Save on electric bill
Q. I just saw my first fall electric bill and I’d like to avoid seeing another one that high. How can I reduce my power bill?
A. The Department of Energy’s Energy Savers site has a ton of tips to make your home more energy efficient, especially during the winter months. But I know a way to save year-round.
When you’re not using a gadget, unplug it. Cellphone chargers, laptops and all sorts of other electronics still consume power if they’re plugged in when they’re not on. You can buy a switch that plugs into your wall socket that makes them behave like they’re unplugged, too. Or, if you want to unplug multiple gadgets at once, plug them into a surge suppressor and turn the suppressor off.
Change voicemail password.
Q. My girlfriend keeps checking my voicemail and deleting messages. How do I change my voicemail password?
A. It depends on what kind of phone you have. If you’re using an iPhone, go to Settings >> Phone >> Change Voicemail Password.
For Androids, head to Apps >> Settings >> Call >> Voicemail settings.
Windows Phone users need to check out Settings and then swipe to the left until you reach Phone and select Voicemail number.
And, if you still use a BlackBerry, go to Options >> Voicemail Settings.
If you use an older feature phone, you have to change your settings through your carrier.
Surface vs. Surface
Q. I tried to buy a Microsoft Surface tablet, but I saw there are two difference versions. What’s the difference between the two?
A. The two different Surfaces are the Surface with Windows RT and the Surface with Windows 8 Pro. Not surprisingly, they use two different forms of Windows.
Though their layouts look similar, Windows RT runs on tablet processors. This means it runs apps instead of programs. Your existing Windows software won’t work on it. If that’s something you want, you’ll need to buy the Windows 8 Pro model. This runs the same version of Windows you’ll find on laptops and desktops. Of course, that means it will be more expensive, have less battery life and will be a little heavier.
Setting up extra monitor
Q. My co-workers all say that using two monitors will increase my productivity. What gear do I need?
A. You might not have to buy anything at all! Look on the back of your computer for an extra monitor port. If you have it, you can just plug in a new monitor. If not, you can buy budget graphics card or an external cable that splits your port into two.
Make sure you know what kind of ports your computer has before you buy cables, and make sure you buy a monitor to match.
Then, once everything is plugged in, right-click your desktop. In Windows 7, you’ll go to Screen Resolution >> Multiple Displays >> Extend These Displays.
In Vista, go to Personalize >> Display Settings. You’ll see two monitor icons. Select the one labeled “2” and click Extend the Desktop Onto This Monitor.
Create a computer kiosk
Q. I have a small business and I’d like to put a budget computer in the lobby for customers. I don’t want them to be able to do much with it, though. How can I set this up?
A. Google Chrome and Internet Explorer both have full-screen kiosk modes that are easy to access. Other browsers can be manipulated to have similar modes, but I would stick with those two for this.
To set it up, you’ll have to go to the Start Menu and type a certain code into the search menu (Start >> Run in XP). For Internet Explorer, type “iexplore -k” (no quotes) and for “Chrome.exe -kiosk” (no quotes). The only way to exit kiosk mode is Alt + Tab or Alt + F4. To turn off even these shortcut keys, you’ll need a program like AutoHotKey.
Kim Komando hosts the nation’s largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. Hear it locally at 94.3 WSC News Radio noon-3 p.m. Sundays. For more information, go to www.komando.com.