Size does matter

by brian d foy

Computer power is all about monitor size. I remember moving aside a 13-inch monitor and hooking up a 21-inch monitor to my Quadra 650. It felt like my computer was 4 times faster.

Now I have a 17-inch external display (has anyone else noticed that Apple uses "display" and everyone else seems to use "monitor"?) that I piccked up from CompUSA on a special promotion: they are selling the Benq FP731 with a $40 offf in-store incentive and $80 of manufacturer rebates for an end total of about $180. I checked the reviews of the monitor: it didn't get bad reviews, so for the price I figure I could take a shot at getting burned.

Now I have this nice and bright monitor putting my Powerbook display to shame. It's the difference between washing your whites with your colored clothes, then having someone who knows something about laundry come along and wash the whites separately. The Benq is bright: 260 nits bright. I don't know what a nit is, but this display has 260 of them and it makes my Powerbook whites look dingy grey. I even checked to ensure the cats hadn't been stepping on the brightness keys (it's that and Num Lock they they always seem to hit).

Curious things emerged when I added the display. The Powerbook detected the display immediately and things just worked. I had put the display to my left and arranged the displays in the control panel to match their physical arrangement. When I did that, I couldn't get to my Dock anymore! I like the Dock on the left side. Now when my cursor wandered that way it kept wandering onto the the other display. It was a bit confusing because my mind told me that I wanted to get to another application, and my hand did the right movements, but my cursor ended up on the other display while I was trying to remember what I was doing.

I re-arranged the displays so the external one was "under" the Powerbooks. I think I have the going down stuff in my head, but from the external display I move to the right thinking I'll end up on the Powerbook display. I end up activating Exposé since I use the hot corners for that. Exposé doesn't have much to do on the external display, but al lthe windows on the Powerbook display move around.

I'm curious what will happen as I get used to this arrangement, then leave the external display behind as I travel. Will I keep trying to make the cursor fall off the bottom of the screen?

Still, despite my cognitive obstacles, my computer all of a sudden feels more powerful. I don't have as many overlapping windows because I have more real estate to deal with. If anyone wants to donate one of the large Cinerama displays, I can report back on whether the perceived increase in power is linear or expontential.


2005-02-01 01:54:09
Don't try this at home, kids!
The Mac's menu bar is placed at the screen's edge, so that you cannot drag your mouse pointer beyond it.

Assuming the same holds true for the Dock, I think your setup violates Apple's Human Interface Guidelines :-)

2005-02-01 07:24:57
Don't try this at home, kids!
Well, the same doesn't hold true for the Dock, as I noted in the post.

I don't think this violates the Human Interface Guidelines either: Apple clearly intends for me to arrange my monitors how I like. I just have to make sure all of my choices play well together.

2005-02-01 08:23:33
Don't try this at home, kids!
As I am right-handed, I work with my Apple PowerBook 12" physically to the left of my Apple Cinema Display 17", leaving space in front of me to a keyboard and a mouse to my right. A left-handed person should move the laptopto the right of the external display. If you put the Dock on the way of the mouse path crossing between monitors you will be using the same action (move mouse horizontally through displays) for two operations, which can only be described as bad human-computer interaction. And then you start changing the system settings even more (Rendezvous)... Why complicate? Changing the System Preferences to make the external display under the PowerBoook, while it is actually physically to the left of the PowerBook will put unwanted demands on your cognition, as you have noted. The flexibility that Apple provides is intended for connecting multiple displays (possible with PowerMacs with several graphics cards), not really for playing around with choices like what you are doing.
Jonathan Gennick
2005-02-01 09:55:37
brighter = better
I'm right there with you when it comes to brightness. My daughter's new iBook display outshines my Thinkpad display. That extra brightness makes her display noticably more pleasant to look at.
2005-02-01 12:00:30
Move your 'primary' display
Because your primary display is to the right of your secondary display and the dock is on the left of the primary, your dock is actually in the middle. You can, however, make the mac think that the primary display is the external one, putting everything back on the left. Mac OS X is smart enough to move everything back when you go back to one display.

In the 'arrange' tab of the displays system pref, hold down the option key and drag the 'menu bar' from one display to another in order to specify which is the 'primary' display. Your dock will move along with your menu bar.