The content of this blog is my personal opinion only. Although I am an employee - currently of Nvidia, in the past of other companies such as Iagination Technologies, MIPS, Intellectual Ventures, Intel, AMD, Motorola, and Gould - I reveal this only so that the reader may account for any possible bias I may have towards my employer's products. The statements I make here in no way represent my employer's position, nor am I authorized to speak on behalf of my employer. In fact, this posting may not even represent my personal opinion, since occasionally I play devil's advocate.

See http://docs.google.com/View?id=dcxddbtr_23cg5thdfj for photo credits.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I love USB Display Adapters!

I love displays! I love looking at large numbers of pixels, relatively large pixels for my aging eyes.

When encountering the various fanboyisms of my friends and coworkers - gaming, netbooks - I have often felt somewhat embarassed, since I'm really not that much into games, not that much into PCs of clamshell formfactor. I am somewhat into tablet PCs and handhelds, but those are expensive enough that I cannot really exercise my enthusiasm.

But LCD displays have come down in price. And USB display adapters have made it feasible to attach many displays to my laptops - I still haven't bought a desktop system in more than 10 years.

Best of all, I can almost, *almost*, act as if my love of large display surfaces is work related. It sure does help to be able to look at really, really, wide spreadsheets (although really, really, wide spreadsheets are a bit of an abomination). It helps to be able to read papers, or patents, in PDF a full page at a time.

Yesterday and today I went a bit overboard. It's been a while building. Confronted with aforementioned really wide spreadsheets, I went and bought a second 1680x1050 monitor for use at work, matched to the company provided monitor. (After asking IT, who said that I could only have two monitors if they were smaller, 1400x1050. Which rather misses the point.)

Since I wanted to work at home in Hillsboro, as well as at work in Bellevue, I bought a second LCD monitor at home. But this was 1900x1200. Do you realize how much more you can see on a 1900x1200 monitor? Almost didn't need to stretch the spreadsheet across both monitors. Since I have no docking station, I used a Tritton SEE2 Xtreme USB display adapter. Which works fine, and which allowed me to have not just two, but three displays: the two 1900x1200 external monitors, and my laptops' LCD.

It's a slippery slope. Last week I almost went out and bought 2 more monitors for use at work. Instead, I decided to drive my two 1900x1200 monitors from Hillsboro to Bellevue, carefully wrapped in sleeping bags and clothes. So now, on my big Biomorph desk at work (another piece of personal equipment) I have 5 monitors: two 1900x1200 in landscape mode, and the two 1050x1680, in portrait mode. Plus the laptop LCD display.

I originally set these up with 2 different USB display adapters: the old Tritton SEE2 Xtreme, and a new Diamond USB Pro, bought last night on my way to Bellevue. This gave me 4 monitors, in combination with the two DVI ports on my Dell docking station. But there were issues: in particular, Windows restricted me to 16 bit color on one of the displays. Plus, I had forgotten an AC cable.

First trip back to Frye's: bought the power cable. And another Diamond USB Pro. Now all works... Except that the Tritton monitor keeps misbehaving, occasionally hanging. So I make another trip back to Frye's. Now I have 3 Diamond USB Pros, 2x1900x1200 + 2x1050x1680 + the laptop LCD. The laptop resolution is reduced, to 1200x800, but I can't really complain.

Let's see, that's 8.88 megapixels, if I have done my math correctly. Most of it driven by USB. Probably no good for video or games, but good enough to throw a lot of data up where I can look at it.

More! I want more! More slow pixels! If I could plug in e-paper displays all about my office, I would.

We're on the verge of LCDs and e-paper being cheap enough to replace the whiteboards that are ubiquitous in offices. Nice thing, this is a continuous acceptance curve: it's not so quantized as many other application areas are.

Eventually, we must get rid of refresh.