Vista external monitor flash and flicker problem solved

Auctioneer and item display

auctioneer with display

One of the first pieces of auction technology adopted by an auctioneer augmenting his business processes is a projection system. I was at an auction in Denton, Texas, where there were more than 30 large plasma and LCD TVs – most to be sold that day – showing the same display of the item currently selling. The ability to make the crowd comfortable and more informed by providing chairs and a completely pre-lotted inventory is generating much greater returns for auctioneers who have it.

Whatever the display method, be it projection or TV or monitor, there is a computer driving it, usually with a cable connected from the VGA, or monitor, output to a VGA splitter. That splitter then amplifies the signal and offers two, four or more VGA outputs to run cables to all the display units.

One of the problems we’ve faced is an issue with Vista notebooks. We’ve noticed it with both ATI and NVidia graphics sets, so it doesn’t seem to be manufacturer specific. All of a sudden, seemingly without warning, the display will flicker or flash, almost as if the computer is re-detecting the external display. Most times, the flash is accompanied by the sound that Windows plays when it detects new hardware, confirming that this process is indeed what is occuring. This detection, refresh and re-detection can go on, sometimes in a continuous loop, until you unplug the external display’s cable from your notebook.

We’ve historically simply made sure that the computers we’ve used for digital projection were running Windows XP, but as this practice becomes an increasing security risk and as it becomes harder to find new laptops with XP, it’s simply both unwise and unpractical.

My recent purchase of an ATI-based notebook which exhibited the problem frequently both confirmed that the problem wasn’t specific to NVidia and made me determined to find the solution. I came across this thread in the vistax64 forums and the fix has been working great for me for the last 24 hours.

As it turns out, the problem in notebooks seems to be caused by a process called the Microsoft Transient Multi-Monitor Manager that is supposed to detect when you plug-in or unplug an external display. As it turns out, it is a little too sensitive, causing the system to think you’ve done this action when sometimes you haven’t. This errant re-detection causes the system to refresh its display settings which causes the flicker and flash. Here’s how to shut down the TMM.

  1. Run task scheduler by clicking start button and then typing “task scheduler”
  2. Browse to Task Scheduler Library > Microsoft > Windows > MobilePC
  3. Click TMM in the list at the top-center
  4. On the right pane click disable

After you reboot you should notice no more unexpected flashing. The solution, however, does have the side effect of requiring you to tell windows any time you connect an external monitor, but that’s easy and a small price to pay for the comfort of knowing that your auction display won’t start flickering on and off when you’re in the middle of an auction.

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Aaron Traffas, CAI, ATS, CES

twitter.com/traffas | aarontraffas.com | aarontraffasband.com

Aaron Traffas, CAI, AMM, CES, is an auctioneer from Medicine Lodge, Kansas. He is currently community evangelist for Purple Wave in Manhattan, Kansas. Aaron serves as the current president elect for the Kansas Auctioneers Association and in the past has served on the National Auctioneers Association Education Institute Board of Trustees. He is a past instructor at CAI and co-wrote and instructed the ATS designation course from NAA. He currently instructs the Internet Auction Methods course offered by the NAA. During the summer, Aaron operates a farm in south central Kansas. Aaron is an active singer and songwriter and the Aaron Traffas Band's latest release, Enter: The Wind, can be found at iTunes, Amazon and Spotify.
  • This issue with ATI and Vista doesn’t really deserve its own post, but for anyone searching to find the solution to atikmdag error in Vista 64 using ATI graphics, hopefully this comment can help you.

    I have a Toshiba Satellite M305-DS4830 running Vista x64 with the AMD Turion X2 Ultra and ATI Radeon 3100 integrated graphics card / chipset. I was getting an error that was, essentially, atikmdag stopped responding and has successfully recovered. I downloaded ATI graphics drivers and tried various permutations including uninstalling the Catalyst Control Center as mentioned elsewhere. The problem kept recurring. I suspect it’s due to multiple monitors, as it didn’t seem to be a problem running on the laptop only.

    After I couldn’t find a way to contact Toshiba by any kind of email or web form, I called Toshiba’s tech support. I was told that it was the 64 bit version of Vista and that I should have selected the 32 bit when I first turned on my computer. The solution, I was told, is to restore to factory defaults, except not really the factory defaults because I needed to end up with the 32 bit version of Vista.

    I politely informed the tech that I thought it was a little absurd to think that the computer would have prompted me to select which version of Windows I wanted preloaded when I already had the computer. Indeed, as I told him, I purchased the computer specifically for the 64 bit version of Windows because it’s faster and more secure due to reasons like DEP turned on by default. In that case, he told me, I should revert to factory defaults using the 64 bit version and test it without any of the automatic updates to see if one of those caused it. I lied and told him I would.

