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+.

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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Routers protect their web interfaces, where you can configure their networking, parental control, and port forwarding settings, with a username and password. These default passwords can be changed to protect the router’s settings.

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How much energy do your smartphone, laptop, and tablet chargers really use? Should you unplug them when you aren’t using them to save power and money? We measured exactly how much power a variety of common chargers use, and how much keeping them plugged in will cost your each year.

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Android 6.0 Marshmallow contains a highly experimental and hidden multi-window mode. Perhaps this will be stable in the next version of Android — it would definitely make Google’s Pixel C, Nexus 9, and Nexus 6 phones more useful. For now, you can enable it if you’re willing to do some tweaking.

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Mac OS X offers no “Uninstall a program” interface like the one available in Windows. You have to uninstall applications by dragging their icons around — but what about applications that don’t have shortcuts, built-in system apps, and other corner cases?

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Android includes full access to a file system, complete with support for removable SD cards. But Android itself has never come with a built-in file manager, forcing manufacturers to create their own file manager apps and users to install third-party ones. With Android 6.0, Android now contains a hidden file manager.

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One of Android’s most powerful features is the ability to select your default apps for browsing the web, sending emails, and other tasks — even the launcher that appears when you press the Home button. On Android 6.0, there’s now an easy interface for managing your default apps.

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No two people sound exactly alike. Different people have different accents and ways of pronouncing words, and computer voice recognition systems like Siri, Cortana, and Google’s voice search aren’t as good as actual human beings at understanding every voice. Train your voice assistant and it’ll be better at understanding you.

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Apple’s Game Center is included on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. It’s a social gaming service for games on Apple’s platforms. With Game Center, you might see friend invites, game invites, and other notifications — but you can disable all that and never see a Game Center notification again.

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Did you know Google has its own dedicated password manager? It’s more than just password-syncing built into the Chrome browser — Google’s solution also offers a web app, mobile apps, deep integration with Android, and automatic generation of strong passwords.

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There are plenty of downsides to jailbreaking your iPhone or iPad. You’ll be behind on iOS updates and forced to jailbreak each new version of iOS you want to use. More importantly, leaked security documents show jailbroken iPhones are more vulnerable to attack.

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Android 6.0’s big hallmark feature is Google Now on Tap. Part of Google Now, Now on Tap allows Google to scan the screen whenever you open it, automatically guessing what you want to search for and providing you with more information.

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It seems to happen more and more often. A retail store is breached and loses its customers credit card numbers. Use Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay, or another smartphone payment solution and you’d be immune to these breaches.

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Microsoft made headlines when it stripped support for SafeDisc and SecuROM DRM from Windows 10 Recent security updates to Windows Vista, 7, 8, and 8.1 have also removed support for these DRM schemes from older versions of Windows.

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Google’s finally done it. Android 6.0 Marshmallow includes a new, iOS-style permission system for new apps. You can also manually revoke permissions from any app — even ones designed for old versions of Android.

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Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan protects system files and processes with a new feature named System Integrity Protection. SIP is a kernel-level feature that limits what the “root” account can do.

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Disc images have become more useful than ever on modern PCs that often lack CD and DVD drives. Create ISO files and other types of disc images and you can “mount” them, accessing the virtual discs as if they were physical discs inserted into your computer.

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Android phones and tablets aren’t all kept up-to-date with the current version of Android. It’s often helpful to know which version of Android a specific phone or tablet is running so you can get help with something or determine whether a feature is present.

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PCs don’t have to be power hogs, but they often are. High-powered desktops with gaming-focused dedicated graphics hardware are the most thirsty for energy, but older PCs are typically less energy-efficient than modern ones.

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Apple just opened iOS up a little bit. It’s now possible to sideload open-source apps — emulators, for example — onto an iPhone or iPad without paying $99 per year for a developer license.

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The Task Manager in Windows 8 and 10 has been completely overhauled. It’s easier-to-use, slicker, and more feature-packed than ever. Windows 8 may be all about Metro, but the Task Manager and Windows Explorer are better than ever.

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Install Windows 3.1 in DOSBox to run old 16-bit Windows games on 64-bit versions of Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and anywhere else DOSBox runs. This is particularly useful as only 32-bit versions of Windows can run those 16-bit applications.

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Apple wants to keep your iPhone and iPad up-to-date. But you may want to go back to an older operating system. This is especially true if you’re trying out a beta version of iOS on your iPhone or iPad.

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New versions of Windows don’t fully support classic DOS games and other old applications — this is where DOSBox comes in. It provides a full DOS environment that runs ancient DOS apps on modern operating systems.

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The Safari web browser likes showing the websites you frequently visit when you open it. On an iPhone or iPad, it shows “frequently visited sites.” On a Mac, it shows your “top sites.” You can disable this to prevent your browser from advertising the websites you frequently visit.

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