Increasing productivity with a dual monitor system and a second complementary slave machine

So last year I finally decided to get myself a second monitor to see how it would affect my productivity. Although it did take a little bit of time to get used too, once my work system got in sync with the new system, my productivity boosted. And I am not talking about a small improvement; it improved dramatically the way I worked. By nature I am quite multi tasking, but what a second monitor does, is literally discipline the way a multi tasking person works. With one monitor you are forced to focus your attention on a central area of content. With two monitors you can literally split that attention, making one side complementary to the other. I am not going to get too technical here, so I suggest you read the NEC productivity “A Comparison of Single and Dual Traditional Aspect Displays with a Widescreen Display over Productivity

One taskbar per monitor

The first negative thing that I noticed when I started using a second monitor was that I couldn’t minimize applications in the second monitor. This was really irritating since I was using one screen for active work and another for communication. (Mail and AIM). Every time I wanted to focus on the multiple Skye or messenger windows I had open at any given moment they would get minimized on the main screen, not on the screen where the windows were open. So by default, every window gets minimized in the main monitor and to maximize it you have to go back to that monitor and click on the minimized application in the taskbar. 

 A simple Google search led me to a lot of applications that supposedly solved this problem and one in particular seemed to have great user references. Ultramon did exactly what I wanted, it created a task bar in the second monitor allowing me to minimize programs on each screen. So in reality it almost gives you a separate system, where you can run certain applications “independently” from each other. This really improved every aspect of my dual monitor experience and in all honesty I wouldn’t be able to use my dual system without Ultramon installed anymore. On the beginning of this year, I had a brand New dual core PC from the old office that was pilling dust and not being used at all, so plugged it in, partitioned the disk and installed a copy of Debian and played a bit with it.

Why a second *slave* machine?

Soon I had three screens lined up in front of me and before I knew it I started using the second machine to perform routine macros on the first machine. (backups, automated tasks, etc…) The advantages of having two machines working simultaneously, sharing resources between one another began to be evident. 

Not only was I using the second system as a “slave” machine but most importantly it was not wasting recourses from my main machine that is always running at least 3 heavy duty applications like Photoshop, illustrator, Dreamweaver, and so on. Now, having two keyboards on the desk was utterly annoying. It was taking so much usable le desk space and let’s not forget the awkward “Dammit, why isn’t this keyboard working”. (Maybe it would work if I used the right keyboard for the machine I was working on.) It was during this time that I came across an amazing open source application called Synergy

What this little tool does is it allows you to share a keyboard and a mouse on a Network, meaning that it allows you to control multiple computers thorough a single keyboard and mouse. You can actually place the second system’s monitor on the side of your dual monitors and it will work as an extension, so in reality its almost like a third monitor added but with an independent machine powering it. I will leave the potential of a setup like to your imagination!