How to Close Pidgin Chat Windows with the Escape Key

Pidgin (formerly known as Gaim) is a free, multi-protocol instant messaging application for Windows, Mac, and Linux.  Pidgin is highly customizable and supports popular instant messaging networks like Google Talk, MSN/Windows Live Messenger, AIM, Yahoo! Chat, and can connect to services like Facebook Chat through plugins (or directly through the XMPP messaging protocol).

In recent versions of Pidgin, the developers changed the default “close chat window” hotkey from the Escape key to the combination CTRL + W.  While I understand their reasons for doing this (many desktop applications have standardized CTRL + W as the ubiquitous “Close Window” hotkey), I simply can’t break the habit of closing IM windows with Escape.

Here’s how to change Pidgin’s configuration so Escape closes the IM window instead of CTRL + W.

Update: Reader Miguel submitted a much easier way to use the Escape key to close IM windows. Thanks!

Step 1: In Pidgin, go to Tools –> Preferences.

Step 2: In the Interface tab, enable the checkbox for “Close conversations with the escape key”.

That’s it! This change will make Pidgin recognize Escape as the hotkey to close IM windows. Commence celebration.

The other (more difficult) way to use the Escape key to close IM window

Step 1: Close Pidgin.

Step 2: Windows XP: Navigate to the following directory on your computer (where username is the user you’re logged in as):

C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\.purple\

Windows Vista or Windows 7: Navigate to the following directory on your computer (where username is the user you’re logged in as):

C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\.purple\

Linux/UNIX: Navigate to the following directory:

~/.purple/

Step 3: Locate the file called accels and open it with Notepad (or a similar text editor, I prefer Notepad++).

image

Step 4: Find the line that contains the following code:

; (gtk_accel_path “

/Conversation/Close” “w”)

image

Delete the semicolon (;) and change the line to the following code:

(gtk_accel_path “

/Conversation/Close” “Escape”)

image


How to Enable Windows 7′s “Aero Snap” Feature in Earlier Versions of Windows

One of my favorite features in Windows 7 is Aero Snap, which automatically resizes and snaps applications to the sides of your screen when you drag them near.  If you’ve got several windows open on one screen, this is a great way to manage your space (and I’ve learned it’s even more useful when working on large screens).

My favorite way to use Aero Snap is with the keyboard – simply press the Windows Key + the left or right arrow on your keyboard and the current application will snap to the side of your screen.

Check out the video below to see how it works:

When I use earlier versions of Windows like Windows XP and Vista, I often find myself missing this feature.  But good news: it can easily be added with AeroSnap BETA.

AeroSnap BETA

AeroSnap BETA is a free download for Windows XP and Vista, and instantly gives you the same Aero Snap functionality seen in Windows 7.  After downloading and installing AeroSnap BETA, a small icon will be present in your system tray.  Right clicking this icon gives you more options.

In the General tab, you can set AeroSnap BETA to start with your system so snapping is always available.  You can also enable hotkeys, which is the best way to use Aero Snap in my opinion.  Pressing WIN + Left Arrow and WIN + Right Arrow will shift the current window to different sections of the screen, going from Right Snapped to Center to Left Snapped.

In the Snapping tab, you can adjust the different types of window snapping and also the width of the regions that the snap is sensitive to.

Adding Aero Snap to your older version of Windows is a great way to add some new functionality to your aging system without buying an entirely new operating system.

Enjoy this tip?  Make sure to check out our other articles about Windows!

Fix: What To Do if Removing a Virus Blocks Executable (.EXE) Files From Opening

I have recently observed that after removing certain fake anti-spyware viruses (such as “Windows Security Center” or “Anti Virus 2010″), all executable (.exe) files will no longer open.  No matter what file you try to open – iTunes, Firefox, or even Malwarebytes – they will not open because they are all .exe files.

To fix this problem, I came across a process that fixes the registry keys that have been changed due to this virus.

The Problem

When attempting to open any executable file, you see the image shown below.  It is a notification asking you to choose what program you would like to open the file with, which means Windows does not understand how to open .exe files.

The Solution

Disclaimer: Before you start this guide, please keep in mind that this is an advanced procedure and you could potentially end up doing more harm than good by following this guide.  If you are not comfortable with the procedures mentioned in this guide, please call your computer’s manufacturer for support or bring it to an authorized PC technician.  We can take no responsibility for damage done to your system by following this guide.

