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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+.

Geeks often describe programs as being “open source” or “free software.” If you’re wondering exactly what these terms mean and why they matter, read on. (No, “free software” doesn’t just mean that you can download it for free.)

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The media is full of reports saying Android malware is exploding and that Android users are at risk. Does this mean you should install an antivirus app on your Android phone or tablet?

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The boot order in your computer’s BIOS controls which device it loads the operating system from. Modify your boot order to force your computer to boot from a USB drive, CD or DVD drive, or another hard drive.

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The Nexus 7 may not have a lot of storage space – especially the original 8 GB model – but you can connect a USB drive to it if you want to watch videos or access other files.

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In Android 4.2, the Developer Options menu and USB Debugging option have been hidden. If you need to enable USB Debugging, you can access the Developer Options menu with a quick trick.

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Do you know how effective your antivirus programs is? A variety of organizations regularly compare antivirus programs, throwing a large amount of malware samples at them, seeing how they perform, and ranking them in comparison to each other.

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The average Windows 8 user can only download apps that Microsoft has approved from the Windows Store. Windows 8 offers two ways to sideload unapproved apps, which are intended for developers and businesses with internal apps.

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If you’re just getting started with Android, its customizability can seem a bit daunting. We’ll walk you through customizing your Android home-screen, taking advantage of widgets, and getting third-party launchers with more features.

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Dropbox is a hugely popular cloud storage service beloved by many. Unfortunately, it’s had a history of security problems, ranging from compromised accounts to once allowing access to every Dropbox account without requiring a password for several hours.

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Several times a year, Google releases a new version of Android with new features and performance improvements. Unfortunately, most Android devices in the wild will never get the update.

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iGoogle has less than a year to go before it’s shut down for good on November 1, 2013. While Google seems to think that iGoogle isn’t necessary anymore, there are other services waiting to take its place.

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Google, Dropbox, LastPass, Battle.net, Guild Wars 2 – all these services and more offer two-factor authentication apps that work on smartphones. If you don’t have a supported device, you can run an alternative application on your computer.

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Android has taken huge strides since Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but many devices are still using it. If you can’t upgrade your old device, there are ways to make it feel more modern.

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Android 4.2 improves on Android 4.1 in numerous ways, adding a variety of new features. Android 4.2 isn’t as big an update as Android 4.1, also called Jelly Bean, but it’s a definite improvement.

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Many people think Aero is completely gone in Windows 8, but this isn’t true. Microsoft hasn’t helped matters by saying they’ve “moved beyond Aero” in several blog posts. However, hardware acceleration and most Aero features are still present.

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Windows 8’s new touch-first Modern interface includes quite a few apps. Before you start looking at the Windows Store to find new apps, take a look at the included apps and what they can do.

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Windows won’t allow you to modify files that open programs have locked. if you try to delete a file and see a message that it’s open in a program, you’ll have to unlock the file (or close the program).

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Screen savers are a left-over solution from a previous technology. In spite of their name, screen savers no longer “save” anything – all they do is waste electricity. Screen savers are not necessary on modern, flat-panel LCD displays.

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Aero Glass is gone in Windows 8. If you really miss Aero Glass, there’s a trick you can use to re-enable the transparent window title bars and borders – although Microsoft doesn’t want us to.

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Google only supports running Chrome OS on Chromebooks, but don’t let that stop you. You can put Chrome OS on a USB drive and boot it on any computer, just as you’d run a Linux distribution from a USB drive.

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Computers can sleep, hibernate, or shut down. Sleep allows you to quickly resume using your laptop at the cost of some electricity. Hibernate is like shutting down your computer, but you can still resume working where you left off.

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Windows RT and Windows 8 aren’t the same thing. While Windows RT has a desktop that looks just like Windows 8’s, Windows RT’s desktop is very limited. The difference doesn’t just matter to geeks; it matters to all Windows users.

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Want to try out Ubuntu, but not sure where to start? There are lots of ways to try out Ubuntu – you can even install it on Windows and uninstall it from your Control Panel if you don’t like it.

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Whatever you think of it, Windows 8 isn’t just a new interface slapped on top of Windows 7. Windows 8 has seen a lot of security improvements, including an integrated antivirus, an application reputation system, and protection from boot-time rootkits.

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