Make Windows Media Player the default audio player in Windows 8

Rick Broida , PCWorld

For more than 20 years, Rick Broida has written about all manner of technology, from Amigas to business servers to PalmPilots. His credits include dozens of books, blogs, and magazines. He sleeps with an iPad under his pillow.
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Like many Windows 8 users, I spend most of my time using Desktop mode, which affords me a more Windows 7-like experience.

However, every so often the OS kicks me into an app that I don't especially like or want to use. For example, my home-phone service (Ooma) delivers voice-mail messages to me as MP3 email attachments. When I open one, it fires up Microsoft's Music app, which inconveniently bounces me out of Desktop mode.

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How to boot to desktop mode in Windows 8.1

Rick Broida , PCWorld

For more than 20 years, Rick Broida has written about all manner of technology, from Amigas to business servers to PalmPilots. His credits include dozens of books, blogs, and magazines. He sleeps with an iPad under his pillow.
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One of my chief complaints with Windows 8 is that Microsoft forced you to boot to the new Start screen rather than giving you the option of booting to the desktop--which is where I prefer to hang my computing hat.

You could work around this using any number of utilities (most of which were designed primarily to restore the missing Start button, essential if you are working in Desktop), but with the release of Windows 8.1, Microsoft has added the capability.

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How to add USB 3.0 to your desktop PC

Rick Broida , PCWorld

For more than 20 years, Rick Broida has written about all manner of technology, from Amigas to business servers to PalmPilots. His credits include dozens of books, blogs, and magazines. He sleeps with an iPad under his pillow.
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If you've purchased an external hard drive recently, there's a good chance it came with a USB 3.0 interface.

That'll work with your old desktop, as most USB 3.0 devices are backward-compatible with USB 2.0 ports. The problem is you're not enjoying the significant speed benefits afforded by the newer technology.

So what's the solution? Buy a new machine? Nah: just upgrade your current one. Turns out it's pretty easy to add USB 3.0 ports to a desktop, provided you can meet two simple requirements.

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Tips for hassle-free computing at 33,000 feet

Rick Broida , PCWorld

For more than 20 years, Rick Broida has written about all manner of technology, from Amigas to business servers to PalmPilots. His credits include dozens of books, blogs, and magazines. He sleeps with an iPad under his pillow.
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I'm writing this from around seven miles high in the sky, where I can't help but marvel at the technology that's allowing my laptop a reasonably speedy Interent connection (never mind the technology that's keeping me--hopefully--from plummeting to earth).

I don't fly that often, but I've done it enough to have learned some tips for successful traveling with technology:

1. Don't pack a big laptop

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Strip away all of YouTube's clutter with Cleanr

Rick Broida , PCWorld

For more than 20 years, Rick Broida has written about all manner of technology, from Amigas to business servers to PalmPilots. His credits include dozens of books, blogs, and magazines. He sleeps with an iPad under his pillow.
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I don't know about you, but whenever I visit YouTube these days, I want to scold it like a child: "Clean up your room!" Because, seriously, what a mess.

Between the ads, the sidebar, the tools, the related videos, and especially the comments, YouTube has become a cluttered eyesore.

Thankfully, there's Cleanr, a browser extension that strips away all of YouTube's clutter. Specifically, it cleans the page of everything but a large video window. Now you can focus on what you wanted: the video.

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Tweak your browser to show YouTube song lyrics

Rick Broida , PCWorld

For more than 20 years, Rick Broida has written about all manner of technology, from Amigas to business servers to PalmPilots. His credits include dozens of books, blogs, and magazines. He sleeps with an iPad under his pillow.
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YouTube makes a great jukebox, whether you use it to stream an entire playlist of songs from your favorite artist or just listen to the occasional modern hit.

Ah, but what if you want to sing along? Or just figure out what the heck that line is in a song's chorus? (Surely it's not, "Should I give up, or should I just keep chasing penguins"?)

YouTube Lyrics by Rob W is a browser add-on that automatically looks up and displays song lyrics. And it works with not only YouTube, but also Grooveshark and Spotify.

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Research and compare the latest smartphones at PhoneRocket

Rick Broida , PCWorld

For more than 20 years, Rick Broida has written about all manner of technology, from Amigas to business servers to PalmPilots. His credits include dozens of books, blogs, and magazines. He sleeps with an iPad under his pillow.
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We interrupt your regularly scheduled Hassle-Free PC post to bring you the Hassle-Free Phone edition.

Trying to decide between, say, an HTC One and a Samsung Galaxy S4. Sure, you can read PC World's awesome reviews, maybe talk to friends and hit some stores for hands-on demos. But ultimately your best bet is to compare them directly, to see their specs, strengths, and weaknesses side by side.

That's what you get at PhoneRocket, a nifty site that compares any two smartphones in exhaustive detail.

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