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back to article My work-from-home setup's better than the office. It's GLORIOUS

I’ve been fairly used to the idea that my PC at home is substantially better than my work one; this has certainly been the case for me for more than a decade. I’m a geek and I spend more than most on my personal technology environment. However, it is no longer just my home PC. I’ve got better software tools and back-end systems …

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Yup.

My home box is a nice quiet watercooled 8-thread 32GB beast with SSD. I spent only about a grand at NewEgg for the bitsnpieces because I was willing to accept the i7-3770 CPU that is slightly behind the enthusiast curve.

My work box? Some 6yo Dell with only one SATA port. Yeah. However that's kind of my fault, as I haven't bitched for an upgrade because I work at home on the beast. If I needed an upgrade, they're good about them.

I also have a crap HP laptop, but that's also my fault because I was stupid enough to buy an HP. I did however spray-paint over the damn dinner-plate-size BEATS logo on the thing.

I run Debian and 2 official copies of Windows 7 that insist they're pirated, so I installed cracks for them.

I want a couple more monitors, but no one sells 1920x1200 at a reasonable price any more.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yup.

My work recently upgraded our ancient machines to shiny new HP laptops. I however have a few gripes about them.

1 Heat: These things pump out a lot of heat, the keyboard is like a hand warmer for me. They're good laptops sure, i7 SSD etc, but the heat from these things is monsterous.

2: Exhaust: HP, why in gods green earth did you point the exhause for this heat mongering laptop DIRECTLY AT MY MOUSE HAND! I've actually taken to covering up the exhaust with a paper funnel to redirect (badly) the heat from this thing because my hand is starting to go red and itchy.

For me the problem is mostly software wise. Tools are generally IBM (read crap) our VS version is about 4 generations behind now. It's quite comical actually, went on an external training course.

"Hands up who is using VS 2012"

" okay who's using 2010"

"2005?"

"Why didn't you raise your hand?"

"We're using VS2003, and 6.0"

"... Well I don't know what you're going to get out of this, I suggest you call your employer idiots"

Or something to that effect.

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Mushroom

HP Laptops and Heat

I've owned 5 different brands of laptops over the past decade: Dell, Lenovo, HP, Toshiba, and Acer.

The Acer is my current one, so doesn't really figure in my comments -- yet.

All of the others I replaced because I wanted a newer machine. They were all functional, and I sold them for a good price to offset the purchase of the replacement.

Except for the HP. The HP always ran hot, and one day (just a few weeks past warranty expiration; go figure) decided to die from heat exhaustion (specifically, the CPU overheated -- all other components tested out fine.)

I've had a few other friends with HPs of various ages, all of which suffered similar fates.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yup. @AC with ;hot hand

If your laptop's giving off that much heat 99% sure there's something wrong (most likely IME flash ads running in a browser). You need to look at the task manager and see what's happening. Again IME the only thing that can give out that much heat is the CPU. If all else fails, try throttling the cpu, but first try and find what's causing it.

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Vic
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Re: HP Laptops and Heat

The HP always ran hot, and one day (just a few weeks past warranty expiration; go figure) decided to die from heat exhaustion

I have a pile of BERed HP laptops in my office. They all overheated.

It's a combination of poor thermal design, poor soldering on the GPU, and a combined CPU/GPU heat pipe that bends away from the GPU over time.

They can be brought back to life (temporarily, at any rate) but it's 2.5 hours labour to do the job. And the "repair" lasts a few months. So BER it is.

Vic.

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Boffin

Re: Yup.

The death of the 1920x1200 screen was very sad, but what I'm watching now are the 4K monitors. They're starting to become affordable, for sufficiently stretchy definitions of "affordable." Sometimes a 4K IPS screen even goes below $1000. If I had plenty of money sitting around, I would so get that.

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Re: 1920x1200

Dell and Samsung do 27" 2560*1440 at a reasonable price point while you wait for 4K

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Re: Yup.

