Monthly Archives: May 2005

Monitor problems

I’ve been loving my Dell Ultrasharp 2005FPW LCD monitor. It’s just amazing how good things look on it. Unfortunately I ran into a big problem.

I was just sitting here at the PC using Picasa 2 to do some minor photo-editing and all of a sudden the monitor went whacky. Pure-white sections of the screen show a faint pattern of scrolling horizontal lines (which incidentally become vertical scrolling lines when you rotate the monitor to portrait mode and rotate the desktop with the display drivers) and [b]severe[/b] color-banding. It’s almost like I set the color-depth to 8-bits.

So I call Dell tech support. The guy I speak to first has me go through some steps which include unplugging the DVI cable from the PC. This pops up a self-test screen which consists of a red, blue, green, and white colored bars. After trying some other obvious things he says that the problem is my PC, not the monitor. I explain to him that to troubleshoot this problem I went out and bought a brand new video card, which when installed shows the same problem. He insists that the problem is the PC. I’m barely willing to accept this, but I suppose it’s somehow possible that maybe the motherboard or some other device in the PC began interferring with the video card in some manner. Plus it’s like 12:30 AM and I’m tired so I get off the phone with them.

Now before I go to bed I start thinking about this some more and realize I think it’s crazy so to prove my point I hook the monitor up to my Ubuntu box. After I figure out how to reconfigure for a new monitor I see that the color-banding problem still exists along with some pretty sever shimmering effects. The shimmering is maybe attributable to the fact that the video card in that PC only has an analog output, but the color-banding is the exact same thing. So I call Dell back, armed with this new information.

Despite the fact that I provided them with my case number I had to go through all the basic troubleshooting steps that I had to go through with the previous fellow. I also laid my incontrivertible evidence on the table about how the monitor behaved the same on two different PCs. This bit of information basically got me nothing except some additional hold time while the guy tried to figure out what the problem was. His conclusion was that the monitor was not the problem because his holy self-test screen appeared to be fine. So he tells me to call the vendor of my PC. I ask him which PC vendor he’d like me to call since the problem was visible on both PCs. His basic response was that I should call the vendor which would give me a resolution to my problem. To his credit he did offer to call me back the next day (today) to make sure they fixed my problem. I was tired since it was now 1:30 am so I just went to bed.

First thing this morning I took the monitor over to my brother’s house and hooked up to one of his PC’s and unsurprisingly the issues were still apparent. I called Dell back a third time with this evidence. After being on hold for 45 minutes I finally got through to a lady who made me go through the same basic troubleshooting steps yet again. I explained to her that I had now tried the monitor on three PCs with several different data cables and video cards . After a total of aproximately 2 hours of phone time they finally admitted that the monitor was “probably” at fault and that they would send me a new one.

Now I just hope the new one is as perfect as the old one…no dead pixels or backlight leakage.

Broadband Crawling Its Way To Exurbs

Broadband Crawling Its Way To Exurbs

This article in the Washington Post details the problems rural America is facing when it comes to Internet Access and hints at some things that St. Francois county needs to implement.

As it stands now, broadband access is limited to select residents of in-town Farmington, Bonne Terre, Desloge, Park Hills, etc. Basically if you set foot out of city limits, you’re up a creek without a way to access the Internet in any way but dial-up. While dial-up works per se, it pales in comparison to the internet experience over broadband. As Morpheus says in The Matrix: “Unfortunately no one can be told what the matrix is, you have to see it for yourself.” I can tell you that broadband internet access is dozens of times faster than what you’re currently experiencing over dial-up, but the profound effect that this has on the usefulness of the Internet has to be seen to be believed.

St. Francois county would be staking a claim for the future if it would implement a policy similar to the ideas laid out in the above-linked article. Appointing someone with a passion for enabling people and a mind for such technical matters to coordinate and plan methods for enabling widespread broadband availability would go a long way to ensuring that the residents of the County are fully-equipped to meet the demands of living in the 21st century.

Programming in Visual Studio

This post by on Bloggin’ Branton has kind of got me excited about Visual Studio. I’m definitely going to give the links he gives a shot. Apparently MS has some versions of Visual Studio called their Express versions available for download. Coupled with the tutorial videos that Microsoft has put up, this may turn out to be quite a learning experience.

I wonder if Express versions will always be a free download or if this is just something that will exist during Visual Studio 2005’s beta stage…

Podcasting is the future?

Mr. Geek thinks podcasting is the future of the world. I think he’s on crack.

I tried many podcasts, and to tell you the truth, I get nothing out of it. I can take in information by reading it so much more efficiently than listening to someone. After an informal survey of many of the people I know, and the large majority of the people I know are just regular folks who couldn’t give a crap about technology, they think the whole idea of podcasting sounds like a solution for an imaginary problem.

