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10 great ‘Do these first’ tweaks for Windows 7

It’s that time of year when many PC users are buying new machines and — ready or not — making the leap to Windows 7.

Get off on the right foot: save time, trouble, and frustration by performing these 10 simple Win7 tweaks.

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Set-top boxes match up: Apple TV vs. Google TV

The secret to choosing the right set-top box for your TV is managing your expectations.

Although these devices give TVs access to more of your audio, video, and Web media, none of them provides the one thing we really want — lower cable bills.

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Your next PC: thinking beyond the desktop

With Black Friday a fading memory and Cyber Monday deals still fresh on the Web, visions of a new PC may be dancing in your head.

But before you go out hunting for that shiny new Win7 machine, take a deep breath, sit back, and consider these tips on buying a PC.

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Avoid the security risk of shortened URLs

The compact URLs produced by services such as TinyURL, bit.ly, is.gd, and many others are convenient and save space, but they can also be used to hide the identity of malicious sites.

Fortunately, there are several ways to peek behind a shortened URL to see exactly where the link will take you — before you click it!

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Microsoft TechNet for the rest of us

Microsoft’s TechNet site, dubbed “Resources for IT Professionals,” is a rich repository of high-level geek talk plus tips for enterprise-class IT personnel.

But don’t let that reputation put you off — TechNet is also a gold mine of excellent tips and tricks for individual Windows users as well.

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Windows XP: Looking back, looking forward

On October 22, Microsoft pulled the plug on sales of Windows XP, ending the operating system’s spectacular nine-year run.

With no new copies being sold, support for XP will start to decline. Fortunately, XP’s long run has produced a ton of collected wisdom: everything you need to keep your copy going strong and — when ready — to help you move on.

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Cloak your connection to foil Firesheep snoopers

In his Oct. 28 In the Wild column, Robert Vamosi showed how easy it is to snoop a Wi-Fi connection using a clever Firefox add-in called Firesheep.

If you’re serious about protecting your surfing from prying eyes while on an unencrypted public Wi-Fi connection, the onus is on you to lock down your connections. Using virtual private networking (VPN) is one of the best ways I know to do that.

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Dropbox: File synching and sharing made easy

There’s no shortage of services offering file sharing, synching, and collaboration through the Internet.

But one service stands out from the rest. Dropbox is one of those simple applications that, once installed, quickly become an indispensable part of your computing process.

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Hybrid hard drives finally come of age

Once hailed as the perfect compromise between pricey solid-state drives and cheaper-but-slower platter models, hybrid hard drives quickly became a technological flash in the pan.

But new models from Seagate have resuscitated the technology — the Momentus XT line offers many of solid state’s benefits without the sticker shock.

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Simple change in settings pumps up Win7 networks

Windows 7 has many good things going for it, but home networking is not always one of them.

But with just two quick clicks within Win7’s Advanced sharing settings, you can improve your local network throughput by as much as 12%.

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