Stop your phone from devouring data
Q. My phone is burning through my data plan, but I don't think I use it that much. Any ideas what's causing it?
A. The culprit could be popular apps you use on your phone every single day. These include texting apps like Apple's iMessage, Google Voice or a variety of third-party apps like TextFree, textPlus or WhatsApp. They all use your cellular data. If you do anything with video messages, you'll be burning up data like crazy. Make sure to only play these messages when you're connected to a Wi-Fi network and you won't be using cellular data.
Streaming music apps, free or not, are definitely something to watch. Apps like Spotify use around 0.72 megabytes per minute, and you can expect around the same amount for Pandora and similar apps. On a 2GB data plan, that gives you less than 40 hours of music listening a month. That's only if you don't use data for anything else.
And don't forget about Facebook. When you scroll past any video in your news feed, it immediately starts playing. Of course, that's using up your data plan, so thank you, Facebook. Fortunately, you can put a stop to it. In Android, open the Facebook app and go to Settings. Change "Videos Auto-play" to "Off." You can also set it to "Wi-Fi only," so they only auto-play when you're connected to Wi-Fi, but I prefer to control when videos start. For iOS, go to Settings >> Facebook and tap Settings. Under "Video," tap Auto-play. You can choose "Off" or set it to "Wi-Fi only."
Your unclaimed money could be a click away
Q. I saw online that there could be unclaimed money with my name on it out there. Is this just a scam or is there something to this?
A. Unclaimed money isn't a scam, but a lot of crooks turn it into one by charging to help you recover it. Finding and recovering unclaimed money is free, so avoid anyone who says otherwise.
So, what is unclaimed money? Maybe you forgot to get that deposit back from the electric utility when you rented your first apartment. By law, companies can't keep that money. And if they can't find you, they must turn it over to the state for safekeeping. You just need to claim it! Of course, before you can claim the money, you need to find it.
That's where the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) comes in. NAUPA links to every state's unclaimed property database. Just click a state on the map to go to that state's unclaimed money site. Unfortunately, you can't search in every state at once. You'll have to search in your current state and any states where you've lived in the past. Still, it only takes a few minutes, and many people find they're owed hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Should you always shut down your computer at night?
Q. Is it going to hurt my computer if I shut it down every night?
A. In the old days, it really was a bad idea to shut down your machine too often. Older hard drives and computer parts could wear out or damage themselves if they were turned on and off too much. Turning off your computer at night means it won't bother you with noises. Plus it saves electricity. Just make sure your computer doesn't drain any power when turned off.
Leaving your computer on has advantages as well, though. The big one is that you don't have to wait for it to boot up in the morning. If your computer is on all night, it can work all night. You can leave it downloading files, backing them up or doing routine maintenance like defragging.
For the best of both worlds, though, you can tap your computer's power-saving features. Every modern computer has Sleep mode, Hibernate mode or both. These combine the energy-saving benefits of shutdown with nearly instant-on startup. Learn more about your computer's power-saving features.
Organize your photos without a computer
Q. While I love my new iPad mini, it has no CD/DVD capability. Since I have a million photos on CDs, I don't know how I can get them organized, or even sent out to others. Is there a separate drive I can "introduce" to my iPad to view CDs?
A. Your best option would be a photo hosting site like Shutterfly. With Shutterfly, you can mail in your photo discs and they will be uploaded to the site for free. Then, you can access them on your iPad through the companion app. This is also good because the photos are stored on Shutterfly's servers, and that saves space on your iPad.
Just note that most services like Shutterfly will not return your discs to you. If you want to keep a copy of your discs, you can have copies made at your local FedEx store for about $10 per disk depending on the storage size and needs.
You can organize your photos into albums online, or download the ones you want to your iPad. Organizing photos on an iPad isn't hard. You can use the built-in gallery app or download a third-party organizer like Tidy.
Stop pets from destroying your cables
Q. I have two cats that have a bad habit of chewing through my cables. Is there anything I can do to stop them?
A. You have a few options. Pet stores sell bitter sprays that keep pets from chewing. You could also try putting hot sauce, vinegar or even liquid soap on the cords. All of these are non-toxic, so they won't hurt your pets.
If you don't want a gross cord, you could run your cords through some PVC tubing. It's relatively cheap and you can slide your cables right into it. Any other industrial tubing that pets can't fit into their mouth should work, as well. For more ways to keep your pets from destroying your gear, check out this must-read tip.
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.