Sometimes manufacturers and software developers do strange things, like package a VGA cable with a monitor that should use a HDMI or DVI connection, or change file formats on you, or keep asking you to accept a EULA. I've recently offered advice for how to deal with Internet hassles and work around random computing problems; this week I'll tell you what to do when a vendor throws you a curveball.
Convert Windows 7 TV Recordings to DVR-MS Format
Despite a few seriously annoying bugs, the Windows 7 version of Windows Media Center is without a doubt the best yet. I think my only real complaint is with Microsoft's shift from the DVR-MS format to the newer WTV format for recorded TV shows.
WTV files are incompatible with the XP and Vista versions of Windows Media Center and Windows Media Player. In other words, if you want to watch recorded shows on the older PCs in your house, you're sorta outta luck--but only sorta. Microsoft actually baked a WTV-to-DVR-MS converter right into Windows 7. Here's how to use it:
Open your Public Recorded TV folder. Right-click the recording you want to convert. Choose Convert to DVR-MS format. Wait.
Tricky, huh? The process will probably take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, depending on the speed of your computer and the length of the show. When it's done, you'll find a DVR-MS version of the recording right below the WTV one (the latter doesn't get altered in any way). Look for a -DVRMS suffix added to the file name if you can't tell which is which. Now you can copy the DVR-MS file to your laptop or any other system running XP or Vista; it should play just fine.
Stop Office From Asking You to Accept the EULA
A reader recently wrote me with an exasperating problem: She installed Microsoft Office 2003 on her brand-new Windows 7 system, and every single time she runs it, a pop-up forces her to accept Microsoft's End User License Agreement.
Dang it, Microsoft, she accepts already! She accepts!
Let's not focus on why this is happening. It's a Microsoft product, 'nuff said. Instead, let's fix it. Here's how (this works in Vista, too):
Run Windows Explorer and navigate to the folder containing the Office executables (i.e., the actual programs, not their shortcuts). On my system that's C:, Program Files (x86), Microsoft Office, Office12. (Note: I use Office 2007. If you use Ofice 2003, the folder might be called Office11.) Find the executable for any program that's exhibiting this problem. For this example, we'll use Outlook. Right-click the Outlook icon and choose Run as administrator. The program will load, and the EULA will pop up as usual. Accept it--for what should be the last time. Close the program, wait a moment, and then run it again like you normally do (using the shortcut). Presto--no more EULA! Repeat the process for any other offending Office programs.
Decide Between VGA, DVI, and HDMI for Your Monitor
A reader recently bought a new Dell system that came with a 21.5-inch LCD monitor. Although the monitor includes VGA, DVI, and HDMI inputs, it included only a VGA cable--even though the setup instructions recommend a DVI or HDMI connection! He wants to know why, and whether he should bother buying a different cable.
I'm going to answer in reverse.
I would indeed recommend using a different cable to connect your monitor to your PC. However, there's no need to bother with HDMI unless you're planning to watch Blu-ray movies (assuming your PC has both an HDMI video output and a Blu-ray drive). Even then, DVI also supports the HDCP protocol necessary to view that kind of protected video content. HDMI is really best for connecting a PC to an HDTV.
I'd go with a DVI cable. That'll give you a pure digital signal (VGA is analog) and a much sharper picture at higher resolutions. Your Dell ST2210 has a native resolution of 1920 by 1080, which you should use. Don't worry, a DVI cable won't cost you a fortune. Sites like Meritline and Monoprice sell them for around $5 to $10, depending on length. (A six-footer should be adequate for most users.)
So, why do most monitors come with only a VGA cable? Probably because VGA is still the most common type of video connector worldwide, and, consequently, the mass-produced cables are cheap. Vendors could supply DVI cables as well, but then at least one would be going to waste.