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!
Basic smartphone-based translation apps have been around for years but my all time favorite has always been 'WordLens' because it could visually translate words through your smartphone camera.
Google acquired the company quite a while ago and they did 2 things that I really like: they made it free and they incorporated it into the powerful 'Google Translate' app.
This one app can provide visual word translations as well as handwriting and spoken translations.
Beyond using your phone's camera to perform real-time word translations, you can use your mic to translate speech or use the handwriting recognition and keyboard to translate what you want to say.
As translation goes, it isn't perfect and will always work best with short phrases, but it's incredibly helpful, nonetheless.
The instant translation works with a varitey of languages including English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish any many more languages that will help you navigate foreign lands.
Anyone planning to visit a foreign country this summer should download and practice using the most current version of the Google Translate app before you head out on your adventure!
Reminders from our smartphones have become a critical component of our daily lives, but most users seem to set reminders based on time only.
I find that setting reminders more based on a location comes in very handy as well.
For example, iPhone users can ask Siri to ‘remind me to buy air filters when I am at Home Depot’ provided they have a ‘Home Depot’ address set up in their address book.
For you Android user, you can ask Google Now to do the same thing, but because it is highly integrated with ‘Google Maps’, you won’t necessarily have to have the location in your address book.
If you set a Home Depot reminder and choose ‘any location’, you will get a pop-up notification when you enter any Home Depot, which is much more useful.
iPhone smartphone users can also use Google Now through the Google Search app, if they want to use location reminders for locations outside of what’s in their address book.
If you’ve never used location-based reminders, when you do, you will wonder how you’ve ever lived without using them.
We have all seen useful video captured by dash cams that are in taxis, police cruisers and even from citizens that have them in their cars.
These videos can be very handy in many instances, but they can be expensive or complicated, but did you know that you could use your Android phone?
Using the DailyRoad Voyager app turns Android smartphones into a dash cam, provided you install a mount for your phone as well.
Once the app is activated, it will auto-record everything right onto a SD expansion card, but then only critical events will be saved for future reference.
You choose those critical events by simply touching the screen, which is very handy should you ever get in an accident or are a witness to an accident.
The app can also auto-tag locations for photos and videos and when you’d like to share various travel videos with others, you can simply upload them to the DailyRoads website.
There are other potential uses that you may find interesting at: http://DailyRoads.com
Inexpensive and easy to install home automation devices were everywhere once again at this year’s CES with many more companies promoting their special systems.
It’s no doubt that low-cost and the easy to install options can be very interesting, choosing a limited platform can cause integration problems down the road.
Anyone that’s seriously considering any Do-It-Yourself home automation devices should look for platforms with open standards that support a large variety of gadgets that are on the market.
I continue to favor the SmartThings platform because they’ve created a more open system that also works with lots of different popular automation devices including Phillips Hue lightbulbs and Belkin WeMo devices.
Another benefit to the platform is that anyone who’s using it can create custom uses and share it with the rest of the SmartThings community.
But be warned: all of these automation devices work off of your wireless network, so it is essential to setup security protocols on your wireless network before you begin to add devices.
Learn more about the SmartThings platform at http://www.smartthings.com
If your vehicle begins generating strange noises, you’ll be sure to pay attention, right?
If you said yes, then you should start doing the same with your computer as those new noises could be a big warning that your device is about to meltdown.
No matter if it’s a grinding, whirring and/or buzzing sound, it is most likely the sign that one of your computer’s moving parts is beginning to wear out.
For example, your cooling fans are a common point of failure and when they stop making noise, it generally means the fan stopped spinning altogether, leading to a meltdown.
Heat is a primary threat to any of your electronics, so when cooling fans to stop spinning it’s the equivalent to your car’s radiator being empty while the motor is running.
If you should ever hear a clicking sound, and your computer won’t start up, your first reaction should be to immediately shut it off and seek help. Most clicking sounds coming from your computer could mean your hard drive is failing.
Trying to repeatedly restart a clicking computer in an effort to try to get it to work can often cause irreparable damage. This type of damage often leads to permanent data loss, so you should be extra careful when you hear any clicking sound.
Checkout more of our tips on noises at https://www.datadoctors.com/help/columns/21814
Anyone investigating investment strategies knows that the Web is an endless bucket of advice that can range from just tossing darts at a list to sophisticated algorithms that claim to track millions of variables.
