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Justifying monitors


Why is it so very, very hard to justify to management that large monitors are a good idea?
- They help me do my work
- They make me more efficient
- (IMHO) they aid retention
- (IMHO) they help recruitment

Regarding the last one - if I was interviewing at a place and saw that all the developers had dual head 21"CRT & 17" LCD, that place would go to the top of my list (not just the nice workstation, but it gives the appearance that management takes development seriously).

A 21" monitor costs less than $500. That's 3-5 hours of a developer's time, to get the benefits listed above for 3-5 YEARS. This should be a no-brainer.

Philo

Philo
Friday, April 25, 2003

Agreed 100%. Joel's test: "Do you use the best tools money can buy?" That includes high quality monitors. I don't compromise my vision for any job.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Friday, April 25, 2003

I actually have a 21" monitor, it was given to me when I first started here more than 2 years ago. And the Dell Laptop they just gave me a few weeks ago has dual monitor support, so I guess I'm currently living in display Nirvana.

Mark
Friday, April 25, 2003

I switched from a very good 19" CRT to a dual-head 17" LCD system. Anyone who tries to make me change back is going out the window!

I find it incredibely frustrating when I have to use someone else's PC and they only have a single monitor, no matter how large. How the hell do you use two programs at the same time on a single screen? ;-)

SteveM
Friday, April 25, 2003

Here's how to justify it.
LCD monitors last 7 years, easily.
A second 1280x1024 LCD monitor is about $500.
That's $71 a year or $0.20/day.

A roll of charmin toilet paper is about $0.75. If you go to the bathroom once a day, and here I'm making some assumptions, you consume about 1/3rd a roll of toilet paper, for a cost of about $0.25 a day.

So you are literally asking them to spend less on this second monitor than they spend on your toilet paper.

Joel Spolsky
Friday, April 25, 2003

Dunno how to justify it (except using Joels method), however we have matrox Dual head cards because they're the only ones that give Win2K/XP TWO video cards in setup. This is important as some of the other video cards treat the screen as one big (but wide e.g. 2048x768) system. This means you can't have different resolutions. Here I have a little 15" LCD running at 1024x768 plus a 21" monitor running at 1280x1024. (the resolution actually matches quite well)

The other advantage is that dialog boxes pop up in the middle of the screen rather than half way between the two monitors. Several of the card vendors ship programs which are supposed to fix this problem but none of them actually did (or were very buggy)

Note I did most of the research on this during the WinXP beta program with the ATI dual head card so this may have changed by now.

Checking the matrox website reveals that the G550 Dual head is still available but the different resolution stuff is broken on the Dual DVI version in DVI mode.

Peter Ibbotson
Friday, April 25, 2003

Don't forget power savings and time saved during reorgs.  I've seen references to studies (yikes, 3rd generation knowledge) stating that over 5+ years LCD panels pay for themselves over similarly sized CRTs.

Lou
Friday, April 25, 2003

The irritating thing is that you can probably get a new processor and motherboard, even if all you do is word processing or data entry, because that does not sound like luxury, but two monitors - no way.

Do a time and motion study showing how much time is wasted opening and closing windows. Throw in some made-up figures about increased chance of RSI as well and you may suceed.

Stephen Jones
Friday, April 25, 2003

----" If you go to the bathroom once a day, and here I'm making some assumptions, you consume about 1/3rd a roll of toilet paper"---

Pretty frightening assumptions if you ask me!

I'd try and choose another equally trivial example. I can think of plenty of companies that would simply downgrade the quality of toilet paper, and then you'd be spending all your time making up justifications for a more comfortable office chair.

Stephen Jones
Friday, April 25, 2003

The new ATI cards allow you to specify the resolution for each monitor.  I have an ATI Radeon 9000 Pro ($100) and am driving a 20" LCD panel at 1600x1200 via the DVI output, and driving an 18" LCD panel at 1280x1024 using the analog SVGA output.  Two monitors, one card, configure each output separately.  Works flawlessly.  Pretty neat.

Sounding a bit less professional, I can also report you can run Flight Simulator 2002 in _amazing_ ways with this setup.

