Nice toy for a whirler

Subject: Nice toy for a whirler
From: Sandy Harris <sandy -at- storm -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 02 Nov 2000 13:22:24 -0500

Quite few systems -- Macs back to 68020 days, Win 98, I think recent versions
of NT, various Unices -- support multiple monitors. Matrox even make video
cards that give you dual screens using one AGP slot.

Multiple monitors are wondeful for whirling. You're editing your doc on one
screen while the other displays the application, or the spec, or the SME's
email comments, or a browser's view of your HTML, or ... Or you're handling
email on one while browsing for info on the other, or Using Windows apps on
one while the other does VNC (http://www.uk.research.att.com/vnc/) to your
Linux box or ..

There are a lot of big monitors off various old Unix boxes on the surplus
market. They won't work as primary monitor on a PC (barring expensive
adapters or clever tricks) because they only run at one set of frequencies
(or a limited range). They cannot do "standard" VGA or switch resolutions.
PC monitors are typically "multi-sync", able to run at a range of signal
frequencies.

Fixed-frequency monitors are usually dirt cheap. Locally, I can buy a 19"
or 20" workstation monitor for under $100 Canadian while a similar-size
used multisync monitor is $500 or more and even 17" $250 or so. YMMV.

As a second monitor on a PC these fixed-frequency monitors are happy.
Since they're huge, cheap, and high-quality, this is useful. Since you
keep your primary monitor and video card, things like BIOS setup or
Windows "safe mode" boots that require 640*480 VGA still work fine.

I have a lot of spare parts around. They included:

HP c2746a 20 inch monitor, off an old server (HP 715?)
ATI mach 64 PCI card (mine's the VT model; I don't know if that matters)
VGA-to-5-BNC cable

I plugged these into a 98 box with an AGP card as primary video adapter, fiddled
a bit and bingo! Dual monitors with no cost and minimal sweat.

This is so useful and was so cheap I'll likely add a third one soon. If I'd had
to buy the parts, my cost for the lot would have been about $100 US.

For 98, once the video card and its drivers were installed, setup was trivial.
I just told it I had a generic monitor capable of 1280*1024 @ 75 Hz. It then
gave me a menu of refresh rates. I'm using 1152*864 @75 Hz. That is the highest
resolution you can use with 16-bit colour on a 2 meg card and I find it quite
readable. Set that, play with the monitor's buttons to adjust display, and
that's it. Perhaps 10 minutes total work.

This HP monitor is very well-behaved. If you try a resoution it can't handle
(e.g. I tried 1600*1200 with this board/driver/OS combination's default refresh
rate), the monitor just goes into a power-save state. Other monitors might not
behave so well. It is at least theoretically possible to produce smoke by
feeding some monitors incorrect signals long enough. If you try this with
some monitor whose behaviour under stress you don't know, exercise caution.

I've rebooted the machine in Linux. No problem. By default, it just sees
the primary monitor. The HP sees no signal, goes politely into a power-save
mode. I don't yet know if I can get the multi-screen stuff in Linux.

Details on these monitors, including info for setting them up on Linux are at:

http://freeweb.pdq.net/jcooper/c2746a.htm

My guess is these monitors would be available almost anywhere (they were a
common HP part) and that the same trick would work with other monitors.
Sun, SGI, other HP, ... A reference on those is:

http://www.griffintechnology.com/monitor.html

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