READER QUESTION

No matter how often we write about it, the most common question we get is: “How can I speed up my computer?”

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THAT EXCLAMATION POINT

A few weeks ago we mentioned the yellow exclamation point in Gmail that prompted us to switch from Chrome to Firefox to Opera. A reader said he gets it too and wonders why. We finally have the answer. Every web address these days begins with “https” rather than the simple “http.” (The “s” is for “security.”) If you have a browser add-on that still uses the simple http, Gmail flags it. It can be quite annoying, even causing your email to freeze, but it appears to be harmless. In our tests, simply uninstalling Google Chrome and reinstalling it without any add-ons fixed the problem.

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BE MY EYES

“Be My Eyes” is an iPhone app that helps blind people identify a piece of mail, something on a shelf, or anything that needs to be identified visually. The app has already signed up over 78,000 sighted helpers and 5,800 blind users; these would use their camera phone to show a helper what they’d like identified. The helper who gets the call is under no obligation. If they can’t help, it passes automatically to the next helper. This really frees a blind person from dependence on neighbors or friends.

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HOW TO FIX AN UPGRADE THAT’S A DOWNGRADE

Our Okidata laser printer has been scolding us for the last month. Despite rich colors and strong blacks, it says we’re out of toner. We finally figured out why. The manufacturers have struck back at consumers for using cheaper inks and toners.

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ANDROID TIPS AND TRICKS

The worst feature of a smart phone is its fast-draining battery. As we’ve written before, an app like the free “Battery Doctor” helps with that. But the most important thing, we’ve found, is to tap “settings” and turn off Wi-Fi. After that, decrease your screen brightness. And use a program like the free “Clean Master” to get rid of junk files.

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READER TIP

In a recent column, we suggested using “msconfig” or Windows 8’s task manager to prevent too many programs from loading at start-up, slowing down your computer. A reader pointed out that a free program called “WinPatrol” from WinPatrol.com does the same job and provides more information.

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WHY WINDOWS SEEMS SLOW

Our favorite question-and-answer site, Quora.com, recently posted a message from David Seidman, a Microsoft employee, on the question of why Windows gets so slow after just a year of use. First off, he says, if you never install any software, except security updates, and leave lots of free disk space, it will never slow down. On the other hand, if you have lots of programs, you should run the “msconfig” utility to keep so many from loading at start up. In Windows 7, get to msconfig by clicking “start,” and “run” and typing “msconfig.” In Windows 8, get to the startup tab by right-clicking your taskbar and choosing “task manager.” Seidman says that Windows 8 runs many fewer services at […]

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SHARING SCREENS

TeamViewer for Android is a mobile version of this popular screen-sharing program. Use it to get tech support from a remote friend, or to offer it. When you sign in, you get a code to share and so it’s just the two of you seeing the same screen. Joy used it recently and was able to see a friend’s distant computer screen so she could show her how to add a profile picture to Facebook. The program is free for personal use.

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SPEEDING UP A SLOW COMPUTER

Bob’s XP computer was so slow, Joy tried to talk him into restoring it back to its factory settings. Bob wouldn’t do it.

Because what it means is you’re clearing the hard drive. You’re taking it back to the beginning, when the Universe was dark. All your files, all your programs, will be gone. Did you back up the files before you reset it to factory specs? No? Too bad. Do you still have the disks to reinstall the old programs? Who does?

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MEANWHILE… DEEP IN THE JUNGLE

If you’re deep in the Amazon jungle, in a hurricane, or traveling too far from a cell phone tower, your text message won’t go through. (Good luck dealing with the giant Anaconda.) A new device called “goTenna” fixes that by using radio signals.

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