Plug ‘n’ Play: compatability not included.

So, as I mentioned on Wednesday I’ve brought my computer down to Wallingford, and, as Robin ran off with my old monitor, I needed to buy myself a new monitor.

Now I’m not working on an Overclockers budget (but I really love ’em and their “anything below high-end? Yeah, we’ve heard of it…” attitude), and I haven’t got the patience to wait for Scan to work out that when I ask for one specific component, I want actually that one, rather than something a bit similar… so I hauled off to Dabs and had a nose about there to see what I could get.

Since, for all it’s now a year old, my box remains fairly beefy (it’s now down to something like “cutting edge,” rather than “bleeding edge;” – buying computers: slightly more depressing than building cool new ships in Stars), the graphics card I’m trying to work with here is an Nvidia 6600, full of DVI-ported goodness, it made sense to go properly digital.

So, I thought, here’s a good-priced monitor, I’ll get that. Dabs duly sent it off, and it got here yesterday.

And that’s where things got nasty. The monitor came with all the usual stuff – a box, a D-sub cable, a power cord, a quickstart guide, a CD and some polystyrene. I’d got Dabs to send me a DVI cable as well, and all was up and running in about five minutes. Except… well it kept saying there was “no signal input” from the computer. How strange…

…So, usual drill for Windows boxes in these situations: cue Safe Mode. That worked fine, but nothing else worked… Or, rather, everything else worked, but only in VGA, which I like in the DOS-box, but which I don’t look for in my main computer, where it’s not so much a low-resolution as a crime against God.

Still, VGA at least meant I could log on, and get the accompanying CD into the drive. Install some drivers, I thought, and then we’ll be away. Or not, as a matter of fact, because what the CD contained was not helpful drivers, but a pdf version of the manual. In the manual was a helpful bit of information regarding the error message I was getting – “no signal input: check cable”.

Basically, it said

Your monitor will not function unless there is a video input: if your monitor displays the message ‘check cable,’ you should check the cable to ensure the cable is properly connected to your computer.

Uh. Yeah, well I was kinda able to work that part out for myself… So let’s try it with the D-Sub connection… Nah, that didn’t work either. So I need drivers. None of the windows generic drivers worked, so I did the usual “hit the Internet” thing…

…Google showed up a load of message boards with people saying they can’t find drivers, and it also showed up the Hanns-G website, which informed me that,

No Operating System specific drivers should be necessary. Hanns.G monitors comply with DD2B plug & play standards.


Meaning “Your computer is too good for our cheapskate pile of cack. Tough shit, hotshot, we can’t be bothered to do anything about it.”

This was very annoying. I don’t mind plug ‘n’ play, indeed, I find it very useful. On the other hand, plug n play is a fairly generic thing: you plug in a component, the computer is able to speak to it, and then you can optimise things. As far as I can tell, plug n play is rather like peripheral component Esperanto; it works rather well, but you wouldn’t use it to write poetry. You wouldn’t rely on it for international peace negotiations – you’d get an interpreter, to make everything go as smoothly as possible. Drivers are rather like that – plug n play is good for the average joe, but it’s not going to work all the time.

As far as I can tell, therefore, the Hanns-G approach to providing monitors is something along the lines of firemen who opt for cheaper, 30-yard hoses because that’s enough to put out most fires, and, well, if there’s a few buildings that’re too tall for the hoses to put out, that’s fine, because they’ll burn down to less than 30-yards in no time.

It’s all profoundly annoying, not least because, as far as I can tell, it’s only come about through laziness on their part – who the fuck ships hardware without drivers and just trusts it’ll work on anything? Come on, dudes, I’ve just bought a monitor that’s a whole year newer than my graphics card, and it’s not sufficiently advanced to work with the computer?

Could you not have made it nice and plain that it wasn’t designed for good hardware? How hard is it to describe a monitor as a “Hanns-G Budget Office LCD”? That says everything it’s designed for, and quietly points out to anyone paying attention that they didn’t ought to buy if if their idea of using a computer is more than “opening Word and playing a bit of Solitaire”.

So that was tiresome.

Kudos to Dabs, though, for having a sensible returns policy – sending the useless bastard back is still going to be complicated, but that’s because I’ve got AACR2 training all next week so I can’t take a random day off to orchestrate it all.

