Archive for January, 2013

Three Monitors: A Nightmare Worth Its Pixels In Platinum Trillion-Dollar Coins

by Jordan Spencer Cunningham on

Three Monitors-- 18104400 pixels

(Click the image to see it full-sized. Yes, you will be required to scroll to do this unless you also happen to have three or more monitors with similar resolutions.)

Mister Powell from West Jordan High School had it right when he said that Gus Gus and I began to trust more in technology than in human beings when we were exiled from our social and technical status in our film class. It’s a dangerous thing, but sometimes when I feel lonely or sad I will make technological purchases that I’ve been planning for some time but had not as yet completed due to the money problem. About a month ago I found a couple of good 23″ LED monitors on eBay for a pretty good deal and snatched them up, not to mention a new (but used) graphics card capable of sporting three monitors. Long story short, I now am able to multitask on three displays with a total of 18,104,400 pixels. That’s about 18.1 megapixels. Yes. All running on my Sapphire Radeon HD 5750 with 1 GB video RAM. It would be somewhat more supposing my third (and oldest, and original) monitor had HDMI input and was capable of 1920×1080 resolution. But I’m happy as it is. It wasn’t a walk in the park to get this up and running, though. Using three monitors is not for the faint of heart; two is a cinch, but three, at least on cards of this caliber, is another story. Let me share with you my story; I hope that I might be able to help some poor, unfortunate non-A+ certified nerds to forego the issues I did (I’m not A+ certified either… yet. And I don’t think that this is a part of A+ certification, quite honestly).

There was one thing about having three monitors on a single graphics card that I did not know. To quote RagnarKon on it (taken from a conversation I had on Eggxpert):

The reasons why it doesn’t work is rather complicated discussion involving TDMS’s and RAMDAC’s and interfaces in general…. but to keep it simple…

Both the DVI and HDMI are active interfaces, which require a clock to function. The 5750 only has two clocks. So were trying to run three active devices with only two clocks… which obviously will not work.

DisplayPort, on the other hand, is a passive interface, and therefore does not require a clock. Basically, the 5750 (actually the entire 5xxx line if I remember correctly) will only operate if you have two active devices–the rest have to be passive.

As for your converter, it will only work if your DisplayPort to HDMI converter is an active adapter. If it is not, then you’ll run into the same problem you have now.

In other words, I couldn’t just get a cheap Displayport to HDMI converter and plug it in and sing a song. That type of converter would merely convert the physical cable but not the signal, so the graphics card would still be trying to send out an HDMI signal despite the cable running out from the Displayport, and an HDMI signal requires its own clock to run and process, which said clock is already in use by the other HDMI signal! An active Displayport adapter will actively convert the signal using its own clock, and the graphics card can keep its two clocks for itself. This is why either one’s monitor has to be a Displayport or Mini-Displayport-capable monitor or one must have an active converter if one wants three monitors running simultaneously on cards of similar caliber. Yes, I realize that there is a lot more to it than that, but this is the simple version. There are consumer cards out there capable of six displays running at once, and there are other insane types of cards capable of quite a bit more, but most consumers won’t need more than three (want is another question completely).

So, with my credit card in hand, I purchased the cheapest active Displayport to HDMI converter I could find, which was on costcaptain.com, a site that seems reputable but that also seems to have trouble remembering to ship their items. I waited two weeks before I sent in my complaint, and then the converter arrived the following week. I’m considering asking for the price of shipping back, especially since they lowered the price of the converter from $18.99 to $16.99 right after I purchased the product. Mini-review: don’t purchase from Cost Captain. It seems they always do deliver from the reviews I found, just not as quickly as they claim they will.

