Who’s listening, free software and more

Who’s listening, free software and more
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Virtual assistant concerns 

Q: Do you have an Amazon Echo or Google Home smart speaker in your house? I am freaked out that it’s always listening.

A: Yes, smart speakers are handy. Yes, they are fun. Yes, they can be fabulous for people with physical challenges. But it has also become clear that devices like the Echo and Home are always listening. Otherwise, how would these smart speakers know to respond to the wake word? Big tech data companies created these products, and the Echo and Home are intended to stand in the middle of your home, absorbing all sounds. Check out the link to learn why they’re unplugged in my house. https://bit.ly/2mXXgbz.

Free Microsoft Office

Q: I have a new laptop and cannot afford Microsoft Word. Is there any way I can get it for free?

A: One of the simplest ways to get a bargain on Microsoft Office is to be a student at an accredited school. You can also open a Microsoft account and use their tools online, as long as you connect to Wi-Fi. Using this technique, you have the same access to Office that Gmail users have to Google Docs and other programs. The downside is that you won’t be able to export a Word or Excel file, and you will run into several other roadblocks, as well; in a way, your experience will be very similar to using a Chromebook. But you can’t beat the price.

Smartphone Remote Control

Q: I’ve read you can use your phone as a remote for your TV. How can I do that? 

A: This is a pretty nifty arrangement, using your smartphone as a universal remote, but it does require some stars to align. For example, it’s easy to use an Android phone to control an Android-powered TV. You can use an Amazon device, such as a Kindle Fire, to control certain TV sets. One app is designed to operate with 300 different models of television, and all you need is a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth signal. At the same time, you have to make sure that your smartphone and TV are compatible. Make sure that you find the apps and devices that can communicate with each other, but I have done the homework for you.

Record Calls

Q: I would like to save individual phone calls. I looked in my Settings, but there is no option. How can I record calls on my smartphone?

A: You have hit upon a common problem: recording calls on your cell phone is pretty tricky, and it has nothing to do with technology. The issue is legal; tech companies don’t want to get involved in everyday users recording each other. Luckily, several third-party apps enable this very basic function, which is useful for interviews or other professional needs. Just remember, depending on your state’s laws, you may need to alert the person at the other end that you’re recording.

For information on Kim Komando on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks, visit her at Komando.com.

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