How To: Triple Monitor Setup With Dual Monitor & Laptop (Linux & Windows)By Angsuman Chakraborty, Gaea News Network
Sunday, April 29, 2007
I started using dual monitors (SyncMaster 740N) on Linux (Fedora Core 6) about a month back on my new dream computer. I used GeForce 6200 LE with 256 MB RAM which provides for dual monitors with a VGA and DVI output. I had to use a DVI to VGA converter to attach the second monitor. Getting them to work was a pain on Linux. Finally I solved it with nvidia driver from Livna repository. Here is how I moved from single monitor to using dual monitors and then finally to triple monitors, the third one running Windows XP; all working seamlessly from the same keyboard and mouse and without using KVM. The monitors behave as a single big screen with individual controls. You can even use the techniques given here to use multiple monitors and screens without additional hardware or KVM.
I configured dual monitors using nVidia TwinView instead of using Xinerama / dual X windows solution for performance and ease of use. You can change it anytime from nVidia display settings, the powerfull graphical utility that comes with nVidia installation.
The same configuration can be much easily used on Windows XP as XP directly understands and configures for it. Linux too does understand multi-monitors natively but the nv driver which comes as default for nvidia graphics cards doesn’t work well. You need to install the nVidia drivers.
I really liked using dual monitors and soon realized why Bill Gates and others recommend it strongly. It is a serious producvity booster for developers and even for managers. As a natural extension I looked for adding another monitor to my already cramped desktop. I have couple of spare laptops lying around unused. I decided to use my Compaq 1 with GHz Pentium 3. It simply was too good a machine to simply use as a spare screen. It also came with OEM edition of Windows XP. I often need to test with browsers on Windows XP. So I decided to not only add the screen but actually have it running Windows XP.
My dream setup now consists of dual 17″ monitors running Fedora Core 6 on 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo and a widescreen laptop running Windows XP on 1GHz P3. The trick was in getting them all to work seamlessly from the same keyboard and mouse. KVM was the obvious solution and I had a spare one lying around. But KVM’s are not very user friendly as the screen switching antics can be tiring for prolonged use and not intuitive to my brain. I wanted something simpler, better and seamless. I wanted to move easily from monitor to monitor as I do with dual monitors and not just switch the display. I wanted to be able to operate all of them simultaneously. Knowing the VNC protocol, I realized I could build something to connect the computers over the network and simulate sharing the screen but it would be much easier if there was something off the shelf. I was willing to pay for it. The brilliant and free solution came from Synergy.
Synergy lets you easily share a single mouse and keyboard between multiple computers with different operating systems, each with its own display, without special hardware. It’s intended for users with multiple computers on their desk since each system uses its own monitor(s).
Redirecting the mouse and keyboard is as simple as moving the mouse off the edge of your screen. Synergy also merges the clipboards of all the systems into one, allowing cut-and-paste between systems. Furthermore, it synchronizes screen savers so they all start and stop together and, if screen locking is enabled, only one screen requires a password to unlock them all.
It is exactly what I was looking for. I fired up yumex and was delighted to find that Fedora repository already contained Synergy. Installing it was uneventful as any yum / yumex based installations are; no more specifying convoluted configurations as in Windows. I created a basic synergy configuration file and saved it as .synergy.conf in my home directory:
section: screens jaguar tomcat end section: links jaguar right = tomcat tomcat: left = jaguar end
I thought about making the screen circular but that proved unintuitive as well as distracting in terms of visual navigation. Do it and you will see why. If you would like to test circular screens then modify it as follows:
section: screens jaguar tomcat end section: links jaguar right = tomcat left = tomcat tomcat: left = jaguar right = jaguar end
The client side was even simpler to setup. The program gives you the option to act as client or server. In client mode you select the host to connect to and everything perfectly from that point.
I can cut-n-paste between the synergy screens which is a big time saver. The only thing I cannot do is drag applications across the screens as they are bound to the screen. I hope they will allow for transparent copying of files across screens in the next release. Their current take on it is - “That’s a very cool idea and it’ll be explored. However, it’s also clearly difficult and may take a long time to implement.”
Synergy does a lot of cool things behind your back to make all these magic happen. It even do the cr-lf to lf conversion of clipboard text for you when copying and pasting across linux to windows and vice versa. You can stop scrolling temporarily using the scroll lock. The laptop was connected using a wireless card with 52 Mbps throughput to a 100 Mbps AirLink+ switch. The laptop displayed minimal sluggishness in connecting over the network. Incidentally I use both X windows multiple screen facility on Linux and MSVDM for multiple screens on Windows XP. Both continued to work without any problems.
Let me know if you find this guide useful; pictures are appreciated.
PS. I think three monitors is the sweetest spot of multiple monitor configuration; having a laptop for the third monitor is just sweeter. Now I can directly use three processors from my desktop not to mention others using VNC.
Tags: Decided, The client, Things, Trick, Why