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Tech Q&A: App to repel mosquitoes, unclaimed money, grocery lists and more

File photo. Mosquitoes and a dragonfly fly around a lit bulb on a hot summer night at the Turquillas land in Osuna, southern Spain.

File photo. Mosquitoes and a dragonfly fly around a lit bulb on a hot summer night at the Turquillas land in Osuna, southern Spain.  (REUTERS/Jon Nazca )

Repel mosquitoes with an app

Q. Mosquitoes just love me. I heard you mention on your national radio show that there’s an app to keep mosquitoes away. How do they work?

A. Apps that claim to repel mosquitoes really do exist. In theory, the apps make your phone emit an ultrasonic noise that alerts mosquitoes of nearby predators. When the mosquitoes hear this sound, they bolt to safety and away from you. Now, whether the apps actually work is open to debate. If you read the reviews, it seems to be a toss-up. The apps are free, so give it a shot. But if you do, keep some bug spray handy, just in case. Click here to get mosquito-repelling apps for Apple and Android.

Find unclaimed money       

Q. My mother told me that she saw you on TV talking about finding lost paychecks, utility deposits and tax refund checks. How can I search the Internet for any checks that might be in my name? I could use the money!

A. There's an estimated $41.7 billion currently held in government unclaimed-property programs. In addition to utility refunds and insurance payments, unclaimed property includes abandoned savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends or payroll checks, refunds, traveler's checks, trust distributions, unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states), annuities, certificates of deposit, customer overpayments, mineral royalty payments and contents of safe deposit boxes. As you can see, it covers the gamut. I wrote a tip that will explain more, including links to the places to check. Click here for 7 ways to find your unclaimed money.

Keep your grocery list updated

Q. With teens at home eating all the time, it's a constant struggle to keep food in the house. I keep making multiple trips to the store. Is there a better way?

A. Check out an app called Out of Milk (Android, Apple; free). It lets you create a Pantry List and Shopping List so you can keep tabs on what you have at home and what you need. To add items to a list, just scan the barcode of an item, add it verbally or type it in. The best part is that you can sync lists between gadgets, so your kids can add items they need or mark when they've used something. Speaking of teens, here are 5 dangerous apps you might not know your kids are using.

Turn your phone into a scale

Q. I want to loose a few pounds for summer. I'm getting a food scale for home, but is there something I can take with me when I'm eating out?

A. There's an app called Simple Scale (Android, Apple; $1) that uses your phone's gyroscope to figure out the weight of whatever you set on it. Just make sure whatever you're weighing isn't so heavy it breaks the screen. Don’t weigh a turkey, for example. You should also be sure to place the item in a plastic or Ziploc bag, especially if it's wet or juicy. If you do get the screen dirty, here are some tips for cleaning it.

A universal music format

Q. Over the years, I've had several different music players, including CD players, an MP3 player, a Zune (remember that?), an iPod and now an Android. Is there a way to convert the songs I've collected into one simple format that will work with just one player?

A. The MP3 format is your best bet since everything plays it. Most of your music should be in that format anyway, but if you need to convert something you can use a program like fre:ac. It can handle just about any format, provided there's no digital rights management. You can also use fre:ac to rip CDs, if you want to update your library with higher-quality files than you might have used in years past. On the other hand, don't forget that there are programs like VLC that can play just about any audio or video format around. Using that might be easier than converting or re-ripping your music library.

Bonus: Cordless phone hackers

Q. I use a cordless phone at my house. I think my neighbors are listening in on my calls. Is it possible?

A. Unfortunately, an older cordless handset uses radio waves, often the same 2.4 Ghz microwaves as Wi-Fi, to connect to its base station. And like Wi-Fi, that means someone outside your home can listen in on what you're doing. The newest cordless phones use an advanced form of DSS called Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications, which adds some encryption and changes the wireless frequency to 1.9 Ghz to avoid interference with Wi-Fi, microwaves and other cordless phones. You might see it labeled "Wi-Fi friendly." Click here to learn more about this now.

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.