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!
Other than battery life, the number one complaint that I hear from smartphone owners is that they are constantly running out of storage space.
It’s especially problematic with smartphones that don’t offer any type of memory expansion slot, which is becoming a lot more common these days.
It’s best to start with all those apps that probably haven’t even opened for some time, but for a real increase in storage space, focus on your videos and pictures.
Those quick HD videos that you can shoot with your smartphone can take up a lot more space than dozens of images, so if you don’t really need them, dump them!
A hidden area of your phone that could be hogging up lots of space is from all the attached images and videos that are in your text messages.
I’ve seen a huge gain in free space on lots of phones by getting rid of old text messages, especially for those that use it as their primary communication channel.
For more suggestions on managing your smartphone storage, check out this column:
The power of your smartphone can be leveraged to create some amazing stop-motion videos, but the folks at Stikbot have an even better idea.
Their app works like most of the other stop-motion options, which allows you to create videos with what appears to be movement of a particular item.
Making something appears to move around a table or plate is pretty easy with this genre of apps.
What makes the Stikbot offerings so compelling is that you can order their figurines to be the star of your movies.
The wide variety of figurines are designed to allow the stop motion action to be much more elaborate because they can be attached to a variety of surfaces using suction cups.
Let’s face it, giving your kids the tools to let their movie making creativity come out could be the beginning of something amazing.
Check out what all this looks like at https://stikbot.toys
If you’ve gotten tired of the games you play on your smartphone, today’s tip is for you, especially if you can remember all the arcade fun we had in the 80’s.
Pac-Man was the all-time king of arcade games and mastering every level was the goal we all had.
If you were actually able to master all the levels with the arcade game, you’ll never get to the end with the new Pac-Man 256 because it’s endless.
For those in the know, the ‘256’ is a nod to the famous glitch in the arcade game.
You won’t have the old familiar joystick, so you have to get used to swiping the screen to get around.
Not only is this game endless, there are lots of new power capabilities that you can add when you gobble up those famous pellets, so if you’re into old-school video games, it doesn’t get much better than Pac-Man:
Who doesn’t love free apps, especially those that you discover are useful or entertaining on a daily basis?
Something important to understand about free apps is that most of them are free because they include lots of advertising, which have a couple of hidden costs, especially if you have a limited data plan with a cellular carrier.
Not only can all those ads eat up your data plan, but they can also increase the chances of you running out of battery power sooner.
Studies have been done comparing apps that are available as both ad-supported or as a paid app and the findings were very surprising.
Ad-supported apps can increase data usage to your plan by as much as 80% over the apps that you pay for to remove the ads.
These apps can also take up valuable working memory on your smartphone and impact battery life by as much as 16%.
For those struggling with keeping their phones charged through the day or those that are constantly bumping up against data limits, those free apps may be the culprit.
Free apps can also overreach in the privacy area, which is another reason to be careful.
Knowing this, paying a buck or two for an app to remove the ads may actually be a bargain if you use them all the time.
We’re all making more meals at home these days so finding new dishes that don’t drag you back into the usual suspects is a help.
Well, there’s an app for that and it’s called Dinner Spinner from the people at All Recipes.
The app asks you to choose that type of disk, like a salad or entree along with any specific ingredients that you have on hand and most importantly, how much time you’re willing to spend on making the dish.
My first time using app provided me twenty-five options for a 20 minute or less recipe that included chicken as the protein.
As with Amazon, you’ll also get suggested recipes from others that are similar or complementary to the one you are reviewing.
For the more adventurous chef, you can ask the app for a totally random recipe by shaking the phone with the app open.
For those with specific dietary items they want to avoid, the filter allows you to screen out recipes that won’t work.
Inspiration for discovering new family favorite dinner options await you at:
One of the most common things that we tend to do these days, is pop on to the Internet and do a Google search whenever we hear about some type of breaking news.
For the most part, people believe the if Google has indexed the website, it must be safe, but despite all of the technical know-how they possess, they can’t vet everything that appears from their indexing in real-time.
