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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+.

Chromebooks aren’t like traditional laptops. They’re locked down by default, only booting Google-approved operating systems in their default state. They’re much more limited than traditional Windows, Mac, or Linux laptops.

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Whether net neutrality should be mandated by law is one of the biggest policy debates around the Internet, but net neutrality isn’t just a matter of law. Net neutrality is a principle that’s given us the Internet we have today.

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Chromebooks aren’t like traditional laptops. While they’re much simpler, they still have various useful features you may not know about. These tricks will help you take advantage of your Chromebook’s true potential.

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Windows’ Safe Mode is an essential tool. On computers infected with malware or crashing because of buggy drivers, Safe Mode may be the only way to start the computer.

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Android supports mice, keyboards, and even gamepads. On many Android devices, you can connect USB peripherals to your device. On other Android devices, you may need to connect them wirelessly via Bluetooth.

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Many low-level tweaks can normally only be performed on Android by flashing custom ROMs. The Xposed Framework allows you to modify your ROM without installing a new custom ROM. All it requires is root access.

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You are emailed a document and you have to sign it and send it back. You could print out the document, sign it, and then scan it back in and email it. But there’s a better, faster way.

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Google Reader will be dead soon, but it has been dying for a long time. A declining user base, lack of innovation, and lack of mass appeal doomed it. People are using other types of services to stay up-to-date with their favorite websites.

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Wireless carriers are gouging us — particularly in North America, where the USA and Canada have the most expensive cell phone plans in the world. We’ll look at the many ways cell phone companies are taking advantage of us.

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SMS fees are pure profit for the cellular carriers. They’re basically free for carriers to send, but they can often cost ten cents or more per message. It costs more to send a text message on Earth than it does to transmit data from Mars.

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Want to run Android on your PC? The Android-x86 Project has ported Android to the x86 platform from ARM. Android-x86 can be installed on netbooks with supported hardware, but you can also install Android in VirtualBox.

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Whether you’re using Windows 7, Windows 8, or an older version of Windows, Windows contains a variety of system utilities that are well-hidden. Some are buried deep in the Start menu, while others can only be accessed via a command.

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So you’ve got all your data stored on servers somewhere — your emails at Gmail, photos on Facebook, and passwords in LastPass. But what if one of these services failed and lost your data?

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Google didn’t announce any shiny new Chromebooks at Google I/O. Instead, they highlighted their two big “platforms” — Chrome and Android. Whether you’re using Windows, Linux, or Mac, Google will be bringing the Chrome OS experience to you.

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Everyone seems to be complaining about their Nexus 7 tablets slowing down over time. Sure, this is anecdotal — but there are a lot of anecdotes. We’ll cover a variety of ways to speed it up.

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We’ve looked at the reasons why your Android phone probably isn’t getting updates before, and one of the reasons why is because each carrier must subject each update to a testing process before releasing it — if they ever release it.

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So you’ve just picked up your first Android phone, or perhaps you have an Android phone that you don’t take full advantage of because that’s the only type of low-end phone your carrier is offering these days. This guide will help you understand and adapt to life with an Android.

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Android’s openness is a big reason for its success, but cellular carriers and phone manufacturers often use this openness to make the experience worse for its users. Android’s openness gives carriers and device manufacturers the freedom to do bad things.

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Roaming data can cost as much as 300 times the price of domestic data, leading to bill shock. Some of the more extreme examples of roaming bills have been for tens of thousands of dollars.

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The blue screen of death — or BSOD — is always an unwelcome sight. BSODs appear when Microsoft Windows encounters a critical error it can’t recover from, requiring a reboot and possibly resulting in lost work.

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So you’re using Windows 8 on a desktop or laptop. Microsoft goes out of their way to make this more awkward, scattering the tweaks you need to turn Windows 8 into a serviceable desktop operating system all over the OS.

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You may not have noticed, but Firefox now includes a “Social API” that allows Facebook and other social networks to integrate with your browser. Firefox is providing Facebook a way to integrate with your browser and stay with you everywhere on the web.

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Windows 8 no longer comes with Windows Media Center. To get it, you’ll need to purchase both the Pro Pack and Media Center Pack upgrades from Microsoft for a total of $110. Consider using a free, Linux-based media center system instead.

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There’s no one true desktop environment for Linux. Unlike competing operating systems like Windows, Linux users have a choice of many different desktop environments, all with their own styles and strengths.

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Sure, everyone involved can come up with a variety of excuses — they aren’t technically misleading customers, it’s all in the fine print, and these are the standard ways the industry operates — but hardware has been advertised in many misleading ways.

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