Recent Comments


Comment by Karen on Try a Free Online Photography Class (November 22, 2022 06:37 PM)
Another great place to find online courses, such as photography is your local library. Their online site probably has access to one or more online lea...
Comment by Norman Rosen on Time to Break Up With Your Phone Company? (November 22, 2022 04:04 PM)
After 20+ years with Verizon, I switched to Ting, the other company Consumer Reports recommends; and I only wish I had switched sooner. I have no comp...
Comment by Nadine on NINE Tips For Online Holiday Shoppers (November 21, 2022 07:48 PM)
What about the coupons that pop up when using Edge browser, I get those all the time when shopping and I've saved money using those. But since you di...
Comment by Lucy on NINE Tips For Online Holiday Shoppers (November 21, 2022 06:39 PM)
Great to have all these options in one spot ... Thank you Bob. We have been successfully using CamelCamelCamel for a while after you recommended it p...
Comment by Allan on NINE Tips For Online Holiday Shoppers (November 21, 2022 06:18 PM)
Any tips for online CHRISTMAS shoppers?...
Comment by James Rowlett on Time to Break Up With Your Phone Company? (November 21, 2022 03:54 PM)
We have been CC customers for years and enjoy the exceptional customer service. We maintain good coverage up and down the east coast having one phone ...
Comment by Peter Oh on [TIPS] Trouble Seeing Your Computer Screen? (November 20, 2022 01:01 PM)
In short that means that about 40% of the general population are "managing" (with some difficulty) to read PC monitors. No surprise here, but only a f...
Comment by Ryan Zelenski on Time to Break Up With Your Phone Company? (November 20, 2022 12:47 AM)
Thank you so much, Bob! I have been a long time reader and enjoyed the august (synonym for “great”) help over the years. Consumer Cellular had th...
Comment by Ryan Zelenski on Time to Break Up With Your Phone Company? (November 20, 2022 12:09 AM)
Thank you so much, Bob! I have been a long time reader and enjoyed the help over the years. Consumer Cellular had the 2nd highest rating with Consuner...
Comment by Keith on Want Safer Internet? Just Add Onions (November 19, 2022 09:12 PM)
I use Duckduckgo to search. I find their privacy ratings for websites to be very revealing. Seeing the personal info that just Youtube collects and se...

Reference Articles

 

[TIPS] Trouble Seeing Your Computer Screen?

Ben Franklin opined that nothing is certain except death and taxes. I would add "aging eyesight" because it affects everyone eventually, diminishing the pleasure and productivity of computing. Various adaptive technologies are available to compensate for loss of visual acuity. Some are built into Windows. But these options all have limitations, and using them in certain combinations can actually make it more difficult to make sense of what’s before your eyes. Read on for a look at Windows display settings and how to use them to best advantage...

...

How to Spot Scams, Hoaxes, Urban Legends

Did you know? Mister Rogers always wore a long-sleeved sweater to hide the tattoos he got as a Marine Corps sniper. AI-powered robots killed 29 Japanese scientists. And yikes... 40 Mexican hackers have infiltrated your Amazon account! Read on to find out how (and why) nonsense like this spreads like wildfire online...

...

My Tech Support House Call

I received a call from a friend, who was seeing random freeze-ups, the dreaded 'Blue Screen' and some other problems on her computer. So I popped in to see what I could do to cure this pestiferous PC. Come along for this tech support house call, and learn the tools and techniques I use to diagnose problems like these...

...

Tech Support Rage: Is It Intentional?

You’ve probably suffered the dreaded agony of calling for “Tech Support” if you own any modern appliance or electronic gadget. Even the most even-tempered human quickly experiences alarming symptoms: sharply increased blood pressure, trembling fingers, reddening face, rising voice, and colorful language. Is it possible that tech support services are in fact *designed* to elicit such a response from you? Read on for the full story...

...

Here's Your Summer Reading List - Free Ebooks

For centuries, libraries have offered access to the printed wisdom (and folly) of humanity, but only to “authorized personnel” in the beginning. Most people had to travel and pay for books, and that was hard on budgets. But now the Internet makes available more good books, old and new, than one person can read in a lifetime. Ready to curl up in your favorite chair (or at the beach) with a good page turner? Here are some places where you can find quality reads free of charge...

...

What Happens to Your Data When You Die?

Benjamin Franklin famously said that nothing is certain except death and taxes. Sooner or later, we'll all kick the bucket, cash in our chips, or shed the mortal coil. Sure, you may have a will, but what happens to your digital assets – your data and online accounts? That's where digital estate planning comes into play. Think of it as having a backup plan to give those left behind, so they can access your data. Here’s what you need to know…

...

How to Search the Deep (and Dark) Web

You may have heard that the “Dark Web” is a place where criminals, terrorists, and hackers conspire to victimize unwitting Internet users. The reality is a bit more nuanced and not so scary. There is a “Deep Web” that you can't access with ordinary search engines, and a “Dark Web” where people lurk anonymously for both good and evil purposes. What's really out there? Read on...

...

