Yesterday, I screwed up while "shutting down" Pidgin, the multi-protocol Instant Messenger that is part of the baseline Ubuntu installation. I used the [X] button on the individual message windows and the Buddy List window -- the Buddy List being the main application window with all the menu commands.
Yeah, I know. "Close Window" != "Quit". I'm used to apps that leave some trace on the desktop or means of accessing them even when all the windows are closed.
And a few hours later, with my IM client "shut down" I got an IM. It took me a minute or two to say, "Hold on a sec."
I can't get the Buddy List back. There are no buttons or menu commands in the message window to do it. There aren't any happy little pigeon-head icons on the various taskbars (or "panels", in Gnome-speak). While it's supposedly tied into the File Browser and the bundled email client, there aren't any "Summon Pidgin In Pentagram" commands in those, either.
I have uninstalled and reinstalled the app and its associated packages in every combination I can think of, and when it's reinstalled, it still remembers all my previous settings: account name, password, No Buddy List Anywhere. I show up on Quel's IM client, and she can IM me. I just can't initiate any IMs.
The online help isn't. Forum-based open-source help sounds like a splendid idea, until you try to plough through hundreds of poorly-phrased questions that only sort of sound like your problem, and then try to figure out which of the poorly-phrased and contradictory answers might actually function.
Like so many things, the real answer seems to be "find someone you know who knows this stuff and ask them."
Anyone out there?
EDIT: 02 December 07, 10:36
Last night, in the post-midnight hours when I was initially trying to troubleshoot this, I checked the various prefs and config files in the hidden directory that Pidgin uses. They were XML files full of cryptic Boolean variables, so I just shrugged and moved on.
This morning, I realized that in all probability, they weren't getting deleted when I uninstalled and reinstalled and uninstalled and reinstalled. Sleep helps!
So I simply deleted all the XML files, rebooted (to make sure Pidgin was shut down), and started Pidgin up.
Sure enough, I got a "Welcome to Pidgin" screen, and was able to set up my account all over again.
Thankfully, I only had a single AIM screen name set up.