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Data Doctors Tips and Tricks



Computing Tips & Tricks



 



Apple released the iPhone 8. What's new, what's improved and is it worth the upgrade?

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 00:00:00 +0700

(image) Apple officially started selling the iPhone 8 (and 8 plus) on September 22, 2017 and we've had our hands on one for a couple of weeks now. At first appearance it looks and feel like previous designs (iPhone 6, 6s and 7) but it's what's inside that really counts! The exterior has the same physical dimensions, so existing users cases/accessories will fit and work as before (no need to upgrade those too)! The back of the iPhone 8 is glass now, but Apple insists that it is as tough as the aluminum backed phones of previous generations. Time will tell. The headphone jack is still missing (removed with the iPhone 7 gen) and the "home" button still isn't a "real" button (like the previous phone gen too) - so again, there's not a real "wow" factor to the the visible physical device. Under the hood, there have been LOTS of changes.

First, wireless charging has finally come to iPhone. It's been on rival phones for years now, so it's about time! True Tone tech adapts white balance to wherever you are at to keep colors "accurate" while viewing. Upgraded Bluetooth and cellular radios provide for more reliable connections. The cameras have been updated and feature a 12-mega-pix back cam and 7 mega-pix front facing camera. HDR mode is on by default now, resulting in better images. The iPhone8 seems to be edged out in low light shooing by the Samsung 8/8+, but only slightly. Slow-mo video in 1080p is awesome along with 4K video at 60fps looking so good, video almost looks not real! Finally, better speakers make for an improved audio experience.

While the iPhone 8 may not be obviously different from the outside, it seems to magically "just work" better. It's faster, smoother and more efficient thanks to the internals being completely reworked. While it's definitely the "Best iPhone yet", we can't help but look forward to the iPhone X set to release in early November 2017 - the device that's changing the rules when it comes to mobile phones. If you don't want to wait or want to avoid the $1000 plus price tag, the iPhone 8 may be just the phone for you!




What suggestions do you have for managing the mobile devices in our business?

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 00:00:00 +0700

(image) It’s no secret that more business is being done on mobile devices then ever before, as mobile Internet access surpassed desktop usage for the first time back in November of 2016.

Since these devices have become so invaluable for conducting business, every business should be thinking about how to manage them.

Single Biggest Risk

The likelihood of a mobile device being lost or stolen is exponentially higher than a desktop computer, so planning for this eventuality is critical.

Since passwords and access codes are commonly stored in browsers and apps, anyone that gets their hands on an unprotected mobile device can instantly assume the identity of the victim and wreak major havoc.

Computers, tablets and smartphones that don’t require a password or passcode in order to use them should be strictly prohibited in any business.

Basic Protection Layers

Even with an access password enabled, a motivated thief can make their way to your sensitive data, so using some form of encryption and installing a remote tracking program provides additional layers of protection.

Apple devices running iOS 8 or higher are encrypted by default and Android users can search for ‘encryption’ in their Settings menu to activate it.

While both Apple and Google offer free tools that will allow you to track, lock down and remotely erase lost devices, they lack some of the more useful features available in third-party options.

Pictures Can Help Recovery

One of my long-standing favorites is Prey from https://PreyProject.com because it adds the ability to take screen shots on laptops as well as take pictures of the user from the camera(s) on any of your mobile devices.

This can become critical, because simply determining the general location of a device isn’t much help if it’s a huge apartment complex or a 20 story commercial building.  Your chances of getting any type of help from law enforcement goes up if you can provide more than just location information.

The free version of Prey covers up to 3 devices, but no longer includes the ability to remotely erase your data. You can either opt for their $5 a month package for that feature or use Prey along with the free tools offered by Apple or Google.

Large Scale Systems

If you have a large number of devices to manage, you’ll want a more sophisticated platform.  Prey offers customized business packages, but for a much more comprehensive set of tools, look to solutions such as AirWatch from VMware (https://goo.gl/4Fw6gM), Meraki from Cisco (https://goo.gl/V1g2Tw) or Intune from Microsoft (https://goo.gl/8gXQqt).

