Patently Blue

Posted: 21/07/10

The Blue Screen of Death

I had occasion this week to have a fiddle with my elderly Compaq laptop. For some rather opaque reason, it refuses to work with an external monitor. So I wandered on to the HP website and attempted to download and install various drivers to make it work. This is where the rot set in.

The first attempt to install one of the so called "SoftPaqs" resulted in something I'd not seen for quite a while - namely the "Blue Screen of Death". I hadn't seen one of these in years, and it served as a sharp reminder of one of the basic inadequacies of the Windows operating system.

Booting the laptop into safe mode allowed me to install the software, but alas it does not appear to do anything. The monitor is still non-functional unless I "extend" the desktop on to it, when it springs into life. The monitor does work during the initial POST and Windows boot sequences, but the display vanishes when the desktop login finally appears, even if the desktop is set to a tiny resolution, such as 800x600. And yes, I did press the required function button to enable the external display - that's what the software "fix" was supposed to get working.

It wasn't all bad this week, however. I read with interest that the New Zealand Government have decided not to make software patentable, thus avoiding some of the absolute nonsense that goes on in the United States. The trouble with patents is that although they are supposed to protect the inventor, they often do completely the opposite - various mega-corporations such as Microsoft and Apple have deep pockets with which to enrich their expensive patent lawyers and thus the small firm is dissuaded from fighting dubious patent claims. Score one to the NZ government. It makes sense for them to favour the little guy.