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Find old friends online without using Facebook

| Saturday, March 14, 2015, 9:00 p.m.

Question: I'm organizing a reunion, and I'm trying to track down a few old schoolmates of mine from way back. I tried Facebook, but came up empty. Where else can I look?

Answer: Even with 1.3 billion users, Facebook isn't always the best place to hunt down people, especially if they have common names. Instead, try a people search site like PeekYou or Spokeo. These collect public information on people, including names, phone numbers, email addresses, current addresses and even where they used to live. This gives you a better shot of finding someone.

Make a security camera

Q: I think my roommate is sneaking into my room when I'm at school, but I don't want to accuse her without proof. It would be great to have a security camera to watch my room while I'm out, but I don't have money to buy one. Do you have any suggestions for something cheaper?

A: If you have a spare smartphone or tablet around, you can turn it into a motion-activated security camera with an app such as Salient Eye (Android, free) or Manything (Apple, free). Just set the gadget on a stand, point the camera at the door and you'll get instant alerts when someone enters the room.

Smartphone photo tip

Q: Are there any tricks to getting better photos with a smartphone?

A: One thing a lot of people get wrong is using the digital zoom to get close to their subject. This feature doesn't actually “zoom” like a high-end camera; it just blows up the existing image and crops it, which reduces image quality. You're better off moving your feet to get in closer.

Check for spying

Q: I heard on your radio show how the government is spying on people, and it got me really worried. How do I know if I'm one of the people being tracked?

A: The government has some very powerful spy viruses, including two called FinFisher and Hacking Team RCS.

These viruses have several ways of slipping on to your computer to read your emails, listen in on calls, snoop on you using the computer's microphone or camera, and more. Fortunately, you can detect them using an open-source program called Detekt.

Email Kim Komando at techcomments@usatoday.com.

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