We bought number 2 son a TV/monitor for Christmas. It has a 22" screen, built in Freeview, and connectors on the back for a TV aerial, VGA, DVI, HDMI, USB and, for all I know, a Linz-Donowitz iron ore smelter.
The screen would replace his rather quaint looking, almost square (in the literal sense of the word) 15" flat screen monitor and, we hoped, also the big cathode ray tube (CRT) 28" screen TV antique in the corner which he uses for his X-Box games and watching TV, even though the colours are going and everything on it looks kind of green.
On opening the present he displayed all the joy that a child might on receiving an encyclopaedia (in Greek) for Christmas. He plugged his PC in to the monitor, but kept the old CRT monstrosity for watching TV and playing on the X-Box.
Attempts to get him to at least try his X-box with the new monitor met with the indolence and apathy for which he is justly renowned. Conversely, we could hardly keep number one son (aka Mr. Fiddle Faddle) off it.
I must confess I was a trifle miffed. I'd spent about £180 on his pressie and though it may not have been something he wanted, I thought it was something he needed. Then again, he mainly uses his PC for MSN Messenger and Football Manager. At least, I reasoned, the 22" screen would come into its own when he did likewise on those occasions when the bedroom door is locked.
Fire down in the hole
Still, and all, perhaps it was because he was still using the old 1980's technology of a VGA connector that he wasn't appreciating the whole ... er ... digitality of the monitor's brilliance.
So, I resolved to upgrade his PC's graphics card so that he could connect via the DVI (Digital Visual Interface) input on the back of the monitor.
I spent just over £30 buying a graphics card - a PNY GeForce 8600 GTS, DDR3 256 MB card, if you must know (making the third PC in the house with an 8600GT card) - and collected it in person from some bloke in Harlow. Now, I am an Essex boy, so I am allowed to say this, but the estate he lived on looked like something out of The Wire. Not especially run down, just concrete and soullless.
After I got the card home, the fun started.
The fifteen circles of hell
Step one: Insert the card in PCI Express slot. Install drivers. PC recognises existence of card. This is a good sign.
Step two: Attach DVI lead to graphics card at one end, PC monitor at the other. Switch off PC. No point having two leads going into the monitor, so I remove VGA lead from PC and monitor.
Step three: Switch on PC. Get blank screen. Message on screen says to check signal cable.
Step four: Plug VGA lead back into on board graphics chip connector and t'other end into monitor. Hey, look, it's Windows Vista. Yes, I know. Home Edition, too. It's what the PC came with.
Step five: Reboot, with both monitor leads plugged in. Go into BIOS, tell PC to use the PCI Express connection.
Step six: Reboot, but with just the DVI lead plugged in. Get blank screen. Scratch head. Plug in VGA lead. Hey, it's Windows Vista.
Step seven: Check drivers and what not. All appears to be hunky dory. Must be the power supply unit (PSU). Only 200 watts? No wonder!
Step eight: Replace PSU with very nice EZCool 550w jobbie with a fan large enough to get a Spitfire into flight.
Step nine: Still no joy. It's not the PSU.
Step ten: Must be the cable. Go downstairs, get my DVI cable. Plug that in. No joy. It's not the cable, no matter how many times the monitor tells me it is.
Step eleven: I didn't want to do this, but the time had come for me to try the graphics card in another PC and see if that bloke from The Wire had ripped me off.
Step twelve: He had not. The graphics card works in number three son's PC and, to the chagrin of number one son (who used to own number three son's PC), it has a slightly higher Windows Experience score than the overclocked 8600GT in number three son's rig. Must be the DDR3 RAM. You can stop yawning, now.
Step thirteen: Take aforementioned overclocked 8600GT graphics card that was working fine in number three son's PC and put it into number 2 son's PC. Get a blank screen.
Step fourteen: Scratch head really hard. Go into menu system of TV/monitor. Highlight DVI entry on screen and press 'OK'. Does nothing. All it does is move a little dot from the VGA panel to the DVI panel. Try the same with VGA entry. Does nothing. All it does is move a little dot from the DVI entry to the VGA entry.
Step fifteen: Try something illogical (I was desperate). Number three son only has a VGA monitor, and his graphics card (the one now in number two son's PC) only has DVI output connectors, so we use DVI/VGA converters to connect his graphics card to his monitors. Decide to try DVI/VGA converter on graphics card now plugged in to number 2 son's PC. So, using a VGA to VGA signal cable but with a VGA/DVI converter on the graphics card end, I tried once more.
As I say, totally illogical, but it worked.
You are probably way ahead of me here. The clue was back in step 14. However, at this stage I was thinking "I have a PC with a graphics card that finally works, but it still plugs into the bleeding VGA input connection on the monitor, and the whole point of all this fart-arsing about was to go digital, man."
Still, at least the message on the monitor was correct, and the problem had been the signal cable, even though all the cables I had used had worked on other PCs. Perhaps, thought I, I should pay more attention to the status messages on the monitor (perhaps I should have read the fricking manual but, then, I am a bloke - though to be fair, I do normally read manuals before I start setting up electrical goods.)
It was at this point that I noticed that when I switched on the monitor, the status message said "VGA".
I had an idea. At last. I went back into the menu and moved that bloody little dot from VGA to DVI, connected the DVI-to-DVI cable from the graphics card to the DVI connector on the monitor and ... hey, it's Windows Vista, and a welcome screen saying:
What took you so long, you moron!
Lessons to be learnt
- It does not do any harm to RTFM
- A little knowledge and all that. Why was my first thought to change the PSU and not to pay heed to the error message on the telly? Because the PSU route is the geeky solution
- If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
- Don't assume that even modern equipment is clever enough to work out that just because you have plugged something in to one connector and no others, that's the connector you want to lead. Though I note, that my old CRT is clever enough to know whether I want to use the DVD machine, the video player or the digital video recorder.
For what it is worth, the Windows Experience score on the graphics front has zoomed up from 3.1 to 5.8 on number 2 son's PC. I am sure he will appreciate it the next time he is watching coloured dots ricochet round the pitch on Football Manager.
Of course, now his processor chip is dragging down the performance of the system, and if there is one thing that will improve the number crunching delight that is Football Manager, it is a faster CPU (central processing unit). I just need to wait for my order of thermal paste to arrive and ...