Q. I'm really tired of Google collecting information on me to serve targeted ads. I find it creepy and an invasion of privacy. What sites can I use instead of Google that will respect my privacy?
A. Google doesn't have a great track record when it comes to privacy. And aside from the blatant ad targeting, Google filters results for you based on your past search history. This is called a "filter bubble" and it means you might miss that one site you need to find. DuckDuckGo and Ixquick are solid Google replacements, and they don't track or target your IP address or search history. So, you don't have to worry about targeted search results or being trapped in a filter bubble. For serious privacy, Blekko lets you encrypt your searches so hackers can't snoop on what you're trying to find.
Read Kindle books
Q. I enjoy reading and I've been thinking about getting a Kindle to read e-books. Here's the catch: I'm on a strict budget and I already have a smartphone and a computer. Is there any way I can download e-books to the gadgets I already have?
A. Amazon's Kindle has made e-books incredibly popular, but you don't need a Kindle gadget to enjoy your e-books. The Kindle app lets you buy and read Kindle e-books on any mobile gadget - iOS, Android or Windows. If you want to read on your computer, grab the Kindle for PC or Mac. Among the handy features for the app and program: You'll never lose your place, even when switching between gadgets. The Kindle app and program even transfer annotations and highlighting. Plus, you can browse millions of titles and take advantage of Amazon's free book samples.
The fine print
Q. I must admit, I never read websites' Terms of Service and Privacy Policies. Am I missing anything important there? Is there a Cliff Notes-like service to help sort through the fine print?
A. When you're using any online service, you do need to make sure you know the ins and outs of the fine print. It tells you, for example, if a site stores your personal information and whether or not it sells it to advertisers. Still, finding that information in a long legal-type document isn't easy. Terms of Service; Didn't Read (TOS;DR) is a site that rates and labels popular websites according to their Terms of Service and Privacy Policies. It keeps you informed so that you can make the best decisions about what sites you want to use. See who keeps your search info, if you give away any copyright licenses or if there are any sneaky loopholes that services and social sites are taking advantage of.
Find the cheapest airfare
Q. I'm starting to plan my summer vacation, and I know I'm going to be flying. How can I get the best deal on a flight?
A. Try looking for flights at comparison and deal sites like Matrix, Airfare Watchdog, Kayak and Hipmunk. The day of the week you purchase your tickets and the day you fly also come into play. Purchase your tickets on a Tuesday, Saturday or Sunday for the best price, and avoid flying on Fridays and Sundays. The first flight of the day, a red-eye flight or any flight that leaves at lunchtime or dinner will give you the lowest rates. Also, keep an eye on ticket prices even after you buy. Many airlines will refund you the difference if the price drops a certain amount. Use Yapta to help you here. It keeps an eye on your tickets and alerts you when the price drops. You can then put that money toward a better hotel, a few nice dinners or just put it back in your bank account for life after your trip.
Lower your monthly Internet bill
Q. I feel like my Internet bill is way too high. Is there anything I can do to pay less?
A. It's important to call your service provider at least once a year to go over what features you are paying for and why. There's a chance that you could stop paying for a service you don't want, which could lower your bill substantially. I once found that my ISP had signed me up for a cable TV package I didn't want. You'll also want to test your Internet speed with a site like Speedtest. If you aren't getting the speed you were promised, you can often negotiate a lower payment. Don't be afraid to consider switching providers or technologies. If you have cable, consider going back to DSL. Sure, it's a slower technology, but for basic Internet surfing, it might be enough - and it will cost less than cable.
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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