If you’re still in search for a reliable resource, have you thought about tracking what billionaires do with their investments?
Well, the ‘iBillionaire’ app does just that; it analyzes the investment portfolios of many famous billionaires like Warren Buffett and Carl Icahn.
It can provide insights into investment strategies used by leading hedge fund managers as well, which can help you confirm your strategies or learn new approach with a different stock invested in by the billionares every day.
These investment strategies are primarily based on the ‘billionaire index’ which was created back in 2013.
If you’re looking for better investment decisions by gleaning from successful billionaires, you should checkout the free iBillionaire app.
If you’d like to compare your portfolio to the world’s wealthiest investors, you can download the app for iPhone and Android smartphones from their associated app stores.
As a travel buff, I’m constantly searching for useful travel apps, so when my wife says she has discovered an amazing travel app, I sit up and listen.
My spouse is a very detail oriented trip planner and most of my past suggestions for apps feel flat for her.
The app she discovered is called ‘Trip Rider’ and if it impressed my in-house travel agent spouse, I knew that I should take a look.
The app is designed to track and store every possible detail of our travels in one place but remains flexible, which makes changes to your itinerary an easy thing to handle.
If you add simple notes before, during and after your trip, the app easily creates a travel journal of your adventures.
It also includes a digital wallet for your important travel documents, like ID cards, passports & credit cards.
Even if you’re an occasional traveler, the http://triprider.com app is awesome.
One of the most common things we hear these days is "damn auto-correct"!
It's one of those love-hate situations with autocorrect, but this tip may help see it more from the 'love' side of the ledger.
Did you know that you can 'hack' your autocorrect to turn it into your own personal shorthand. which is very useful for commonly used chunks of text.
For instance, you can add your address to your autocorrect databases by using abbreviations, such as ADRS as your shortcut.
Once added, you simply type ‘adrs’ and tap the space bar which will cause your address to suddenly pop-up with a minimum of keystrokes.
Every device using autocorrect from your word processor to or your smartphone, can be hacked to make them much more useful.
There's realistically no limit to the number of hacks that can be added, as long as you remember to not use any real words as your shortcut.
Bonus Tip: Use numbers & letters to create shortcuts that aren't real words!
Tabbed browsers have dramatically changed the way we surf the web because it allows us pull up multiple websites in a single browsing session.
But this convenience allows us to get carried away opening way too many tabs, which takes up a lot of memory. That's why it’s prudent to close tabs that you no longer need to keep your Internet browsing to slow to a crawl.
As a result of this housekeeping, you'll likely close the wrong tab on various occasions, which can result in scanning your History file to figure out which site it was that you still wanted to read.
Today's tech tip is an excellent solution to the inadvertent closing browser tabs.
When it happens, just press the Ctrl-Shift keys (Command-Shift for Macs) and tap the letter 'T' in any of the popular browsers.
When you do, it'll re-open the last tab that was closed automatically reappear bypassing the major hassle of searching your browser history file.
Whenever you want to re-open more than one closed tab, just keep tapping the same key combination & they too will magically re-appear in the order that you closed em!
Today’s tip is on a subject that's a bit uncomfortable: passing away
Now that most of our daily activities are tied up in online accounts, should you meet with an untimely passing, your survivors could be confronted with a time-consuming set of tasks while grieving.
Should you pass without providing a survivor with access to your passwords, the process for gaining access to locked online accounts will be different for each account, so the it becomes both time consuming and frustrating.
Remember, sophisticated security measures are in place designed to keep hackers out of your accounts and will become just a much of a hurdle should your family need to attempt to regaining access.
Keeping passwords in safety deposit boxes or using a secure password management program can be a good option, but remember that passwords tend to change over time.
The single most important password that you need to leave for your family is for your email account, because they can use it for sending password reset requests from all your locked accounts.
The party responsible for managing your affairs will also be able to use your e-mail account to learn the various online accounts you've used in the past and get passwords reset sent to get in.
It’s not natural to think about death, but it is the reality that we all should be considering when it comes to our digital assets.
Your smartphone’s camera technology has advanced so much in a relatively short period of time, if you think about it.
The image capturing capability of today’s average smartphone camera is 2 to 3 times the resolution of what would have been a top-of-the-line camera just 10 years ago.
