Monitor Problem from Hell

You probably heard of “DLL Hell”, but I recently experienced “monitor hell”. We had a 30inch Dell WFP3007 attached to a Dell Precision T3400. We shipped the PC offsite and attached the monitor to another Dell T3400. A few weeks went by when the user who has this monitor noted that he could not set the resolution above 1280×800.  I went over and tried setting the resolution to 1900×1200.  Upon doing this, the monitor scaled down to 1/4 of  the screen.  In order to see the whole screen, I had to scroll the mouse around.  I thought it was a video card problem.  The PC had a NVS 290 video card within it and the working system had a Quadro FX 570.  I did not have any Quadro’s laying around, so I tried an ATI FireGL V7200.  Upon installing this card and booting, all I got was a screen with a bunch of bars across the screen, going in and out: the PC wouldn’t even POST.

I tried another FireGL video card with the same results.  At this point, I was completely baffled, so I called Dell and actually had them connect into the PC in question.  Try as he may, the tech support guy who was A+ and DCSE certified could not fix the problem either.  This PC was only a few months old and had recently been imaged within the last 3 months.

I tried another DVI cable with the same results.  I then (for completeness sake), tried a NVS 295 video card since it had DisplayPort inputs on it and again, I got the same results with the display scaling.  At this point, I was pretty convinced it was the monitor itself, so I brought over a Dell T3500 and attached the monitor this PC.  Again, I got the bars across the screen.

I called Dell again, this time requesting a RMA on the monitor.  By this time I had gone through 5 video cards, 2 cables, and 2 computers.  After firing off all this information at the tech support person, I expected a prompt replacement of the monitor.  However, she came back after talking with the engineering lab and stated that I needed a DVI dual-link cable.  I never knew there was a difference in DVI cables, much less single-link and dual-link DVI cables.

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Visual_Interface, the dual-link has 6 extra pins and has a higher bandwidth (resolution) capability.  We ordered this cable from Dell for around $9.  Upon getting the cable and trying it on a Dell 390, it worked!  I happily wheeled the monitor over to the user’s workstation.  And guess what?  SAME PROBLEM!

At this point he had a Quadro FX1400 installed, after the many video card attempts I had tried.  I ran back and took the Quadro FX 570 out of the Dell 390.  Finally, the monitor worked!

I don’t know if there is a moral to the story, other than to say that if you have a 30inch LCD screen, you better have the best video card and best DVI cable you can.

– Soli Deo Gloria