Data Doctors Tech Tips
Tech Tips for Non-Tech People
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If you spend any time on the Internet, you probably open lots of tabs as you go and you’ve probably run into this situation:
You’re in the middle of reading a research paper on one website and suddenly a commercial video starts playing in the background on one of the other open pages but you have no idea which one it is.
You then have to click through all the open pages, scrolling around trying to figure out which one is causing the annoying disruption...what a hassle!
The engineers over at Google must have had enough of this problem themselves, because they recently made a tweak to their Chrome browser to combat this irritation.
Now whenever any website is creating any kind of sound, a small speaker icon will appear on the right side of the tab to let you quickly identify the culprit.
You can click on the tab to find the video to pause it or simply click the X on the tab to close it all together.
If you haven’t given Google’s Chrome browser a try yet, this is just another reason why its one of my favorites!
Today’s tech tip is on a rather uncomfortable subject: death.
So much of our lives are tied up in online accounts that if you meet with an untimely death, your family members could be faced with an enormous task in the midst of grieving.
If you pass away and no one in your family has any of your passwords, the process for unlocking online accounts is different for each company, so the process would become very time consuming and frustrating.
The security measures that are in place to keep malicious users from accessing your accounts will become a roadblock when your family attempts to settle your affairs.
Storing your passwords in a safety deposit box or password managing program is good start but your passwords will change over time.
The most important passwords for someone you trust to have is to your e-mail account, since that’s where password reset requests get sent.
Whoever is tasked with settling your affairs can use your e-mail account to know what online accounts you used and get passwords reset if necessary.
It’s not fun to think about, but it’s something you should be thinking about!
Riding your bike is a great way to stay fit, but if you find yourself riding once it gets dark, you know how dangerous that can be.
Making sure you’re wearing bright clothing and numerous well placed reflectors is a good start, but if you really want to kick it up a notch, why not create your own highly visible bike lane wherever you go?
That’s the concept behind the X-Fire Bike Lane Safety Light; it uses lasers built into the taillight to project a virtual bike lane on the road around your bike.
By creating a visible boundary around your bike, drivers are more likely to be aware of how close they’re getting to you and hopefully keep their distance as a result.
The system runs on two AAA batteries and uses bright red lasers to project the lines on the road well back from either side of your rear tire, so it’ll be really hard to miss you since it’s visible for over a mile.
The standard unit sells for $30 and a USB rechargeable version sells for $40, a small price to pay to make drivers take notice if you ride at night.
It’s that time of the year when we all start making resolutions that we intend to accomplish this year and just about every year, fitness resolutions are at the top of the list.
There are so many new gadgets and apps that can help you stay on track but before you buy anything, you need to find something that will help you maintain a routine.
One of the ways you can stay focused on your goals is have your friends encourage you and hold you accountable.
An interesting app for iPhone and iPad users that combines an exercise app with fitness training videos is called FitStar and you can use the basic system for free.
FitStar creates a customized workout based on your interactions, sort of like a virtual personal trainer and has a library of 80 different exercises.
To keep you from getting tired of the same old exercises, FitStar presents you with a new routine every time you start the app to keep things from getting monotonous.
The app can also connect with Fitbit and Jawbone UP devices for even more data to help manage and customize your workouts.
One of the cool things that you can do on your smartphone is use one of our own pictures as the default background, known as the wallpaper.
One of the little frustrating issues that many iPhone users experienced with the most recent iOS 7 update is getting pictures setup as wallpaper properly.
When you choose one of your pictures for your custom wallpaper you don’t have a lot of control over what ends up being displayed.
Because the phone automatically sizes the image, it can often zoom in to the wrong part of the image or cut off limbs or heads with no option to move things around.
If you want a lot more control over what actually gets displayed as your default image, checkout an app called Wallpaper Fix.
Wallpaper Fix gives you pinpoint control so you can resize, rotate and position the image to exactly the way you want it displayed.
The app essentially allows you to modify an image in a way that will cause the automatic sizing in iOS 7 to properly display it without the zoomed in or misaligned results.
Wallpaper Fix works on the iPhone and iPad and costs 99 cents in the iTunes store.
One of the great uses for your social networks is when you have a question about something that you’d like to get your friends input on.
