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Q&A with Kim: Best smart home devices, a AAA alternative and more

Q&A with Kim: Best smart home devices, a AAA alternative and more
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Each week, I receive tons of questions from my listeners about tech concerns, new products and all things digital. Sometimes choosing the most interesting questions to highlight is the most difficult part of my job.

This week, I received questions about the best smart home devices, a AAA alternative, stepping away from Facebook and more. Do you have a question you'd like to ask me? Click here to email me directly.

Best Smart Home Devices

Q: I want a smart home that lets me remotely control temperatures, turn on the lights and use a code instead of a key to get into my house. There are so many different products. What are the best smart home gadgets?

A: This is a good question to ask, because smart homes are becoming pretty popular, and the market is getting flooded with new technology, including some second-rate products. It sounds like you have a good idea as to what kinds of controls and appliances you would like in your future home, but it's often hard to tell which ones will last and serve you best. While smart home devices are entering the mainstream, most beginners are unfamiliar with the best-reviewed brands. Click here for a list of the smartest home tech.

AAA Alternative?

Q: Can I replace AAA with an app? I only have it for emergencies.

A: For what it's worth, I consider a AAA membership to be a pretty great bargain, and the roadside assistance program has helped millions of Americans quickly get out of jams. But there is at least one app that is giving AAA a run for its money. After all, the GPS on a smartphone already makes you feel much more geographically connected, and tracking down a tow service is easier than ever. In the same vein, apps are also giving Weight Watchers and fitness clubs some competition. Click here for innovative apps that can take the place of pricey memberships.

How to Step Away from Facebook

Q: I hate to admit it but I am on Facebook way too much! Do you have any pointers to take a break?

A: Since I work in the media, Facebook is just a part of my job, the same way a pneumatic drill is part of a construction worker’s daily life. These days, you just can't work as a journalist or radio personality without becoming an expert in social media. But for more informal users, I often encourage people to take breaks. Your Facebook feed can be an overwhelming venue, especially during heated news cycles. Unless you require Facebook to do your job, taking a hiatus can be a healthy and enriching life choice. Click here to wean yourself off Facebook with short breaks.

How to use a VPN

Q: I heard you tell a caller on your national radio show that he should use a VPN whenever he was using public Wi-Fi. How do they work and which ones do you recommend?

A: The short answer is yes, I fervently encourage you to use a virtual private network or VPN. You can subscribe to one online for cheap, and once it’s configured, you are almost guaranteed to protect your computer from prying eyes. A VPN is also helpful when you travel abroad, especially to countries with heavy internet restrictions. (Almost any visitor to China, for example, is encouraged to procure a VPN before leaving the U.S.) But as you suggest, not all VPNs are created equal. Click here for a list of the best VPNs.

Keep Your SSD Drive Up to Speed

Q: I have an SSD drive in my new laptop. Do I need to do maintenance on it like the older drives?

A: Many people prefer an SSD drive, because of their speed, efficiency and dependability. They even make less noise than a traditional HDD hard drive, because they don't rely on an internal fan to keep them cool. But there are certain drawbacks as well, most notably that an SSD drive doesn't generally last as long as an HDD drive. You will get great performance in the short term, but yes, you should expect to do some maintenance to keep your drive in top form. Click here to learn how to make your SSD drive last longer.

What questions do you have? Call my national radio show and click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. From buying advice to digital life issues, click here for my free podcasts.

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