Data Doctors Tech Tips
Tech Tips for Non-Tech People
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If you actively use any type of social media, you know how it becomes a sounding board any time any kind of earthquake is felt.
This very natural activity on social media has actually become a measuring and detecting system developed by some clever researchers.
These researchers decided to try to leverage the technology built into our smartphones that can help detect the activity based on location and movement.
The desired outcome is to create a very accurate warning system that can alert people near the center of the seismic activity in a way that hasn’t been possible so far.
The more people that volunteer their smartphones to this project, the more accurate the data will become, so let you friends and family in these areas in on the process: https://myshake.berkeley.edu
The rate at which most of us make purchases online has gone up exponentially, so here’s a way to make sure you are getting the best deals possible.
Coupons of various types are commonly available for a large number of online retailers, but you have to know where to get them or explore sites like RetailMeNot.com to dig for a specific coupon.
The good news is that there’s a much easier way to be alerted to potential money-saving deals and coupons and it’s called Honey.
Once you install the plug-in, which works with all the major browsers, the tool goes to work automatically every time you land on an e-commerce site.
Instead of having to go to another tab to spend a bunch of time trying coupons that are mostly expired, Honey just alerts you with their logo when it turns orange in your browser toolbar.
A green number will tell you how many offers are available for the page that you are on, so all you have to do is click the Honey icon and start saving!
Get started at https://www.joinhoney.com
It should be abundantly clear by now that using the same password on all your online accounts is a really bad idea.
Using a unique password on all your accounts bypasses the threat of cyber thieves gaining access to all your accounts simply by compromising one account.
The only way to properly execute this critical security step is to use some form of password management program such as https://www.roboform.com.
It originally focused on providing users with info to fill out forms automatically, but it has evolved into a very solid password manager.
It’s free to use their basic services and they also offer a mobile app.
One of the more interesting features that they provide is the ability to sign-in to multiple accounts at launch automatically.
The whole point of these types of programs is to make it so you only need to remember one very long, complex password in order to use all your complex passwords on all your accounts.
While most of us can’t wait to get back to traveling the nation or the world, until the pandemic situation is more under control, we’ll have to settle for virtual excursions.
Exploring other places around the world allows us to understand and discover new cultures and art along with the amazing natural wonders that await us all.
We really like to tell people to check out the Google Arts and Culture site to virtually explore the world.
They combine technologies that include their street views in 360-degree videos along with lots of art and culture through the website or their app.
It’s a great way to do some detailed homework for famous sites that you plan to visit down the road.
You can explore famous museums and artwork along with famous places that most people have on their bucket list.
As you would expect, you can search by any number of topics or locations to start your explorations.
It’s a wonderful distraction from what’s going on in the real world, so the next time you need to take a virtual trip in your mind, might we suggest you go to:
Whenever we hear about a salacious news story or some dramatic world event, it’s not uncommon to jump onto a search engine to find more information.
Blindly trusting the results that come up in a search query isn’t nearly as safe as it used to be because there are so many cybercriminals trying to game the system.
They quickly create websites that can appear to be legitimate news sources but instead are websites rigged to see if you are missing any updates or have holes in your security system.
While the search engines do their best to quickly identify these rogue websites in their results, even being up for an hour or so can wreak serious havoc, so the bad guys keep doing it.
Today’s tip is designed to encourage you to change this behavior if it’s your default move.
Instead of a general search, keep your trusted news sources as bookmarks in your browser or use their associated smartphone app to do your research.
Apps like News360 aggregate a large number of news sources for any given story, so it’s a great way to find the breaking news in a much safer way.
If you’ve started using Google’s productivity tools that are the alternative to Microsoft Office, you may have noticed that it’s quite different.
They both provide the ability to create documents, spreadsheets and forms but they do it in very different ways.
If you only use Google’s tools with the built-in features, you’re missing out on an entire universe of options just waiting to be added.
In any of the programs, go to the ‘Add-ons’ menu, then click on ‘Get add-ons’ to open the add-ons that will work in that tool.
Mailers, faxing, diagrams, label and lots of other useful tools can be added to your Google productivity apps.
It’s one of those hidden gems that can drastically change the power of each program, so take some time to explore the huge library.
No matter which program you were in when you added it, the new tools will be available across all of the programs on the Google platform.
New tools are added all the time, so make it a habit to check them out on occasion so you can keep improving your productivity.
Those fancy and expensive activity trackers that have become so popular, but a lot of people can’t justify the cost.
Obviously, paying the price for those wrist-worn devices is going to provide you with the most accurate results, or at least that’s a common perception.
But it turns out that they may not be any more accurate than an app on your smartphone according to a study that was posted in the AMA journal some time ago.
Keep in mind, that this specific test was done in a laboratory and on treadmills instead of in real life, so it didn’t take into consideration those times when you don’t have your phone with you.
The bottom line is that either can be a huge motivator for those trying to increase their activity level, so the lesson is that you don’t have to spend the big bucks to get it done.
You can find lots of free app in the various apps stores by searching for ‘activity trackers’.