Step 1: Open the Run dialog box by going to Start -> Run or pressing WIN + R.  Then open the command prompt by typing “command” (instead of typing “cmd” because “cmd” links to an .exe file which will not open).  “Command” links to a .com file which is not affected by the virus.

Step 2: Once you have opened the Command Prompt, type “regedit” and hit enter.

If you can’t open regedit (which is certainly possible because it is an executable file itself), try typing the following commands, one at a time, and press enter after each one.

cd \

cd \windows

copy regedit.exe regedit.com

start regedit.com

This makes a copy of regedit in the form of a .com file so it can be opened.

Step 3: As a precaution you should back up your registry.  To do this, go to File->Export to save a backup file.  You should save this backup to a USB flash drive or other type of portable media just in case you can’t access your hard drive.

Leave the Registry Editor open after you have made a backup because you may need it in the next step.

Step 4: You will now need to run a special registry file that will re-establish the file associations for executable files.  This file is specially tailored for your operating system, so make sure you use the correct file.  You will need to right click these files and select Save As to download them to your computer.

After downloading the correct file for your operating system, you need to try opening it to add those values to the registry.

a) You can first try double clicking the file (or right clicking it and selecting Merge).  If this works you can skip to Step 5.

b) If a) didn’t work, go back to the Registry Editor which you opened in Step 2 and go to File -> Import.  Navigate to the .reg file you downloaded and select it.

c) If neither of those worked, check out the final section of this guide for more help.  Windows XP users can check out this guide which offers the registry fix in a .COM file format.

Step 5: If you were able to successfully install the registry fix for your operating system, you should be good to go now.  Restart your computer and try opening any executable files to see if it worked.

If you encounter problems after changing your registry, you can restore the backup you made in Step 3.

If you still have problems

I’ve dealt with a few computers that have been afflicted with this problem, and I have discovered that there is a tremendous amount of variability that can occur.  If this guide wasn’t able to help you, I recommend checking out the following guides which offer more solutions:

If you’re still stuck after that, post in the comments below and provide as much information as possible.

Remember, if in doubt: call your computer’s manufacturer for support or contact an authorized PC technician.  We can take no responsibility for damage done to your system by following this guide.

Fix: Windows Vista 64-bit Gets Blue Screen After Windows Updates

A recent Windows Update (KB973879) has been causing a “blue screen of death” (stop error) in many computers running Windows Vista 64-bit edition.  Many of the affected computers are HP Pavillion dv Series laptops (such as dv4 and dv6 models), but we have had reports of other manufactures having the same issues.  The problem occurs shortly after starting the computer.

The specific error is:

A problem has been detected and Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer.

Technical information:

*** STOP: 0x0000007E (0xFFFFFFFFC0000005, 0xFFFFF800020393AA, 0xFFFFFA60021EE7D8, 0xFFFFFA60021EE1b0)

hp-bsod

So far, we have found two methods to fix this problem.  Try the first method (using Safe Mode), and if that doesn’t work try the second method (using System Restore).

Method 1 (Safe Mode)

Step 1: Restart your computer and continuously tap the F8 key while it is restarting.  You will eventually see the ‘Advanced Boot Options’ screen, where you need to select the Safe Mode option.

hp-bsod-safemode

Step 2: Click the Start Menu and type Programs and Features in the search box.  Press enter when the Programs and Features option is selected.

hp-bsod-startmenu

Step 3: Select View installed updates in the top left of the window.

hp-bsod-viewupdates

Step 4: Locate Update for Microsoft Windows (KB973879) in the list of updates.  You can sort by name for easier searching by clicking the Name column.  Click Uninstall at the top of the list.

hp-bsod-uninstall

Step 5: Click Restart Now.  Your computer should now function properly.  If not, try Method 2 below.

Method 2 (System Restore)

Step 1: Restart your computer and continuously tap the F8 key while it is restarting.  You will eventually see the ‘Advanced Boot Options’ screen, where you need to select the Repair Your Computer option.

hp-bsod-repair

Step 2: Select your keyboard layout, which will typically be ‘US’.

hp-bsod-keyboard

Step 3: Enter your username and password.  If you have no password, just click OK.

hp-bsod-username

Step 4: Click System Restore in the System Recovery Options menu.  This may take a few minutes to launch so be patient.

hp-bsod-restore

Step 5: When the System Restore window opens, click Next.  Select the most recent system backup and click Next.

hp-bsod-restoreupdate

Step 6: Make sure your main drive is selected (most likely C:) and click Next.  Click Finish in the next screen.  Click Yes to the warning dialog.

hp-bsod-selectdrive

Step 7: When the restore has finished, you shoud receive a successful completion message.  Click the Restart button.

