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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.

This has been frustrating me for a while, ever since I got a new laptop with Adobe Reader 8 pre-installed on it. Every single time I open a PDF, no matter what size, I have to wait for the “Content Preparation Progress” dialog that tells me the document is being prepared for reading. I’m prepared to read the document, why isn’t my computer?

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If you’ve worked on a network with Windows servers, you’ve encountered this error message at least 37,000 times:

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If you’ve owned a computer running Windows, you’ve probably complained about things crashing on your computer. Windows Vista includes a Reliability Monitor utility that lets you track all of the times that something crashed.

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I’ve never actually used the Firefox download window for anything useful. I don’t really care about keeping a list of downloads, and anytime I accidentally open the downloads window, it seems to hang the browser for a few seconds.

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If you’ve ever hooked up your laptop to a secondary monitor and then disconnected without remembering to move the windows back to the primary desktop, you’ve probably encounted this problem:

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A very popular registry hack for Windows XP was the “Command Prompt Here” hack, that would automatically open a command prompt window in the directory that you had clicked on.

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I use a lot of batch files, command line applications, and even Ruby scripts (which run from the command line). One of the things that has always irritated me is the flashing command prompt window when I make a shortcut for a batch file, especially when I put it into the startup folder to run when I first login.

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One of the more annoying things about visiting blogs is having to fill out all the comment fields. They are the same on every blog (including this one). Sure, you can hit the down arrow key and Firefox might remember what you typed last, but it’s still a pain, especially as a blogger when you want to leave a lot of comments.

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If you are like me, then you probably use Google Reader just because it uses shortcut keys that remind me of the VIM editor. What I didn’t know until today is that you can quickly pop up a list of all the shortcut keys by just typing the question mark ( ? ).

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A common security concern at organizations is allowing users to plug in a usb flash drive, because they could so easily copy corporate data.

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It’s really very simple to enable the system clock to show military time in Windows 7 or Vista, but the setting is not in an obvious place, so you might not have found it.

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I know what you are thinking. Can’t I just make a shortcut? Of course you can. But using this tweak you can recreate the native Internet Explorer icon the way it used to be in prior versions of Windows.

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Transferring a Firefox profile from one computer to another can be a pain if you have to do it manually. Sure, you can locate the firefox profile directory and then copy it to the new machine, but then it doesn’t automatically show up in the list, etc.

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If you are using an identity column on your SQL Server tables, you can set the next insert value to whatever value you want. An example is if you wanted to start numbering your ID column at 1000 instead of 1.

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Windows Vista has built-in support for Serial ATA(SATA) hard drives, but it doesn’t automatically enable advanced write caching features. You can speed up your computer by enabling this mode in Device Manager.

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One of the things that drives me crazy on Windows Vista is all of the optional updates that show up in the Windows Update list. I want to look at Windows Update and see that there are no updates, not see that there’s a list of 14 language packs that I don’t really need

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System administrators will almost always set the default home page for the browser to the corporate website or intranet when building a machine. This is just a small registry hack that will set the home page for IE6 or IE7.

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Why you’d want to disable tabbed browsing is a mystery to me, but I received a request for a registry hack to force IE7 to not use tabs. I can only assume that it has to do with keeping users from too much confusion when upgrading from IE6.

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Firefox resizes large images by default to fit in the browser window. This can get really annoying if you are browsing a lot of large images.

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The more applications that you install into Windows, the longer the computer takes to shut down. This is especially true for applications that install a service that runs when the computer starts, and even more true for services that refuse to shut down quickly, or time out when being shut down.

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If you dislike the new Favorite Links panel in the Windows Vista Explorer panel, you might not realize that it’s really called the Navigation Pane, and it’s extremely simple to turn off. 

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If you use a toolbar such as the Google or Yahoo toolbars, you probably won’t want to see the built-in search box in Internet Explorer 7. There’s a quick registry fix that you can do to enable / disable this.

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You’ve seen the SendTo folder in action any time you right-click a file and select the Send To folder from the context menu. What you might be unaware of is that you can customize the items in this menu.

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Vista Start Menu Health Without Start++

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If you have set the default feed reader for Firefox, you no longer have an option to preview a feed before adding it to your feed reader of choice. This can be a little frustrating when trying to quickly look at a feed without actually adding it.

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