These tools dramatically expand your management capabilities to include limiting the mobile devices that can connect to your network, controlling what data those devices have access to and various tools that makes deploying and managing a large number of devices much more efficient.

These more sophisticated tools allow IT managers to better control what can be done when an employee is using their personal device for business without restricting their personal needs.

The cost of these more sophisticated tools can range from a per device charge (starting @$2.50 a month for AirWatch Express https://goo.gl/RUxP35) to a per user charge used by Microsoft.




How hard is it to convert from an Android smartphone to an iPhone?

Thu, 28 Sep 2017 00:00:00 +0700

(image) In the world of smartphones, the Android vs iPhone battle is similar to Ford vs Chevy with passionately avid fans on both sides.

However, converting from a Ford to a Chevy is a lot less involved then going from an Android to an iPhone.

The good news is that it’s a lot easier than it used to be, but you do need to do a little homework before you attempt the conversion.

Will It Fit?

Your first step is to determine what on your Android handset needs to be transferred to your new iPhone.  Unlike the iPhone, many Android phones have the ability to expand the base memory, so if you have a micro SD expansion card loaded with music and pictures, everything may not fit on a base model iPhone.

Apple charges $100 to $150 as a premium to go from its base model to the expanded memory options depending upon the model you’re buying.

Base models either come with 32Gbs or 64Gbs, so make sure you’ve done the math to figure out what will make it over.

Deleting the items on your Android phone that don’t need to transfer before you get started will make the transfer process less complicated, especially if you’re dealing with too much content to transfer.

Also, be sure you have the latest version of iTunes on your computer as well, as this will be your main management console for the iPhone once you’re done with the transfer.

Move to iOS App

Several years ago with the launch of the iPhone 6, Apple released an Android app called ‘Move to iOS’ (https://goo.gl/1hsNYy) to help switchers with the process.

It’s far from perfect, but it does take a lot of what used to be a manual process out of the equation (instructions: https://goo.gl/8uEZou).

The app only works if you’re transferring to an iPhone that has yet to be setup, so if you’ve already started using yours, you’ll either need to reset it (which wipes everything off) or move everything over manually: https://goo.gl/JJHukR

There are many limitations to what it can transfer over as well as the lack of converting various media files, so if things like auto-conversion of your music and videos, attachments in text messages, call logs, ringtones and other random files are important to you, it may be worth buying a program called AnyTrans (https://goo.gl/s4g7Hz).

AnyTrans, which uses your computer with both phones plugged in to get the job done, also lets you avoid having to reset your iPhone if you’ve already started using it.

Managing Your Expectations

Despite all of the advancements made in transfer options, you’re still likely to run into issues or glitches, so be prepared for a period of adjustments.

Also, keep in mind that all the apps available for the Android aren’t necessarily available for the iPhone and purchased apps often have to be repurchased from Apple.

If you use a lot of Google’s services, simply adding the iOS app for each and signing into your account should make everything ‘automagically’ appear on your new iPhone.




Is there a voice recognition system that can replace typing that actually works well?

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 00:00:00 +0700

(image) As much as technology has advanced since Bell Labs developed the ‘Audrey’ in the 1950’s, which could only recognize digits spoken by a single user, we’re still far from what you’ve seen in science fiction movies.

Commands vs Dictation

Voice command platforms like many automated phone systems use are reasonably effective because they severely limit the number of verbal commands you can use.

Natural speech recognition is what most people want and that’s a challenge that has yet to be met in a way for it to be widely adopted.

We’re surrounded by options that offer some form of voice command/recognition from Apple, Google and Amazon, but they are far from perfect, as we all well know.

Accurate dictation has been the challenge that many very sophisticated companies, including IBM, have been trying to solve for over 60 years.

To put the problem into perspective, a system with a 90% accuracy means that every 10th word is wrong. 95% accuracy gives us a 1 in 20 ratio and even at 98%, we’re still looking at roughly 1 in 50 words being incorrect.

With an average paragraph in the 100 – 150 word range, you can start to see how the time we may save in generating the text can get eaten up in editing what was captured.

