Tech Life The right pixel solution

Pixel Rigs

I have an unnatural fixation with pixels.

For two years I was a stalwart supporter of the 17-inch PowerBook/MacBook Pro. My argument was simple and ignorant: “You need as many pixels as possible because you need to be able to see as much as possible.”

This pixel fundamentalism blinded me to the simple fact that the 17-inch was just too big and heavy. Yes, 17 inches is bigger than 15 inches, but the primary use case for a portable computer is mobility, and lugging around a 6.8 pound gorgeous piece of aluminum is a total mobility buzz kill. A creative tool should never be an anchor.

Yes, when I finally switched to a 15-inch, I was instantly happier. The weight and size elegantly integrated better with my travel habits and I didn’t miss the lack of roughly half a million pixels for a moment.

Besides, NOW WEโ€™VE GOT SPACES AND UNLIMITED PIXELS WOOOOOOOOO! Ok, no, Spaces isn’t the right pixel solution, but that’s a different article.

Now, my desktop computing solutions don’t have the mobility requirement, which means, as frequent readers know, I continue to lose my pixel mind when it comes to screen real estate. What started as a treatise to justify the necessity of 30-inch flat panels has slowly twisted and turned into a seemingly insatiable need for more pixels.

Seriously. One of my current background drive-to-work soak projects is a justification for a second 23″ flat panel turned on its side… and you can help.

I’ve created a Flickr group called Pixel Rigs where I’m dying to see your pixel rig. Go grab your favorite camera, take a shot of your desktop, and post it to Flickr. Unlike prior excursions, stage your desktop a bit. Let us see how you’re managing pixels. Go crazy with Flickr’s notes features… like this:

rands morning set-up

Windows, Mac, Linux, whatever… explain to everyone how you’ve tamed your personal pixel fixation.

16 Responses

  1. I’m similarily obsessed with pixels. My current setup is pretty insane; but even it can’t stand up to my old one. d-:

  2. Jason 16 years ago

    I would love to, only the wife disapproves. So for the moment I’m stuck with a single 20″ Acer, until I can find a convincing excuse to expand my pixelage…

  3. I have two 19″ monitors at home and find them very useful. Although there are times when I could do with another one ๐Ÿ™‚

    Am at work now so I don’t have an available picture.

  4. It’s not mine, but I figure you might like to have a goal in mind with your obsession:… Good luck!

  5. swombat 16 years ago

    Re: 17″ macbook pro… there is one reason to get that, and that’s if it’s going to be both your portable machine AND your desktop. I can’t afford to buy two macs – therefore, the 17″ is a must, because I really do need all those pixels and if my mbp doesn’t have them, I can’t get them from anywhere else.

  6. At work I’m on a 20″ ACD + 15″ MacBook Pro, and there aren’t enough pixels. Perhaps it’s time to convince those who pay for things that a MacPro with a couple of 23″ displays, and a MacBook or MacBook Air for the road would be a better combo…

    Or maybe just replace the 20″ with a 30″, and be happy that way?

  7. Great idea, Rands!

    The thing that I’ve found is that I’d rather have many surfaces to work on (both physical and virtual.) I can’t justify having a single huge display when I work on so many different projects at once. A 30″ display does you no good when you need to be running in Boot Camp and Mac OS X at once.

    There’s also a lot of value to running different versions of the OS at the same time. Which also has a nice side effect of spreading the load around.


  8. cwillu 16 years ago

    4 displays on my main workstation.

    2 22″ 1280×1024’s in the center and right; center screen holds the editor and application/page under test. Right display holds a bunch of tiled terminals, debuggers, top, and other status monitor’ish things.

    Left ‘display’ is a permanent fixture of a laptop 1280×800, holding browser windows for documentation and the like.

    Far right ‘display’ is another machine runnin 1024×768, used for distractions. It’s slightly uncomfortable to use this machine, as I have to reach over papers and the like to get to the keyboard and mouse, which makes it a bit of a relief to get back to work.

    I used to run all four displays off the same machine, but I found I would lose the mouse cursor/focus far too often, and it simply isn’t comfortable using the keyboard so far off to the side of where you’re looking.

    Even though the laptop is pretty close to center, I still prefer using its own keyboard/touchpad to browse docs; the separate window focus makes it a bit easier to go back and forth quickly.

    The desk I have is actually fairly small, about 5′ wide, but it has a 3’x1′ island shelf a foot off the desk that curves around the back right; even though I’ve got two crts in the mix, they happily sit on the island leaving me no shortage of desk space.

  9. aczarnowski 16 years ago

    More pixels just make it harder for me to ruthlessly expunge distraction. The left flat panel I was issued at work is generally blank. Sometimes WinAMP is over there just so I don’t feel guilty. At home it’s a 12″ X61 Thinkpad.

    Text editor full screen with a command prompt behind. Check email while compiles and tests run. Let the pixels fall where they may.

  10. Oh you lucky one, I am struggeling with a 15″ widescreen in a Dell Laptop m\with a fantastic resolution of 1280*800…. its no fun workin with this. Maybe i can convince my boss to get me a mbp ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. No pictures, but currently using two 22″ CRT displays. My company was too cheap to buy some big flat panels for me, but we had some these old CRTs around, so I grabbed them. I had to move from my cube to a big table in order to get them both on one surface because they are too deep for office cubes. Running AltDesk software so that I have multiple virtual desktops. Desktop 1 is for email and other admin stuff. Desktop 2 (where it usually is) has Java IDE (IntelliJ IDEA) full-screen on the left monitor, and various supporting apps on the right (web app under test, javadoc, design docs, whatever), Desktop 3 usually has xterms to various unix boxes. Desktop 4 is for miscellaneous stuff that doesn’t fall into previous categories – usually needed when someone asks me to look at stuff for them.

  12. I have the opposite affliction: I’ve become so used to my 12″ Powerbook being able to hide under a legal pad (but not in a manilla envelope) that even the thought of a 13″ Macbook is a little unpalatable.

    On the other hand, I became wildly more productive when I replaced my old, cramped desk with a dinner table to spread all my crap across, so maybe the Pro isn’t such a bad idea.

  13. Chris 16 years ago

    You mean you didn’t manage to blag one of these set ups at work?

    Sadly I am stuck with a 24″ Dell, woe is me…

  14. This New York Times article details research regarding productivity versus screen size – is this the justification you’re looking for?

    Mary Czerwinski first confronted this question while working, oddly

    enough, in outer space. She is one of the world’s leading experts in

    interruption science, and she was hired in 1989 by Lockheed to help

    NASA design the information systems for the International Space


    The results? On the bigger screen, people completed the tasks at least 10 percent more quickly — and some as much as 44 percent more quickly. They were also more likely to remember the seven-digit number, which showed that the multitasking was clearly less taxing on their brains. Some of the volunteers were so enthralled with the huge screen that they begged to take it home. In two decades of research, Czerwinski had never seen a single tweak to a computer system so significantly improve a user’s productivity.

  15. Ronald Pottol 16 years ago

    I’ve always been a pixel junkie, back in the XGA (1024×768), I’d tweak my config to run at 1152×876 or so. My personal laptop is an older IBM Thinkpad R50p, 1600×1200. At work we all have 1600×1200 flat pannels, and we have three of them, but I can see using four. It does help, one for what I am doing, one for docs, one for all the junk (chat, email, etc).

  16. lupu slobodu 16 years ago

    carrying around 17 inch laptop is stupid;

    it should be