The parts all arrived in the mail one by one, and I had a great time installing them (building computers is like a somewhat restricted grownup version of Legos). My three beautiful monitors were set up in a sort of 2.1 stereo surround vision mode. My cables were plugged in properly, and the active Displayport to HDMI converter was set up properly. But no image on the third monitor (the one connected via the Displayport to HDMI adapter). No problem, I thought. I just need to activate it. So I went into Windows’ display settings to do so, but it was still giving me the same problem previous to my purchasing the active Displayport to HDMI adapter– showing that all three monitors were connected properly but not allowing me to activate more than two monitors at a time. So I went into ATi’s Catalyst Control Center to make some adjustments. Still nothing– just the same old “you must disable one of the active displays in order to enable a display” voodoo. So after several hours of searching for a solution to the problem online and even going so far as to request support tickets from both AMD and Sapphire (the manufacturer of my particular card), which both support request systems were utterly broken so that I could type in my long rage of problems but could not submit them, I finally decided to just try restarting– so simple it just might work (and it usually does much to the outrage and humiliation of us nerds who are paid for resolving issues like this). Due to my impatience (I had been working on this for over five hours, and I wanted to play Zelda instead), when my computer was taking its time to shut down (only Windows Vista has to take longer shutting down than starting up), I pressed the “Reset” button (a really big, fancy blue button on my compy– it’s a little hard not to press it) in the middle of the shutdown process. Upon reboot, Windows was dead. Vista wouldn’t even boot into safe mode.

Meh, I thought. I’ve been meaning to get rid of Vista for a while now, anyway. And I downloaded and installed Ubuntu instead. Ubuntu booted fine, only started with two of the three monitors, but was able to sense that all three were connected. I commanded Ubuntu to stop mirroring my displays and to extend the desktop onto the third display, and it happened! I was surrounded in unique 18-megapixel glory! I was so happy I nearly cried (sort of). Still, with the rather resource-hungry Unity desktop environment running on all of that desktop real-estate, the going was somewhat slow, and the graphics card even malfunctioned once and threw up pretty colors all over the screen. So I figured it’d be better to download the tried-and-true less-hungry but still pretty desktop environment known as Gnome, which has been running quite smoothly the past couple of days on all three monitors. I also tried Xfce, but it felt too much like Windows 98, and I am very interested to see how Cinnamon does as soon as I have time to demo it. Also, I’d like to see how the latest version of Linux Mint runs.

My troubles now over, I decided to purchase a 115GB SSD to run my operating system and applications and frequently used files from, just for good measure, as well as four additional gigabytes of RAM (totaling six). I expect my computer to be rather zippy by next week.

Three Monitors, One Card, 18 Megapixels

 

Three Hours with Netflix

by Jordan Spencer Cunningham on

Since I recently purchased a Wii for the sole purpose of playing Zelda: Skyward Sword (despite how I’ve no time to do so), I thought I might try out Netflix finally and see what all the hype is about. I was sorely disappointed.

Firstly, even though I elected to do the 15-day free trial, Netflix still charged my account as if I was going to stay with the service. Bad move, Netflix.

Despite being slightly perturbed at this, I determined to see what it was like; I thought that perhaps I’d even stay with the service. So I started to browse. And browse. And since I figured all of the popular and crappy movies would be featured, I just knew that searching for good movies by title would give me what I was looking for. No. No Up. No Finding Neverland. Not really much of anything, really. As I browsed and searched and searched and browsed, it became apparent to me that Netflix’ selection firstly wasn’t as big and unlimited as people make it seem and secondly was comprised of the following:

  • 35% gently to extremely pornographic films
  • 35% wanna-be Disney/Pixar films or forgotten and worthless films
  • 15% Disney fodder films and the like (Hannah Montanna, Cinderella III, Little Mermaid VIII, Land Before Time MCXVII Part III &tc.)
  • 5% other types of worthless films
  • 10% films actually worth watching

I felt like I was having to wade through sewage just to find a loaf of bread, and I had to pay the fellow guarding the manhole $8.54 (including tax) just to get in to a place that my toilet gets access to for free. Even their “classics” section was mostly trash– not even one Gary Cooper or Jimmy Stewart film, but a good portion of somewhat steamy to downright sleazy old movies that our grandparents used to be afraid of.

So I called up Netflix, told them that I was tricked into paying them (because I was– I specifically selected the 15-day free trial), and demanded my moneys back. I can at least say that their customer service goes far beyond their marketed service, and I am now the proud possessor of $8.54 that entered Netflix’s vaults and came back to tell the tale.