I recently switched home setup from 1920x1280 (27") to 2560x1600 (30"), this was nice upgrade.

Not tempted by 4K since I'm using Windows quite a lot, and its screen scaling is apparently not very good. It would be a choice between tiny letters and/or icons and/or poor scaling across plethora of programs, and I am not keen to spend over a grand to test it.

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Re: Yup.

I work for a vendor who likes to refer to "dog-fooding" as a methodology for using our own products. Its generally agreed amongst the techs that the management just pick this stuff off a shelf, we're the unlucky f*ckers who have to pick up a spoon.

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Re: HP Laptops and Heat

I also suffer a HP laptop. Again, heat to the right hand, plenty of noise, overheats, it's SLOW and UNDERCLOCKED. Yes, it is underclocked so it doesn't overheat so much.

My home pc is also watercooled 16 GB Ram, and fas SSD. I have way better experience using my systems than the ones my company provides.

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Replace Your Handwarmer with a Gamer Laptop

If you can afford it, you should consider getting rid of the HP and replacing it with a gaming laptop.

You cannot judge by the stats alone. The HP laptops look great on paper, regarding the CPU, RAM, etc. in the price/performance department. In actuality, some models have heat problems. The last time I went looking for a laptop, I did two things: (1) walked through a large electronics store, putting my hands on the keyboards of the running demo models and looking closely at where the exhaust ports are located. An HP laptop keyboard almost burned my hand. An ASUS model by comparison was cool to the touch. (2) I looked at user comments on review sites, and low and behold, there were many complaints about overheating and freezes in the HP same model that was so hot.

I purchased an ASUS Republic of Gamers laptop that has two large fan exhaust ports at the BACK of the case. One for the CPU, one for the GPU. Large enough to get decent airflow, and they blow the air out straight out the back. The only thing you cannot do is jam it up against something, because that would block the airflow. Duh. No hot air on the mouse hand. The keyboard does get warm while gaming, but not unbearably hot. However, I never notice that anyway. I use a Logitech Unified mouse and keyboard, so I have just one small USB connector for both, have a full-sized keyboard that I can turn off/on, turn upside down and shake out, and position how I want. It's usually propped up on the bottom edge of the laptop.

Gaming laptops seem to be a hit-or-miss proposition regarding quality. You probably have about a 10% chance of getting a lemon. Judging by the comments I've read, you either love yours or you hate the manufacturer for having crappy support. The same manufacturers that get 5 stars for great laptops also get rated as "never buy one from here again" by the people who get the occasional bad one.

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Mushroom

Re: HP Laptops and Heat

Dell's not immune.

I have here on my desk, an Optiplex 745 in "Ultra Small Form Factor"

So "ultra-small" in fact, that our IT department wants nothing to do with them, as their anemic fans and poor internal airflow fail spectacularly at removing heat from the case, causing the box to be a never-ending instigator of service calls. It was "given" to me to use as a Linux box. I replaced the HDD and discovered that it ran TEN DEGREES C cooler if I popped the case top and ran it that way. It's been doing fine ever since.

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Anonymous Coward

I must be among the lucky few here

Who get to pick their own gear for work. My rig, which I use for work and play:

Dell M4800

32 GB Ram

1x256GB SSD + 32GB mSata + 1TB HDD

Full HD Display

i7 4900 MQ

NVidia Quadro 2100M

Linux Mint

Fully paid for by my employer of course.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yup.

Gene Cash,

For work I hate 1920x1080, I already own a very good and fairly expensive 24" 1920x1200 IPS screen, but recently was looking for additional one - something cheaper with 1920x1200 and ideally still an IPS screen. Last week I've gone for Dell UltraSharp U2412M which here in the UK its around 220-230 GBP. With this specs I couldn't find anything cheaper and its actually quite good screen - definitely worth having a look.

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Re: Yup.

> I want a couple more monitors, but no one sells 1920x1200 at a reasonable price any more.

