Daily Archives: May 9, 2008

Two computers, one desk

Since the Sun box arrived, I’ve been struggling with the logistics of my workspace.

Clearing the desk for the shiny new 24″ monitor was straightforward enough. But how to deal with two computers: both the new Solaris box and the existing Linux one? A remote desktop isn’t an option, because I want to be able to work at either computer while the other is powered down. For a day I perched the old box’s monitor on the corner of the desk, but the stiffness of my neck after an hour working at it told me clearly that’s not sustainable.

Well, that 24″ monitor has two inputs (digital and analogue). The Sun came with a digital lead, and I was using analogue on the Linux box. Plugging both in works, and under normal operations the monitor can be switched between them. A solution therefore appears to be to plug both computers in to the one monitor. But can the Linux box be configured to recognise the Sun hardware and use the full 1920×1200 display, as opposed to a a distressingly small subsection? The Sun hardware is too new for the system to auto-recognise and configure. And the Solaris box doesn’t even have an xorg.conf from which I could copy relevant parts.

Well, yesterday I fixed it, with a bit of help from the good folks on IRC (thanks arreyder, yango et al). Two computers, one monitor, and both computers giving a great display! Now I can retire the old monitor.

Still a few downsides. I can’t share a keyboard&mouse the same way, so I have to swap them around and regularly find myself typing at the wrong one. And I miss the sound on the old monitor – the new one has none. But nothing that’s a showstopper. And, not least, whereas the old monitor was selected for (among other things) its low energy consumption at about 40W, the new one is rated 90W.

I’ve also just come to appreciate the value of USB. With the Sun box to the left of the desk and the mouse at my right hand, that’s an awkward connection. But the Sun keyboard rides to the rescue, with two USB ports in the back, so I only have to plug the mouse in to the keyboard.