out of 10, benefits you, there are times when something that’s cached can cause issues.
Websites that just don’t seem to be loading properly or updated info that you know exists but isn’t appearing can be caused by a caching problem.
Whenever you have a challenging issue with a website, you can quickly bypass the cache in Windows by holding down the Ctrl key and tapping the F5 key.
MacOS users can do the same by pressing Command-Shift-R (think reload) at the same time.
This quick troubleshooting tip can help you avoid those irritating situations - if this works, it’s probably time to clear you cache:
iPhone users, especially those with one of the larger displays, may be missing out on a lot of cool options if you only use them in the up and down position, better known as portrait mode.
Apple has allowed for lots of hidden features and options in lots of different apps and utilities if you simply flip it from portrait to landscape mode.
Some apps, like mail, can show you split screens like you’re used to on your computer, just by flipping your iPhone sideways.
The extra screen space when turned on its side allows apps to reallocate where things go in a way that just isn’t possible in portrait mode.
One of the most obvious benefits is the ability to have a wider keyboard when you are typing.
Not sure which apps offer which features? Don’t worry about looking things up online to learn; just start turning your iPhone sideways on a regular basis to see what’s possible!
If you’ve ever flown across this country, especially on a clear day, you’ve looked down and seen things on the ground that made you curious.
Google image search may work, but only if you have an Internet connection or remember to do the search once you’ve landed and back online.
If you find yourself in this situation on a regular basis, there’s an app for that called Flyover Country.
As long as you pre-load the app with your upcoming flight path, which is easily done simply by choosing your take-off and landing cities, the app will download interesting points all along the way.
Then, when you are airborne and look down, the GPS that will work whether you have an Internet connection or not, will help the app identify what you’re looking at.
Check it out at: https://flyovercountry.io
Auto-correct has no-doubt caused you to post things online that made you look like you mistyped something.
We love it when it does properly auto-correct our typing and curse it when it makes us look silly.
Did you know that there’s a way to vastly improve the usefulness of this great tool, by creating your own custom entries!
How often do you have to type out your entire address? Why not create a shortcut using ADRS to tell auto-correct to spit out your entire address just by tapping out those 4 characters followed by the space bar.
All of your devices, apps or programs that fix your typing mistakes can be customized in this way.
The only thing you have to remember is to never use actual words in your customized entries as that will cause some interesting problems down the road.
Stick to made up words or abbreviations and don’t forget that you can use a combination of numbers and special characters as well!
You’ve probably used Apple’s Quicktime video app for years, but if you’re a Windows user, you should stop using it ASAP!
The critical security updates that allow you to safely use it have not been available to Windows user for years now.
If you’re using Quicktime on a Mac computer, there’s nothing to worry about as security updates have continued to be delivered to you.
Windows users should not only stop using the program, they should uninstall it completely to avoid accidentally using it.
For most Windows users, Quicktime really isn’t necessary any more, but if you find that you have older files that need it, use a free open source alternative called VLC instead.
The program works with just about any type of old or new video file and it’s available for just about every device you own.
Get it at: