Don’t Change My Resolution!

Raymond Chen (The Old New Thing) posted recently about how people arrange their workplace, or in this case, their kitchen, but are confused by well-meaning people that want to fix their place the “right” way:

:: Wendy :: told me a story some time ago about something that happened while her parents were visiting. When she returned from work, her mother said, "Oh, Wendy, darling, I reorganized your kitchen for you. You had everything in the wrong place."

Wendy’s mother was trying to be helpful, but of course it was a net loss for poor Wendy, who couldn’t find anything in her kitchen for weeks. Yes, there was the whole Oh great where did my mother put my food processor? problem, but even after she found it, the "improved" location was far worse than its original location. In fact, in many cases, it was in the exact opposite location from where it should be.

You see, Wendy is left-handed, and her mother is right-handed.

Someone in the comments made a great point:

re: I reorganized your kitchen for you, sweetie

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 9:19 AM by DWalker59

Her mom said everything was in the "wrong place"?  How arrogant!

I have a friend who had a large monitor on his computer, set to his preferred resolution of about 1024×768.  While he was out, a young, brash programmer used the computer for a day.  

When my friend returned, the young guy said "I reset the video to a better resolution; you know, that large monitor can support <some large numbers go here>.  I’ll bet you didn’t know that, ha ha, you silly guy; here’s how you change the monitor’s resolution…"

My friend chewed out the young guy, read him up one side and down the other, and said "I had the resolution set exactly where I wanted it.  Don’t assume that I don’t know the maximum resolution of the video card or monitor!  I’m perfectly aware of that, but you may not be aware that I have vision problems and I like it set exactly where it was set.  Don’t presume to know what is "better" for me!"

I think the young guy learned a lesson.

I. WOULD. BE.  LIVID! if that were my computer.

At home, I have a 23” Dell display that can do 2048×1152.   I cannot use that resolution at all.  I can do 1920×1080 but it is very uncomfortable to read. 

It’s set to 1440×900, and my DPI is 125%.  That’s the best compromise I could come up with.

I’m aware that Windows 7 can support higher DPI.  When I first installed Windows 7 I did some experimentation.  I could have gone with 1920×1080;  it is a reasonable minimum for this size display.   I tested that resolution at 150% DPI

But I had trouble with third-party apps.  In the screen clip above, there are two Windows gadgets.  One is native to Windows, the clock.  The other is a third party weather application.  The clock scales correctly at high DPI.  The weather application does not.  

At 125% you can see the difference, but at 150% it is much more pronounced.  I calculated that for me to use the native display resolution (2048×1152), I might have needed 175%.  That would break quite a few apps and make that weather app unusable (I prefer it to the Microsoft weather gadget for its radar display and severe weather notifications.) 

(I’ve found, too, that I get odd-looking results when I use “odd” DPI values.  Internet Explorer will let you have a custom DPI, but it has regular values, 125%, 150%, that it will prefer to use.  So my IE is set to 125% or 150% depending on the machine I’m using.)

Aren’t higher resolutions technically better?

Not necessarily.

Most modern mid-range displays have a very good scan converter built in.  I’ve only used one monitor that was really bad at that, and that was a cheap monitor I picked for a server room that I don’t use every day.  It’s nasty, but not bad enough for the use I give it to warrant replacing it.

More to the point, I don’t notice it.  It might not even be possible for most users to determine the difference.  There are physical limitations on the resolution that someone with normal vision can perceive, and they mean that for the small displays most of us are using, we will never be able to notice the difference between, say, 720p or 1080p on HDTV. 

With the current state of the art, this is probably the best I can do.  Will it change?  Absolutely!  Is it annoying to run at a lower resolution?  Certainly, sometimes.

But for me and others with vision problems this is the best we can do.

Don’t change my resolution!

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