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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+.

Android apps install to the internal storage by default, but you can also set the SD card as your default install location. This trick allows you to move almost any app to the SD card – no root access required.

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We’ve written about using GNU Screen to multitask in the Linux terminal in the past. GNU Screen is the granddaddy of these programs, but tmux and dvtm+dtach are other solutions you may prefer.

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Each major web browser shares a large number of keyboard shortcuts in common. Whether you’re using Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Apple Safari, or Opera – these keyboard shortcuts will work in your browser.

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Whether you want to shrink your Ubuntu partition, enlarge it, or split it up into several partitions, you can’t do this while it’s in use. You’ll need a Ubuntu live CD or USB drive to edit your partitions.

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All browsers support keywords, which you can type into your address bar to quickly search or visit websites. Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Internet Explorer all have their own methods of setting keywords, some more hidden than others.

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Charms are an important new feature in Windows 8. Some of the charms are context-sensitive, while some aren’t. Some are important on the desktop, while some only work in Metro apps.

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From ultrabooks to netbooks, computers are shedding their optical drives. If you still use an occasional CD or DVD, you don’t have to buy an external optical drive –  you can share another computer’s optical drive over the network.

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Web browsers include predefined lists of search engines, but you can easily add your own favorites. Even search engines that don’t offer search plugins can be added with a few tricks, whether you’re using Firefox, Google Chrome, or Internet Explorer.

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Ubuntu 12.04 doesn’t ship with any screen savers, just a black screen that appears when your system is idle. If you’d rather have screensavers, you can swap gnome-screensaver for XScreenSaver.

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Everything you do online can be traced back to your IP address. Even if you’re accessing encrypted websites, networks can see the websites you’re accessing – and the websites themselves know your IP address. Use the Tor network to browse with anonymity.

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If you’ve just updated to Ubuntu 12.04, you may notice an option missing in its system menu. The Hibernate option is now hidden by default, but you can get it back if you prefer to hibernate your system.

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Ubuntu’s sound menu contains Rhythmbox by default. Any other media players you install will also appear in the menu, assuming they support the MPRIS2 specification. You can hide media players in the menu or add any application you like.

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Computers are supposed to automate repetitive tasks – if you find yourself submitting forms over and over or repeatedly navigating a website by hand, try iMacros. It’s easy-to-use – all you have to do is perform an action once.

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To become a Gmail power user, you’ll need to master Gmail’s keyboard shortcuts. Keyboard shortcuts allow you to speed through your mail faster than you can click. Gmail even lets you create custom keyboard shortcuts.

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The Windows Firewall is powerful, but it doesn’t offer an easy-to-use interface for its advanced features. Windows Firewall Notifier fills the holes in the built-in Windows Firewall, offering easy management of outbound connections and a console that displays network activity.

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Google, Bing, Yahoo – all the major search engines track your search history and build profiles on you, serving different results based on your search history. Try one of these alternative search engines if you’re tired of being tracked.

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All popular browsers offer build-in user agent switchers, so you can change your user agent without installing any extensions. Google Chrome and Internet Explorer both include user agent switchers in their developer tools, while Firefox offers an about:config option.

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There’s more to CCleaner than clicking a single button. This popular application for wiping temporary files and clearing private data hides a variety of features, from fine-grained options for tweaking the cleaning process to full drive-wiping tools.

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Ubuntu’s Unity desktop is a change of pace, whether you’re coming from Windows or another Linux distribution with a more traditional interface. Unity has its own way of doing things, including powerful keyboard shortcuts.

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There are ways to run a screen capture utility – or any other program – from the welcome screen. Windows doesn’t make this easy, but it’s possible. The logon screen runs on the Winlogon desktop, an isolated Windows desktop.

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GNOME Shell has been criticized for lacking many familiar features found in GNOME 2, but you can add them yourself with extensions. If you’ve installed GNOME Shell and didn’t like it, don’t write it off until you try some extensions.

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Gmail’s redesign is now mandatory — the opt-out option is gone. Use a third-party style sheet to get the old Gmail look back or tweak Gmail’s settings to undo some of the changes.

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Ubuntu’s default configuration tools don’t expose a lot of options for customizing your Ubuntu desktop. Ubuntu Tweak fills the gap, exposing a wide variety of settings unavailable in the default interface.

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If you’re dual-booting Windows and Linux, you’ll probably want to access files on your Linux system from Windows at some point. Linux has built-in support for Windows NTFS partitions, but Windows can’t read Linux partitions without third-party software.

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Gmail provides a high storage limit – 10 GB and counting – but it doesn’t help you much if you’re close to reaching it. You’ll need to know some tricks to free up space in your Gmail account.

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