Watch Dog: Holiday 2007

Nathan Edwards

Daisy , watchdog of the month

It depends on what your definition of “HD” is

My problems began when I decided to replace my 20-inch Sceptre X20 monitor with a ViewSonic VX2245wm 22-inch HD Widescreen LCD. I used to run the Sceptre with my PC plugged into the analog port and my HDTV set-top cable box plugged into the DVI port. The Sceptre worked fine even though it maxed out at 1680x1050.

When I tried to hook the ViewSonic up to my set-top box via DVI, the cable box posted a message explaining there was no HDCP support, so the video was disabled.

I emailed ViewSonic to find out if the VX2245wm supported HDCP or not. ViewSonic responded that none of its monitors supported HDCP. A quick search on its website proved this incorrect.

So, I decided to call customer service. The gentleman who answered the phone confirmed that the VX2245wm did not support HDCP and was not capable of displaying HD content. I responded that “22-inch HD Widescreen” is printed on the box. His said that that does not mean HDTV. I went on to explain that the VX2245wm includes a feature called ClearMotiv, which ViewSonic claims allows for fast 5ms video response and enables digital HD-broadcast-quality video. He said that meant “the VX2245wm could display HD television resolution if it was capable of displaying the HDTV signal.” I told him that did not make sense and he apologized. His supervisor later told me that I could use it for HDTV using the analog input.

I have heard rumors that VX2245wm LCD monitors manufactured after a certain date do support HDCP even though ViewSonic tells me otherwise.

I expected more from ViewSonic. The VX2245wm is advertised as a 22-inch HD widescreen LCD with a fast response time that “enables digital, HD-broadcast-quality video.” It is also listed as being “Certified for Windows Vista,” which I believe means it must support HDCP. Any way you slice it, the description of this product is misleading at best.

—Richard T. Warren, Jr.

Richard isn’t the first person to be confused by this subject. To find out just what the HD on a monitor box means, the Dog queried ViewSonic. A representative explained that “HD refers to the capability of displaying 720p, 1080i, or 1080p HD resolutions. The VX2245wm was released prior to Microsoft’s release of Windows Vista but has subsequently been certified for the Basic Vista logo, which does not include a requirement for HDCP.”

The spokesperson went on to say that the customer service department misspoke and has since been updated on which ViewSonic monitors support HDCP. A number do, but not Richard’s VX2245wm. The spokesperson explained, “The VX2245wm was designed as a desktop PC display. It can display HD content, provided that HD content resides on and is played on the PC specific to normal monitor use. The VX2245 was not designed as a TV display and as such we did not include HDCP support. It was never tested to work directly with HD set-top boxes or other HD digital video devices. The VX2245wm does meet the requirements for Microsoft Vista Basic Certification.” She also said rumors of HDCP being added to newer revisions of the monitor are false.

“Moving forward,” she explained, “our plan is to continue supporting HDCP and the Windows Vista Premium Certification on all of our new widescreen models with DVI or HDMI. All other widescreen (including the VX1945wm and VX2245wm) and 4:3 models will be Vista Basic Certified and will not support HDCP.”

For those who don’t know, HDCP (high-bandwidth digital content protection) is a system that “protects” digital content, and its rollout has been mangled. As Richard is discovering, despite touting HD features, many PC monitors and even TVs cannot display protected content from a TV source or Blu-ray or HD DVD device.

The VX2245wm isn’t the only ViewSonic monitor that has used the term HD without including HDCP. The ViewSonic VG2230WM, which Maximum PC reviewed in June, claimed HD support but did not, in fact, support HDCP; ViewSonic has said it plans to add HDCP support in the future. Maximum PC also noted that Hanns.G’s HW223DPB (reviewed in August) lacked HDCP support, despite being labeled HD ready. Hanns.G said HD capability was available through the VGA analog port.

The Dog feels Microsoft hasn’t helped the situation either. As ViewSonic points out, monitors that are Windows Vista Premium Certified must have HDCP support, but Windows Vista Basic Certified models do not need to include it. Since most consumers (and even many tech-heads) have no idea what the hell the difference between the two is, it’s likely to create confusion rather than dispel it.

