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!
With all of the technology we own that can take a photo, learning some tactics for taking better pictures is always helpful.
An app called ‘Elements of Photography can accelerate your learning no matter what device you’re using to take your pictures.
Think of it as a photography guru at your fingertips to guide you through the settings that you’ve never really understood how to use.
It’s a self-paced teaching tool that uses images and interactivity to help you better understand the lessons.
Getting the primary topics under your belt like aperture and focus is a good start that will lead to your learning a lot more about taking shots on any camera.
What’s really helpful is the ability to jump to a specific lesson when you find yourself in a very setting such as low light or star gazing for instance.
This greatly helpful app is available for both iOS and Android devices at: http://www.elementsofphotography.com
Anyone under the age of 12 has likely grown up staring at some sort of screen for most of their lives, which is why they’re so addicted to them.
If you’re a parent or grandparent that struggles to get the young ones to get some fresh air, there’s an app for that!
It’s called ‘Mission Adventures’ and it uses their fondness of a screen to get them outside enjoying the wonders of nature.
It gamifies exercise like hiking through the use of tasks and a structured plot they can follow.
It’s based on a route that you want to take them on, which can be a trail, the surroundings of a park or a walk through downtown.
When it’s set up, the app will lead them through a variation of adventures through their screen that uses items in the physical world that they will interact with.
Consider it an alternative form of ‘geo-caching’ that you get to control and design for both iOS and Android devices: https://lightarcstudios.github.io/mission-adventure
Weather-related apps are abundant and if all you’re looking for is a basic forecast, any of them will do.
But sometimes you need more detail especially when you are planning on doing something outdoors. This is when I turn to the Weather Underground app.
The incredible amount of information that you can gather via the app is simply amazing.
One of the coolest features of the app is that it can provide hyper-local information from weather stations that belong to others using the app.
Public weather stations are great, but adding the extra layer of private info which shows up in red gives you much better info for a specific area.
Elevation changes can make a big difference in temperature, which is why private reports can be so valuable.
The app also provides the moon phases and air quality information to boot.
For weather data nuts, this is about as good as it gets!
To be a successful student, staying organized is one of the major keys.
A disorganized student won’t be able to locate their notes and study material, which can lead to poor outcomes.
For those with a student struggling to stay organized, there’s help available online via ExamTime: https://www.goconqr.com/en-US/examtime
Their suite of online tools includes MindMaps, Flashcards, Quizzes, Slides and Notes to help students stay organized.
This free resource is also a great hub for study groups that want to keep everyone in the group on a parallel path.
This eliminates the random notes that could be who knows where that a student needs to advance.
It’s not just for students as teachers and business users can benefit from their platform, so if you’re looking for better organization of any type, give it try!
There was a time when a fax machine was a critical part of communicating with others, especially in business.
As archaic as it may seem, there are still some situations when you might be required to send something to an actual fax machine.
With all the tools that make it easy to send documents as scanned files from both your computer and smartphone, it seems silly that sending a fax is still a thing, but it is.
The next time you have a situation that requires you to send something to a fax machine, remember the Fax Zero website https://faxzero.com
This service is absolutely free as long as you don’t need to send more than three pages at a time. If you need to send a larger document, it’s only $1.99 for up to 25 pages.
Once you scan the documents that you need to send, just upload them to the Fax Zero website, add a cover message and off they go to the other side of ancient technology!
This is one of those resources that’s rarely needed, but when you need it, it’s a life saver. Bookmark worthy, don’t you think?
Our screen-obsessed kids learn in a much different way than we did and the Internet has become one of the best places for them to enjoy learning things like math, history and science.
An amazing website known as the Khan Academy is completely free and absolutely the way our kids like to learn new things because it’s video-based.
It’s a great tool for students, parents and educators looking for an alternative way to learn and teach generally dull and boring subjects.
They get started with the video lessons which will lead them to many of the other learning resources such as challenges and assessment tools.
