Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Double Your Viewing Pleasure

No, that's not really a picture of my desktop setup. But that would be awesome. You see, I recently bought a 19" LCD display, despite the fact that my current Viewsonic 17" CRT hardware is working perfectly fine. Now granted, I'm not usually much of an impulse buyer, but the President's Day deal at Microcenter was just too good to pass up. So what's the solution, you might ask? A dual-display setup. You know it!

But since the monitors are different sizes, it might seem odd to stick them side-by-side. The beauty in this setup is that the 19" LCD is widescreen (1440 x 900), so they're actually both about the same height. Still.. why two monitors??

Though I'm still figuring out creative ways to utilize this, here are a few things you can do w/ a dual display setup.

1. Dedicate one monitor for the web (ie: the secondary monitor on the right). This way you can watch movies/tv shows on the other screen, while simultaneously looking up stuff or checking email. Keep in mind, in each of these scenarios you can set either display as the primary monitor, whichever is more convenient for you.

2. Keep one monitor for gaming. In truth, I have yet to find a fullscreen game that allows effortless display switching once the game is running. I have found that you usually have to alt-tab out of the game to access your web browser on the other screen. This doesn't mean you can't open a read-only gamefaq webpage or word document on the other screen.

3. Multi-task. Multi-task. Multi-task. This one is pretty obvious, but worth pointing out. The main reason for doubling your desktop area is to increase your amount of simultaneous applications running. Turning your head a few degrees is often much faster than tediously alt-tabbing to get to the other programs you're using, and especially more efficient than shuffling taskbar items around.

4. Two is better than one! What's better than one beautiful display?? Well.. having two displays, obviously. Now I know you're gonna eventually get diminishing marginal returns. Much like the damn "Mach 3" razor blades and ridiculous quad-core CPUs coming out. I know, it's quality over quantity, but c'mon, I'm sure you could use it for something. If nothing else, you can enjoy watching the Windows defrag screen on that second screen.

On a side note, I was disappointed to immediately find a "stuck pixel" on my brand new LCD screen. In the past, I've been lucky enough to never encounter this problem, but now I was faced with how to fix said pixel. First though, I'd like to clarify that there's a difference between a "dead pixel," a "hot pixel," and a "stuck pixel". A dead pixel is defective and always appears black, a hot pixel is always lit and appears white, while a stuck pixel means that one or more of the sub-pixels (red, blue, green) are permanently turned on. In my case, I had one tiny pixel that was always blue, which was only noticeable in an all black screen.

I was able to fix this quite easily through some of the links on the Stuck Pixel Wikipedia entry. Using a special video file of flashing red, green and blue, the stuck pixel was gone rather effortlessly. I ran the video, found on this website (linked here), directly over the pixel for about half and hour and that was it.

In addition, I also found a great third-party application called UltraMon (Windows only) for extending the taskbar over to the second screen, not to mention several other great features. So check it out if you've got a dual setup for Windows.

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