Desperately Seeking Something? Try These Free Research Tools

Depending on your needs, the Web can be a gold mine, a cesspool, or both. So how can you find answers to your questions, and the helpful, authoritative information you need? Check out my list of the best free online reference and research tools. I promise, no April Fool's tricks in this issue!

...

It's Time For Fun With Words!

It's common knowledge that Nail-Biting Refreshes The Feet. Oops! I meant to say that 'The Best Things In Life Are Free'. How did that come out so wrong? I must have had my brain hooked up to that anagram generator too long. Read on for a batch of fun links that will help you improve your vocabulary, win at word games, and impress your friends. Ready, set, go!

...

Will This App Get Your Traffic Ticket Dismissed?

Getting a parking or traffic ticket is a nuisance, but a citation for speeding, running a stop sign, or driving while yakking it up on your cell phone can cost you big bucks. Most drivers just pay the fine because they don't understand the legal process. But there are some apps that can help you fight and win. Check out these apps and learn how you can use a bit of cyber to fight your ticket…

...

[GADGETS] Best of CES 2022

The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is where tech giants and startups converge to hype what they’re planning to release within the next year (or so). While few of these products or services are actually available right now, they do serve to illustrate where the tech world is going, and in some cases, where it has gone astray. Let's take a look at the highlights of CES 2022...

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AskBob's Best of 2021 - Part Two

Did you see Part One of my “Best of 2021” series? Today, I've got another group of ten very popular AskBob articles for you. These have been selected with help from Astro the robodog, excerpts from high-profile data breaches, input from clandestine 5G cellular towers, 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.

...

AskBob's Best of 2021 - Part One

I want express my sincere THANKS to YOU and the 129,688 others who have subscribed to the AskBob newsletter since 2005. I celebrated the 16th anniversary of this newsletter, and there are over 3000 articles here now. Many of you are regular readers and contribute comments, which I love. And since I love numbers almost as much as words, I asked my robot to scan the server logs to find the most popular articles of the year. Here are ten of the top articles for you to review. I hope you'll check out each one, leave your own comments, forward this to a friend, and tell them to sign up for more...

...

Search Tools For the Deep (and Dark) Web

The “Dark Web” is sometimes portrayed as a place where criminals, terrorists, hackers, and spammers conspire to victimize unwitting Internet users. The reality is a bit more nuanced and not so scary. There is a “Deep Web” that you can't access with ordinary search engines, and a “Dark Web” where people lurk anonymously for both good and evil purposes. What's really out there? Read on...

...

[MUST READ] The Fascinating History of the Internet

The history of computers and the story of how the Internet came about are fascinating subjects to me. After doing some reading and research on early computers and Internet history, I'm offering up my commentary and some excellent links that you can explore to learn more at your leisure. I think you'll find it interesting, read on...

...

How Does The Internet Work? (Bob Explains...)

In today's world of ubiquitous online access, it's easy to take the Internet for granted, using it as naturally as we use electricity or water. But when you peek under the hood to see what’s really going on out there 'on the net' or 'in the cloud,' you’ll find an elegantly simple yet infinitely complex system. Read on for a layman's explanation of how it all works...

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It’s Getting Harder to Find a People Finder

A good man is hard to find, or so the saying goes. 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 2021, I have to say it’s getting harder to find free information about people and places. If you’re looking for a name, address or phone number, I have some tips on websites you should avoid, and some that actually do what they say, for free. Here's the scoop…

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A Look INSIDE Your Computer (no tools required)

Do you know every component inside your PC? Most people don’t, and most of the time they don’t need to know. But there are occasions when a detailed inventory of a PC’s components comes in handy. Read on to learn some surprising reasons why you SHOULD know what's under the hood of your computer, even if you're not a techie. And also, some software tools that will let you “x-ray” your PC, so you can see what's inside without touching a screwdriver. Read on...

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9 Computer Facts That Are Not True

Did you know? At midnight on March 31st, the Internet will be shut down for 24 hours for the annual Spring Cyber Cleaning? Read on to get the scoop on this, and other dubious “facts” about computers and the Internet...

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Do You Have a Digital Will?

I’m sure you’ve heard the old cliche about death and taxes. Sooner or later, we'll all kick the bucket, cash in our chips, or shed the mortal coil. Sure, you have a will, but what happens to your digital assets – your data and online accounts? That's where digital estate planning comes into play. Think of it as having a backup plan to give those left behind, so they can access your data. Here’s what you need to know…

...

AskBob's Best of 2020 - Part Two

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...

...

AskBob's Best of 2020 - Part One

I want express my sincere THANKS to YOU and the 42,366 others who made the AskBob website a busy place in 2020! I celebrated the 15th anniversary of this newsletter, and there are almost 3000 articles here now. Many of you are regular readers and contribute comments, which I love. And since I love numbers almost as much as words, I asked my robot to scan the server logs to find the most popular articles of the year. Here are ten of the top articles for you to review. I hope you'll read each one, leave your own comments, forward this to a friend, and tell them to sign up for more…

...

