Using three monitors

I’ve been using two monitors with two graphics cards on my computer for long time. I’ve got another spare old CRT monitor so why not to utilize it? I connected it to a free VGA port on one of the cards and started experiments.

Compared to the two independent graphics cards setup, using two monitors connected to a single card handling a single desktop was relatively easy. By default the monitors show the same screen. I tried to setup Xinerama but these attempts have always finished with X server segmentation faults. After some more searching I’ve found that the proper tool to use, other than Xinerama, is XRandR. I just had to upgrade the xrandr utility to a newer version. Then it was easy, using xrandr one can play with dual monitor setups on the fly, without needing to restart the X server (which is equal to reboot on my dual card machine). And StumpWM works great with XRandR, I had just to figure out that the second monitor screen is nothing else than another frame.

The only problem is that the whole XRandR setup is limited to the total possible graphics card resolution, 1920×1200 in my case. So the second monitor is limited to 640×480 resolution in my setup. But it’s still well usable for tasks like watching TV while doing something else.

Microsoft user

I’ve been a user of Microsoft products for some time now. No, I didn’t install their operating system on my workstation of course. But I started to use their Natural Ergonomic Desktop 7000 wireless keyboard + mouse set.

When looking for an ergonomic wireless keyboard several months ago I’ve found that the Natural 7000 set is the only choice. Except for Microsoft, only Logitech offered split wireless keyboards, but they didn’t manage to understand where the backslash key belongs to so it was no option for me.

Surprisingly this new Microsoft keyboard is based on the standard keyboard layout, with addition of some more or less useful keys. It fits into my hands very well and typing on it is more comfortable than on my old Chicony ergonomic keyboard. Its adjustable tilt looks like a good idea to me, I like it. It was just necessary to get use to the keyboard as it’s somewhat different to my previous keyboard in its shape. I also had to get rid of my bad typing habits to use the keyboard well. I can’t judge on real usefulness of the extra keys because they don’t work with the latest Linux VServer kernel and I have to wait until VServer gets updated for the last Linux changes. My only complaint about the keys so far is that the multimedia keys look very cheaply built and feel like they could fall apart any time. But Microsoft offers three year warranty for the set so we’ll see.

The mouse feels very well too. I think the side holding approach is a very good idea, it became relief for my hand after some time of its use. The mouse is nice to handle, it’s just too sensitive for my taste (any way to get it change in X?). Some people complain the mouse is too heavy but for me it’s completely fine. The side buttons are easy to reach for me (unlike for most people who reviewed the mouse on internet). There is one problem with the mouse: The left and right scroll wheel movement and especially clicking the scroll wheel (the middle button) are very though. I often have to press the middle button more than once before it actually clicks. I don’t know whether this is a feature or a problem of my particular mouse.

It’s necessary to note that my hands and fingers are longer than average and that people with smaller hands may feel both the keyboard and mouse uncomfortable.

I can’t say much about the operating range of the keyboard and mouse as I use them very near to the receiver. I tried to type something and handle the mouse at several places about 5 meters away from the receiver including one thick wall in between and it seemed to work well as long as there was no special obstacles in the way, as a computer case or my body.

As for the power source I put some old NiMH accumulators to both the keyboard and mouse. They last for about 1-2 months in the keyboard and for about twice as long in the mouse (note I use a keyboard much more than a mouse). Although both the devices are equipped with low battery warning lights, they appeared to be useless. For the first time when the accumulaters got exhausted the keyboard suddenly stopped work in the middle of typing, the same happened later to the mouse. The next time the keyboard light just blinked shortly three times and the keyboard stopped work immediately after that. Perhaps it would work better with alkaline batteries, I don’t know.

Overall I’m pretty satisfied with the set despite its minor annoyances. It’s really ergonomic and well usable and this is what matters for me.