Saturday, 23 May 2020

Horizontal and vertical dual setup on Linux Mint

I have never really been a two-screens guy, unless you count the inevitable retro computer monitor next to the modern PC.

Partly because there's never ever enough desk space to do that, partly because I've felt that having my eyes wander between two wide screens is too un-ergonomic, and so on and on.

On a whim I noted I could at least save some desk space by having the other screen as vertical. This would also reduce the horizontal eye and head movement.

Reading news sites or Facebook it might be a better layout, as many websites are now designed with a vertical screen in mind.

But it's still more of an excuse to get the second monitor fit.

To me it makes sense to have a vnc window to another computer on this second monitor. No, really, although it does sound a bit silly.

I've occasionally tried running two computers on two monitor side by side, and found that to be more confusing than the vnc. I have more than two computers and so the keyboard/mouse sharing options could get complicated. Plus the other computers might not be stacked physically close to the screen.

So, I could get used to this.

Connecting two screens and changing their orientation is not at all difficult in Linux Mint/Mate. Some challenges arise from trying to do specific things.


The primary monitor is connected with DVI, whereas the other is on a Displayport->VGA adapter. (I don't have a displayport-equipped monitor) The primary monitor is 1920 x 1200 and the secondary as 1680 x 1050 (1050 x 1680)

It may not be obvious that by moving the pink and cyan rectangles changes the way the mouse pointer crosses over to the other screen.

I did encounter some hiccups in the way the icons are arranged on the primary screen. When trying to match the screen positions with the physical reality, some icons went over the top of the desktop and would not "arrange" correctly either.



Drawing with a Wacom tablet on screen 2

Using GIMP window in one screen and tools in another, is not something that works well for me. The mouse pointer transitions between monitors are not ideal and shifting my focus is even less so.

But, drawing on a vertical format on a single screen might make sense in Krita or Mypaint.

Generally I've found my cheap-end Wacom tablet to behave well in Linux.

The first instinct of the tablet device is to map the entirety of the display range to the tablet. Just like if you take a screenshot it will mosaic both screens. This makes sense if you thing the tablet as a substitute for a mouse, but it's not good for drawing.

xrandr can tell the names of the screens (or the ports?) such as DVI-D-0 and DP-2 in my case.

xsetwacom --list devices will tell the names of the tablet devices:

Wacom Intuos S 2 Pen stylus      id: 12 type: STYLUS    
Wacom Intuos S 2 Pad pad        id: 13 type: PAD  

But, instead of using the screen names from xrandr, I found that using HEAD-0 and HEAD-1 work instead. (I've understood this is due to Nvidia drivers. Just in case the above works better I've included the info).

xsetwacom set "Wacom Intuos S 2 Pen stylus" MapToOutput HEAD-1

What still remains is that the scaling is all wrong because the tablet is horizontal and the screen is vertical!

xsetwacom set "Wacom Intuos S 2 Pen stylus" rotate ccw

This rotates the orientation counter-clockwise. "none" and "half" are also possible values. Obviously the physical tablet will have to be rotated too.

After removing the window toolbars it's quite nice to draw on Krita vertically.


After these settings, everything works as I'd expect: the mouse still works across both monitor boundaries, whereas the Wacom tablet is limited to that one screen with Krita.

There is a discrepancy between the color and intensity and gamma of the two monitors, which can be annoying in some situations but I may even need that in some visual tasks, looking at how a graphic might show in different environments.


Launching applications

I recall this has always been a bit off-putting with the Mint Mate dual monitor set up. The thing is, programs don't launch in the correct monitor in a logical way.

Part of the confusion may be that it is all treated as a single display after all.

Some programs, like Krita and GIMP, remember the previous configuration, which is great.

I don't expect to play Steam games etc. in this vertical monitor so that can be forgotten. I already recall this required some fiddling and is partly to blame for my negativism towards two-monitor setups.
Half-Life 2:Lost Coast behaves rather nicely, but the mouse is mapped wrong

But there's really no need to force games, or films, to play on that vertical monitor.

I created a panel to the second monitor with application launchers. This might help with obvious ones such as the terminal window.

Even this information I had to dig up somewhere: The new panel can be only created on a monitor with an existing panel. Drag the new panel to the correct monitor with ALT pressed down.

Using compiz and and changing compizconfig settings does not help, although some of the options sound like they might address this issue.

Looking around, this launching problem seems like a fairly persistent issue with Mint.

I could make this somewhat kludgy script, make a launcher icon run it and technically have my application run on the other monitor:

#!/bin/bash
x64 &
sleep 2; wmctrl -r "VICE: C64 emulator" -e 0,1920,0,1200,1500

But it's not especially ideal either, here the "sleep" period is used so that wmctrl can catch hold of the window.

Should I want to run Vice full screen then it will again switch to the primary monitor. Ok, if I add the -fullscreen argument to x64, the script will miraculously run it full screen on the other monitor, but the pointer will be confined to that screen. Vice seems to do that in any case, so that's the end of that really.

It does not matter to me if Vice runs full screen on a wrong shaped monitor, I'm simply using this as an example of the kind of problems that may arise from this setup if you insist on getting something to run on the 2nd screen.

Going through a lot of software and finding out they don't behave in the best possible way gives a negative feeling, even if I wouldn't really even use those apps on the second screen.

So, the "wrong" monitor launch is not an enormously big deal, more like an annoyance that comes from testing multiple apps. 

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