HOWTO: Searching the Deep Web and the Dark Web

Perhaps you’ve heard scary stories in the news about the “Dark Web” where criminals, terrorists, hackers, and spammers conspire to victimize unwitting Internet users. The reality is a bit more balanced and not so scary. There is a “Deep Web” that you can't access with ordinary search engines, and a “Dark Web” where people lurk anonymously for both good and evil purposes. Read on…

...

Do You Have Tech Support Rage?

If you own any modern appliance or electronic gadget, you’ve probably suffered the dreaded agony of calling for “Tech Support.” Even the most even-tempered human quickly experiences alarming symptoms: sharply increased blood pressure, trembling fingers, reddening face, rising voice, and colorful language. Is it possible that tech support services are in fact *designed* to elicit such a response from you? Read on for the full story…

...

[SUMMER READING] Millions of Free Ebooks

Since the days of the Pharaohs, libraries have offered access to the printed wisdom (and folly) of humanity, but only to “authorized personnel” in the beginning. Most people had to travel and pay for books, and that was hard on budgets. But now the Internet makes available more good books, old and new, than one person can read in a lifetime. Here are a few examples of where you can find quality reads free of charge...

...

Trouble Seeing Your Computer Screen? Here's Help

Aging eyesight affects everyone eventually, diminishing the pleasure and productivity of computing. Various adaptive technologies are available to compensate for loss of visual acuity. Some are built into Windows. But these options all have limitations, and using them in certain combinations can actually make it more difficult to make sense of what’s before your eyes. Read on for a look at Windows’ display settings and how to use them to best advantage...

...

What's Inside the Wayback Machine?

The Internet Archive... is it a massive collection of electrons, or a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide "universal access to all knowledge”? Actually, it's both. As part of their mission, the Internet Archive has been crawling the Web for over 20 years, making copies of Web pages and preserving them for posterity. Today, approximately 440 billion Web pages, 25 million books, millions of images, audio recordings, and video, along with 550,000 games and software programs are stored on the IA’s servers. Read on to learn how you can access this amazing resource that offers a window into both the history and the present of the Internet...

...

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...

...

Ready for Some Fun With Words?

Everyone knows that Nail-Biting Refreshes The Feet. Oops! I meant to say that 'The Best Things In Life Are Free'. How did that come out so wrong? I must have had my brain hooked up to that anagram generator too long. Read on for a batch of fun links to websites that will help you improve your vocabulary, win at word games, and impress your friends. Ready, set, go!

...

Some Fascinating History of the Internet

The history of computing and the story of how the Internet was invented are fascinating subjects to me. After doing some reading and research on early computers and Internet history, I've put together some excellent links that you can explore to learn more at your leisure...

...

AskBob's Best of 2019 - Part Two

Yesterday I published Part One of my Best of 2019. Today, I've got another batch of ten very popular AskBob articles for you. These have been selected using input from autonomous robots, high-profile data breaches, surveillance drones, and machine learning software that I 'borrowed' from a secret underground laboratory. I might 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.

...

AskBob's Best of 2019 - Part One

I want express my sincere THANKS to YOU and the 42,366 others who made the AskBob website a busy place in 2019! I celebrated the 14th anniversary of this newsletter, and there are over 2700 articles here now. Many of you are regular readers and contribute comments, which I love. And since I love numbers almost as much as words, I asked my robot to scan the server logs to find the most popular articles of the year. Here are ten of the top articles for you to review. I hope you'll read each one, leave your own comments, forward this to a friend, and tell them to sign up for more...

...

Deep Web, Dark Web: What's Out There?

Every so often, you'll hear a scary story in the news about the spooky, dangerous “Dark Web” where criminals, terrorists, hackers, and spammers conspire to victimize unwitting Internet users. The reality is a bit more balanced and not so scary. There is a “Deep Web” that you can't access with ordinary search engines, and a “Dark Web” where people lurk anonymously for both good and evil purposes. Read on...

...

Here's How: Reverse Directory Lookups

How can you locate a person or business if all you know about them is a phone number, street address, or email address? What if all you have is a photo? This type of search is called a reverse directory search. Learn about the free and fee-based reverse search tools you can find online...

...

Should You Buy Prescription Eyeglasses Online?

Online opticians claim they can save you “up to 70%” on prescription eyeglasses. Some even advertise free lenses. The savings sound tempting, but is it wise to buy online something that is so complex, subjective, and critical as eyeglasses? Read on...

...

Can This App Get Your Traffic Ticket Dismissed?

Parking and traffic tickets are a nuisance, but a citation for speeding, running a stop sign, or driving while yakking it up on your cell phone can cost you big bucks. Most drivers just pay the fine because they don't understand the legal process. But there are some apps that can help you fight and win. Check out these apps and learn how you can use a bit of cyber to fight your ticket...

...

ASCII Artwork - An Internet Treasure

Long before the graphical Web was invented, people were creating computer images that required no special hardware or software to view. ASCII art is composed only of plain text characters, and can be sent by e-mail without attachments. Take a stroll into Internet history, enjoy some ASCII art, and learn how to make your own...

...