Mitch & Murray (from downtown)
Friday, April 25, 2003

Here is the argument I use (I've equipped everyone here with at least one 20" 1600x1200 LCD, and most people have a second LCD as well. The company is mine, so it is my money I'm spending):

The advantage of large displays is that they allow you to see at least two pages side-by-side, if not more. Most programming these days involves using existing components (such as classes) or creating components to be used in larger programs. That means that as a programmer, you almost always have your code at at least one interface to deal with at the same time. Having a large screen allows both your code and associated interfaces to be on the screen at the same time. In my experience, this dramatically reduces bugs.

There is a simpler way to look at this: the more of your program you can see at one time, the less likely you are to make mistakes coupling pieces of the program.

The argument for multiple monitors is a little different, since you generally have to break your concentration a little to move from one to the other. I think the second monitor is useful for reference material and other applications. For example, almost all reference documentation these days is provided only in computer-readable form. If you want to have that reference material easily available during programming, a second monitor helps much more than switching applications on one monitor. For example, if you are working on hardware drivers, it is very convenient to have the PDF files containing the datasheets and user manuals for the chips you're working with displayed at the same time you are writing the code.

The cost of the monitors is quite reasonable. A decent 20" LCD screen can be bought for about the cost of a week of programming.

Dan Brown
Friday, April 25, 2003

"A decent 20" LCD screen can be bought for about the cost of a week of programming"

I've seen the excellent Dell PF2000 (the twentyincher I have) for as low as $850 when Dell runs one of their 20% off accessory sale + online coupon fandango blowouts.

For $850, buying that monitor is a no-brainer. 20", 1600x1200 native resolution, DVI, analog, S-Video, and NTSC video inputs, PIP.

Mitch & Murray (from downtown)
Friday, April 25, 2003

Someone explain this dual monitor thing to me, especially the mix between CRT and LCD.  Is that just because two CRTs are unwieldy?  Are LCDs easier on your eyes when you look at them all day?

If you have a smaller LCD, like say 15", do you just use that for your documention (class help, google searches, etc) while you program?

I doubt my struggling company would go for it, but I'm curious nonetheless.

David
Friday, April 25, 2003

The LCD panels are immensely easier on your eyes.  Considering you stare at the thing all day this is a pretty major update to your work environment.  Right up there with a decent chair.  Chair, monitor, keyboard, everything should fit you, cause that is what you are screwing with all day.  I wonder how many folks here are, like me, hardcore trackball converts?

The common LCD - CRT combination arises after the lucky developer gets an LCD panel and then muses "What in the hell should I do with this old CRT?"  After a few moments the magic word "Presto" is spoken and connections for the second display (in this case the old CRT) are established.

Mitch & Murray (from downtown)
Friday, April 25, 2003

I'm CRT/CRT but hope to move to CRT/LCD.

Reasoning:
I run a 21" CRT at 18x14. No reasonably priced LCD runs that high (I wasn't aware of any LCD's that ran at 16x12 for less than $1500 until just now). My work area is two folding tables butting together, and the LCD is in the corner, so it's using space I wouldn't use anyway.

To my left is a 17" CRT at 1280x1024. I have six inches of usable desk in front of it, which isn't really usable. I hope to replace it with an LCD set back so I have room to set a book in front of it.

I generally have Enterprise Manager open on the left screen, with Visual Studio open on the 21" main screen. Sometimes I may have a web page, UltraEdit with a few text files, or XMLSpy open to the left. Terminal Services goes over there on occasion as well.

But in essence the left screen is for reference material, the main screen is for work.

My dream is three screens/two boxes:

      LCD            CRT              LCD
      \                  |                    /
        \                |                  /
        \              KVM              /
          \            /    \            /
            \        /        \          /
              CPU1            CPU2


(It's a mad, mad, mad, mad setup)

Philo

Philo
Friday, April 25, 2003

Similar to Philo's dream setup, but not all the way.  I have 2 21" monitors on my desk.  The second monitor is connected to a KVM that connects to two other computers.  Works out well.  This discussion has made me think more about LCD's though...

Andrew Hurst
Friday, April 25, 2003

The main advantage of a dual monitor (for me) is that it makes far easier to debug drawing code.

Stepping through drawing code is _so_ much harder with one screen, since anything that pops up over your program will affect the code path.

There are other ways of course - remote debugging on another machine or the wonderful VMWare, for example - but the second monitor is probably no more expensive.

