Wednesday 13 July 2005

Left Eye Receives Own Monitor

For most people, one monitor is enough, but for me every inch of my desk that is not covered by monitors is another inch through which I am forced to witness the tedium of the external world. Therefore my second monitor came not a moment too soon.

This second one, as with the first, is a Hyundai model, which seems to work quite well. However it is only a 17 inch one, rather than 19 which my first is. This is the only concession I made to the part of my brain that was screaming out how much of a waste of money this was.

I could have run two monitors on my current video card, however in the past when I have tried this it seems to slow down my gaming enormously. I couldn't do that to poor Al, who comes over every Friday night to play World of Warcraft on my PC. Therefore I purchased a second PCI video card to run it

This second video card is an ATI card, while my first is from nVidia. I had thought this might lead to problems, however it seems to work reasonably well. Even having two competing desktop control centres doesn't seem to be causing too many conflicts.

After receiving this monitor, I realised that there were two problems:
  • The monitor updated extremely slowly;
  • I had a sudden, desperate desire to run the second monitor in portrait mode (ie taller than it is wide), even though I had never previously thought of doing so, as soon as I realised that the monitor was able to rotate around.
The second problem should have been easily solved. There was an option in the ATI Control Centre to rotate a display in 90° intervals. However this failed silently, leaving me scratching my head. So I tried to solve the first issue.

I saw in the BIOS a setting called PCI Latency, which was set to 32, and which could take any value from 0-255. In my usual horrendously optimistic fashion, I set it to 0 and rebooted. Amazingly this not only caused the monitor to refresh much faster, but also somehow caused the rotate option to work perfectly!

Now I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but why the BIOS chose to add a latency of 32 unspecified time units to my PCI bus is beyond me. This option seems to be equivalent to asking, 'How fast would you like your monitor to go? Fast, or very slow?'

At any rate, the second monitor is quite useful for reading documentation while I am using the other monitor for editing documents or programs. It may be an extravagance, but it fits in well with my extravagant bluetooth mouse and keyboard, so it's a good purchase in my book!

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