Whether it’s a purchasing decision, product review, travel destination or health related question, asking your trusted friends is something we tend to do both online and offline.
Most of us turn to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to ask a question, but one of the co-founders of Twitter is hoping you’ll try something new called Jelly.
Jelly has a simple interface that allows you to post an image and ask a question, which can be answered by those folks that you are already connected to on Facebook and Twitter.
Jelly is currently a mobile only platform for both Android and iOS devices so there’s a 240 character limit to anything you post.
When someone answers your question, you’ll get an alert on your mobile device so you can gather the wisdom of the crowds.
If you want to help others with their questions, simply flick through your networks questions and add your two cents.
It’s a brand new social network that’s hoping to break through, so if you have a question about anything, give it try!
Affordable home automation solutions had a big presence once again at this year’s CES with a much wider variety of companies pitching their systems.
While the low cost and ease of installation can be very attractive, if you choose the wrong platform, you may be limited in what you can do.
Large electronics manufacturers like Samsung and LG are integrating smart home features into many of their products but they aren’t likely to support devices outside of their limited partnerships.
If you’re serious about DIY home automation, a better choice is to use a more open standard that supports the various protocols and gadgets that exist.
My personal favorite is the SmartThings platform because it’s an open standard that’s currently compatible with over 1000 automation devices including Belkin’s WeMo devices and Phillips Hue lightbulbs.
What’s even better is that anyone can create new uses for the platform and share it with the rest of the community.
One note of caution: since these system work off of your home wireless network, it’s essential that you have good security setup on your wireless router before you start adding devices.
The Consumer Electronics Show is always a great place to find unusual technology and accessories and this year’s show was no exception.
If you often find yourself trying to be productive on your smartphone or tablet but you just can’t type fast enough, a company called TrewGrip may have an unusual solution for you.
It’s a handheld rear type QWERTY keyboard that’s split in half and looks kind of like a formula one steering wheel that came off.
It comes with a universal mobile dock that uses a suction mount for your mobile device and it connects via Bluetooth.
There are navigation keys on the front to move cursors around or to control your apps and software programs.
It’s also able to become the keyboard for a computer or some smart TVs so it can go beyond your mobile devices.
As with any new typing interface, you’ll have to get used to this new interface, but it could make you more productive when you’re forced to use an on-screen keyboard.
If you’re the parent of a teenage driver, you’re in a constant state of anxiety whenever they get behind the wheel, especially when they’re just getting started.
Add in the new concern of distracted driving because of smartphones and your anxiety heightens not to mention the concern over basic care and maintenance of the vehicle.
That’s where Car Connection from Audiovox comes in. It’s a complete system for monitoring vehicle health, location and usage with a side of smartphone restriction technology.
You can monitor fuel consumption, maintenance alerts and know when the vehicle goes out of your pre-set safety zones.
It also allows you to provide coaching to your new driver based on the data that shows driving habits.
The system works on all cars 1996 or newer by plugging a small device into the port your mechanic uses to get error codes and loading the smartphone app.
It’s also worth considering if your business has a fleet of company vehicles that you’d like better data on.
This type of tracking and monitoring may not be for everyone, but if you’re looking for something to give you some peace of mind, give this system a look.
If you’re like me, you love to surround yourself with live plants indoors and attempt to grow things in your garden every year.
And if you’re like me, you get busy and lose track of proper care and feeding of your precious flora resulting in a lot of brown.
Well, there’s an app for that! Actually it’s an app and a wireless plant monitor whether your plants are inside or outside.
Parrot’s Flower Power system takes precision gardening to a new level because it allows you to easily monitor moisture, temperature, sunlight and fertilizer levels.
Just stick the low-power Bluetooth stake in the ground, load the app on your iPhone and you’re no longer gardening in the dark.
Now whenever you’ve been neglecting your plants, you’ll get a gentle reminder on your iPhone that it’s time to show your plants some love!
Their plant database has over 1000 species so the device will know what the optimum conditions are for the best results.
They even include guidance like when you should plant and interesting facts like basil likes to be around tomatoes.
CES just wrapped up in Las Vegas and one of the more significant bits of news that got lost in all the hype surrounding new gadgets came from Google, Amazon and Netflix.
