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.

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.

Asus P5E-VM HDMI motherboard

In the ongoing saga to get a motherboard that works well with Vista SP1 going to sleep, I have yet again switched motherboards.

As previously posted I’ve tried an Intel DG33TL board, and an Intel DQ35JO, and I am now using an Asus P5E-VM HDMI board.

I was happy with the Intel DQ35JO, but this did not last very long. A few days after posting I found my machine with garbage characters on the screen, requiring a cold boot. Intel support was of little help, but a few days later I updated the firmware on my ThinkPad T61, and I read that one of the fixes in the firmware was to fix garbage characters on the screen when sleeping on resuming from sleep caused by the AMT feature. The DQ35JO board also has AMT, so maybe that was the same problem.

Not wanting to have more trouble I returned the Intel DQ35JO board to Fry’s, and I ordered an Asus P5E-VM HDMI board from Amazon. There are three variants of the P5E-VM board; the SE, DO, and HDMI, but only the HDMI variant was immediately available on Amazon. I would not be using the HDMI output since I was going to use the ATI HD 2600 XT card, but it does not hurt to have onboard HDMI available.

Installing the board was simple, the RAID still worked, and Vista Ultimate x64 booted without issues. The only missing driver was for the Realtek audio. I tried the driver from the Asus site but that failed to install, rather disappointing. Asus support told me to use the driver from the Realtek site, and that worked fine.

I again noticed that the power LED was intermittently not working, this being the third board with this problem, I was now convinced it was a problem with the actual LED. I contact Antec support, and a few days later I received a new power LED free of charge. I installed it, and problem solved.

Asus provides several utilities to monitor and adjust the performance of their boards, i.e. AI Suite and PC Probe II. I’ll spare you the details but these utilities are of very poor quality, failing to install, failing to uninstall, crashing on start, crashing on sleep, crashing on resume from sleep, and worse when uninstalled they still leave crap behind. I had to delete two tasks from the task scheduler, delete several files and folders, and manually delete several COM objects from the registry. Avoid these tools.

One feature I really like about the Asus board is the BIOS upgrade feature. Just copy the firmware to a USB key, plug the USB key in, boot, enter the BIOS, select the upgrade option, pick the file, and upgrade, so simple.

This time round I waited a few weeks before posting, and I am very happy with the Asus P5E-VM board.

Intel DG33TL motherboard

This article was originally posted here.

Introduction:

After my bad experience with the Abit F-I90HD motherboards, read about it
here, I purchased two Intel DG33TL motherboards.

Although these boards do not have HDMI onboard, they do have HDCP compliant DVI,
and by adding an ADD2 HDMI board you get HDMI and audio over HDMI.

The Good:

  • Onboard HDCP compliant DVI.
  • Intel ADD2 HDMI card support.
  • Vista installed very fast and with no problems.
  • The driver DVD that came with the board installs all devices that is not
    installed by Vista.

    It even lets you set your username and password and will automatically
    reboot and continue the installation after every driver.

The Bad:

  • The DVD installs the 5.x version audio driver, works fine, yet the Intel
    website lists the latest driver as 6.x.

    However the 6.x driver fails to install, reporting that the hardware is not
    supported.

    Intel support says the 6.x driver installed fine on their test system, and
    they recommended I wait for a new driver to be released, or I exchange the
    boards.

    I find it hard to believe Intel support, and I believe the website is
    incorrectly listing the 6.x driver as compatible with this board.

  • Intel Desktop Utilities sporadically reports 0.000V warning messages,
    and lists one source for a voltage reading as unknown.

    Intel support told me that Desktop Utilities is not supported on the 3x
    series boards, yet the DVD that came with the board installs Desktop
    Utilities, and the Desktop Utilities download page lists support for the 3x
    series boards.

    After pointing this out to Intel support, they recommended I reinstall the
    BIOS and the Desktop Utilities, made no difference.

    A new 0262 version BIOS was released that lists some corrections with the
    Media Engine, but this made no difference.

