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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+.

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.

about 1 year ago - by  |  11 Replies

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.

about 1 year ago - by  |  1 Reply

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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Google is now providing integrated parental controls in Chrome, allowing parents to control their kids’ Chrome browser usage. This feature works best on a Chromebook, where it allows you to lock down an entire user account.

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Google is now selling “Google Play Edition” devices alongside its Nexus devices on the Google Play Store website. These devices are versions of popular Android phones and tablets running different software. They seem primarily intended for Android enthusiasts and developers.

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SteamOS, Valve’s living room PC gaming operating system, is basically just a new Linux distribution. It’s based on Debian and provides easy access to a standard Linux desktop complete with a package manager.

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Google removed access to App Ops, the hidden Android app permission manager interface, in Android 4.4.2. App Ops is still present in Android, however — with root access, we can get it back.

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Mobile apps are harvesting entire address books and uploading them to ad servers, tracking users’ movements via GPS, and doing other nasty things. But Android’s permission system doesn’t do enough to help users fight this.

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Do you use Windows, Mac, or Linux applications? Google wants you to replace them with Chrome apps in the future. Google Chrome is now an app platform, complete with a Chrome app launcher for Windows and Mac.

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If you’ve got your hands on Microsoft’s Surface Pro, there are a variety of things you should know. These tricks span everything from hidden keyboard shortcuts and freeing up disk space to using the pen and connecting standard headsets.

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Shopping for a new computer? Don’t pay too much attention to CPU clock speed. “CPU speed” was once an easy, if not completely accurate, way to compare two computers’ performance — just compare the GHz. But not anymore.

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Google Now’s Reminders feature is powerful. You can set reminders for specific times, events like TV shows, and even have reminders go off when you visit specific locations. Time-based reminders can be recurring, popping up on a schedule.

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Android has a permissions system for individual apps, but so do iPhones and iPads. Android gives you a single prompt when you install an app, but iOS allows you to make more decisions.

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Installing software on a Mac is  different from installing software on Windows. There isn’t just one way to install applications on a Mac, either — there are several different ways, depending on the application you want to install.

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Did you know Windows has had Speech Recognition built-in since Windows Vista? This is more than just a way to type by speaking aloud — you can use it to control applications and navigate the desktop with your voice.

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Microsoft’s Windows XP started using the NTFS file system by default for its internal drives back in 2001. It’s now 12 years later, so why are USB sticks, and SD cards, and other removable drives still using FAT32?

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It’s easy to set up parental controls and filter the web. These features are built into everything from Windows to the iPad. But none of these filtering solutions is perfect.

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Android geeks often unlock their devices’ bootloaders, root them, enable USB debugging, and allow software installation from outside the Google Play Store. But there are reasons why Android devices don’t come with all these tweaks enabled.

about 1 year ago - by  |  1 Reply

Touch-screen keyboards can be slow, especially on phones with small screens. To enter text more naturally, you can use your phone or tablet’s voice dictation feature. Just speak — punctuation included — and your device will convert what you say to text.

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More and more Android and Windows tablets are advertising their styluses. They’re popular iPad accessories, too. But not all styluses are equal. The technology built into your device’s touch screen will control what kind of styluses you can use.

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Did you know that Mozilla is creating a new operating system built on top of Firefox, dubbed Firefox OS? This isn’t an operating system for your computer — Firefox OS is Mozilla’s attempt at a smartphone OS.

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