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Aspect ratio adjustment ends display problems


I recently bought a laptop with a wide- screen display. When I run certain programs on it, games in particular, the content of the display is squashed vertically or stretched horizontally. How do I cause the display to be standard, non-wide-screen dimensions, with black bars on the left and right?

- Jim Fentress @excite.com

First of all, wide-screen monitors built into laptops, or those attached to desktops, use a default aspect ratio of about 16 units wide by 9 tall, called letterbox mode, but a great many programs and machines use the much more square 4:3 aspect ratio. The squashing, of course, comes as the laptop tries to fit those 4:3 games onto its 16:9 screen, but a lot of games can be set to force the computer to play them in a more-square window simply by changing the properties settings.

To do that, find the icon for your game and give it a right-click and select Properties from the menu that pops up. In the menu this produces, select the tab marked Compatibility. This brings up a set of check boxes that lets you force the computer to play that program in a 640-by-480 dots-per-inch resolution instead of the wide-screen resolutions that are far larger, along the lines of 1,600 by 1,050 d.p.i. Most games will play correctly with this setting change, but there are some games and other programs that should be run at a slightly higher resolution of 800 by 600 d.p.i. If you find that's the case, you can temporarily reset the computer's resolution by right-clicking with the cursor on the desktop and picking Properties and then Settings from the menus that appear. In the Settings display you will find a slider bar that can be moved from the lowest possible resolution on the left to the highest possible on the right.

I'm getting garbled sound on my collection of enhanced CDs that I used to play on my Windows XP computer using Apple's QuickTime software. Any ideas?

- Steve Ramm, Philadelphia

The Windows version of Apple's QuickTime media player uses its own Control Panel to manage its settings and to communicate with the Windows operating systems in order to make it all work on non-Apple hardware, and therein lies your fix, Mr. R. No matter how many times you uninstall and reinstall the Apple software, it won't fix the Windows settings causing the sound to become corrupted. So you need to open the QT control panel first. Click on Start and then Control Panel and then double-click on the icon with the blue QuickTime "Q."

In the QT menu, select the Sound Out item from the drop-down list and make sure that your computer's sound card is selected instead of Direct Sound or any other option. Then shut the QT control panel and move down to the Windows control panel for Sounds and Audio Devices and open it. Select the tab for Audio and open the button for Sound Playback.

In the menu that summons, open the tab for Advanced and you will find a slider bar for Hardware Acceleration. Make sure the playback device listed is the same one as in your QT control panel. Move the slider either toward Full or Off until you find the proper adjustment.jcoatestribune.com

Jim Coates writes for the Chicago Tribune. Contact him by mail at the Tribune, Room 400, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

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