How to manually lower Netflix's streaming bit rate

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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True story. Last night, while on an Amtrak train from Chicago to Detroit, I was trying to pass the time by watching Netflix on my laptop. Just one problem: The connectivity wasn't great between cities, so there were a lot of pauses while the stream buffered.

What I needed was a way to downshift Netflix, to make it buffer at a lower bit rate. Yes, that would lower the image quality at the same time, but at least it would be more likely to play smoothly.

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Three old Windows right-click tricks that still rock

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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They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. But what about old tricks? As a longtime Windows user, I can tell you that occasionally I get so accustomed to doing things a certain way, I forget that there are faster, easier ways.

With that in mind, I've rounded up three right-click tricks you may have forgotten. Or never learned. Either way, you'll be glad you know them. (Note that these are all for Windows 7/8. They may be available in XP and/or Vista as well--I don't recall--but I no longer have those operating systems on which to double-check.)

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Five bookmarks every computer user should have

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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The Boy Scouts got it right: be prepared.

Whether you've just purchased a new PC or you've been using the same one for years, chances are good that at some point, you're going to need help and/or information.

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The myth of driver backups

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 an expert at learning things the hard way.

For example, my two-year-old Acer PC had reached the point where it desperately needed a hard drive reformat/Windows reinstall. (For background, read "How to decide when it's time to reformat and reinstall Windows.")

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Add custom news and alerts to new tabs in Google Chrome

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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OneFeed for Google Chrome.

If you're a Google Chrome user (it remains my browser of choice), you already know how to reduce tab clutter with OneTab and add a clock and weather station to new tabs.

But if you really want to amp up Chrome's tab acumen, install OneFeed. It turns new tabs (that is, those you open by clicking the new-tab button or pressing Ctrl-T) into a personalized portal, a page stocked with news feeds, e-mail notifications, social-network updates, and more.

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How to get a full-screen Gmail compose window every time

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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Last week we talked about Gmail's spiffy new inbox-sorting tabs. Today let's look at another new feature, one that's just starting to roll out to users: a full-screen new-message window.

By default, when you click Gmail's Compose button, you get a window that appears in the right corner of the screen.

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How to enable or disable Gmail's new tabs

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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Gmail tabs.

Gmail just rolled out one of its best features in years: Inbox tabs. (Actually, the feature was announced back in May, but is only just now starting to roll out to users.)

Borrowing a page from services like Alto and Swizzle Sweeper, Gmail can now automatically organize certain kinds of messages into tabs, greatly reducing inbox clutter in the process.

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