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+.

Windows 8 always shows the Metro-style Start screen when you log in. You don’t have to click the Desktop tile every time you log in, you can boot straight to the desktop with this quick trick.

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With a quick registry tweak, you can add any application to any Windows Explorer context menu. You can even add application shortcuts to your desktop’s context menu and launch your favorite applications just by right-clicking on your desktop.

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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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Ubuntu One lets you easily synchronize files and folders, but it isn’t clear how to sync configuration files. Using Ubuntu One’s folder synchronization options or some symbolic links, you can synchronize configuration files across all your computers.

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Windows 8 was clearly designed with touch screens in mind. Using Windows 8 with a mouse can be disorienting at first — many of the tried-and-true Windows interface conventions have changed.

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Zenity adds graphical interfaces to shell scripts with a single command. Shell scripts are a great way to automate repetitive tasks, but they’re normally confined to the terminal — Zenity brings them out of the terminal and onto your desktop.

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The Windows 8 desktop looks just like Windows 7, with one exception — no Start button. Losing the Start button isn’t the end of the world — Windows 8 exposes all the familiar options in different ways.

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Gmail’s a Google product, so of course it has powerful search features. But some of Gmail’s search features are hidden and don’t appear in the Search Options pane. Learn Gmail’s search tricks to master your massive inbox.

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LXDE is a lightweight desktop alternative to Unity, GNOME and KDE. It’s ideal for old computers or anyone looking for a fast, lightweight system. It’s even lighter than Xubuntu’s XFCE.

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To use the Linux terminal like a pro, you’ll need to know the basics of managing files and navigating directories. True to the Unix philosophy, each command does one thing and does it well.

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Both the Start button and classic Start menu are gone in Windows 8. If you don’t like the full-screen, Metro-style “Start screen,” there are a few ways to get a classic-style Start menu back.

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PlayOnLinux provides a point-and-click interface to automatically install and tweak Windows software on Linux. It’s like a package manager — but for Windows games and other applications on Linux.

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If you play a lot of PC games, switching to a new computer or reformatting can be time-consuming. GameSave Manager does the hard work of backing up your saved games for you — it can even back up to Dropbox.

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The Linux terminal has a number of useful commands that can display running processes, kill them, and change their priority level. This post lists the classic, traditional commands, as well as some more useful, modern ones.

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Windows remembers Wi-Fi passwords to save you time, but you can save more time by exporting the saved passwords and transfering them to other computers. LastPass, WirelessKeyView, and Windows itself can back up your wireless passwords.

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The Trinity Desktop Environment is KDE 3, actively developed and updated. It’s ideal for KDE fans that never took to KDE 4 or anyone interested in what KDE was like.

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You may have heard of Wolfram Alpha, which is a “computational knowledge engine.” That makes it sound a bit scary, but it’s a great tool once you can wrap your head around it.

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Google may still be the top search engine, but Bing is starting to stand on its own. Bing has many of the same search operators offered by Google, but it has a few tricks you won’t find elsewhere.

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Apple users have iTunes to synchronize their media libraries back and forth, but what do Android users have? Google doesn’t provide any official method of synchronization. Enter Synx, a simple, open-source tool for synchronizing your media files and your Android.

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The fdisk command is a text-based utility for viewing and managing hard disk partitions on Linux. It’s one of the most powerful tools you can use to manage partitions, but it’s confusing to new users.

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Google is a powerful tool, but you’re missing out on a lot of that power if you just type words into it. Master Google and find the best results faster with these search tricks.

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The Swype keyboard for Android replaces pecking at letters with gliding your fingers over them. Swype automatically interprets your gesture and figures out the word you meant to type.

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Viewing the permissions of each installed Android app requires digging through the Manage Applications screen and examining each app one by one — or does it? aSpotCat takes an inventory of the apps on your system and the permissions they require.

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With TeamViewer for Android or iOS, remote desktop connections to Windows, Mac or Linux are a snap. It’s free for non-commercial use and easy to set up — no fussing with firewall rules, ports or IP addresses required.

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The hardest part of compiling software on Linux is locating its dependencies and installing them. Ubuntu has apt commands that automatically detect, locate and install dependencies, doing the hard work for you.

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