The bad guys know this, which is why they tend to use breaking news stories to create fake web pages with outrageous headlines.
Since you know that Google, with all of its tech tools can’t stay ahead of this, choosing a different approach for the information on a fast-breaking story is much safer.
Your go-to should be the news sources you already trust, whether it’s through their website or a new app that you already have on your smartphone.
Scammers are very clever and constantly adjust their approach based on what they see the masses doing, so from now on, to avoid potential scams surrounding breaking news, stick to your trusted sources.
With the sudden need to work from home, sharing the same computer that you use to remotely work with your kids is a bad idea.
If you don’t have a separate computer for your kids, an alternative to a second expensive computer is a laptop-like device known as a Chromebook.
Google created the web-concentric operating system that many hardware companies have embraced.
This is by no means a replacement for anyone that needs to install specific Windows-based programs on their computer, but it’s perfect for anyone that essentially does everything online.
These machines generally cost a couple of hundred dollars and they have an added benefit of being immune to the various malware that targets macOS and Windows users.
Since most kids tend to only need access to the Internet for the things they want to do, a Chromebook could be the perfect solution.
You don’t have to be an Android phone user to make this option useful, but the integration between your smartphone and Chromebook is pretty slick.
Start your exploration at: https://www.google.com/chromebook
Businesses and employees of businesses are the target of choice of today’s hackers and their favorite tool is the phishing scam.
What makes this approach so desirable is that it only takes one person to trip up in any company for the bad guys to sneak in and begin wreaking havoc.
My suggestion to business owners that are truly interested in minimizing this threat is pretty radical: Stop Using Email - for internal communications that is…
The most effective email attacks appear to be a message from a co-worker or worse, someone of authority in the organization requesting urgent action.
The logic states that since you can’t provide employees with black and white rules on what a suspicious email looks like, avoiding it altogether is safer.
Moving company communications off email and onto collaboration platforms such as Slack can also provide other benefits. It’s as ubiquitous as email and works on any device, platform or device with the ability to try it out before you sign up for a paid account at: https://slack.com
In times like these, scammers and those with malicious intent are creating lots of websites that are designed to do you harm.
Avoiding any website you’ve never heard of is advice that some might suggest, but with tens of millions of websites, how practical is that advice?
A better approach is to use tools specifically designed to rate the safety or trustworthiness of any website before you actually go to it.
We like what Trend Micro offers at https://global.sitesafety.trendmicro.com because it’s simple to use and easy to understand what’s questionable and what’s safe.
They’ve compiled a huge website reputation database for sites all around the Internet that you can check against whenever you have a website you aren’t sure about.
Just type the web address into the tool or copy it from any link and within seconds you’ll get information about how safe or suspicious a website may be, along with a summary of what you can expect if you visit.
Malicious websites are being posted and shared all around the Internet, so now you can get a pre-visit analysis so you don’t have to guess whether a link is legit or not.
Paying attention to what and how much you eat are critical components to staying healthy and getting basic calorie counts is getting easier when you go to a restaurant.
Having a good idea of what you’re buying from a nutritional standpoint at the grocery store can bet a bit more complicated and time-consuming.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could have a nutritionist helping you make good choices?
Well, there’s an app for that and it’s called Fooducate.
The app lets you pull up a wealth of health info just by scanning the barcode on thousands of common items you shop for every week.
Calories are a good start, but how about sodium or sugar levels, how processed the product is or if it has any questionable ingredients.
It can even make suggestions on healthier products when you scan something that’s a bit out of your comfort zone.
This free app is available for both iPhone and Android users, so you if want more data about what you are buying, check it out at: https://www.fooducate.com
Would you believe there is a scientific connection between bedtime and math?
Well, a group of researchers studied the effects of including some form of math during bedtime stories and the outcome is encouraging.
An app called Bed Time Math was used in the study and it showed math skills could be honed by using it.
The app makes solving math problems fun because it’s incorporated into bedtime stories instead of the usual way math is taught.
The value of doing this wasn’t only if it was done every night as a once a week use of the approach had measurable results.
