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Ask Dave
by Dave Hamilton

He from whom all Mac knowledge flows...

Mind-boggling Malfunctioning Monitors!
July 15th, 1999

I've gotten quite a few messages asking about monitors specifically, so I thought it might be time to do a bit of a feature. With that, here's my take on your video problems. If you have a problem of your own (video or otherwise), please feel free to ask, otherwise, read on!

Bob Franks writes, "The screen display on my Performa 6300 shifted position about 2.5" to the right, leaving me a 2.5" black stripe on the left side of the screen & no access to the far right side. This happened after I unplugged & replugged the printer, and when I wanted the monitor to wake up, by moving the mouse, it didn't! I jiggled the power cord to the monitor & it woke up in its altered state. Trying to grab the edge of the screen display does nothing, I've restarted, shut down & replugged the cables, & looked at the monitor control panel for help. The manual says nothing. help!"

Bob -- It sounds like this problem is something internal to the monitor. The size and location of the image displayed on your monitor is very much dependent on the amount of power that is directed to the picture tube (that, and the magnetic poles of the earth, believe it or not). Change the power slightly, and you'll change the resulting image. It seems that, by jiggling the power cable, you've either affected the connection and made it conduct electricity differently, or, more likely, you've jostled something inside the monitor and it changed the picture. To fix this, every monitor has adjustment knobs, buttons, or screws that let you manipulate the exact amount of power that is sent to the tube. Most modern monitors (say that three times fast) give you all these controls on the OUTSIDE of the box. However, some of them still hide the controls inside and don't let you manipulate all aspects of the picture without opening the case -- something that's *not* recommended due to the possibility of death by electrocution. :-)

So, there are two options here -- check all the knobs and buttons outside the monitor to see if you can adjust the image. There should be a "center" control and/or a "size" control that will let you fix this problem. If there's not, then you'll have to enlist the services of a trained monitor technician. Bringing the monitor in to them won't really help here, since it needs to be "tuned" to your specific configuration. With that, an on-site visit is the way to go. In addition to making your screen fit "edge-to-edge," the technician can also adjust the convergence of your monitor (the way the red, green, and blue guns align with each other). This can greatly enhance the focus of your screen and, often times, make it feel as though you bought a brand new monitor!

Chris Lee writes, "My new G3 with Studio Display 17 has a devil of a "ghost image" problem with the cursor and icons. In fact any item on screen has the ghost. I've searched for a way to eliminate the problem, including changing resolution and color calibration, but no luck. Any ideas what I can do to resolve this problem?"

Chris -- This symptom usually indicates that there's not enough signal getting from the computer to the monitor. When the signal is weak, things tend to bounce around and you don't get a good, strong picture. The place to check here is the cable itself. How is the monitor connected to the computer? Is it going through an adapter? Is it using a switchbox, or does it have an extension cable attached to it? If it has any of these things try removing or replacing them and see if the problem goes away. Also make sure that any connections you are left with are good and tight, and that none of the pins are bent in any of the connectors. If this doesn't solve it, there could be a problem with the video port on your Mac itself. Try testing it with another monitor and see what happens. It's entirely possible that the video circuitry just isn't putting out enough signal to make the cut.

Shawn Kosnik writes, "This 3 year old 15"Apple Multiscan monitor has been displaying strange hues the past 8 weeks. The monitor will flip from normal color and hue to an all green or blue hue. It may remain in the abnormal color for some time. It can still be used, completely functional, if you don't mind not knowing what color your looking at. Can this be repaired or do I need a new monitor? Have you heard of this before? Thanks for any help."

Shawn -- In all likelyhood this can be repaired fairly easily. This behaviour often happens when one of the connectors is not seated properly or is "hanging loose" from its port. Try pulling both ends of the video cable off and reseat them back on their respective ports. As with the problems above, check to make sure that there are no bent pins on any of the connectors and make sure they have a firm connection. If this doesn't work, you can try replacing the video cable (if it's not attached to the monitor at one end). If that doesn't do it, you're probably looking at a failing picture tube, for which nothing can be done (at least, not anything cheaper than replacing the monitor entirely).

UPDATE: Several readers have written in explaining that this is a known problem with Apple's 15" Monitor. The best resource seems to be an article on MacFixit. It describes a procedure for calling Apple Customer Service (as opposed to tech. support) and possibly obtaining a free replacement!

Mike Vande Ven Jr. writes, "We all know how the outlets are here in the US, two vertical lines and a circle in the middle beneath those. Well, I looked on the back of my Rev. B Beige G3 233, and the outlets for the monitor is different. It's has the two vertical lines, but it's shorter, and the one in the middle is another vertical line. The first two letters in the serial number are XA, so that means it was made in California. Why would they make a machine in the US, for US customers, that doesn't have the standard outlet? I would really like to be able to do the one switch thing. Thank you."

Mike -- That extra port on the back of your Beige G3 is built for a very specific type of cable. As you've seen, a "normal" power cable won't fit. Head down to your trusty Apple dealer (or, for that matter, any other electronics store) and tell them what you're trying to do. They'll be able to fix you up with a special cable that will fit both the back of your monitor and the auxilliary port on the back of your Mac.

Andy No-Last-Name-Given writes, "I have recently retired my 6100/DOS from active duty {replaced by an iMac :-) }, and would like to fix up the 6100 with a dual monitor setup. I am not interested in simply mirroring the main monitor, I need the extra desktop space to show debugging windows while the main project runs on the main display. I guess I could fake it with a larger monitor, but I already have an extra monitor I'd like to use in that capacity. On the older Mac II series computers all I needed was an extra video card, but has anyone made such a beast for the 6100 PDS-type slot? I understand that I would have to give up my DOS card, but that's no great loss for me right now."

Andy -- As far as I know, the only solution to this would be to find an "AV" card for your 6100. This gives you an extra video port for a monitor (not to mention a few other goodies), and will do just as you asked by letting you use two monitors with separate images on each of them. A quick check reveals that Shreve Systems is selling these for $249. A seemingly steep price, indeed, but for something you can't get anywhere else, it might be worth it.

That's it for this week's edition of "Ask Dave". Check back next week for some more juicy tips! If you have a question, please e-mail it to, and I'll get to it as soon as I return from MacWorld! If you're going, feel free to hunt me down and ask away!

PS. Have a Nice Day

(this column written with Poison: Swallow This Live in the CD player... don't ask me why!)

is President and CEO of The Mac Observer, Inc. He has worked in the computer industry as a consultant, trainer, network engineer, webmaster, and a programmer for most of the last 10 years. During that time he has worked on the Mac, all the various Windows flavors, Be, a few brands of Unix, and it is rumored he once saw an OS/2 machine in action. Before that he ran some of the earliest Bulletin Board systems, but most of the charges have since been dropped, and not even the FBI requests that he check in more than twice a year.

Ask Dave is here to answer all the Mac questions you have. Networking, system conflicts, hardware, you ask it, he can answer it. He is the person from whom all Mac knowledge flows....

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