You’ve got tech questions, here are the answers. Kim Komando helps you make the most of your technology by answering your thorniest tech questions. So if you’re wondering what to buy, how to plug it in, or how to fix it, Kim can help.
Protect yourself from online tracking
Q. I ran a virus scan and my program turned up a bunch of things it labeled “third-party” cookies. What are these?
A. When you visit most websites, they place cookies on your browser. These are small bits of data that store your site settings for future visits. This is why you don’t have to constantly log into Facebook any time you browse to a new Facebook page. Those are first-party cookies. Third-party cookies are when an advertiser or other third-party service on a site places a cookie. These can often be related to advertising tracking, so it’s best to opt-out of them in your browser. To opt-out of multiple types of ad tracking at once, try a service like SelectOut.
What to do with an older computer
Q. I bought a new computer to replace my 6-year-old desktop. Should I just throw out the old one?
A. No, no and no! Computers contain hazardous materials that make it dangerous to just “throw them out.” Instead, you could try recycling it with help from a site like Earth911. It will tell you where you can take it and any special considerations. Of course, you could give it away to a friend or family member that needs a PC, too. Just remember to completely wipe your personal information. Some people like to use older computers to try new programs or practice repairs that they wouldn’t try otherwise. Since you don’t have to worry about ruining the computer, you can be especially bold with the things you try.
Filter sites on a smartphone
Q. I just gave my teenage daughter her first cellphone. What can I do to make sure she’s not visiting any adult sites with it?
A. If she does most of her surfing on the house’s Wi-Fi, you can use OpenDNS. It filters content at your network router so it protects her from inappropriate sites no matter what gadget she surfs on. If she starts using her gadget’s 3G or 4G connection to circumvent those blocks, you can download a filtering browser such as Bsecure.
On iPhones, however, Apple doesn’t have an official way to change the default browser from Safari. You should have a chat with your daughter and make sure she knows what sites are appropriate and that she should avoid them.
Should you buy an SSD?
Q. I keep seeing online that people recommend buying solid-state hard drives instead of conventional drives. What’s the point?
A. A solid-state drive is a little brick of flash memory, like a large USB drive. SSDs can make a laptop faster, lighter and more energy efficient. They typically last longer than conventional drives since there are no moving parts. The catch is they can raise the price of a laptop $200 to $300 and they usually don’t offer a lot of storage. If you want a performance boost and don’t store too many large files on your computer, it’s a good upgrade. If you have a lot to store, or need a less expensive option, stick with a conventional drive. Learn what else to consider when buying a laptop.
Stalker-proof your photos
Q. Someone told me the photos I take on my smartphone are “geotagged.” What does this mean and how can I stop it?
A. Geotagging means your smartphone’s GPS attaches a location to the photos you snap. Your photos are tagged with other revealing information, too. Anyone who finds this information can learn where your photos were taken, which lets them know where you live, shop and hang out. You can turn your smartphone’s GPS off to stop this. However, that might mess with other useful location services work. If you don’t want to keep turning location services on and off, you can use an app such as Pixelgarde to strip the GPS data out of photos before you post them online.
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.