Thursday, February 26, 2009

Multiple Monitors Revisited

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Vol. 2, # 60 - Feb 26, 2009 - Issue # 69 
 Multiple Monitors Revisited

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Multiple Monitors Revisited
    • Follow-up: Extending Vista Media Center
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • The Cost of Computing
    • Six Tips for speeding up Vista
    • Office 14 won't be coming out this year
    • Updated version of Vista SP available only to selected testers
  4. How to: Using the New Vista Features
    • How to enable the DVD library on Vista Media Center
  5. Vista Security
    • Watch out for Excel vulnerability
  6. Vista Question Corner
    • Administrator doesn't have permission to access shared network resources
  7. Vista Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • Vista SP1 hangs during startup
    • Control Panel icons missing or Control Panel won't open
  8. Windows 7 Preview Corner
    • First Windows 7 updates come out this week
    • Windows 7 RC right around the corner? Maybe.
  9. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  10. Product of the Week
    • Luxor 3: Battle The Power-Hungry God Of Chaos!

My Antivirus Is Killing My Netbook - Now What?

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Editor's Corner

Multiple Monitors Revisited

Looking back through the archives of VistaNews and our sister publication, WXPnews, I was surprised to see that the last time I did a feature on multiple monitor use was in 2007. Wow, time really does fly when you're having fun! That article, titled Screen Real Estate is the Best Investment addressed the question of which works best: one gigantic monitor or several smaller ones:

Well, even though the cost of big monitors has come down, there are still advantages (both monetary and ergonomic) to using multiples. And a lot has happened on the multi-monitor front in the last few years. I first started using dual monitors on Windows 2000, but getting them to work could be a major hassle. Most video cards had only a single output, so you had to install additional cards. And you needed video cards that were built to serve as secondary monitors - not all of them were back then. Still, once you got it up and running, it was great. Prior to that, it was possible to have dual monitors with NT, but you had to buy an expensive dual head video card. My secondary cards on my Windows 2000 workstation were cheap Diamond Stealths.

Then XP came out, and multiple monitors got much easier to set up. Unlike Windows 2000, XP would recognize your multiple monitors when you installed it, and extending the desktop across two or even more monitors was no problem at all. For a while there, I was running four monitors off three video cards on my XP system. Next, Vista came along - and along with it, an unpleasant surprise. I'd been using an odd combination of cards with XP: an NVidia with two outputs, an ATI and a Matrox. When I installed Vista on the same machine, only two of my monitors would work: the ones connected to the NVidia card. A little research turned up the fact that with Vista, all of your video cards had to use the same driver. That meant you couldn't mix and match cards from different vendors - although you could in some cases use different models from the same vendor. So I went out and bought another NVidia card for that machine. When I got a new Dell XPS, I got two identical ATI cards.

Now the word is out that Windows 7 will have support for multiple heterogeneous graphics cards from different vendors. I haven't tested that yet (I'm running 7 on the XPS with three monitors attached to the two ATI cards, on a Media Center PC that's hooked up to the 65 inch Sharp Aquos TV, and on a Sony laptop) but I hope to try it out with different brands of cards in the next few weeks. I'll let you know how it goes.

Installing all these extra cards is well and good, but what if you can't do that? Maybe all of the expansion slots on your computer are full. Maybe you use a "desktop replacement" laptop as your primary/only computer. Maybe you just don't feel comfortable opening up the case and adding a card. Does that mean you can't enjoy the benefits of multiple monitors?

Not necessarily. If your expansion slots are full, examine the video card you do have. Most modern video cards have two outputs. Sometimes there will be one VGA D-sub connector and one DVI, or more often now, two DVIs. Newer high-end cards may have an HDMI connector in addition to, or instead of, one of these. Generally you can connect two monitors to the two ports and have multiple monitor functionality.

With most laptops, you can attach a monitor to the video port and have dual monitors of a sort, with the laptops built-in display serving as one of them. That may not be very satisfying if your laptop is a subcompact with a tiny display, though. Another problem is that many laptops currently in use still have only VGA outputs, so if you have a modern monitor that has only a digital input, you may need an adapter and you won't get the full display quality of which the monitor is capable. Some of the newer laptops include HDMI outputs, though. You can connect HDMI to a monitor with a DVI input, again by means of an adapter.

