LCD Dead Pixels:
LCD, Liquid Crystal Display or Liquid Crystal on Silicon,
has been around for some time. This technology can be
commonly found in popular HDTVs, computer or laptop monitors
and Sony's new PSP. But the downside to LCD screens is
the dreaded "dead pixel" or "hot pixel"
phenomenon. Dead pixels or "hot pixels" are
defined as "a pixel on an LCD monitor that remains
unlit, or black, when it should be activated and displaying
Windows Screensavers Explained
by Roman Kramar
In this article you will find some background information
about screensavers and their history. You will also
learn how Windows screensavers differ from other
programs and how you can use it to your own advantage.
There are also some tips for screensavers users
owning laptops, notebooks or CD-burning devices.
Have you ever asked yourself a question like "What
is a screensaver actually?" I did. And now
I will gladly share the results of my investigation.
As you can see easily, splitting the word "screensaver"
into two words will give us the phrase "screen
saver". This isn't a rocket science and it's
clear that the phrase suggests our subject somehow
saving the screen. So the word "screensaver"
can be applied to some sort of good things that
save the screen of our so much beloved baby-computer.
But what does it mean exactly? Who is going to harm
our computer's screen? Who could be such a bad person?
The answer lies in the exact definition of the screensavers.
If you are a meticulous person then you can search
the Internet and come up with some of the existing
definitions. But don't hurry. I will list some of
the most often found. Here they are:
The picture is getting clearer, isn't it? Let's
make it plain. The "burn in" or "damage"
used in these definitions refer us to the time before
90-ies. At that time many cathode ray tubes in TVs,
computer monitors or elsewhere were prone to be
damaged if the same pattern (e.g., the WordPerfect
status line; the Pong score readout; or a TV channel-number
display) was shown at the same position on the screen
for very long periods of time. The phosphor on the
screen would "fatigue" and that part of
the screen would seem grayed out, even when the
CRT was off.
- A moving picture or pattern that appears on
your screen when you
have not moved the mouse or pressed a key on
the computer for a
specified period of time. Screensavers prevent
screen damage that is
caused when the same areas of light and dark
are displayed for long
periods of time.
- A program that "wakes up" after
a certain amount of time has elapsed with no
keyboard or mouse activity and blanks the screen
or displays various moving objects across the
screen; these are used to prevent your screen
from getting "burn in".
- An animated picture or graphic that can be
programmed through the Display control panel
to come on the computer screen after so much
inactivity time has elapsed. The main reason
for a screensaver is to reduce wear and tear
on the CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) inside the monitor
that can burn out or become etched if the same
window is left on for extended periods of time.
TIP: Be careful when using a screensaver on a computer
with an LCD screen (most laptops and notebooks).
A pixel on an LCD screen is on when it's dark; therefore,
blacking the screen as some screensavers do would
cause more damage.
Eventually CRTs which were resistant to burn-in
(and which sometimes went into sleep mode after
a period of inactivity) were developed. But in the
meantime, solution was found: home video game systems
of the era (e.g., Atari 2600s) would, when not being
played, change the screen every few seconds, to
avoid burn-in; and computer screensaver programs
The first screensavers were simple screen blankers
- they just set the screen to all black, but, in
the best case of creeping featurism ever recorded,
these tiny (often under 1K long) programs grew without
regard to efficiency or even basic usefulness. At
first, small, innocuous display hacks (generally
on an almost-black screen) were added. Later, more
complex effects appeared, including animations (often
with sound effects!) of arbitrary length and complexity.
And now we live in the world full of fun and entertaining
screensavers. Many of them produce amazing and very
attractive effects. You can find a screensaver on
any theme you like, download it, install and enjoy.
This means that a typical screensaver is a program.
And it really is. But isn't there something different?
Is there something that distinguishes a program
running as screensaver from other typical programs?
You're right, there is a bit of mystery. In order
to demystify it we should plunge deeper into screensavers'
mechanics. But don't be afraid. It isn't complicated
First, as you already know, screensavers are launched
automatically by the operating system.
TIP: Be careful if you use CD-Burning devices regularly
and your system is configured to launch screensaver
after some period of inactivity. Some screensavers
produce very sophisticated effects but for the price
of intensive CPU load. If you leave your computer
while CD-Burning software is working, screensaver
will be launched. This can sometimes
lead to the CD-RW disks burned improperly.
During their installation process screensavers are
copied to the system directory (years ago users
had even to copy screensavers by themselves). Once
they are there, Windows finds them and puts in the
list of available screensavers. You can see this
list in the Display Properties dialog. But how does
the system know that the program in its system
directory is a screensaver? The answer is simple.
Any screensaver program has a name ending with ".SCR"
extension, while a typical program has an ".EXE"
extension at the end. This is the first difference.
Second, almost every screensaver has a bunch of
settings allowing you to change its appearance in
many ways. This isn't a much difference because
many typical programs have options and settings
too. The difference lies in the way user invokes
configuration dialogs. Windows provides the only
way to do it. It's the Display Properties dialog
mentioned above. Other programs usually have their
own buttons or menus to do that. Why are we talking
about it? It's simple. The whole process means that
the system has a way to communicate with screensavers:
to launch them, preview and configure on your demand
while other typical programs don't have it. Usually
they are simply launched and that's all. This is
the second difference.
So what? How can we use it to our own advantage?
Imagine yourself downloading a new screensaver,
running it and finding it rather amazing. The screensaver
can be so amazing and entertaining, that you would
like to show it running on your screen to the friend
of yours. But wait. How do you do that? What if
your system is configured to launch the
screensaver after 5 minutes of inactivity only?
Or after 10 minutes or even more? Will you wait
for this eternity? You can say that there is always
a way to launch the screensaver from the Dialog
Properties. But in order to do that you should launch
the dialog, find the Screen Savers tab and click
the Preview button. Quite a lot of things to do.
And if you are willing to demonstrate two or even
more screensavers the things get complicated even
more. And what if the screensaver you've found looks
best when the whole desktop wallpaper is seen on
the screen? The Display Properties dialog will simply
destroy this unique beauty you were willing to share.
Now imagine that double-clicking an icon on your
desktop could do all this. Simple action, no unnecessary
dialogs. Sure, some preparation steps are needed.
But they are done once. After that you can enjoy
launching screensavers using icons as many times
as you wish. Is it worth doing? Try it, the result
can be very effective. Once you manage the process,
you can proudly call yourself a "Professional
Screensavers User". If you like the idea then
there's the way to achieve it:
Now you can launch the screensaver at any time.
Simply double-click the created icon. Enjoy! I will
be glad if you feel a bit more control over the
- Use Windows explorer to navigate to your system
directory. Usually it is C:Windows or C:WindowsSystem
if you are using Windows 95/98/Me. If you are
using Windows NT/2000/XP, then you should look
in C:WINNT or C:WINNTSystem32.
- Look through the list of programs there. It
can be quite large, but you can easily find
the name of the screensaver you are looking
for. Alternatively you can use the "Find
Files or Folders" facility.
- Once you've found it, use the right mouse
button to drag the file onto the desktop. After
releasing the mouse select "Create Shortcut
Here" from the popup menu. The icon for
the screensaver should appear on your desktop.
About the Author
About the author. Roman Kramar Roman Kramar is a
software developer who enjoys writing screensavers
as his time permits. Visit his site at http://www.elasticsystems.com/index.html?rid=a01
to find out more about screensavers and his work.