Me, Myself, and my Roadtrippin Computer
September 2, 2011 9:32 AM   Subscribe

I love my screen real-estate. How do I get it on the road?

I have a horrible addiction. Screens. Lots of them. Three big ones. I'm so much more productive this way that I cant break the habit. Every time I have to do something more complicated than check my email without my screens I want to go cry in the corner.

Is there any way to go on a working roadtrip and not give up my addiction?

I am envisioning some sort of rig which I can haul with me in my car, and when I want to work I plunk it on the table and within five minutes of set up I have my work open in front of me.

- I could haul my current desktop + monitors (clunky, fragileish)
- Replace desktop with laptop (less(but still) clunky, monitors still relatively fragile, can a laptop support three external displays?)
- Replace monitors with projectors(Said projectors need to be small and have a (very!) good throw distance(I'm thinking about a foot between projector and surface), hard to calibrate projectors each time, need surface to project onto)
- Video goggles that simulate screens(I doubt technology is there yet)

This is what I have been mulling over the last couple days. I doubt this will work, but it could be cool. If you answer nothing else, I would love to hear about options for hooking up multiple displays to laptops. Or laptops with multiple display ports already built in.

Two notes: I don't care about gaming power and to answer this question properly you may have to assume I have money.
posted by Folk to Technology (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What size/resolution displays?

Two laptops with 1920x1200 LCDs should give you the screen realestate (but not size) of two 24" monitors.
posted by wongcorgi at 9:42 AM on September 2, 2011

I recently started used osx lion and it has a multiple desktop feature that is very good at simulating having multiple screens. It gives you a lot more desktop real estate than one screen, though not quite as well as just having multiple monitors. If you can work on a mac this might be the way to go.
posted by drethelin at 9:44 AM on September 2, 2011

For a third external display, you could always some type of displaylink usb to dvi/hdmi adapter. It'll be slow, but good enough for most non-video/video game applications.
posted by zabuni at 9:44 AM on September 2, 2011

Dual screen laptops!
posted by pupdog at 9:45 AM on September 2, 2011

Also, this notebook has two 1080p screens.
posted by wongcorgi at 9:45 AM on September 2, 2011

posted by pupdog at 9:49 AM on September 2, 2011

@wongcorgi: I have three 24" monitors currently. The size is negotiable. Two laptops probably won't work because I need them to act as one desktop.

@drethelin: Two of the screens are usually less active and more as reference, so if its not in front of me it's no good.

@zabuni: That looks like a good possibility. I will have to try one out.

@pupdog: Nice find!
posted by Folk at 9:49 AM on September 2, 2011

You could buy three laptops, each with largish screens, and then connect them all to one wireless keyboard/mouse and link them up using Synergy. No need to carry around bulky monitors or projectors and, as a bonus, the programs running on each screen have their own processor and environment, so performance will go way up. Only downside is that you can't drag windows from screen to screen.

I've used this setup before (in Linux) and it's really great and surprisingly easy to get going.
posted by 256 at 9:53 AM on September 2, 2011

Would a Lilliput usb monitor be too small?
posted by malaprohibita at 10:02 AM on September 2, 2011

Can you cut down to two? Just bring one monitor and a laptop, which would give you two displays. I function pretty well on two. Almost all laptops can display on two (extended screen). If it's a working trip, maybe someone at the other end will already have a monitor you could hook up to? We have flex space in our office set up with extra monitors just for this reason.

I can totally relate to your dilemma. I don't want to get myself used to three, frankly, for exactly this reason! I already have a hard time switching to just a laptop screen. Netbook screens are a joke, for me. Can't even begin to function.
posted by clone boulevard at 10:19 AM on September 2, 2011

You may be interested in portable monitors.
posted by foursentences at 11:46 AM on September 2, 2011

This product (the DP edition) from Matrox will let you hook up two 1920x1200 displays to a laptop with a DisplayPort output. On my 17" MacBook Pro, that would give me 3 1920x1200 displays. Of course, you'd still have to cart around a couple 24" monitors...
posted by strangecargo at 11:55 AM on September 2, 2011

Two other options to consider.. Use an iPad as an external monitor. And use your hotel TV via an HDMI cable.
posted by Nelson at 12:08 PM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Whoops. I somehow missed that Matrox makes a Triple Monitor version of the same product. I mentioned above.
posted by strangecargo at 12:11 PM on September 2, 2011

three big screen notebooks + maxivista software = one huge desktop
(provided you're a windows person)
posted by 3mendo at 12:05 AM on September 3, 2011

@3mendo: That's a wonderful find! I am now using it on my desktop with my laptop as a 4th(!) screen. Way to feed my addiction. If I am actually able to purchase the software(their storefront is clumsy) then it may go up to five. (!!!!!!!)

As to the real question, I am using everyone's answers plus some advice from a friend, and I may eventually have a system that works. If you come along at some point later and want some followup, PM me and I will fill you in with whatever solution I came up with.

Currently I am thinking of packing up my desktop in a pelican case and then throw my monitors in a carry-on suitcase with foam. It will be two large cases and lots of wires and a decent amount of setup, but it should fit the bill. At that point the biggest hurdle is the stands on the monitor(read: bulky), but I may be able to find some pack-able solution. I have lots of time and lots of room in my trunk, so I am not too concerned.
posted by Folk at 10:52 AM on September 6, 2011

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