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GPS stalkers, lethal cell phones, incognito issues, 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 GPS stalkers, lethal cell phones, upgrading Apple’s macOS and more.

Do you have a question you’d like to ask me?

Tap or click here to email me directly.

Cell phone dangers

Q: Can you settle an argument between my wife and me? Do cellphones cause brain cancer? I say yes; she says I’m crazy.

A: There has been a significant rise in cell phone use, and there’s a significant rise in diagnosis of brain tumors. So is there a connection? If you’ve ever taken a stats course, you know the difference between “causation” and “correlation.” None of the studies suggest that you should worry about cell phones causing abnormal growths in your body.

That said, staring at a screen for hours on end can have its effects, and major neurologists have been critical of phones’ long-term impact on your eyes and brain functions. As always, moderation is key. The BBC recently aired “Truth or Scare” about the phone use cancer controversy that you can learn more about at my site.

Incognito explainer

Q: Can you explain incognito mode to me, and does it really work? Can I surf the internet privately?

A: With a name like “incognito,” you would think that this mode could protect you from anything. Many people make this mistake, thinking that “incognito” is some cloaking device that protects you from any watchful eyes on the internet.

Let’s be clear: incognito mode is very limited. Your browser won’t keep track of the websites you visit, so if someone else uses the same computer, your search history is completely private; otherwise, any website is trackable to your IP address.

Since “incognito” is specifically a Google Chrome term, understand that other browsers with similar capabilities are limited in the same way. But this is starting to change; thanks to an update to Chrome 74, users can finally search the internet without feeling as exposed to web providers and hackers. Tap or click here to find out how to install this important update.

Secret GPS trackers

Q: I see these high-tech things on crime shows that help you find GPS trackers in cars. Does this exist? I think my ex may have put one on my car.

A: Yes, they exist. Before you panic, think about why a GPS tracker is useful: Some folks use them for pets that tend to stray. Others use them for cars in high-theft areas. These devices are convenient, if you’re using them for wholesome purposes, and they can help you keep track of possessions you care about.

However, GPS trackers are a lot like covert security cameras, because stalkers and creeps can easily use them. You can use an RF detector to scan your vehicle but first, do a visual sweep. They’re usually fastened to your car with tape or a magnet, so you’ll need to do a thorough search of the exterior and interior of your vehicle – as well as handbags, pockets, and anything else that could store a device the size of an ink cartridge.

Poor man’s Photoshop

Q: I have a bunch of digital family photos I want to share with my nieces and nephews, but I want to edit them first. Is there a poor man’s version of Photoshop or something similar?

A: First, Photoshop is a fantastic product, and always has been. Adobe is the reigning champion of design software, and photographers really can’t find much better than Photoshop. But it’s also expensive, complicated, and challenging to master. For family photos and powerful editing options, there are scores of different programs that can do everything you want.

Photos, for example, which comes free on every Mac is very powerful. But if your tired of remedial filters and patches, GIMP is an astonishing Photoshop rival. Need to create collages, erase eyesores or even add special effects, GIMP can do that – and it’s free.

Upgrade macOS

Q: I’m a newer Mac user, and I keep getting a pop-up on my computer telling me to upgrade to something called Mojave. What is this and should I update?

A: Apple is the master of cool names for its operating systems: Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion, Mavericks, Yosemite, El Capitan, Sierra, High Sierra – and as of 2018, the Mojave operating system. None of these names means anything, but they’re a popular way to distinguish one version of macOS from another.

In brief, yes, you should absolutely upgrade your macOS, especially if your computer is telling you to do it. That said, if your computer is 4 years or older, you may not be able to upgrade, and you should consider visiting your Apple store to review your options. Also, upgrading is less about functionality (some updates may drive you crazy), and more about security.

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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