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 best part of my job.
This week, I received questions about 5G promises, USB drive uses, free stuff on Amazon, and more. Do you have a question you'd like to ask me?
Rediscovering USB Drives
Q: I have a bunch of old USB thumb drives. Since everything is in the cloud, are they good for anything now?
A: This is a very timely question because so many people are tossing their USB drives in the garbage thinking they’re useless. Even with the advent of cloud technology, these finger-sized hard drives are as portable and dependable as ever. There are clever new uses for them, such as creating a Windows recovery drive, running a portable version of Chrome, and keeping what you do on your computer private and anonymous. Don’t toss them yet.
Q: You said on your show that Amazon offers free samples of shampoo, food and more. Can you tell me where it is on their site? I looked all over!
A: Yes, you can receive samples of products, and they come in a wide variety, from beauty products to dog treats and household items. If your interests line up with what’s available, the Sample Box program could be celebrating your birthday several times a month. Still, you can’t just order a bunch of stuff and expect it to be free. You have to order one item at a time, and then you redeem a credit to make the order free. It takes a little bit of effort, but you could end up with a pile of useful items.
Q: My cellphone is listening in on my conversations. I talk about something and then, I start seeing ads for that.
A: Your smartphone is very likely spying on you just as you suspect. Worse, you may have enabled this spying when you granted apps access to your microphone. This is understandable, and also incredibly common because some apps require your microphone to work. Developers often want your phone to gather as much data as possible because this information helps them target their advertisements (or advertising partners). Most of this activity is perfectly legal, buried deeply in the fine print of the app’s terms and conditions. But if you’re worried about your privacy, you can manipulate your settings to stop the unwelcome eavesdropping.
Confirming Internet Time
Q: How does the internet know exactly what time it is? It’s crazy how all the sites, email, everything is using the same clock.
A: I remember traveling with my father as a child, and in many hotel lobbies, there were multiple clocks above the elevators that showed the time in different cities around the globe. Yet today, every laptop, browser, smartphone, smartwatch and you-name-the-device seems connected to the same omniscient timepiece. But how do all these different clocks stay so synchronized, maintaining the precision of – well, a Swiss watch? Some know-it-alls might say, “Duh, they just ask the internet.” But the answer is more complicated and more fascinating than most people would guess.
Q: What is 5G and how will it be different than our cellular lines we have now?
A: Even hearing the phrase “5G” will give some people palpitations. The idea of an even faster smartphone, which can download up to one gigabyte of data per second, is a mind-bending proposition. But before you sprint to the nearest store and demand to see the 5G selection, be warned: This service probably won’t be available for another few years, and the technology may be slow to catch up. Also, if you remember the transition to 4G, you’ll remember how expensive those newfangled phones were at first. The prospect of 5G is exciting, and it’s inevitable, but you’ll have to wait a little while to see it in action.
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.