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Data Doctors Tips and Tricks

Computing Tips & Tricks


Is there any way to block this next Windows 10 update from automatically installing?

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 00:00:00 +0700

(image) Anyone that has been unexpectedly handcuffed waiting for a Windows update to complete can relate to this question.

Microsoft went from a primarily user-controlled update system to a forced update system with Windows 10, which helped improve the percentage of patched systems worldwide, but has been problematic for many.

Controlling when the update occurs can eliminate those nasty surprises.

With two major feature updates scheduled per year, the Spring Creators Update is about to hit your computer in the coming weeks, so if you want to control when it happens, you’ll want to act quickly.

Windows Business Editions

Microsoft realizes that business users have a variety of variables to consider, such as custom apps or hardware or legacy systems before installing updates, so they provide more control to these platforms then they do the Home version of Windows 10.

If you are using Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise or an Educational version, you have some built-in controls for when updates get installed.

Feature vs Quality Updates

Windows 10 ‘feature’ updates are typically functionality changes while ‘quality’ updates tend to focus on security patches and bug fixes. Microsoft allows deferring feature updates a lot longer than quality updates.

You can control both feature and quality updates in the business versions by clicking on the Start icon, then on Settings then on ‘Update & Security’.  You’ll want to access the ‘Advanced options’ to make separate changes to when feature and quality updates are installed and how long they can be deferred.

Windows 10 Home Edition

If you’re not sure which version of Windows 10 you’re running, type ‘about’ in the search bar next to the Windows Start icon in the bottom left corner to access the ‘About your PC’ screen.  Once it opens, scroll down to the ‘Windows specifications’ section to determine your version.

The vast majority of consumers are running Windows 10 Home, which does not provide any of the controls available in the business versions, but there are a few things you can try.

Tricking Windows 10

The easiest thing to try is to trick Windows into thinking that you are on a limited data connection by changing your Internet connections to ‘metered’. To do this, click on the Start icon, then on Settings, then on Network & Internet.

If your computer is hard wired through an Ethernet cable, click on the Ethernet option to the left, then on the Ethernet icon - which should say ‘connected’ - to set the metered connection option to On.

If you’re connecting wirelessly, click on the ‘Wi-Fi’ option to the left, then on your specific Wi-Fi connection – again, it should say ‘connected’ – to turn on the metered connection option.

This will not guarantee that some of your updates won’t automatically install, but it seems to have worked for many when it comes to really large updates.

There are more complicated suggestions for Home users, such as disabling the update service itself or uninstalling the  Update Assistant, but I wouldn’t recommend them unless you’re fairly technical (which should mean you’ll also know how to find them online).

Just remember, at some point you will want to allow the update to install, so don't treat this as a permanent situation. 

We're planning an extensive driving trip this summer and trying to decide if we should get a dedicated GPS or use our smartphones.

Thu, 12 Apr 2018 00:00:00 +0700

(image) As good as smartphone navigation apps have become, there are numerous reasons you may want to look at a dedicated GPS device. How and where you plan to travel will likely determine if spending the extra money makes sense.

Basic Differences

Anyone traveling to remote areas where cellular coverage is unavailable will get more accurate information because dedicated GPS devices connect to the satellite network. As a result, dedicated GPS devices also tend to be more accurate (to within 15 feet).

You can improve your chances for accuracy with smartphone mapping if you remember to download the area for off-line usage, but that may not be practical if you are a spontaneous traveler.  If your smartphone storage is nearly full already, downloading a large number of maps can also become a problem.

There was a time when real-time traffic information was better with dedicated GPS devices, but the gap has definitely closed, especially with crowdsourcing apps like Waze (  The downside to Waze in remote areas is that unless there are other users on the same path, you won’t get any updated information.

Recalculating routes will also tend to be faster on a dedicated GPS, especially if you are out of cellular range.

If your smartphone is on a limited data plan, that may be another reason to consider a dedicated GPS unit as your smartphone will be constantly downloading portions of the map as you travel.

Battery usage is another consideration as real-time navigation apps can drain your smartphone battery quickly.  Dedicated GPS devices typically plug into a cigarette lighter in your vehicle allowing you to use the battery in your smartphone for other purposes.