Every student learns things differently and at their own pace which is what makes this self-paced website so perfect for today’s kids.
If you’re a parent or teacher and haven’t seen this site yet, make it a point to visit today!: https://www.khanacademy.org
Any time there’s a clear night sky, the stars shine much brighter and we see lots of constellations that we don’t always see.
If you’re interested in learning more about what you’re looking at in the night sky, download one of the many stargazing apps on your smartphone.
These apps use the location of your phone along with the accelerometer in your phone to provide real-time info as you move your phone around.
If you’re using an iPhone, take a look at the Star Chart app for an immersive augmented reality experience. Its basic features are free with in-app purchase options for extended features.
An app called Sky Map is an excellent free option for Android smartphones that provides the same type of usage as the iPhone app.
Whether you’re trying to get a child interested in the night sky or it’s your curiosity that needs to be helped, jump into the fun with one of these apps:
Malicious apps are one of the biggest threats to your smartphone, which is why it’s always safest to get your apps directly from Apple and Google and avoid bypassing the security built into your smartphone.
‘Jailbreaking’ or ‘rooting’ is something that techies like to do, which allows them to remove the protection and install apps from anywhere which puts them at a higher risk.
That was the case until the latest scams that have found a way to sneak malicious apps onto a phone even if it hasn’t been modified by the user.
It starts with a social media post, text message or email bestowing the magnificence of a new app with a link for you to give it a try for free.
The link actually launches a process to attempt to exploit your smartphone with your permission.
It’s always best to take a pass on an app unless you have specifically gone looking for it.
Your friend’s compromised accounts can also send you these malicious links, so even when it seems to be from a trusted friend, be very wary.
One way to tighten the security on any smartphone is to have a virtual set of eyes overseeing all of the typical activities that can lead to an exploit through apps such as Lookout! https://www.lookout.com
One of the common ploys used by hackers is to set up legitimate-looking websites that are actually rigged to check for open security holes when victims land on their site.
A long-standing bit of security advice is to avoid any websites that you know nothing about, but with so many good new websites being added to the Internet every day, this isn’t very practical advice.
Fortunately, there are free tools online that can provide you with an analysis for any website before you decide to land on it like the one from Trend Micro: https://global.sitesafety.trendmicro.com
Trend has been compiling a massive database of websites based on their reputation and via their analyzation tools to help you navigate new websites.
It’s a simple tool to use because all you have to do is type or paste in the web address for any site you want their report on whether they’ve detected anything malicious on it.
The report can quickly summarize what the content will be along with a rating as to its safety.
This is another one of those bookmark-worthy links to have in your browser! https://global.sitesafety.trendmicro.com
As the Internet became a more media-rich environment, the speed at which a page would load also became much slower.
A technique known as caching was incorporated to improve the web experience by retaining previously loaded elements onto the local hard drive.
By eliminating the need to download every item to display a web page, things got much more enjoyable.
There are times when this awesome process can work against you and prevent a page from loading properly.
To prevent this, there is a keyboard shortcut that tells your computer to ignore the cache and download everything from the Internet on a page that you’ve previously visited.
Windows users can press the CTRL and F5 keys together to tell the browser to reload everything from scratch.
Command-Shift-R is the keyboard combination that Mac users use to do the same thing.
If this bypass process allows you to load a page that previously wouldn’t load, it would be advisable to clear your browser's cache - Instructions posted at: https://bit.ly/3uvZq0f
If your entire family is working and going to school from home, you may need some additional computers to accommodate your entire crew.
A cheap alternative to expensive laptops known as a Chromebook is available from a variety of companies.
Instead of running on Windows or macOS, Chromebooks use Google’s Chrome OS and a handful of programs that can work with or without an Internet connection.
Most schools have gone to a complete system that lives in the cloud, which means all you need is some way to get online, which is exactly what the Chromebook is made for.
This solution is more likely to be useful for students because you can’t install traditional business applications into a Chromebook.
