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!
I’m sure that you’ve heard about the exploding batteries in so-called ‘hover boards’ by now as it’s been happening all over the world.
The cause is most likely from the shoddy build process used by cheap offshore manufacturers that like to dump untested gadgets on the world’s markets.
Mismatched charging systems on lithium batteries can be a recipe for disaster, which would explain many of the issues with these hover boards.
What we can all learn from this actually applies to everything we own that uses a lithium ion battery and that is, make sure you are charging with the proper charger.
We constantly have to help laptop owners with various power related issues because they’re using cheap universal chargers when the original factory charger goes bad.
A mismatched charging system can not only cause overheating, but it will most likely shorten your battery life.
If you ever encounter any bulging or higher than normal heat coming from your lithium batteries, you’d be smart to stop charging them so you can inspect or replace them.
Those tiny sensors that attach to keychains or other items which allows you to wirelessly track things when they are lost have been around for quite some time.
The 2 brands that get most of the attention are Tile and TrackR.
On their face, they appear to be similar, but anyone looking for a slight edge should, look into TrackR over Tile.
The TrackR’s thinner sensors can do more and the user replaceable batteries aren’t those special expensive batteries.
An interesting feature of the TrackR devices is that you can also be used to figure out the location of your phone when you can’t figure out where you left it.
Both companies use Bluetooth with a range of roughly 150 feet of bidirectional signal.
When you buy a large number of them, you can get the cost down to $10 to $15 a piece, making it affordable to track lots of items.
Check out the most current options at:
The most common complaint we hear from users of any iPhone model is that it runs out of space quickly and doesn’t allow any memory expansion.
The problem in our household is when we are on the road snapping lots of pictures and taking lots of videos.
The guys at Sandisk felt your pain and created a series of devices they call the iXpand.
The device looks like a typical flash drive that has Apple’s Lightning connector and a standard USB connector.
When you install their app, the iXpand will auto copy your files from your camera roll whenever it’s plugged in.
It’s the perfect solution for those with small storage levels that want to free up space while on the go.
The USB connector allows you to plug it into your computer to transfer your files.
The iXpand now comes in various storage sizes and range in price from $30 to $200.
Learn more about their updated models at:
Today’s tip is for anyone that likes some type of noise that will help distract their mind so they can go to sleep.
I personally need something that helps my mind to slow down without waking up my wife.
One of the more solid discoveries I’ve made is an app called ‘Relax Melodies’ because of it’s flexibility in generating soothing sounds that may be the best I’ve ever found.
It provides a variety of soothing sounds that can also be mixed together allowing you to create custom sleep inducing sounds.
The app allows you to choose soothing sounds like a running river, ocean waves or waterfalls and match them with the crackle of a fire, birds singing or rain hitting on a tin roof.
Finish it off with some ethereal piano or flute music and you have yourself a sleep-inducing background sound that helps you get to sleep much quicker.
This free app is available for iPhone, Android and even Windows phone users:
That iPhone you use every day is a pretty amazing gadget for everything from entertainment to communicating as well as capturing precious memories, but did you know that there is an accessory that can make it more amazing? It’s called a tripod.
If you think of how you use your iPhone; Facetiming, group selfies or just watching a video; you normally holding it with your hand.
A clever tripod called the ‘Kenu Stance’ is a must have accessories if I’ve ever seen one for iPhone users.
At just over an ounce in weight and a bit smaller than a pack of gum, this accessory can change how you use your iPhone.
Whether it’s watching a movie, taking pictures via your timer or engaging in a video, the Menu Stance makes it more efficient.
Because it connects through the iPhone’s Lightning connector, it can be helpful in both portrait or landscape mode, allowing you to position your screen or camera in the best way, every time!
Check it out at:
If it seems that your mobile data usage doesn’t seem to go as far these days, you may not be imagining things.
Anyone that is actively using Facebook every day on their smartphones may find that it’s a big reason why.
If you’ve noticed that videos in your newsfeed automatically play as you scroll past, it can eat a hole in your data plan if it’s not unlimited.
Take a second to check the settings in your Facebook app specifically to check the Video Auto-play setting.
When it is turned on, it is eating up your data plan when you are scrolling past the videos.
If you enjoy the auto-playing of videos, you can change the setting so that it will only work when you are connected to Wi-fi only to preserve your mobile data plan.
If you have no need to have videos ever auto-play, turn it off so that you have to tap the videos when you want to see them.
Now if auto-play comes back, you will know that your default setting has changed.
The link to change the settings is posted at:
A report by Kansas State University researchers has suggested that regularly taking really short breaks of a minute or so to switch your focus to a game or textng your friends may improve your productivity.
With this in mind, the next time you’re going to take a break, instead of reaching for a mindless game, try something that can distract your mind and educate you.
Google's ‘SmartyPins’ game allows you to test both your trivia & geography during your break.
They’ll pop up a trivia question with instructions to place a pin in the location that is your answer in Google Maps.
