Q. With summer right around the corner, I know gas prices will start soaring soon. Are there any tech tools that can help me save on gas?
A. I know quite a few. Gas Buddy is a free app that helps you find the cheapest gas near you. To find the cheapest stations anywhere on your commute, use a navigation app like Waze or WHERE. The problem might not be with where you’re gassing up, but with a gas-guzzling car. You don’t have to rush out and buy a hybrid or an alternative-fuel car, though. Instead, use Fuel Log or Gas Cubby to track your car’s fuel mileage and efficiency. Then use Car Trouble to help you find and fix any underlying maintenance problems.
Q. I heard that Windows XP hits something called its “end of life” date next year. What does that mean for my two Windows XP computers? Will they stop working?
A. Fortunately for millions of computer users, that’s not what it means. Windows XP’s end-of-life date, which is April 8, 2014, means Microsoft is ending official support for the operating system. That means no new security fixes, which is going to leave a lot of computers vulnerable to crafty hackers. That’s why I don’t recommend using an XP computer as your main computer after that date. Switch to Windows 7 or 8 and recycle or repurpose your existing XP computers. You can use them for any activity that doesn’t require them to be online, such as a digital video recorder with a TV tuner and software like Next PVR or MythTV.
Q. I just got a new smartphone, but I want to keep using my old phone. Can I have two lines connected to the same number?
A. Usually you can’t, but that doesn’t mean your old phone can’t still be a phone. You can turn it into a Wi-Fi based home phone with an app like Viber. You pay by the minute for calls that way. If your phone is unlocked, you can slide a prepaid SIM card into to make it a second line, too. This is an easy way to give kids a smartphone while still having control over how much they talk and text. Keep in mind that any phone, even if it doesn’t have service, can dial 911. You might want to keep an older phone with a long battery life in your car in case of an emergency.
Q. When I shop online, I seem to miss out on some of the great deals I get through couponing. Is there any way to save the same amount online as I would in-store?
A. Couponing isn’t just for physical stores. You can use promo codes to cash in on similar online savings. Retailers usually pass these out to customers as part of loyalty or email programs, but sites like Current Codes, KeyCode, RetailMeNot and Coupon Cabin collect them and post them online. The last two even have mobile apps that you can use to shop right from your smartphone or tablet. Most retailers don’t mind when their coupon codes get shared on these sites because it still generates revenue for them. Just make sure you test the promo code before you complete a purchase. Some expire before they’re taken offline.
Q. Since the temperature is finally warming up, I’m going to go try to revive my spring garden. Do you know any sites that can help me?
A. There are dozens of great site for gardeners. Start with GardenGuides. It tells you everything you need to know about plant care, weed removal and more. If you need help finding plants that thrive in your part of the country, take a look at PlantNative. It can help you care for your native plants and even connect you with local nurseries. With sites like Grows on You or MyGarden, you can connect with friends old and new to talk about gardening and share tips. They’re kind of like a Facebook for green thumbs!
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.
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