You Can't Take it With You (Digital Estate Planning)

Everyone knows the old cliche about death and taxes. Sooner or later, we'll all kick the bucket, buy the farm, or shed the mortal coil. But when you go, what will happen to your data and online accounts? That's where digital estate planning comes into play. Think of it as having a backup plan to give those left behind access to your data. Here’s what you need to know...

...

[README] Is the Public Library Obsolete?

Local governments are under pressure to cut every unnecessary expense they can, even funding to public libraries. With the vast amount of information available through the Internet, most of it free, it seems that libraries (and paper books) are superfluous relics of a long-gone, offline era. Indeed, Americans report in surveys that they are using libraries less and less. But is that really accurate? Read on...

...

The Internet Archive and Wayback Machine

The Internet Archive is either one MASSIVE collection of electrons, or a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide "universal access to all knowledge.” Or both. As part of their mission, the Internet Archive has been crawling the Web for over 20 years, making copies of Web pages and preserving them for posterity. Today, approximately 360 billion Web pages, 20 million books, millions of images, audio recordings, and video, and 200,000 software programs are stored on the IA’s servers. Read on to learn how you can access this amazing resource that offers a window into both the history and the present of the Internet...

...

[BUSTED!] Scams, Hoaxes, Urban Legends

Have you heard? Mark Zuckerberg is giving millions of dollars to Facebook users who repost an announcement of the giveaway. Joel Osteen is charging $25 for prayer requests. Mr. Rogers always wore a long-sleeved sweater to hide the tattoos he got as a Marine Corps sniper. And McDonald’s is now offering a meatless McPickle sandwich. Read on to find out how (and why) nonsense like this spreads like wildfire online...

...

AskBob's Best of 2018 - Part Two

On Wednesday I published Part One of my Best of 2018. Today, I've got another batch of ten very popular AskBob articles for you. These have been selected using input from autonomous robots, surveillance drones, artificially intelligent monkeys, eye-tracking devices, and machine learning software that I stole from a secret underground laboratory. I hope you'll read each one, leave your own comments, and share them with your Email, Facebook and Twitter friends.

...

AskBob's Best of 2018 - Part One

I want express my sincere THANKS to you and the 42,365 others who made the AskBob website a busy place in 2018! I celebrated the 13th anniversary of this newsletter, and there are over 2500 articles here now. Many of you are regular readers and contribute comments, which I love. And since I love numbers almost as much as words, I asked my robot to scan the server logs to find the most popular articles of the year. Here are ten of the top articles for you to review. I hope you'll read each one, leave your own comments, forward this to a friend, and tell them to sign up for more...

...

[HOWTO] Save Money on Ride-Sharing

My geeky readers are undoubtedly familiar with the perpetual struggle between microprocessor leaders Intel and AMD. Intel is the dominant force, while scrappy but much smaller AMD keeps the big guy on his toes. A similar dynamic exists between Uber and Lyft, which between them control practically all of the ride-sharing market. The lopsided competition between the two giants is beneficial for consumers. Here's how it can work in your favor...

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[HOWTO] Genealogy Research Online

Are you interested in researching your relatives and ancestors, or creating a family tree? Are you looking for good software or websites where you can do genealogy research?' You've come to the right place! Read on for some of the best online genealogy tools...

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[ALERT] Fake Tech Support Scammers Are Calling

Have you received an unexpected phone call from someone claiming to be a helpful customer service rep for Microsoft? It happened to me yesterday, twice! Many others are receiving calls from scammers posing as tech support reps, warning that their computers are infected with malware and offering help to fix the purported problem. Read to see how I handled the situation, and what you should watch out for...

...

AskBob's Best of 2017 - Part Two

Yesterday I published Part One of my Best of 2017. Today, I've got another batch of ten very popular articles, which have been selected using input from drones, robots, trained monkeys, eye-tracking and the latest fake artificial intelligence technology. I hope you'll read each one, leave your own comments, and share them with your Email, Facebook and Twitter friends.

...

AskBob's Best of 2017 - Part One

I want to send a big THANKS to the 42,000+ readers who made the AskBob website a busy place in 2017! I celebrated the 12th anniversary of this newsletter, and there are almost 2500 articles here now. Many of you are regular readers and contribute comments, which I love. And since I love numbers almost as much as words, I asked my robot to scan the server logs to find the most popular articles of the year. Here are ten of the top articles for you to review. I hope you'll read each one, leave your own comments, forward this to a friend, and tell them to sign up for more...

...

[FIN] Is This the End of Siri and Alexa?

I recently came across an announcement of a new app that promised to be the future of intelligent assistant systems, combining both artificial and human intelligence to deliver a full human-equivalent digital assistant service. Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant would be obsolete. But as I dug into the details, I discovered that this “Fin" seems to be attached to a shark. Read on for the scoop...

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How To Spot Fake News

It’s getting harder to tell what’s true and false on the Internet, in social media, email, and on web sites. There are many con artists out there, and they become ever more sophisticated in their efforts to manipulate your perceptions, opinions, and most of all, your behavior. Here are some tips to help you tell truth from fiction, and avoid becoming someone’s puppet...