Trivia questions can be random or from specific categories such as science & geography, arts & culture or history & current events.
When the question pops up, you will score bonus points when you answer within fifteen seconds.
They also provide hints so you can click the button and place your pin. They spot 1000 miles as point, so every wrong answer will subtracts the actual miles between the correct answer and your answer pin.
Enjoy educational break time at https://smartypins.withgoogle.com
A very common request for help I get from people of all degrees of tech knowledge centers around the constant issue of space on their smartphones.
It is especially common with iPhone users because of the lack of a slot to expand memory that is common on most Android smartphones.
Uninstalling any apps you no longer use is a good start, but getting rid of as many old images and videos will generate a lot more free space.
Dumping videos especially can create lot of free space considering that deleting a 2 minute video can free up as much space as a large number of pictures.
A lesser known area that most users may not think about are the endless number of old text messages, especially those that have images or videos attached.
I was able to free up over 5Gbs on my wife’s iPhone by going through all of her old messages that had tons of attachments.
If you’d like more of my tips for freeing up storage on your phone, go to:
Despite email’s tendency to be an inefficient and even dangerous form of communication, it’s still the primary method for most everyone in business.
If you’re not getting timely responses or responses at all to your business related messages, there’s a possibility that when you’re sending them may be contributing.
A marketing firm called Yesware took the time to analyze 500 million messages and what they discovered was that response rates appear to be higher on weekends. This may be because weekend messages don't have to compete with nearly as many messages as they would typically on any weekday.
They’re also suggesting that messages sent between 6 & 7am or later in the night around 8pm will get higher response rates.
You can easily test out these theories by learning how to set your messages to go out on a time schedule. Virtually every popular e-mail program has this ability or can be added through plug-ins so you can send your messages at a potentially better time.
For complete details on this study, go to:
Google is by far the most sophisticated search engine which can also mean that you are going to be presented with millions of search results most of which aren’t relevant.
You can dramatically improve the quality of your search results using one of the many of what Google calls 'query operators' if you understand how to use them.
One 'power tool' that few people know about is the operator for “range” which will filter results in a given numerical range.
Just by using two periods between two sets of numbers, Google knows to limit your search results to links within those parameters, which it does very well.
For instance, say you’re doing a little research for a specific period in time you could type “Russian Revolution” 1800..1900 or when you’re shopping for a used smartphone in specific price range, you can type “smartphones $250..$350”.
To further improve your results, try including specific formatting for your numbers (dollars or feet for example)!
When we get serious about physical fitness, getting with a personal trainer is certain to accelerate progress and the same will hold true for your mental fitness.
As we age, we recognize some of our mental sharpness diminishing and it can become a regular irritation.
If you’re like me and have noticed this happening, you might be interested in trying out a personal brain trainer. An app called ‘Elevate’ for both iPhone and Android smartphones may be worth a look.
The app uses games based on various scientific research designed in conjunction with various experts in neuroscience & cognitive learning.
You begin by selecting what you want to work on; speaking skills, focus, comprehension, processing speed and more.
The Elevate app will create your own customized ‘daily challenge’ based on your selection and tracks your progress for each section.
The daily basic challenges in the app are free with an unlimited option that you can pay should you get into it.
One user called the Elevate app a ‘daily mental multivitamin’, so for those looking for a better use of their spare time should checkout Elevate at http://elevateapp.com
Science fiction fans that want to create incredivle photos with their iPhones will think today's tip is out of this world!
An inexpensive app called "Alien Sky" uses awesome space effects which can turn your images into something that will really stand out.
The app allows you edit your images with futuristic effects using high resolution space objects or various lens flares to any picture on your iPhone.
The space objects include moons, planets, suns, stars,
comets or various galaxies to take your social media posts to another level.
The Alien Sky app has more than 150 different effects that gives you total control over the customization; you can post fantastic other worldly photos that will stop your friends cold on social media.
Now you can turn those old dull images on your phone and turn them into fantastic visual effects.
The link to learn more is:
A friend recently asked for some help finding an online appointment setting system because they found themselves spending far too much time exchanging emails and voice messages.
The wanted something simple, preferably free and with the ability for somewhere down the road for their customers to pay through the system as well.
Based on those parameters, I suggested they take a look at http://www.acuityscheduling.com
Anyone in any business that has the need to set appointments will find having a single point of contact where customers can schedule their own appointments like what Acuity offers is a big time saver
The free service is really basic, so if you need to customize the system or take payments through the system, you will need to spend $15 to $25 a month.
The simplicity of the tool allowed my friend to get setup quickly which meant they simply needed to create a “book an appointment” link on their website.
Acuity syncs with lots of popular calendars, allows for group appointments and the system knows which time zone each party is in.
Using secure passwords continue to be the weakest link for most users online and I’ve stressed over and over how important it is to use different passwords for all of your online accounts.
If my previous suggestions of password management programs have been a bit overwhelming, there’s a low tech method that I highly recommend for those struggling to keep track of all their passwords; just write them down.
