Q. I want to buy my mother something so she can video chat with me and her grandkids. Would a tablet or desktop be a better buy?
A. It depends on what else she would want to use the gadget for. Skype works on both desktops and tablets, though you'll have to buy the webcam separately if you go with a desktop. Tablets have cameras built in, which means you don't have to buy two things. A tablet is going to be cheaper and will work well if she just wants to read webpages and check her email. If you think she might like to do more than that, such as organizing photos, you're going to want to spend the extra for a computer.
Q. I heard Google just made its own laptop. How would it compare to a Windows or Mac laptop?
A. Not well. Though Google's laptop has nice hardware specs and a gorgeous body, it costs $1,300 or more depending on how you set it up. Since it runs Chrome OS, a beefed up version of Google's Chrome browser, there's not enough it can do for that huge price tag. You'll be much happier buying a MacBook or Windows Ultrabook. It will do much more for the same amount of cash. If you want to try out a Chromebook, look into the sub-$300 models made by Acer and Samsung. They're much better values and run Chrome OS just as well.
Q. Someone at a certain number won't stop calling and texting me. Is there any way I can block them from harassing me?
A. Each carrier has its own special way of dealing with this. Most make you sign up for a service that usually lets you block a group of numbers for about $5 a month. Sprint is the only carrier that lets you block numbers without paying a fee. Some apps, like Mr. Number, let you block numbers automatically. There's no official way to do it on iPhones, though. If you have an iPhone, you can set up a contact labeled “ANNOY” or “SPAM” with a silent ringtone and notification. You can add new numbers to it as you go.
Q. I just got my first smartphone, but I'm breezing through data too fast because I'm on 4G. It's also devouring my battery life. Is there any way to turn it off and only use 3G?
A. You can turn off 4G on any gadget that has it if you want. This can save battery and slow down your data consumption. To do it on an iPhone, go to Settings>>General>>Cellular and slide “Enable LTE” to Off. For Androids, go to Settings>>Wireless & Networks>> Mobile Networks>>Network Mode and choose the option without LTE. For Windows Phone 8, go to Settings>>Mobile Networks and change the highest connection speed to 3G. You may see the option to turn on or off HPSA+. This is a slower version of 4G that's not as rough on battery life. Leave it on if you want a little more speed with good battery life. Test your speed on each network with SpeedTest before you disable anything, though.
Q. I saw that Internet Explorer 10 is available for Windows 7, now. Should I upgrade?
A. Definitely. Internet Explorer 10 is a little faster and much safer than previous versions of IE, even IE 9. For those who want to stick with IE 9, beware. Microsoft may automatically upgrade you soon if you're signed up for automatic updates. This download can stop that. For those running Vista or XP, you don't have the option of installing IE 10. However, you can run the latest versions of Firefox or Chrome. These are just as fast and safe as Internet Explorer 10, and their interface will be a little more familiar.
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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