If your computer's existing video card has only one port, or if you're using a laptop and want two or more full sized monitors, there's still a solution - provided you're willing to spend a few bucks. Matrox, which made those dual head monitors for NT way back when, now makes an external device that you can use to connect two or three monitors to your computer. Called the DualHead2Go and the TripleHead2Go, these little black boxes don't require that you open the case and can be had for both analog and digital monitors. They're a bit pricey, though - the dual head analog model sells for around $170 and the digital model for close to $250.

However you accomplish it, being able to spread out across two or three monitors is great. It's like the difference between working on a 3x8 foot desk or table and working on a TV tray.

There was much discussion, ahead of the release of the Windows 7 PDC pre-beta, concerning multi-monitor support for the Windows taskbar. Apparently Microsoft considered making the taskbar capable of spanning multiple monitors, or putting separate taskbars on each monitor. The current public beta, however, doesn't seem to contain that feature.

A great little add-on program that I used in XP and Vista, called UltraMon, provided the capability to have taskbars on each monitor, as well as the ability to set a different wallpaper for each monitor. Unfortunately, it's not yet supported on Windows 7. Some folks have gotten it working - sort of - but you lose some functionality. You can read about the trials and tribulations of those who've tried it here:

One of the most exciting multiple monitor developments in the last few years was the ability to span multiple monitors with a Remote Desktop connection. I use Remote Desktop a lot, to connect to my primary workstation downstairs from my upstairs office or from my bedroom computer. Previously, you were limited to having the remote desktop on just one screen. Now, I can get a much more realistic working atmosphere by displaying my three-monitor desktop downstairs across all three monitors on the upstairs machine. The default is still to display the remote desktop on a single monitor, however. To span monitors (called continuous resolution mode), you need to type Mstsc /span at the command prompt. Also note that all of the monitors need to be running at the same resolution. To do this from an XP machine to a Vista or Windows 7 computer, you need to install the updated RDC client (6.0) on the XP computer:

You can read more about Microsoft's official stance on multi-monitor support in Vista here:

And here is every multiple monitor lover's dream setup: an array consisting of eight 24 inch widescreen displays. At $8000, it's not cheap - but if you can make do with eight 17 inch monitors instead, the price comes down to an almost manageable $2799.

Or how about one of those transparent touchscreen monitors like they use in the crime lab on CSI: Miami? Apparently that's a SMART Board interactive display projected onto a clear sheet of glass or plastic. SMART Boards have been used in schools since the early 90s, but you know they're expensive when they won't even tell you the price on their web site.

Something that sounds a lot like the CSI dream monitor is Microsoft's SecondLight technology, which was presented this last week at TechFest in Redmond. It's a variation on the Surface computer but instead of embedding the images into a tabletop, it projects them onto a piece of plastic suspended in mid-air. You can see a demo video of that here:

Are you using multiple monitors yet? Does it make you more productive? How many monitors (and what size) would be in your ideal setup? What's on your wish list for multiple monitor support in the next operating system: multiple taskbars? Separate wallpaper configurations? Tell us your experiences and opinions at

Follow-up: Extending Vista Media Center

In last week's editorial, I wrote about ways that you can extend the benefits of your Vista Media Center PC (Home Premium or Ultimate edition) to other parts of your home and even beyond. A number of you wrote with comments, questions and stories about your own experiences.

Many of you are using the Xbox 360 as your extender. David B. wrote, "At $199 for the Arcade version it is a lot cheaper than most extenders and works the best. I have problems with fast forward and rewind, so I use the jump button to jump forward or backward 30 sec. It can be a little slow in first coming up, but once it is up and I do most of what I want to do. I use the My Movies MCE plug-in to allow access to my movies collection. I wish it was built into MCE (and I believe it will be by the time Windows 7 actually ships). It is very compatible with movies formats, especially those with AC-3 audio, and will up- and down-convert them to 1080i. It's not great, but seems to be much better and cheaper than most solutions."

As for extending your Media Center beyond your home, some of you aren't interested. Joseph H. wrote: "don't see myself having a need to extend my media centers for entertainment on the road/on the go. I have an 80GB iPod Video that will be completely full of free video podcast next time I sync it, a 160GB iPod Classic I use for audio only (though I do have a couple TV shows I got free from iTunes on it), and a handful of MP3 players. I take my iPod Video to work with me to watch podcasts on my dinner break and take one of my mp3 players to listen to tunes when I'm on the road or working out of town."