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Fake News and Fake Photos

Social media of all kinds - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. - is rife with disinformation spread by people with ulterior motives. It’s a huge problem; you never know if what you’re looking at is real or fake. Many users react emotionally to provocative fake photos and posts, sharing and commenting on them, perpetuating the false impressions and outright lies. Read on for my tips on spotting a fake photo...

...

What's in The Deep, Dark Web?

Every so often, the media likes to tell us a scary story about the spooky, dangerous “Dark Web” where criminals, terrorists, hackers, and spammers conspire to victimize all of us. The reality is a bit more balanced and not so scary. There is a “Deep Web” that you can't access with ordinary search engines, and a “Dark Web” where people lurk anonymously for both good and evil purposes. Read on...

...

What's in the 2017 Internet Trends Report?

Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report is billed as the most eagerly anticipated slide show of the year. Meeker, a partner in venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, outdid herself with her 2017 report, which spans 355 slides. Let’s see what online trends are most relevant to you...

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[ROOTS] Genealogy Research Online


A reader asks: 'I have recently become interested in researching my relatives and ancestors, and creating a family tree. Can you recommend any good software or websites where I can do genealogy research?' Well, yes! Read on for some of the best online genealogy tools...

...

Scams, Hoaxes, Urban Legends and Their Busters

Guess what? Mark Zuckerberg is giving millions of dollars to Facebook users who repost an announcement of the giveaway. Bill Gates is giving $5,000 to every Facebook user who shares a link. Mr. Rogers always wore a long-sleeved sweater to hide the tattoos he got as a Marine Corps sniper. And Amazon's new Petlexa can understand your pet's bark or meow, and place orders for what they want. Read on to find out how (and why) nonsense like this spreads like wildfire online...

...

TEN Common Computing Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Sorry if this sounds unsympathetic, but most computer problems are caused by users. There are a few basic steps you can take to avoid malware infections, data loss, and performance issues. Too often, people try to save time or money by cutting corners, and they end up paying the price. Check out my list of common computing mistakes, and how to fix (or even better, avoid) them. Read on...

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The Future of Tech (and Gadgets)

The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is where the immediate future is unveiled. Tech companies large and small show off the innovations and fads they hope to sell to us during the coming year. While there are thousands of new products to be seen at CES, some are more newsworthy than others. Here are some of my favorites…

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2016 Biggest Tech Flops

The year 2016 was full of failure. In politics, pollsters wildly misread voters in the UK and the USA. And in the tech world, there were many unpredictable (or at least unfortunate) events as well. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most impressive technology failures of 2016...

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AskBob's Best of 2016 - Part Two

Yesterday I published Part One of my Best of 2016. Today, I've got another batch of ten very popular articles, which have been selected using input from drones, robots, trained monkeys, eye-tracking and the latest fake artificial intelligence technology. I hope you'll read each one, leave your own comments, and share them with your Email, Facebook and Twitter friends.

...

AskBob's Best of 2016 - Part One

I want to send a big THANKS to the 40,000+ readers who made the AskBob website a busy place in 2016! I celebrated the 11th anniversary of this newsletter, and there are almost 2000 articles here now. Many of you contribute your own comments, which I love. Since I'm a numbers guy, I asked my robot to scan the server logs to find the most popular articles. Here are ten of the top articles for you to review. I hope you'll read each one, leave your own comments, and forward this to a friend...

...

[WOW] Millions of Free Ebooks

Since the days of the Egyptian pharaohs, libraries have offered access to the printed wisdom and folly of humanity, but only to “authorized personnel” in the beginning. Most people had to travel and pay for books, and that was hard on budgets. But now the Internet makes available more good books, old and new, than one person can read in a lifetime. Here are a few examples of where you can find quality reads free of charge...

...

[Grrr...] Is Tech Support Designed to Enrage You?

Most of us have suffered the dreaded agony of calling “Tech Support.” Even the most even-tempered human quickly experiences alarming symptoms: sharply increased blood pressure, trembling fingers, reddening face, rising voice, and use of shocking parts of one’s vocabulary. Is it possible that tech support services are in fact *designed* to elicit such a response from you? Read on for the full story...

...

[READ] Are Public Libraries Obsolete?

State and local governments are under pressure to cut every unnecessary expense they can, even funding to public libraries. With the vast amount of information available through the Internet, most of it free, it seems that libraries are superfluous relics of a long-gone, offline era. Indeed, Americans report in surveys that they are using libraries less and less. But is that really accurate? Read on...

...

[RIP] Digital Estate Planning

It’s been more than three years since I last wrote about digital estate planning. At that time, “What will happen to your online accounts, photos, emails, and other digital assets when you die?” was a much-overlooked question. Today, it’s become a part of mainstream estate planning, and it’s even expanded into end-of-life decisionmaking. Here's what you need to know...

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AskBob's Best of 2015 - Part Two

Yesterday I published Part One of my Best of 2015. Today, I've got another batch of ten very popular articles, which have been selected using input from drones, robots, trained monkeys, eye-tracking and the latest fake artificial intelligence technology. I hope you'll read each one, leave your own comments, and share them with your Email, Facebook and Twitter friends.