They all announced support for 4K video streaming for the new Ultra High Definition sets that were all the talk of this year’s show
Ultra High Definition TVs have 4 times the resolution of your current HD TV, but hey initially cost $20K and $25K and no content to speak of.
This year we saw Ultra HD sets from every major manufacturer with prices slated to hit the $1000 mark before the end of the year.
With the widening support of 4K content and affordable 4K video cameras from companies like Sony and GoPro, the Ultra HD platform is well on its way.
Based on development cycles and marketing calendars, I’m predicting the sweet spot for upgrading your TV this year will be in the fourth quarter so don’t get too excited just yet.
BTW, as with all electronics, avoid the lowest priced models, especially when it’s new technology as it usually means that they had to cut corners to hit a price point.
Back when Apple released iOS 7 for iPhone users, it included a lot of new features so it’s easy to have missed some of the more beneficial updates.
One very useful feature that still seems to be unknown for a lot of users is the ability to easily block callers so they can no longer bother you.
The next time you get a phone call from someone that you want to make sure can’t call you again, simple go to your call log and tap on the “i” next to the number.
When you scroll to the bottom of the information page, you will see an option to Block this Caller; tap it and your work is done!
Now if this person calls you, your phone won’t ring and it will go straight to voicemail; if they leave you a message, it goes to the blocked callers section of your voice messages.
It also works for text messaging and Facetime calls so once you’ve tagged them as a blocked caller, you’ll never be bothered with an alert from them ever again.
If you want to unblock a caller, go to the Settings menu, then click on Phone to see the list of blocked callers you can unblock.
When you’re car starts making strange noises, you pay attention right?
Well you should always do the same thing with your computer because strange sounds can be the sign of an impending meltdown.
Whether it’s buzzing, grinding or whirring, it’s generally a sign that a moving part inside your computer is beginning to wear out.
The cooling fans are some of the most common failures and if the noise stops on its own, it could mean that the fan has stopped spinning as well.
Heat is the biggest enemy of electronics and allowing your cooling fans to malfunction is like driving your car with an empty radiator.
If you hear a clicking sound and you can’t get the computer to boot, shut it off immediately and seek help. Clicking sounds generally mean you have a malfunctioning hard drive.
Trying to get it to work can cause irreparable damage and lead to permanent data loss, so be very careful with this sound.
If you were lucky enough to get a new tech gadget during the holiday season, you’re probably in a situation where you have to dispose of your old device.
Before you donate, sell or recycle that old gadget, take the time to protect yourself from the potential of identity theft.
Computers, tablets and smartphones are loaded with personal information and if they fall into the wrong hands, they have everything that a thief needs to assume your identity.
Smartphones and tablets all have a fairly simple process for resetting the device to the factory settings, so it’s just a matter of few taps in the Settings section to protect yourself.
Computers on the other hand, require you to spend a little more thought and time to properly wipe your personal data because retrieving data that’s been deleted is actually pretty easy.
You can install a secure deletion program, use a secure wipe program or remove the hard drive before the computer leaves your control if you aren’t sure what to do.
We’ve got the details and links to protect yourself posted on our site.
If you have a smartphone, downloading a useful or entertaining new app extends the love fest you may already have for your digital assistant.
If you’re like us, you generally look for a free app that will fill a need before you decide to spend your money.
You can spend your time searching for new free apps or us a free app called Apps Gone Free to keep you in the loop.
Every day, hundreds of iPhone apps offer their pay apps for free for a very short period of time to generate some downloads, but if you aren’t aware of them, you’ll miss the window of opportunity.
That’s where Apps Gone Free’s human editors can save you time and frustration because they actually hand pick each app and write a small summary of each to make sure it’s worth downloading.
Just take a peek at the 5-10 featured apps every day to see if any of them fill a need and if they do, you just saved yourself some money!
Apps Gone Free for the iPhone is the ultimate app for saving money on other apps.
The annual tech convention known as the Consumer Electronics Show is set to kickoff tomorrow and we’ll be there to cover it!
We’re expecting to see lots of new and interesting technology advances, along with the usual overabundance of solutions searching for a problem!
Some of the highlights we expect to see this year will come in wearable and fitness technology, biometric interfaces and a slew of new technology in and for your car.
Last year we covered the initial launch of the supremely expensive Super HD 4K television platform that should be much more refined and hopefully affordable this year.