If you decide to use your smartphone as your navigation device, make sure you have the proper power adapter in your car to keep it charging.

Another consideration is where the device will be while you are driving so you aren’t fumbling around with your smartphone while you’re driving. Dedicated GPS devices generally come with suction cup mounting brackets, which you can easily get for your smartphone as well.

Whichever way you go, be sure you put the device in your field of vision while you are driving.

Vehicles that have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto built-in allow you to mirror your smartphone’s navigation screen to the car display, but you’ll still be using your smartphone as the actual navigation tool, so plan accordingly.

Special Considerations

If you’re an avid back country hiker, you may want to consider a portable GPS that can be used in your car and on your hikes.

If you are traveling in an RV, you can get more specific alerts such as low clearance bridges through add-ons from or you may want to consider one of the RV specific devices that allow you to avoid certain roads based on the length and height of your vehicle from companies like Garmin ( and Rand McNally (

Any suggestions for creating a digital will?

Thu, 5 Apr 2018 00:00:00 +0700

(image) Estate planning is one of the most important tasks everyone should be doing for their families and including your digital assets is critically important in the information age.

We’ve been through the process of trying to help others reclaim online accounts or break passwords after someone passes and it’s just not something people that are grieving need to be dealing with.

You can save your heirs a lot of frustration and potential expense if you create a clear way for them to claim your digital assets along with the instructions for your real world assets.

Make A List

Start by making a list of all the devices and accounts that you own, which will provide the outline for documenting usernames and access codes.

Don’t forget passwords or encryption keys for individual files, external storage devices, flash drives and access codes for your computers and mobile devices.

If you’ve jumped into the crypto-currency craze or have registered domains or other virtual properties, make sure to include those access instructions.

Who Gets What?

Once you’ve created the list along with access instructions, clearly indicate who should be in charge of which assets along with any specific instructions you’d like followed.

You can also assign an executor of your digital assets along with your instructions so that a tech savvy individual can properly follow your wishes.

Email Accounts Are Critical

If you do nothing else, making sure someone can access your email account is the most critical.  It’s the gateway to recovering all your other accounts since most password-reset requests get sent to your primary email account.

If you have multiple email accounts, noting which email account is tied to which online account will also be very helpful.

Google’s Inactive Account Manager

Google provides an easy way to ensure your heirs won’t have to jump through hoops to gain access to your Google accounts.

The Inactive Account Manager ( allows you to designate what happens to your data and accounts if they become inactive for a specified period of time.

You can choose between 3, 6, 12 or 18 months of inactivity which will trigger either the deletion of your data or the notification and access to your data for up to 10 different people.

As a pre-caution, the system will send a warning of the intended actions both by text message and email in the event you forgot that you set this up.

Facebook’s Legacy Contact

Facebook may be one of the most important online accounts to the surviving family and friends because it’s a place to collectively grieve and remember the dearly departed.

Facebook has a process to memorialize an account when someone passes away, but when this happens, no one can ever log in to the account again.

If you want to give your heirs more control over what happens to your Facebook account if it becomes memorialized, you can designate a ‘legacy contact’ (

Alternatively, when you provide access information to your heirs, none of these limitations will be enforced, so you’ll have to decide if you want to limit what can be done and proceed accordingly.

I'm on the fence about deleting my Facebook profile; what are your thoughts?

Thu, 29 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0700

(image) If you’re an active Facebook user, you may be pondering this same question in light of the recent stories of misuse of the platform.

Facebook users know that they aren’t the customers, they’re the product – I think many are angry about the manipulation that the platform has allowed.

Deleting your profile won’t do a thing for the data that’s already been compiled on you – it will only limit future gathering of data and influence.

If you decide to continue using it, making changes to settings and your usage of the network is certainly in order.

Is There Value?

How you are using Facebook is the biggest factor in making your decision.  If you’re simply using it to ‘lurk’ on others posts instead of actively engaging with your network, you’re more likely to be exposed to ‘manipulative’ posts.

