Q. I’m worried about the government spying on my email. What can I do to keep it private?
A. This is a big concern for a lot of people. Technically, the FBI doesn’t need a warrant to read your email if it’s more than six months old and on a third-party server. All webmail providers are third-party servers. There are a few ways to combat this. Once you’ve read an email, make sure you delete it right away or back it up to your computer. Outlook and the free Thunderbird can help you do that.
You could also encrypt your messages with a tool such as Infoencrypt. Just make sure you share the password with your friends on the phone or face to face. Don’t send it to them electronically or a spy would have everything they need to read your mail.
Q. What is a DNS? Do I need one?
A. If you’re online, you already have it. DNS stands for domain name system. It’s how a computer translates IP addresses (18.104.22.168) into URLs (www.google.com). That way, you can simply type in a website address and not have to remember a series of numbers. By default, you use the DNS of your Internet service provider. A quick way to make your Internet faster is with a third-party DNS. I like Open DNS because it’s fast and relatively easy to set up. It comes with some excellent parental controls and automatic phishing protection as well.
Q. I’m not using one of my old computers. I was thinking I might try giving it away to charity. Where should I start?
A. Charities would be happy to take that old PC off of your hands. Earth911 will help you connect to recycling centers that work with charities. You could even call your favorite local charity directly to see if they’ll take it off your hands.
If you don’t want to lug a mammoth desktop away, keep it hooked up. You can use a tool like Folding@Home. This will use your computer’s processing power to help scientific research. In all of these circumstances, don’t worry about your computer being “too old to help.” Even older, budget PCs can find a new home.
Q. I need software to manage my small business’ money. Is Quicken the right call?
A. Maybe. Quicken and its older brother Quickbooks have plenty of features, but they come with a hefty price tag. They also don’t work on a Mac. Before you spend your cash, try GnuCash. It works well whether you have a PC or a Mac. It even works on Android gadgets. It has plenty of features, but there is a bit of a learning curve. If you want something a little simpler, you might like AceMoney Lite. For a small business, its features should be just right.
Q. My father is seriously struggling with Alzheimer’s. I got him a smartphone last Christmas to keep him sharp. What apps should I put on it?
A. I’m sorry to hear that. If it’s still in the early stages, brain fitness games could help. Look into Memory Trainer and BrainyApp. After that, you can give him a one-touch dialing app like Unus Tactus. It lets you organize emergency contacts by photos to help him contact you. There are some apps you should look into, too. The Tweri Alzheimer Caregiver Tool watches over him for you. It will give you alerts if he leaves a designated “safe zone.” That way, you can check up on him without invading his personal freedom.
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.