Another great reason that it’s kid-friendly is that malware and viruses that target Windows and Mac users are completely harmless to Chromebooks.
If you want to see the latest units available in this class of computer, visit: https://www.google.com/chromebook
Google is the undisputed king of search engines, but using this powerful tool comes at a cost to your privacy.
Search is such an important tool for us on a daily basis, so if you’d still like the power of Google search without the tracking, check out the offering at Startpage.
They’ve created a way for you to avoid the tracking when you’re wanting to search for something with what they claim is the world’s most private search tool.
In general, most every search engine is gathering lots of info about what you’re searching for, your location via your IP address as well as which results you clicked on.
All of this get’s scraped away when you use Start Page because they don’t track any of it.
If you want to avoid having your personal information harvested whenever you use a search tool, you can change your default search engine to Startpage by visiting their home page: https://startpage.com
If you're in business, you spend your days, night and weekends looking at your email inbox.
If you just take it as it comes in, it can be like drinking from a firehose, but there are tools that can help you manage it all.
Most companies incorporate some form of customer management relationship (CRM) whether it’s a platform or just paper and pencil, but you can use Gmail in the same way.
The folks at https://www.streak.com have created a tool that allows you to use Gmail as your CRM.
They created this tool because so many people spend so much time bouncing between their Inbox and other programs to stay on top of time-sensitive tasks.
When you add their tool to your Chrome browser, useful templates are at your fingertips for those repetitive tasks you do throughout your workday.
The snippets tool allows you to build a library of commonly written messages to save time when responding.
They also provide mobile apps to extend the power of their platform which you can learn more about at: https://www.streak.com
If you’re like most people, your primary form of communication has gone from making phone calls to sending text messages.
It’s so much more efficient, which is why it’s become so popular and why it’s now another scammer/spammer targeting tool.
Legitimate text messages can come from those that aren’t in your contacts so you can’t simply dismiss any message that comes from an unknown number.
Scam phone calls are also on the rise thanks to robocalling, so you can fight both these challenges with an app from Truecaller: https://www.truecaller.com
It’s a community-based reporting app a.k.a. a crowdsourced database of junk and scam calls and messages from millions of users around the world.
It can also provide some more details for calls and texts that aren’t in your contact database, so you can make better decisions about them.
It’s another company attempting to stay ahead of the bad guys that you can try for yourself at:
The iPhone has become one of the best devices for taking pictures, not only because of the extraordinary technology but because you always have it with you.
Often times the images that you snap with your iPhone come out blurry, which can be frustrating.
Part of the problem is that the actual process for taking the picture can create movement just as the camera is snapping the picture.
Taking a number of pictures in succession can help improve the odds, but if you aren’t holding still while tapping the screen indicator, all bets are off.
There are alternatives to the screen button for taking pictures including either of the volume buttons, which is useful in either portrait or landscape mode.
Those old-school wired Apple headphones can also be used by pushing the volume buttons as well.
The headphones are especially helpful when prop up your phone on a real or impromptu tripod, such as a rock.
This single biggest skill that will have the biggest impact will always be focusing on holding still for a longer period of time.
If the middle-of-the-week doldrums have started to creep in, why not do something fun and entertaining to brighten things up?
An app called ChatterPix may do the trick because it makes it easy to make anything in your pictures look like it’s talking.
It’s really easy to use as you can draw a line in your images where you want the mouth to be, then record yourself with the message you want it to say.
When you’re happy with the talking side of the image, you can embellish it even further using filters, frames and stickers before you share it in all the usual places or just save it to your camera roll for later.
There’s also a limited version for younger kids called ‘ChatterPix Kids’ that eliminates the ability to share the images.
The folks that offer this app have lots of other apps that are made just for kids that can help keep them occupied and laughing at https://bit.ly/3andxgt
Anyone that’s trying to improve their athletic movements has probably seen the expensive technology that pros use to study themselves in slow motion.