If you use the network to connect with others with similar interests in specialized ‘groups’, then you’re probably getting more value out of your time on the network.

I, for instance, turned to Facebook groups when I wanted to explore the world of recreational vehicles from those that have been actively involved in the lifestyle for years.

The information that I continue to learn almost daily on a subject that feels like drinking from a fire hose has been invaluable and saved me both time and money.

Change Your Use

One of the best ways to avoid being manipulated by Facebook is to not use it to get your news.  I routinely have to suggest that people check their sources before posting what turn out to be common hoaxes.

We all have to take personal responsibility for a portion of the manipulation that is growing on all social networks because too many of us take too much at face value because it came from a ‘trusted friend’.

If you’re going to repost anything you see, check the source and do some of your own research. One of the quickest ways to sniff out hoaxes or misleading information is to do a quick Google search using the headline.

Find and connect with your own trusted news sources outside of Facebook or use services like News360 ( that can aggregate thousands of news organizations versions of each story, which can also be personalized to create your own ‘digital newspaper’.

Recent Ad Activity

A lesser-known feature is the ability to see your recent interaction with ads, which can be a real eye opener.  You can access it by going to the ‘Explore’ section of the sidebar on your computer and clicking ‘See More’.

iOS users can access it by tapping the three lines in the bottom right corner and then on ‘See More’. Android users can tap the three lines in the upper right corner, then scroll to the Apps section and tap ‘See All’.

You can manage all your ad preferences at:

Deactivate or Delete?

Facebook is making lots of changes, so you may want to temporarily deactivate your account, in case you decide you want to go back. If you do decide to delete your profile, I’d recommend that you download a copy of your Facebook data first: 

Which hard drives are the most reliable?

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0700

(image) Before I get into brand comparisons, it’s important to understand various aspects that contribute to overall reliability, but let’s start with ‘there are only two kinds of hard drives; those that have failed and those that are going to fail’.

Mechanical failure or data loss can occur in a drive whether it’s brand new or been in service for years and generally with little to no warning.

Traditionally, the industry uses something called a ‘bathtub curve’ to represent the expected failure rate of hard drives – there’s a higher than average number of failures in both the early stages of use and as the device ages.

Infant Mortality

Early failures are generally a reflection of factory defects that show up only after the drive is put under real-world stresses in use. Organizations that use a large quantity of drives will often use new hard drives in non-critical systems for a period of time before committing them to mission-critical use to help weed out defective drives.

The notion that a device is new, therefore it shouldn’t fail, is incorrect – new devices do fail, so plan accordingly.


The type of storage device you choose also plays a role in both the reliability and longevity.

Traditional Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) use a spinning magnetic platter and a read/write arm that floats over the platter (kind of like a record player) and have various mechanical components that can fail.

Solid State Drives (SSDs) have no mechanical parts because they store data on memory chips, much like the flash drive you’ve likely used to transfer files between computers.

While the lack of any mechanical components in SSDs would lead to the conclusion that it should be more reliable, that’s not necessarily the case.

While it’s true that mechanical failure isn’t an issue, SSDs have a finite number of times that each memory bank can be written to and erased. Studies have also suggested that the age, regardless of usage will also contribute to deteriorating performance in SSDs over time.

Disaster Recovery

From a data recovery standpoint, the success rate for recovering data from failed HDDs is significantly higher than SSDs.  SSDs are also known to lose data by developing bad blocks at a higher rate then HDDs, so it’s even more important to have a good backup system when using SSDs.

Brand Comparisons

In number of units shipped, 3 brands dominate the industry: Western Digital, Seagate and Toshiba in that order.

There have been a variety of studies done over the years that chart failure rates of hard drives and one of the more interesting recurring reports comes from an online backup company called Backblaze:

Our data recovery lab statics for 2017, as a percentage of the total number of recoveries we performed shows that Seagate represented 38%, Western Digital 28% and Toshiba 8%.

If you were to ask the guys in our data recovery labs their preference, they’d suggest Western Digital or Toshiba over Seagate based on overall performance and reliability.

I'm fed up with Apple and ready to switch to an Android phone, but before I do, what do I need to know?