Throw in that our voices change when we’re sick, various accents, the speed in which we speak and a host of other variables and you start to understand how much more sophisticated of a processor the human brain is.

The Context Problem

Another huge challenge is context, both in command and dictation technology.  Google recently started to bridge the context gap with their latest Google Assistant technology that allows you to have more of a conversation.

For example, you can ask ‘Do I need an umbrella today?’ and after it responds, you can follow up with ‘what about tomorrow?’.

Another advance in context is being made possible by what many consider the ‘creepy’ factor of today’s technology.  Since our smartphones can remember virtually everything we’ve done in the past, consider our current location or what we’ve been searching for online or in a mapping program, they can use this additional info to help better understand your verbal commands.

Tips for Being Successful

If dictation is your key need, the company that’s been at it the longest, as far as a consumer product goes, is Dragon NaturallySpeaking (http://dragon.com).

As good as the program is, expecting to install the software and have it magically become your new way of ‘typing’ will guarantee failure.  You are essentially going to be learning a new language in a sense.

If you aren’t willing to take the necessary time to train yourself to learn how to speak to your computer, you shouldn’t bother spending the money.

You’ll also need to make sure that you have the proper hardware to be successful, such as enough processing power, RAM and a good microphone, so be sure to review the system requirements before taking the plunge.




I'm ready to upgrade my iPhone, but I can't decide which way to go. Any tips?

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 00:00:00 +0700

(image) There has never been a better time to be in the market for an iPhone as the current selection includes 8 different models - the entry level iPhone SE, 6s, 6s Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus and their top line X - that range in price from $349 - $1149.

Start with Screen Size

If you haven’t already done so, make sure you hold each of the phones in your hand and slide it into your pocket or pocketbook to determine the best fit from a form factor standpoint.


Budget minded consumers that don’t care about larger screens, can opt for the 4” SE - the size of the original - for the new reduced pricing of $349 - $449 depending upon your storage needs (32GB – 128Gb).

If you want a slightly larger screen (4.7”), then your choices are between the iPhone 6s, 7 and 8.

If you want a phone with the largest screen size, then your choices are between the 6s Plus, 7 Plus, 8 Plus and X.

Cameras

iPhones have long been heralded for their camera technology, and unless you’re really into photography or super hi-res video, every model has a 12MP camera that can shoot 4K video at 30 frames per second (fps).


If you’re a big selfie or Facetime fan, you’ll want to stick to the iPhone 6 or better as the front facing camera on the SE isn’t great.

Water and Dust Ratings

If you spend a lot of time outdoors, especially near water and you want something that can take a bit more abuse, you’ll want to go for an iPhone 7 or higher as they all have superior water and dust resistance ratings.

Despite the ratings for having your phone in 1 to 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes, you really shouldn’t plan on swimming with them.  Exposing your expensive phone to salt and chlorine water isn’t something I’d recommend without something like a LifeProof case (http://lifeproof.com).

Newest Features

If things like wireless charging, fast-charging, 60 fps 4K Video and the most powerful processors available are important to you, then you’ll probably be able to justify buying the iPhone 8, 8 Plus or X.

Apple’s comparison site is an easy way to compare up to 3 different models at a time to help you weed through the specs: https://goo.gl/JeJJ7V.

Purchasing Options

There are a plethora of options for buying new, used or refurbished iPhones, starting with Apple itself.

Apple offers an annual iPhone Upgrade Program, which is best for those that have to have the latest model every year: https://goo.gl/vknWpT, look into their trade-in program for your older iPhones: https://goo.gl/W2nEQ3 or shop for deals in Apple’s refurbished inventory: https://goo.gl/M1CSFg.

If your current phone is tied to a specific cellular provider, check to see what their current promotions are based on your eligibility.

If you don’t mind a used iPhone, besides your cellular provider, there are a number of reputable resources that I’ve used to pay cash for a used phone including Glyde (https://glyde.com), Swappa (https://swappa.com) and Gazelle (https://gazelle.com).




Is it true that if I enroll in the free Equifax protection program that I can't be part of a class action lawsuit?

