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Schizo Desktop III: Monitors

I have an of­fice. It's like a home of­fice but it's in an­oth­er place. It's just mine, so I get the peace and qui­et of a home of­fice but al­so get to go out­side to get there. It's a good set­up.

BUT I have two com­put­ers there. Well, ac­tu­al­ly I have like 10, but I in­ter­act with two. One is my per­son­al desk­top com­put­er, the oth­er is my work lap­top. and I want to use the same pe­riph­er­als in the same way with both of them. That's why I have the world's most com­pli­cat­ed schizo desk­top set­up.

This se­ries of posts will doc­u­ment it, the why and how of it, and the var­i­ous things I've learned along the way, along with mak­ing you want to buy weird chi­nese gad­get­s.

Today: Monitors

I have at least three mon­i­tors for my two com­put­er­s. It can get more com­pli­cat­ed than that, but let's just lim­it this to the "ba­sic­s".

Be­cause one of the com­put­ers (my work one) is a note­book, it has its own mon­i­tor. Then I have two reg­u­lar mon­i­tors, both 1080p, one of them land­scape and the oth­er por­trait.

This is how that look­s.

The three monitors described above

This would nor­mal­ly be just a mat­ter of plug­ging them in the right com­put­er, but ... in my case there is no right com­put­er!

When I am work­ing, I want the mid­dle mon­i­tor to be con­nect­ed to my work lap­top, and when I am not, I want it con­nect­ed to my desk­top.

The right­most mon­i­tor I al­ways want for my desk­top (usu­al­ly play­ing mu­sic or videos while I work) and of course the lap­top keeps con­trol of its own screen.

Ad­di­tion­al­ly I want to be able to spo­rad­i­cal­ly con­nect ran­dom com­put­ers (like rasp­ber­ry pis) and have them show up on a mon­i­tor.

Now it's not so ob­vi­ous, right?

Enter The HDMI Matrix

This is a 4x2 HD­MI ma­trix. It has 4 in­puts and 2 out­put­s. That means it can get 4 dif­fer­ent video sig­nals and will route them to 2 dif­fer­ent mon­i­tors in a com­plete­ly ar­bi­trary man­ner.

  • Want in­put 1 in both out­put­s? Sure.
  • Want in­put 1 in mon­i­tor 1 and in­put 2 in mon­i­tor 2? Sure.
  • Want it the oth­er way around? Sure.

It's to­tal­ly over­pow­ered for what I need, which could be done with a sim­pler 4x1 switch, but hey, it's nice.

So, I have 4 in­puts con­nect­ed:

  1. My desk­top com­put­er
  2. My desk­top com­put­er
  3. My work lap­top
  4. A ca­ble that I can reach un­der the desk­top

The out­puts are con­nect­ed to the mid­dle and right­most mon­i­tors in the desk re­spec­tive­ly.

When I work, the con­fig­u­ra­tion is in­put 3 in the mid­dle mon­i­tor, in­put 1 in the right­most mon­i­tor.

When I am not work­ing, it's in­put 2 in the mid­dle mon­i­tor, in­put 1 in the right­most mon­i­tor.

When I have a rasp­ber­ry I want to look at for a mo­men­t, that's in­put 4 to the mid­dle mon­i­tor.

Of course there is an­oth­er prob­lem:

The por­trait mon­i­tor does­n't know it's on its side. So ev­ery­thing is ro­tat­ed 90 de­grees when shown there.

Enter AutoRandr

Au­toRan­dr is one of those tools once you have it and use it you can't live with­out it.

It saves the cur­rent mon­i­tor con­fig­u­ra­tion and can re­store it when­ev­er it sees the same mon­i­tors plugged in­to the same out­put­s.

So, just make it look nicein "work mode", and configure all the monitor rotations and so on, then autorandr --save work.

Then, when you are not working, make it look nice again, and autorandr --save home.

Have to do that in both com­put­er­s, of course.

From then on, when­ev­er the switch changes things around, au­toran­dr au­to­mat­i­cal­ly re­con­fig­ures the mon­i­tors the right way on both com­put­er­s.

The on­ly prob­lem is that to switch from home con­fig to work I would have to do things like "click on the B but­ton of the ma­trix thing un­til is says "3", then click on the A but­ton un­til it says "1" and it's bor­ing.

Enter the Remote

As you can see in the pre­vi­ous pic­ture, the ma­trix has a re­mote. It's a sim­ple re­mote, with 8 but­ton­s, one for each in­put/out­put com­bi­na­tion.

I could just use the re­mote to switch be­tween work and home con­fig­u­ra­tions, but that's bor­ing too.

So, I use soft­ware to drive an in­frared emit­ter that switch­es things around when I click a but­ton in the macro key­board or flip a switch on a web­page.

But that's for an­oth­er post.

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