DELL 2408WFP and Spyder 3 Elite

I upgraded my vista Ultimate x64 workstation to a dual monitor setup using two 24″ DELL 2408WFP displays connected to an ATI HD4850 video card.

I immediately noticed that the colors were unnaturally bright and over-saturated.

I had a similar problem on another workstation with a 30″ DELL 3007WFP-HC display. My original 3007WFP was great, until it started making a high pitched noise, and DELL replaced it under warranty, but they replaced it with a 3007WFP-HC model, and the color difference was very noticeably worse than the old monitor.

This is when I found out about what are called “wide gamut” monitors that support displaying an extended color space, and along with it, monitor color calibration.

You can read more about “gamut” on Wikipedia, or a discussion on “wide gamut displays” at Digital Photography Review and another at Overclockers Australia Forums.

With these displays the problem is basically that there is a big difference in appearance between an application that is color managed, such as Photoshop, and an application that is not color managed, such as the Windows desktop. The problem is is more noticeable when it comes to web browsers since none of the major browsers support color management.
Here is a page to test your browser’s color manangement behavior.

When I got the DELL 3007WFP-HC I purchased a X-Rite i1Display 2 calorimeter to calibrate the display, and the results were pretty good.

I tried the 1iDisplay 2 again with the 2408WFP displays, but I was just not happy with the color, and I could not get the two monitors to match. I also sometimes had various problems getting the iMatch software to work correctly when calibrating the secondary display or correctly detecting the calorimeter.

Searching the web I found that many people were having trouble calibrating the 2408WFP monitors, and of those that were happy, several were using the Datacolor Spyder 3 Elite calorimeter. I ordered a Spyder 3 Elite in the hopes that it would produce better results, or at least be more convenient to use in a dual monitor setup.

Now let me take a moment to talk about my impressions of Datacolor.

Their website does not work with the Google Chrome browser, none of the navigation menus work, and I had to use Microsoft Internet Explorer to navigate their site.

The support site navigation is, well, there is no site navigation.

There is no ability to browse documents or downloads by product, all you can do is search.

Once you reach a page through search, there is no navigational link to take you back home, you have to use your browser’s history.

I opened a support case with Datacolor to inform them of the Chrome incompatibility, in case they did not know, here is their response:

Pieter, I just tried to download Google Chrome, but it seems that it is not available for MAC – which is the industry standard. That makes that browser not relevant for the time being if you ask me, as Windows is certainly not the choice of the platform in the visual world; which is where calibration matters.
That said, our product works very well with both Windows and Mac, and I use it as a professional photographer, along countless others, so do not worry about browsers – this program has nothing to do with browsers and personal feelings/beliefs – it just calibrates your display/printer to icc standards and does it very well.

So there you have it, according to Datacolor the Mac is the industry standard, and Windows does not matter, nor does their website’s accessibility 😉

Things only got worse as I started reading their documentation.

The product user guide is a PDF that looks like it was converted from HTML, there are a few random paragraphs that suddenly switch from a very readable white font on gray background to black on gray, e.g. see page 17, this is probably an artifact of the HTML to PDF conversion process.

The step-by-step PDF has a better layout but with random German text, e.g. see page 10, and with lots of spelling mistakes, e.g. see page 14 “Place the snsor on teh screen”, obviously they never even ran a spell checker through the documents.

I know you think I am nitpicking, but I believe in paying attention to detail when delivering a product, and that sloppy work in one area will reflect sloppiness in all areas.

Ok, back to the calibration.

The Spyder3Elite software that came in the box was version 3.0.4, so I downloaded and installed the later 3.0.7 version software from the Datacolor website.

The installation was easy, and the software launched in the guided wizard mode.

It detected both monitors, allowed me to pick which monitor to calibrate, and as I picked a different monitor the UI automatically centered on that display.

In contrast with iMatch you had to launch the software, then move the window to the monitor you want to calibrate, then start the calibration.

I followed the wizard and calibrated both monitors, the colors looked “ok”, not “great”, and two monitors were not matched.

After closing the Spyder3Elite calibration software a tray icon remains running and it periodically monitors the ambient light, and also reminds you when the monitor needs to be re-calibrated. This time I am nitpicking, but they could really have picked a better looking tray icon than the blank white square, especially for a graphics company, or maybe since this is Windows and not Mac, the graphics does not really matter, right 😉

While researching calibration of the 2408WFP, I read about Integrated Color Corporation’s ColorEyes Display Pro software, and decided to give that a try.