Step 8: When your computer  has restarted, click the Start Menu and type Programs and Features in the search box.  Press enter when the Programs and Features option is selected.

hp-bsod-startmenu

Step 9: Select View installed updates in the top left of the window.

hp-bsod-viewupdates

Step 10: Locate Update for Microsoft Windows (KB973879) in the list of updates.  You can sort by name for easier searching by clicking the Name column.  Click Uninstall at the top of the list.

hp-bsod-uninstall

Step 11: Click Restart Now.  Your computer should now function properly.

Have you experienced this problem?  Tell us about it (including the model of computer you have) in the comments.

Encrypt Your Data with BitLocker

bitlockerData security is more important than ever in modern times, so to help keep your files safe, Windows Vista (Enterprise and Ultimate editions), Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008 include an encryption program called BitLocker.

BitLocker is essentially a software encryption program that encrypts a drive in such a way that if credentials are not verified, it renders the drive completely useless to thieves.  In Windows 7 and Server 2008, BitLocker extends support to removable drives by storing a copy of itself locally on the encrypted drive and and installing itself as needed on any additional computer.

How to Use BitLocker

To enable BitLocker, open My Computer, right click the drive you would like to encrypt, and select “Turn on BitLocker”.

bitlocker_rightclickIn the next screen, you will be asked if you want to use a password or a smart card to unlock the drive.  Since the average user doesn’t have a smart card, we’ll be sticking with a password for this guide.

bitlocker_setpass2_usethisAfter clicking the Next button, you’ll be asked how you want to store your recovery key.  It is a good idea to store this somewhere safe; you’ll need it if you ever lock yourself out of the drive.  This key can be printed or stored in a file.

bitlocker_storekeyTo actually start the encryption process, you need to click “Start Encrypting” in the next window.  Encryption speed will vary on the size, speed, and connection of the drive you are securing.

bitlocker_readyencryptbitlocker_encryptingOnce the encryption process is finished, you’ll see an “Encryption is complete” message.  You can then check out your drive by going to My Computer – you’ll now see that the drive icon is different, indicating it is now secured with BitLocker.

bitlocker_securedriveIf you ever need to change the password on your drive you can simply right click the drive and select “Manage BitLocker”.  You will then be presented with a screen giving you several options including the ability to change or remove the password.

bitlocker_changepassFor more information about BitLocker, check out Microsoft’s BitLocker Feature Guide.

How to Rebroadcast a Weak Wifi Signal

routerThere may be a time when you have access to a wireless network in one part of your house, but just can’t get it anywhere else.  This isn’t a big deal if you own the network (you can buy another access point or wireless repeater), but if you don’t own the network, this guide will show you how to extend your free coverage.

What’s the purpose of this, you might ask?  In my case, I can connect to several wireless networks in my bedroom where my PC is located.  Unfortunately, I can’t access those networks in my living room where my Xbox 360 is located.  The technique presented in this guide allowed me to use my PC to pick up a wireless signal, share it with my PC’s Ethernet connection, and then rebroadcast it with a router.

What You’ll Need:

  • A working wireless connection
  • A computer running Windows XP, Vista, or 7 with an unused Ethernet port
  • A configured wireless router set to DHCP mode (I’ll be using a WRT54GL with Tomato firmware, but anything will work).  Every router is different, so make sure you configure your router’s settings (SSID, security, etc) before you begin this guide.
  • An Ethernet cable

Windows XP

  1. Connect your wireless router to your PC’s unused Ethernet port with an Ethernet cable.  Make sure to connect the cable to the source or internet port on your router, not one of the numbered outputs.
    router_back
  2. Power the wireless router.
  3. In Windows, right click the Network icon in the system tray and select Open Network Connections.
    rebroadcast_wifi_networkconnXP
  4. Right click your wireless connection and select Properties.
  5. Click the Advanced tab and select “Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection”.  This will allow your computer’s Ethernet port to access your wireless internet connection.  Click OK.
    rebroadcast_wifi_enablesharingXP

    1. If you don’t see an option for sharing your connection, verify that you have a second connection enabled on your computer.
  6. You now need to give your Ethernet connection a static IP address.  In the Network Connections window again, right click your Local Area Connection and select Properties.
  7. Select Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) and click the Properties button.
    rebroadcast_wifi_tcpipXP
  8. Select Use the following IP address: and provide an address.  I arbitrarily used 192.168.137.1.  Set ‘Subnet Mask:’ to 255.255.255.0.  Leave the DNS settings blank and click OK.
    rebroadcast_wifi_ipsettings
  9. Your rebroadcasted wireless network will now be up and running!

