Is $2,000 for a computer too much?
Q. My kid wants a new computer, but the one he wants is $2,000! Is that too much to pay?
A. It all depends on what the new computer will be used for. For basic computing - Web surfing, listening to music, watching videos and casual gaming - a $500 to $700 computer is more than fine. You can get solid gaming rigs for $800 to $1,200 that will handle most new and upcoming games. A high-end custom gaming rig or a video-editing workstation will typically cost $2,000 or more. Unless he's a championship gamer or editing feature-length HD movies, $500 to $1,000 is a reasonable amount to spend, depending, of course, on your family budget. Remind him that today's $800 computer cost $2,000 18 months ago. What's really important: A fairly new processor and at least 8 gigabytes of RAM. That will give you two or three years of reliable performance.
Slow Internet or slow Wi-Fi?
Q. My Internet speed seems to be dragging. Is it my connection or my Wi-Fi?
A. Start by visiting Speedtest.net and checking your Internet speed while using Wi-Fi. Then plug your computer directly into your broadband router or modem and run it again. Compare those numbers to the speed you're paying for from your Internet provider and the speeds promised by the type of modem you have. Next, if you have a cable modem, call up your cable company and make sure you have the latest model. (If you're paying a monthly rental for it, they should give you an upgrade.) Finally, your wireless modem might be an old model as well. A new modem is often a worthwhile investment! If you're getting a new computer soon, the newest 802.11ac modem standard will give you a terrific speed boost.
How to get a free credit report
Q. I keep seeing ads online for free credit reports. I thought you had to pay for those. Are the ads scams?
A. Well, those ads often are scams, but you really can get your credit report for free. The government mandates you get one free report a year from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. They got together to make the site AnnualCreditReport.com for just this purpose. I recommend requesting a report from one company every four months so you're covered the entire year. And just as a reminder: If at any point you're asked to pay or enter credit card information, you're in the wrong place.
Block tracking cookies on your mobile gadgets
Q. How do I stop companies from tracking my browsing on my smartphone?
A. It's sad, but it's true: Advertisers track everything you do online. But the good news is that you can stop them by disabling third-party cookies on your smartphone or tablet. On Android, launch your browser and then select Menu>>Settings. Here, you can uncheck the option to accept cookies. For iPhones and iPads, go to Settings>>Safari to clear your history, clear cookies and turn on the Do Not Track option.
Alternatives to iTunes
Q. I've had it with iTunes. The latest version is just too big and slow. Is there a better program for just playing music that will work with my iTunes library and on a Mac?
A. As a matter of fact there are. DoubleTwist looks like iTunes, works with your iTunes library and can sync with Android gadgets. If you're after a fast, customizable music player with an iTunes feel, look at Ecoute. Want something completely different? Vox is sleek, stylish and simple. Use other music services besides iTunes? Tomahawk brings everything seamlessly into one program. The best part is these services are all free, so you can try them and see which one works for you.
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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