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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+.

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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Windows’ built-in firewall hides the ability to create powerful firewall rules. Block programs from accessing the Internet, use a whitelist to control network access, restrict traffic to specific ports and IP addresses, and more – all without installing another firewall.

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Give GNOME Shell a spin if you’re looking for a slick, new Linux desktop environment. It’s similar to Unity in some ways, but more flexible in others – GNOME Shell supports extensions, which can add missing features.

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The dash on Ubuntu’s Unity desktop allows you to search for applications, files, music, and videos – but you’re not just limited to these. Install custom lenses and scopes to extend the dash with more features.

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Ubuntu 12.04 is upon us. Aside from the usual assortment of bug fixes and updated software, Ubuntu’s Unity desktop environment has been polished and offers new features and more configurability.

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Phones and tablets only have so much internal memory. If you’re running out of space for apps or data, there are a few quick tricks you can use to free up space and get back to using your Android device.

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The new SkyDrive is a compelling product from Microsoft. With an ample 7 GB of free storage, a slick interface, and the ability to download unsynced files from any connected computer, SkyDrive gives Dropbox a run for its money.

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We’ve previously covered customizing Windows Explorer’s context menus by adding custom shortcuts and removing existing shortcuts with the Registry Editor. FileMenu Tools is an easy-to-use, graphical alternative to these fairly complicated registry hacks.

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The first thing any Linux user does after installing Linux is installing their favorite packages. Ubuntu makes this easy by syncing your installed applications between computers. And terminal users can install their favorite packages with a single command.

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