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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+.

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.

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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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Like any piece of technology, iPads aren’t completely obvious when you first pick them up. They have their own language of gestures, swipes, and button presses you should learn to become more comfortable using them.

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Linux distributions aren’t just the Linux kernel. They all contain other critical software, like the Grub bootloader, Bash shell, GNU shell utilities, daemons, X.org graphical server, a desktop environment, and more.

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HDMI allows you to connect almost any device to a TV or another external display, but HDMI requires a wired connection. You might assume there’d be a well-supported standard for wireless displays, but you’d be wrong.

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Ubuntu wants to enable TRIM for SSDs by default in Ubuntu 14.04. In other words, Ubuntu isn’t already using TRIM, so your SSD is slowing down over time. But why isn’t Ubuntu already using TRIM?

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Android has a powerful permission system that forces apps to declare the exact permissions they require — whether it’s displaying notifications, reading your contacts, or accessing your location. Controlling these permissions as a user is possible, but more complicated.

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Android 4.4 added a new screen-recording feature, making it much easier to create video recordings of an Android device’s screen in MP4 format. This is useful when creating walkthroughs and tutorials or just showing off an app.

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This cold-calling telephone scam has been going on since 2008, but shows no sign of going away. If you have any relatives who might fall for it, be sure to let them know Microsoft won’t actually call them.

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