    Before hanging up, I asked him what the email address for Toshiba’s technical support was so that I didn’t have to waste time in a phone tree. He sounded flustered and put me on hold while he asked his level 2 supervisor. When he returned, he said in regards to Toshiba email support ‘we don’t really have it’.

    I have solved the problem of atikmdag by selecting the Windows Classic theme in the Personalization section of Vista. I can now run dual monitors without difficulty or errors. I’m saddened, though, because this computer was the first I’ve used that was fast enough to run Vista Aero, the pretty effects and glass transparencies. Windows Classic makes the computer look like Windows 98, but at least it runs without error.

    I’ll probably continue to try each new version of ATI drivers as they’re released to see if the problem is addressed. I’ll probably never try to use Toshiba’s technical support again for fear that it will actually make me dumber.

  • This issue with ATI and Vista doesn’t really deserve its own post, but for anyone searching to find the solution to atikmdag error in Vista 64 using ATI graphics, hopefully this comment can help you.

    I have a Toshiba Satellite M305-DS4830 running Vista x64 with the AMD Turion X2 Ultra and ATI Radeon 3100 integrated graphics card / chipset. I was getting an error that was, essentially, atikmdag stopped responding and has successfully recovered. I downloaded ATI graphics drivers and tried various permutations including uninstalling the Catalyst Control Center as mentioned elsewhere. The problem kept recurring. I suspect it’s due to multiple monitors, as it didn’t seem to be a problem running on the laptop only.

    After I couldn’t find a way to contact Toshiba by any kind of email or web form, I called Toshiba’s tech support. I was told that it was the 64 bit version of Vista and that I should have selected the 32 bit when I first turned on my computer. The solution, I was told, is to restore to factory defaults, except not really the factory defaults because I needed to end up with the 32 bit version of Vista.

    I politely informed the tech that I thought it was a little absurd to think that the computer would have prompted me to select which version of Windows I wanted preloaded when I already had the computer. Indeed, as I told him, I purchased the computer specifically for the 64 bit version of Windows because it’s faster and more secure due to reasons like DEP turned on by default. In that case, he told me, I should revert to factory defaults using the 64 bit version and test it without any of the automatic updates to see if one of those caused it. I lied and told him I would.

    Before hanging up, I asked him what the email address for Toshiba’s technical support was so that I didn’t have to waste time in a phone tree. He sounded flustered and put me on hold while he asked his level 2 supervisor. When he returned, he said in regards to Toshiba email support ‘we don’t really have it’.

    I have solved the problem of atikmdag by selecting the Windows Classic theme in the Personalization section of Vista. I can now run dual monitors without difficulty or errors. I’m saddened, though, because this computer was the first I’ve used that was fast enough to run Vista Aero, the pretty effects and glass transparencies. Windows Classic makes the computer look like Windows 98, but at least it runs without error.

    I’ll probably continue to try each new version of ATI drivers as they’re released to see if the problem is addressed. I’ll probably never try to use Toshiba’s technical support again for fear that it will actually make me dumber.

  • Brandon

    Thanks! That fix totally worked! I run the projector at our church and it was flickering and acting up. I actually did this on the fly in the service and the fix worked very well! Thanks again!

  • I'm glad it worked for you, Brandon. I also appreciate you reporting back and letting me know that it worked for other users. Thanks!

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  • Almir, from Brazil

    Aaron, you saved my day!
    My boss' notebook had the problem mentioned above, and after 3 hours of exaustive search, your tip saved me.

    Thank you very much!

    Almir

  • Pied Skyper

    I tried the TMM solution above. Didn't work. My screen continues flashing every time there is an audio sound on my computer. I discovered this using skype. I had skype set to give me an audio sound every time one of my colleagues comes only. The screen flashed immediately after each sound. I turned off ALL sounds in skype and flashes went away — EXCEPT for the normal beeps and bomps the computer makes in normal use. My conclusion, every SOUND produces a single screen refresh.

    • Thorin_27

      I have this problem too, my external monitor flashes on each sound from an application Im running. However if I play a music file in a media player the flashing stops. The flashing does not return if I pause the media player, however if I stop the player it returns (as long as the sound producing application is still producing sounds, if I disable sounds in this program the flashing stops)

  • Whatever it is, I have now no intention to use vista anymore. Because currently I am using Windows7 and I am pretty much satisfied with it.

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