Here you go. I can vouch for this one. Great display, price, ports, UI, adjustable stand, etc.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16824260047

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Re: Yup. @AC with ;hot hand

CPU isn't the ONLY thing. If the laptop's got a discreet GPU - then that's MUCH more likely to cause the fan to kick into overdrive.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yup.

Should have bought a Macbook - they get slightly warm but the whole case is a heatsink so unless you work them really hard they are usually silent.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yup.

Problem is we had no say in what laptops we had for work. When they were looking I sent in several suggestions for decent laptops you can plug into workstations etc, all great reviews, decent quality, inexpensive by comparison. But they went with HP because they're our 'main supplier' so now we're stuck with laptops which can heat up the entire office during winter.and dried out hands.

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Re: Yup.

My Dell used to pump out a lot of heat then one day I opened up the fan cover and found like a thick layer of fibrous coat of lint stuck behind the heat sink. Cleaned all of that up and now it is not so hot and the fan doesn't have to work as much.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yup.

I might have to do that because right now it's getting silly hot. Compile a project in the morning, come the afternoon the fan is still going trying to cool it down.

There's either a wad of crap stuck in the fan, of poor contact. One will be fixed with a hoover, the other by a dab of thermal paste, since those rubber pads they sometimes use are useless.

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My home environment is more secure too

And unlike work, I've applied security in a way that actively protects me and doesn't prevent me from doing work

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Anonymous Coward

IT, or the people in control of IT budgets, seem to forget that giving decent equipment to staff is very cheap relative to the cost of employing the member of staff. This is especially the case with professionals using demanding software who really need the extra power. I've seen too many new members of staff in my office get some old heap of shit PC that should have been got rid of years ago.

This holds back staff productivity to save a few quid and causes frustration. It's not good enough.

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Anonymous Coward

Indeed, where I work we used to have ancient machines. Many of us were still on single core pentiums. With the size of our projects (very very very very large) it was taking several hours to compile the entire project. Now we've upgraded it's closer to 15 - 30 minutes depending. Kinda silly when you think about it really. The upgrade has probably kicked productivity up ten fold.

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And you think this is the fault of the IT dept? I think you'll find your IT colleagues would love to supply everyone with the latest shiny laptop or desktop beast. After all then they can brag to their mates what great machines they get for work. The fault for using old, probably used equipment falls squarely at the beancounters' door whether that equipment is IT equipment or anything else your company uses.

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The worst excuse I've been given for keeping us on low spec PCs is "We don't want you developing on better PCs than our average customers have because you won't realise how badly your code performs in the real world."

Oddly, we don't ship the debug build of our product, although we often have to run it when debugging.

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"The fault for using old, probably used equipment falls squarely at the beancounters' door "

A big boy did and ran away, then?

If the IT department were competent they'd stand up for workforce productivity, and be able to justify the provision of better kit. In my business we're rolling out better kit than the in house IT team would like to offer, simply because the outsourced desktop support refuse to continue issuing and supporting rubbish for one company (and Finance have little to do with it). It's the same with XP - IME it wasn't the bean counters stopping upgrades, it was the poor strategic choices made years ago by the IT professionals, and their subsequent fear of the hard work to rectify those mistakes.

FFS, if there's a team paid to make IT work, don't you think they should deliver? Or is it acceptable to fall back on the "beancounter" excuse, whilst still claiming the salary of a true professional?

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@Ledswinger: A truly ignorant response. Beancounters control the purse strings so best of luck getting the purchase signed off. You also neglect the fact that most managers are ignorant to the need for better kit whilst making sure they have something way beyond what they need for email and internet sat on their desktop.

"If the IT department were competent they'd stand up for workforce productivity"

and they'd be promptly ignored like they are in most other regards.

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"FFS, if there's a team paid to make IT work, don't you think they should deliver? Or is it acceptable to fall back on the "beancounter" excuse, whilst still claiming the salary of a true professional?"

