AskBob's Best of 2020 - Part Two

Category: Reference

Yesterday I published Part One of my “Best of 2020” series. Today, I've got another group of ten very popular AskBob articles for you. These have been selected with help from autonomous dancing robots, excerpts from high-profile data breaches, input from flame-throwing surveillance drones, and machine learning software that I 'borrowed' from a secret underground laboratory. I might possibly have used the AskBob server stats as well. I hope you'll read each one, leave your own comments, and share them with your Email, Facebook and Twitter friends.

Oh, and I wasn’t kidding about the dancing robots and flame-throwing drones. Look for those bonus links at the bottom of today’s issue...

Your Favorite AskBob Stories of 2020

In AskBob's Best of 2020 - Part One, some of the topics were focused on dealing with Windows 10, Security, Wifi and Smartphones. Looking at today, some of the key concepts that jump out at me are Free Software, Internet Speed, Cord Cutting, and Data Privacy. I hope you'll enjoy today's final Top Ten of 2020...

1. Will MagicJack Replace My Landline?

Here’s a common AskBob reader question: “I've seen advertisements for Magic Jack, a gadget you can plug into your computer and fire the phone company. It sounds too good to be true... is MagicJack a scam, or does it actually work? Can it really replace my landline, and eliminate my monthly phone bill?” Read on for the surprising answers…

2. Still Using Microsoft Office… Why?

For many decades, Microsoft Office has been the gold standard for productivity suites. But it can cost a lot of gold. Today's prices range from $249 for Office Home & Business, up to $439 for Office Professional 2019. The subscription-based Microsoft 365 Family product costs $100/year. Fortunately, there are plenty of good, compatible alternatives to Microsoft Office; many are free, and even those that are not cost much less than Microsoft Office. Here are some of the best alternative office suites…

3. Quantum Computing and the Internet

Technology is advancing with ever-increasing speed, and with quantum computers promising mind-boggling speed breakthroughs, what will the future of the Internet look like? How will advances in physics affect computers, networking, encryption, and privacy? Let's look ahead to the Quantum Internet...

4. Slow Internet Sometimes? Here's Why...

An AskBob reader says: 'My Internet connection is usually great, but it seems to slow to a crawl at certain times, for no apparent reason. Is it likely that I have a virus, or are there other possible explanations for the slowdowns?' Yes, several! Read on for my tips on diagnosing a slow Internet connection...

5. Cord-Cutting: Does it Really Cut Costs?

It’s been more than a decade since “cord-cutting” entered our vocabulary. The term refers to consumers who have canceled their cable TV services and rely on Internet streaming video services such as Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Video, Sling, Hulu, over-the-air broadcast TV, or some combination of the above. The promise of cord-cutting was “big savings.” But have those savings materialized? Let's do the math -- read on…

On a related note, if you've cut the cord and you're missing your local broadcast TV stations, Locast may be just the ticket. My article Free Local TV - No Antenna, No Cable, No Problem goes into detail on where and how you can find your local channels via the Web, or with a streaming device connected to your TV.

6. Is Microsoft Edge Taking Over?

A few months ago I awoke to find that my Windows 10 computer had been restarted, and some updates automatically applied. After logging in, I was surprised to see a Microsoft Edge browser window open on my screen. But it looked REALLY similar to the Google Chrome browser I've been using for years. Read on to learn about the updated Microsoft Edge browser, and if you should accept Microsoft's urging to switch...

7. Which People Finders Are Legit?

I first offered tips for “Finding People Online” way back in 2006, and updated that article with “Free People Search Tools” in 2013. Now in 2020, I have news for everyone: it’s getting harder to get free information about people, addresses, and phone numbers. Much harder. But there are some bright spots. Here's the scoop...

8. What (NOT) To Do When Your Credit Card is Stolen

What should you do to protect yourself from fraud or identity theft when your wallet full of credit cards is lost or stolen? There is a bulletin of advice that’s been floating around the Internet for at least 15 years. Purportedly written by an attorney, the copy I received recently is entitled, “ATTORNEY'S ADVICE - NO CHARGE.” Yes, it's free, but is it good advice? Here's the scoop on that, and my best advice for how to handle a lost or stolen credit card…

See also my article Ten Ways to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft for some common sense things you can do to protect against scams, credit card fraud and identity theft.

