Category Archives: Monitors

New monitor

Mostly for my own records:

Since one of my two Samsung 940N 19″ monitors (bought in 2006) developed a horizontal line through it, I’ve replaced it with a 23.6″ Philips 247E3LSU2, which was $168 from Officeworks.

Bigger monitors wouldn’t really fit into the space.

It’s plugged into “Calculus”, the Mac Pro. I should get a DVI-D cable to get the best picture quality out of it… amazed at how damn expensive they can be retail. I’ve ordered one from DealExtreme instead (no particular rush – the VGA cable I have may not be optimum, but it works).

The display makes it

I recently got a new PC at work, which for the first time has an LCD screen and ClearType turned on. Switching to my usual option of using Times New Roman for my code editing… Without judging the quality of the actual code, I must say, it's beautiful to look at. Reminds me of that WordPress slogan, “Code is poetry.”

It's a real pleasure to fin

ally be working with a PC that's fast enough for my current needs, too.

(Yeah, I'm a bit behind on getting all the points in Jeff Attwood's Programmers' Bill of Rights…)

Memo to self: Turn off ClearType when doing screen dumps. Well, at least the important ones.

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The joys of the Loewe TV service menu

I’ve got a Loewe Profil TV. A few years old now, but going pretty well. Apart, that is, from some scan line thingies appearing at the top of screen when it’s in 4:3 mode. It started happening when the TV (and I) moved house some time ago. I assume it got a bump.

Finally I’ve got into the Service Menu and adjusted it so they don’t appear anymore. Some people give dire warnings about the Service Menu — that you can seriously screw-up your TV if you mess with it too much.

With that warning in mind, I’ll document how to get into the Service Menu so I can remember it for later, as it’s fairly forgettable.

  1. Press the Menu button on the front of the TV (not the remote)
  2. Use it to scroll down to the Service Menu option
  3. Press the Menu button on the remote (not the TV)

Voila, you’re in. From there you can adjust all sorts of settings. Me, I fiddled the Geometry settings. It’s a bit like all the stuff you can do with a computer monitor.

I bumped up the Vertical Amplitude a bit, and lowered the Vertical Position a tad, and it appears to be gone. (Touch wood). Certainly easier to fiddle with it yourself than have to call Loewe’s support line and organise a technician to come out and do it.

DIY Digital Picture Frame

Full, step-by-step instructions (with pcitures) on building your own cheap and easy Digital Picture Frame. Answering an unasked question on the selection of componentry, the author says:

Why a toggle switch? Because toggle switches rule, that’s why. We don’t want no puny sliding power switches. Oh no, this power switch is 25 percent functional, 75 percent hardcore awesome.

But why do this? You can buy one for a few hundred bucks. I guess it’s just the whole DIY thing, isn’t it? I guess you’re also recycling unloved tech into totally hardcore awesome tech.

Matrix displays bite arse

Sure, CRT displays are bulky, consume piles of power and are heavy. But they can change resolution without a loss of … resolution.

See, High Definition TV runs at 1920 x 1080 – which, incidentally, a vanishingly small number of TV sets run at (ignore advertising about sets being HD-ready – all it means is the TV will understand a HD signal and happily convert it down to it’s native resolution). But converting a raster image from it’s native resolution down involves a loss of information; worse yet, if that resolution isn’t an integer multiple of source resolution, the downconversion algorithm has to make some judgement calls about which new pixel to push the old pixel’s information – so you can have some odd looking images, like horizonal or diagonal lines going… funny. Colour transitions can become forced too with a visible loss of colour depth. Converting up can also be a little strange, with some pixels odd colours (making the image look blurry) or straight lines becoming jagged. Given that signals might also appear in 704 × 480 (Standard Defintion) or 1280 × 720 (a high quality high definition signal not broadcast in Oztralia), aspect ratios on the pixels involved mean you need a native resolution not likely to be obtained for many years to get clean conversion between the resolutions.

CRTs don’t give a rat’s arse about conversion algorithms, and happily change the number of lines they throw on the screen in response to the number they’re given. The only difficulty you might encounter is the shadow mask or aperture grille.

LCD and Plasma display screens – generally TV monitors, and LCD projectors (and for that matter, any other matrix-based projection technology) have a failure mode that analogue CRT displays don’t exhibit:

Dead pixels.

