Musings from

Sun, 21 Jun 2015

Running multi-monitor again

by on :

I‘ve been running single-monitor on my primary development workstation for quite some time, mostly due to physical constraints of the desk I was working on coupled with a general satisfaction regarding the effectiveness of wide-screen aspect ratios versus older 4:3 monitors.

However, I‘ve had a 23" full HD monitor sitting in a closet for … I don‘t know, a couple of years now, and recently my single monitor has started to feel cramped again.  I therefore remedied my space constraints by cleaning out and removing the hutch over my desk, and I‘m dual-monitored again for the first time in a number of years. Things aren‘t quite how I remember them, though.

I‘m going to need to adjust my desktop/wm situation (I haven‘t decided how, yet; more below), but … there‘s another problem that I did not experience when I was dual monitor (for many years) in the past — two wide screen displays.  I have to turn my neck something in the neighborhood of 15 degrees or so to view, comfortably, the left edge of the left monitor and the right edge of the right monitor.  That‘s not great.

I‘m not going to drop the cash on it right now, because I can‘t justify it (we‘ll see how my neck holds out, that might change things), but I think a much better setup might be two smaller bezel-less panels. I think something around 20" would probably be about right. Ideally, in 2015, they would also have a somewhat higher dot pitch. My XPS 13 has a dot pitch somewhere in the neighborhood of 170dpi, and I find to be a meaningful improvement over ~100dpi. Something closer to 200 or 300dpi would be even better.

As far as desktop environments go, I‘ve been using FVWM for several decades now. I like it. I don‘t really want to change, particularly. However, it has some limitations with multi-monitor desktops. In particular, its handling of multiple monitors on the same X11 display and screen (so that windows can be drug back and forth between the monitors) leaves something to be desired. For example, pages can only be flipped on both monitors in tandem. I would much rather be able to flip my monitors indepenently, so that, for example, I could put my editor (on the right-hand monitor) opposite either a web browser (for reading documentation), terminals (for email or general system manipulation), a document viewer (for document preparation), or whatever else. The most comfortable way to do that would be by flipping pages on the left monitor, while leaving the right monitor on my editor. FVWM can‘t do it.

I guess that means that in the near future (before I go buying any bezel-less monitors) I‘ll be test driving some new WMs. I don‘t look forward to it, but I have always maintained that pursuing the right tool for the job is the right thing to do. Maybe FVWM will be that tool, limitations and all, but maybe in 2015 we can do better.

tags: ergonomics, x11
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