My take on Netflix? Pay a little extra to own the things you want yourself instead of being at the mercy of mega-companies’ whims and business deals (I hear Netflix won’t have any Disney/Pixar films until 2016 due to some business deals). I don’t understand what all the hype about paying $8.00 a month (around $100 a year) to get mostly crap is about. It’s almost like paying ridiculous monthly fees for cable or satellite television– 1,000 channels of constant worthlessness and time-wasting with commercials! One actually pays to see more commercials! How silly. At least with Netflix you’re paying less for less of nothing where cable and satellite customers are paying more for more of nothing.

A Brief History of Monkey

by Jordan Spencer Cunningham on

Some few readers here will be at least somewhat familiar with our dear friend, Monkey. Most will not. It is my duty– not pleasure– to relate to you the very long and arduous tale of said Monkey and how I, with several others, became entangled in so much (too much) of his… business. What is written about Monkey is only from our observations of him and what he tells us, and, since he is a pathological liar, one should take any account of him with a grain of salt. Actually, a whole shaker of it.

Today’s writing of Monkey will simply be a compendium of his history from his birth to now. Most of it comes from his mouth as I have only been in contact with him since 2011, so again, one must doubt his history. However, his ability to recall the same stories from memory again and again seem to imply that he, at least, honestly believes whatever is in his fluffy brain.

I will begin at his birth and include as many details as we have come to know, and I may publish his current adventures under the title “The Monkey Chronicles”.

Simian Aeberswyth Schylling, his name before he became Monkey, was born probably in September somewhere between 1860 and 1880 (he’s forgotten) to two parents whose names he’s also forgotten, but he does remember that there were two. He grew up in the town of Hartford, Connecticut, and we do know that he attended Hartford Public High School in the later 1800s. While there, he played the flute in the school marching band and fell in love with a girl we simply know as Samantha, who was supposedly a whiz at the tuba.

Things get a little hazy for Simian for the next few decades; we’re pretty certain that he was never married and never had any children, but we are not certain whether he attended college or if he ever held any occupation until around the 1920s. It’s apparent that he never married or got very far with Samantha because his obsession with her up until about a year ago was, for the lack of a better word, obtuse.  We have deduced that he was involved in a terrible chemical accident, which leads us to believe he may have worked in the infamous Pfizer chemical plant in Brooklyn, New York, not extremely far from his home.

Simian emerges as Monkey in the early 20th century, and by the 1920’s we find Monkey on a steamboat bound for Japan, working his way across the pond in the engine room of the boat, shoveling coal into the monstrous boilers. Due to his small stature (we’re unsure if he immediately shrank to his 20 inches after the chemical accident or if he shrunk over time, but we do know he was small enough at this point), other workers in the boiler room began to pick on him. Throughout the journey, Monkey learned kickboxing and, to quote him, “kicked their faces off and threw them into the fire, thereafter shoveling coal on top of their bodies to burn them more quickly and hide the evidence”. Upon arriving in Japan, Monkey made quite a lot of money in a kickboxing ring. Monkey said that there was a group of Chinese immigrants who were his dearest fans who, every time he kicked someone’s face off, threw mounds of money onto the ring, which mounds made up most of his fortune. His fortune made after the bulk of the decade was over, Monkey climbed aboard a rather overgrown seahorse and rode it back to the United States.

After returning from Japan, Monkey learned another skill and became a horse jockey in the 1930s, racing horses throughout the east coast, mainly. At the end of his racing career, he was caught in a terrible racing accident when a giant spider (about 4.5 feet or 1.5 meters in diameter) scared his horse, causing the horse to buck him off and land in the way of the other racers who were beyond the point of slowing down. A Jamaican native happened to be standing nearby, perhaps as a paramedic as it’s unlikely that there were immediately a crowd of people surrounding him, and, thinking that Monkey was dead, said, “Die man, mine!” He wanted the dead man. Perhaps he was a cannibalistic scavenger, or perhaps, going along with the paramedic idea, he was eager to study the entrails of a human who had been chemically altered into a monkey, or perhaps he was drunk. Whatever the case, these were the last words that filtered through the concussive cloud around Monkey’s brain before he slipped out of consciousness, and all he could think about through restless, concussed dreams and even after he awoke was that he needed to find the largest diamond to give to Samantha and that he was going to go into the diamond mines to get it.

