Tech Q&A: Finding military records, digitizing VHS tapes

Easy way to request old military records

Q: Kim help! My grandfather served in World War II. You mentioned a way to find old military records with a caller on your national radio show. What was that website called?

A: lets you request a family member's service records and browse through photos taken during the war. It's a great place if you're researching family history or want to replace lost or damaged medals. Certain requests require a $25 to $70 flat copying fee. Click here for direct links to order replacement medals and service records. By the way, if you ever miss my show or want to hear certain parts again, get the podcast. Here’s a link on my site to a free trial.

Buying and selling on Craigslist

Q: My daughter just started college and needs furniture for her new apartment. Where can I find cheap furniture that's still in good shape?

A: Craigslist is a great place to look. Be sure to use specific search terms to find the best deals. "Moving," "divorce" and "everything must go" are buzzwords that help locate truly motivated sellers. A jilted spouse, for example, may be willing to sell an ex's favorite chair for a dollar. Someone who's moving out of state may lower their price because they don't have room to take everything with them. I have a list of the 10 top-selling items on Craigslist. Click here to see if any of these money-makers are collecting dust in your closet.

Modernizing old videotapes

Q: I have a slew of VHS tapes from the kid’s younger years. How can I get them into this century?

A: Videotapes have a shelf life of only 10 to 12 years. As time passes, they lose their magnetic signal. The sharpness, quality and color deteriorate. Worst of all, the tape grows brittle and breaks as it’s played. To preserve the content of your videotapes, digitizing them is a must. Here are your choices: Costco, Wal-Mart and Walgreens will all transfer the old video formats to DVD. A Japanese company called Funai, the last company manufacturing VHS players, makes a device that transfers VHS content to DVDs. It’s inexpensive enough for home use and is available from a limited number of retailers, including my store. Click here to learn more about it.

Defeating annoying telemarketers

Q: I keep getting calls from an insurance company trying to sell me a policy. They always call back even though I hang up on them. How can I stop them from calling?

A: If you hang up without specifically stating you're not interested in what they're selling, most telemarketers will mark you down as "no answer" and keep calling. Make sure your phone number is listed in the Do Not Call Registry. If you're really fed up, block these calls altogether. Click here to see three apps that can block these calls or at least notify you that it's a telemarketer on the other line.

Breezing through airport security

Q: Hi Kim! I'm visiting family next month and the airline recommends I arrive at the airport two to three hours before my flight departs. Is there any way to speed things up?

A: The TSA recently introduced PreCheck to reduce wait times at security checkpoints. Visit to get started. You'll need to set up an appointment to provide the TSA with documentation and fingerprints and to have a background check completed. It costs $85, and the process takes a few weeks while the Department of Homeland Security determines your threat assessment. But once you're cleared, your membership lasts five years and you'll be able to breeze through the security checkpoints at the airport. With the extra time you'll have on your hands, you might be tempted to browse the web while waiting for your flight. But before you log on, click here for tips on reducing your risk of being hacked when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks.

Bonus: Updating your iPhone's operating system

Q: I keep getting a prompt to update my iOS, but I'm planning on buying a new iPhone this fall. Should I even bother?

A. Yes! The latest update to iOS 9.3.4 is really important, especially if you missed the update to iOS 9.3.3. That one fixed a vulnerability that was similar to Android Stagefright, which could allow a hacker to take control of your device by sending a corrupted text message. Version 9.3.4 makes the Pangu jailbreak tool useless and prevents other exploits that use the same software flaw to compromise your operating system. But updating your iOS is only the first step. Click here for more Apple fixes you need to make in your phone's settings.

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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