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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Time to Kill the Screen Saver

Once upon a time all good (and bad) programmers used a giant tube. This tube was called a “CRT” (cathode ray tube) which was, in essence, an electron gun pointed at their face. Between their face and the gun were these things called “phosphors” that would react when electrons came their way nudging out a photon.

At the time, we thought all was good.

Then came the discovery.

If you left a computer screen on long enough, whatever was up, whether it was Biblical text or porn would get “burned” into the screen. Oh, sure, one could just turn the screen off (a button), but that would require the programmer to move his/her hand about 8″ PLUS he/she would have to remember to press it again in the morning.

That sounded way too much like work!

Fortunately, technology came to the rescue in the form of the screen saver. This would either turn the display off or shift the contents of the display around, assuring that nothing would ever get burned in again.

The End.

Well, it would have been had not some of those dastardly technology people come up with LCD display. These displays were lighter, smaller, and in many ways better than the CRT. Best of all they didn’t use phosphor! Hooray!

No more screen burn in and no need for screen savers!

The End.

Well, it would have been if it weren’t for the fact that LCD displays ALSO have issues with static images. It appears that some of the pixels get “stuck” (or partially stuck). This can result in a “ghosting effect”.

Fortunately, there are multiple ways to fix this. One is by displaying an inverse of the screen (Apple recommends an all white image). Some programs cycle through all the pixels. The net result is that it fixes this problem and eliminates ghosting.

The End.

Well, it would be have been except these are all terrible solutions. Let’s drop back and take a look at WHY.

* Many people still use LCD’s that are lit by very thin and very narrow florescent tubes which don’t last forever
* Unless you have technical skills, it is very difficult and very expensive to replace these tubes
* In many systems displaying a “black screen” does not turn off the light

But, you may say, LED backlights eliminate that problem! Yes, however they still consume power.

We need to kill the screen saver and instead allow the computer to turn off the display.

Even better, we need “system savers” – systems that power themselves down when not in use. There are multiple ways to do this – “hibernate” under Windows brings your energy usage to nil while “sleep” cuts it in half (or more). The move to solid state drives is already happening as we seek faster systems.

We need to consider that “down time” is every bit as important as “up time” and that there are good ways and bad ways to idle our systems.

But first and foremost, we need to get rid of the screen saver. As someone once remarked, it does nothing but entertain the janitor.