They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

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A New View On The World

Almost a year ago, just a few weeks before heading off to the 2004 Clarion workshop, my seven year old 17" Micron monitor "blew up". It wasn't the most expensive monitor in the world, but it was mine and I had written a great deal with it -- and had nearly the identical machine at the office.

Of course I was in the middle of using the computer when click-flash-black it went dead, but being the geek that I am, I executed a series of keyboard shortcuts and successfully saved all my work, closed all my programs and shutdown Windows. (I use multiple OSes so right now I don't remember if I was in Windows 95 or Windows NT4SP6a.)

And being the geek that I am, I had a used Gateway 15" SVGA monitor sitting downstairs in the basement.

In Case of Monitor Failure -- Break Glass and Attach Spare Monitor

"Disappointing" is probably the best word to describe using that fuzzy 15" monitor at the 1024x768 setting, after having been so geeked at having a spare. And there's no point in trying to get someone to fix a seven year old monitor, I figured, but a local computer store will take them with a small recycling fee, so the old monitor went straight to the back of the Blazer and not to be stored in the basement.

Worse, I was planning to use that 15" monitor at Clarion, figuring I would take my office computer, but not try to drag a 17" monitor around.

I have vowed a few years ago, as they got more affordable, that when I had to replace a monitor, that I would get an LCD unit. My wife's library has had good luck with ViewSonic LCD panels and Sony laptops have swell LCD's (but their LCD monitors seemed pricey). A friend of mine picked up a black-framed Samsung unit which was very impressive -- very thin frame edge just in case you want to use more than one. When I went online to get a unit, though, I didn't get the Samsung, but got a ViewSonic VG500b -- very good contrast and built-in stereo speakers.

Serendipity Strikes Again

That was a year ago. The ViewSonic was first used at Clarion, then came home and took over for the 15" Gateway, and I've been very happy with it. Actually, more than happy. The room I lived in for six weeks at Clarion had a very shallow desk -- there simply would've been no room for a 17" CRT, but the full-size keyboard and LCD panel lived in the small space quite well.

At the office, I use my own equipment, which was a bought a year after the home Micron. So I figured that this year, the 17" Micron monitor would be pushing seven years as well, so maybe I should look for another ViewSonic to match. There was no rush until I got a new laptop which has such a stunning LCD panel that the CRT just looked washed out and fuzzy in comparison.

Best unit for my purposes, to match what I had and all, but especially to keep a native 1024x768 16million colors so the unit could drop in seamlessly without having to change a thing, turned out to be a ViewSonic VG510b.

The end of the semester madness of grades-'n-paperwork was not the time to yank monitors, so the box sat off to the side for a couple of weeks, but Today Was The Day. The old monitor came out of its "cave" (formed by minitowers and stacked UPS units flanking and a shelf overhead) with little trouble and the VG510b set itself in place quite nicely.

The screen actually sits back a few inches further than the CRT did -- the base gets in the way of the mass of cables from the 4-port Black Box Personal ServSwitch KVM box in between monitor and keyboard -- which actually is good. This is an old Steelcase desk which was never intended for computer usage, so the working distance is improved. And because of the shelf, the rotten overhead fluorescent lights are somewhat blocked from the screen.

Eye-popping contrast. And black blacks. And shadow details in the black sleeves of the Kate Winslet wallpaper that I had never noticed before. Ah...


Sigh. Nothing is ever left alone, is it? I get so tired of new-and-improved, as if that is supposed to be a good thing, and am frankly bewildered by the incredible array of sub-models, sub-versions and nearly identical models of modern computer and electronica equipment from even the same manufacturer. The specs on the VG510b are just a tiny tweak better than my (obsolete) year-old VG500b at home. And it cost quite a bit less, which should tell you that they must've also found a way to make the unit cheaper.

They did. The little buttons on the front of the monitor are quite decent on the VG500b, and I am thinking that the functions are silk-screened on the black frame. On the VG510b the buttons are chromed, with functions embossed into their faces. At first blush they are completely unreadable. If I hadn't already owned and set up the VG500b, it would be really hard to figure out the buttons on the VG510b.

The whole reason for buying a black framed LCD panel, is so you get a black border around that lovely crisp image. Now I have brilliantly/glossy/shiny silver buttons? Who thought this was a good idea? Matte black buttons, with the icons embossed, would be far more practical.

Don't know the service life I'll get out of either ViewSonic. My wife says that a certain percentage of the units they have at the library have failed at about three years. I guess having a CRT go for seven years is really a sweet deal when you think about it. But I guess what I worry about is whether there will be any 15" or at least any LCD panels which can display 1024x768 natively out there in three/five/ten years.

When I was shopping for monitors a year ago, I was in CompUSA looking at a Sony 17" LCD and the image was awful. I right-clicked on Properties on the desktop and found it at 1024x768. Switching it to whatever its native setting was produced a beautiful image.

But consider this: A 17" CRT and a 15" LCD panel have about the same actual useful viewing area, which is why this change works so well for me. I've seen a Fujitsu Stylistic LT early tablet PC, with a native 800x600 LCD panel, which has two settings for 640x480 VGA (such as boot screens): it can badly map 640x480 to 800x600, making funny shaped and hard to read letters, or it can display 640x480 in the center 640x480 of the screen. Small, but very sharp. How come every LCD panel doesn't have these options? I might've bought a 17" LCD if it would display 1024x768 using just those dots and no more.

And in three years plus, will 1024x768 be dead?

Just wondering...

Meanwhile, I've a beautiful new image to work with -- even LJ editor is nice and sharp and crisp. So I shan't worry about it today...

Dr. Phil

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