Thu, 8 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0700

Our smartphones have become such a vital part of our daily lives, which can makes switching platforms a bit of a challenge.Simple differences in how certain functions are displayed or accessed can be disorienting at first, so make sure you are up for the challenge.The good news is that the learning curve going from iOS to Android is not nearly as dramatic as switching from Mac to Windows or vice versa.Before You SwitchThe more time you spend preparing for the transition before you take the plunge, the fewer ‘surprises’ you’ll likely encounter.The first thing you need to do is review your critical apps in two ways: are they available on the Android platform and will I have to repurchase any of them.If you’ve amassed a large collection of apps that you paid for in the Apple App Store, you’ll either need to go without them or budget for the cost of repurchasing them in Google’s Play Store.Deactivate iMessageiPhone users can text each other without having a cell signal, because Apple’s iMessage works over Wi-Fi; you won’t have this capability when you switch to an Android phone.As a precaution, you should let Apple’s servers know that you are no longer able to receive iMessages so you don’t miss messages from your friends with iPhones: Up To Google DriveSince your ‘eco system’ will change, you’ll want to transfer your contacts, calendars, photos and videos to Google’s platform using Google Drive before you get rid of your iPhone: you are already using Gmail or other Google services, the transition will be very simple, as you’ll just need to sign into your Google account when you get your new Android phone.Some Android manufacturers also offer apps to help with the transition, such as Samsung’s Smart Switch (, Sony’s Xperia Transfer ( or Google Pixel’s direct connect ( ChallengesIf your email address doesn’t end with, or, the transition to either Gmail or the built-in mail app on your Android phone should be pretty simple.If you want to continue to use an Apple email account on your Android device, then you’ll need to configure one of the Android mail apps to continue to retrieve your mail from Apple’s servers: Music & iTunes MusicIf you’re a subscriber of the Apple Music streaming service and want to continue using it, there’s an Android app for that: downloaded music should transfer over fine, unless your music collection includes really old songs. Older music you downloaded through iTunes (pre 2009 Protected AAC audio files) won’t play until you remove the copy protection on them: Pain PointsYou’re not going to see a numeric badge for unread messages unless you dig through various 3rd party mail apps that are less than desirable, visual voice mail requires you to download your carriers voicemail app and those alert ‘sounds’ that you’re used to are going to be different, so be prepared to change![...]

I'm trying to send regular email to my customers from Outlook using a Cox connection and have to break them up into many groups. Can you suggest a more efficient way to do this?

Thu, 1 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0700

(image) Sending a single message to a large number of people can be problematic because of the anti-spam tools and rules that your ISP or mail service has in place.

They’re constantly trying to determine if a mass email message is legitimate or the work of a hacker who has compromised your email account.

Since they aren’t using humans to review each mass email message, they create internal rules – often unpublished to their users – that will automatically decide whether a message can be sent or not.

The Cox website posts: To combat spam, Cox places various limits on email, including limiting the maximum number of recipients per message and maximum number of messages per server connection. Specific limits are not published because they vary from time to time depending on a variety of factors…


In addition to your ISP’s rules, you want to make sure to steer clear of violating the laws governing spam messages (, as doing so could result in a fine of $11,000 for each violation – that’s potentially $11,000 for each email address on your list!

If you’re sending promotional or sales related email messages of any kind, you need to be aware of the fundamental mistakes that could get you into trouble:

  • Not providing a clear way for recipients to opt-out of future mailings
  • Not including a valid physical postal address in the message
  • Using deceptive subject lines
  • Using deceptive “From”, “To”, and “Reply-To” names or addresses or deceptive headers

Testing For Spam Scores

How you construct your messages could be raising red flags with spam filters as well.  You can test your marketing messages at:

Email Marketing Services

For a variety of reasons, it’s best to find an email marketing platform that keeps you safe from violations and avoids the limits your ISP has in place because the messages will no longer be sent via your Cox account.

These services allow you to import your existing list of email addresses and then easily manage your subscribers; some will provide you with your ‘spam score’ as you’re constructing your message, so you can learn what you’re doing to create red flags before you send out the message.