Instead of waiting until you can justify spending the money for an expensive tracking device, why not get tracking right away with one of the many free apps for your smartphone?
In today’s digital age, it’s not uncommon to need some simple form of graphic design created for a variety of reasons.
If you aren’t much of a creative person or don’t own any graphic design software, this can present a minor challenge.
Fortunately, there are a number of online options that can get the job done and one of our favorites is called Canva.
Not only does it bypass the need to pay for expensive software and install it first, but it’s also been specifically designed to help those with lesser design skills.
Within minutes of landing on the page, you can be creating numerous commonly needed graphic files for just about anything most people are trying to create.
Because it’s template-driven, it like coloring by numbers that result in professional quality graphics.
If you want to include an image for your design, you can either upload your own or purchase inexpensive images from their professional library.
It’s one of the best ways to create DIY graphics, so bookmark https://Canva.com for the next time you run into this need!
Data breaches seem to be reported almost daily these days and when you dig into the details of how it happened, in virtually every case it started with a targeted phishing attack.
Cybercriminals are only looking for one person in an organization to fall for their fancy tricks, which is why they constantly change up their game.
A simple way to sniff out an obvious scam is by using the ‘hover’ test over any links in the email message.
You’ll either see the destination website pop up via a smart icon or you may have to look in the lower-left corner of the email programs window to see the destination link.
When what is in the email doesn’t match the destination or look strange, it’s probably a scam link.
There are a number of online resources that can be used to test you Phishing IQ:
We’re all watching a lot more online video content these days and one genre that’s worth digging into is documentaries.
You can find lots of them on popular pay video streaming services, but there’s a lesser-known alternative that we want to share with you.
A website called Documentary Heaven has assembled an extensive library of documentaries that have been categorized by topic so you can quickly get to the content you’re most interested in viewing.
If you love tech and music as I do, their category listing makes it much easier to find the films that fit those topics.
Unlike the other streaming services, Documentary Heaven offers their films for viewing for free on computers and mobile devices.
Their catalog continues to grow, so checking back on a regular basis could introduce you to some really amazing documentaries.
Check them all our for yourself at https://documentaryheaven.com
In today’s Internet concentric world, when you start a new company or launch a new product, making sure you can get the web domain is critical.
If you’re in the process of developing either, coming up with the best name can be helped by the crowdsourcing website known as https://PickyDomains.com
You essentially post the information that will help the people that offer to create names from all around the globe to get working on your project.
You can specify certain words to be used or omitted, the length of the name or any themes you’re trying to convey with the name.
The cost of posting your project is determined by who you are willing to accept submissions from as well as some other details you choose.
The best part is that it’s not a one and done process because you can interact with those submitting ideas to help guide them to your ultimate creative goal.
Picking the right name for your project is so important, so if you’ve run dry on your own, this cost-effective web tool could be worth every penny!
Being paranoid about those around you in public places sneaking a peek at what’s on your laptop screen isn’t a bad thing.
The term visual hacking was created for this all-too-common situation when those around you may get a bit nosey.
We’re all trying to keep our distance these days, but someone that’s looking over your shoulder from an angle can be stopped with today’s tip.
You can add a simple layer of protection on all of your screens with a product known as a privacy screen.
This add-on will magically make your screen look like it’s black to those around you because it requires viewing of your screen directly.
These screens can be easily removed if you need to make a presentation, so it’s not a permanent setup.
If you want the same privacy on your mobile devices, you’ll get a second benefit as they also serve to protect your screens from impact damage.
Learn more about 3M’s range of screen privacy products at: https://bit.ly/2CNJOiZ
The fact that email is such an essential communication tool is why so many spammers use it to fill our inboxes up with junk with the hopes of snagging a few customers.
And as if dealing with junk email wasn’t enough, we’re now having to deal with more and more annoying text messages on our smartphones.
Despite various attempts to curtail junk text messages, the bad guys won’t follow any rules that are created.
Besides installing some form of app to help you manage the growing problem, there’s something that each and every one of us can do to help fight the scourge.
If we all were to report every message by forwarding it to 7726 (SPAM) no matter which cellular carrier we are using, it can make a dent in the problem.
In order for the reporting to properly function, you need to forward just the message in it’s entirety without adding anything to it.
This won’t eliminate the problem but it will help to keep the spammers hopping as they won’t be able to continue to use the same scam that gets reported by the masses.
Unless you’re a professional musician or someone that’s a student of song lyrics, you’ve probably made up words for many of your favorite songs.
Well, you don’t have to become a student of lyrics if you use an app called Musixmatch on your smartphone or computer.
It’s designed to monitor most of the popular music playing apps and streaming services and provide real-time lyrics as the songs play.
It uses many of the large music lyric databases to perform its magic, so some form of connection to the Internet is necessary in order for it to work.
Musixmatch can also help you identify songs when you hear music playing in the background from virtually any source.
This wonderful app is available for both Android and iPhone users at: http://bit.ly/2UWHe1R
The ‘Cloud’ is simply a non-technical reference to the Internet and storing your important files in the cloud is possible from a large number of companies.
