Thursday, 10 January 2013

Why do I have 6 monitors ?

Why do I have 6 monitors on my desk ?

The short answer is to make me more efficient, and the WOW factor when people / clients walk into my office. Nearly everyone that has been here remembers seeing my desk and monitors ;), I will run into people and they will not recognize me, or my name, but once I start talking about what I do, they will often remark, I remember you now, they guy with all those monitors.

It was originally set up to show clients that our water management software, Jobs2Crews was able to scale to a large multiple monitor setup, and is still often used for this scenario.

I have a good stand up desk, that has many levels, which allows me to have monitors on multiple  different levels, I have four different swing arms of which three are attached to my desk at the moment, allowing me many combinations of monitors.  This post is a discussion of varying setup and what I have found has worked for me

For the last four or so years, I have had my current monitor setup and a fairly used to it now, there are basically four configurations that I use, namely


Dual landscape 24" monitors - normal every day use, used with every scenario. This uses the least amount of power, generates the least amount of heat, which can be a factor in a Queensland summer. One problem with this layout is that the mouse can disappear into the top three monitors, which are still connected, but are just powered down. I am very used to this happening and know if I lose the mouse to move it down and it will reappear, it is interesting watching first time users of my setup lose the mouse often when in this mode ;)




Dual landscape 24" monitors, 1 portrait landscape 24" monitors normal use, monitoring a few other processes. I rarely use this setup.








Dual landscape 24" monitors, 3 portrait landscape 24" monitors usually used for demonstrating mapping software. This is Demo mode or impress the clients mode. This would be my second most used option. Unfortunately this configuration does not play movies well I have tried but its more annoying and just better to watch it one either the TV, the projector or just on one of the 24" monitors.




Dual landscape 24" monitors, 3 portrait landscape 24" monitors, 1 19" monitor rarely used.This Layout is only really used if we are doing demonstrations of Australian maps, as the very western point of Western Australia sticks out into the 19" monitor.




At the moment I only have 4 of my monitors connected as I have not had the time to replace a broken video card, but will do soon. I have 5 Dell 24" monitors 2 at eye level in landscape mode and three above that in portrait mode. There is a sixth monitor on a swing arm to the left.

The top three monitors are slightly tilted horizontally relative to the bottom three so that the cursor lines up better when I go from the top to the bottom or go back to the top.

I have tried various combinations and find that this current setup is best for me, and my work style and what I do. Others may find that different setups work better for them.

I have tried just using two of the 24" monitors in landscape mode and two 19" monitors on swing arm either sides that were swung in so that they were about 65' to my left and right, but I found this very awkward to use and felt very claustrophobic to use. I originally thought that this would be a very good setup where I was 'surrounded' by monitors but it just didn't work for me, and I have not seen many people that have set up multiple monitors this way.

I can not physically reach or really read the information easily at the very top of the top three monitors, the top of these monitors would be about 8 foot high, which is higher than the ceiling height in modern average homes in Australia, luckily my home has 12 foot ceilings. The top three monitors are generally used for review, so if I am running a process that I have to check on regularly, I can put the window up there, and if I need to interact with that window drag it back down, I often have the weather radar maps there. They area also to show large maps. The reason these monitors are so high, is due to the fact that they are on a stand up desk and I am over 6 foot tall.

Cable Management

Cable management as you can imagine is a bit of a nightmare, and something that you can see from the image that i have not 'managed' very well. All up just for the monitors there is 6 power cords, about 9 video cables, a combination of Digital and Analog, and one RCA plug (where i used to have a DVD player connected as well).

The Dell monitors work very well for this scenario, as I can rotate them 90' and they also have 5 separate inputs, and can do picture in picture. At one stage I also had a second computer hooked up to the bottom two monitors, so that they were one of the alternate inputs and I had a second keyboard on a slide out tray of my desk, but as virtualization and remote desktop management got better, I decided that I didn't need the extra complication of the second computer and removed it.

Drivers and rotation 

It can be a nightmare getting the setup working properly again, if there is a problem with a driver or re-installing windows, and I have found the best way is to get two monitors working, and then connect each monitor and configure the layout and rotation until it is correct and then move onto the next.

Software

I run standard Windows 7 and do not run any special tools that i have seen around for multiple monitors - I have tried a fair few of them and found that they did not really benefit me for what I do, but can understand that other people do find them advantageous.

I keep moving my windows task bar between the right of my monitor and the bottom, but generally have it on the right, I find that I prefer this, I think as I can have more windows open and see the titles of the windows a lot easier.

Summary

I have been using multiple monitors, since I discovered that it was possible about ten years ago, and stole the video card and monitor from my wife's computer to set it up that night, and have used them ever since, going from 1 to 2 monitors was the largest benefit, in reality although this setup is 'cool' and does offer some benefits, the increase in benefit is not that much higher than having two monitors. If you don't have multiple monitors, especially if you are a developer or working with graphics or maps - give it a try it will make a big difference to your life. 
If you have any questions feel free to get in touch with me

2 comments:

  1. I stumbled across this post after sharing details of my own multi-screen workstation in my case powered by Macs.

    However, much more interesting is this blog's main topic! I have a keen interest in aerial robotics and stratellite concepts so will be following closely. :)

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  2. Thanks Kate, it looks like I have had a lot less problems setting up my system than you have ;) I didn't need to install or maintain any additional software to get it all working.

    I hope I keep things exciting for you

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