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tech tips you'll wish you'd known sooner
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Kim's column

TECH TIPS: 5 useful tricks you’ll wish someone told you sooner

In the world of tech, there is a slew of new features and hidden tricks hiding in your everyday devices.

Ever wonder what the secret white dot in the iPhone weather app means? I saw it in my daily forecast and thought, “What in the world is that?” Tap or click here to solve this tech mystery.

Sometimes “hidden” isn’t a good thing. Take the hidden map in Google Photos that shows you everywhere you’ve been — and every photo you took there. Tap or click here to stop this tracking.

I have a ton of tech tricks up my sleeve. We’ll start with a common problem: Getting a stranger to respond to a cold email.

1. Get a complete stranger to read your email

Cold-calling is tough. No one answers their phone anymore. Cold-emailing is easier, but how do you not end up in the trash folder?

It all starts with the subject line. Get the recipient’s attention with the first five words in the subject line. Make the subject personal by using “Referred to you by” or “Quick question” with the person’s name.

In the body of the email itself, get to the point. If you have a mutual acquaintance, include that person’s name in the first sentence. Write like you’re talking to the person. Avoid corporate-speak like “synergy” or “paradigms.”

Be sure to tell the person what you want, and be specific. And don’t forget to proofread before you hit send.

Wondering whether someone read your email? Tap or click here for methods to tell if you’re still sitting in unread.

2. Buy gift cards at a discount (or sell ones you don’t want)

When you’re buying gift cards online, you can go directly to the site you want to shop at — but here’s the secret. There are specialty sites that sell gift cards at a discount. Pro tip: Don’t Google discount gift cards. You will probably end up at a scam site.

Two legitimate sites that sell discounted gift cards are CardCash.com and Raise.com. Now, of course, there’s a risk that scammers may have access to the gift card numbers. If you buy any discounted gift cards online, be sure you redeem the amount as soon as possible. And if you have gift cards you’re not using, these sites will buy your unused gift cards, too.

Shopping on Amazon? I put together a list of quick and easy ways to save money. This is a must-read!

3. Improve your TV’s picture

Hidden deep in your TV’s settings menu is an option called motion smoothing. It sounds nice, but you want to disable this feature.

Motion smoothing artificially adds frames to whatever you’re watching. It’s sometimes called the soap opera effect if that helps you imagine how this looks. Motion smoothing can be helpful when you’re watching sports or playing video games.

Fast-moving content is a lot clearer, but there’s a downside. A football moving fast across the screen looks fake as more frames are added. With video games, motion smoothing adds lag.

Tap or click here for directions to turn this setting off on a Samsung, Roku TV, LG, Panasonic, Android TV or Vizio. And while you’re in there tweaking things, you’ll probably like cinema or movie mode best for whatever you’re watching.

4. Stop wondering who can see your old posts

If you’re on Facebook, you might have years and years of posts and photos visible to anyone on the internet. Depending on what you’ve posted, that’s troubling.

Take a moment to make sure your past Facebook posts aren’t visible to just any person who comes across your profile. Here’s how.

  • In your Facebook account settings, go to Privacy Tools and Settings.
  • Under Your Activity, find the section that says, Limit the Audience for Old Posts on Your Timeline.

Here, Facebook will change anything you share publicly or with friends of friends to accessible only to your friends. With all the scammers and trolls online, it’s a smart move to lessen your digital footprint.

Facebook has a shiny new Privacy Center to help you keep tabs on what it collects and knows about you. Tap or click here for tips to navigate it.

5. Channel James Bond and talk secretly

You want to exchange texts and pictures with another person, and you don’t want any random person who picks up your phone to see them. There are perfectly innocent reasons for this, like snoopy roommates or kids who always pick up your phone. There are a few ways to do this without downloading any shady apps.

One option is to use a Google Doc. Make sure you both have access to the Doc, but delve into the Share Settings menu. Here, you can disallow the other person from downloading, printing, copying, or sharing it.

If you have an iPhone, use the Notes app. Under Share Options, choose Can Make Changes. Send your note by text or email. The person you’ve added to the note can make changes, as can you. You can communicate privately, and it won’t show up in your text messages.

Looking for other ways to keep your conversations private? Tap or click for methods to encrypt your emails and messages.

Bonus Tip: A unbelievable story about hackers hitting a hospital up for ransomware

Ransomware hackers recently hit a hospital, and everything from the cardiac machines to IV pumps stopped working. Doctors and nurses had to use pen and paper. There were no electronic patient records. But what happened when the hackers found out it was a hospital will undoubtedly surprise you.

Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Explains” on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”

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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