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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 forces you to agree to every permission an app wants, assuming you want to use the app. After rooting your device, you can manage permissions on a per-app basis.

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Ubuntu is pretty snappy out-of-the-box, but there are some ways to take better advantage of your system’s memory and speed up the boot process. Some of these tips can really speed things up, especially on older hardware.

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Whether you’re typing an email in your browser or writing in a word processor, there are convenient keyboard shortcuts usable in almost every application. You can copy, select, or delete entire words or paragraphs with just a few key presses.

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If you’re constantly adjusting your computer’s volume while you watch videos or play music, there’s a better way. You can set a consistent volume level, either Windows-wide or in a specific program like VLC or your music player.

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You’ve probably heard that you need to overwrite a drive multiple times to make the data unrecoverable. Many disk-wiping utilities offer multiple-pass wipes. This is an urban legend – you only need to wipe a drive once.

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Manufacturers and carriers often load Android phones with their own apps. If you don’t use them, they just clutter your system and sometimes in the background, draining resources. Take control of your device and stop the bloatware.

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Some forms of tracking are obvious – for example, websites know who you are if you’re logged in. But how do tracking networks build up profiles of your browsing activity across multiple websites over time?

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You’ve probably heard of people “rooting” their Android phones. If you’ve ever wondered how to do that yourself – or wondered why people would bother – you’re in luck. You can root your Android in just a few minutes.

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If you’re a Linux user, you’ve probably heard that you don’t need to defragment your Linux file systems. You’ll also notice that Linux distributions don’t come with disk-defragmenting utilities. But why is that?

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Ubuntu includes its own firewall, known as ufw – short for “uncomplicated firewall.” Ufw is an easier-to-use frontend for the standard Linux iptables commands. You can even control ufw from a graphical interface.

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Vi is a powerful text editor included on most Linux systems. Many people swear by vi and find it faster than any other editor once they’ve learned its key bindings. You can even use vi key bindings in Bash.

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Ubuntu and Linux Mint are two of the most popular desktop Linux distributions at the moment. If you’re looking to take the dive into Linux – or you’ve already used Ubuntu or Mint – you wonder how they’re different.

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Your browser sends its user agent to every website you connect to. We’ve written about changing your browser’s user agent before – but what exactly is a user agent, anyway?

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Ubuntu and many other Linux distributions use the GRUB2 boot loader. If GRUB2 breaks — for example, if you install Windows after installing Ubuntu or overwrite your MBR — you won’t be able to boot into Ubuntu.

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SSH offers more than just a secure, remote terminal environment. You can use SSH to tunnel your traffic, transfer files, mount remote file systems, and more. These tips and tricks will help you take advantage of your SSH server.

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Tiling window managers make your life easier by automatically arranging windows on the screen for you. Xmonad is a minimal one that’s easy to get started with — all you have to do is learn a few keyboard shortcuts.

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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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