Actually, a company I worked for a few years ago had this issue. I was on the IT committee so can speak from personal experience. Our local power supplier monopoly was warning of rolling-blackouts, so we were begging for a set of UPS's and a jenny to run at least the PC's and some lights for the 150 staff. The bean counter (Financial Director) simply refused as it was "too expensive".

Well, we did the pricing and waited for the first blackout. In one hour the lost salaries were the same as the cost of the jenny, the next hour accounted for the UPS's. It took us a further month before the bean counter realized we were telling him the truth - only it wasn't that "we warned him and begged for a solution". It was him who noticed the decline in revenues and productivity and thus he feels the cost is justified.

Imagine how difficult it is to get decent PC's with a management like that.

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@ Mark 65.

"@Ledswinger: A truly ignorant response. Beancounters control the purse strings so best of luck getting the purchase signed off. You also neglect the fact that most managers are ignorant to the need for better kit whilst making sure they have something way beyond what they need for email and internet sat on their desktop."

Back in the late 90's in a large company, this was absolutely true for me (and many others). IT wanted to get me an upgraded machine because the old one I had kept crashing with memory errors due to overtaxed hardware. Today, however, in another company, the IT department does *not* fight for what users need. They are often the impediment that prevents people from getting the kit & network access they need. They have been known to be afraid of making changes to a setup done by someone no longer with the company. They're forcing a new VPN "solution" on us that doesn't even support all the machines & OS's our staff runs ffs (all of those machines & OS's were OK'd by upper management). They treat the support they provide folks on getting VPN to run on the non-supported kit as a gift, which they weren't even going to provide but by the kindness of their hearts, they decided to.

Sometimes it is a manager who is ignorant or can only see the choices they are used to preventing people from getting what they really need. Sometimes both management and IT have this fear of "but that's not the way we have always done things".

Just because in your experience it's always the beancounters at fault doesn't mean others can't and haven't had a different experience.

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ITs going backwards

Bizarrely when our office found that their old laptops couldn't easily be upgraded to Windows 7 from XP started issuing new laptops, which have slower CPU's less memory and no DVD/CD reader let alone writer in them, that might be okay if they also provided everyone with a means to transfer information.

Working within a department that deals with govt. data means we need a secure means of transferring data between systems, this has always meant CD's or DVD's which are shredded after use.

The alternative is encrypted USB memory sticks, however these are small in capacity, relatively slow and apparently non-existent as far as the IT ordering system goes.

I lucked out by virtue of getting a fairly new laptop in the right gap between upgrades which meant that it came with windows 7 installed and was actually better than the old one, including coming with a DVDRW drive.

When I say lucky it comes with the downside of a queue of people holding blank CD's...

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Re: ITs going backwards

"Working within a department that deals with govt. data means we need a secure means of transferring data between systems"

I know this one! It's called a train seat, right?

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Re: ITs going backwards

Nope, I'm way too far down the chain to do that, it's only the people near the top who are allowed to do that sort of thing.

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Company Car vs Company PC

I remember a conversation a few years ago, I'd just reached the heady heights of qualifying for a company car.and I was given a list of thirty odd to choose from. I used the train so asked if I could trade in my works desktop for a works laptop instead. Look of incredulity from those in power. "No we only have a standard desktop with a standard corporate image on it." which BTW we all hated

A couple of years later a summer student in IT help called me and said "Your PC seems to have some .EXE files on it that aren't in the standard build we need to delete them."

I politely ( I hope ) reminded sad spotty yoof that my job title was developer and I created EXE's for a living. He didn't ring back,..

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Re: Company Car vs Company PC

Haha that's a good one. I've had similar problems, the rest of the IT dept never seem to know how to treat the devs. We aren't one of them so they don't want to give us admin rights but if they don't then I'll have them at my machine every day installing something for me.

