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Splitter follow up

September 10, 2012 Leave a comment

My last post was about our intention to remove numerous VGA splitters around the school and replace them with DVI-VGA converters instead. So far, we’ve managed to pull out 11 splitters, but have now reached a bit of a dead end.

What should have been a completed project by now has stalled because the graphics cards in the majority of the workstations in the classes cannot clone the output. Granted, these are Geforce 6200 Turbocache cards, dating back to late 2005/early 2006, but it’s still annoying to have discovered this after disconnecting the splitter and getting our clothes full of horrible dust.

It turns out that the cards made by MSI won’t do dual display, despite the fact that the chipset supports it. Another classroom had a Gigabyte based 6200 card, which worked fine after a BIOS update to the card. Another classroom had a much newer 8400GS based card, though this one had a slightly different problem – dual display worked, but it wasn’t stable. It kept losing the configuration. Unfortunately, there is no BIOS update for this card on Gigabyte’s website.

The long and short of this exercise so far is that just because a graphics card has dual outputs, it doesn’t mean that the card can power two displays at once. Luckily at the end of the year, the computers we’ll be putting into classrooms have a different brand of card in them that should allow us to remove many more splitters from classrooms.

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Old graphics card annoyances

September 3, 2012 Leave a comment

At work we’ve started a new project lately to remove a number of analogue VGA splitters out of classrooms. These devices are relics of the past when video cards only had a VGA output, enabling you to use a monitor and a projector for example. They generally work well, but they add a number of issues in the classroom.

  1. The power transformer is a big and bulky device that may not fit in existing power strips, therefore requiring a lead or power strip of its own.
  2. The splitter introduces an extra cable into what is already a cabling nightmare.
  3. The splitter can potentially interfere with the video signal, due to being an extra box along the path.
  4. Splitter doesn’t play nicely with some new graphics cards.

Our method for replacing the splitters is to use a DVI-VGA converter on the DVI port, thereby making use of both ports on our video cards. From there it’s easy enough to clone the image with the video card drivers, essentially doing what the splitter does. Now the monitor and the data projector have the same image – same as before, just no splitter.

However, we’ve hit a bit of a snag with some of our computers. Despite our best efforts, the XP based machines won’t see two output devices so we can enable cloning. In the Nvidia drivers, I can select which monitor I want to output on, but it point blank refuses to let me clone or extend the display. The video cards in question are Geforce 6200 Turbo Cache based cards, mostly from MSI, with a few from Gigabyte. Upgrading the drivers didn’t help.

There isn’t much information on the net, but it seems that the 6200 chipset had some quirks. One of the possible fixes involves flashing a new video BIOS. I hope to be able to fiddle around further tomorrow and see if I can find the files for flashing the cards’ BIOS. If I’m lucky, the card will clone the output. If I’m not so lucky, I will have to move onto other classrooms and salvage splitters there, leaving them in the other classrooms until such time as those computers are replaced.

It never ceases to amaze me sometimes how the smallest things can chew up large amounts of time, especially with such random issues. At least it keeps things interesting I guess.