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Chris Hoffman

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

Android updates don’t matter anywhere near as much as they used to. Most Android devices don’t get timely operating system updates, but Google is updating more and more of the Android operating system in the background.

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What happened to Windows Update in 2013? Quality control seems to be suffering as Microsoft scrambles to update their software faster than ever. They’ve released quite a few buggy and broken Windows Updates this year.

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Microsoft’s Scroogled campaign is wrong about Chromebooks. Chromebooks definitely aren’t for everyone, but they’re not completely useless either. And Chromebooks have more in common with Microsoft’s vision than Microsoft wants to admit.

about 11 months ago - by  |  30 Replies

Valve’s SteamOS is a living-room gaming operating system based on desktop Linux. It’s currently in beta, but you can install it yourself on almost any computer thanks to Ye Olde SteamOSe, a modification of the SteamOS installer.

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Browser plug-ins are on their way out. Apple’s iOS has never supported plug-ins, Flash is long-discontinued for Android, and the new version of IE for Windows 8 doesn’t support most plug-ins. Chrome will soon be blocking traditional NPAPI browser plug-ins.

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Yes, Windows 7 is still available. If you want a new PC and you also want Windows 7, you can probably get it. This is easiest for businesses, but even home users have ways to get Windows 7.

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Some routers have a Wireless isolation, AP Isolation, Station Isolation, or Client Isolation feature that allows you to lock down your Wi-Fi network. This feature is ideal for businesses with public Wi-Fi networks or anyone who’s just a bit paranoid.

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Chromebooks default to the stable version of Chrome without any experimental features enabled. If you’re a geek, you can go out of your way to get the latest features before they roll out to everyone.

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Chromebooks are becoming more and more popular, with recent reports indicating that Chromebooks captured about 10% of all desktop, notebook, and tablet sales in the US in 2013. But how good are Chromebooks, really? Should you buy one, too?

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iPhones and iPads are locked-down devices. You can only install apps Apple has approved, and you can’t tweak the underlying system like you could on a Windows, Mac, or Linux system. Jailbreaking is the act of escaping this figurative “jail.”

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We’ve written about all the different ways cellular carriers are gouging you, from long, expensive contracts to $22,000 bills for roaming data. Believe it or not, some of these terrible practices are actually changing.

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There are a few big problems with using a public Wi-Fi network. The open nature of the network allows for snooping, the network could be full of compromised machines, orĀ  — most worryingly — the hotspot itself could be malicious.

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More and more new devices are using Wi-Fi Direct. Wi-Fi Direct allows two devices to establish a direct, peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connection without requiring a wireless router. Wi-Fi becomes a way of communicating wirelessly, like Bluetooth.

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Macs have voice dictation built-in, allowing you to talk instead of type. This feature functions more like voice dictation on a mobile operating system, and less like the more complicated Speech Recognition feature found in Windows.

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Contrary to all the criticism out there, a Chromebook can be surprisingly useful offline. The key to using a Chromebook offline is preparing ahead of time and ensuring your apps and data will be ready.

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Google’s stock Android often gets a free ride from Android geeks who flock to Nexus and Google Play Edition devices, avoiding devices running Samsung’s TouchWiz, HTC’s Sense, and other manufacturer skins. But stock Android isn’t perfect.

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Browsers are adding features so fast that it’s hard to keep track of them. Internet Explorer offers live tile notifications and taskbar badges, Safari offers push notifications, Chrome has its own notification center, and Ubuntu offers web app notifications.

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Google is now providing integrated parental controls in Chrome, allowing parents to control their kids’ Chrome browser usage. This feature works best on a Chromebook, where it allows you to lock down an entire user account.

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Google is now selling “Google Play Edition” devices alongside its Nexus devices on the Google Play Store website. These devices are versions of popular Android phones and tablets running different software. They seem primarily intended for Android enthusiasts and developers.

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SteamOS, Valve’s living room PC gaming operating system, is basically just a new Linux distribution. It’s based on Debian and provides easy access to a standard Linux desktop complete with a package manager.

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Google removed access to App Ops, the hidden Android app permission manager interface, in Android 4.4.2. App Ops is still present in Android, however — with root access, we can get it back.

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Mobile apps are harvesting entire address books and uploading them to ad servers, tracking users’ movements via GPS, and doing other nasty things. But Android’s permission system doesn’t do enough to help users fight this.

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Do you use Windows, Mac, or Linux applications? Google wants you to replace them with Chrome apps in the future. Google Chrome is now an app platform, complete with a Chrome app launcher for Windows and Mac.

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If you’ve got your hands on Microsoft’s Surface Pro, there are a variety of things you should know. These tricks span everything from hidden keyboard shortcuts and freeing up disk space to using the pen and connecting standard headsets.

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Shopping for a new computer? Don’t pay too much attention to CPU clock speed. “CPU speed” was once an easy, if not completely accurate, way to compare two computers’ performance — just compare the GHz. But not anymore.

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