But, super high resolutions means much larger file sizes and often times these huge files need to be reduced in the size in order to e-mail them or post them online.
Reducing huge images to an precise pixel width & height is also very important when you’re creating profile images for your various social media accounts.
The next time you’re in need of some simple adjustments to large images you’ve generated, check out a web-based tool called http://WebResizer.com
The WebResizer tool allows you to change everything from the width, the height, the file size, the image quality, the exposure, the contrast to the tint and color saturation while also making it quick to crop or rotate the images too.
http://www.Webresizer.com is a really simple a one-trick-pony tool and it does its one trick very nicely.
Sweetie, I have something on my smartphone that I need to print!
My wife’s recent request reminded me of a tip from years gone by that’s even more useful today.
We’re all using some sort of Google-based service on a regular basis, so including their tool that allows you to print anything from just about anywhere is a no-brainer.
With any type of Google account, you can setup any printer connected to your computer to be available to you via the Web.
Once you’ve set it up, you can print from any smartphone, laptop or tablet to your Google Cloud printer. You can even send print jobs from your work computer to your home printer using their system.
You can also allow others to print to your cloud printer - say a visiting friend or someone experiencing a printing problem with their primary printer.
Google’s web printing system works whether your printer is cloud-ready or not and it supports the printing from a wide number of apps.
To get setup with this incredibly useful tool, checkout http://Google.com/cloudprint
Your mobile devices are likely to be a ‘digital pacifier’ in most households today because, frankly speaking, they keep kids occupied.
It can be very effective in crowded restaurants or in any situation that keeping a restless child from turning disruptive is the goal.
But giving a small child full-access to the entire contents of your smartphone is a pretty bad idea, so you need to learn how to 'childproof’ devices before you hand them over.
The Android and iPhone platforms have lots of built-in option available that will control user access but they need to be turned on, but so many people don’t seem to be aware of how to do it.
You can control what apps the child can use, limit Internet access, lock down purchasing options and block the famous ‘in-app purchases’ if you just take a few minutes to set things setup.
They all have their own setup options and procedures, so if you need guidance, here’s a good starting point:
iPhone and Android: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2921718/2-easy-ways-to-child-proof-your-android-or-ios-device.html
We all know that phishing scams and various spam are commonly used by hackers to exploit victims, often using clever traps.
Most users keep their guard-up when it comes to scam e-mails, but that’s not the only screen that is likely to be presenting these traps.
A regular scam known as comment spam has been around for a while and it’s only going to get worse.
Early on, it was pretty simple to sniff out posts that promoted working from home or other completely out-of-context posts, but the scammers are getting much more devious.
Whenever you see a breaking news story hit the web or all your social media channels or even on legitimate news sites, comments from users are bound to follow.
Even when you see posts that are making a good point but they include links to learn more, being as suspicious as you are with email is important.
Even if you are certain that a comment is from a real person, you shouldn’t click on the posted link.
I suggest that you do your own manual search for the supposed info, usually by using the headline, just to stay safe from this common form of trickery.
Using your smartphone to make stop-motion videos has been possible for a while thanks to the many available apps, but the Stikbot app uses an entirely different approach.
Their free app will work like all the others that you may have tried by taking your first shot and using the ghost of the first image as a guide to setup the next frame.
For instance, you can make a fork move around your plate by keeping the plate lined up in every frame while you randomly move the fork around it in each frame.
Stikbot differs from others by adding optional stick figures that they sell for around 10 bucks.
The stick figures are designed to help make more interesting stop-motion movies because they have flexible arms and legs as well as suction cups on them all.
It’s an interesting combo of options for that emerging young movie maker:
Making use of a Wi-Fi connection on airplanes is pretty commonplace these days as virtually every airline offers a connection, making long flights more productive.
But keep in mind that everyone else on the flight is sharing your same connection, so it’s never going to be a very fast pipe, but it’s generally better than going without it.
Since we tend to travel with a lot of devices, it’s nice to connect them all the same time, but who wants to pay an extra charge for each gadget?
When you’re in that situation, remember that a laptop can easily be turned into a wifi hotspot so you can share that expensive connection to the rest of your devices.
Mac and Windows computers both have the ability to use Internet-connection sharing so you can also connect to Wi-Fi on your smartphone and tablet for the price of one device.
It’s not just useful on airplanes because many places will charge you by the device for their Internet connection, like a hotel.