Fri, 8 Sep 2017 00:00:00 +0700

(image) In what may be one of the most damaging data breaches to date, Equifax - one of the big three credit bureaus, announced that 143 million US based consumers may be affected by a data breach that occurred between May and July of this year.

What makes this breach so damaging is that the most sensitive personal information including Social Security numbers, birth dates and home addresses was part of the breach.

Equifax TrustID Premier Enrollment

In an effort to provide some level of protection to impacted consumers, Equifax has launched a special website (https://equifaxsecurity2017.com) to explain what has happened and to offer their ID theft and credit monitoring service for free to anyone that wants it.

Many have pointed out the irony of going to the very organization that couldn’t keep its data secure to protect you from further damage.

These types of ‘free’ services typically only last for a year, which doesn’t really do you any good in the long run since you can’t change your social security number very easily.

The ‘Terms of Use’ for TrustID Premier has a pretty common arbitration clause that includes:… A WAIVER OF THE ABILITY TO BRING OR PARTICIPATE IN A CLASS ACTION, CLASS ARBITRATION, OR OTHER REPRESENTATIVE ACTION.  (You can read the entire statement at https://goo.gl/1ZtvgD.)

UPDATE: Equifax has updated their FAQ on this question with the following: The arbitration clause and class action wavier included in the TrustedID Premier Terms of Use applies to the free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection products, and not the cybersecurity incident.

Enrollment for the free one year subsciption ends on November 21, 2017

‘Pretexting’ Concerns

One of the most disconcerting aspects of this breach is that the sensitive information that was stolen is extremely useful for a form of ‘pretexting’ that could have nothing to do with your credit file.

Pretexting refers to the act of pretending to be someone in order to gain access to private or sensitive information.

In this case, your information could allow a perpetrator to pretend that they are you to convince your bank, utility, cellular provider even the IRS to change something like an email address or physical address because the typical information required to prove your identity is in the hands of the bad guys.

Tax Filing Concerns

Another big area of concern will be for the tax-filing season next year. The filing fraudulent tax returns has become a billion dollar problem and this breach just made it easy for this problem to grow.

Make a note in your calendar to file your tax return as quickly as you can next year to avoid the mess that’s created if a fraudulent return is filed before you file your real tax return.

Children’s Credit Files

ID thieves covet the Social Security number of children because it’s a lot less likely that anyone is monitoring the credit of a young child.  Whatever you decide to use to monitor your own credit files, don’t forget your children as well.

Credit Freeze

One of the best ways to lock down your credit file is to put a freeze on it with all 3 credit bureaus: https://goo.gl/kfKWw2




Where do I turn off the constant location tracking in my smartphone?

Thu, 31 Aug 2017 00:00:00 +0700

(image) Our smartphones have become a virtual human ‘electronic tag’ that instead of being installed under our skin, is in our pockets and purses.

Precise locations, dates, times, durations and what we did before and after opening an app or website are just the beginning of what’s being tracked.

The very design of the device allows this to happen whether we want it to happen or not.  Your cellular provider, for example, always knows where you’re at on their network, because your phone is checking for the strongest cell tower roughly every 7 seconds.

Turning off all of the location tracking systems on your smartphone would essentially render it useless, but you can somewhat control what gets shared or stored.

Personalized Services

Both Google and Apple will espouse their ability to provide their users with ‘personalized services’ by allowing your smartphone to constantly track your location.

For example, it can detect that it’s the time of day you usually leave for work and automatically estimated your commute time and best route based on the current traffic conditions.

Apple’s frequent location data is only stored on the iPhone, while Google stores your location history both on your Android handset and in your Google account.

For the most part, someone would either have to gain access to your smartphone or your Google account to see your detailed location history.

Keeping Location Data in Perspective

Frankly, if someone does gain access to your smartphone or Google account, your location history should be the least of your worries.  Your email account and its contents are far more valuable to a cyber-criminal than your location data.

If your concern is that your spouse will be able to see your every move, then that’s a completely different situation that may be dictated by your relationship.

Whatever your reasons are for not wanting your location data tracked and stored, it’s pretty easy to turn it off.

iPhone Frequent Locations Setting

Most iPhone users are likely familiar with the ‘Location Services’ options in the Settings menu (Settings/Privacy/Location Services) that allows you to individually control which apps have access to Location Services.