Others do like to access their content back home from the road, but instead of using the free services, prefer the commercial solutions like Slingbox. One advantage is that you don't need a computer as the source of your media content. Phillip S. wrote, "I have had a slingbox for about 3 1/2 years and find it a valuable device. I originally bought it to follow my hometown baseball team's games while I was traveling for my job, and connected it my Direct TV DVR. In addition to being able to follow my team's baseball games (and anything else on my satellite package), I was able to watch virtually anything I had recorded on the DVR. It was kind of cool to be able to watch the hometown nightly news or weather while I was in a different part of the country."

Several of you mentioned the "dirty little secret" of Media Center - that you can't play HD content over the extender. Michael H. wrote: "only SD material recorded at 480p (or less) is transmitted. So don't think you can just plug in a HDTV receiver to your Media Center PC, record a HD show and watch it at a later time on your MCE like a DVR." Another problem is that the extenders won't stream certain content. Bret H. said, "I use an Xbox 360 to extend Vista Media Center to my TV, but you can't watch anything recorded from a premium movie channel. That makes it almost useless for me. I do enjoy the Netflix via the Xbox though."

And Robert G. said, "What I love about Media Center is it is pretty easy to use, has features like specifying a movie you want to watch that shows on no schedule and it will eventually record it when it pops up. It has been quite reliable and I use it regularly. On a 1TB network there is little issue playing a show recorded on another machine. The only negative is that it will not record in HiDef. I get QAM channels and would like to be able to record them. Seems to me MS needs to update their offering."

Actually, you can record high definition programming with Windows Media Center, either over the air, or HD cable with a CableCARD tuner. However, only certain computers offer CableCARD support (for example, you can get the Dell XPS with CableCARD support).

Some of you are wary of Media Center and similar technologies. Chris B. wrote: "I am someone who likes to use new technology where it has a real value, but is not prepared to keep tinkering with it once set up so as to keep it running. You have put your finger on why I am not planning on streaming media through my house (although I would like to) - lack of interoperability and backward compatibility."

Thanks to all of you who wrote on this topic!

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

PS: Did you know this newsletter has a sister publication for XP users called WXPnews? You can subscribe here, and tell your friends:

And for IT pros, there's our "big sister," WServer News, at

Quotes of the Week

Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace. - Amelia Earhart (1897-1937)

If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? If you cannot solve it, then what is the use of worrying? - Shantideva

We are what we repeatedly do. - Aristotle (384-322 BC)

Keep The Bad Guys Out With The Sunbelt Personal Firewall

Why do I need a firewall? Together with antivirus and antispyware, a firewall is a "must" to protect your computer. PC Magazine gave the Sunbelt Personal Firewall a "Very Good" rating with 4 Stars and a conclusion of "good protection". Check out the Reviews on the site and it will be clear why you need the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to protect your PC. One good example: Unlike the Windows XP and Vista Firewall, you can tell the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to look carefully at the data leaving your browser, so that sensitive information like your credit card numbers, email address, bank account, social security number and PIN code do not get stolen by hackers!

Cool Tools


Before You Kick that Computer to the Curb. Free PC Diagnostic Scan

Ever use a download manager? You might not know what your missing, try this one!

Rip DVDs for your iPhone, iPod touch, Apple TV, or iPod Video Nano. Bundle includes video converter too! Free Trial:

Advanced Vista Optimizer does a great job tweaking Vista for Max performance.

Eliminate your online traces with CyberScrub. Privacy equals security.

Backups? We don't need no stinking backups! Synchronization isn't anything like backing up, it's better! Easy too!

Your Uninstaller! 2008 takes the place of the clunky Windows Control Panel "Add/Remove Programs" and offers many other useful functions

Kill the background tasks belonging to (legitimate) software that run all day. Why? To get your speed back!

One easy to remember password gives automatic access to all my online passwords and usernames. I love the autofill feature.

News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

The Cost of Computing

It seems that prices of computers - at least for basic systems - just keep on falling, but somehow when I go to configure my dream system, it costs about the same as the "top of the line" model did last year. It all depends on what you want, and what you're willing to pay for it. Take our SunPoll and tell us how much you paid for your PC and related peripherals, in the right column at

Six Tips for speeding up Vista

Is Vista sluggish on your system? CNET TV offers this video that shows you six ways you can help speed things up.