The software is pretty expensive, but they did have a 10 day trial version available.

The installer installed several drivers that were not Windows Hardware Quality Labs / Windows Hardware Logo certified, and Windows required me to accept several bright red warning dialogs during the install.

The software supports multiple calorimeter devices, I picked the Spyder 3 from the list, and performed a calibration.

The 2408WFP monitor is supposed to support DDC, and the ColorEyes software is supposed to be able to control the monitor alleviating the need to perform manual adjustments, but for some unknown reason this did not work, so I had to make adjustments manually.
Compared to the quick calibration using the Spyder3Elite software, colors did look better, but to be fair at this point I have not done an advanced calibration with the Spyder3Elite software.

When it came time to calibrate the second monitor things did not go so well. The brightness calibration window opened, but after a few seconds it would just close again by itself. When I then tried to close the main window it would not close. I right clicked on the window in the taskbar, selected close, Windows told me the window is not responding, I selected to terminate the application, and my machine completely froze, requiring a hard boot. I assumed those drivers that did not pass Windows Hardware Logo Certification were to blame.
I opened a support case with Integrated Color Corporation to ask about DDC and the hang, and this was their response:

The driver that comes up unsigned is for the dtp-94. Since the device is no longer in large production, that driver will likely never be signed. However I am sure that is not the issue. These drivers have been used by hundreds of users without an issue on Vista 64. It is more likely that you either have a usb port with a power issue or if you are trying to use ddc the communication is failing. Dell says all their monitors are ddc. However I have been going around and around with them asking for information about how to actually communicate with these monitors. Not only can they not give me any help, I don’t think the actually know anything about ddc. No doubt there is some capability in them but Dell can’t tell us how to access it. If they were using the standard ddc protocol it would be working. We actually support multiple protocols on Vista 64.
I would be sure to choose lcd brightness and gains. And if that is not the problem I would try another usb port. If there is a usb hub involved I would avoid that as well. Let me know if that gets you through. If not perhaps we can get on the phone and work on this more easily.

That sounds like a reasonable explanation, and they certainly seem eager to help, I will give the ColorEyes software another go later.
I was interested in knowing if the monitor really did support DDC, so I tried the EnTech Taiwan softMCCS utility.
The results confirmed that the monitor did support DDC, and I could control color, brightness, reset, etc. using the utility.
I replied to Integrated Color Corporation with this information, since EnTech provides a SDK, maybe they can use it to really support DDC.
While I was browsing around the EnTech site I found a great utility called mControl that allows adjustment of the DELL 2408WFP monitor settings:
I wanted to try the advanced calibration options using the Spyder3Elite software, and I found several video tutorials from Datacolor on how to calibrate dual monitors and how to match the monitors.
I performed the StudioMatch calibration, calibrating both monitors to 6500K, 2.2 Gamma, and 140cd/m², and I set both monitors to the RGB color profile.
Using the mControl software it was very easy to make changes to the monitor settings without needing to use monitor’s buttons.
Event at a brightness of 0 the luminance was too high, and I had to lower the RGB values to reach the 140cd/m² mark.
The results were pretty good, both monitors ended up looking very similar, with just a slight difference in brightness between the two.
I tried to validate the results using ColorEyes, but the software would fail with “Sorry, An Error Occurred. kUUERR_notFound”.
I also found that the Spyder3Elite software fails to load the profiles created by ColorEyes.
I repeated the calibration this time using ColorEyes to calibrate both monitors, I used the same target values of 6500K, 2.2 Gamma, and 140cd/m².
This time I had not problems, and the results were about the same, again with one monitor appearing slightly brighter. I am actually beginning to wonder if the difference in observed brightness is really the monitor, or maybe the viewing angle or environment that makes it appear brighter.
The settings for Monitor 1:
Brightness: 24
Contrast: 51
Red: 80
Green: 76
Blue: 75

The settings for Monitor 2:
Brightness: 26
Contrast: 50
Red: 82
Green: 77
Blue: 75

I went back and forth between Spyder3Elite and ColorEyes Pro, and with the current monitor settings, the visual results are about the same.
I think that if ColorEyes Pro actually performed the DDC adjustments automatically I may consider buying it, but right now I don’t think it is worth the additional cost.

