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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+.

Apple offers a “Find My Mac” service to track a lost or stolen stolen Mac computer. However, Microsoft doesn’t provide an equivalent service for Windows PCs — not even for tablets running Windows 8.

about 1 year ago - by  |  11 Replies

More and more Internet connections are being filtered, from public Wi-Fi and workplace connection filtering to ISP and country-level censorship. However, there are still ways to get around this filtering and view blocked websites.

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If you’ve heard one thing about Windows 8.1, you’ve probably heard Microsoft is bringing back the Start button. Windows 8.1 includes many features that should have been included with Windows 8, and it can feel much less awkward on a desktop PC.

about 1 year ago - by  |  18 Replies

One of the biggest changes in Windows 8.1 is SkyDrive integration. In Windows 8, SkyDrive was available as a Modern app and a desktop app that you could install. In Windows 8.1, SkyDrive is integrated at the system level.

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The Windows Device Manager is an important troubleshooting tool. It displays all your installed hardware devices and allows you to view which ones have problems, manage their drivers, and even disable specific pieces of hardware.

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Brute-force attacks are fairly simple to understand, but difficult to protect against. Encryption is math, and as computers become faster at math, they become faster at trying all the solutions and seeing which one fits.

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Do you have your PC, television, or other expensive electronics plugged directly into a power outlet? You shouldn’t. You should plug your gadgets into a surge protector, which isn’t necessarily the same thing as a power strip.

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Stores like Best Buy will charge you $49.99 to “optimize” and “tune up” your PC — either in-store or online. These services are generally a complete waste of money — you can easily do this all yourself for free.

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Scanning documents and OCRing them once meant slowly feeding them through a desktop scanner before running slow, clunky OCR software. With the advent of powerful smartphones, you can now quickly scan and OCR documents with your phone’s camera.

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Recent revelations about government surveillance have raised the question: why don’t cloud services encrypt your data? Well, they generally do encrypt your data, but they have the key so they can decrypt it any time they like.

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So you have multiple computers and you want to keep your files in sync, but you don’t want to store them on someone else’s servers. You’ll want a service that synchronizes files directly between your computers.

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One of the big new features in Apple’s iOS 7 is Control Center, which allows you to quickly access and toggle common setting from anywhere. However, Android phones have had quick toggles for a long time.

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Google Play is full of task managers for Android. These utilities can show you apps running in the background, kill running apps, and otherwise manage your apps — but you don’t need to install any third-party software to do this.

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If you’re using a password manager and it’s not the cloud-based LastPass, it’s probably KeePass. KeePass is a completely open-source password manager that stores all your sensitive data locally. However, this means that it isn’t quite as well-integrated as other solutions.

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It’s a common situation — you have several computers near each other and you want to transfer files between them. You don’t have to pull out a USB drive, nor do you have to send them over email — there are faster, easier ways.

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Many programs want to send usage statistics, error logs, and crash reports — data about how you use the application and what problems occurred — to their servers. Some people disable these options, but should you?

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Android doesn’t come with a “find my Android” feature, so there’s no official way to track your phone if you lose it. You should prepare your phone for loss by setting up such a tracking app — but what if you didn’t?

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When you’re managing a public computer, you need a special kind of tool. You need a way to reset that computer back to a clean state every time it boots so no one can make any harmful changes.

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One day, you could misplace your phone or have it stolen — smartphone thefts are on the rise. Prepare your Android phone for the day you lose it and losing it will be a much less traumatic experience.

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Your laptop, smartphone, and tablet probably all have integrated Bluetooth support. Bluetooth is a standard that allows devices to communicate wirelessly. Most people are familiar with Bluetooth headsets, but there are more things you can do with Bluetooth.

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Web apps are all the rage, but offline apps still have their place. Whether you want better offline support or you just want to keep your sensitive data on your PC, there’s a free desktop app that can replace your web-based productivity app.

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The benchmarks are clear: Solid-state drives slow down as you fill them up. Fill your solid-state drive to near-capacity and its write performance will decrease dramatically. The reason why lies in the way SSDs and NAND Flash storage work.

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Solid-state drives are different from the mechanical, magnetic hard drives in wide use. Many of the things you’ve done with typical mechanical hard drives shouldn’t be done with newer solid-state drives.

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Modern smartphones and tablets can help you go without printers, but they can also help you print. You could even start print jobs from anywhere and pick up the document when you arrive at home or the office.

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Overclocking is the action of increasing a component’s clock rate, running it at a higher speed than it was designed to run. This is usually applies to the CPU or GPU, but other components can also be overclocked.

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