9. Old, Slow Computer - Upgrade or Buy New?

Do you have an older computer that's struggling to keep up with the latest apps and modern operating systems? Maybe it's bogged down with the weight of cosmic computer crud that's built up over the years. Should you junk it and buy a new one, or upgrade its capabilities? If you can afford only one upgrade, which will give you the most improvement for your money? The answers are highly dependent upon your specific circumstances, but here are my guidelines for making that decision...

On a related note, you may be wondering if adding more memory will speed up your pokey PC. If your laptop or desktop computer is slow or sluggish, the problem MAY be too little RAM (Random Access Memory). But “add more RAM” is not the solution to every case of poor performance, and buying more RAM than you need or can use is just a waste of money. Read on to learn the ins and outs of RAM memory and how much RAM memory is the “sweet spot” is for most computers… See Will Adding Memory Speed Up Your Computer?

10. What Does Google Know About You (and How Can You Delete it)?

Google provides a veritable cornucopia of useful services: search, email, cloud storage, productivity tools, and much more. Most of them are free for personal use, but in the online world, 'free stuff' often comes with a price. Read on and learn what's in your Google history, how to limit what information is collected, and how to delete the rest...

But the story is bigger than Google. The Internet has made it easy for ordinary people to collect enormous amounts of information about nearly any subject; that is indisputably a good thing. However, when it comes to the multi-billion-dollar business of collecting and selling data about other people, that use of the Internet can take a sinister turn. Read on for the scoop on “data brokers" and how they operate, and what they know about you. See Data Brokers: What's in YOUR Dossier?

I promised to tell you about the autonomous dancing robots and flame-throwing drones, so here goes. A Youtube video posted two days ago by robotics firm Boston Dynamics has garnered almost 12 million views. It shows four advanced robots dancing to the song “Do You Love Me?” And another video shows a drone that can shoot a torrent of flames a distance of 25 feet for over a minute.

Trust me, these are real, and not computer animations. I don’t know whether to marvel at the technology or be terrified by these demonstrations. What say you?

I hope you enjoy reading (or re-discovering) each of these stories, and of course, please leave your own comments! I'd also be grateful if you forward this to a friend who would enjoy it. If you're not a subscriber, you can sign up for AskBob Updates. Happy New Year, I'll see you in 2021!

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This article was posted by on 31 Dec 2020

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Most recent comments on "AskBob's Best of 2020 - Part Two"

Posted by:

Alan Miller
31 Dec 2020

RE: Still using Microsoft Office? I took your advice and switched EVERYTHING over to Libre Office. Everything; all my spread sheets, documents, etc... It took 3 days to switch. A week later I got GIGANTIC Windows update. When it was all done ALL my spreadsheets and documents were back to the Windows Office format and I cannot even open Libre Office. Apparently their operating systems will not allow competition. So I wasted 3 days switching everything over. Your advice was (is) not correct.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A Windows update should not affect any of your documents. Nor should it cause a problem with other installed software. Re-installing Libre Office should fix whatever got messed up.

Posted by:

31 Dec 2020

@Alan Miller: Some thoughts:
1. Did you uninstall MS OFFICE after the conversion?

2. Is it possible that the Windows update that ran reassigned the extensions to be opened by MS OFFICE?

The thought behind the 2 questions is that I am curious as to what type of files Windows Explorer thinks your files are? My system sees mine as Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel files since I do use MS OFFICE. I would imagine that your system should see them as some sort of Libre Office file type.



Posted by:

Bernie Amler
31 Dec 2020

I would love to use Locast. But would you believe that it is not available in Charlotte, NC, the 15th largest city in the US.

Posted by:

Sarah L
01 Jan 2021

The dancing robots are okay for robots, but a far cry from watching a musical on stage or seeing the best ballet troupes in action. The robots move on the beat, but people really know how to dance.

Posted by:

Fran Warner
01 Jan 2021

Hi Bob,

I would just like to say "thank you" for all the helpful articles I have had from you over the year..

And also.....HAPPY NEW YEAR 2021


Posted by:

02 Jan 2021

From your other Frances, Happy New Year, and a thank you for all your work.

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