Frequently-asked questions about the Geiss screensaver

Note:   Before e-mailing me, please MAKE SURE you've done the following:
  • read this entire FAQ. It is short.
  • downloaded & installed DirectX 6.0 or later. About 50% of problems are solved by this!
  • downloaded the latest version of the Geiss screensaver
  • if the bug persists, then please e-mail me, and mention that you have tried these 3 things. My e-mail address is in the 'about' box of the config panel. Thank you.

Problem:   When I run the screensaver, it gives me an error that says "DSERR_BADFORMAT".

Solution:   This is a common problem. You probably have an "Open Program" sound effect turned on, and you need to turn it off. Go to the control panel, double-click 'Sounds', and scroll down to "Open Program." Make sure that there is no sound associated with opening a program - if there is, turn it off. If this still doesn't fix the problem, make sure your sound card supports 16-bit, 44100 Hz, stereo sound (99% do - only very old cards are at risk here). As a last resort, try to locate the most recent drivers for your sound card.

Problem:   I don't see any reaction to sound (during the screensaver).
Problem:   I don't see a waveform on the screen (during the screensaver).

  1. First of all, you must have a functioning sound card for this to work.
  2. Make sure that Windows' volume settings are at about 50% for your microphone, CD-audio, and line-in. Do this by clicking the Start Menu button, then going to Programs, Accessories, Multimedia, and finally, Volume Control. Then adjust the appropriate slider bars (to about half-way). If any are missing, go to the Options menu, select Properties, then scroll through the list and select (check) whatever is missing (e.g. microphone, cd-audio, etc.).
  3. Also try this: from Windows' volume control, on the menu click Options/Properties, select 'Recording', and hit OK. Now make sure that each [recording] channel has the "SELECT" box checked next to it, and that the volumes are all set to 50% or higher.
  4. If that doesn't work, and you are trying to get sound from an audio CD in your cd-rom drive, you might be missing a cd-audio cable which connects your cd-rom drive to your sound card. It is easiest to check first if the sound works with, say, a microphone before checking for the cable. If the microphone works (i.e. you see a sound wave on the screen when you speak into it), then you're probably missing the cable (they run about $5). If the microphone doesn't work, keep troubleshooting.
  5. Make sure you have the most recent version of the drivers for your sound card. Also make sure the sound card is less than 5 years old (it must be able to handle 16-bit, 44100 Hz, stereo sound).
  6. Make sure you have at least DirectX 5.0 or later installed. If it's been a long time since you installed it, try installing DirectX 6.0 fresh.

Problem:   I select a new video mode, but it just goes back to the default every time.

Solution:   None - your video card doesn't support that mode; you must pick another. Older video cards can't properly enumerate what video modes they support, so they just list them all. If you have one of these video cards, you might have to dig around to find a video mode that really works.

Problem:   I can't get the screensaver to use password protection.

Problem:   The screensaver's preview window doesn't show anything.

Solution:   Darn right it's broken - the screensaver doesn't support passwords or a preview. Sorry, I have classes to study for! :)

Problem:   Geiss gives me an error message that says Ordinal Not Found - The ordinal 6 could not be located in the dynamic link library DSOUND.dll.

Solution:   You need to download and reinstall DirectX 6.0 or later. Click here to do so.

Problem:   When I try to run Geiss it gives me an error box that says, "Geiss executed an illegal instruction at..."

Solution:   You probably have version 3.60 of Geiss and a Cyrix 5x86 processor. This was fixed in Geiss 3.61.

Question:   Are you going to make a 3dfx version, or support AMD's 3dNOW! instructions? It would be a lot faster.

Answer:   No - 3dfx is not applicable to this program. Geiss is neither polygon-based or sprite-based, and therefore the hardware acceleration of 3dfx or other 2d/3d systems would offer it no benefits. In addition, it is mostly integer math, and 3dNOW! is only good for floating point math (which is much, much slower to start with, so I won't be switching to it!).

Question:   Why does it run so darn slow?

Answer #1:   Have you tried 8-bit color? This is the target color depth for the program. Higher bit depths (16,24,32) are there for posterity and the age of 1-gigahertz machines. They require 3 times as much processing: one for each red, green and blue buffer, as opposed to one monochrome (paletted) buffer in 8-bit modes; and then the blit (image copy) to the video card has to send about four times the volume of data every frame. As you can see, 8-bit color is going to be a lot smoother.

Answer #2:   Have you tried a lower resolution, like 640x480, or tried setting your "vertical screen size" to about 50%? The image is smooth enough that once you're at 640x480, you can't see much of a difference between it and higher resolutions. Also, the 50% vertical screen size saves a lot of CPU time and makes a cool letterbox effect.

Answer #3:   Are you running an AMD or Cyrix (as opposed to Intel)? That could be it. I've been able to tweak the main loop to very high frame rates on the Intel, but no matter what I try for the AMD, I can't get the same performance out of it. The AMD and Cyrix are good processors, but for this specific muscle of the processor, they don't hold up as well. Other related hardware could be RAM... slow RAM will hurt you, or a slow or small L2 cache will hurt very bad. Also, a cheap motherboard with a slow bus could drop performance too. Your video card shouldn't make a huge difference, though, as long as it has EDO or faster RAM, and is PCI or AGP (AGP is not taken advantage of yet... anybody want to buy me an AGP motherboard & video card so I can do it? :). Also, a 3d-accelerated video card will make NO difference.. What you see in Geiss right now is not hardware accelerated (nor can it be).

Answer #4:   Don't forget to minimize other windows first... this can make a huge difference, especially under '98.

I will add to this page as the questions roll in...

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