[kwlug-disc] Switch between monitors

Andrew Kohlsmith (mailing lists account) aklists at mixdown.ca
Thu Apr 5 10:38:16 EDT 2012

On 2012-04-04, at 4:43 PM, unsolicited wrote:
> However, warning: 2nd monitors are addictive. If you have the ability for a second monitor, now or in the future, you will likely want both monitors at the same time. For some amount of time.

Indeed they are. I've got a dual monitor setup and have just added two more, but not for a standard 1x4 or 2x2 display.

My home office "surrounds" my chair. I've got a 6' table that I typically type at and that has my workstation and laptop. To my left I have a 6' table for soldering and rework. To the left of that (behind my chair when I'm at the workstation) I have an 8' table that has various projects that are being tested/worked on, and to the left of that is a little 4' kitchen table for a little more project space. Viewed from above, it'd look like an uppercase, squared-off "G".

I put a second GeForce 8400GS ($70 for a reasonably fast card with DVI/HDMI/VGA outputs is a steal) in the workstation and added a third monitor in portrait mode. I set it up at the soldering table, and then installed another monitor on the wall behind the 8' table. The one on the soldering station is for bills of materials, data sheets, layouts, etc so I can look up, see what I need to do and do it, make notes as I do them and so on.  The one on the long table is usually graphing stuff (temp, bandwidth, etc., etc.) and has a Chrome window pointing to my Redmine system where I can enter bugs, update bugs or the wiki, etc.

So four monitors, two used as a bigger display and two used as "remote" displays. X already works well with multiple mice and keyboards, and modern window managers (gdm, kdm, or lxdm since I've pretty much given up on KDE) are Xinerama-aware, which means that they understand that having 4 monitors doesn't mean that you want the maximized window across all four. I kind of have a poor-man's Tony Stark (Iron Man movie) system in place where I work primarily on the two monitors at the workstation but I can easily pick up a window and drag it over to the monitor on the appropriate desk. I'm just missing the 3D display part. :-) Programs like Devil's Pie and wmctrl and zenity allow me to fine-tune and enhance the "which window goes where" logic and quickly move windows around from one screen to the other without the dragging, which is important because it would mean I could get dizzy.

On top of all of that, I've set up a fifth screen which is virtual. The idea behind that one is to be able to use xpra or OpenNX to have a place to put windows that I want to access remotely but still drag over to a real monitor when I'm not away from my desk.  I'll probably replace the second GeForce 8400 with USB2 video cards since I won't have so many cables going to the workstation, but it's a good start.

So yes, dual monitors are not only addictive, they're a gateway mechanism to even higher numbers of monitor use. :-)


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