For the most part, the basic version of their storage accounts are free but have a storage limit so they can pitch their pay services to you for more space.
As long as you aren’t a voracious smartphone photographer or videographer, the storage limits may be more than you need.
For those that are constantly taking pictures and videos and want to back up to the Internet automatically, today’s tip is for you.
Although Google is the company that created the Android smartphone platform, they offer their Photo app and service to either iPhone or Android users.
All you have to do is install the app and tell it to start backing up your photos and videos automatically, generally when you are connected to Wi-Fi.
The best part is that the storage is unlimited as long as you are OK with a small amount of compression. Learn more at: https://www.androidauthority.com/google-photos-937968
Amazon has become the go-to resource for so many of us and for just about anything we want to buy.
Since that’s the case, don’t forget that you can trade with Amazon instead of just buying from them.
They don’t allow trades of just anything, it’s more in the area of electronics and media, like books and video games.
To see what your trade is worth, start by searching for it on their trade-in site: https://amzn.to/2DLzAwR
When you determine that the item you have is available for trading in, you’ll need to answer a few questions about the condition of the trade to determine an estimated value.
The final determination of value is made when they physically inspect the item, which can be shipped to them on their dime.
You’re already doing business with the 800 lb. gorilla, so why not try and save some money as well!
With every new feature that gets added to our phones, a potential burden gets added to our batteries.
If you’re constantly on the go, you have to make sure you think ahead so you don’t run out of battery power when you need your device the most.
One emergency tactic when you are in a pinch and can only charge for a short period is to turn the device completely off while charging.
If that’s not an option, shutting off as many of the energy-sucking radios as possible, like wifi and Bluetooth, or switch to airplane mode.
While traveling, you may find yourself in a situation where you have more devices that need a charge then you have outlets. That’s when you should remember that most of today’s TVs have a low power USB port you can use in an emergency.
It will take a lot longer to charge anything, but it’s at least an additional option to keep in mind.
It’s hot these days, so remember that heat is one of your battery's worst enemies, so avoid putting your smartphone in direct sunlight or leaving it inside of a hot car.
It’s also a good idea to avoid charging a phone that is hot to the touch - wait until it cools down to room temperature before plugging in the charging cable.
We all have tons of apps on our smartphones and I think some of the best apps are specifically designed to help us with photography.
Just about all of them have tools that can tweak the color, contrast, lighting and sharpness, but there’s only one that focuses on distortion correction and that’s an app called SKRWT
This app can be really helpful for those that have a wide-angle lens in their phones, which can often distort lines in photos.
The slight curvature can take the focus off of the primary object in your photos as it can be distracting to the eye.
This app can fix those unwanted curves that go across or up and down in an image that has been distorted by the camera lens.
This company also has a cool mirroring app and they’re available for both iPhone and Android smartphones at: http://skrwt.com
By now, you’ve heard repeatedly about something called two-factor authentication, which is one of the best things that anyone can use to protect their online accounts.
This security approach requires two different ways to authenticate you, just like your debit card AND PIN are required in order to get money from an ATM.
If your debit card didn’t require a PIN, it would be so much easier for thieves to steal your money and the same is true for your online accounts.
This simple step once activated makes it much more difficult for cyber thieves because they would have to get their hands on your username and password as well as swipe your smartphone and unlock it.
An additional benefit is that it serves as an early warning system because you’ll get a random text message when someone else tries to use your account.
This security step is available on thousands of online accounts, but you’ll need to set it up one time for each of your accounts.
A handy resource for finding the specifics for each of your accounts is located at: https://twofactorauth.org
Computer problems happen…a lot, no matter how technical or technically challenged you are, they just happen.
For all tech gadgets, we started telling people years ago to think about something they’re used to seeing on the backs shampoo bottles and that’s lather, rinse, reboot!
It’s just an easy to remember saying that can eliminate many nagging little tech problems.
A simple shutdown and restart of just about any device can generate amazing results when those irritating little issues pop up.
It’s because of the way that most devices use memory and resources necessary for trouble-free functioning that this simple process solves so many problems.
Swiping an app on a smartphone or closing a program on a computer can free up resources, but nothing sets the stage for the best possible performance like a reboot of your devices.
More importantly, it’s the most likely question that your tech support person is going to ask you, so why not save time by doing it yourself before you ask for help: lather, rinse, reboot!
There is no denying that Google Maps has become the industry standard for mapping on both our desktop computers and mobile devices, but there are times when it doesn’t provide the best info.
Whenever you have any situation where you need to share a map with others, the ability to annotate the map or add specific text or directions is very helpful.
For those occasions, we like to use a web resource called Scribble Maps https://www.scribblemaps.com
It provides a ton of tools that will allow you to modify any Google map with icons, markers, text, freehand drawing and even images from your computer or smartphone.
It’s great for gatherings as well as documenting trips that you have taken such as an epic hike or kayaking trip complete with pictures of your adventures.
The best part is that there is no software to download and configure because it works completely in your browser and it’s free!
They even provide you with a video tutorial to help you get started at: https://www.scribblemaps.com