[Update: 17 July 2009]
I found that my DELL 2408WFP monitors kept loosing their settings when they wake from sleep, and this kept invalidating the calibration results.
Read about the problem and the solution here.

Amazon Unbox on x64 Vista

While shopping on Amazon I noticed that they were offering the Pilot of the Showtime series Nurse Jackie in HD for free, so I decided to give it a try.
The install (version 2.0.1.95) went smoothly, and the 1.3GB downloaded also completed pretty quickly, and I watched the show.
Ok, now I wanted to stop the Unbox player service from running and terminate the tray icon application, I have no need to have it running all the time.
I went to [Settings][Preferences], and unchecked the [Run the Amazon Unbox service when Windows starts] option.

I then right clicked on the tray icon and selected [Exit], the tray application launched “Amazon Unbox Config.exe stop” application, requiring UAC elevation, and promptly crashed with the following message:

An unhandled exception of type ‘System.BadImageFormatException’ occurred in Unknown Module.
Additional information: Could not load file or assembly ‘ADVWindowsClientAppRoot, Version=2.0.1.95, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=091de1773ddefdbf’ or one of its dependencies. An attempt was made to load a program with an incorrect format.

I contacted Amazon support, and they provided this response:

Hello from Amazon.com.

I sincerely apologize for the trouble you’ve had using the Unbox Video Player. From your message, I understand you received an error relating to Windows being unable to load the correct file path.

I’ve researched the issue and suggest that you update the security components of your Microsoft operating system.

Please visit the Microsoft website listed below and follow Microsoft’s instructions for updating your security components. Microsoft may require you to use Internet Explorer to access all of the functions of this page and enable Active X controls in your Web browser.

http://drmlicense.one.microsoft.com/Indivsite/en/indivit.asp

If using Microsoft’s update does not resolve your playback issue, I recommend uninstalling and reinstalling your .NET Framework.

The Microsoft .NET Framework includes a large library of coded solutions to common programming problems and a virtual machine that manages the execution of programs written specifically for the framework. The .NET Framework is a key Microsoft offering and is intended to be used by most new applications created for the Windows platform.

I hope you found this information useful.

I gave them the benefit of the doubt and tried to update the DRM components, it did not work.
I suspected I know what the problem was, and this problem reminded me of a similar problem with the Google Email Uploader on Vista x64.
My suspicions were confirmed after I used CorFlags to inspect the binaries:

CorFlags.exe “C:\Program Files (x86)\Amazon\Amazon Unbox Video\Amazon Unbox Config.exe”
Microsoft (R) .NET Framework CorFlags Conversion Tool. Version 3.5.21022.8
Copyright (c) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Version : v2.0.50727
CLR Header: 2.5
PE : PE32
CorFlags : 9
ILONLY : 1
32BIT : 0
Signed : 1

CorFlags.exe “C:\Program Files (x86)\Amazon\Amazon Unbox Video\ADVWindowsClientAppRoot.dll”
Microsoft (R) .NET Framework CorFlags Conversion Tool. Version 3.5.21022.8
Copyright (c) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Version : v2.0.50727
CLR Header: 2.5
PE : PE32
CorFlags : 11
ILONLY : 1
32BIT : 1
Signed : 1

The output indicated that the EXE file was compiled to run natively on any platform, i.e. x64 on x64 and x86 on x86, but the DLL was compiled to be x86 only.
Thus the EXE runs as x64 and tries to load a x86 binary, not allowed, causing the crash.
The CorFlags output and x64 migration is discussed in this MSDN blog post:

anycpu: PE = PE32 and 32BIT = 0
x86: PE = PE32 and 32BIT = 1
64-bit: PE = PE32+ and 32BIT = 0

To fix the problem I have to change the EXE attributes to only run in 32bit:

CorFlags.exe “C:\Program Files (x86)\Amazon\Amazon Unbox Video\Amazon Unbox Config.exe” /32BIT+ /Force

The “Force” flag is required because the binary is Authenticode signed, and after the header change the Authenticode signature is now invalid.
“CorFlags” is parts of the .NET / Platform SDK and can be downloaded from Microsoft.

After I made the changes to the EXE, I repeated the original steps, and no more crash.
I replied to Amazon with my findings, and I hope they make the necessary, and easy, changes to fully support x64.

