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Window Manager
Brian Livingston
I can see clearly now

IN PREVIOUS COLUMNS, I've described today's crop of less-than-$400, flat-panel LCD screens and how you can adjust some obscure settings to get the sharpest image possible. This week, I turn the floor over to readers who have their own views, so to speak.

Barry Watzman says many tuning problems can be avoided by buying a slightly higher-priced flat-panel display that can accept a digital signal via DVI (digital video interface), rather than merely an analog signal. I mentioned last week a low-cost LCD with both DVI and analog inputs, the Viewsonic VG151 (about $419 on the street).

"If you don't have a digital output on your video card, inexpensive and very good video cards are available," Watzman writes. "My favorite low-end card is the ATI Radeon Dual Display; it supports two monitors, which can be two analog monitors or one analog and one DVI." It's $90 or so.

Flat-panel displays with DVI, however, can be difficult to set up even for experienced users. "I falsely thought you could plug a DVI monitor into a DVI video card and install the software," says Ramer Streed, an engineer. "Instead, I have to connect a monitor to the analog (first) port on the card so there's a signal to see on the screen. After this is done, I can set it up to send the signal to the DVI (second) port."

Streed adds, "Some people say just connect the analog cable to get going, but this would be impossible if you had a digital-only monitor such as the IBM T55D."

I ran this past Raymond Soneira, president of DisplayMate Technologies, which makes the utility software I used in my recent tests. "Your reader is correct that LCD DVI systems are not plug-and-play in the same way as an analog CRT system," he replies. "I don't see any way around it unless Windows were to include a generic DVI driver (don't know if this is possible) to initially bring the display up."

Soneira continues, "The easiest way to get a DVI display up is to use an analog display to load the drivers. Once the drivers are loaded, a DVI can be swapped in or out without complication. This needs to be done at boot time though; no hot swapping." Very few LCDs, he notes, are digital only; almost all have both analog and digital ports.

Several other readers have sent insightful comments, so I'll conclude my series on low-cost LCD screens with their thoughts next week. Meanwhile, keep on tuning.

Call me Sir Prize. I usually send tipsters a gift, such as one of my Windows Secrets books. But many readers already have the whole set, and I recently announced I'm not publishing a Windows XP book. So now I'm sending readers Watzman and Streed a gift certificate good for any book, CD, or DVD of their choice. You can win a prize like this too, if you're the first to send me a tip I print.

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