At first, I was skeptical of a study that specifically promoted an app, but since it’s free, it’s worth trying if you have children that don’t do well in math.
It’s also a more comfortable way for mom and dad that feel math-challenged themselves to present the lessons that don’t feel like a lesson on a device that the kids love using.
If all this sounds like a worthwhile approach, check out more info or download the app for some fun family math at: http://bedtimemath.org/bedtimemath-app
Maintenance is critical part of making just about everything we care about function better and last longer, so doing it regularly makes good sense.
We know this for the most part, but some how, the thought of actually maintaining a computer seems to be a foreign concept.
Just like with your vehicle, running it until it breaks down is both inefficient and costly in both time and money.
With this in mind, I’m hoping to use today’s tip to get those that haven’t thought about it to do something pro-actively.
For those running the Windows operating system, there’s a simple to use to valuable tool called Disk Cleanup that you should become intimate with.
This tool will scan your hard drive to find all the junk that accumulates with regular usage that takes up unnecessary space and can impact your overall speeds.
You’ll need to be patient if you’ve never used this utility or it has been a while because it’s going to have more work to do.
We recommend that you create a routine around this tool, so that it’s done at least once a month if not more.
Once you’ve added this process to your schedule, it will go a long way to helping your computer run at its best.
When a loved one or even a stranger goes into a condition of medical distress near you, jumping into action quickly can be essential.
Knowing how to administer CPR or other life-saving techniques is something we should all know, but many of us don’t.
Knowing some basic first aid techniques can be helpful for a variety of situations, not just those that are life and death.
If you’d like to get some help understanding what to do and when to do it, there are lots of apps that you can use, such as those available from the Red Cross.
Pre-installing a first aid app on your smartphone is a solid approach to being there one someone else needs you.
These apps don’t require an Internet connection, so the advice is there even when you are off the grid.
It’s not an everyday app, but I think it warrants being at your fingertips since none of us know when we will be called upon to help another person.
Check out all of the Red Cross apps at:
I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again; when you use the same password on multiple accounts, you’re making it too easy for the bad guys to compromise you.
The primary suggestion for avoiding this mistake is to use a management tool, of which there are many free options such as https://www.lastpass.com or https://www.roboform.com
Now, some people find these programs to be too confusing or complicated, so my next suggestion is to simply write them down yourself.
You can create a generic file that doesn’t have any reference to the word ‘password’ that contains all of your usernames and passwords.
As an extra layer of protection, create your own secret code, like 4 characters that mean nothing in front of the actual password, so if anyone finds the file, they still won’t figure out what your password without breaking your secret code.
With the number of companies that you work with every day getting compromised on a regular basis, if you have to decide whether to use the same password everywhere or write down long, complex but unique passwords for each account, its pretty obvious which is safe
Most of us view our Wi-Fi routers as the device that allows us to connect to the Internet wirelessly, but it plays a much more important security role as well.
It’s a form of firewall that shields the devices connected to it from direct access via the Internet.
If you have an older router, there’s a security step that most of you probably haven’t taken as it pertains to the default administrator’s password.
The admin password is what allows you to configure the router and make changes that affect every device that attaches to it.
The bad guys don’t have to guess what your default password is, because helpful sites like https://www.routerpasswords.com have every default password for every router on the market in their database.
If a hacker sends a clever email message that’s booby-trapped to sneak into your router and you fall for it, they can make changes to your settings without you ever knowing.
The biggest risk is that they can capture all of the traffic that goes through the router, including usernames and passwords for lots of your online accounts.
Because this isn’t traditional malware, your Internet security software is powerless to stop this type of threat.
It’s actually very easy to avoid becoming a victim of this attack by simply changing the default password on your router, so if that’s too complicated for you to figure out, get some help!
If you are involved with groups because of your kids or other community involvement, you are no doubt finding yourself contributing money from time to time.
The less sophisticated the group, the more likely it relies on a very inefficient process for collecting the money that might still even require you to write a check and mail it.
