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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+.

Linux users often use the terminal to accomplish tasks. This can be intimidating if you’re a new Linux user who wants a graphical environment that’s easy to come to grips with, but you shouldn’t be put off by the Linux terminal.

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Websites – at least the desktop versions – are designed for broadband connections and are larger than ever. This isn’t normally a problem, but what if you’re tethering your computer to a smartphone with a limited data plan?

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Android developers can restrict their apps to certain devices, countries, and minimum versions of Android. However, there are ways around these restrictions, allowing you to install apps marked as “not compatible with your device.”

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Windows 7 makes it possible to change the welcome screen that appears when you start your computer without any third-party software, but this setting is well hidden. You can set any image you like as your background.

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Between the browser history and tracking cookies, it’s easy to feel like your browser is tracking and spying on you. But web browsers store this private data for good reasons.

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Many recent Android phones – and even Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets – have integrated NFC hardware and support Android Beam. Android Beam allows you to send content between devices just by pressing them back-to-back.

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We already live in the future. We have handheld devices that use satellites to pinpoint our precise locations almost anywhere on the planet. But have you ever wondered just how GPS works?

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Whenever Google releases a new version of Android for its Nexus devices, it doesn’t roll out to everyone at once. It may take several days before your device receives the update, but you don’t have to wait.

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Windows 8 is designed to push Microsoft’s web services: Bing, Internet Explorer, Outlook.com, and more. However, Windows 8 isn’t limited to just Microsoft’s services. Google services like Gmail, Google Search, Chrome, and more can all be integrated with Windows 8.

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NFC hardware is being included in more and more devices – particularly smartphones, but also some laptops. NFC could be the future of payments, security keys, and boarding passes. NFC is also an upgrade over clunky QR codes.

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Microsoft’s Surface RT and other Windows RT-based machines include the Flash browser plugin, but it only runs on websites Microsoft has whitelisted. We have covered how you can add any website to the Flash whitelist, but now there’s an easier way.

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Web browsers normally save your private data – history, cookies, searches, downloads, and more – and only delete it when you ask. If you are constantly clearing it, you can have any browser automatically clear private data when you close it.

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Windows has quite a few ways to control your default applications and file associations – more than you might expect. These are used when you double-click a file, click a link, connect a device, or insert media.

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Private browsing mode doesn’t offer complete privacy, but it does prevent your browser from saving your history, searches, cookies, and other private data between browsing sessions. You can have your browser always start in private-browsing mode if you prefer it.

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Internet security suites are big business. Trial versions packed full of features come with most new Windows computers. They typically include powerful two-way firewalls, phishing filters, and cookie-scanning technology. But you don’t really need all these features.

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Linux’s file system has quite a few differences from the Windows file system. You won’t find any drive letters or backslashes, but you will find an alien-looking layout where files can have the same name, differing only in capitalization.

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Most people know that .exe files are potentially dangerous, but that isn’t the only file extension to beware of on Windows. There are a variety of other potentially dangerous file extensions – more than you might expect.

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Windows Defender replaces Microsoft Security Essentials in Windows 8, but it does not include the ability to quickly right-click folders and scan them. However, you can add this option yourself with a quick registry hack.

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DOS isn’t widely used anymore, but you wouldn’t know if from reading instructions written by manufacturers for BIOS updates, firmware-updating utilities, and other low-level system tools. They will often require you to boot into DOS and run the utility.

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Windows 8 installs applications to your C:\ drive by default, but you may want to change where Windows 8 stores these apps. For example, you could install them to an SD card or secondary hard drive.

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Install many third-party .deb packages on Ubuntu – even mainstream, high-quality software like Google Chrome and Skype – and you will see an error saying the package is of bad quality. We will explain what this scary-looking error actually means.

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Modern Windows 8 Apps such as the Xbox Music, Xbox Video, and Photos apps can only display content stored in your libraries. You may want to store media files on an SD card or USB drive, but Windows stops you.

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Updating your operating system and software is important. On the other hand, we have previously covered why you shouldn’t generally update your hardware drivers, although gamers will definitely want to update their graphics drivers. But what about BIOS updates?

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If Internet Explorer is crashing and burning, your problem likely lies with a buggy browser add-on. However, Internet Explorer crashes can have a variety of other causes, including incompatibilities with hardware rendering and possible malware.

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Install Microsoft Office 2013 and you may see a grayed out “SkyDrive Pro” option in your context menu. This option appears whenever you right-click a file or folder, but it’s useless if you don’t use SharePoint.

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