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+.

The first big update to Windows 10, which should be arriving today via Windows Update, fixes a lot of problems with Windows 10. Microsoft is streamlining activation, restoring colored window title bars, integrating Skype, and improving the Edge browser. But they’ve also added advertisements to the Start menu.

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Windows 10’s Start menu — or Start screen, in tablet mode — allows you to “pin” more than just apps. You can pin folders, websites, settings shortcuts, email folder, notes, and contacts.

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Wireless charging is overrated — at least in its current form. The dream of wireless power sounds great, but current wireless charging technologies are more “plugless” than “wireless.” They’re also less convenient, slower, and less-efficient than just plugging your phone in.

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Want to update your computer’s hardware drivers? Don’t use driver-update utilities. Avoid bad freeware-download sites, too. Get your driver updates from Windows Update or your device manufacturer’s website.

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Google’s new YouTube Gaming and Google Play Games apps allow you to record your Android device’s screen and create screencasts. They’re designed for recording mobile games while you play them, but you can use them to record any app.

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Amazon’s Fire tablets run Amazon’s own “Fire OS” operating system. Fire OS is based on Google’s Android, but it doesn’t have any of Google’s apps or services. Here’s what that means, and how exactly they’re different.

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Wouldn’t it be great to have a smart TV? Well, not really. Smart TVs have a lot of problems. If you do have a smart TV, you’d be better off combining it with a cheap set-top box rather than actually using its smart features.

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Amazon’s Appstore has quite a few big-name apps, including Microsoft’s. But Google hasn’t put its own apps in the Amazon Appstore. It’s still possible to access Google’s services in other ways — or even use Google’s actual Android apps on your Fire Tablet.

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Whether you’re dealing with images, music, or video files, it’s important to understand the difference between different types of formats and when to use them. Using the wrong format could ruin a file’s quality or make its file size unnecessarily large.

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Amazon’s Fire Tablet normally restricts you to the Amazon Appstore. But the Fire Tablet runs Fire OS, which is based on Android. You can install Google’s Play Store and gain access to every Android app, including Gmail, Chrome, Google Maps, Hangouts, and the over one million apps in Google Play.

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Windows 10, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One all have integrated ways to record your gameplay and post clips online. Now, Android devices, iPhones, and iPads are gaining integrated ways to capture videos of mobile gameplay and post it to YouTube or elsewhere.

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Antimalware programs like Malwarebytes pop up warnings when they detect “potentially unwanted programs” you might want to remove. People call PUPs many other names, including “adware” and “crapware.” You almost certainly don’t want these programs on your computer, but they’re categorized differently for legal reasons.

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Many online services offer two-step verification or two-factor authentication. Enable this for an account and it’ll require more than just your password to sign in. You’ll also need something else — and there are many different types of additional authentication methods you can use.

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On a Chromebook, only apps from the Chrome Web Store typically get their own taskbar icons and separate windows. But you can give any website its own taskbar icon and make it open in a separate window, effectively turning any website you like into an “app.”

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Google Cardboard is cool. It’s a way to try virtual reality with a cheap headset made of cardboard and your current Android phone or iPhone. But, compared to devices like the Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard is just a parlor trick.

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U2F is an emerging standard for physical authentication tokens. Current U2F keys are all small USB devices. To log in, you won’t need to enter an authentication code provided from an app or SMS — just insert the USB security key and press a button. Here’s how they work.

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U2F is a new standard for universal two-factor authentication tokens. These tokens can use USB, NFC, or Bluetooth to provide two-factor authentication across a variety of services. It’s already supported in Chrome for Google, Dropbox, and GitHub accounts. Microsoft is working on implementing it in Edge.

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Yes, Android devices have serious security problems. There’s Android malware out there — mostly outside the Google Play Store. The biggest problem is that most Android devices don’t get security updates. Android antivirus apps aren’t a solution to these problems.

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If you’ve purchased an app from the iOS App Store or the Mac App Store and there’s a problem, you can contact Apple to get your money back. This isn’t automatic — you’ll have to provide a reason you want a refund and Apple will review your request.

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Google Play allows you to easily refund an app — for any reason — within the first two hours after purchasing it. After that, it gets a bit more difficult and situational — but there are still ways you can potentially get a refund.

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Web pages can automatically play audio thanks to HTML5, even if you’ve set Flash and other browser plug-ins to click-to-play. Most modern web browsers include an audio indicator that will show you which tab is playing sound. Most modern browsers also let you mute individual tabs.

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Telephone scams are on the upswing, and they’re often enabled by caller ID spoofing. That name and number that appears when someone calls you can be faked, so you can’t place all your trust in it.

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Spotlight search on Mac OS X shows results from the “Developer” category if you’ve ever installed Xcode on your Mac. If you still have Xcode installed, there’s an easy checkbox to disable this. But, if you’ve uninstalled Xcode, Spotlight just keeps showing Developer search results with no way to turn them off.

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Microsoft Edge doesn’t yet have browser extensions, but it can use bookmarklets. Bookmarklets work just fine in Edge, and they make up for the lack of browser extensions. You’ll just have to install them manually first.

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Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, and Microsoft’s Windows 10 all keep a list of apps you’ve purchased — or just downloaded, if they’re free. This list will become cluttered over time, especially if you download and try out a lot of free apps. But you can clean this list up, at least on iOS and Android.

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