If you scroll down to the bottom of the listing of your apps, you should see an option for ‘System Services’. Tap it and look at the bottom of the next screen of options to tap on ‘Frequent Locations’.

You should now see a toggle to turn on or off ‘Frequent Locations’ and the current ‘History’ that’s stored on your phone with an option to Clear History if want to wipe the data.

Google Location History Setting

Android users will need to adjust setting in two different areas: on your smartphone and in your Google account.

Android devices have slightly different Settings menus depending upon your device, so look for (or search for) ‘Google Location History’, which is usually under a Privacy or Location submenu.

When you toggle the switch to off, it simply stops storing your locations but does not delete your history.

For complete instructions to manage or delete your Location History, go here: https://goo.gl/gKuAs3.




Is a paid Password Manager necessarily better or safer than a free one?

Thu, 24 Aug 2017 00:00:00 +0700

(image) Passwords are a daily source of frustration for all of us, because so much of our lives are tied up in the online world.

As everyone should know by now, using weak passwords especially the same weak password on all your accounts is a really bad idea.  Password managers solve both of those common problems for you.

How Do They Work?

All password managers work in the same general way; they provide you with a secure ‘locker’ that contains all your passwords that is protected by one master password.  These lockers incorporate very high levels of encryption, so even if someone were to gain access to it, it would take an extraordinary effort to crack the locker.

They also provide a way to generate a different long complex password for each of your online accounts, so you don’t have to come up with all of them yourself.

Where The Locker Lives

The location of the ‘locker’ determines both security and convenience, so understanding the difference will help you understand which approach makes the most sense for you.

From a security standpoint, if the encrypted locker lives on your own machine, you’ll never have to worry about whether a third-party service company ever gets hacked.

One of the more popular free tools that stores your password database locally is KeePass (http://keepass.info).  The downside to this open-source tool is that it requires a lot more manual configuration and could become confusing for non-technical users.

Another minor inconvenience is that if you want to use KeePass on a computer that you don’t own, you’ll either have to sync your database to an online storage service or store it on a flash drive that you have to carry around.

Security fanatics like this approach because they get to control all of the aspects of the security.

A popular free option that stores your encrypted locker online is LastPass (http://lastpass.com).  The advantage of storing the encrypted file on their servers is that you aren’t beholden to a single computer or required to carry a separate device around for authentication.

You simply install it on all your devices – desktop, laptop, smartphone or tablet which are synced up – or login through their website if you’re on a device you don’t own.

On its face, storing all your passwords on the Internet may seem scary, but the reality is that these companies are going to be much better at securing the locker then most users.

Even if the company gets breached, the stolen information would have to be decrypted which would take a bit of time.  A  simple reset of your master password and saved passwords would render the stolen information useless.

If your personal computer gets breached, you may never know it happened.

Free vs Paid

The competition in the password manager world is pretty fierce, so many of the more popular options have gone to a ‘freemium’ model.  This means that they provide a basic level of service for free and offer premium features that vary for each program for a fee.  The security level is exactly the same, so you’ll be paying for the extra features only if you want them.




Trying to decide which smart thermostat to install in my home.

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 00:00:00 +0700

(image) Programmable thermostats have been around for a long time and provided you take the time to actually program them, they can save you money.

‘Smart’ thermostats take energy saving to another level because they don’t solely rely on your initial programming.

The main ways that they can save you money is by detecting when no one is home and automatically adjusting the temperature to your lower energy ‘away’ setting and by allowing you to remotely control them.

Heating or cooling your home when no one is home will add up over a year’s time, which is why a lot of these smart devices can pay for themselves over time.

Nest – The Learning Thermostat

Nest was the first real advance in smart thermostats because of its sleek design, simple interface and it’s unique approach to the programming portion of the setup.

Instead of sitting down to guess what temperature to set for each day and day-part, the Nest system simply has you adjust the temperature the way you would an old-school thermostat and automatically builds a schedule for you.