Most of the popular options also provide templates for creating professional looking campaigns and they’ll  tell you how many people actually opened the message, clicked on any links included in your message or unsubscribed.

Another advantage of using these services is that you are no longer beholden to your computer that has Outlook installed on it, because all you need is a web browser.  This gives you the flexibility to communicate with your customers from any computer, anywhere.

Comparison Chart

PC Magazine recently published their ‘10 best email marketing tools’ ( that should cover everything from the very basic needs (@$5 a month) to incredibly sophisticated systems that provide automated follow-up and full CRM (Customer Relationship Management) capabilities to elevate your marketing efforts.

Can you give me a layman's explanation of what exactly blockchain is?

Thu, 22 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0700

With the hype surrounding crypto currencies continuing to grow, more people are hearing about the underlying technology known as blockchain.At the core of blockchain technology is a publicly shared ‘immutable digital ledger’ – meaning that it’s essentially a tamperproof record keeping technology.LedgersLedgers have been part of how humans trade since nearly the beginning of our species and continues to be how we record transactions.Until blockchain, ledgers were generally controlled by a single entity and could be manipulated without others knowing.Us old-timers also remember the time-consuming, error ridden manual record-keeping on green ledger paper for sales transactions or inventory tracking – which is why VisiCalc, the first electronic spreadsheet – was such a game changer.With only one copy of any ledger, it’s easy to manipulate the data when ‘no one is watching’.Today’s private ledgers, whether it’s in banking, real estate, taxes or health care requires us to ‘trust’ the organization that controls it.This middle-man model is also how so many global organizations have become so powerful – we’re required to use them in order to execute a transaction.This network of privately controlled ledgers that don’t talk to each other is also why so many transactions take so long to execute.Immutable Digital LedgersThis stranglehold on so many data sets is what prompted the creator of blockchain to develop this publicly visible, distributed ledger platform.Imagine a ledger that is shared in real-time with millions of others that shows every transaction in a continuously growing list of transactions.To further secure this public ledger, encryption keys are created for each entry that ties to the next entry, which forms a ‘chain’ of interconnected entries to the ledger.Any attempt to modify an entry would result in the ‘breaking of the chain’, which would clearly be noticed by the millions of other connected ledgers that had the authentic entry and the offending computer gets ‘kicked’ from the ledger.This decentralized ledger also eliminates the middleman, therefore transactions become one-to-one, instantaneously – which is why so many large ‘gate keeper’ companies are downplaying the value of this technology.Much More Than BitcoinThe original focus was on our financial systems, leading to the now famous BitCoin which uses blockchain to track who owns what in the virtual currency, but there are far more interesting possibilities.The fashion industry was one of the first to see the value of blockchain as a way to fight counterfeiting: Healthcare industry is looking to blockchain to help in electronic health record management, data security, interoperability and more: are underway in real estate (, government (, education (, insurance ( and one of the most compelling uses: identity management (, which could be the gateway to secure voting system.There’s a bit of a gold rush mentality for those that truly grasp the revolutionary nature of this technology, so expect to hear lots more about blockchain for many years to come.[...]

Can you help me understand all the numbers on SD camera cards?

