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 of 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. An active contract bid caller, he has competed in multiple state auctioneer contests including placing twice within the top 5 in Kansas. 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.