...

AskBob's Best of 2015 - Part One

I want to send a big THANKS to the 40,000+ readers who made the AskBob website a busy place in 2015! I celebrated the 10th anniversary of this newsletter, and there are over 1700 articles here now. Many of you contribute your own comments, which I love. Since I'm a numbers guy, I asked my robot to scan the server logs to find the most popular articles. Here are ten of the top articles for you to review. I hope you'll read each one, leave your own comments, and forward this to a friend...

...

Biggest Tech Flops of 2015

The tech world is filled with promises. “Your life will be easier, cooler, and more fun. Your personal productivity will soar.” Blah, blah, and so on... Sometimes these promises pan out, and sometimes the best-laid plans of mice and men go awry. And that's what we'll be looking at in today's article...

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Can An App Get Traffic Tickets Dismissed?

Parking tickets are a nuisance, but a citation for speeding, running a stop sign, or driving while yakking it up on your cell phone can cost you big bucks. Most drivers just pay the fine because they don't understand the legal process. But there are some apps that can help you fight and win...

...

Who is Number One in Global Internet Speed?

The United States may have invented the Internet, but we are not even in the top 10 when it comes to data speeds. Can you guess which countries (and states in the USA) have the fastest Internet access speeds? Should you move? Read on to how how they stack up…

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Geekly Update - 04 February 2015

Does Bill Gates know the precise date when robots will take over the world? Is it now illegal to share your Netflix password with a friend? And will your wireless carrier be sending you a check for $40 million? Get answers to these burning questions, and the scoop on the latest tech news, in this edition of the Geekly Update. It's guaranteed to make you 146% smarter. Read, think and comment!

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AskBob's Best of 2014 - Part Two

Yesterday I published Part One of my Best of 2014. Today, I've got another batch of ten very popular articles, which have been selected using input from drones, robots, bio-feedback, eye-tracking and a secret gadget that I use to monitor the NSA. (Shhh!) I hope you'll read each one, leave your own comments, and share them with your Email, Facebook and Twitter friends.

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AskBob's Best of 2014 - Part One

I want to send a big THANKS to the 41,000 readers who made the AskBob website a busy place in 2014! Over 250 new articles were published this year, and many of you contributed your own comments. Since I'm a numbers guy, I asked my robot to scan the logs to find the most popular articles, based on your views, clicks, and recommendations. Here are ten of the top articles for you to review. I hope you'll read each one, leave your own comments, and forward this to a friend...

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Amazon Versus Angie?

Amazon Local Services debuted recently, allowing customers to purchase contractor services for setup, installation, and repair work. In contrast to the huge noises it makes about smartphones, tablets and Kindle ebook readers, Amazon has been quite circumspect about easing into the local service professional business, which puts them in direct competition with Angie's List and other players. Read on for the full story...

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Your Computer's Two Worst Enemies

Heat is the deadly enemy of the sensitive electronics inside of your computer. Dust and other debris that gets inside of your computer is the biggest cause of overheating and other malfunctions. Read on to learn the three most important places that need regular cleaning, to keep your desktop or laptop running in top form...

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Where is the Internet Fastest?

Are you getting the Internet speeds you’re paying for? How does your state or country stack up against others in terms of average Internet speeds? These are just two of many questions answered by Akamai’s State of the Internet Report for the first quarter of 2014. Read on...

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HOWTO: Get Free College Textbooks

Tution and fees inflict most of the pain of college costs, but the price of textbooks is especially galling to students and parents. Textbooks are notoriously expensive, and often are useful for only one semester. But a consortium of educators is making high-quality college textbooks available in free, open-source forms. Here's where to find them...

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Which e-Book Reader Should You Buy?

Amazon has a big hit in the Kindle Paperwhite e-reader. There’s a lot to like about this portable, single-purpose device that does its job so well. But there are other excellent alternatives available. Read on to see how they compare...

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Amazon's Kindle Unlimited: Netflix for Books?

Apparently, someone in Amazon’s product development department subscribes to my newsletter. Just two weeks after my review of Scribd, Amazon came out with Kindle Unlimited, their Scribd-killing 'all-you-can-eat' ebook offering. Here's the scoop...

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Is Scribd for Dummies?

Publisher John Wiley & Sons is making its inexplicably popular “For Dummies” series of how-to books available through Scribd, which is a good reason to answer the questions, “What the heck is Scribd?” and “Will it make me smarter?” Read on for answers!

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You, Google and the Future

Google’s grand vision for your connected life was revealed in great detail during the company’s annual developers conference, Google I/O, held during the last week of June. Like some people’s Facebook relationship status, “it’s complicated.” Read on to learn what you can expect from Google in the future…

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Internet Trends and Predictions for 2014

Every year, the entire tech industry stops what it’s doing and listens for an hour to Internet analyst Mary Meeker’s presentation of the most important trends shaping the future. Following are my picks of the most important prognostications. Read on...

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Net Neutrality - Why Should You Care?

