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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+.

If you’ve used Google lately, you’ve probably seen Google+ taking over Google’s search results. You don’t have to put up with it — you can disable the integration, show better social-networking pages or hide those pesky Google+ notifications.

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AirDroid for Android replaces your USB cable with your web browser. Transfer files back and forth, send text messages, play music, view your photos and manage applications — all without installing anything on your computer.

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Firefox’s Web Developer menu contains tools for inspecting pages, executing arbitrary JavaScript code, and viewing HTTP requests and other messages. Firefox 10 added an all-new Inspector tool and updated Scratchpad.

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Ubuntu and other Linux distributions have extensive package repositories to save you the trouble of compiling anything yourself. Still, sometimes you’ll find an obscure application or a new version of a program that you’ll have to compile from source.

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Firefox Sync allows you to access your open tabs, bookmarks, history, passwords and preferences everywhere, whether you’re using a laptop, desktop or smartphone. Firefox Sync also works as a backup for your browser data.

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Wi-Fi Analyzer for Android is the complete package. Not only will it show you the channels used by nearby wireless networks on a slick graph, it’ll recommend the ideal channel to reduce interference on your wireless network.

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Linux is a great operating system, but its software catalog can be lacking. If there’s a Windows game or other app you just can’t do without, you can use Wine to run it right on your Ubuntu desktop.

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Opera contains hidden features that aren’t exposed in its user interface. They’re on internal pages, which you can access by typing Opera: into the address bar, followed by the name of the page.

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We’ve mentioned using two-factor authentication with a text or voice message in the past, but the Google Authenticator app can be more convenient. It displays a code that changes every thirty seconds. The code is generated on your device, so you can use the app even if your device is offline.

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New versions of Windows don’t fully support classic DOS games and other old applications — this is where DOSBox comes in. It provides a full DOS environment that runs ancient DOS apps on modern operating systems.

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Storing your passwords in the cloud is convenient, but security can be a concern. LastPass provides two free multi-factor authentication methods to lock your password vault up tight: a mobile app or a piece of paper.

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Google Chrome’s internal chrome:// pages contain experimental features, diagnostic tools and detailed statistics. They’re hidden in Chrome’s user interface, so you have to know they exist to find them. These hidden pages are Chrome’s version of Firefox’s about: pages.

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Ubuntu displays an informative message, known as the message of the day, when a user logs in at the terminal. The MOTD is fully customizable — you can add your own text and other dynamic data.

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Mozilla Firefox has a variety of hidden Easter eggs, configuration settings and diagnostic information hidden away in its internal about: pages. You can access each page by typing about: into the address bar, followed by the name of the page.

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Opera, like all popular web browsers, contains features that sacrifice privacy for convenience. Opera contains some features that send every website you visit to its servers, but also offers excellent, fine-grained control of cookies.

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Wireshark, a network analysis tool formerly known as Ethereal, captures packets in real time and display them in human-readable format. Wireshark includes filters, color-coding and other features that let you dig deep into network traffic and inspect individual packets.

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Tired of Ubuntu’s Unity desktop environment? Try Cinnamon, the latest desktop environment from Linux Mint. Cinnamon offers a more traditional, GNOME 2-like layout, but it’s based on the modern GNOME Shell — and you can install it on Ubuntu.

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Apple’s Safari browser can defend against tracking by advertisers, ask websites not to track you and prevent insecure transmission of important data, but not all of these features are enabled by default.

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W3M is a terminal web browser for Linux. It’s got a few tricks up its sleeve, including support for images, tabs, tables, frames and other features not usually included with terminal web browsers.

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Heard of Pidgin? You should have. It’s one of the best multi-protocol instant messaging apps for Windows and Linux, and it’s open source. Pidgin includes some interesting plugins and features that you might not know about.

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If you’ve spent any amount of time playing multiplayer PC games online, you’ve probably encountered Ventrilo. It’s one of the most popular VoIP apps among PC gamers, but its user interface is hostile to newbies.

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Use Internet Explorer 9? It may be sending your entire browsing history to Microsoft. Or, it may be automatically blocking tracking websites. It’s all in how you tweak Internet Explorer’s privacy settings.

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Vi is a powerful text editor included with most Linux systems, even embedded ones. Sometimes you’ll have to edit a text file on a system that doesn’t include a friendlier text editor, so knowing Vi is essential.

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There are tons of third-party partition managers for Windows, but did you know that Windows includes its own partition manager? Microsoft did a good job of hiding the built-in partition manager, but it’s there.

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Firefox includes powerful features to prevent you from being tracked online, but they aren’t on by default. We’ll show you how to take control of your privacy online with Firefox’s options.

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