It’s Like Living in the Future

If you ever bother to go to my AOL blog By The Way, then you’ll know that yesterday I gacked up a multi-monitor sort of set-up for here at home, in which my laptop is running two monitors: the laptop monitor and the monitor that came with the new computer I bought as a media server/Athena’s computer (her previous computer’s motherboard zapped itself into oblivion, making Athena very sad), and the they’re both connected to my primary computer by way of a wireless LAN.

However, as I was congratulating myself for my ingenuity, one of the Whatever readers offered another suggestion — a program called MaxiVista, which creates a virtual video card you can use to use your laptop as a second monitor for your desktop computer. I checked it out and after about 30 minutes, I went ahead and bought the software, and now I’m getting what I really wanted, which is a second screen for my desktop computer.

But wait, here’s where it gets really cool (from the dork point of view). MaxiVista does not (as far as I can tell) have the capability to rope in the the third monitor I have (which I was using as the second monitor for the laptop) but while the laptop is running the second screen for the desktop, the third monitor I have is still usable as a monitor for the laptop. So I still have full laptop functionality even when the laptop’s screen is slaved to the desktop. And since you can minimize the desktop second screen on the laptop (thus calling up the laptop’s primary screen), functionally speaking, I get the use of two screens per computer, using a mere three screens. Now I feel like a friggin’ geeeenius.

Aside from being just geek cool, this is very useful for me because at any one time I usually have about 40,000 windows open on my computer. Anything that gives me more real estate to do everything I have to do is okay by me. The only real problem is that sometimes I forget which keyboard I’m supposed to be using for what screen, thus leading to jerky comical movements as I correct mid-stream and lunge for the other keyboard.

Incidentally, this is the point where I throw any pretense of not being a full-on nerd right out the window. All the signs were there, of course: The geek education, the various jobs in the high-tech industry, the writing of science fiction and what have you. But since I can’t actually, you know, code or do math, I never gave myself over to the full geek label. But I think wiring up a threeway monitor set-up qualifies, both as a minimum technical requirement and also for thinking it’s so damn cool. I don’t claim to be a secret master of nerd-dom or anything like that; I know some of them, and I know I don’t rate. Even so, this has got to count for something. Can I be in the geek club now? Please?

19 Comments on “It’s Like Living in the Future”

  1. Godspeed, Scalzi. I’ve found dual/multiple monitor setups to be a monumetal pain to support.

    Then again, I’m working with “corporate standards,” which states that my employer doesn’t give a friggin’ rat’s ass whether anyone supports dual monitor on a docked laptop, goshdarnit. The business units want these puppies, so deploy them.

    We got even. Some of them now have to upgrade to Windows XP, which supports dual monitors beautifully. the howls of agony while we iron out the inevitable upgrade bugs are music to my ears.

    Yes, I’m vicious.

  2. John, the Club of Geek is self-nominating. Anyone willing to call himself one publicly gets a membership card. You only have to bite off the head of a chicken if you want the gold card.

    I’m writing this from home, where I have three laptops in active use, and an external monitor on laptop #2, for four screens of intensive radiation. I’ve got some gizmo software that does the opposite of what you’ve got — instead of slaving the screens to each other, I can control any computer from laptop #1 by moving the mouse off the screen. Way cool.

    And on laptop #1, I’m running multiple desktop software with 10 virtual screens, which I find is crucial for managing window clutter — and for keeping stuff I’m working on, just not NOW, out of the way.

  3. I think at this time, it might be crucial to affirm that you have, indeed, actually kissed a girl before…

  4. Hah! You do know that this is the first step down a long and slippery slope, don’t you? Before long you’ll be drooling over sites like and getting into extended arguments about whether it’s only CRT monitors that truly have refresh rates.

    At any rate, welcome to geekdom!

  5. I think true geekdom may require that one of those machines is running some flavor of Linux. However, I can give you a pass if youre using Firefox as your primary browser…

  6. Ooooh yeah, self nominating. I’ve got 5 PCs at home, all working. I get a new one every couple years and bump the oldest one off the list. When I go to Best Buy they ask *me* where stuff is, and I laugh (ha ha haha ha) at extended warranties. I’ve got all three game consoles.

    To afford all this I stay one year behind the technology curve. Things are nearly as good and much cheaper there. Last year’s hot model is this year’s bargain, and that goes for technology, too.

  7. PeterP:

    “However, I can give you a pass if you’re using Firefox as your primary browser…”

    Are you kidding? Not only am I using it, when I configured the computer Athena’s going to use, I installed Firefox and junked the IE icon from the desktop the first thing. No child of *mine* should have to use IE.

    Honestly, I can’t remember a time when I regularly used IE by choice. I’ve always been on the Mosiac-Netscape-Mozilla-Firefox path.

  8. We’ll conditionally accept you :-)

    Multi-monitors rule. I’ve been spanning my monitors since I purchased a used powerbook a couple years ago and stumbled across the idea, and I’ve never looked back. There’s a study somewhere showing that they make you more productive…

  9. Hmmm….

    I’m a big proponent of the multi-monitor setup, have been for a couple of years now. And yet, I find that using a big LCD monitor and my laptop monitor is unsatisfactory; I tend to rely on the big monitor for most things. I’ve been thinking that I need to have two, identical monitors to fully enjoy the two-monitor life. But my laptop will only support ONE external monitor in addition to the laptop’s own built-in display.

    I do have a recent laptop lying around unused. I wonder if I could hook up a monitor to that, and suppress the on-board display, thus achieving true two-monitor nirvana—and getting an extra 60 GB of storage to play around with, too.


  10. Tripp says:
    >>”I’ve got all three game consoles.”

    You mean the Atari, the Amiga, and Pong!?
    Gotta love that pong.

  11. Hey you also have the major geek trump card. You have sucessfully passed on your geek genes.What will Athena’s desk look like in a decade?

  12. Dave,

    Surely you jest. I mean Atari, Colecovision, and Intellivision.

    I played the original Pong in ’74 on a tabletop for ten cents. We’ve come a long way, baby.

  13. Tripp writes:

    “I mean Atari, Colecovision, and Intellivision.”

    Not to pick nits, but Colecovision is next-gen relative to Atari 2600 and Intellivision. If you really want to be era accurate, it should be Atari (2600), Intellivision and Odyssey2.

    All of which, of course, I own.

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