Office 14 won't be coming out this year

Steve Ballmer let the cat out of the bag last week: the next version of Microsoft Office won't be released until 2010, which pretty much means it won't launch in conjunction with Windows 7, since that OS is expected out sometime in 2009. PC World asks "does anybody care?" and although I am vaguely eager to see what new features turn up in the next Office, I'm certainly not longing for its release as I am with Win7. Read more here:

Updated version of Vista SP available only to selected testers

The public beta of service pack 2 for Vista became available in December, but the "escrow build" that came out in January only went to selected testers. However, the Release Candidate (RC) has now been provided to Microsoft Connect testers and the rumors say the finished product may be released in April - along about the same time as the Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 RCs. You can read more here:

How to: Using the New Vista Features

How to enable the DVD library on Vista Media Center

In Windows Media Center on a Vista Home Premium or Ultimate computer, the DVD library is not enabled by default, which means you can't see your DVD content. Here's how to enable it to display the DVD content on your computer:
  1. Close the Media Center application if it's open.
  2. Click Start and in the Search box, type regedit to open the registry editor.
  3. Click Continue or enter administrative credentials at the prompt.
  4. Navigate to the following registry key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Media Center \ Settings \ DvdSettings
  5. In the right Details pane, right click ShowGallery and select Modify.
  6. Delete the contents of the Value data box.
  7. In the Value data box, type Gallery.
  8. Click OK.
  9. Close the registry editor.
  10. Restart your computer. Media Center should know display "DVD Library" instead of "Play DVD." You may need to right click Add Folders to see content.

Vista Security

Watch out for Excel vulnerability

A new security vulnerability has been discovered in Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet program that can allow hackers to execute code on your computer or, if you're logged on as an administrator, take control of the system. This applies to Excel versions 2000 through 2007 for Windows and 2008 for Macintosh. Microsoft recommends a workaround that involves using the Microsoft Office File Block policy. Find out more here:

Vista Question Corner

Administrator doesn't have permission to access shared network resources

I'm having problems getting to some of the shares on the network from my Vista computer even though I'm logged on with an administrative account. I can access those same shares from my XP computer with the same network logon. Any idea what's going on? Thanks. - Roy G.

Most likely the problem is that Vista's User Account Control (UAC) runs all accounts as standard users by default. When you log on with an admin account, two access tokens are created - one with administrative rights and one with standard user rights. Mapped network shares may be linked to the current logon session so if the share was mapped using the filtered access token (without admin rights), you may have this problem. You can fix it with a registry edit that tells Vista to share the network connections between the filtered access token and the administrative token for members of the Administrators group. Here are the steps (be sure to back up the registry first):
  1. Open the registry editor and navigate to the following key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Policies \ System
  2. Click New and select DWORD Value.
  3. Name the new value EnableLinkedConnections
  4. Right click the new value and select Modify.
  5. In the Value Data box, type 1
  6. Click OK.
  7. Close the registry editor and restart the computer

Vista Configuration and Troubleshooting

Vista SP1 hangs during startup

If you've installed Service Pack 1 on your Vista computer and now you find that the system stops responding and hangs up during startup, with a black screen instead of the Windows logo, you may need the hotfix described in KB article 960723. Read more about the cause of the problem and how to get the fix here:

Control Panel icons missing or Control Panel won't open

Do you have a Vista computer that's having problems with the Control Panel - either you can't start Control Panel at all, or when you do you find that some of the icons are missing ? Or you may not be able to start the built-in Vista games or the Welcome Center. Installing Service Pack 1 should solve the problem, or there is a hotfix available that addresses this specific problem. Find out more in KB article 936686 at

Windows 7 Preview Corner

First Windows 7 updates come out this week

Microsoft released a set of updates for the Windows 7 beta on February 24th, but don't look for any bug fixes or new features; these are actually just test updates, designed to make sure that the update process works correctly.

Windows 7 RC right around the corner? Maybe.

Nobody knows for sure and Microsoft isn't telling, but the industry has been abuzz this week with rumors that the release candidate of Windows 7 will be made available to the public sometime in April. This would be a big relief to those of us who are running 7 now and really don't want to have to go back to Vista when the beta expires in August.

Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: VistaNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.

Product of the Week

Luxor 3: Battle The Power-Hungry God Of Chaos!

Part strategy game, part action & adventure game, the most critically acclaimed puzzle game of 2008, Luxor 3, challenges you to combine your thinking and shooting skills to conquer the Egyptian God of Chaos and save the other Gods from his wrath. Lots of fun! Great graphics sound and exciting increasing challenging levels of play. Nice way to break up the stress, enjoy a good cup of coffee and the rest of the day. Download the free evaluation version here now.

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