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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+.

Regulatory agencies in the US, Canada, and Europe now allow you to use electronics during takeoff and landing. This is called “gate-to-gate” device use — you could be using a device the entire time you’re on an airplane.

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Google Services shows up on Android’s Battery statistics screen as one of the many things draining your battery. It can sometimes drain an excessive amount of battery power, but you can solve this problem.

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Search engines are becoming ever-more integrated into mobile operating systems, but you can still change your default search engine on your smartphone or tablet. You don’t have to stick with the search engine the device manufacturer chose for you.

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An “ATM skimmer” is a malicious device criminals attach to an ATM. When you use an ATM that’s been compromised in such a way, the skimmer will create a copy of your card and capture your PIN.

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Adobe is no longer developing the Flash for Firefox on Linux. You’re still getting security updates, but that’s it — your Flash Player plug-in is already several major versions out-of-date.

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Windows is packed full of system tools, and many of them are in the Administrative Tools folder. The tools here are more powerful and complex, so they’re hidden where most Windows users won’t stumble across them.

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Set up a new disk on Windows 8.1 or 8 and you’ll be asked whether you want to use MBR or GPT. GPT is the new standard and is gradually replacing MBR.

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Windows’ BitLocker encryption defaults to 128-bit AES encryption, but you can choose to use 256-bit AES encryption instead. Using a 256-bit AES key could potentially offer more security against future attempts to access your files.

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Unknown devices show up in the Windows Device Manager when Windows can’t identify a piece of hardware and provide a driver for it. An unknown device isn’t just unknown — it’s not functioning until you install the right driver.

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Each Linux distribution comes with a single default desktop environment chosen from the many different desktop environments available for Linux. But you don’t have to stick with the default.

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Want to install a custom Android ROM — in other words, a third-party version of the Android operating system — like CyanogenMod? You’ll probably be instructed to install a custom recovery, too.

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BitLocker normally encrypts entire drives and partitions, but you can also create encrypted container files with tools built into Windows. Such encrypted VHD files can easily be moved between systems, backed up, and hidden when not in-use.

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Whether you want to use a new font in a Word or just change your operating system’s system font to give it a different look, you’ll first have to install the font on your operating system.

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Whether your device was stolen or simply lost, you can remotely track, lock, and wipe it. Don’t wait until you’ve lost your hardware to think about this — these features need to be enabled ahead of time.

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Linux distributions tend to use two different types of release cycles: standard releases and rolling releases. Some people swear by rolling releases to have the latest software, while others like standard releases for being more stable and tested.

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Windows can encrypt entire operating system drives and removable devices with its built-in BitLocker encryption. When TrueCrypt controversially closed up shop, they recommended their users transition away from TrueCrypt to BitLocker.

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Apple’s phone, tablet, and computer-tracking tools are the best in the business. You can remotely locate your device, disable it with a lock and message that persists through factory resets — the so-called “kill switch” — and wipe it.

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Passwords can be reset or bypassed on every operating system. On Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X, you can gain access to a computer’s unencrypted files after resetting the password — the password doesn’t actually prevent access to your files.

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Windows 7 and 8 create a special “System Reserved” partition when you install them on a clean disk. Windows doesn’t assign a drive letter to these partitions, so you’ll only see them when you use Disk Management or similar utility.

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Older Android devices support USB mass storage for transferring files back and forth with a computer. Modern Android devices use the MTP or PTP protocols — you can choose which one you prefer.

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Internet connection data caps are becoming more widespread in the US. Internet service providers may claim their data limits are good for “millions of emails,” but emails are small and HD videos on Netflix are much, much larger.

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If you use remote desktop, remote file access, or other server software, you may leave your computer on at home or work when you leave the house. This uses more power. Instead, you could simply remotely power on your PC whenever you need to use it.

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Coming from Windows, file extensions on Linux and Mac OS X can seem a bit strange. The operating system seems to know what files are without relying on the file extension — it does this using MIME types.

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CyanogenMod is the most popular custom ROM for Android devices. While it’s an unofficial build of Android, it probably provides an experience closer to Google’s original vision than the software on your current Android phone or tablet does!

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Regular backups are essential. Windows has integrated backup tools, Ubuntu has Déjà Dup, and Mac OS X has Time Machine. Time Machine backs up everything on your Mac, from system files to your personal files.

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