Kim’s tech Q & A: ringtones, conversions and security

Sunday Signal

By Kim Komando, Signal Contributing Writer

Ringtone switch

Q: My wife and I have the same ringtone. It’s so annoying because I never know if it’s my phone or her iPhone. Can I download a new ringtone?

A: As more people turn off all sounds on their phones, the ringtone has started to vanish, replaced by the hum and buzz of devices vibrating in pockets. It does partially explain why users don’t download ringtones onto their mobile phones as easily as they might download podcasts and videos.

There are several sites that are both trustworthy and ample suppliers of ringtones; however, you should know that iPhones require a little extra legwork because of Apple’s diehard security concerns. But you will find the unique tone you like. Visit the following for the best ringtone sites:

VHS conversion

Q: I have a bunch of VHS tapes of my kids. I want the easiest way to get them online. Help me before I have grandkids.

A: In the past, I have directed folks to box stores like Walmart and Costco, which usually have a special desk for media conversion. You can drop off your old tapes and have them converted and put on a DVD or USB drive, much the way we used to develop film into pictures. 

There is a new far more convenient service that I’ve used myself to preserve old home movies. The company is called iMemories. You send in your old tapes and photos, iMemories digitizes them and puts them in the cloud. This extra step makes it easy to watch and share.

To find the best way to do that, visit

Smart speaker security

Q: I’m freaked out about my smart speaker listening all the time. I do like what it does, though. How can I make it only listen when I want it to?

A:  smart speaker is always listening for its “wake phrase,” which means you can’t use voice activation if the speaker isn’t listening. That may be a cold hard truth, but there are several ways to limit what your virtual assistant hears and retains. For example, you can use the “mute” feature very easily. 

After recordings are made and logged, you can dig into the system and delete them. Most developers will argue these recordings are benign, and they are required to help your smart speaker better understand your requests. But more and more users are erasing their recordings and I think it’s a smart practice.

ID blocked calls

Q: I got a blocked call and an un-known call today. Can I find out who really called me? It’s annoying.

A: Just because our phones don’t register the number doesn’t mean you can’t find out who called. In some cases, it’s as easy as dialing *69. For sneakier numbers, I recommend TrapCall, an app specifically designed to help you identify unknown numbers and block them for good.

Remember: The vast majority of unlisted numbers are robocalls and solicitors, and many of those are actually scammers. If you find a way to learn that number and block it, you aren’t just saving yourself future headaches, you’re disrupting a corrupt system and possibly helping others, as well.

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

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