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Tax prep, smart thermostats, Alexa etiquette 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 smart thermostats, being polite to smart speakers, best tax preparation websites, Facebook rants and more. 

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

Tap or click here to email me directly.

Smarter temperatures

Q: My wife and I always fight about the temperature in the house. I like it at 65 degrees. She wants 74 degrees. Will a smart thermostat save our marriage?

A: Finding a temperature that suits everybody is about as challenging as picking a single pizza topping for a whole party. Depending on size and circulation, two people could have a different idea of what it means to be “cold” and “hot” in a given room.

A smart thermostat could be a game-changer because it’s designed to be responsive to your behaviors.

Granted, no thermostat will ever give a single room two different temperatures, but it’s feasible to modulate the temperature in different rooms at different times, accommodating both your needs. That’s just one of its tricks.

Tap or click here for five reasons to get smart about your thermostat.

Be nice to Alexa

Q: I want my kids to say “Please” and “Thank you” to Alexa. We had friends over, and they say that kids should not be polite to a smart speaker. What do you think?

A: If a smart device has a human-like voice and personality, shouldn’t we treat it with the same respect we’d give to a flesh-and-blood person?

Children need to practice to master etiquette skills, and Alexa gives them the chance to flex those social muscles. Then again, “Alexa” is just a computer-generated service, a faceless algorithm that communicates through a speaker.

Should we also use this kind of decorum with our toaster ovens and refrigerators? The more “smart” devices we put in our homes, the more we’ll have to think about how we treat them.

Tap or click here for my take on kids, Alexa, and good manners

Best tax prep sites

Q: There are so many different sites to do your taxes. Is one better than another or are they all pretty much the same?

A: Nothing can replace a skilled accountant, and if you run a business or have a messy mound of 1099s, your best bet is to consult a human provider. But if your taxes are pretty straightforward, the sheer number of online tax services may paralyze you.

Which is the smoothest interface? Which is the most cost-effective? Are certain online services better suited to certain professions than others? The bottom line:

It’s true that not all tax software is created equal, and some sites rise above the rest.

Tap or click here for the best online tax software sites to use.

Silence Facebook rants

Q: My uncle is a total blowhard. I cannot stand him in person, and now, he’s all over my Facebook feed with Trump or Pelosi this and that. How do I make it stop?

A: Millions of Americans are sick and tired of all the soapboxes and grandstanding, and they want to retreat into the playground of social media without the constant flood of angry posts.

People like your uncle often behave unnaturally on social media, where they can bluster all they want without having to look anyone in the eye.

Luckily, there’s a simple way to shut them up. Tap or click here to silence the political rants on your Facebook feed.

Antenna adjustment

Q: I bought an indoor antenna, and it only picks up Sesame Street. Did I waste $100 on a piece of junk?

A: Even the most dedicated 4-year-old can only endure so much Elmo, so I feel your pain. Antennas can be a significant investment, and if you want free television broadcast directly to your TV, just the way households have done it since the 1950s.

But your geography also plays a part; if you live in a valley surrounded by tall mountains, you may struggle to find good reception.

If you live in a remote wilderness, you may only receive a channel or two, depending on the nearness of local radio towers.

Still, antennas are more powerful than ever, especially now that broadcast television has gone digital, and you may just be able to salvage your new gear.

Tap or click here for five tricks to get the best possible reception.

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call her national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen or watch to 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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