Stuck on or stuck off, dead pixels are a one way street. You don’t see that kind of failure in CRTs. And I’m not aware of any TV manufacturers who guarantee their product against this particularly annoying failure. No-one is told about it at purchase time, but I’m predicting in three to five years time there’s going to be an uproar about it.

Anyone bought a new matrix TV lately? Happy about it?

Acer’s web site needs work

I’ve set up my new desks at home, and have been looking around at good deals on LCD monitors. Officeworks have some Acer ones on special at the moment, so I went to look at the Acer web site to review their dead pixel policy.

It’s a mess in Firefox. Looks rather better in IE. But we’ll live with that for a moment.

Find the page with warranties, and try to look at their monitor warranty:

Error 404
Not found – file doesn’t exist or is read protected [even tried multi]

Great. Find their contact page. It insists on knowing what OS I’ve got installed, because it thinks it’s only for tech support contacts. I lie. Eventually get the form submitted with the info above. It submits, then takes me to… another 404 page.

Bzzt, strike 2. Hopefully the message got through.

So then I tried a site search for “dead pixels”.

Error 500
HTTP Web Server: Lotus Notes Exception – Database is not full-text indexed

Bzzt, strike 3. Acer really needs a revamp of its web site.

Pondering LCD monitors

Samsung monitorAs part of my revamp of the house (and in particular the home office) I’m looking around at LCD monitors. They’ll be good for saving space on the new desks, making the computers less obtrusive.

LCDs used to be incredibly expensive. The reviews on sites like Dan’s Data show that just a couple of years ago, you could pay well over A$1000 for a 17 inch LCD. Thankfully they’ve fallen below the $400 mark now, which seems much more reasonable. They’ve also got much faster, with 4 or 8ms response times being very common. This is the good thing about being several steps behind the early adopters.

I could go more expensive for bigger, but I’ve been living with 15 and 17 inch CRTs so long that I don’t see the need to go bigger, since that would make the computers more obtrusive, I’ll gain in viewable area anyway, and I’d prefer two monitors an identical size to avoid the kids squabbling over who gets to use which.

Asking around, it would seem two good brands to look at are Samsung and BenQ, in part for their value for money, but also things like clearly defined dead pixel policies.

Samsung’s policy: any dead pixels in the first 7 days, they’ll swap for a new monitor at place of purchase. After that, any dead pixels in the 8cm x 8cm square in the middle warrants replacement, or 3 or more dead elsewhere. (The policies are different for bigger screens).

BenQ’s policy: any dead pixels in the first 7 days warrants replacement. Beyond that, anything in the middle 9th of the screen, and more than 2 bright dots and 3 dark dots elsewhere will trigger replacement.

Digital input, which neither of my computers are currently equipped for, appears to cost about $20 extra. Might as well get it for future use.

And of course there’s the vital question: silver, or black? (Not as obvious as for something like TV gear, where as far as I’m concerned, it’s black all the way.)

Next pay day, it’ll be time to go shopping.

HDCP is coming soon

Buying a monitor? Make sure it has HDCP, the up-and-coming digital content protection standard that will be built into Windows Vista and other future playing devices and systems. People with monitors that don’t have HDCP (and that’s almost everyone) will find their display deliberately fuzzy or even blacked out completely. Pah, bastards.

Will Apple and Linux follow suit in supporting this standard? Will monitor manufacturers start actually telling people about this, rather than actively selling them new kit that has built-in obsolesence? Will somebody hack the Vista Media Player to ignore the protection flags?

Green sites, dead pixels and Remote Desktop

Keep your web site green by hosting it in an environmentally sustainable data centre.

Unstick your dead pixels by flashing rapid colour changes through them. 60% success rate, apparently. What have you got to lose?

These guys claim to have got round the limitation of Windows XP Remote Desktop of only one user at a time, by replacing one of the Terminal Server DLLs with that from an older build of SP2.

iPods, monitors and Visio support

Some quick things:

Love your iPod but hate iTunes? Try this iPod plugin for WinAmp. (Thanks David)

Test your LCD monitor for dead pixels

We got asked about problems with an old copy of Visio 4. Visio history and Visio support have some quite interesting information, but basically there’s no support going back to versions older than Visio 2000.