In 2009 I was able to move back to a desktop computer thanks to some supporters. I had been working on a small laptop ever since coming to Malaysia since 2007. Now there are several advantages of a laptop, the main one being its portability, which is very useful if you are not settled in any particular place.
But it comes with a price, which is that there is little room on the monitor to work with, and its almost an equation that the more portable :: the less room. This had become a difficulty for me as most of my work and reading is online these days.
My eyes have deteriated considerably in the past 10 years and whereas I used to be able to manage with two focal lengths: reading/computer and distance, I now have three: reading, computer and distance (near, middle and far).
So getting a bigger screen was necessary. After checking around at the various options I eventually was given a Dell package with an 18″ widescreen monitor. In those days as I remember widescreens were just becoming widely available (at least in my neck of the woods).
It was indeed an improvement on my previous 14″ 4:3 laptop, giving a much bigger screen to work with. However it was inevitably squashed with its 16:9 dimensions.
Now monks don’t have an income and they therefore don’t have the ability to just chop and change whenever something is not suitable. I have learned to live with that, and I really am not complaining, it is part of the monk’s package 🙂
However, the problem is still there. So when I did again have the opportunity to make a change, I started looking at the options, and I realised that with a square monitor, although I would loose something on width, I would gain considerably on height, and that was what was crucial.
Unfortunately by now it seems all the monitors that are being manufactured are widescreen. I am not sure if this is a worldwide phenomena, but in Malaysia it is so. So if you want a square monitor we are only talking about second-hand.
A friend of mine checked out the situation in Penang, and I looked around in Bukit Mertajam, but nowhere is it possible to come across a square monitor, they are not made, they are not stocked, they are not available. 16:9 are everywhere; 4:3 can be found second-hand, but not square.
Then we found a second-hand one advertised on the Internet, in fact there were a few. The seller was in Johor (about 700 km away) so it was not possible to check it out personally, but we had a photo of it, and fortunately I managed to get a friend of a friend to have a look, and it seemed OK, so it was ordered.
When it came, of course, it was not square. Now personally I have known the difference between square and rectangular since I was 4 or 5 years old, and it is almost second nature to me, so I didn’t think to insist. But other people it seems that is not so. The monitor when it arrived was 4:3.
As it was bought, and as it was hardly returnable, I decided to set it up and see what it was like anyway. The monitor is a 20″ TopSync (from Korea). The result was actually fantastic. Such a big difference in the work-area.
It may give some idea of the problem if I show you a typical set up I have when I am working. I very often have to make comparisons of texts to establish a new text with better readings.
This requires at least three components: the programme I am writing in (in this case Word); a programme showing a text I am reading from (in this case STDU reader), and a dictionary (an AutoHotkey script I wrote myself). This is what it looks like on the old screen (you will notice, by the way, that the taskbar is not at the bottom of the screen as is standard, but on the left. This was also an attempt to get more height):
Of course this is a reduced image, the actual working area, highlighted in red is 11″ x 4″, to be honest it is very little as I cannot even see a whole verse while working, and it was very frustrating at times, as getting a clear overview of the work is essential. This is what it looks like on the new screen.
The workspace is now 10″ x 7″, although I loose an inch on the width, I gain three on the height, and that makes a big difference. I can actually see what I am working with, or at least a greater part of it.
Now it is not just when writing that I need to have multiple programmes open, the same is true when I am recording texts for publication as audio files. Here is a screenshot of Firefox with a webpage open, and Audacity underneath, which is where I am editing the recording. I am listening to the text and reading at the same time to check for mistakes.
Cramped, is the word that comes to my mind. Here is a comparison with the same programmes open on the new monitor.
I think the screenshots speak for themselves.
I have not been able yet to work out why everyone is switching to widescreen. Even if there is a market for them, I can’t see that it would be overwhelming. It’s sometimes put down to the use of the computer for multimedia, but that is hardly a cogent argument as most films are still 4:3, as are most photographs.
Even when reading a webpage, what a difference it makes. Here are two screenshots to leave you with. They are of the Cameron Highlands page of my Photo Dharma website.
As I now have two monitors, by the way, I am setting up a dual monitor system. It hasn’t worked out as yet, as besides the monitor size changing, also connectors have changed (from VGA on the TopSync, to DVI on the Dell, to DVI & HDMI on the videocard), and I am trying to find suitable adaptors, cables, etc. in order to set it up. I will report back again later.