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Re: Company Car vs Company PC

You:

- include dodgy tools in your webapp to allow code updates directly on the production server

- updates that sometimes break the whole app including your insecure backend "hidden" access and need to wake me on call to fix it

- code updates you forget to commit to the repo (you barely know how to use anyway) and so get overwritten on the official update

- spawn 500 instances of your crappy - no error treatment - code and then ring the sysadmin up to complain that the dev server is slow

- app that floods the internal network with requests it never listens to anyway but slow everything to a crawl

- ask me after I kill the shitty app what requests did it make because you have no idea

- write code worse than 100 monkeys with 100 typewritters

- don't say thanks after I find the exact line of code and reason that your shitty app crashes

- line I have to find and show because untill then you insist it's a system issue

So you bet your hipster canvas bag you don't get admin privileges.

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Re: Company Car vs Company PC

A few years ago, the IT team at the company I was at announced that they were removing admin rights from our laptops. The email chain went something like:

IT: "Can you please schedule a convenient time for us to access your laptop, we need to fix the access to remove admin rights to non IT staff"

Me: "Before you do that, I need a copy of your call out rota"

IT: "We don't do out of hours call out"

Me: "We do, I'll just call your mobile at 3am when my laptop needs support and I have an urgent production issue to fix"

IT: "Forget it"

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Re: Company Car vs Company PC

Wise Old to new developer..

"When writing code always remember the person following you \ maintaining your work is a psychotic mad axe murderer who knows where you live."

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Re: Company Car vs Company PC

You shouldn't have admin rights end of, annoys me when our devs complain to the IT director they are not doing their job because VS doesn't work properly without admin rights.

You should have an admin account though that can be used for said 3am emergencies, while all other times running as a standard user. Same goes for anyone in IT.

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Re: Company Car vs Company PC

In fact, if you do not know how to install windows by yourself on company kit you should not be allowed admin privs. Those other bright guyz in your company who never complain simply have reinstalled windows, not attached to domain, same username/password as domain account and never have any issues whatsoever ... if you do not know how to pull that one off, you do not deserve admin privs.

All jokes aside, I also have an HP lappy that is underclocked (1.2 iso 2.67Ghz) because it kept overheating during builds ... I swapped 4Gb for 8Gb RAM, my own RAM, swapped HD for SSD (also mine). I work from home. Lappy is HP EliteBook with i5.

For the others who do not know about ant, no, builds take much more oompf than crappy flash adds, believe me ... build uses 1-2Gb of RAM, easily, all four cores on my laptop are almost constantly above 90% usage, even at 2.67Ghz ... build time between the two clock speeds is about the same, the bottleneck is IO, I have a 500Gb SSD - the lappy came with windows 7, I dropped Debian on that. I almost halve build time on Debian compared to Windows 7 ... not sure why that is ... note that this is a biiiig application.

I need to position the laptop like /\ for it to build at 2.67Ghz without overheating - I cannot work during build without external monitor/keyboard/mouse and the noise is unbearable ... not worth it.

Waiting for a i7 tower with 16 or 32Gb ram and a second SSD for raid 0 - the shit is in subversion, all I need is speeeed.

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Happy

Re: Company Car vs Company PC

...the rest of the IT dept never seem to know how to treat the devs...

Teach them. Positive reinforcement (e.g.: remembering them at Christmas...apparently, I'm the only one who does) seems to work wonders.

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Flame

standardisation

This is the scourge of the engineering department.. being expected to build FPGA/microcontroller code, or run Matlab or Spice simulations on a PC that was designed for a company secretary who rarely uses anything other than Word or Internet Explorer (yep, the standard browser for the company, no you can't have firefox, its free! it can't possibly be legal!). 2GB of RAM which IE and windows swallows whole when you have more than a few windows open.. a single core CPU that needs its clockwork winding up regularly..

Anyone tried to design a PCB using a 15" screen? for heavens sake, my smartphone has more pixels! not fun!

*sigh* sorry rant over

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Re: standardisation

Chuckle : "for heavens sake, my smartphone has more pixels! not fun!"

Works laptop screen (Lenovo T420): 1366 x 768

My Nexus 5 phone: 1080P (i.e. 1920 × 1080 )

Crazy, really, really crazy!