Honestly. What kind of fault is “Computer too advanced for monitor to operate,” anyway?

* If someone can suggest a reason other than the plug n play not being good enough and it needing specific drivers, that’s excellent; please do it soon, though, else I’ll have to pay a tenner to have the glorified turd that’s now back in its box upstairs shipped back to Dabs in the hope they can foist it onto someone whose main requirement from the monitor is that it’s flat, and can plug into a wall.

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  1. On November 05, 2006 The Pacifist says:

    Yes. Plug and Play isn’t really an issue in this case because any monitor made in the last $yearsandyears will work with a 640×480 16 colour display (VGA). And funnily enough, that’s what Safe Mode gives it. If you get nothing in safe mode on both the DVI and VGA inputs, there’s a good chance it’s just plain duff.

    Oh, there is a fancy bit of technology where the monitor can report back to the computer what modes it supports and suchlike (Which is where Windows gets the details from) but you don’t _need_ it to get a picture.

    FWIW I got the Lidl one this morning and it’s doing me fine so far…

  2. On November 05, 2006 The Pacifist says:

    Hmm. If you get a picture in VGA mode with the DVI port, try removing your graphics card drivers and installing the latest Detonator (Or Forceware or whatever they’re called now). It’s not really common for monitors to even _come_ with drivers nowadays…

  3. On November 05, 2006 Statto says:

    I don’t think your claim that drivers are necessary is correct. The VGA and DVI standards are just that—standard—and so there’s no need for Esperanto or a translator because they already speak a common tongue. All the computer does is send out signals corresponding to which pixels to light up. It’s the same reason that you don’t need drivers for your speakers. That drivers are no longer necessary is not something to be lamented. One day we might never need drivers for anything again. That will be a glorious day.

    The only purpose plug ’n’ play serves in a monitor is to tell the PC what the maximum resolution/refresh rate is such that the data aren’t sent in an understandable language but in a format or at a speed which the monitor cannot display.

    And how did you translate “No Operating System specific drivers should be necessary. Hanns.G monitors comply with DD2B plug & play standards” into “Your computer is too good for our cheapskate pile of cack. Tough shit, hotshot, we can’t be bothered to do anything about it”?!?

    Plug ’n’ play surely works on good computers as well as on crap ones?

    I don’t understand how you can claim your computer’s too good. That there’s something wrong with the monitor would be a more logical conclusion.

    Have you tried it in any resolution using either connector on other machines?
    What other settings have you adjusted than the resolution in the display controls? Any?
    Does the monitor have a setting on it allowing you to choose which input to use? Have you tried playing about with that to make sure it’s not looking at the D-sub whilst data are streaming into the DVI?

  4. On November 05, 2006 Mister JTA says:

    Aye, I’ve switched the inputs all over the place, neither of ’em work. Nor do any of the windows generic drivers, though they are hampered by never having heard of Hanns-G as people who make monitors…

    The reason I’m assuming it’s the lack of drivers causing an issue is that it seems to be the biggest sulk on those message boards talking about such things; no drivers, so it’s not optimal, or, in some cases, doesn’t work at all. The latter cases seem to be those where the monitor isn’t capable of working with the graphics card, hence my plumping for that as “most likely thing to be wrong.”

    One day, praps, we will not need drivers. That day isn’t yet, though. I can see that if you’re shipping a lot of monitors, shelling out 30 pee for a CD with the drivers on could rank as a medium-sized overhead, but refusing to make drivers at all strikes me as just, well, either lazy or stupid. Plug n play works in many cases, but it doesn’t work in all of ’em, an it’s not certain to be working at optimal levels unless you’re running the right stuff (as with most things, insofar as I’m aware, ‘generic’ drivers are just that; rather like a one-size-more-or-less-fits-all poncho. Keeps the worst of the rain off, but you wouldn’t rely on it if you had a proper coat). To refuse to make drivers in this situation is to have blind faith in something which, if it worked in all cases, would be excellent, and which, since it doesn’t, suggests that some attempt to cover the remaining cases might be in order.

    So since I can’t get it to work any other way, I’m going to run off with a cheaper monitor that comes with drivers. Less hassle all round, I imagine. It means I lose a weekend with a monitor, but since the weekend’s the only time I could be using the computer in anyway, that seems fairly reasonable…

  5. On November 05, 2006 Statto says:

    Have you tried it in any resolution using either connector on other machines?