Tom Mainelli, an analyst who covers displays for market research firm IDC, agrees that the situation is a mess. “I think it’s the responsibility of the [monitor] industry to address this,” Mainelli said. “They’re going to be the one the consumer blames when it doesn’t work.”

Mainelli said the informal line on what gets HDCP and what doesn’t seems to hinge on size and aspect ratio. New monitor designs in the 24-inch range and up usually include HDCP, but with smaller monitors it’s a toss-up. Most business-class monitors with standard aspect ratios don’t include it while widescreens may. So why not just create an HDCP logo? Mainelli said one problem may be consumer education. While Maximum PC readers are likely sensitive to it, the vast majority of consumers have no freaking idea what HDCP means, so one more logo on a box isn’t going to help the situation.

What’s the Dog’s opinion? ViewSonic and other display manufacturers are clearly walking a thin line. The Dog thinks that a person shopping for a new monitor is looking not to display his or her Microsoft Word document at HD resolutions but to watch movies. To expect anything else is disingenuous at best.

Until the monitor industry can get its act together and begin labeling monitors appropriately, the only way to avoid getting burned is to look for the Vista Premium Logo and do your due diligence before you make a purchase.

Clean DriveCleaner

Recently, I found a program called DriveCleaner that was supposed to speed up my system. I downloaded it and purchased a license for $50. I promptly received a login name and password along with confirmation of payment. It worked for about two days and everything was great. It seemed like it really had sped up my system. Then everything started acting funny.

I called DriveCleaner’s tech-support center and was told how to uninstall the program and reinstall it. After I uninstalled, I found that I could not get to DriveCleaner’s website anymore. And because of this I can’t reinstall the software. I uninstalled the program through Add/Remove Programs and then went and deleted everything pertaining to DriveCleaner. I visited some websites that gave instructions on how to fully uninstall the software. During this time I noticed that it seemed this software was a scam. Nobody talked very nicely about it.

Could you please help me find out what the deal is with this company?

—Lavon Smith

Bad news, Lavon; your suspicions, albeit late, are correct. Most people who report problems with DriveCleaner say it’s due to “drive-by” installs via browser exploits. The program itself doesn’t enhance your rig’s performance; rather, it helps cover your tracks after you’ve been surfing porn sites. But, according to several antivirus/anti-malware sites, the application (at least the “demo” that gets installed on drive-bys) just creates pop-ups and false positives. The program’s recommended fix? That you buy the full version of course.

Although the connection isn’t clear, the folks behind DriveCleaner also seem to be responsible for the infamous WinFixer and WinAntivirus programs, which the Dog wrote about in July. Both WinFixer and WinAntivirus were also accused of using similar tactics: drive-by installs and false positives that induced people to pay for the apps. A California woman is trying to take WinFixer to court to recoup the money she paid to repair her PC after installing the program.

The Dog couldn’t reach for comment, but you should probably count yourself lucky that you were able to uninstall it, as it’s not clear that it actually does anything. You can probably kiss your $50 goodbye, but you can count the experience as a life lesson: Do some research on an application before you buy it. Woof.

Recall Alert

I-O Data is recalling several hundred network attached storage (NAS) devices that may overheat and pose a burn hazard. I-O Data says it has received three reports of the AC adapters included with the units overheating, deforming, and melting. No injuries have been reported. The adapters were manufactured in Japan and sold with the UHDL-160U and UHDL-300U Network Hard Disk Drives between December 2004 and February 2007 in the United States. If you have either of the models listed above, examine the AC adapter and look for part number IO-ACADP1510UL . If your adapter has that part number, it may be one of the defective units. I-O Data is asking consumers to immediately stop using it and contact the company for a free replacement. More information is available at 877-878-2926 or by visiting: .

Got a bone to pick with a vendor? Been spiked by a fly-by-night operation? Sic the Dog on them by writing . The Dog promises to answer as many letters as possible, but only has four paws to work with.

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