The big picture
Our weekend started off on a rough note, as we discovered that the monitor on the main computer at blog headquarters had died overnight the night before. It was an oldie but a goodie -- a CTX purchased used for $15 three years ago, and seemingly going strong -- but its power supply finally conked out. We tried different power cords, but to no avail -- we couldn't even get the on-off indicator light to come on. Tot.
It wasn't as if we were cut off from the outside world. We have three other PCs and two iPhones in the house. But as some of our best stuff is on the mothership computer and none of the others, having no monitor on the big one was disruptive.
And so hi ho, hi ho, it's off to Free Geek we would go.
We dropped off the dead screen and threw five bucks in the jar to cover their time and trouble. It's quite the beehive of activity down there these days. All sorts of staffers running around, and our "donation" took all of about two minutes. We checked their thrift store to see if they had a suitable replacement, but they had only a bunch of smaller screens. We'd gotten used to about 21 inches, and so retreating to a little guy was out of the question.
As we sat in the car and searched around on our iPhone for the nearest Best Buy, a light went off in our head. What about Costco?
Sure enough, our big box warehouse buddies had a nice candidate, for about $280. We were tinkering around with the back of the display model, looking to see what kind of connector it took, when we accidentally disconnected the power to it. Along came some friendly Costco types to stop us from doing any more damage, and in the course of getting the monitor hooked back up, one of them mentioned that we could get a similar display device, with a TV tuner in it to boot, for just 10 more dollars.
It's been years since we thought about this sort of thing, and we were a little incredulous about the dual-purpose unit actually working. But Costco Man assured us that it would satisfy our computing needs, as well as providing us with our first HDTV. Sold.
It is a Vizio M260MV -- a 26-inch LCD LED HDTV. Whatever that means.
We got it home and hooked it up, and lo and behold, it does indeed function quite nicely in both capacities.
Getting the new unit up and running took some time, due to a comedy of errors. The TV connection worked great, but we couldn't get the output of the computer to display. The Vizio kept telling us "No Signal." We called in to an extremely polite, helpful, native-English-speaker Vizio customer support center, and the folks down there (in Salt Lake City) helped us troubleshoot the issue.
Their first instinct was that our computer was set to a screen resolution that the Vizio couldn't handle. We would need to change that. But without a working monitor, of course, we couldn't see what we were doing on the computer. Therefore, we had to unhook a monitor from another computer and hook it up to the mothership to change the resolution.
The other monitor we chose for this role was hard to disconnect, and it had a cord that was quite short, and so we had to situate it on the floor next to the computer tower, which sits under our desk. Not the easiest thing to do, and when it was hooked up, it wasn't the easiest thing to see, either. Our lower back, which was still squawking a bit from a burst of yard work last weekend, wasn't pleased.
To make matters worse, changing the resolution wasn't working. Every time we disconnected the working monitor and reconnected the Vizio, we still got "No Signal." And when we reconnected the working monitor, somehow our Windows Vista computer had reset to a higher resolution than the one we were trying to test.
Just when we were getting ready to give up, we mentioned to the support helper that the input menu on the Vizio screen wasn't exactly the way it was portrayed in the user manual. The manual told us that the computer input would show up on the menu as "RGB," which is what the port says on the back of the Vizio unit. But on the menu on the screen, "RGB" was nowhere to be found. We had it set to "Comp," which we assumed stood for Computer.
Oh, no! the support gal explained. That stood for "Component." After we read off the options on the menu, she informed us that the computer input would be identified as "VGA." Our struggles had been going on for an hour or so, and this new information had us laughing out loud. Suddenly, we felt like an old guy who couldn't work his VCR -- which was pretty much what we were.
We pushed "VGA," hooked the computer back up to the Vizio, and everything was just as it should be.
Having the screen be able to play computer monitor or HDTV is pretty cool, but as it turns out, it will let us do just one thing at a time. There's no way to split the screen and have both TV and computer displayed simultaneously. And so when we work on the computer with the TV on, which we like to do, we'll still need another screen. But now that we've broken the ice with HDTV, a smaller, portable digital TV is likely in our future.
God bless our modern world. But what a way to kill half a day.