Holiday travel

Q. I’ve started planning early for my holiday travel. Do you have any tips to help me save money?

A. You’re already tapping into one of the ways to save on holiday travel. Buying your tickets a month or more in advance will help you save in a big way. It helps to have flexible travel dates, too.

As for online tools that can help, check out Hipmunk, www.komando.com/coolsites/index.aspx?id=9750, and Kayak, www.komando.com/apps/category.aspx?id=9824.

Both search multiple airlines at once to make sure you’re seeing the cheapest fares. As soon as you find a fare within your budget, jump on it. It’s likely that the fare will only go up as time passes. And if it goes down, some travel sites will give you back the difference.

Friends on Facebook

Q. I accidentally blocked one of my friends on Facebook. How do I unblock them?

A. Good question. Go to your Facebook page and click the upside-down triangle in the top right corner. Choose Privacy settings and then click “Manage Blocking” in the Blocked People and Apps section. You’ll see a list of names in the “Block users” section. Click the Unblock button next to any name you want to take off of your block list.

When you block someone on Facebook, they will be removed from your friends list. So, you’ll have to visit their profile and click Add Friend. Make sure you send them a nice message explaining what happened.

Voice-controlled computer

Q. My brother has limited movement in his arms. We’re looking for software that could help him control his computer with his voice. Do you know any good downloads?

A. Yes, I do. However, there are some voice-to-text features already inside both PCs and Macs. In Windows 7 and Vista, go to Start>>Control Panel>>Speech Recognition. Now, as long as you have a microphone — I recommend a headset mic for this purpose — you can have some voice control.

For Macs, go to System Preferences>>Speech. You’ll find a list of pre-defined commands you can say to control your system. If these aren’t enough control for your brother, look into the programs Dragon Naturally Speaking (PCs) and Dictate (Macs).

Also, there are more powerful medical versions that your brother may be able to qualify for.

Hard drive noise?

Q. My hard drive is suddenly making weird clicking noises. Are these noises anything to worry about?

A. Hard drives can make noise when reading or writing files. However, if you’re hearing these sounds more often or louder than usual, it’s not a good sign. It means your hard drive is struggling and could be near death.

Of course, you should always double check. Use a tool like CrystalDiskInfo, www.komando.com/downloads/category.aspx?id=11513, to analyze what exactly is causing your hard drive noises.

If it turns out that your hard drive is close to dying, there’s not much you can do other than buy a new one and back up all of your information. Make sure you’re backing up regularly to avoid losing any precious data.

Road trip gadgets

Q. I’m going to go on a trip in an RV. Would a laptop, smartphone or tablet be the best gadget to take along?

A. I would recommend taking along a smartphone and a laptop. The smartphone will be useful when you have to call home, and the laptop will make it easier to surf the Web without running up a cellular data plan. Laptops also make it easier to download and watch movies on your trip than tablets would, since laptops have more storage space. Tablets are more useful if you have Wi-Fi on-board. That’s not easy on the open road between stops. You can use JiWire’s Wi-Fi finder, www.komando.com/coolsites/index.aspx?id=11678, to help you find campsites and rest stops that offer free Wi-Fi when you’re not driving, though.

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.