Yes, I think podcasting is a fad, or if not a fad, something that will be for just a very limited audience. So, it’s Mr. Geek’s prediction vs my prediction. I’m sure we’ll all remember to check these posts in a couple years to see who was right.

Symbian vs Windows Smartphone

I often see statements about Symbian being better than Windows Mobile backed up by sales data. While I have no experience with either of the phones (I do have a Windows Mobile-based Audiovox SMT 5600 on order), I wonder how accurate using sales data to backup these claims is.

The reason I question this is that until this month, the largest cellular provider in the US offered just ONE Windows Mobile based smartphone, the Motorola MPx220, which was often panned as being a poor device. Cingular has offered multiple Symbian smartphones over the same period. In fact, as I look around there’s a dearth of Windows Smartphone devices. If you include Pocket PC’s the number goes up, but few would put a $500-$600 dollar Pocket PC in the same category as a $200 dollar smartphone.

The truth of the matter is that there just aren’t that many Windows Mobile smartphones on the market. Most of the Windows Mobile devices are Pocket PC devices with ginormous pricetags. I expect to see a good jump in the sales of Windows Mobile this year and the next. For one, Cingular now offers the Audiovox 5600 which is widely held as being the best Windows Smartphone on the market. Secondly, with the advent of Windows Mobile 5.0 (which is admitedly not a huge jump in functionality, but supports a few things which will increase it’s desirability such as the support for QVGA screens) this year more and more devices will be rolling out with Windows Mobile installed.

Like I said, I have no experience with either of the phone operating systems, but if the tech industry has shown us anything about sales data, it’s that high sales != high quality.

My new phone

Ok, I don’t have a new phone. But I really need one.

My current phone has horrible reception and I want to stab it with a fork almost everytime I use it. Unfortunately, I can’t do that just yet, because the phone I want to get isn’t out on Cingular yet.

The Audiovox SMT 5600 is the phone I want and today Cingular officially launched the phone. Of course it’s only currently available in select markets and apparently the St. Louis market isn’t select enough. Argh!

Our new camera

My old Fujifilm FinePix 2600 has been acting up. Since I’m about to go on a little vacation to Chicago, I decided to go ahead and purchase a new camera.

I had a few requirements when picking out a replacement:

I needed at least 6 MP’s. I’m planning on purchasing the Epson Stylus Photo 2200 which is capable of up to 13″x19″ prints and a person needs a LOT of pixels to print photos that big.

External Flash Capable
While my old Fuji was capable of superb photography, I frequently found myself trying to take pics indoors where it was too dim to get quality results. There are a couple of ways you can use external flashes with cameras that support them. Some cameras have a flash-port which hooks up to compatible flash units via a cable. Other cameras have a hot-shoe that the flash unit attaches to.

One of the few remaining areas where digital camera’s fall behind their film-based counterparts is in the amount of time that elapses from pushing the button and when the photo is actually recorded. Some newer models of digicams do a lot to reduce this time.

Image Quality
If you believe that more megapixels=more quality, you’re sadly mistaken. There are plenty of 2 and 3 megapixels cameras that take beautiful pictures and plenty of 4 and 5 megapixel cameras that take poor photos.

The perception that megapixels = quality has several sources. One source is that In The Beginning there was a clear delineation between cameras that took high quality photos and those that didn’t … marked by megapixel ratings. This was back in the day of comparing .5 megapixel cameras to 1 megapixel cameras. This difference in quality wasn’t due soley to the amount of pixels captured, but to the fact that low megapixel cameras weren’t meant to take photo-quality shots. They were just toys.

Another source of the megapixels = quality myth is the marketing departments of camera manufacturers. The higher-dollar, higher-profit margin cameras are also the camera’s with more megapixels. This coupled with the fact that many people don’t want to do the research to determine which camera is really the best. It’s easier to just sell people on the one number…megapixels.

Nowadays, the main thing that a megapixel rating is going to tell you is how large you can make your prints. A 2 or 3 megapixel camera is going to make good 4×6 print, and a 5 megapixel is going to make excellent 4×6 prints, great 5×7’s, and pretty good 8×10’s.

I ended up settling on the Canon PowerShot G6. It has a 7.1 MP CCD which allow me to do great 13×19 prints. It has a flash hot-shoe to allow attachment of external flash devices. It has low shot-to-shot times thanks to Canon’s DIGIC image processor. Most importantly it has superb image quality. Many reviews point to the fact that it takes photos that rival those of digital SLR’s costing well over a thousand dollars.

Supposed to be delivered tomorrow. I’ll try to update this space with some sample photos before I leave on Thursday for my little vacation.