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0700

Today’s memory cards are a confusing batch of geek speak, but once you understand some of the basics, it might make it easier to digest.Physical SizeMost of today’s devices use either SD or microSD cards, which you can determine by looking at the card slot on your camera.Storage CapacityThe easiest specification to digest is the storage capacity, which is represented in gigabytes (GB). It’s easy to assume that the bigger the number, the better – in reality, this is not necessarily the case.Not only can it be cheaper to use multiple smaller cards, you won’t live and die with just one card because they do degrade, get lost or experience data corruption.SD vs SDHC vs SDXCA memory card’s capacity is determined by the file system being used to store data designated by the type of card.SD (Secure Digital) cards are the oldest, least used and limited to 2GB of storage.SDHC (High Capacity) cards can store up to 32 GB of data, while SDXC (eXtended Capacity) cards can store up to 2 Terabytes (2000 GB).Older devices may not be able to use the SDXC format, so make sure your device does support these larger cards before buying one.Rated SpeedThis is where things can get a bit confusing, as there can be various designations referring to the card’s speed. It’s represented in MB/s (megabytes per second) or a large number followed by an ‘x’ or sometimes both.The ‘x’ designation is a marketing term - 1x represents 150 kb/s, so 600x is the same as a 90 MB/s rating (600 x 150 = 90,000). This number typically represent the ‘read’ speed, which is generally higher than the ‘write’ speed.Speed ClassThis specification is represented on the card as a number inside of the letter ‘C‘ to represent the minimum write speed and is most important to those shooting video or very large images in succession (burst mode).There are four classes: 2, 4, 6 and 10 which represents the minimum sustained megabytes per second (MB/s) write speed – the higher the number, the faster the sustained speed.UHS Speed ClassFaster SDXC memory cards will have the UHS or Ultra High Speed rating represented by a number inside the letter ‘U’. U1 means it’s 10 MB/s while U3 means it’s rated at 30 MB/s.UHS Bus ClassDifferent from the UHS Speed Class, this rating refers to the ‘bus interface’ and is represented by a roman numeral. Think of the ‘bus interface’ as the number of lanes on a freeway vs the UHS Speed Class, which represents the speed of individual cars.Video Speed ClassIf you’re trying to shoot extremely high-resolution video (4 or 8K), this class of cards designated by the letter V and a number that ranges from 6 to 90 offers the fastest sustained write speeds ( vs Future ProofingIf you have older equipment that you plan on upgrading soon, getting a faster card then you currently need may make sense, otherwise don’t spend more money then you need to as there’s no performance benefit.To help you figure out what you actually need, checkout SanDisk’s web tool:  Once you figure out the specs for your desired card, you can easily comparison shop around the Internet.[...]

What filter are you using on the pictures you've recently posted on Instagram?

Thu, 8 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0700

(image) I’ve been road testing a Verizon Google Pixel 2 XL ( which has some pretty spectacular lens and camera technology built-in.

Features such as the automatic HDR+ and HDR+ enhanced help with images that have various levels of light, while the portrait mode creates images where your subject is in focus while the background is slightly blurred – like DSLRs can take.

One of the options that makes it simple to create some very interesting images like the one of my dog ( and the one with the group toast ( is the ‘Pop’ filter.

This effect is a preset combination of light, contrast, highlights, shadows and other settings that are available separately in the camera that instantly creates some ‘pop’. 

What’s Already There

If you’re not interested in getting a new phone, I’d suggest making sure that you’ve explored all the built-in features you may already have.  I commonly find that most smartphone users use a small fraction of the photo options that their phone offers.

You can find lots of information on your phone’s camera features by doing a search for ‘best camera features of xxx’.

Suggested Apps

If you’re looking for a lot of control both while you are taking the picture and after you take it, checkout the free Adobe Lightroom CC App in your app store.

Taking a better picture to begin with, improves your chances of better results with any of the filters or adjustments afterwards. If you use the app as your camera, you will have three modes to choose from: Automatic, Professional and HDR.

In Automatic mode, the majority of the settings are decided automatically by the app, but you can slide your finger across the screen to adjust the exposure setting before you take the picture.

In Professional mode, you’ll get a variety of manually adjustable settings like shutter speed, ISO and white balance before you snap your picture.

HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode is best used when there are significant differences in bright and dark areas in your shot, like the sun setting behind your subject.

The number of options for adjusting your image, whether it was taken through the Lightroom app or is already on your camera roll are impressive. While there are a large number of presets from 4 different categories, learning how to use the various manual options in the Light, Color and Effects menus will give you a lot more control over the final image.

If you want to add the blurred background effect, checkout the After Focus app (iPhone or Android -

If you shoot a lot of outdoor images in bright light, one of the best apps I’ve used is from EyeApps called Pro HDR (Android - and Pro HDR X (iPhone -

If you’re ready take on a really powerful tool, checkout Google’s Snapseed (Android or iPhone), which will come the closest to recreating the ‘pop’ effect that I referred to earlier.