On January 14, 2014, a U.S. federal appeals court struck down the FCC’s Net Neutrality directive. The essence of Net Neutrality is that Internet service providers should not be allowed to speed up, slow down or block certain types of Internet traffic. That sounds commendable, so why did the Court say no? Let's take a deeper look...

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Brother Can You Spare a Few Electrons?

I love my job. Every day, I get to help people use computers and the Internet, answering their questions and pointing them to resources that will save them time or money. I especially love it when readers become friends and people tell me that they're using what they've learned here to help others. It's very satisfying, but there is one favor I'd like to ask of you, on this last day of 2013...

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AskBob's Best of 2013 - Part Two

Here's the second half of my Best of 2013, the most popular AskBobRankin articles fom the past year. I scoured my logs to find the ones that generated the most interest from YOU -- based on your views, clicks, comments and recommendations. Here's another batch of ten top articles for you to review. I hope you'll read each one, leave your own comments, and use the Share buttons to smarten up your Email, Facebook and Twitter friends. :-)

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AskBob's Best of 2013 - Part One

The AskBob website was a busy place in 2013 -- over 250 new articles were published this year, and readers streamed in from all over the world. Since I'm a numbers guy, I scanned the logs to find the most popular articles, based on your views, clicks, and recommendations. Here are ten of the top articles for you to review. I hope you'll read each one and leave your own comments...

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Plausible Denial of Terms of Service?

Maybe that's mixing too many metaphors, but it sounded more fun than 'Hackers Dictionary' or 'Dark Deeds Defined.' Anyway, when we discuss the issues surrounding all the bad stuff that bad guys do online, and the good stuff that the good guys do to keep things running smoothly, we run into a bunch of jargon. And even if you're just an ordinary user, you should be familiar with these terms and their definitions. At the very least, you'll sound smarter at your next social gathering...

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Where to Find Free eBooks

Since the days of the Pharaohs, libraries have offered access to the printed wisdom and folly of humanity, but only to “authorized personnel” in the beginning. Most people had to pay for books, and that was hard on budgets. But now the Internet makes available more good books, old and new, than one person can read in a lifetime. Here are a few examples of where you can find quality reads free of charge...

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Free People Search Tools

A reader asks: 'I'm trying to find some friends from high school, but so far all my searches have come up empty. Can you suggest any clever (and free) ways to find a person's address, phone number or other contact information online? I've seen paid people search tools, but I'm not sure they are legit.' Read on for my tips on finding people and businesses online...

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Reverse Mobile Phone Number Search

A reader asks: 'Sometimes a phone number pops up on my phone's caller-ID that I don't recognize. I let it go to voicemail, but usually there is no message. When I call, there's no answer. An online search tells me only that it's a cell phone. How can I find out who owns this number?'

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ALERT: Internet Taxes Due Today!

Just in case you weren't aware, the United Nations recently approved a series of new Internet Taxes on all users, effective April 1, 2013. Read on to find out how much you'll owe, based on your Internet usage...

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VICTORY: You Can Sell Your Stuff!

The little guy won big in a U. S. Supreme Court decision this week, which affirmed the right to resell a legally purchased item. That's right... you almost lost the right to sell (or give away) a used item at your own yard sale. Read on to learn the incredible story behind this ruling, and why you still need to be vigilant...

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Free Online Job Search Tools

The talking heads on TV tell us the recession is over, but millions remain unemployed, under-employed or have dropped out of the work force in frustration. Competition for available jobs is fierce. But there are some excellent online tools to help with your job search. Whether you're looking for part-time or full-time work, try these tips and tools to help locate job opportunities that match your skills and experience...

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AskBob's Best of 2012 - Part Two

Here's the second half of my Best of 2012, the most popular AskBobRankin articles fom the past year. I scoured my logs to find the ones that generated the most interest from YOU -- based on your views, clicks, comments and recommendations. Here's another batch of ten top articles for you to review. I hope you'll read each one, leave your own comments, and use the Share buttons to smarten up your Email, Facebook and Twitter friends. :-)

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AskBob's Best of 2012 - Part One

The AskBob website was a busy place in 2012 -- over 240 new articles were published this year, and readers streamed in from all over the world. Since I'm a numbers guy, I scanned the logs to find the most popular articles, based on your views, clicks, and recommendations. Here are ten of the top articles for you to review. I hope you'll read each one and leave your own comments...

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Twelve Online Tools for Savvy Consumers

The Internet is a fantastic resource for consumers, because an abundance of information helps to level the playing field for buyers and foster competition among the sellers. Here are a dozen online tools to help you save money on financial services and consumer products...

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Do You Have a Digital Estate Plan?

What will happen to your email, Facebook, iTunes and Amazon accounts if you die? It’s an uncomfortable question, but leaving it unanswered can be vastly more distressing and costly for your loved ones who survive you. Here are some tips on setting up a digital estate plan...

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Five Free Online Survey Tools

A reader asks: 'I want to do a survey of visitors to my website. I need basic demographics, some multiple choice questions, and the ability to generate reports. Oh, and free is nice! What tool do you recommend?' Read on for my roundup of free online tools that let you create your own surveys...

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Twenty Questions - Part Deux

Last week I announced the results of the Ebook Survey, and I've already started work on the next title: Everything You Need to Know About Internet Security and Privacy. And as promised, I've got another list of twenty questions that you asked in the write-in section of the survey. I found it interesting that many of them deal with ways to save money, or free online services. Read on to see how many YOU can answer...

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Survey Results and Twenty Questions

I want to thank everyone who took the Ebook Survey last week -- we had over 1200 responses! I've tallied up the results, and have compiled some of the most interesting write-in comments. Read on to see the ebook survey results, and find out if you know the answers to my Twenty Questions...

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AskBob's Best of 2011 - Part Two

Here's the second half of my Best of 2011, the most popular AskBobRankin articles fom the past year. I scoured my logs to find the ones that generated the most interest from YOU -- based on your views, clicks, comments and recommendations. Here's another batch of ten top articles for you to review. I hope you'll read each one, leave your own comments, and use the Share buttons to smarten up your Email, Facebook and Twitter friends. :-)

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AskBob's Best of 2011 - Part One

The AskBob website was a busy place in 2011 -- over 340 new articles were published this year, pushing the total number to over 1100! Readers streamed in from all over the world, and since I'm a numbers guy, I scanned the server logs to find the most popular articles, based on your clicks, views and recommendations. Here are ten of the top articles for you to review. I hope you'll read each one and leave your own comments...

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Fun With Words

Everyone knows that Nail-Biting Refreshes The Feet. Oops! I meant to say that The Best Things In Life Are Free. How did that come out so wrong? I must have had my brain hooked up to that anagram generator too long...

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Work at Home Online

Many people dream of working at home online, and today many people are enticed by economic misfortune to do so. A few find new, rewarding, relaxed careers working at home online. But all too many fall victim to numerous make $1000 a week working at home online scams. Be careful that you don't fall for one of these...

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Online Converters

How many acres are there in 124 hectares of land? The answer might not have mattered often in the past, but today's global economy often requires conversion of measurement units from one country, culture or discpline into another's. Here's the scoop on the best online conversion tools...

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Is Stamps.com a Scam?

I hear radio ads for Stamps.com, promising the ability to print postage stamps at home, and $100 in bonuses. Is Stamps.com internet postage legit, or a scam?

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What is Google Books?

You may have heard that Google is trying to steal all the books ever written. You may also have heard that Google is going to give away all the books ever written. Is there any truth to either one of these rumors? Read on to find out...

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Is Internet Speedway a Scam?

I've heard those radio commercials for Internet Speedway saying 'Make thousands of dollars a week with your own Internet business.' It sounds too good to be true... so is Internet Speedway a scam?

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The Top Twenty

Every night a friendly robot looks through the Ask Bob logs to see which articles were the most popular over the past week. Here are the current Top Twenty, ranked by readership volume. If you missed any of these, take a few minutes to read and comment!

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Online Health Records

Recently, a few organizations have begun offering an alternative to paper documentation of health records. Would you trust your personal health records to an online company?

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Free Online Translations

I have a site that attracts visitors from all over the world, so I often get emails in Spanish, French, and German language. Sometimes even Russian and Japanese! Is there a tool that will help me translate to English? I also want to write back in their own language, so I'd need to translate from English to Spanish, and other languages.

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Maps and Driving Directions

Thanks to online maps, there's no excuse for getting lost on the Internet. These excellent online mapping tools will get you from one place to another, and some are interactive. The new breed of online maps are aware of businesses, attractions, topography, and even traffic conditions along the way. Other online maps combine geography with fun, learning and social networking. Check out some of the best new online mapping tools here...

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Medical Advice Online

There's a lot of medical information online, but I'm not sure what to trust. Where can I go to learn more about various drugs and medical conditions? I want information from real doctors, not some guy selling miracle cures.

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Senior Citizens Online

I'm a long-time computer user, almost 80 years young, but I'm no expert at Internet searching. Can you point me to some sites that are especially useful to senior citizens?

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Cancel Your Credit Card

My wallet was feeling a little too heavy, and it wasn't because of all the money stuffed in there. So I decided to lighten my load and cancel a credit card that I hadn't been using. Here's a great little shortcut I learned that might help you, too...

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Passports Online

If you are a U.S. citizen and plan to travel outside the United States, you'll most likely need a passport. Recently I found this out the hard way. I arrived at Newark airport bound for Jamaica, and ended up in Phoenix Arizona the next day...

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Eat Your Cookies

I often get mail from people who misunderstand or fear browser cookies, so I've written a a guide that tells you everything need to know about these tasty little critters. Read on for a closer look at the good, the bad, and the crumbly aspects of web browser cookies.

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Dictionary of Computer Terms?

I'm wondering if there is a 'definitions' website that provides free definitions for people who do not know what every little computer term means. I consider myself something of a computer geek and I am the basic 'go to' in my company, but I have almost no knowledge of the technical aspects of computerdom. I just want a site where I can find a simple definition of a computer terms and how it pertains to what I am doing right now.

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