December 16, 2010

Kim Komando solves your holiday compter, electronics problems

The Oskaloosa Herald

OSKALOOSA — Q. I’m looking for a good GPS unit. But it can’t be too expensive. What would you recommend?

A. GPS units are much less expensive these days. Prices start around $70. Any of them will work well. Just choose one with street name vocalization. That way you can keep your eyes on the road. More expensive units have additional features like real-time traffic and multi-destination route optimization. They can also have free map updates and photo or music playback. The Garmin Nuvi 295 ($90) and Nuvi 1350 ($140) are good choices. Your choice will depend on your budget. Smart phones can also be used as GPS units. You just need a navigation app. They work well, and it’s one less thing to carry.

Q. I’m having family over for Christmas. How can I keep them from messing up my computer? I use Windows.

A. The best thing to do is to create a Guest account. Do this by clicking Start>>Control Panel>>User Accounts. Click “Manage another account.” Click Guest and then click the Turn on button. Additionally, make sure you password-protect your main account. In the User Accounts panel, click “Create a password for your account.” Enter and confirm the password. Create a password hint. Then click the “Create password” button. Finally, make sure your security software is up to date. Even with a limited account, guests can still download viruses.

Q. I just bought a new Mac. And I want to make sure my kids can use it safely. Is there a way to set parental controls in OS X?

A. Parental controls are built into OS X. Start by creating a new account for your kids. Click the Apple logo and click System Preferences. Then, select Accounts. Click the Plus button to add a new account. If the button is grayed out, click the padlock icon and enter your password. Once the new account is created, go back to the System Preferences pane. Select Parental Controls and then select the new account. You will see five areas of control: System, Content, Mail & iChat, Time Limits and Logs. You’ll have to determine the right settings for your kids.

Q. My mother has been dating her boyfriend for three years. I just found out she pays for everything, and that worries me. How can I run a background check on him?

A. There are many areas to search when checking someone’s background. Criminal records are available to the public. And commercial and financial databases can have information. Note that these may have small fees associated with them. You can also run a Google search for the person’s name. That can turn up unofficial sources of information. In all cases, be sure you double-check you have the right person. It is easy to get wrong information, especially when searching common names. You don’t want to make false accusations. Visit Komando.com/news for links to sites for conducting background checks.

Q. My daughter is going to be writing a book. I want to get her a laptop to help. What would you recommend? And what software is available for writing?

A. Any computer will work for word processing these days. Word processing software doesn’t require a lot of computing power. The important factors are keyboard and screen size. You don’t want to use a small netbook for extended writing sessions. Make sure the laptop is comfortable for long periods of use. Also remember that ergonomics are important. Type at a desk and take frequent breaks. As for software, you can use Microsoft Word. There are also free programs like AbiWord that will work. You might also try a distraction-free program like FocusWriter. Find links at Komando.com/news.

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Kim Komando hosts the nation’s largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. To get the podcast or find the station nearest you, visit: http://www.komando.com/listen. To subscribe to Kim’s free e-mail newsletters, sign-up at: http://www.komando.com/newsletters.