Saturday, July 01, 2006

A 30 Second Demonstration of Why I Don't Use PCs

My aunt, a self-employed architect and workaholic, bought a new flat screen for one of her office computers. My brother and I visited her this afternoon and, while admiring the new peripheral, he changed its resolution to one that the screen couldn't handle. The result? A black screen with the legend 'out of range' and no way to access Windows in order to change the resolution back apart from hooking the computer up to another screen.

So, basically, not only did the screen's software react to a bad resolution command in a way that rendered the computer unusable and had no obvious fix, but fucking Windows has no safeguard against the user giving such a bad command in the first place. There was absolutely no indication that the screen currently hooked up to the computer couldn't handle all of the resolutions that Windows' control panel offered, and the operating system didn't block the command once it was given.

In conclusion, I love my Mac.


Dotan said...

I was going to say "Safe Mode", but instead I'll just add I've set up Ubuntu Linux on my PC, and that whatever is happening between the boot loader and the pretty login screen is happening at a resolution my flat screen monitor doesn't want to show me. In Windows it would at least let me see the start-up progress bar, even while complaining about the "Non Preset Mode".

Telepresence said...

By default, a change to the screen resolution of a Windows XP machine will result in a dialog box asking if you want to keep the new resolution, on a 15 second timer. If you fail to click "Okay" (as in the case of not being able to see the dialogue box), Windows will revert back automatically to the old, workable resolution.

Off the the top of my head I can't remember if this feature was the default in Windows 200O, but I think it was. I suppose the feature could be disabled somwehow, though I don't know how or why someone would.

I'm sorry something annoying happened, though I'm not sure how it happened. Very old version of Windows maybe? Years ago, I was forced to adjust the resolution of an Windows 95 machine blind, by inputting the appropriate series of commands via keybord by memory. Boy that was a hilarious adventure, and by hilarious I mean irritating, though I did finally succeed.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

By default, a change to the screen resolution of a Windows XP machine will result in a dialog box asking if you want to keep the new resolution

We got that the first time around, when we changed the resolution to something the screen could handle. Second time around, there was no redraw.

Oh, and my aunt uses XP.

Andrew Ducker said...

I'm using XP. I've set my resolution to an incorrect one before. After 15 seconds it changes back to the previous resolution (providing you haven't hit "Enter" to accept the dialog box, which you can't see).

truecatachresis said...

To reset the resolution without being able to see:

Assuming the machine is logged on, press the Windows key and M together to clear the screen of any programs that might be open. Move the mouse such that it ought to be in a part of the screen where there are no icons - normally, far to the right and up a bit to make sure it's not on the Windows bar. Right click on the mouse. Do not touch the mouse again.

Press the Up arrow once. Hold down shift and press the Tab key once. Release shift. Press the right arrow multiple times - normally four, but press it lots just in case your graphics card adds lots of extra tabs to this display. Press Tab three times, then press the left arrow lots to get the display resolution down to something the screen can handle. Press enter once - you should now have a visible resolution, so click on OK. If not, either you must have have accidentally got an icon and brought up its properties, or your graphics card has slightly weird settings. Press escape to clear everything and start again. Try either adding an up or down arrow when doing all the right arrows to get through the graphics cards tab, or adding or removing a tab at the last stage before the left arrows to set the resolution.

If you need help logging in because there is more than one user set up in XP and you need to select one to log in, then wait after turning the machine on until you are sure the system is at the user select stage, press tab twice and space once.

Mae Travels said...

Glad to hear your brother has some time off!

Abigail Nussbaum said...

Thanks for all your hard work in laying out that procedure, truecatachresis. I think my aunt has already worked things out, but I'll call her tomorrow morning and see if she needs it.

I think, however, that you've made my point for me re: the boneheadedness of this design. And frankly, even the 15 second timer idea strikes me as rife with disastrous potential. Is it truly that unlikely that a blind user will hit the OK button accidentally, or happen to press Enter?

Liz said...

I can't think of any other solutions to the problem than having the 15 second timer. Yes, you could remove all options for resolutions which the monitor can't handle, but I suspect trying to make Windows detect the appropriate resolutions for every possible monitor might cause problems.

It may not be unlikely that a blind user would accidentally hit OK, but I'm sure there's even more disastrous options they could accidentally hit than changing the resolution to something unsupported.

Anonymous said...

though i dont like macs, its not as if, living in israel, u can really get one, when you'r not reach (עשיר) that is

Nurit (in case u didnt gessed it from the spelling)

Anonymous said...

Well you know Macs are not full proof in themselves either, there are certainly things that happen in macs also.

Sounds like it got taken care of for your aunt. If anyone else has this problem though, hit your power button and hopefully windows will shut itself down. If not, just do a hard shutdown. Then start backup hitting F8 right after the bios. Choose VGA Mode and when you get into windows you can change back to your usual resolution.

I have to do this with my HDTV when installing new drivers as if I install the drivers and restart without VGA mode it says invalid input, but with VGA it starts up at 640x480 and then I switch to my HDTV resolution.

Anonymous said...

ATI has a taskbar icon that lets you quickly change the resolution in two clicks, easily. There's no DDC or Credit check if the monitor can actually handle the resolution. It's so easy, it doesn't have the 15 second revert window, so you're stuck with it. Easy as a Mac.

I tried using safe mode to change the resolution without success. Safe mode strictly uses 640x480 itself, and refuses to save any resolution change. Changing to any other rez, or even back and forward to attempt to write down 640x480 doesn't work.

The only fix was to (a) buy a 30" Apple cinema display that can handle the misbegotten res, or (b) uninstall the display driver. In safe mode, you go into Control Panel/System/Hardware tab/Device Manager button. In the Device Manager, Click the plus next to Display adapters, Right click on the vid card, and Uninstall.
If you still have Win2000, forget all that and use the Install/Uninstall button on the main Control Panel - Thanks for removing that, XP!

Anonymous said...

I think people are assuming Safe Mode will work, but it doesn't after someone changes the Graphics Properties resolution (I'm trying to fix my niece's with a blank black Desktop screen)).
You have to "blindly" get to the right menu to change the res, so unless you have another computer with the exact same set-up for the Graphics Properties and you like to figure out tab, cntrl tab, and arrow combinations, HOPE that true...'s method works!
(I'll let you know if mine did).

Anonymous said...

I had this after resizing the res so as to try and pull the window back on screen for a programme that went off the edge. I managed to find the Control panel>display>settings> screen resolution and slider to reset but the OK button was off the screen. I spent ages agonizing and wondering if I would have to do a reinstall or repair install and even tried my old monitor but then tried setting the slider to the correct resolution and hit the Enter (paragraph) key and thank heavens it worked! phew!
Not much of a solution though if you can't get to see the resolution slider:-( Hope this is of help to some. Cheers. CR

Anonymous said...

Press F8 after BIOS
Start Windows in VGA mode

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