We also expect to see prototypes of the flexible display and advances in the 3D printing world that will likely move it a little closer to being a mainstream consumer device and of course the latest in the tablet and smartphone wars.
The Internet of things and connected home technologies promise to be a really interesting area that could impact you in 2014
We’ll be there seeking out the most interesting and likely to be useful tech, so stay tuned!
Just about every mobile device you own has a camera in it and most of them include a flash of some sort.
Most people assume that flash is just for low lighting situations, when in fact, one of the best uses is just the opposite.
When you take someone’s picture outside, you typically end up with major shadows and harsh contrasts.
Forcing the flash can often fix both of these problems and turn what would be an awful picture into a minor masterpiece.
If you’re using your smartphone’s flash, make sure you get close enough to your subject to allow this weak light to have any effect in the daylight.
If it’s a really bright day, put your subjects in the shade so they aren’t squinting and let your flash fill the necessary light.
Understanding when not to use your flash indoors and when to use it outdoors will convert your pictures from the typical to the magical overnight.
Experimenting with your flash is the key to learning how to use it, so give this tip a try before your next big event!
If you’ve been on the Facebook cruise ship for a while, you‘ve likely accumulated what we call Facebook barnacles on your profile.
Facebook barnacles are those apps that latched onto your profile when you decide to try a new mobile app or play a game that you got bored with in 20 minutes.
Even though you aren’t using these apps any more, they’re still connected to your profile below the waterline.
You’ll probably be shocked to see how many companies that you have given permission to access your profile information.
It’s a new year, time for clean up and renewal so take a few minutes and review the list of apps that you’ve got stuck to your profile.
Click on the gear icon in the upper right hand corner, then on Account settings to get to the Apps section.
Once you’re there, start clicking on the X next to those apps you no longer have any use for…you’ll feel much better afterwards!
It’s the beginning of a new year and we all tend to think about a fresh start for just about every phase of our lives.
While you’re in the mindset, take a minute to look at your smartphone…count how many apps you have installed?
Now count how many of them you actually use? If you’re like most smartphone owners, you have dozens of useless apps clogging up your phone and the ones you use are spread all over the place.
Not only is it good to remove apps to free up space, most apps also asked for permission to access some of your private info when you installed them.
If you really don’t use the app, don’t continue to allow these apps to gather data on you or your social network profiles.
You’re bound to run into apps that you think you might use if you remember you have them, so move then to your home screen to see if you will.
Remember, your smartphone is a treasure trove of information that app companies would love to gain access to…that’s generally the exchange for getting a free app, so make sure it’s worth it!
Facebook has become such a ubiquitous communication channel for our friends and family that we tend to use it everywhere.
If you’ve ever borrowed someone else’s computer to check your Facebook account and realized later that day that you forgot to log out, you’ve got to hope your friend doesn’t decide to play a prank on you.
Whether you forgot to log out from a friends computer or from a workstation at your office, there’s an easy way to cover your tracks!
Facebook allows you to see any active sessions for your profile from the Security section and end them if you are no longer there.
It will list out when it was accessed, what device it was accessed from and the location so you can quickly figure out which session was the one you forgot to log out of and kill it!
It’s actually a pretty handy way to monitor your account as well to make sure that someone hasn’t figured out your password and is using your account without your knowledge.
We highly recommend that you take a quick look at this screen on a regular basis just to play it safe!
Autocorrect on our smartphones is pretty handy since the on-screen keyboards don’t leave much room for error.
But we’ve all seen the hilarious results of autocorrect gone wrong all over the Internet.
If you’re looking for something that takes typing on your smartphone to a new level, checkout the Fleksy keyboard app for iPhone or Android.
Fleksy aims to make typing on your smartphone eyes free…that’s right; I said EYES free meaning you don’t have to look at the keyboard any longer.
Their unique error correcting algorithm can magically figure out what you were trying to type just by your typing gestures.
It takes a little getting used to, but if when you learn to rely on your typing muscle memory, you can actually make the keyboard invisible and regain screen real estate as you type.
The developers of Fleksy have really taken a totally different approach to interfacing with your mobile devices and it’s wicked awesome
Intrigued? You can see it action and download the app to try it yourself at Fleksy.com…that’s F L E K S Y.com