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Two computers, three monitors and some funky software

At Bam, I’ve had a second 19″ Dell LCD sitting idle on my desk for a while. Why has it been idle? Because the video card on my desktop doesn’t support multiple monitors. This was quite depressing as I love dual monitors, but I didn’t have time to find a card that would work for me (My box is half height, and only supports PCI express severely limiting my card choices).

Then I discovered a little piece of software called Maxivista, which allows you to use a second computer as a virtual video card. It just so happens that my laptop supports an additional monitor as well as the built in laptop and since I take it to work most days it was a perfect candidate for the Maxivista treatment. By downloading the Pro version (about $50AU) I managed to set up THREE, count them THREE monitors! The image below shows my setup:

My three monitor setup!

The way it works is simple, yet ingenious – on the host (or server) you install the “virtual video cards”, which is just a software driver. The drivers appear to the host as a normal video card. You need to start a virtual card for each virtual monitor you want to support (I setup two). Then on the client/s you install a small app, which receives the video signal. I run two different instances of the software on my laptop, so I get two different monitors.

The lag is surprisingly low! For day-to-day development work, you don’t notice it at all. I was watching a YouTube video on the second monitor today and it was pretty smooth, although you wouldn’t be able to watch a DVD or play a game, but it is still pretty darn impressive!

I’d also recommend installing UltraMon – it allows you to add a discrete taskbar to each window, which makes organising you desktop even easier. I have my IDE in one window, a test browser in my second and my “Getting stuff done” stuff (time tracking, task lists etc) on my third. It is panoramic bliss! :)

9 comments

  1. I could never get it to run on my system (Although that was V2, which had a few problems), but on paper it definitely sounds great.



    However - running it on Win Vista causes a few issues. Vista's new driver model is incompatible with apps like this, so the only way you will get joy on Vista is by running XP drivers, which is essentially using 'compatibility mode', and slower performance.



    This is due to Vista no longer supporting video drivers from different manufacturers simultaneously (change in driver architecture).



    But if you're not planning on running Vista, then it's certainly a very cool app, and a bargain too.
  2. Vista doesn't support video drivers from different manufacturers?! You serious?



    What was the reason behind that?
  3. Dave's such a spoil-sport. I'm a big fan of Ultramon though - been using it for a few years now, I don't know what I'd do without it!



    I was trying to find an article I read ages ago, but I couldn't find it - it said that any smart employer who valued their programmers would invest in dual video cards for them because of the massive productivity boost that comes from multiple monitors. I thought Miles would like that :)
  4. Well maybe that would convince him to actually buy the video card that I eventually found :)
  5. Something to do with the architecture of the new drivers, which run in a different layer now (so a video driver crash cannot bring down the OS).



    At any rate, you can no longer run (eg) an Nvidia and an ATI card at the same time if you want to use the Aero interface.



    This also applies to MaxiVista, since it installs a faux video driver.



    Linky here;



    http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/device/display/multimonVista.mspx
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