Lowell Heddings

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

One of the most popular articles around here has been the article I wrote a year ago about using different wallpapers on each desktop using Active Desktop in Windows XP. The problem with that article is that it didn’t work in Windows Vista… but now we have a great solution that is also free.

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If you’ve got an Ubuntu machine that you initially installed with Ubuntu Desktop, but would like to run as a server, you can just disable the graphical environment from starting up in order to save resources. This is also useful for doing system maintenance from the command line that needs to be performed outside of the GUI.

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If you are still using Hotmail but would prefer to access your email from a desktop client, then you might be interested to know that Microsoft has released a connector that will allow you to send and receive Hotmail or Office Live Mail through Outlook 2003 or 2007.

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One of the things in Ubuntu that has always driven me crazy is the addition of new items into the grub menu without removing the old entries that likely don’t even work anymore. I’m sure most experienced Ubuntu users already know how to do this, but here’s the method anyway.

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The blank tab page in Firefox is just a plain white boring nothing – until now. Using the Stylish extension for Firefox, we can set a custom style for the page, and even embed images into the style to make it really look great.

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The same programmer that created yesterday’s Tabbed Explorer plugin also has another add-in that will give you Vista-style breadcrumbs in Windows XP. This application should be really helpful for those of you that aren’t ready to switch to Windows Vista yet, but want to get some of the new features.

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A popular feature in previous versions of Windows was the ability to dock a toolbar to the side of the desktop. Most people used this for an auto-hiding quick launch or address toolbar, or both.

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One of my immediate thoughts when I used a Mac for the first time was: How do I add icons to the top menu? After doing some digging, I found a great application that lets you not only add icons to the menu bar, but also assign hotkeys and even run scripts.

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I’ve been hoping for a Tabbed explorer add-on to Windows Vista ever since I made the switch, but what most of you have been talking about is the lack of an Up button like XP used to have. Reader Shawn wrote in with a solution for both of our problems: QTTabBar, an add-on for Explorer that gives you a ton of functionality for either Vista or XP.

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One of the most popular topics among our readers is installing Windows XP on your new Windows Vista computer – sometimes for compatibility reasons, but also because a lot of people just don’t like Vista very much.

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Wouldn’t it be cool if you could add search plugins for any search form to the Firefox Search Bar, instead of having to create the plugin yourself or wait for the site owner to stop being lazy and make one?

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If you don’t use the built-in Windows Calendar or use it to display your Google calendar, you might be interested in removing the application from Windows Vista.

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If you frequently download files from suspicious sites, it’s probably worth it to check for viruses Before you download, instead of waiting to see if your regular anti-virus software will catch it after you download.

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A reader on the forum asked yesterday why his password kept expiring on his Windows Vista installation, so here’s the answer for everybody: Windows XP Professional, Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Ultimate all have a built-in feature to allow user accounts to have a password expiration.

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If you’ve declined to use a service like FeedBurner to handle your RSS feeds, you might wonder how many subscribers you actually have. This also works well for finding subscriber counts to specific categories or comment posts on your site, which you typically wouldn’t run through FeedBurner.

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As an avid user of the Sleep function on my laptop, I’ve been more than irritated with Windows 7 or Vista’s habit of changing the Sleep/Shutdown button into an “Install Updates and Shut Down” button whenever there are updates from Windows Update.

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Instead of using the Google Talk client embedded in Gmail, why not use it in your sidebar instead? Thanks to the gTalk sidebar extension, we can do just that.

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Virtualization Technology (VT) is a set of enhancements to newer processors that improve performance for running a virtual machine by offloading some of the work to the new cpu extensions. Both AMD and Intel have processors that support this technology, but how do you tell if your system can handle it?

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The calculator options on Linux just blows the Windows calculator away. Imagine a calculator where you can solve extremely complicated expressions, or just convert between different measurements, and you’ve got Qalculate.

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In prior versions of Windows before Vista, you could always open control panel items by passing control.exe the name of the *.cpl file that represented the item you were trying to open. For instance, if you wanted to open the display properties you could run the command “control.exe desk.cpl”.

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Instead of re-typing long, painful error messages whenever you are trying to Google for a solution, did you know you can simply use Ctrl+C to copy the text of the message to the clipboard?

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I’ve noticed quite a number of people mentioning that I’m covering Vista too much (is that possible?) and have requested that I cover more topics… so I’m going to open it up to you, the readers, for suggestions on what topics I should branch out into.

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Windows 7 and Vista have all the same Windows+X shortcut keys as other versions of Windows, such as Win+E for explorer and Win+D for the desktop, but adds in all of the Win+<num> keys to launch the shortcuts in the Vista Quick Launch menu (or switch to apps in Windows 7), as well as Win+X for mobility center, etc. But what if you want to disable all these extra keys?

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Windows Mobility Center is a fairly useful tool for those of us using Windows 7 or Vista on a laptop computer, but might not be for everybody, especially since it takes over the Win+X keyboard shortcut.

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The Tab Mix Plus extension has a gem of a feature buried deep within the settings: The ability to turn the Ctrl+Tab key from a direct tab switch into a popup menu that works similarly to the Windows Alt+Tab feature. It’ll pop up a tiny dialog window that gives you a list of your tabs, and then on release of the keys will switch to that tab.

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