Matt RaibleMatt Raible is a Java Champion and Developer Advocate at Okta.

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Over 10 years ago, I wrote my first blog post. Since then, I've authored books, had kids, traveled the world, found Trish and blogged about it all.

RE: One 30" monitor or two 23" monitors?

My post asking about one 30" monitor or two 23" monitors generated quite a few comments. After reading The Large Display Paradox, it seems like I should either find something like WinSplit Revolution for the Mac, or get 2 monitors. I agree with everything that Jeff Atwood says about maximizing windows, that's why I originally thought two 23" monitors might be better.

However, the problem with two monitors is I'd need to get Matrox's DualHead2Go Digital Edition to run both on my PowerBook MacBook Pro. Frederic notes some issues I might experience with this device:

It worked ok with 2 17" LCD monitors but did have some issues with most games... One thing to keep in mind is that it may not have the bandwidth to drive anything over 2x1280x1024.

I don't play games (too addictive), but if I can't drive both monitors at 1900x1200, it's probably not worth it.

So you're getting a 30" monitor then?

Maybe, but there's a problem with the 30" that I didn't think of: I'd need dual video cards in my Windows box to drive it. Not only that, my KVM switch probably can't handle a 30" monitor. If I'm wrong, and I can drive a 30" monitor through a single DVI KVM switch, let me know. In the meantime, I'm strongly considering a single 23" with my MacBook Pro on an iCurve next to it. That gives me dual monitors when I'm on the Mac, but not on Windows. That's OK - I don't use my Windows box that much anyway.

Posted in Mac OS X at Aug 24 2007, 11:08:31 AM MDT 9 Comments

The 30" cinema display needs "dual-link DVI", not dual video cards. Your PowerBook probably already has dual-link support:

As for driving two screens off your PowerBook, I used the VTBook PCMCIA-to-DVI adapter for awhile. It was noticeably slower than the built-in external monitor support, so much so that it slowed everything down whenever I used that screen (I guess most programs like web browsers don't think of drawing to the screen as a blocking activity).

It also had bad problems with hot swapping, which was a big issue because it stuck out the side of my laptop. I couldn't just put my laptop to sleep and slip it into its bag.

Posted by Bob Lee on August 24, 2007 at 11:36 AM MDT #

Thanks Bob - the dual-link DVI is good to know. I made a mistake in the post and said "PowerBook" when I meant MacBook Pro. I'm pretty sure MacBook Pros support the 30" as well. I guess I can buy a dual-link DVI for my Windows box and be all set for a 30". But will it work with a normal DVI KVM Switch? I have the Geffen that Ben recommended.

Are you still using "two monitors turned sideways" setup?

Posted by Matt Raible on August 24, 2007 at 11:55 AM MDT #

It still sounds like two monitors is way more trouble that it's worth. You have to buy this, you have to buy that, and maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. All this for what, a slight gain in productivity? Maybe? I guess it depends on what your ultimate goal is with all of this, but I think there are better ways to make yourself more productive.

When I had to work on a Windows box and my Mac, I would plug the Windows box into the VGA port and the Mac into the DVI port. I also have a keyboard with a USB hub that I plugged my mouse into. When I need to switch back and forth, I hit the button to change from DVI to VGA then unplugged one USB cable from one machine and plugged it into the other, a ghetto fabulous KVM swtich if you will. No extra equipment, worked just fine, got stuff done.

The most productive software engineer I have ever known worked off a 14'' laptop. Never once did he plug it into a monitor.

Posted by Keller on August 24, 2007 at 12:25 PM MDT #

Hey, try this right now before you plunk down any money!

It's an open source cross platform keyboard/mouse tool that does the same work as a KVM. I have an Apple PowerBook next to a Lenovo R60 Thinkpad next to a Lenovo Desktop.

PowerBook Screen <-> Thinkpad Screen <- (extended desktop) Lenovo Monitor <-> Lenovo Desktop Monitor

All on the same mouse and keyboard. The only screens that are truly shared are the Thinkpad and spare monitor.

You could have say a Mac Mini, a couple of laptops, a couple of desktops, etc. all lined up and the mouse can flow from screen to screen. It's not perfect but it's a sight better then hitting KVM buttons or double-CTRL presses.

Posted by James on August 24, 2007 at 03:08 PM MDT #

Thanks for the tip James - I've heard of Synergy and played around with it a bit. It works quite well, though not as good as Win2VNC. I generally don't use the KVM much - I prefer using VNC or RDC to pull in the other computer's OS into the same monitor.

Posted by Matt Raible on August 24, 2007 at 03:15 PM MDT #

I run a 19" Acer display alongside my MacBook Pro on an iCurve, and they line up and work beautifully - can highly recommend it (and you don't have any extra kit to buy!).

I then run Remote Desktop Connection full screen on the Acer for connection to my Windows box (single screen only - as I use it less). Works fine, single mouse/keyboard and relatively clutter free desk.

Like the sound of the two monitors turned sideways though!!

Posted by Al Power on August 26, 2007 at 11:09 AM MDT #

I'd recommend against the iCurve solution. I had that setup for a while with a 17" (old) Mac LCD and a Powerbook G4. They lined up exactly for a while, but the iCurve just wasn't as exact as I'd like. One side was slightly higher than another... so much so that in order to get the laptop level, I now have to stick a stack of notecards ~ 1/2" think under one side.

YMMV, but I wasn't really too happy with it. Perhaps I'm a little OCD, but the differences in tilt, etc just drove me nuts.

I thought the MackBook Pro could drive two DVI monitors at the same time... is that wrong? Is it a matter of pixels?

Posted by Marcus Breese on August 26, 2007 at 03:07 PM MDT #

> I thought the MackBook Pro could drive two DVI monitors at the same time... is that wrong?

AFAIK, the only way to drive two DVI monitors at the same time is to have two DVI ports. MacBook Pros only have one. That's why I mentioned Matrox's DualHead2Go - it allows you to hook two DVI monitors to one DVI port.

Posted by Matt Raible on August 26, 2007 at 07:58 PM MDT #

Matt, Thanks for blogging about the iCurve - I bought it's successsor, the Elevator, for my new 15" MacBook Pro at work. It just came in and I'm loving it. Will post pictures to my blog later.

Posted by Matt Stine on August 29, 2007 at 02:43 PM MDT #

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