Robots

Tech Q&A: Facebook messages, app to skip Customs, battery life, and more

File photo.

File photo.  ( REUTERS/Dado Ruvic )

Check Facebook's hidden inbox

Q. I ran into an old friend and he says he sent me direct messages on Facebook over the last year trying to reconnect, but I didn't get them. Do you know where they went? I want to make sure I'm not missing messages from other people, too.

A. I bet I know what happened. If someone sends you a Facebook message and you have no mutual friends, Facebook automatically puts their message into your inbox's “Other” message folder. To find the Other folder, open your Facebook page and click the Message icon at the top. Next to where it says Inbox, click Other. It's grey, so it's hard to see. The messages will probably be there. Great story — I recently mentioned this tip on my show and a few days later heard from a woman who reconnected with her birth mother. Had she not checked the Other folder, she might have never seen the message from her mother wanting to reconnect. If you use Facebook a lot, here for 9 more useful Facebook tricks that most people don't know.

App to skip the airport Customs line 

Q. Thanks to your terrific advice on buying cheap airline tickets online, I'm headed out of the country for Christmas and New Year's. The last time I came back into the U.S., though, it was a nightmare waiting in line at customs. Is there some trick you know to get through faster?

A. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is trying to make things move faster with a smartphone app called Mobile Passport. It helps you submit a digital version of your passport control and customs declaration in advance, so you can bypass the regular line and clear customs faster. Love that! Click here for more details on how it works and how to get it.

Battery dies too quickly

Q. My smartphone is struggling to last through the workday. Is there something I can do to stretch the battery life?

A. The biggest drain on most smartphone batteries is the screen. The brighter it is, the more energy it uses. Your phone adjusts it automatically based on the light you're in, but you can take full control for extreme power saving. In iOS, go to Settings>>Wallpapers & Brightness. Set it to manual and turn down the brightness to the lowest level you can comfortably use the gadget. For Android, go to Settings>>Display and tap Brightness. Uncheck "Automatic brightness" and adjust the slider. For Windows Phone, swipe left from the Start screen and tap Settings>>Brightness. Turn off automatic brightness and choose either "low," "medium" or "high" brightness. You'll want "low" as long as the phone is still usable. Still need more battery life? Click here for even more battery-saving tweaks.

Save big on printer ink

Q. I tried to print my holiday newsletter to send to my friends and family, and my printer ink was low. I just put in a new cartridge recently and those things are expensive. What can I do to not go broke printing?

A. Even if you aren't printing, your printer is regularly using small amounts of ink on maintenance. There's not much you can do about that, but you can economize your day-to-day printing to make your ink last. Use a free ink-saving font like EcoFont. If you print Web pages, stop printing extra pages, images and unwanted text with free programs like CleanPrint or PrintWhatYouLike. That will really help. Click here for even more printer money-saving secrets.

Quickly find files hogging space on your computer

Q. My computer is telling me I'm out of space on my hard drive, but I don't know what's filling it up. After 15 minutes, I got fed up clicking through folders and figured there has to be a faster way to find out. Please tell me there is.

A. You need the free program WinDirStat. This gives you a graphical overview of your hard drive so you can see large files and folders at a glance. Then you can delete files you don't need, or move ones you still want to an external drive. If you want to uninstall space-hogging programs without leaving junk behind to fill up your drive, use a program like GeekUninstaller.

On the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at News.Komando.com.