Improve battery life
Q. My phone's battery dies too fast! What can I do to make it last longer?
A. Annoying isn't it? For starters, turn off your phone's communication systems - the Wi-Fi, cellular, GPS and Bluetooth - when you don't need them.
You can also turn off each system individually from your phone's control center or better yet, just switch your phone to airplane mode to stop all of them.
Play with your screen's brightness. Put this at the lowest setting that still allows you to see the screen. This alone can extend battery life exponentially.
Contrary to what you may have heard, closing your apps manually isn't the best way to preserve battery power. When you have to start them up again, it actually uses more power and more battery life than just leaving them on.
For both iOS and Android, you can get third-party battery monitor apps like Battery Saver to tell you where your energy is going. This will help you track down and stop other battery hogs.
Is the Square credit card reader safe?
Q. My 15-year-old son is mowing lawns during the summer for college money. One person wants him to get a Square credit card processor to make payments for weekly yard work. When investigating the Square card reader, I have learned that Square requires a Social Security number for an account. Why do they need that info, and is it safe to give it to them?
A. I'm so glad that your son is learning business basics. By federal law, Square is required to get a Social Security number to verify each person who opens an account. Your son can't open a Square account without it, and without the account, your son can't get paid.
Square encrypts the information to its servers and the company complies with industry privacy standards. Plus, it promises to never sell your information to third-party vendors. Nothing is foolproof, of course, but Square has a good reputation. I would let him get the Square and get his summer business started.
Was Healthcare.gov part of Heartbleed?
Q. My son signed up for Obamacare, but he did it over the phone. Should he worry about the Heartbleed thing that was just in the news?
A. It's a little fuzzy whether or not Heartbleed affected Healthcare.gov. The government says no, but recommends everyone change their passwords anyway. Regardless, since your son has done everything over the phone, he doesn't need to worry. Heartbleed is only a problem if you're connecting to sites online.
If you are worried about any other websites that might leave your account passwords and other sensitive information vulnerable, you can check them with the Heartbleed checker from security company Norton.
Put an end to online harassment
Q. I would like to report somebody who has been harassing me and being disrespectful via email for three days now. He's a hacker, too, because he changed some settings in an email group that I co-own. I use Gmail, but he is using his Comcast. How do I fix this type of thing so he won't hurt anybody else?
A. You need to send him an email that acts kinda-almost as a cease-and-desist letter. Tell him you see his emails as harassment and that he is not to contact you again. If he continues after that, report him to police.
Click here to learn how to deal with harassment on your cellphone. If you don't want to involve the police just yet, there are a number of things you can do instead. You can send his messages directly to the archive or automatically delete them. To set up a filter in Gmail, follow these steps: Open an email from the guy harassing you. In the upper-right corner of the message, click the down arrow and click "Filter messages like this." In the window that pops up, click the "Create filter with this search" link and choose what happens to messages from that address.
You can also contact the person's email provider. The first email you receive from him after you send your cease-and-desist letter is all the evidence you need. When he signed up to use the email service, he agreed to certain term and conditions; not harassing people is one of them. When he violates these conditions, he can have his account suspended.
The cheapest computer you can buy
Q. I'm in the market for a new computer, but I'm on a strict budget. What's the cheapest I can get a computer for?
A. Chromebooks, which run Google's ChromeOS, go for as little as $250 and they'll handle any basic computer task. You can find refurbished PCs for around $100. But what if you want to go even lower? Try the Raspberry Pi. As far as DIY computers are concerned, it's the standard and it will only set you back $35. However, you might want to hang on to your old mouse, keyboard and monitor; those aren't included.
Also, Raspberry Pi runs Linux instead of Windows, so it can do basic computing tasks, but can't run most of your programs. You might end up doing some tweaking, but fortunately, the Raspberry Pi site has excellent tutorials for beginners.
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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