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 waterproof phones, vacation scams, converting VHS tapes and more. Do you have a question you'd like to ask me?
Listen to Your Alexa Recordings
Q: I am really concerned about the Amazon Alexa recording what I say and then sharing that file with who knows who. What can I do about it, short of removing Alexa from my life?
A: Here is the bad news: for Alexa to function, it has to listen to hear a wake phrase. So, Alexa's microphone has to be on.
What's even more disconcerting is that Amazon Echo records every command you speak, to train the software to work as fluently as possible. If you have no need for a virtual assistant, but you want to keep your high-quality digital speakers, you can switch the microphone off.
But if you want to assure yourself that Alexa is only recording relevant information, you can review the digital archives whenever you want.
Dodge Vacation Rental Scams
Q: This summer, I would like to try AirBnb and VRBO instead of staying at a hotel. How can I make sure I don’t get scammed?
A: As someone who loves to travel, I also like the spontaneity of being on the road. But one thing can't be left to fate: a place to rest your head.
Open-source markets offer an exciting alternative to the usual hotel chain, but they can also be unpredictable. If you're new to these services, there are specific red flags to watch out for.
Stop Wrecking Phones
Q: Last year, I jumped in the pool with my phone. That cost me $800! Help me, Kim, not to make this stupid mistake again.
A: Water damage is no laughing matter. There is a reason that AppleCare and other insurance programs don't cover for it; it's just too easy to soak our electronics.
Summer is the worst time, with passing rainstorms, pools, lakes, and trips to the beach.
But water damage can occur in any season, thanks to snow banks and slush-choked gutters, and how many of us have forgotten our phones in our pockets when we went to do laundry?
Keep an Old Computer Going
Q: I can’t afford a new computer. How can I get this beast to last a few more months?
A: As my regular listeners know, I am a big fan of technology hacks. There has been a significant movement lately to repair household items instead of just replacing them – which includes consumer tech.
There is no reason to waste a whole computer, primarily if it still executes all the necessary tasks. Then again, computers age the same way as anything else, and as the years pass, they may start to act a little funky.
Depending on the make and model, you may be able to squeeze out a few more years.
Convert Old VHS Tapes
Q: I have VHS tapes from when the kids were growing up. How can I see what’s on the tapes?
A: I have a particular affection for VHS tapes. My first how-to video series was released on these versatile cassettes, and I still get nostalgic for those first home-video players.
Still, I strongly doubt that VHS players will make a comeback, the way that vinyl records have. So if you want to preserve those dusty home videos, you probably shouldn't waste any time, since the magnetic strips are eroding as we speak.
In theory, you could buy a converter and convert the tapes into a digital format yourself.
But I would recommend consulting a professional, which is easy and affordable to do. Look no farther than your nearest suburban superstore.
What digital lifestyle 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.