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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+.

Windows 8 was very different from Windows 7, but change is only speeding up — Windows 8.1 has seen quite a few changes since Windows 8. You’ll have new things to learn, whichever which version of Windows you’re upgrading from.

about 1 year ago - by  |  1 Reply

Chrome 32 now offers a new feature on Windows 8: A full-screen, Chrome OS-style desktop mode. The Chrome app launcher can bring Chrome OS to the Windows desktop, but Chrome can now replace the Windows desktop entirely.

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Steam Machines, also known as Steamboxes, are Valve’s attempt at bringing PC gaming to the living room. In a way, they’ll compete with game consoles like the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Wii U.

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Do you prefer Google Chrome to Microsoft’s Windows 8 apps? Well, you’re in luck, even if you have a Windows 8 PC. You can swap the entire “Modern” environment for the Chrome OS desktop, hiding the Windows 8 interface entirely.

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Valve’s SteamOS is a living-room operating system you can install yourself, but it will start shipping on Steam Machines later this year. While SteamOS is intended as a living-room operating system, it actually has a full Linux desktop.

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New computers have now been coming with USB 3.0 ports for years. But just how much faster is USB 3.0? Will you see a big speed improvement if you upgrade your old USB 2.0 flash drives?

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Intel is now interested in pushing “Dual OS” PCs — devices with both Windows 8 and Android on them. But you don’t have to buy a new PC to do this — you can run Android apps and even the Android operating system on your current PC.

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If you have Internet access, you probably have a router — and your router has its own settings screens full of options. Everyone should know how to use their router’s web interface, if only to configure their Wi-Fi security settings.

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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.

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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, or  — 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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