    Waiting for Intel support to respond, or for a new version of Desktop
    Utilities.

  • I purchased the

    Prolink PV-CH7315
    ADD2 card, but connecting the HDMI does indicate that
    there is a HDMI signal, but no picture on the television.

    The Intel GMA control application does list three outputs, monitor,
    television, and digital television, only monitor / VGA works.

  • The Intel 15.7.3 and 15.8 igdkmd32.sys and igdkmd64.sys GMA drivers and Vista SP1 are incompatible,
    the machine blue screen crashes when going to sleep.

    I tested this with Vista Ultimate x86 being upgraded to SP1, and a clean
    install of Vista Ultimate x64 with integrated SP1.

    I notified Microsoft of the issue during the Vista SP1 Beta, was told Intel
    would fix it before SP1 ships, yet the problem still exists even after SP1
    shipped and after the 15.8 GMA drivers shipped. The issue now appears to be
    documented in
    this KB
    article
    .

The Outcome:

  • I have been contacted by several readers that experience similar issues,
    I urge you to contact Intel support and notify Intel of the problems.
  • After several exchanges with Intel support I am still waiting for a new
    version of Desktop Utilities to solve the 0.000V alerts.
  • Intel removed the 6.x audio driver from the download site, and updated
    the 5.x driver, seems the 6.x driver was not supposed to be on the site.
  • I have not been able to get HDMI working with the Prolink card.
  • Waiting for new GMA drivers that do not bluescreen with Vista SP1, the
    issue is now documented in
    this KB
    article
    .

Links:

Antec Veris Fusion Black HTPC case

This article was originally posted here.

Introduction:

I purchased an Antec Fusion Black case to replace my aging HTPC.

The case looks very nice, until you turn on the LCD display…

The Good:

  • The case looks very nice.
  • The construction is solid.

The Bad:

  • The two included case fans do not have speed monitoring wires, I had to
    purchase new fans.

    For such an expensive case this is rather disappointing.

  • There are two fans on the side of the case, both set to extract hot air,
    but hard drives are located in an area with no direct ventilation.

    There is ample ventilation holes around the drives, but it remains to be
    seen if the drives will overheat or not.

  • The LCD display used on the case is an OEM version of the iMON from
    SoundGraph.

    The Antec provided software has far fewer functions compared to the software
    provided by SoundGraph, unfortunately the SoundGraph software does not work with Antec
    LCD.

  • The LCD turns on bright blue when power is applied to the case.

    The LCD only turns off after the LCD software is installed, and the setting
    enabled to turn the LCD off.

    I really expected the opposite, LCD remains off until turned on by
    controlling software.

  • The LCD contrast is very poor, and the viewing angle is severely limit.

    From pictures I expected to see a blue display on a black background, but
    instead I see dark blue on light blue, it literally looks like the backlight
    is way too bright.

    The LCD details are not visible from angles other than almost right in front
    of the display.

    The plastic panel covering the LCD is highly reflective and any light
    sources obscure the display contents.

    The Antec LCD looks like a cheap joke compared to the excellent quality of
    the LCD of my Yamaha RX-V2700 receiver.

    Low contrast setting (text is visible):


    LCD Contrast Low

    Medium contrast setting (text is partially visible):


    LCD Contrast Medium

    High contrast setting (you can’t see the text at all):


    LCD Contrast High

  • Antec support sent me pictures of a similar LCD in a test system, they
    do not have the actual case, and it looks marginally better than mine, but
    still very poor.

    Low contrast:


    LCD Antec Contrast Low

    Medium contrast:


    LCD Antec Contrast Medium

    High contrast:


    LCD Antec Contrast High

    Picture from SoundGraph website for iMON OEM LCD (very different to the
    Antec version):


    LCD SoundGraph iMon OEM

  • The LCD started flickering, I tried rebooting, removing power from the
    LCD, does not stop.

    It does seem that while the PC boots the display does not flicker, but the
    moment the iMON software starts the flickering starts.

