Q: We read in one of your recent columns a recommendation for an ASUS laptop. We have looked through some old columns online but had no luck. Please let us know. We want to get a new laptop and several people have said ASUS were good so we wanted your idea as well.

— Kay and Geoff

A: Actually, I don’t make recommendations for specific products unless I’ve recently done a product comparison, and I haven’t done one recently for laptops.

That said, my rule of thumb is this: Anything you touch personally is, by definition, personal. If you’re going to be spending hours upon hours with your laptop you’d better really like the feel of its keyboard and the look of its screen, since those things can’t be changed on a laptop. In short, whatever brand of laptop you’re interested in, I urge you to go someplace that will give you a hands-on experience with the device.

A second suggestion: Buy up to and just past your comfort level. You can’t add memory or internal storage to laptops and you can’t replace the CPU with a faster processor. So guard against buyer’s remorse by pushing yourself a bit.

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Q: I have Windows 10, and I use Gmail and Google Chrome. Across all my PCs, when I log into Gmail, I get a number of annoying popup ads. How do I get rid of all of these? A few months ago, I deleted and re-installed Google and Gmail on one of PCs, but that didn’t solve the problem. Help?

— Joel Butler

A: If you haven’t done so already, I recommend two steps. First, install an ad-blocking app or switch to a browser that has built-in ad-blocking, such as Opera. If you’re looking for an extension for another browser, you’ll find a handy list on Tom’s Guide.

Second, and very important, I recommend that you install a good anti-malware program. Advertisers — both legitimate advertisers and scammers — are always looking for ways around blocking software, and it’s easy to unknowingly acquire malware that ad-blocking browser extensions can’t block. Anti-malware programs look for, and in many cases are able to identify and block, these kinds of unwelcome apps. Here’s a comparison of the top anti-malware programs on PC Magazine.

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Reader: Just a quick comment regarding reader Tom Donnelly referencing Bank of America not allowing connection via VPN: During a six-week trip through South America last year, I had no problem connecting with Bank of America once I received guidance from my VPN’s tech support on which specific VPN servers to connect to first. Fortunately, my VPN offers hundreds of servers throughout the world, so I had choices.

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The points being:

Sometimes the difficulty in connecting to a website may be for technical, not policy, reasons.

If your VPN offers solid technical support, you may be able to solve the problem with their help.

I do agree that any institution with a flat-out policy against VPN connections is one I won’t do business with (at least not online).

— Walt Henrickson

Marshall: Yes, the better VPN services try to offer servers that haven’t yet been listed as VPN servers by sites that want to block VPNs. The VPN I use – NordVPN – offers several servers that, at first at least, did the trick when I wanted to log into Bank of America. The next time I tried to log in, however, I was blocked. I think it doesn’t take very long for those new servers to get listed as VPN servers and be blocked. It’s like the old game of whack-a-mole.