You've got tech questions, we've found the answers. We help you make the most of your technology by answering your thorniest tech questions. So if you're wondering what to buy, how to plug it in, or how to fix it, we can help.
What is the "Six Strikes" anti-piracy policy?
Q. I heard my Internet service provider is starting a new policy called "Six Strikes." How will it affect my surfing?
A. It depends. If someone in your home is pirating movies, TV or music, you'll start receiving warning notices. The first couple of notices will be friendly emails or calls telling you someone is pirating copyrighted content on your connection. From there, your ISP could throttle your data speeds or block out certain sites. Your service would go back to normal once you've contacted your ISP.
While this sounds like harsh punishment, it's actually better than the way piracy disputes are currently handled. It gives you a chance to talk to anyone in your house who is misusing the connection, or lock down your wireless network, instead of receiving a surprise lawsuit from the MPAA or RIAA. If you want to watch your favorite shows and movies online legally, I can tell you how.
Limit Facebook distraction
Q. I feel like Facebook is draining my productivity! Are there any tools that can help make the site not so addicting?
A. You bet! Downloads like Facebook Nanny and Cold Turkey can restrict your access to the site for custom periods of time. You can block surfing through your router at certain times of the day, too. These are all industrial-strength solutions to the problem, though. Limiting notifications on your Facebook will do just as well to stop distractions while you're working. To do that, click the upside-down triangle in the top right corner of your profile page and go to "Account settings." You'll see a Notifications tab in the left where you can edit how often you receive notifications. You can opt-out of notifications by hovering over any notification itself and clicking the X that appears, too.
What to know before giving kids a gadget
Q. I'm giving my granddaughter her first smartphone for Christmas. Are there any sort of parental controls I can set up to make sure she stays safe?
A. There are built-in parental controls on most smartphones that can be found in their manuals. You can add third-party apps like Mobicip for safer browsing and Lookout to help keep their phone safe from viruses. However, teens have a habit of learning how to hack their gadgets to get around these and do things they're not supposed to do. The best way to avoid that isn't any app or setting. It's to have a chat with the child (and in other cases, a grandchild and their parents) and tell them what is and isn't OK, and then follow it up with regular check-ins. Kids are more likely to listen when they see that you trust and care about them.
Secure your Windows 8 computer
Q. I'm debating a Windows 8 upgrade, but I don't know if my security software will work. Are there options specifically made for Windows 8 or can I use what I already use?
A. While Windows 8 is the first Windows build to come with full-featured security software, I don't recommend it. Hackers tailor attacks to the default options in Windows. Luckily, most popular anti-virus software should work fine in Windows 8. If you want to double-check a specific program, use Microsoft's compatibility scanner. I tested three of my favorites -- Avast!, Spyboy Search & Destroy and MalwareBytes -- and they all made the jump fine. According to Microsoft, third-party firewalls might not work in Windows 8. ZoneAlarm just released a version that it claims will work just fine, though. No matter whether you run that or the default option in Windows, make sure you never run both at the same time.
Are shortened links safe?
Q. A friend posted a link on Facebook that said Youtu.be instead of Youtube.com. Would this link be safe, or was I right to not click?
A. Youtu.be is YouTube's official shortened link - you can find it in the share button underneath any video on the site. While this one is safe, you were right not to click on a shortened link without knowing where it goes. Scammers can hide all sorts of malicious things inside of them. If you see shortened links often on your social media, use Tweetdeck to read your social posts and switch "Auto URL shortening" to off. This allows you to see the full link. However, when you post a link, Twitter or other social sites will still shorten it automatically for you.
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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, watch the show or find the station nearest you, visit: www.komando.com/listen. To subscribe to Kim's free email newsletters, sign-up at: www.komando.com/newsletters.