Nest also has a built-in motion sensor that helps it determine when no one is home, so it can automatically change the thermostat to a pre-designated ‘away’ temperature.

This is a huge benefit to anyone that has an irregular schedule but it also helps Nest ‘learn’ your patterns for better scheduling.

Nest was acquired by Google a couple of years ago and has become their platform for the smart home.

If you have or want to include Nest security cameras, smoke/CO detectors, smart lights, doorbells and control everything with voice commands via the Google Home smart speaker, you can see all the offerings at https://store.nest.com.

EcoBee – With Remote Sensors

The EcoBee thermostats (https://ecobee.com) don’t have the ‘learning’ ability of the Nest, but they do have the same motion sensing capabilities.


For those that have larger homes, having a single motion sensor like the Nest offers may not be the best way to monitor movement.

EcoBee offers various models that include remote sensors that can be placed in the rooms that you use the most.  This is helpful for those that might work for long periods of time in a home office, for example. 

The recently launched EcoBee4 system also has a built-in microphone and native support for Amazon’s voice-technology, so it extends your ‘Alexa’ voice command range in the house.

Honeywell – Value Options

Honeywell has a long track record in the thermostat business, but they lack some of the ‘smart’ sophistication of the other two.

If you’re looking for lower cost options with remote controls and programmability, there are many options to choose from at: https://goo.gl/5hjNa4


Installation and Compatibility

Installation can range from simple to a complete nightmare depending upon the age of your HVAC system and your technical skills, so proceed accordingly.

If you plan on expanding your smart home to other devices, make sure you review the compatibility of the thermostat with the smart platforms you are interest in using. 




I mistyped a web address while following setup instructions for my printer and ended up at a scam support site. How can these guys get away with this?

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 00:00:00 +0700

One of the oldest tricks on the Internet is something called ‘typosquatting’ or the registration of misspelled websites.Since so many users manually type in web addresses every day, all it takes is one character to be off for this scam to be effective. Instead of going to your intended location, you’ll end up at a potentially harmful site that may look close or even identical to the site you were seeking.Is It Legal?Typosquatters aren’t always using the misspelled sites for malicious activities and unless a trademarked name is part of the address, there’s no laws being broken.Registering commonly misspelled websites and redirecting the errant traffic to a legitimate website is perfectly legal and a common practice, especially by a competitor of a large brand.The more popular a website is like Facebook or Google, the more likely there will be many misspelled versions of it registered to try to take advantage of sloppy spelling errors.Typically, sites that engage in malicious activities can be brought down by the company that’s hosting the site, but it’s so easy to switch to another host, create their own webservers or switch to another misspelled address in this ongoing game of ‘whack-a-mole’.Dangerous MisspellingsAnyone that’s ever been in a hurry when typing in a web address has accidently missed a letter like the ‘c’ in ‘.com’ or typed c before the ‘.’ in their haste.  The resulting web address ends with .om which is the country code for Oman. Hundreds of well-known names have been targeted by .om typosquatters.Another well documented domain that has popped up as a variety of scams over the years is ‘goggle.com’ prior to Google’s long battle to finally acquire the domain.This highlights one of the problems with regulating website registrations. Clearly ‘goggle.com’ benefited from the misspelling of ‘google.com’ but because it’s a generic word, it didn’t violate any of Google’s trademarks resulting in the long process of acquiring control of it.Protecting YourselfThe obvious tip is to slow down and make sure you’re spelling things correctly. If it’s a site you’ll be visiting frequently, create a bookmark or shortcut to it for future visits.If you aren’t sure about the spelling of a website, type the web address in without .com so that it turns into a Google search.  Google’s autocorrect, page ranking algorithm or ‘did you mean’ engine will kick in to most likely point you to the legitimate resource.As far as legitimate support from a specific company goes, try typing the company’s web address followed by /support (ex: hp.com/support) as this is a pretty standard method used by tech companies.The best way for companies to protect themselves against typosquatting is to register the misspelled versions themselves and redirect the traffic to the proper address.  Facebook, for instance, registered commonly misspelled versions of their site like facebok.com and facbook.com which redirects users to Facebook.com.  [...]