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WFH free tools, blocked number IDs, converting VHS and more: Tech Q&A

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 work from home tools, changing ringtones, identifying anonymous phone numbers and more.

Do you have a question you’d like to ask me? I’d love to help you.

Tap or click here to email me directly.

Google, Microsoft free WFH tools

Q: I have a small staff, only six people. Because of the pandemic, I need to have everyone work from home. What software do I use so we can still work as a team?

A: Several different tech companies have announced that premium fees on their productivity tools will be waived in light of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. The companies, which include Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Zoom and LogMeIn, all feature different tools that enable businesses to take their operations off-site.

This goes in line with the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation that workers stay home during the peak of the epidemic. Tap or click here to learn more about these free tools and how to sign up.

Ringtone switch

Q: My wife and I have the same ringtone. It’s so annoying because I never know if it’s my phone or her iPhone. Can I download a new ringtone?

A: As more people turn off all sounds on their phones, the ringtone has started to vanish, replaced by the hum and buzz of devices vibrating in pockets. It does partially explain why users don’t download ringtones onto their mobile phones as easily as they might download podcasts and videos.

There are several sites that are both trustworthy and ample suppliers of ringtones; however, you should know that iPhones require a little extra legwork because of Apple’s diehard security concerns. But you will find the unique tone you like. Tap or click here for the best ringtone sites.

VHS conversion

Q: I have a bunch of VHS tapes of my kids. I want the easiest way to get them online. Help me before I have grandkids!

A: In the past, I have directed folks to box stores like Walmart and Costco, which usually have a special desk for media conversion. You can drop off your old tapes and have them converted and put on a DVD or USB drive, much the way we used to develop film into pictures.

There is a far more convenient service that I’ve used myself to preserve old home movies. The company is called iMemories. The service is easy and secure. You send in your old tapes and photos, iMemories digitizes them and puts them in the cloud. This extra step makes it easy to watch and share. Tap or click here to digitize your old videos, slides and photos.

Smart speaker security

Q: I’m freaked out about my smart speaker listening all the time. I do like what it does, though. How can I make it only listen when I want it to?

A: A smart speaker is always listening for its “wake phrase,” which means you can’t use voice activation if the speaker isn’t listening. That may be a cold hard truth, but there are several ways to limit what your virtual assistant hears and retains. For example, you can use the “mute” feature very easily.

After recordings are made and logged, you can dig into the system and delete them. Most developers will argue these recordings are benign, and they are required to help your smart speaker better understand your requests.

But more and more users are erasing their recordings and I think it’s a smart practice. Tap or click here for private smart speaker security settings.

ID blocked calls

Q: I got a blocked call and an unknown call today. Can I find out who really called me? It’s annoying!

A: Just because our phones don’t register the number doesn’t mean you can’t find out who called. In some cases, it’s as easy as dialing *69. For sneakier numbers, I recommend TrapCall, an app specifically designed to help you identify unknown numbers and block them for good.

Remember: The vast majority of unlisted numbers are robocalls and solicitors, and many of those are actually scammers. If you find a way to learn that number and block it, you aren’t just saving yourself future headaches, you’re disrupting a corrupt system and possibly helping others as well.

If all else fails, you can call your phone provider. The company can often find the real number in its records. Tap or click here to find out who’s calling from unknown numbers.

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s 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.

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