Sunday, June 24, 2007

It's the Driver, Stupid!

Drop and Give me Twenty!

I'm in the middle of leading some new recruits though a "Basic Training" class on our network, systems, utilities, and operational protocols.

Despite the increased stress it brings, I must admit, it is a bit fun.  While I am an introvert by nature, I seem to be able to magically transform into an evangelist of sorts when duty calls me before a crowd or group for IT training.

So the day of my training, I picked up a new (to me) InFocus LCD projector to use with my laptop during the class presentations so I could do "live" software and utility walk-throughs with the incoming new-hires.

I've used them before and find them very useful.

However, I soon found that I was unable to get the video to output from my laptop to the InFocus projector.


My laptop video driver was the most recent version, seemed to be running fine and I couldn't find any settings in the InFocus machine that would prevent it from working.

Newer is Not Necessarily Better!

After a few minutes of fiddling with the settings, I pulled out the "generic" guest laptop that is kept with the machine for presentations by staff who haven't been issued their own laptop.  Fortunately it was the same model as my issued laptop.

I quickly had it swapped out and it was projecting the desktop perfectly.

So I compared the drivers, and found it was using one several years earlier than my most recently installed video driver version.

Oh dear.

So I went digging on my laptop and found the original driver store folder that contained all the original-image-present drivers.  A quick driver version rollback on my laptop and I was back in business.

Problem solved.

By the way: Why doesn't Dell seem to offer archived "older" versions of it's hardware drivers like some other manufacturers?  Don't want to confuse the public, maybe?

Back to the Future

I don't use the InFocus machines regularly, so I think I will go back to the latest video driver when I am done, and just remember I will have to roll it back again in the future.


Dual-Monitor Configurations on Laptops

Once my first training class was done and I put my laptop back on it's dual-monitor setup on my desk, I had a new problem to tackle; getting the desktop extended onto both the CRT monitor and my laptop screen again as I originally had it configured.

In order to use the InFocus projector, I enabled desktop "mirroring" for the video output.  That worked great while in the training class but made my head spin seeing the output replicated on both my monitors while at my desk.

What should have been a simple process took me twenty minutes of going in circles until I remembered I had to use the custom driver utility for the video driver instead of the Desktop Properties dialog box which just wasn't working.  That quickly did the fix.

For those with more standard video drivers and setups...this CyberNet News post might be a nice refresher: CyberNotes: How to Change the Primary Monitor on a Laptop

The Vista Driver Store

Vista's Weak Link: The Driver Store - Enterprise Desktop's Randall Kennedy explores what may be a disaster waiting to happen with Vista Driver Store.  I wasn't aware of this and found it useful information.

That article contained a link to how to (maybe) fix a corrupted Driver Store in Vista: How to recover corrupted Vista driver database.

Vista Network Drivers also not Immune

Charles Teague also ran into an "I updated a driver and made things worse" problem with Vista at his DragonStyle blog

Vista Wired Network Performance Problem Solved

Turns out the updated Vista driver brought his network performance to just better than dial-up levels.


Roll back the driver to the older version.

Grand Stream Dreams Public Service Announcement

This whole experience is why I recommend making frequent backups of your current drivers before doing a driver update...just to be safe.


Pick and use any of several freeware driver backup utilities I recently posted about: Backing up Windows System Drivers.

And if you create system images for distribution (note to self), please try to always include a folder with the base system drivers needed in a "drivers" folder on the root.  You will be doing your desktop support staff an immense favor and save them tons of time down the road if they have to roll-back a driver.



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