    Here is a movie of the flickering in DivX AVI format
    (4.27MB).

  • I returned the LCD module to Antec under RMA, they were unable to
    reproduce the flicker problem, but they did send me a replacement LCD
    module.

    I installed the new LCD module, and the new module does not suffer
    from the flickering problem.

    As for the quality of the new LCD module, the
    text is now readable at the medium contrast setting, but not nearly as good as the picture from the iMON website.


    Replacement LCD Module

  • The remote only starts working once you have logged in, you can not use
    the remote prior to logging in. I am now forced to use a mouse or keyboard
    to log in.

    The original eHome Media Center external IR receiver works just fine without
    being logged in, this allows me to boot the machine, and select an account
    and log in using only the navigation buttons on the remote.

  • The LCD would occasionally hang with strange characters or elements on
    the display. Once this happens you ave to unplug the case and reboot.

    This problem is being discussed in

    this
    thread on the SoundGraph forum.

The Outcome:

  • Several readers emailed me and also complained about the quality of the
    LCD display, and the lack of features vs. the retail iMon, I urge anybody
    that is not satisfied to contact Antec and raise your concerns.
  • Due to the poor LCD image quality and various other issues I do not recommend this case.

Links:

Philips digital photo frame

This article was originally posted here.

Introduction:

I have been looking for a digital photo frame for a while, and from what I
read the Philips Photo Frame
models appear to have very good image quality and good features.

I bought a Philips 9″ wood border model 9FF2CWO.

The Good:

  • The frame looks very nice.
  • The image quality is really very good.
  • The frame’s built in software is very extensive and easy to use.
  • The frame directly displays pictures from cameras or pictures copied to
    to memory cards, no special settings required, no image resizing required.

The Bad:

  • The battery only lasts for about an hour, I see no point in having a
    battery at all if it only lasts an hour, better make the device cheaper and
    lighter without a battery.
  • The included CD launches a very nice looking flash based autorun
    application, from there you can read the manual or install the Photo Manager
    software.

    Unfortunately the launcher software does not work on Vista, clicking the
    links to the documentation or the Photo Manager installation does nothing.

    On exiting the application Vista notifies you that the application is not
    Vista compatible and that it will run the application in compatibility mode
    next time.

    On launching the autorun application again the links now work.

  • When you connect the frame’s USB connecter to the PC, several new
    removable drives are mounted.

    The one drive is the internal frame memory, the other drives are for the
    removable media slots in the frame.

    When I clicked on the drive letter associated with the SD card, Windows said
    the drive needs to be formatted, the Photo Manager software was also unable
    to access the SD card, yet the frame itself can display pictures from the SD
    card.

    Philips tech support confirmed that the card, 2GB Kingston Ultimate, was on
    the compatibility list, but they did say that there are some compatibility
    problems with larger sized memory cards, and they recommended I use a
    smaller memory card.

    I tried a 1GB PNY SD card, again the frame displayed images fine,
    and this time the SD card was accessible in Windows and in the Photo Frame
    software.

  • The Photo Manager software (picture) leaves much to be desired.

    The software is slow, but maybe this is because accessing the frame storage
    is slow.

    It took me a while to figure out how to transfer pictures, no simple
    intuitive copy or transfer, you have to drag and drop them, and you can only
    transfer pictures, not folders.

  • When I tried to delete a photo I got this error “Disk has no enough free
    space. There should be 20% free space at least”, what can I say, dumb error,
    poor English.

    Philips tech support recommended I delete the pictures using the frame
    software, or to delete the pictures directly using Windows Explorer.

    Error

  • The version of Photo Manager (1.0.1.6) I received on the CD and the
    firmware (9.01.38) in my frame was both later versions than the versions
    listed on the Philips support website.

The Outcome:

  • Because the picture quality is so good, I am willing to avoid the Photo Manager software,
    and using the USB connection directly manipulate the pictures on the SD
    card.
  • I can only hope that Philips will replace the Photo Manger software with
    something usable.

Links: