Stop government spying
Q. Is it really possible to stop government spying?
A. This is the big question on everyone’s mind this year. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t one you want to hear. While there are things you can do to make spying harder, you can’t really stop it. The government has proven it can get into email, social media, phone records and even some “secure” browsing systems at will. Don’t forget the NSA just opened a new data center in Utah to hold this information long term. Your best option is to avoid putting anything online you don’t want the government to see. And the best privacy tool is still the closed door of your house. Still want to chance it? Click here to learn how to make the government’s spying job harder.
Overcharging a battery
Q. Is it possible to overcharge a laptop battery by leaving it plugged in?
A. The short answer is, “no.” Laptop batteries - and smartphone and tablet batteries - stop drawing electricity when full. So you can’t damage a battery by leaving it plugged in. However, Lithium-ion batteries - which most gadgets use - last longest if they stay between 20 and 80 percent full. So, you might want to unplug the laptop every now and then and let the battery drain a bit. For a laptop you can also remove the battery while it’s plugged in. However, the battery will drain while in storage. It can become damaged, even dangerous, if it sits empty too long. So, be sure to charge it regularly.
Mouse pad dilemma
Q. I’m going to toss my old, gross mouse pad. Do I need a new one or can I do without it?
A. Mouse pads were made to help the old ball-style mice. The ball needed a rubbery surface to grab onto. An optical mouse, which most people now have, doesn’t need a mouse pad, unless you’re on a glass or unusual surface. Newer laser mice will work on any surface. So, you only need to get a new mouse pad if you want one.
Q. A friend and I loan each other books all the time. Is it possible to do this with e-books?
A. Yes it is. Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook both have built-in lending systems. You can share between e-readers or other gadgets running the Kindle or Nook apps or software. However, you can only lend e-books for 14 days, so you have to read fast. Of course, you can also check out e-books from the library. Most libraries use a service called OverDrive. Take a look; it might have the books you want.
Q. I’d like to sign up for an online service, but I don’t want to use my main email address. I also don’t want to open a new email account just for this. Any suggestions?
A. You’re in luck. There are services to create temporary email addresses. Mailinator is a good one. Its email addresses only last for an hour or so. Then they disappear and the mail is erased. That’s enough time to register for an online site. If you like it, you can switch your site account to your main email address later.
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.