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.

The Keyboard Ninja uses shortcut keys to accomplish tasks in less time than using the mouse. He uses the keyboard to launch applications, switch between windows or tabs, or change settings on his computer.

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If you’ve installed a new driver that is causing problems on your computer, you can easily roll back to the prior version of the driver with a few simple steps.

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So you are using the killer Amarok music application under Ubuntu, but when you try  to “Burn this Album”, the menu item is grayed out and otherwise disabled. The reason for this is because Amarok is a KDE application designed to work with K3b, the cd burning application for KDE, but it’s not installed by default in Ubuntu. (For that matter, neither is Amarok)

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Since we opened our doors in September ’06, this site has produced more than 450 How-To articles on a bunch of different topics, but until now we haven’t had a place to blog about regular geek topics.

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Everybody knows that you can pop up the system clock in Vista by just hovering the mouse over the clock. What you might not know is that you can also do the same thing with the keyboard.

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The tiny size of the comment boxes on almost any blog anywhere drives me crazy, but I’ve got a solution. All you have to do is install the Resizeable Form Fields extension for Firefox, and then you can resize any input box on the page, including textboxes and text area boxes.

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After the tenth time saving an Excel spreadsheet and then emailing it to a co-worker still using Office 2003, I’m willing to save in 2003 format by default. It’s not like the rest of the office is going to switch for a very long time anyway, and this way I can stop sending them the wrong documents by mistake!

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Many people have expressed to me their dislike of the default ClearType font smoothing in Windows Vista, and asked for a way to change the settings to something better. You have a couple of options here:

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If you are thinking of installing an application but aren’t quite sure what it’s going to do to your computer, I would absolutely recommend creating a restore point before you install that application, and here are the steps to do so. Note that most application installs automatically create a restore point, but you can do this if you are really worried.

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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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