Friday, March 05, 2004

I am not a fan of Bill Gates

My laptop is a widescreen model. As I have discovered that I like to watch DVDs on it in public places, this is good. Most movies are made in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, although a substantial proportion are also made in 2.35:1. Widescreen televisions normally have an aspect ratio of 16:9 (1.78:1) which is close enough to be largely indistinguishable for most viewers, although either a small amount must be chopped off at the sides or the top and bottom must be cropped slightly less than is the case in the cinema.

However, widescreen computer screens such as mine usually use an aspect ratio of 16:10 (1.60:1). This means that there will be always be (very) narrow black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. This was a necessary compromise for laptop computers in particular, as a 16:9 screen is a little too awkward for computer applications.

Once you have a DVD player in your computer, it is necessary to get some software to actually play DVDs. There are a variety of solutions. I presently have four installed on my laptop: Cyberlink PowerDVD, Dell Media Experience (which I think is running using the same engine as PowerDVD), Interactual Player, and Microsoft Windows Media Player. The first three of these have no trouble realising that I have a wide screen, and when set to "full screen" they adjust to the full width of the screen. Windows Media Player seems incapable of realising this, however, and it for some reason assumes that I have a UGA (1600x1200) screen rather than the WUGA (1920x1200) screen that I in fact have. Therefore, with Media Player the whole picture is scaled significantly smaller and I get a wide black margin all the way round the picture. Well done Microsoft.

It may well be that there is some way to configure Media Player so that the pictures will scale to fill the whole screen, but 15 minutes of fiddling around with the menus and the laughably named "help" function did not enable me to find it. Whether it exists is not really the point. Media Player should be able to find out the size of the screen for itself, just as the other players can. And if it can't, a manual configuration option should be easy to find and set.

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