Oh - and it makes it much harder for my MD to spot my web-surfing when he sticks his head round the door! (Sorry :-)

SteveM
Friday, April 25, 2003

I would never use a CRT again. LCD's are much easier with your eyes, so it's no question at all. I simply refuse to work with CRTs. And when the price difference is so small (from a company's point of view, anyway) there is simply nothing to discuss.

A good way to go for a dual-LCD would be to ask first for the small one (15") as they cost around 300$ now and it would pass very easily. Wait two motnhs, then ask for the big one. That may work. Or not. If you think that they'll say "wait, we just bought you one, you want another?" then you can have the big one first, and when you ask for the second one, they'll be relieved at how cheap it is.

I have a dual-head ATI Radeon (VE) and it sucks more than anything that ever sucked before. After installing drivers a few times, you finally can enable the second monitor, but only at the same resolution. Finally, I somehow managed to have different resolutions, but with the frequency at 60Hz (frequency is less important on LCDs than on CRTs but still I would like to have it at at least 70).

When I finally had it running with both I realized I must disable one of them, otherwise Day of Defeat (it's a programming environmens, and yes, it has source control) would crash like a stone through a lighthouse. So now I use both but disable one sometimes, which works.

Regarding more than two displays: didn't Matrox have some form of "four-head" card? One that costed a fortune?

Dimitri.
Friday, April 25, 2003

The last time I worked on either 15" or 1024x768 was 1993.  I don't see any point in jumping back ten years in time.

Philo

Philo
Friday, April 25, 2003

In the consumer space, no, nobody has ever had a quad-head card that I've heard of. Matrox has a tri-head card that they demo'd as a primarily gamer's card (180 degree immersion which can be very nice for flight sims and the like).

Nvidia definitely has PCI versions of some of its select cards, so a quad head should be as simple as an AGP and a PCI card. Where the hell are you going to put all the displays? :-p Three I can get, four I don't (unless you have a special 2x2 enclosure).

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Friday, April 25, 2003

Dimitri wrote that he has ,"a dual-head ATI Radeon (VE) and it sucks .... After installing drivers a few times, you finally can enable the second monitor, but only at the same resolution."

In general, that's not correct. At home I've got the Radeon VE driving a 17" monitor at 1600x1200 and a 15" monitor at 1024x768. The driver install wasn't difficult and I've been able to run them at different refresh rates.

The Radeon drivers have their quirks, but Dimitri's problems are not universal.

Now, if I can get my work to upgrade my computer and go to a dual-head support for my optical design work (not just for programmers, you know).

David Fischer
Saturday, April 26, 2003

If I wanted to upgrade our development machines that currently have one AGP card each, can I just add a 2nd video card and configure dual monitor support in Windows XP?  I believe it supports this, but haven't tried it out myself...

Dave
Saturday, April 26, 2003

Yes, you can do it that way.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Saturday, April 26, 2003

Brad,

Just for the record, Matrox does have a quad card, the G450 MMS. But it's a 2D only part, maybe that's what you meant.

Bill Tomlinson
Monday, April 28, 2003

I wasn't aware of that card, actually. :)

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Monday, April 28, 2003

Joel:  A third of a roll of toilet paper per use?  Great Scot man,  what do you eat?

Ethan Herdrick
Tuesday, April 29, 2003

I think that a four monitor configuration could work in an inteverted-T arrangement. Like the arrow keys on a standard keyboard. A big center monitor for your main work, then left, right, and above monitors for additional information. You probably wouldn't use the above monitor as much as the others; but hey, while I'm spending the boss's money...

Bill Tomlinson
Tuesday, April 29, 2003

I think some of the ATI comments depend on which OS you're using. When I tried the ATI VE on windows XP life was horrid, I assume it was better on Win9x. We've standardised on matrox cards as they do it right (WinXP sees the card as two). They're fairly cheap and we don't need great 3D performance in the office.
Since XP launched I would expect ATI to have made their drivers work better but we had lots of trouble with them.

Peter Ibbotson
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

I bought 8 40" LCD monitors for my staff (SyncMaster 403T).  That was November.  Since then, one of those people left for a better job.

Doug Luce
Monday, March 22, 2004

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