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Anonymous Coward

I spent 4 years badgering my boss before we got decent sized screens - big widescreen TFTs to replace our crappy 17" TFTs.

We moved offices and went to a hot-desking environment, everyone got a laptop - the same laptop for all users. The laptops are widescreen, good for watching a movie on, useless for seeing multiple lines of code on.

Even this, with it's clearly measurable drop in productivity, was not enough to stir the great IT budget in to capex mode.

The tipping point was when marketing, who seem to have ways around IT capex - I think they just buy stuff and then say "oh, can't we do that?" - bought their staff 24" iiyama widescreens. Oh, and obviously, un-hotdesked themselves ("you can't sit there, those screens are for Marketing").

Of course, we didn't get iiyama. We got Acer. We always get Acer. No need for the people implementing those designs being able to see accurate colours, eh?

PS: The dichotomy of not liking my widescreen laptop and liking my widescreen TFT, I can rotate my widescreen TFT into portrait mode and get ungodly number of lines (well, 120+) on the screen.

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"PS: The dichotomy of not liking my widescreen laptop and liking my widescreen TFT, I can rotate my widescreen TFT into portrait mode and get ungodly number of lines (well, 120+) on the screen"

I managed to get dual monitors for all the developers by showing the boss something that he could understand - an IBM report saying that programmers were 15% more productive with dual screens. Getting that more work from you for only a couple of hundred pound a head, for monitors that could be nicely depreciated against tax makes business sense.

We got crappy widescreen monitors as well, but if you're willing to put shiny and conventional aside (and what true techie isn't?) then you can either use both vertically or even better one landscape and one portrait then use which ever layout works best - vertical for coding, wide for browsing.

It looks daft, but it works brilliantly.

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Re: I can rotate my widescreen TFT into portrait mode

Yes you can rotate it, but I've yet to come across a desktop OS and monitor that automates the screen rotation - funny Apple were able to do it on an iPad back in 2007, swiftly followed by Google with Android (okay not as smooth but still usable). Windows 8.n, MS's tablet OS, can't, likewise Linux. Given CRT displays that could be rotated from landscape to portrait mode were around in the late 80's, you would of thought a desktop OS, could handle them by now.

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Re: I can rotate my widescreen TFT into portrait mode

<Alt Gr> - Arrow Key will rotate your screen for you. Handy if your screen doesn't know which way is up (and why would it?) and also a fun way to confuse the hell out of a colleague who's left his machine unlocked while he grabs a cuppa... ;)

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Re: I can rotate my widescreen TFT into portrait mode

Which screen rotates at the AltGr <arrow-key> is controlled by where the mouse cursor is.

It can be a bit confusing -- if the result of one rotation changes the resolutions so the mouse pointer moves into a different monitor. ;-)

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Re: I can rotate my widescreen TFT into portrait mode

<Alt Gr> ... is not a Windows default shortcut, but one that a user can assign if their video driver permits.

My point wasn't that you can't rotate the Windows desktop to fit a rotated monitor, only that support for automatic rotation isn't inbuilt, as it is in iOS and Android. The surprising thing is that automated support only requires a minimal change to the VESA DDC and the fitting of an orientation sensor in the monitor (suggest would need to be three axis to allow detection of: landscape, portrait and table orientations).

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Re: I can rotate my widescreen TFT into portrait mode

This is nothing to do with the fact that iPads and Tablets have accelerometers in them and monitors don't, obviously.........

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Silver badge

Re: I can rotate my widescreen TFT into portrait mode

Yes you can rotate it, but I've yet to come across a desktop OS and monitor that automates the screen rotation … Windows 8.n, MS's tablet OS, can't, likewise Linux.

Well, I personally I use FreeBSD, this works pretty fine for me:

> $ grep xrandr .xinitrc

xrandr --output DP-0 --rotate left

xrandr --output VGA-0 --rotate left

I guess you meant "automatically detect what way up a screen is".

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