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 the best smart products, the dark web, recovering lost files, AAA alternatives and more.
Do you have a question you'd like to ask me?
Best smart products
Q: I have an Amazon Echo. What are the best smart products to use with it like lights and such?
A: Virtual assistants, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, are gateways into the "smart" universe. Yes, you can program your devices individually, and few smart appliances require voice commands.
But once you establish and sync all the gadgets in your home, you can unleash the full power of the smart network. You may be able to control your doors, your locks, your washing machine, and your temperature, just by giving a verbal command.
But some products are more effective than others, and a few should be avoided, just because they’re not very useful. I’m always compiling lists of new and exciting smart products, and I’m especially excited about this latest one.
Latest tech news
Q: I heard you say that you have a podcast with the latest tech news that I can listen to while I get my steps. I looked and cannot find it. Where can I subscribe to it?
A: I bet you searched for Komando spelled the other way with the letter C and two Ms. It happens, no worries. You have to search using the correct spelling of my last name.
In case you wonder, Komando is my real name that's Russian Ukrainian in heritage. You can find all my podcasts on Apple, Google, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon or wherever you get your podcasts.
You asked about Tech News. There is a 15-minute daily version and a 20-minute weekly version.
Dark web crash course
Q: I keep hearing about the dark web. Is that the same thing as the deep web?
A: They’re different, but don’t worry: people are always confusing the dark web with the deep web. To keep things simple, think of the dark web as the regular web, except the lights are out.
Now suppose you have a flashlight, and you shine its beam into the dark web; you can see websites, chat rooms and stores, plus an entire social media experience that doesn't appear on regular search engines.
In this case, the "flashlight" is a particular brand of software called Tor. You do want to be careful about your activities on the dark web because a lot of people come here anonymously to join illicit conversations and trade on the black market.
Still, much of the dark web is pretty innocuous. Now, the deep web? That’s a whole different story.
Recover lost files
Q: I accidentally deleted a critical folder full of documents and pictures. Is there a free program to recover these files?
A: Losing an important file makes us long for the days of manila file folders and filing cabinets, doesn’t it? Before cloud storage, my creative friends would lose all kinds of things, from half-completed novels to the rough cuts of their movies, because they didn't feel like backing up their data.
Now you are in that precise situation, and it's hard to say whether you'll ever see those files (whatever they are) again. Some things, like digital photos, may vanish forever from your hard drive unless you find a way to recover them.
So what do you do? It turns out you're right – there is software that exists that can reassemble the files you've lost, by sifting through underlying data. Even better, yes, the software is free.
Q: I have had AAA for years, but I hear there are other ways to get roadside help. Is there an app to help me get a tow truck if I break down?
A: There is an alternative to AAA, but before I get into that, I should say that the American Automobile Association is a terrific organization, and its vast network has helped millions of drivers get out of sticky situations, some of which could have been dangerous or even fatal.
Membership costs vary, depending on your region, but also the most expensive option (Premier) is only about $126 in most places. Many people will be happy to pay this amount for peace of mind, especially if they've had good AAA experiences in the past.
Still, a fee is still a fee, and AAA was founded long before smartphones. You can replace most of AAA's service with an app, and once you've mastered it, you may never go back.
What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call my national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim's free podcasts.