February 5th, 2005

zap

Frustrating monitor error

The system I'm typing this on is hooked up to a monitor that is very nice indeed...aside from one frustrating problem.

PClone monitors, which thanks to economies of scale have been pretty well generally adopted as computer monitors, are nowadays all VGA/SVGA "multiscan" monitors that handle a range of possible horizontal and vertical scan rates. (Alas for those of us who still use early computers like the Tandy CoCo and the Amiga, the minimum scan frequency they accept is twice that of NTSC TVs, around 31 KHz.)

They come up in a default state, with the minimum scan rates, and every graphics hardware maker knows to start out in a mode that will handle it. Monitor cables nowadays include a serial connection over which they endlessly announce their identities and capabilites so that graphics card drivers can negotiate possible modes of operation that card and monitor can both handle.

That's how it's supposed to work.

This monitor has a problem. It's temperature related, I think, because when the monitor is cold (OK, room temperature), it works as it should. Once it's warmed up, though, after a reset, it can't sync up at the default bargain basement scan rate. After it's switched to a higher scan rate, it can return to the default fine, but in that first interval, it looks like the horizontal hold control is misadjusted. Unfortunately, that initial interval is the one in which you get to do any CMOS twiddling, and the one in which many OS installation dialogues occur.

I tried sending it off to the manufacturer, CTX, for repair. When it came back, I thought it had been fixed, but that was just a side effect of having been sitting around at room temperature.

I'm sure it's some component not quite in spec or a cold solder joint somewhere... but I don't have the docs, and even if I did, the however many kV environment inside a monitor is not a place I want to be. If I send it in again, I don't have a spare to hook it up to any more the way I did when I sent it off. 19" CRT monitors these days seem to run about $200 at the stores, shipping costs make me hesitate to buy online, and LCDs are still pricey (and still aren't quite up to CRTs in color reproduction quality, and are essentially wired to one resolution). Time to check eBay and keep an eye open for rebates, I guess.
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