On Monkey’s way to find the greatest and most illustrious mines in Africa he was caught up in the whirlwind of the Great War, now known as World War II. Really oblivious as to who was who, Monkey joined the ranks of some army, though he didn’t know which. According to the slight details that he gave us (being in southern Eurasia at the time of his enlistment and how he said his comrades didn’t seem to have vocal chords but rather spoke by passing air very roughly through their throats, making a quite angry manner of speech), we are quite certain he sported a Swastika. He may have joined the Allied forces after the war ended, however, and had done some damage control in Germany or other European countries, as he mentioned he was still using an automatic gun several years after the war had ended. His ignorance as to who he was fighting and what he was fighting for likely saved his life.

His dream of finding the world’s greatest diamond was starting to finally become a reality when he was at last able to make his way down to black Africa in the mid-1950s and into a mine that sounds very similar to the one portrayed in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Monkey hammered away in the dim incandescent glow deep in the bowels of the earth for some years until one day it literally fell upon him: as he picked away at a wall, still burning with his love for Samantha, the stone wall he was picking at crumbled on top of him, and the world’s largest diamond rolled, sparkling, to land upon his protruding head. As he excitedly tried to remove himself from the rubble, someone swooped down the tunnel and made off with his diamond, Monkey shouting explicitives at the thief as he struggled to free himself. Monkey originally told us that the person who had stolen the diamond was a certain Elder Varner, a zone leader of ours in the Arizona Tempe Mission. We highly doubted this as this was at least 65 years ago and Elder Varner appeared to hardly be 21. Also, there was a picture of him hanging on a pillar in our living room, so it was more likely that Monkey couldn’t place who it was and blamed the first person he could think of as he was telling us the story. As we asked him about the description of the person, however, he changed his story by telling us that there were two people and that they were wearing skirts. He thereafter described Sister Barnes and Sister Wiscombe, two other missionaries serving near us. We also doubted that quite a bit as they weren’t more than 23 years of age and also not very inclined to steal anyone’s diamonds, let alone be caught dead in the deep crevices of a mine in the middle of Africa. Once Monkey removed himself from the rubble, he swore revenge on the thief who took the diamond meant for Samantha, and he has never been the same since.

To take out his anger, Monkey was one of the first to enlist in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. Despite the downplays of the myth-busters and rumor-breakers saying that Mister Rogers did not serve as a sniper in Vietnam, Monkey verifies that he did, in fact, serve as a sniper, and that Monkey ran into him on many occasions as the said Rogers took down people from 1500 yards while Monkey burned down buildings with blowtorches. They weren’t necessarily on a first-name basis, but he says “Fred the Killer”, as they called him in the ranks, pushed him into a cart of mashed potatoes and chicken once. Monkey thinks it was a compliment– that Mister Rogers wanted to share some food with him– but we’re fairly certain that Fred had a different motive.

The war over, Monkey, like so many other Vietnam Veterans, slunk back into the United States, nearly forgotten. So forgotten, in fact, that he forgot the rest of the country and started working at a chemical testing plant in the 1970s; he was one of the animals that the company tested on. We even found some rare footage from the security cameras of the testing plant: imagine a very large cafeteria-like room with a table full of monkeys. They each have their own chemicals to test by ingestion, submersion, injection, or other means. Men in white lab coats with clipboards pace the aisles, stopping every once in a while to scribble down a note or observe a tester more carefully. We see our star Monkey sitting in the middle of the screen, looking up from his work as he lifts a beaker full of liquid to consume almost excitedly, it seems. Suddenly a tryannosaurus rex stomps into view, leans over and snaps its jaws on the nearest lab-coat-wearing clipboard-holding scientist, and tromps away, chewing. Since the other monkeys are focusing on their duties and the other scientists are busily reviewing notes or scribbling them on their clipboards, Monkey is the only one who notices. He looks to the left a moment, looks to the right for a few moments longer, and then drops his gaze back to his beaker. Sighing happily, he brings it back to his mouth and downs it like whiskey in a shotglass. Then the clip goes to static.

