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+.

Your Roku can do more than just stream from the web. Use it to watch video files you’ve downloaded or ripped yourself, or even play your personal music collection. You can do this with a USB drive or over the local network.

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Wi-Fi is becoming more common in desktop computers, but not all desktop computers have it. Add Wi-Fi and you can connect to the Internet wirelessly and host Wi-Fi hotspots for your other devices.

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Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite introduced a new Notification Center. It’s similar to the notification center found in iOS, bringing together widgets and notifications into one location.

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Linux is often best installed in a dual-boot system. This allows you to run Linux on your actual hardware, but you can always reboot into Windows if you need to run Windows software or play PC games.

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Computers normally have a single operating system installed on them, but you can dual-boot multiple operating systems. You can have two (or more) versions of Windows installed side-by-side on the same PC and choose between them at boot time.

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Unlike most other operating systems, Windows still doesn’t include first-class support for printing to PDFs. However, PDF printing is still fairly simple — you can quickly install a free PDF printer or use the support included in various programs.

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Typically, people tether their laptops to their Android phones, using the phone’s data connection to get online from anywhere. But you may also want to “reverse tether,” sharing your PC’s Internet connection with an Android phone or tablet.

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Macs can boot into a “Target Disk Mode” that causes them to function like an external hard drive. Connect one Mac to another Mac and you can access its files in the Finder.

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Standard “tethering” involves connecting your phone, tablet, or other device to your smartphone, sharing your smartphone’s mobile data connection with your other devices. But you may sometimes want to get your iPhone or iPad online via your PC or Mac.

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Wireless devices with Bluetooth radios must be “paired” with each other before they can communicate. This involves making them discoverable and potentially entering a PIN.

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Your Wii U’s GamePad will automatically turn itself on, play a sound to get your attention, and display advertisements for games you might want to buy. It does this when you’re not using the Wi U at all, and that can be a big distraction.

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Your Mac can function as a wireless hotspot, allowing you to connect your other devices to it and share its Internet connection. It’s just like tethering to your phone.

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You don’t need third-party virtualization tools like VirtualBox and VMware on Linux. KVM (Kernel-based virtual machine) is an open-source virtualization technology built into the Linux kernel. GNOME Boxes provides a pretty front-end that makes it easy to use.

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Why manage a collection of audio CDs, DVDs, some videos on VHS tapes, photos, and other documents in physical form? Go digital to get all your stuff on your PC — and on your other devices.

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Modern CPUs include hardware virtualization features that help accelerate VirtualBox, VMware, Hyper-V, and other virtual machine applications. But Intel VT-x isn’t always enabled by default.

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Many hotels still limit you to one or two Wi-Fi devices per room–a frustrating limitation, especially when traveling with someone else. Connection restrictions can apply anywhere you have to log into a Wi-Fi network via a portal instead of a standard passphrase. Here are some ways to get around that limitation.

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Windows needs manufacturer-provided hardware drivers before your hardware will work. Linux and other operating systems also need hardware drivers before hardware will work — but hardware drivers are handled differently on Linux.

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Wi-Fi hasn’t completely taken over the world yet. Some hotels may offer wired Ethernet connections and spotty or unavailable Wi-Fi, for example. But you can turn that wired Ethernet connection into a Wi-Fi connection all your devices can use.

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Need to replace a word with another word, or quickly remove bits of text from a document? Just use search-and-replace — whatever application or browser you’re using, you already have an easy find-and-replace tool available to you.

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Think you can just plug a standard Linux live USB drive into your Mac and boot from it? Think again. You’ll need to go out of your way to create a live Linux USB drive that will boot on a Mac.

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Practically all smartphones can tether, sharing their data connection with your other devices. You can do this over Wi-Fi, a USB cable, or Bluetooth — if your carrier lets you. You might have to pay extra.

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Be sure to wipe your drives, devices, and anything that potentially contained sensitive files before getting rid of it. Whether you’re disposing of it, selling it, or giving it away — securely erase your data first.

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Windows normally can’t Time Machine backups — in fact, it doesn’t even understand the HFS+ file system format Macs require on their Time Machine drives. But you can recover all the files from your Time Machine backup on your Windows computer.

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Hotel rooms still have televisions, and you can put them to use when traveling. Why use your laptop, smartphone, or tablet when you can watch thing son the bigger screen?

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Want to keep an old Windows or Linux installation around without keeping the hardware around? Convert that physical Windows partition to a virtual hard drive, allowing you to boot it in a virtual machine program like VMware, Hyper-V, Parallels, or VirtualBox.

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