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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+.

Amazon’s Fire tablets run Amazon’s own “Fire OS” operating system. Fire OS is based on Google’s Android, but it doesn’t have any of Google’s apps or services. Here’s what that means, and how exactly they’re different.

about 6 months ago - by  |  4 Replies

Wouldn’t it be great to have a smart TV? Well, not really. Smart TVs have a lot of problems. If you do have a smart TV, you’d be better off combining it with a cheap set-top box rather than actually using its smart features.

about 6 months ago - by  |  70 Replies

Amazon’s Appstore has quite a few big-name apps, including Microsoft’s. But Google hasn’t put its own apps in the Amazon Appstore. It’s still possible to access Google’s services in other ways — or even use Google’s actual Android apps on your Fire Tablet.

about 6 months ago - by  |  7 Replies

Whether you’re dealing with images, music, or video files, it’s important to understand the difference between different types of formats and when to use them. Using the wrong format could ruin a file’s quality or make its file size unnecessarily large.

about 6 months ago - by  |  12 Replies

Amazon’s Fire Tablet normally restricts you to the Amazon Appstore. But the Fire Tablet runs Fire OS, which is based on Android. You can install Google’s Play Store and gain access to every Android app, including Gmail, Chrome, Google Maps, Hangouts, and the over one million apps in Google Play.

about 6 months ago - by  |  20 Replies

Windows 10, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One all have integrated ways to record your gameplay and post clips online. Now, Android devices, iPhones, and iPads are gaining integrated ways to capture videos of mobile gameplay and post it to YouTube or elsewhere.

about 6 months ago - by  |  1 Reply

Antimalware programs like Malwarebytes pop up warnings when they detect “potentially unwanted programs” you might want to remove. People call PUPs many other names, including “adware” and “crapware.” You almost certainly don’t want these programs on your computer, but they’re categorized differently for legal reasons.

about 6 months ago - by  |  8 Replies

Many online services offer two-step verification or two-factor authentication. Enable this for an account and it’ll require more than just your password to sign in. You’ll also need something else — and there are many different types of additional authentication methods you can use.

about 6 months ago - by  |  1 Reply

On a Chromebook, only apps from the Chrome Web Store typically get their own taskbar icons and separate windows. But you can give any website its own taskbar icon and make it open in a separate window, effectively turning any website you like into an “app.”

about 6 months ago - by  |  4 Replies

Google Cardboard is cool. It’s a way to try virtual reality with a cheap headset made of cardboard and your current Android phone or iPhone. But, compared to devices like the Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard is just a parlor trick.

about 6 months ago - by  |  5 Replies

U2F is an emerging standard for physical authentication tokens. Current U2F keys are all small USB devices. To log in, you won’t need to enter an authentication code provided from an app or SMS — just insert the USB security key and press a button. Here’s how they work.

about 6 months ago - by  |  11 Replies

U2F is a new standard for universal two-factor authentication tokens. These tokens can use USB, NFC, or Bluetooth to provide two-factor authentication across a variety of services. It’s already supported in Chrome for Google, Dropbox, and GitHub accounts. Microsoft is working on implementing it in Edge.

about 6 months ago - by  |  22 Replies

Yes, Android devices have serious security problems. There’s Android malware out there — mostly outside the Google Play Store. The biggest problem is that most Android devices don’t get security updates. Android antivirus apps aren’t a solution to these problems.

about 6 months ago - by  |  14 Replies

if you’ve purchased an app from the iOS App Store or the Mac App Store and there’s a problem, you can contact Apple to get your money back. This isn’t automatic — you’ll have to provide a reason you want a refund and Apple will review your request.

about 6 months ago - by  |  1 Reply

Google Play allows you to easily refund an app — for any reason — within the first two hours after purchasing it. After that, it gets a bit more difficult and situational — but there are still ways you can potentially get a refund.

about 6 months ago - by  |  1 Reply

Web pages can automatically play audio thanks to HTML5, even if you’ve set Flash and other browser plug-ins to click-to-play. Most modern web browsers include an audio indicator that will show you which tab is playing sound. Most modern browsers also let you mute individual tabs.

about 6 months ago - by  |  3 Replies

Telephone scams are on the upswing, and they’re often enabled by caller ID spoofing. That name and number that appears when someone calls you can be faked, so you can’t place all your trust in it.

about 6 months ago - by  |  4 Replies

Spotlight search on Mac OS X shows results from the “Developer” category if you’ve ever installed Xcode on your Mac. If you still have Xcode installed, there’s an easy checkbox to disable this. But, if you’ve uninstalled Xcode, Spotlight just keeps showing Developer search results with no way to turn them off.

about 6 months ago - by  |  1 Reply

Microsoft Edge doesn’t yet have browser extensions, but it can use bookmarklets. Bookmarklets work just fine in Edge, and they make up for the lack of browser extensions. You’ll just have to install them manually first.

about 6 months ago - by  |  3 Replies

Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, and Microsoft’s Windows 10 all keep a list of apps you’ve purchased — or just downloaded, if they’re free. This list will become cluttered over time, especially if you download and try out a lot of free apps. But you can clean this list up, at least on iOS and Android.

about 6 months ago - by  |  3 Replies

Routers protect their web interfaces, where you can configure their networking, parental control, and port forwarding settings, with a username and password. These default passwords can be changed to protect the router’s settings.

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How much energy do your smartphone, laptop, and tablet chargers really use? Should you unplug them when you aren’t using them to save power and money? We measured exactly how much power a variety of common chargers use, and how much keeping them plugged in will cost your each year.

about 7 months ago - by  |  57 Replies

Android 6.0 Marshmallow contains a highly experimental and hidden multi-window mode. Perhaps this will be stable in the next version of Android — it would definitely make Google’s Pixel C, Nexus 9, and Nexus 6 phones more useful. For now, you can enable it if you’re willing to do some tweaking.

about 7 months ago - by  |  1 Reply

Mac OS X offers no “Uninstall a program” interface like the one available in Windows. You have to uninstall applications by dragging their icons around — but what about applications that don’t have shortcuts, built-in system apps, and other corner cases?

about 7 months ago - by  |  3 Replies

Android includes full access to a file system, complete with support for removable SD cards. But Android itself has never come with a built-in file manager, forcing manufacturers to create their own file manager apps and users to install third-party ones. With Android 6.0, Android now contains a hidden file manager.

about 7 months ago - by  |  2 Replies