When PETA secretly burned down the chemical testing plant that he eventually called home, Monkey found himself alone and dejected. Monkey didn’t know it was PETA at the time, of course, so he wandered the country for nearly all of the 80s, homeless, drinking what chemicals he could steal or trade for in the black market.

But then he figured it out. His beloved chemical testing facility didn’t just burn down by accident; it was arson, and it was done by the hands of PETA, as much as they denied it. Monkey, a newfound enemy to focus his sadness and bitterness toward, invested quite a bit of his fortune from his kickboxing days into tracking down which PETA members were directly responsible for his factory’s demise and burned down all of their houses, usually with them inside. This consumed him until about 1997 when he found that all of his enemies were gone and that he was alone again, so Monkey went off in search of new adventures.

In 1998, Monkey used a highly advanced micro device to travel through time and space to a land known commonly as Middle Earth. While there, he found his way into a volcano and was basking in the warmth for a while until a rowdy couple of hobbitses disturbed his peace. He said they kept arguing dramatically over about throwing a ring into the fire. Suddenly a slimy little creature emerged out of nowhere, conked one of the hobbits on the head, and then bit off the other’s finger. This was too much for Monkey as this was supposed to be a vacation from violence, so he snuck up behind the fingerless hobbit and the creature, who were now pushing one another around, and pushed them into the depths of the active volcano. His duty done, he dusted his hands off and took up his stretched-out position back on his cozy ledge; his peace was not meant to be, however, because suddenly his volcano exploded, and he was shot back through time and space to his life here on Earth in 1998. He is now in the process of suing the Tolkien family for not including him in the history now known as The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King or sending him royalties for his vital role in the account. We’re unsure of how Tolkien documented what history he did from Middle Earth, but Monkey is certain that Tolkien violated some of his patents.

A new wave of excitement was hitting the world at large, and Monkey couldn’t help but be a part of it. Even though he had never used a computer before, by 2008 Monkey had become the world’s most formidable hacker. Breezing by the FBI and CIA’s  security, and also the security of a couple of other entities whose three-letter acronyms aren’t even known by the people who work for and are subsequently assassinated by them, he downloaded and still has to this day a copy of every digitized file in all of their histories (Monkey assures me that UFOs were just a pet project of Abraham Lincoln’s and that President Obama  actually wants nothing more than to be called Emperor Obama publicly just once).  As a side project, Monkey hacked into every bank account in the world and had access to all digitized funds (and I’m not sure, but he hinted that he somehow had a way to access even physical funds across the world, such as the hundred dollars stashed under Aunt Marge’s bed), though, when we learned of this, we forced him to delete all of the information and make it impossible for him to get it back.


In late 2008, Monkey also started his own gang in Chandler, Arizona, notorious for tagging things like fences, garbage cans, curbs, and small children. One of his gang tried to spray-paint a passing train and was never heard from again but was seen in several places at once down the track. When Monkey began to change his ways, he decided to go into hiding as his gang would surely slit his throat or curb-stomp his face, so he sold himself to Target as if he were a stuffed sock monkey (which it is still unclear as to whether or not he is). I happened to be in need of a sock monkey at the time, and I happened to be the one who purchased him that fateful day in early 2011. My life has never been the same since.

After a few months of mostly silence, Monkey began to trust us and therefore to speak, and we eventually couldn’t get him to shut up. He began wandering around our apartment in Arizona looking for chemicals to drink. He told us about all of these wiley tales and more, and he made many friends and a few enemies. While with us, his adventures included accepting “banana juice” from our drunken neighbors, sneaking Comcast under a false name using our credit cards, being killed in a tragic door-slamming accident and finding out in heaven that his Samantha has a mustache and then being resuscitated and living to tell the terrible tale, falling in love via telephone with a monkey he had never seen before, killing Curious George (who was trying to steal the girl for himself), begging us to baptize him into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, researching some very deep doctrine concerning doves and “the facsimiles” from said church, finding himself in all sorts of precarious situations (in chandeliers, skylights, windowpanes, backpacks, &tc.), and so on and so forth. These adventures in detail will likely be published, again, under The Monkey Chronicles on this blog.

Until then, adieu.