I don’t mean the old use a sticky note on your monitor method, I mean jot them down for storage in a safe place, like somewhere random in your smartphone.
Be sure to avoid using the word “password” in the description or in the file and create your own form of protection in case someone does run across the document.
For example, you can add 4 totally random characters, symbols or numbers at the beginning of the real password and only you will know to ignore them.
My point is, that if the choice is using the same password on all your accounts or writing them down so you can different passwords everywhere, then write them down!
This will keep you from being totally exposed by a single data breach.
We all hate having to search everywhere for a special remote for our streaming devices, an especially common problem when children are involved.
Yesterday, I gave users of the Apple TV a tip for an alternative remote control and today’s tip is for Roku owners.
There are a couple of alternatives for controlling your Roku device using your smartphone or computer.
Using either, simply go to http://remoku.tv, to generate a virtual remote right on your screen.
Start by tapping or clicking ‘Settings’ which will scan of your wifi network and automatically find your Roku device.
Once it’s found, you can use the virtual remote on the screen to control everything.
If you’re a multi-talker, checkout an add-on for the Chrome browser on your computer, which allows you to bring up the remote anytime while you are surfing around.
Apple TV is a very popular way to stream video content, but I have a complaint for the engineers at Apple. That remote control is too darn tiny so I’m constantly losing it.
Whether it hides under magazines on my coffee table or gets wedged between my couch cushions, it always creates the same retort: “has anyone seen the Apple TV remote?”
I found an excellent cure for anyone household full of users with the same problem; add the controls for the Apple TV to your regular TV remote!
You may not know about an option in the ‘Settings’ of the device which allows you to configure an extra input on your regular TV or cable remote that will control it too.
The most obvious option is answered with the question: when was that last time you used a VCR?
It takes but a few minutes to quickly setup this solution and it will change your world for the better.
The link to the instructions:
Tomorrow, I will provide a similar tip for owners of a Roku Box.
There may be a computing technology that has been around for many years that may be a reasonable option for many this year.
It’s called a ‘Google Chromebook’, which actually looks and performs like a standard laptop, but at a cost of only a couple hundred dollars.
It’s based on Google’s Chrome OS as well as their various apps, like Google Docs which can be used offline.
These value-based computers won’t run Windows programs, so they aren’t for power users, but those that spend most the majority of their time on the Net may find it a viable alternative.
Children and elders users may especially find value in this device as it is inexpensive and easy to use and best of all, its not exposed to the malware that infects Windows and Mac computers.
Anyone that finds most of what they care about is online will find that a Chromebook may be worth looking at.
Discover more at http://google.com/chromebooks
Today, let’s talk about something you probably already have, but may not be using.
If you’re a user of one of the many Google tools such as Gmail or Google+ you’re getting at least 15 Gbs of free online storage better known as ‘Google Drive’ for your docs, spreadsheets, images, video or any type of file that you’d like to store online.
An excellent way to use this free cloud storage is for your most important archived files and pictures which can be done easily with the use of the Google Drive utility for either a Mac or Windows PC.
Once you have installed the tool, ‘Google Drive’ becomes a folder on your computer which means that files that you save within it will get auto synced to your free space.
Changes made in your computer’s Google Drive folder will be mirrored in the ‘My Drive’ section online. This means that any files you share, move, modify, or send to the trash will be reflected in your online synced account.
It’s just another way to protect your most valuable files while giving you access to them from any desktop or mobile device you own.
Hyper Text Markup Language or HTML is the basic language of all things on the Internet.
Anyone interested in learning how to create a website will need to understand this basic language that is the basic structure for everything you see online.
Those services pitching easy to build websites using their pre-made sites are limited and won’t teach you anything about the actual building of websites.
Although HTML looks like a foreign language at first, learning the basic language will quickly lead to de-mystifying it all.
A solid way to start learning is from Mozilla’s ‘Webmaker’ tools that allow you to take sample sites and play with them to see what will happen.
Experimenting with code is a really good way to start learning web skills and Webmaker allows you to tinker with websites without any consequences.
Getting a handle on HTML has become a vital skill for everyone, especially our kids and Mozilla wants to help millions move from simply using the Internet to helping to creating it.
The Webmaker project located at https://thimble.mozilla.org is an excellent place for anyone with the desire to learn more about how the Internet really works to get started.
Most of us are paying more attention to improving our health on a regular basis primarily through diet and exercise.
Knowing exactly what you are eating is an important step in achieving health and fitness goals which is where a site called Two Foods can help you make good decisions.
This simple web tool allows you to get a comparison between any 2 different items with a breakdown of calories, carbs, fat and protein.
For instance, you can check the difference between apples and oranges when you are looking for a healthy snack.
It’s also helpful when trying to decide where you’d like to eat lunch, because you can also compare various restaurant menu items against one another.
Or, simply type the name of two popular restaurants in which will pull up the info on several popular menu items.
This tool is a real eye-opener for those that don’t normally pay attention to what they’re putting in their stomachs! http://www.twofoods.com