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cheap big TFT monitor

I just received the latest Dell advert, they are offering a 22 inch monitor with 1680×1050 resolution for $499 including delivery! This is a great deal, I’ve got the same model of monitor at home (I paid $750 for it almost six months ago) and have been totally satisfied. The same monitor with a $499 price is amazing value.

In the past I blogged about the benefits of larger monitors for software development. Now these benefits are available to most computer users in first-world countries.

Now that 1680×1050 is commonly available I expect to see higher resolution monitors dropping in price, at the $800 and $1200 price-points there will need to be something better than that.

The next development will be new software to take advantage of this. One thing that I have heard of is a window manager that splits the display into two halves (in this case they would be 840×1050 resolution). The benefit of having this configuration (according to the people who use it) is that for maximising a window will make it take half the physical screen. This means that you could have a debugger in one half of the screen and your application in the other, to “maximise” the application would not occlude the debugger. Or you could have a web browser and a MUA each using half a screen.

Of course the same result could be achieved by getting two physical displays, but this requires a graphics card that supports “twin-head” operation, and the purchase price of two displays (which will add up to more than $500).

Splitting a screen into two virtual displays is not something that would suit my working patterns. For a lot of my work I just have a screen filled with as many Xterms as will fit. For the GUI stuff I am happy to manually resize things. Maybe a KDE addition that would allow one “Desktop” to be split while another isn’t would work.

A final impediment to splitting the screen is that 840 pixels is not enough to correctly display all web sites (many of which are designed for 1024×768). Maybe if I had a split desktop with an icon on the title-bar of the window to unsplit it for one particular window then it would work.

Another use for a large display is virtualisation. I previously blogged about how to use Xephyr to run multiple X sessions on one display, as Xen is now supported in all Linux distributions and KVM and other
virtualisation technologies are also being developed there should be a lot of demand to have multiple virtual machine GUI displays on one desktop (although you could probably do this by manually sizing the windows).

These are just some wild ideas, I have no plans to write the code for any of them, so it’ll be a matter of whatever is desired by the people who write the code or pay them. But one thing is certain, the low prices of such monitors will drive new research into how to use them effectively. New technology to effectively use large displays will then drive demand for even larger displays (as will the people who just want to get something better and more expansive than their neighbours). I wonder when we will get to the stage when people are satisfied. For basic office applications commodity PC hardware has far surpassed what is needed for people to do their work.

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