Q. I’m planning my family’s European vacation and I need to find cheap flights for six kids and two adults. There are so many travel sites. Which site is the one you use?
A. Google Flights is a fantastic starting point for finding inexpensive airline tickets. It lets you look at the price differences between airports for entire regions like Europe or England rather than having to pull up airports individually to check the costs. Be sure to use the calendar feature. If your flying dates are flexible, at a glance you can find days to fly that cost hundreds less. Love that! You also can sort by the number of stops and flight duration. It really is a useful tool that will help you in other ways. Click here for insider tricks and steps to saving big money on your next trip.
Q. I would like to use Facebook as a personal journal because it’s so easy to post status updates, upload pictures, etc. But I don’t want anyone else to see it. Is that possible?
A. You can do this, but keep in mind that everything you post on Facebook is being kept in some massive database. I don’t know your situation, but if it’s a very personal journal in nature, nothing beats pen and paper that you can keep or destroy for good. Nonetheless, you came to me for help so in the upper-right corner of the Facebook page, click the upside-down triangle and choose “Settings.” Then in the left column, click “Privacy.” Next to “Who can see my stuff?”>>“Who can see your future posts?” click “Edit.” Then click the Audience Selector button, choose “More Options” and select “Only Me.” If you do occasionally post something that you want friends or family to see, use the Audience Selector under the status update area to set the post to “Friends” for that one post. Of course, that isn’t the only setting you need to change for total Facebook invisibility. Click here to learn about more settings that will keep the wrong people from finding you online.
Q. I’m donating my old computer (still working) to a charity. Is there anything I need to do before I hand it off? I listen to your show every week in Los Angeles and love it.
A. Before you turn over a computer, smartphone or tablet to anyone, whether friend, family or stranger, you have to wipe its storage system. This prevents any sensitive information you had on it, such as passwords, tax documents, contacts, personal photos, home videos or anything else, from falling into the wrong hands. For a computer, you can do a full wipe with a free program like Darik’s Boot and Nuke or a targeted wipe with Eraser. Windows 8 users have a built-in option in the “Update and recovery” area. Click here to learn about more detailed step-by-step instructions.
Q. I installed an app on my Android phone that’s really causing problems, but I can’t uninstall it because my phone is too unstable and keeps crashing. Help, Kim!
A. Just like a computer, Android has a built-in Safe Mode specifically to help you fix problems like this. It loads the bare minimum software Android needs to run, which avoids most unstable apps and settings. To use Safe Mode on a stock Android phone, hold the power button to bring up your Power Off screen. Then tap and hold the Power Off option until it asks if you want to reboot in Safe Mode. If nothing happens after five seconds, tap and hold the Reboot option instead. When the Safe Mode screen appears, hit OK. Your gadget will reboot into Safe Mode (the text “Safe Mode” will show up in the lower left corner of the screen). Now you can remove the problem app or change your settings. When you’re done in Safe Mode, reboot the phone again like normal. Of course, each Android phone and tablet manufacturer has a slight variation of this process. Click here to learn how to get to Safe Mode on Samsung, HTC and more.
Q. I love my parents but they are driving me crazy. They constantly mess up their computer and then I have to drive over an hour to go fix it. There’s got to be a better way!
A. Been there. Say you’re helping a friend or family member with a computer issue over the phone, and you know you could fix the problem in 30 seconds if you were standing there. Unfortunately, trying to walk your friend or relative through the fix is going to take an hour. Instead, log in and take control of their computer with a free remote access program like TeamViewer. Click here to download and learn how to use it. It lets you see the other person’s screen and control their computer like you’re sitting in front of it. I use programs like this all the time with my friends and relatives. In fact, when I’m setting up their computer, I usually install a remote access program so it’s ready to go when they need help down the line.
Q. It’s spring, which in my area means some serious lightning storms are on the way. Will a surge protector be enough to protect my gadgets, or do I need something else?
A. A surge protector is great for protecting against the regular little jolts of electricity that come through the power lines, but it’s useless against a lightning strike. Think of it like trying to stop a freight train with your teeth. Your safest bet is to turn off your computer or any other electronic gear and unplug the suppressor while the storm lasts. You should also move any electronics away from your windows, since lightning can sometimes come through that way. That’s not the only bit of electrical advice I have, though. Click here to learn how one simple change in how you turn off your gadgets can save you big bucks.
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. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at News.Komando.com.