Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thunderbolt + DVI = Fail

Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas!

Has it really been a year since I've posted here? That seems to me a pretty good testament to the fact that Macs just don't cause me as much woe as Windows machines do. (I spent 2011 using primarily Macs). Hoorah for Apple!

I'm a full-on Kool-Aid drinking card-holding member of the Apple clan these days. I use iMacs and MacBook Pros both at home and at work, and recently (finally!) switched from Android to the iPhone. (Next up will be replacing my Android tablet with an iPad, but I have to hurry up and win the lottery first).

I still own two Windows based machines:

1. My "kitchen laptop", which was the cheapest laptop I could possibly find, used as an internet access device to look up recipes while I'm cooking. (It had to be cheap, because I'm clumsy in the kitchen and fully expect one day to drop a cup of flour or a bottle of oil on it).

2. My "gaming" PC, which is also a super-cheap rig (< $500) that I put together so I could play Ultima Online without having to boot out of OS X via Bootcamp on any of my Macs.

And yes, they did happen to give me some troubles in 2011 (namely with video irregularities on the PC that caused me to send my video card back to XFX, as the mainboard was reporting a video card failure via boot sequence beeps). The problem was resolved when I put a new video card in, so I figured the card was faulty. XFX tested the card and sent it back to me, unable to detect any problems. Now, the new video card is flickering out with the same symptoms that led to the initial "failure" of the first card, and all I can do is shrug and say, "I hate PC's!!!"

But those aren't the kinds of problems that warrant posting here, because I like to keep this blog for posting solutions that I come across (so that I can look them up for future reference as necessary, and maybe help somebody else out with the same problem in the process). Unfortunately for me, I still don't have a solution to the video problem.

But back to my glorious Macs!

Just because they're glorious doesn't mean they're entirely trouble-free (though they are indeed mostly trouble-free, at least in my experience!)

I had the joy of purchasing a new 27" iMac recently. My previous setup was a 20" iMac connected to a 22" ViewSonic secondary monitor via a Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter. It worked great.

The new iMacs, though, have the new "Thunderbolt" port instead of the old Mini DisplayPort, though they claim to be backward compatible.

I plugged my ViewSonic into the new 27" iMac with the same cable setup as I had working minutes earlier on the 20" iMac, and... nothing. iMac did not detect the second monitor, and the monitor did not detect a computer signal.

Long story short.... TONS of people are reporting similar troubles getting Thunderbolt ports (on both iMacs and on MacBook laptops) to recognize DVI monitors. Now - if you have a large screen (27"+) monitor, it could be an issue of needing the dual-link DVI adapter ($100) instead of the single-link DVI adapter ($30), due to resolution constraints on the single-link adapter. But that wasn't my problem.

The solution:

Well, it's not exactly a solution, particularly if your monitor doesn't support HDMI. But, the solution seems to be to use HDMI instead of DVI. Lots of people reported that working, and it worked for me.

Now, I've got the 27" iMac running a Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter, connected to a DVI to HDMI cable, and the HDMI cable going into the monitor.

It works.

Of course, this meant some monitor-juggling, because my ViewSonic doesn't have HDMI. But, the never-heard-of-them Hannspree monitor that I bought for my cheap Windows box has HDMI. So, I swapped monitors.

It's not ideal; the ViewSonic is a 24" monitor and the Hanspree is a 20" one (which looks awfully ridiculous next to the 27" iMac). But, it's better than nothing. Even though the 27" iMac gives me plenty of screen real estate to work with, I still like putting some things off to the side on another monitor (like social media and chat apps, etc).

So, there you have it. Thunderbolt to DVI is wonky. Use Thunderbolt to HDMI instead. This is on OS X Lion 10.7.2. Good luck!

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