Q. I just got a new smartphone and I want to do something with the old one other than stick it in a drawer. I use GPS a lot. Can I turn the old smartphone into a full-time GPS?
A. Absolutely! This is actually a good idea since you’re less likely to play with a phone that isn’t your main phone while you’re driving. The only problem is that you need a GPS app that stores its maps offline since your phone won’t have a data connection. The Google Maps app has this option, but navigation is iffy. NavFree USA can use maps offline, and it has navigation features that don’t use your data plan to work either. After that, all you need is a way to charge and mount your phone in your car, and those cost a fraction of what dedicated GPS units cost.
Q. I have an important voicemail that I don’t want to lose. Should I pay for one of those services that can save it to my computer?
A. I wouldn’t. There are plenty of ways to do it for free. For starters, Google Voice can do it automatically if you use the service. If not, I wouldn’t try to set it up now. You might lose your voicemail. Instead, download audio-editing software like Audacity and grab an auxiliary audio cable to plug your phone into your computer. All you have to do is hit record on your computer and play the voicemail. You can delete any extra audio by highlighting it and tapping delete on your keyboard. Save the result in a .wav file. You can convert it to MP3 with fre:ac if you want to play it on other gadgets.
Q. There is no room left on my desktop for new icons. Do you have any tips to help me clean it up?
A. Certainly. First, take stock of your desktop and figure out how many of the icons you actually use. You can delete program icons you don’t use often, and move files you don’t open frequently to your Documents folder. Create new folders on your desktop by right-clicking and choosing New>>Folder. Move similar files into a folder and name it appropriately. You’ll have your files close, but they’ll take up less room. These ideas should go a long way toward cleaning up your desktop. If you need more options, look into desktop customization programs like Nimi Places and Rainmeter or add more desktop space with Desktops.
Q. My computer’s Internet connection is slowing down. Should I buy a new modem?
A. Maybe. First, use Speedtest to test your connection and see if your speeds are really slower than they should be. If they are and your modem is more than a five years old, a new modem could give you a speed boost. The latest industry standard for modems in DOCSIS 3, and it is required on newer network and for high-speed Internet. Call your service provider and see what it recommends. It might have another explanation for the slowdown. Or it might upgrade you to a new modem. You also could purchase your own supported modem, but I would save that as a last resort.
Q. My smartphone’s battery doesn’t make it through the day. Do you have any tips that can help?
A. Sure thing. Start by turning down the screen brightness on your phone. Make it as dark as possible while still seeing it comfortably. You can also make the screen turn off more often, too. When you’re not using them, turn off Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and location services. It helps to turn off most notifications that apps generate, too. If you have home screen widgets you don’t use or live wallpapers, disabling them can add serious battery life as well. If you want specific power-saving recommendations based on how you use your phone, download Carat. It will monitor your battery use and give you ideas on how to get more life out of it.
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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