I’ve had dual monitors for years … many years.
I’ve had a KVM switch for longer. This lets us switch the main monitor, keyboard and mouse connections between 4 different physical PCs. KVM – Keyboard, Video, Mouse. Actually, you can chain multiple KVMs together and basically support over 30 different physical machines.
For a few years now, I’ve been working using a laptop as my main desktop. The laptop sits on a shelf and gets connected to the KVM just like any other PC
- USB to a merged PS2 keyboard and mouse connection. This setup makes connecting and disconnecting the laptop really easy. The downside is that is only uses 1 monitor and the other monitor was dedicated to a single PC – a server. Over time, I’ve migrated more and more virtual machines to that server, so that running unstable programs in the hostOS was unacceptable. I’d been using the server as a desktop and run X/Windows, watched videos, remotely connected to other systems using X/clients, etc. This server had locked up twice in 2 weeks, which is completely unacceptable to me. Prior to using it as a desktop, the server was up multiple months and never crashed. The only time it came down was when a Linux kernel update was part of a patch. It was solid. Basically, we all know that X/Windows is not the most stable code, especially when we run proprietary (i.e. crap) video drivers. Those vendors are used to people thinking that rebooting every day is fine, so there’s no need to make better drivers. Linus has called out AMD/ATI and nVidia for their crap support of Linux.
- The server supports multiple monitors really well … except the stability issue. Some of the most popular articles on this blog explain how to get Ubuntu to work well with nVidia GPUs and dual monitors.
Dual monitors are well supported by Linux.
New Thought – Connect 2nd Monitor and Laptop
During an exercise session today, my mind was wandering. This is a good thing. It was subconsciously asking – why can’t my laptop use both monitors? I have 2 monitors and the laptop has both a VGA and an HDMI video out. I’ve used the HDMI to watch sports over the internet, give presentations on a projector and I use the VGA-out all the time connected through the KVM here, so both video connections work. If I connect 1 to the KVM and the other directly to the HDMI input on a 2nd monitor, it should work – right?
When I got back home from a hike, I found a 10ft HDMI cable and connected it between the laptop and the 2nd monitor. Then I opened the laptop lid and fiddled (technical term), with the Fn keys and monitor output control. Damn – it worked.
So now my laptop is pushing video to 2 monitors. The video looks really good on both screens, no artifacts, but that’s due to the laptop having a discrete ATI video card. Prior laptops could barely push 1 monitors – those with crap Intel-HD graphics, if you know what I mean.
The two monitors and resolutions are:
- A – 24" 1920×1200
- B – 23.5" 1920×1080
A Confession – I’m So Embarrassed
My laptop runs Windows7 x64 Home. There, I admitted it. There are a number of reasons for this that don’t matter to most of you nice people. But I barely use this hostOS for anything. For 99% of the day, I don’t see Windows. It is purely a hostOS for virtual machine(s).
Main Desktop is a Virtual Machine Running Ubuntu Server with LXDE
My main desktop is actually running in a VM. It is an Ubuntu Server 12.04 with LXDE loaded. It is rock solid. This VM has been up 13 days, if that means anything.
14:28:33 up 13 days, 8:16, 6 users, load average: 1.06, 0.97, 0.88
I keep it busy, as you can see.
VirtualBox has multiple monitor support – sorry, I don’t recall when they added it, but it is in the version that I use, so it doesn’t matter. To change this setting, I have to shutdown the VM, change the monitor count from 1 to 2 and restart. That worked and now I have 2 full screens showing the same content on both. One runs at 1200p and the other is 1080p, so obviously, the bottom is cut off on it. The graphics driver has nothing to do with the physical hardware in the laptop, it uses a virtualboxGPU driver. I still need to figure out how to get 2 different desktops to be displayed on different monitors. I’m not worried, since I know X/Windows. I think just a little research is needed.
In the meantime, the HostOS supports multiple monitors and running 2 VMs is working nice. one on each monitor.