    What other settings have you adjusted than the resolution in the display controls? Any?

  6. On November 05, 2006 Mister JTA says:

    Aren’t any other computers here that I can access, bar the laptop. It wouldn’t display from that, but, since I don’t know precisely how to make it do so, beyond D-subing the two together and pushing the funny picture of two different displays on the laptop keyboard, I don’t know if that was a sign that the monitor was dead, or that the laptop works differently.

    There were a whole pile of settings in the monitor menu thing, for various things – colour adjustment and lots of similar fiddly bits. I did have a go with ’em, but was somewhat hampered by the fact that to test to see if they had an impact I rather needed to change one of ’em a little bit, adjust the resolution up, see if it worked – it never did – and then reboot the computer when it failed to work, and redo from start.

    That got fairly rapidly dully; for some reason Windows wasn’t reverting to previous display settings – I waited five minutes, at one point – but, since I couldn’t see what it was doing at that point, I couldn’t get it to start doing it again!

  7. On November 05, 2006 Statto says:

    I was primarily wondering about refresh rate. I’ve never actually used an LCD before, so I don’t know whether that tab disappears or is replaced by something relevant to LCDs or what, but that’s the most likely culprit if your CRT isn’t getting a usable signal…

    I do think that’s all you need to do on laptops, though I’m not really an expert! Might be worth having a poke around in the control panel on there, too, to see what its multi-display set-up is. If you can get it working at VGA on there and thus confirm that the laptop’s giving out signal, then you can try hiking the resolution and see what occurs…

    Have C&J not got a computer?!

  8. On November 05, 2006 The Pacifist says:

    I think with TFTs the refresh rate is usually locked to 60hz

  9. On November 06, 2006 Adrian says:

    I’ve got a Hanns-G 19″ widescreen jobby and it’s bloody awesome for the price i paid. Works fine for me using DVI connected to my trusty 9800pro. Seeing as you’re getting an image from the monitor (albeit saying no signal) means its highly unlikely your monitor is faulty. It sounds far more likely that it’s your digital cable which is faulty.

    You can check your DVI connection on your graphics card if you have a VGA-DVI adaptor (should have come with your graphics card).

    Oh, LCD monitors will only take their native resolution without squealing. My 19″ widescreen runs at 1440×900, so check to make sure you’re not pumping 1600×1024 pixellated bad boys through it.

  10. On November 06, 2006 Mister JTA says:

    Wotcha Ade.

    I don’t think it can be the cable, because (if it is) then I’ve been shipped both a dead DVI cable and a dead D-Sub, which would be unlucky to the point of ridiculousness!

    This one’s designed for a whacking great 1280 x 1024 [well, it’s whacking to me; I can’t take CRTs refreshing below 85 Hz, or I get a thumping headache, so 1024 x 768 is my normal max…] and I’ve tried setting it to pretty much all of ’em – VGA, which works, and 800×600, 1024 x 768 and 1280 x 1024, but as soon as I hit “apply” on the latter three, the screen goes black (fair enough), then stays black, then says “no signal input,” then goes into power saving, and I have to reboot to re-enter VGA mode.

    Madness! I’m getting a Samsung.

  11. On November 06, 2006 Adrian says:

    ermmm LCD’s will only run safe at 60Hz, definately not 85 Hz. The low herz on an LCD won’t make you fill disorientated like a CRT due to the completely different technology used to create the image. Mine runs at 1440×900 60Hz, however after about 2 weeks the DVI cable broke so i had to get it replaced. Theres a reason why most DVI cables cost £25+ whereas Dabsvalues ones cost £5.

  12. On November 06, 2006 Mister JTA says:

    Nah, I wasn’t trying to run the LCD at 85 Hz; it’s just the level I need to keep CRTs at because I can see the flicker at anything less. Anyway, like I say I’m going for the Samsung jobbie, so I’m hoping that’s going to sort everything out.

    I do think the problem is that it can’t understand my graphics card, which seems to have happened to a few people, so it’s probably not just me…

    But cheers for the helpage, anyway! And I’m glad the bloody things for for someone!