In this Internet-connected world, that’s just silly, which is what the creators of a platform called Cheddar Up thought
It’s a quick and easy way for any group to set up a digital process for gathering the money that costs nothing to the organizer.
Not only does it streamline the collection process, but it also keeps track of everything for the group and automatically sends reminders when the timeline is getting close.
It’s a bit more sophisticated than something like Venmo when your collection needs get complicated.
Learn more at: https://www.cheddarup.com
One of the biggest global events to ever hit the Internet known as the Ice Bucket Challenge was in support of those suffering from ALS.
Another outcome that came from those that were impacted by ALS is a website called https://patientslikeme.com
The website was created by relatives of an ALS patient that wanted to create a resource for others facing the same challenges.
It’s natural to feel like you are facing serious health issues on your own, but the reality is that many others are likely experiencing the same thing you are.
Finding others that are having the navigate the same treatments and issues can be invaluable and reassuring.
Whether you or your loved one has been newly diagnosed with a serious illness or you can provide information for those that are just starting down a path you’ve already traveled, https://patientslikeme.com can be a connecting point.
If you want to contribute your own experiences to research efforts on specific issues, there’s a place to do that as well.
Now over 750,000 people are participating members are participating in over 2800 conditions, so finding someone that is experiencing the same thing as you is much easier.
This is a reminder to be on the alert for those pop-up warnings that claim your system is infected.
They’ve created very convincing looking warnings that tell you to call an 800 number to get help getting rid of the infection.
This scam is not Windows-specific as those running a Mac are experiencing the same scams.
This attack is generally browser-based, which is why it’s effective with any type of computer through links that are posted around the web or sent to you via a phishing scam.
Keep in mind that Internet security companies that have 10’s of millions of users will never encourage you to call a toll-free number…they couldn’t possibly deal with the number of calls.
Another way to quickly identify these scams is by getting very familiar with the security software that you have running on your computer.
These two visual cues are the best way to know when you are trying to be scammed!
Our kids are so enamored by the little screens that surround them that it’s instinctively become somewhat of a pacifier of the digital era.
Let’s face it, it’s an extremely effective way to get an unruly child to settle down when you’re in a public social setting.
The challenge in doing this is that you can put yourself in many awkward situations if you give them unfettered access to all the apps and functions on your smartphone.
The good news is that there are a host of options on both iOS and Android devices that allow you to control what can be used and what is locked out.
Everything from those expensive in-app purchases to which apps can even be opened to making it impossible to get on the Internet without your control code.
The options get better every year, but you’ll need to get specific instructions based on the OS you are using.
For iPhone users: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201304
For Android users: https://www.lifewire.com/childproof-android-4137048
Hackers tend to focus on low hanging fruit and U.S. households with children, especially teenagers are considered low hanging fruit.
If they can silently access your computer, they can start gathering sensitive information that is very valuable in the Internet’s underworld.
They also know that it’s much more likely that a child or teen will download something that looks like a game, video or program that has a malicious payload.
Why do they target your kids in order to get to you? They know that so many households share a computer and often have a single profile that everyone in the family uses. All they have to do is trick one person and they have access to everyone. Now that you know this, it’s time to make a change! It’s imperative that you create separate user profiles for you and your children, so you can limit the capabilities of your children’s user profile. This is one of those fundamental security steps that you shouldn’t skip, so if you need help getting it set up, ask someone that you trust that’s a techie!
Hacks and breaches of businesses, large and small, seems to be a common occurrence these days
Despite all of the expensive and complex security that an IT department sets up, it can all be bypassed very simply by anyone in the company.
Just about every compromise begins with an email or social media phishing campaign that appears to be a legit message from someone in your own company.
It’s not hard to figure out who the most important people in just about any company is and pretend to be them via email.
With this in mind, being extremely paranoid about messages from others in your organization with urgent or strange requests is critical.
For those in charge of managing this risk, there are tools available to test your employees as websites such as https://KnowBe4.com
You can use their phishing test platform on up to 100 employees to see how easy it is to get them to fall for a clever message.
You can ask to use the tool by filling out the request form at: