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 Alexa calling 911, finding duplicate photos, protecting your router, and more. Do you have a question you'd like to ask me?
Best Streaming Options
Q: I am so confused about streaming. What are the best apps for me to stream movies and sports?
A: You’re probably confused because streaming video is confusing. Take Netflix, the streaming trailblazer: You can watch thousands of movies and hundreds of television shows.
At this moment, you can see seven seasons of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” the Norwegian hit “Occupied,” and the Netflix original series “Troy: Fall of a City.”
That’s more TV than most people can watch in a week, and it’s only a drop in the bucket. At the same time, you can’t see any HBO series or live ESPN on Netflix. Many streaming services (like Netflix) are like vintage clothing shops: you can find all kinds of cool items on the racks, but it’s hard to seek and find something specific.
Luckily, the internet is getting better about keeping track of what programs are currently streaming, and which services will best suit your interests.
Rare Photo Album
Q: I have a TON of duplicate photos. I am drowning! How can I remove the duplicates?
A: With a not-very-expensive DSLR, you can take a 22-megapixel photo. That’s amazing, and you could blow up that photo to the size of a movie poster without losing resolution.
But that same photo will probably take seven megabytes of hard drive space, and if you have two or three copies of that same photo, you may be eating up your storage without even realizing it.
This problem plagues both amateur and professional shooters. It’s hard to track down a copy on your own; it’s like playing a gigantic game of “Memory” with your entire computer.
But thanks to a special program, you can ferret out those superfluous snapshots in no time.
Using a VPN
Q: I keep hearing that I should be using a VPN for privacy and security. OK, but what the heck does it do and why do I really need a VPN?
A: To answer your first question, VPN stands for “virtual private network.” Basically, this network allows you to use public Wi-Fi anonymously.
There are many benefits to using a VPN, but most people are interested in security. When you use a private network, it’s extremely difficult for hackers to break into your system. If you use a laptop for work, your company should absolutely outfit you with a VPN. A laptop’s portable nature makes it a liability, and a lot of confidential information is at stake. You may also wish to protect your own computer, and a VPN is an excellent way to do that.
But how much do they cost? And how do you find a VPN that’s trustworthy and legitimate? You’ll be relieved to learn that these networks are neither difficult to find nor very expensive.
Defend Your Router
Q: Is it possible for hackers to go after your router? Once they are in your router, they would have access to anything on the network, right?
A: Yes. A thousand times, yes. Your router is one of the most vulnerable devices in your entire home, and you should secure it immediately.
Routers are problematic because most people don’t think about them. Most of us assume that passwords and two-factor identification will keep people out of our computers and phones, and generally, this is true. But they have no idea how to protect their routers from intrusion. This is sort of like installing an advanced security system all over your house but leaving the front door open. An unshielded router makes most other security measures irrelevant.
Meanwhile, you may want to check and make sure your router hasn’t already been compromised. You’ll be happy to know that there are easy ways to do all these things.
Echo for Emergencies
Q: I don’t have a landline anymore. Can the Amazon Echo call 911?
A: One of the most overlooked aspects of the Amazon Echo is that it’s very helpful for people with limited mobility. Many people think of Alexa as a frivolous luxury, but it’s a powerful tool for folks who are very old, have limited vision, or use wheelchairs to get around.
You control all kinds of smart devices, order food and household items, request an Uber, or even find out whether a flight will land on time, all with the power of your voice. Over time, these options can save a lot of exhausting physical movement, even if it’s just fetching one’s phone from the other side of the room. Meanwhile, anybody could get pinned behind a heavy appliance. With Alexa, and the right words, you can call for help in no time.
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.