Thanks to the incredible technology in an iPhone and an app known as Hudl Technique, you can replicate this helpful process for any athlete.
Coaches, parents or athletes themselves can use the app to study the various motions involved in swinging a bat, golf club or tennis racket in slow motion.
These videos can be shared with coaches or have notes attached if you’re the one helping an athlete to improve their technique.
The ability to place videos on a split-screen to watch for differences in either the same person or compared to how a pro moves is pretty awesome.
There are lots of other useful features in the app that are designed to help anyone looking for those small but significant improvements in their technique to do so.
Learn more at:
The most popular email services live in the cloud instead of on your computer, which provides users with security, data backup and access from any computer connected to the Internet.
Google’s offering known as Gmail is by far the most popular because it’s so powerful and feature-packed.
Making use of all those wonderful features is made easier through the use of shortcuts, which allows you to access them without reaching for your mouse.
Gmail shortcuts have to be turned on in the Settings menu under the General heading.
Once they’re activated, some of the more useful shortcuts start with the letter G for Gmail followed by any number of other letters.
The All Mail view is accessed with G-A or see your draft messages by pressing G-D.
Open contacts with G-C while sent messages can be displayed with G-T.
There are actually many dozens of useful shortcuts for things you’ll regularly use in Gmail, which are listed here:
More and more options exist to add video cameras to our doorbells and spotlights, which is amazing when it works and frustrating when it doesn’t.
The sense of security that comes from having an app on your phone that will alert you whenever the camera or the doorbell sense any activity is awesome, but it relies on having a solid wireless signal from your router.
Common complaints about performance on many of the popular models is often not an issue with the device, but an inadequate wifi signal for streaming live video.
This means that anyone considering the purchase of any of these devices should first thoroughly test the wifi signal in the areas that they intend to set them up.
It’s also important with video doorbells to know if you’ll have power wired to the door so you’ll know whether to purchase a battery-operated version instead.
All security cameras are going to have challenges in the afternoon if they are pointing due West because of the setting sun.
The easiest way to check the signal quality where you plan to install a camera is by putting your phone in airplane mode and turning on wifi to do the test.
Gathering with your coworkers to come up with new ideas or to solve a common problem, whether in-person or virtually means that someone has to be responsible for taking all of the notes for the session.
If you’re that someone, there’s an app that was designed for lots of business uses that could be a big help.
The Microsoft Office Lens app allows you to gather notes from handwritten pages, whiteboards, on a screen or chalkboard and convert everything into a PDF file.
Some of the cleanup tools like off-angle image straightening can seem downright magical when you use them.
Once you captured the notes and images, they can remain images or be converted to a variety of document formats for editing and distribution.
Even if you’re not the designated note-taker, this app is great for capturing business cards and converting them into contacts.
It’s a great app for any business professional for mobile devices and desktops alike:
Android Devices - https://bit.ly/2Z4MzUn
Apple Devices -https://apple.co/3p2WZyw
Windows Computers - https://bit.ly/2yIPfgr
One of the best ways to break out of the pandemic’s “lockdown blues” is to get out and get some fresh air.
Hiking trails are one of the best ways to get some exercise and commune with nature.
Most of us have a few trails that we love and use on a regular basis, but I’m always interested in trails that I’ve never been on to discover new areas.
The way we’ve done this for years is through an app called AllTrails.
With millions of avid users and tens of thousands of trails around the world, the helpful information can help you weed through the ones that don’t work for you.
Whether you want to bring your dog on the trail or ride your bike instead or avoid strenuous options, the AllTrails app and website are my go-to: https://www.alltrails.com
No more guessing about how long the trail is, how difficult it might be, how heavily trafficked it is or how much time it’ll take to enjoy with this app.
It’s really great when you are in unfamiliar areas because it can quickly show you what trails are near you.
If you’re an avid hiker, it’s worth paying for the premium services such as recordings from previous hikers so you don’t get lost!