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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.

I’ve released a small update to the Geek’s Spam Filter, the WordPress plugin that saves me time every day by deleting the most obvious spam before it goes into the Akismet queue. I used to have to filter through many hundreds of spam comments every day, and now it’s a maximum of 10-20 that get through on a daily basis.

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I’d heard that Visual Studio 2005 has compatibility issues with Windows Vista, so I wasn’t surprised when I got this error message when trying to run for the first time. To resolve this particular error message, you need to install the SP1 Update, which is pretty much the service pack for the service pack, I think.

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As both a programmer and writer, I often find the need to open my current tab into a separate window so that I can move it to my second monitor. Tab Mix Plus to the rescue! There’s an option in the settings panel to easily duplicate the current tab in a new window. You can use it from a keyboard shortcut as well if you want.

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How many times have you noticed a file sitting in a directory and wondered… where did this file come from?  Or you are trying to tell a friend how to use a utility but he doesn’t have it installed, and you can’t remember what package you installed to get it.

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There’s really nothing useful about this tip, but it’s still pretty cool. There’s a utility built into Windows Vista used for benchmarking your system called the System Assessment Tool. What most people don’t know is that you can call this utility from the command line and view some cool 3D benchmarks.

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I like to have the quickest access possible to folders on my desktop, which usually means putting something onto the taskbar if possible. You can add the Computer menu as a folder on the taskbar for the easiest access to your drives. You could also use this tip for any folder you want.

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The “Go” button in Firefox is rarely used and takes up space on the screen, although not all that much. If you want, you can easily disable it to give your address bar more room.

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Flip3D is pretty much the most useless feature in Windows Vista (and 7). It’s slower than Alt+Tab and pretty much completely worthless in every way. You’d be much better off using one of the Expose clones out there (Switcher, MyExpose, SmartFlip, etc) or you can completely disable this feature with a simple registry patch.

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My favorite feature in the latest version of VMware Workstation is that you can run virtual machines entirely in the background. This is most useful for “appliance” machines that you won’t actually use from the prompt, but through a web browser or ssh client.

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If you’ve found that your Hibernate option is missing from Windows Vista, it might be from running the disk cleanup wizard and removing the hibernate files. This is due to a known bug in Vista that might not have been hotfixed already.

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If you’ve found that your Sleep mode menu is dimmed out in Windows Vista, it’s most likely because Media Center disabled the option when it feels that media is being shared. This is an easy setting to fix, but it’s a little tough to locate without some assistance.

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If you are a new Ubuntu user coming from a Mac background, you might be disoriented by the placement of the minimize/maximize/close box on Ubuntu, which mimics Windows by default.

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If you are the type of person that dislikes those little site specific icons, then this tip is for you. Favicons can be disabled completely in Firefox with a simple config change.

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The new Safari for Windows is a very slick browser that beats the pants off everything else in the speed department, but it crashes so much on Windows Vista that it’s virtually unusable.

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One of the immediate complaints people have had about the new Safari for Windows beta is how “fuzzy” the fonts seem to look in comparison to Internet Explorer or Firefox. There’s a quick solution to this issue, although only partially, since Safari doesn’t use ClearType on Windows for some odd reason.

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I’ve been having a very frustrating issue with Windows Vista on my HP notebook: I put the computer into sleep mode, close the lid, and then unplug the network cable… and the computer wakes back up, typically when it’s already safely in my laptop bag, so I don’t notice until I get to my destination and the battery is nearly dead.

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A very common task for a web developer is uploading a single file from a subdirectory on your development box to the same subdirectory on a remote server. Unfortunately, this always ends up being an annoying manual process involving switching directories on both servers, and wastes a large amount of time.

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Since moving to Windows Vista, a lot of the keyboard shortcuts that I was used to just don’t work quite the same anymore. As a keyboard junkie, I find it imperative to learn the shortcut keys, so it’s good that there is a quick way to enable underlining of all shortcut keys.

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This isn’t for everyone, but you can enable a mouse mode in Windows 7 or Vista where just hovering over a window with the mouse will switch to that window. In the old days, this used to be called the XWindows mode, and was enabled through TweakUI, but now it’s built right into Control Panel for everybody to use.

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As this site has gained popularity, the time required to keep the site running has also grown. For instance, even though Akismet blocks virtually all of the spam comments, I still have to manually filter through hundreds of spam comments per day to see if any valid comments were blocked.

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Firefox has a spooky feature called “Prefetching” that downloads pages that it thinks you are going to click on. (note: this is a good excuse for how those pages ended up in your history). It’s also a waste of CPU and bandwidth that slows Firefox down.

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The Instant Search box in Outlook 2007 is a huge improvement over previous versions of Outlook, but remembering all the search operators can be a little difficult, so here’s a quick one that I use all the time.

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Windows Vista includes an extremely useful utility called Mobility Center, designed for laptop users to give you lightning quick access to all functions that a mobile user would need.

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So you’re in the middle of doing something important on your computer when the “Restart your computer to finish installing important updates” dialog comes up, and asks you to restart your computer.

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When you administrate servers running Windows Server 2000 or 2003, one of the most frustrating experiences is when sessions get cut off but the server still thinks they are active. You’ll get this error message, which you are sure to encounter at some point:

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