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+.

Application-specific passwords are more dangerous than they sound. Despite their name, they’re anything but application-specific. Each application-specific password is more like a skeleton key that provides unrestricted access to your account.

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Game-streaming solutions have evolved from the “cloud gaming” services we examined last year. Many new solutions allow you to stream a game from a computer in your house to a device in another room.

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Many companies want to sell you “memory optimizers,” often as part of “PC optimization” programs. These programs are worse than useless — not only will they not speed up your computer, they’ll slow it down.

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We recently discovered OneGet, a package management framework included with PowerShell and Windows 10. We’ve learned a lot more about OneGet and its future since then.

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More operating systems are including encryption by default, which is fine. But, if your operating system doesn’t, you probably don’t need to start encrypting everything with third-party software.

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Chromebooks aren’t the ideal Minecraft laptops, that’s for sure. There’s no web-based or Chrome app version of Minecraft, which is written in Java. But Chromebook owners aren’t completely out-of-luck if they want to play Minecraft.

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Forget the Windows Store. Microsoft is working on a Linux-style package management framework for Windows, and it’s included with Windows 10. It’s being tested with Chocolatey’s existing packages, and allows you to easily install desktop applications and other software.

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If you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch and a Mac, you can now record a video of your device’s screen thanks to a new feature in Mac OS X Yosemite. Android users can also record an Android device’s screen.

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Many of Windows 10’s best features showed up in Mac OS X years ago, including virtual desktops, Expose-like window management, and a notification center. Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite has some other ideas Microsoft should copy for version 10 of its own operating system, too.

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You’ll see badges like “Norton Secured,” “Microsoft Certified Partner,” and “BBB Accredited Business” all over the web — especially when downloading software. You shouldn’t blindly trust a website that displays such badges — they’re just images anyone can copy and paste.

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Firewalls are an important piece of security software, and someone is always trying to sell you a new one. However, Windows has come with its own solid firewall since Windows XP SP2, and it’s more than good enough.

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f.lux changes the color temperature of your computer’s display depending on the time of day. Everything’s normal during the day, but f.lux users warmer colors after sunset to match your indoor lighting.

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Your Internet service provider runs DNS servers for you, but you don’t have to use them. You can use third-party DNS servers instead, which offer a variety of features that your ISP probably doesn’t.

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The FBI isn’t happy about the latest versions of iOS and Android using encryption by default. FBI director James Comey has been blasting both Apple and Google. Microsoft is never mentioned — but Windows 8.1 uses encryption by default, too.

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iPads and iPhones give you control over how your kids can use your devices. You can quickly lock your device to a certain app before handing it over or lock down an entire device with comprehensive parental controls.

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You’ve probably heard all about how the Java browser plug-in is insecure. 91% of system compromises in 2013 were against that insecure Java plug-in. But Java isn’t the same thing as JavaScript — in fact, they’re not really related.

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Never download a driver-updating utility. Like PC-cleaning programs, they try to charge you money for a service you don’t need. They do this by scaring you with threats of blue screens and system problems.

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Do you get too many newsletters and other promotional emails? These emails aren’t technically “spam” — they’re from legitimate organizations. Thanks to the US CAN-SPAM act, every legitimate company offers a consistent way to unsubscribe from their newsletters.

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You’ve probably given a few applications or websites access to your Google, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, or Microsoft account. Every application you’ve ever allowed keeps that access forever — or at least until you revoke it.

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We recently explained why you should be using IMAP instead of POP3 for your email. If you still have old POP3 emails stored offline, you don’t have to abandon them — import your POP3 emails into an IMAP account.

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If a website asks you to download a “codec,” “player,” or “browser update” to play a video, run the other way. You don’t actually need to download this sort of thing — the website is trying to infect your computer with malware.

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Wireshark is the Swiss Army knife of network analysis tools. Whether you’re looking for peer-to-peer traffic on your network or just want to see what websites a specific IP address is accessing, Wireshark can work for you.

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Minecraft runs just fine on Linux, but it’s probably not available for easy installation in your Linux distribution’s package manager. Here’s how to get your Linux system ready for Minecraft.

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Wireshark has quite a few tricks up its sleeve, from capturing remote traffic to creating firewall rules based on captured packets. Read on for some more advanced tips if you want to use Wireshark like a pro.

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