Power Saving SATA RAID Controller

I’ve been a longtime user of Adaptec SATA RAID cards (3805, 5805, 51245), but over the years I’ve become more energy saving conscious, and the Adaptec controllers did not support Windows power management.
My workstations are normally running in the “Balanced” power mode so that they will go to sleep after an hour, but sometimes I need to run computationally intensive tasks that leaves the machines running 24/7.
During these periods the disks don’t need to be on and I want the disks to spin down, like they would had they been directly connected and not in a RAID configuration.
I was building a new system with 4 drives in RAID10, and I decided to the try a 3Ware / AMCC SATA 9690SA-4I RAID controller. Their sales support confirmed that the card does support native Windows power management.
I also ordered a battery backup unit with the card, and my first impressions of installing the battery backup unit was less than impressive. The BBU comes with 4 plastic screws with pillars, but the 9690SA card only had one mounting hole. After inserting the BBU in the IDC header I had to pull it back out and adjust it so that it would align properly.
After running the card for a few hours I started getting battery overheating warnings. The BBU comes with an extension cable, and I had to use the extension cable and mount the battery away from the controller board. After making this adjustment the BBU seemed to operate at normal temperature.
Getting back to installation, the 3Ware BIOS utility is very rudimentary (compared to Adaptec), I later found out that the 3Ware Disk Manager 2 (3DM2) utility is not much better. The BIOS only allowed you to create one boot volume, and the rest of the disk space was automatically allocated. The BIOS also only supports INT13 booting from the boot volume.
I installed Vista Ultimate x64 on the boot volume, and used the other of the volume for data. I also installed the 3DM2 management utility, and the client tray alerting application. The client utility does not work on Vista because it requires elevation, and elevation s not allowed for auto start items. The 3DM2 utility is a web server and you connect using your web browser.
At first the lack of management functionality did not bother me, I did not need it, and the drives seemed to perform fine. After a month or so I noticed that I was getting more and more controller reset messages in the eventlog. I contacted 3Ware support, and they told me they see CRC errors and that the fanout cable was probably bad. I replaced the cable, but the problems persisted.
The CRC errors reminded me of problems I had with Seagate ES2 drives on other systems, and I updated the firmware in the 4 500 GB Seagate drives I was using. No change, same problem.
I needed more disk space anyway, so I decided to upgrade the 500GB Seagate drives to 1TB WD Caviar Black drives. The normal procedure would be to remove the drives one by one, insert the new drive, wait for the array to rebuild, and when all drives have been replaced, to expand the volume.
A 3Ware KB article confirmed this operation, but, there was no support for volume expansion, what?
In order to expand the volume I would need to boot from DOS, Windows is not supported, run a utility to collect data, send the data to 3Ware, and they would create a custom expansion script for me that I then need to run against the volume to rewrite the META data. They highly recommend that I backup the data before proceeding.
I know the Adaptec Storage Manager (ASM) utility does support volume expansion, I’ve used it, it’s easy, it’s a right click in the GUI.
I never got to the point of actually trying the expansion procedure. After swapping the last drive I ran a verify, and one of the mirror units would not go past 22%. Support told me to try various things, disable scheduling, enable scheduling, stop the verify, restart the verify. When they eventually told me it seems there are some timeouts, and that the cause was Native Command Queuing (NCQ) and a bad BBU, I decided I had enough.
The new Adaptec 5-series cards do support power management, but unlike the 9690SA card they do not support native Windows power management, and requires power savings to be enabled through the ASM utility.
I ordered an Adaptec 5445 card, booted my system with the 9690SA still in place from WinPE, made an image backups using Symantec Ghost Solution Suite (SGSS), installed the 5445 card, created new RAID10 volumes, booted from WinPE, restored the images using Ghost, and Vista booted just fine.
From past experience I knew that when changing RAID controllers I had to make sure that the Adaptec driver would be ready after swapping the hardware, else the boot will fail. So before I swapped the cards and made the Ghost backup, I used regedit and changed the start type of the “arcsas” driver from disabled to boot. I know that SGSS does have support for driver injection used for bare metal restore, but since the Adaptec driver comes standard with Vista, I just had to enable it.
It has only been a few days, but the system is running stable with no errors. Based purely on boot times, I do think the WD WD1001FALS Caviar Black drives are faster than the Seagate ST3500320AS Barracuda drives I used before.
Let’s hope things stay this way.
[Updated: 17 July 2009]
The Adaptec was not that power friendly after all.
Read the continued post.