Windows Vista

  1. Connect your wireless router to your PC’s unused Ethernet port with an Ethernet cable.  Make sure to connect the cable to the source or internet port on your router, not one of the numbered outputs.
    router_back
  2. Power the wireless router.
  3. In Windows, right click the Network icon in the system tray and select Network and Sharing Center.
    network_rebroadcast_sharingcenterVista
  4. Click Manage network connections on the left side of the window.
    network_rebroadcast_managenetworksVista
  5. Right click your wireless connection and select Properties.
  6. Click the Sharing tab and select “Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection”.  This will allow your computer’s Ethernet port to access your wireless internet connection.  Click OK.
    network_rebroadcast_allowsharingVista

    1. If you don’t see an option for sharing your connection, verify that you have a second connection enabled on your computer.
  7. You now need to give your Ethernet connection a static IP address.  In the Network Connections window again, right click your Local Area Connection and select Properties.
  8. Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) and click the Properties button.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_staticipwin7
  9. Select Use the following IP address: and provide an address.  I arbitrarily used 192.168.137.1.  Set ‘Subnet Mask:’ to 255.255.255.0.  Leave the DNS settings blank and click OK.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_ipsettingswin7
  10. Your rebroadcasted wireless network will now be up and running!

Windows 7

  1. Connect your wireless router to your PC’s unused Ethernet port with an Ethernet cable.  Make sure to connect the cable to the source or internet port on your router, not one of the numbered outputs.
    router_back
  2. Power the wireless router.
  3. In Windows, click the Network icon in the system tray and select Open Network and Sharing Center.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_opennetworkswin7
  4. Click Change adapter settings on the left side of the screen.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_changesettingswin7
  5. Right click your wireless connection and select Properties.
  6. Click the Sharing tab and select “Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection”.  This will allow your computer’s Ethernet port to access your wireless internet connection.  Click OK.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_enablesharingwin7

    1. If you don’t see an option for sharing your connection, verify that you have a second connection enabled on your computer.
  7. You now need to give your Ethernet connection a static IP address.  In the Network Connections window again, right click your Local Area Connection and select Properties.
  8. Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) and click the Properties button.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_staticipwin7
  9. Select Use the following IP address: and provide an address.  I arbitrarily used 192.168.137.1.  Set ‘Subnet Mask:’ to 255.255.255.0.  Leave the DNS settings blank and click OK.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_ipsettingswin7
  10. Your rebroadcasted wireless network will now be up and running!

While rebroadcasting a weak signal does give you better access to a wireless network, it does have some inherent disadvantages.  Port forwarding will now be twice as complex, and there will most likely be a high amount of network latency induced.  That being said, I didn’t personally notice much of a difference browsing the internet on my laptop or using Xbox Live.

Have any other ideas for accessing wifi on the cheap?  Let us know in the comments.

How To: Change The Default Location of Documents, Pictures, and Music Folders in Windows

Saving your documents, pictures, and music to a separate partition from your operating system is a great practice to follow because it makes installing/reinstalling an operating system easier, allows you to access your files from a different operating system, and helps save your data in the event of a hard drive failure.

This guide will show you how to set the new location of these new directories in your operating system so your files get saved in the correct locations and your start menu links work correctly.

Windows XP/Vista

  1. Right click the directory you would like to change in your start menu and select Properties.
    filelocations_xp_startmenu
  2. Click the ‘Move’ button and select the location of your new directory.
    filelocations_xp_move
  3. Click OK to save your changes.
  4. You may be prompted  with ‘Do you want to move all the files from the old location to the new location’, click yes.
  5. Repeat for any additional folders (Music, Pictures) you would like to change.

Windows 7

  1. Right click the directory you would like to change in your Start Menu and select Properties.filelocations_startmenu
  2. Click the ‘Include a folder…’ button and choose the location of your new directory.
    filelocations_properties
  3. Select the newly added directory and click the ‘Set save location’ button to make it the default storage location.
    filelocations_savelocation
  4. Optional: Remove the original default directory (to avoid confusion if you don’t plan on using it).
  5. Repeat for any remaining folders (Music, Pictures, etc).

A great feature in Windows 7 is that it will automatically add your new Music directory to the Windows Media Player 12 “watch folders”, allowing it to load your entire music library without having to change any additional settings.