Windows users may find that the built-in tool is a bit too complicated, so their’s an easier alternative in an app called ‘Connectify Hotspot’.
You can learn more here:
Mac - http://imore.com/how-turn-your-macs-internet-connection-wifi-hotspot-internet-sharing
Windows - http://howtogeek.com/112050/how-to-turn-your-windows-8-laptop-into-a-wireless-access-point
Connectify Hotspot - http://www.connectify.me/hotspot
Everyone that has used word processors and spreadsheets on a regular basis is likely familiar with using macros that record a combination of keystrokes and commands and assigned a key-combination for future use.
Did you know that iPhones also have a tool available which allows for a similar creation of macros? It’s possible with an app called Workflow!
The Workflow app provides users with the ability to create automated interactions between popular apps on the phone and it’s done by simply ‘dragging and dropping’ the tasks you want to work with.
With over two hundred different ‘actions’ you can setup processes between contacts, calendars, reminders, your browser, reminders, maps, music, photos, your camera and even things like AirDrop, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Evernote and your iCloud account.
For instance, road warriors that often are in search of a nearby coffee shop can create a single tap function in Workflow to make it fast every time.
There are lots of existing workflows created by others that you can use in their gallery, so you don’t even have to create your own to get started.
Anyone wanting to kick their iPhone into high gear should look into the Workflow app in Apple’s App store.
I recently discussed coding with the parent of a young child who was interested in preparing their child with important tech skills.
IMHO it’s one of the best things you can expose a child to, as learning the language of coding will prepare them with valuable skills no matter what vocation they choose.
Coding is not just for programmers and web developers because it has become such a fundamental skill-set that will prepare anyone to leverage the digital world.
One suggestion for getting your child started is with MIT’s ‘Scratch’ project.
The Scratch system shows children ages 8 to 16 how to create programs through interactive stories, games, and animations.
It engaging and will help them learn to reason systematically, think creatively and work with others, which are essential tools for life in today’s digital environment.
And it’s not just for kids, so everyone should look into this incredible free platform at https://scratch.mit.edu
A fantastic feature in Google Docs & Sheets is something called ‘add-ons’ and it’s seemingly a hidden gem for most users!
Add-ons can include Avery Label or general e-mail merge for Mailchimp accounts as well as the ‘Hello Sign’ add-on for using digital signatures.
You can find add-ons that create a table of contents very quickly in the sidebar of documents or add-ons that can send a fax!
Enhancements that create charts, flowcharts, mind maps as well as music notation are just a few upgrades you can make to Google’s free online version of Microsoft Office.
To check out all the add-ons, just open any document or sheet and look for the ‘Add-ons’ menu towards the top and tap the ‘Get Add-ons’.
The great thing is, that once you add these features, they’re available in all your past or future documents and spreadsheets.
The add-on options will continue to grow as more developers create more tools, so be sure you check back regularly to discover all the new awesome free tools!
The Internet is crawling with sites that claim to know the best days and times to buy your airline tickets, but the reality is that it’s way too complicated to be that simple.
Those of you that typically plan trips in advance should look into the offerings from Hopper.
Hopper generates visual tips on the best time to fly and buy specific routes.
The app brings up reports on what prices are available for any trip you’re looking into and when you are flexible, show you the cheapest days to fly.
They also predict whether prices are most likely to go down or up along with the airlines that are generally the cheapest for your trip.
The app can also monitor your upcoming trip and check daily prices to find great deals and notify you when you should buy.
Anyone looking for solid information before booking your next a flight should download the app at: http://Hopper.com
For those that use Google Maps on a regular basis, you may have missed, like I did, an addition to the app that was subtle put useful.
You are no doubt familiar with the icon in the bottom right corner of the app, which when tapped, repositions your map to your current location.
Well, just to the left is the ‘Explore’ icon which is a helpful tool, especially when you are in unfamiliar places.
Tapping the ‘Explore’ icon will ask Google to find nearby places to eat, drink, see a movie, find live music or other popular attractions.
It defaults to show you what’s nearby within a 20-minute drive, but you can change what you want as the ‘near you’ distance including a 5 minute walk.
Not only does it start with what’s near you but also currently open, which you can change so you can plan for what will be open the next morning or tonight instead of now.
While there are a plethora of options that can show you what’s happening around you, nothing beats the convenience of having it right in Google Maps!