Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
  A way bigger screen
So I was all excited when I started working at forterra to upgrade all my computer hardware, and I was especially jazzed to get a new screen. My old Sony W900 hidef tube had served me faithfully for years, but besides fading due to its age, it was just this giant 130 pound monster taking up about four square feet of my desk. Its power usage was impressive, pulling about as many watts as the rest of my electronics in regular use; and despite my demonstrated ability to reproduce at will, I wasn't that excited at having a giant electron gun aimed at me whenever I was puttering around online.

[ibm t221] While the IBM T221 looked exciting with its ridiculous 3840 x 2400 resolution, there were a few downsides besides it $7,500 price tag. To drive a 9MP display over a bandwidth limited digital interface required four channels in parallel, striped across two physical cables. The cards out there that could drive this thing were a pretty exclusive group, adding another $1,800 to $3,600 in cost to whatever system I'd be putting together. Even then, the top end refresh rate was something like 40Hz, not the greatest for the occasional wide screen movie viewing or the even more unlikely game playing. The final killer was the fact that this display wasn't any bigger than what I had before. In fact it was a little smaller (22 inches vs 24 inches, though CRT dimensions are not to be trusted). Still, I'd be looking at the same amount of space, just four times the number of pixels.

While I put a premium on resolution, technology has improved itself over the years enough for me to reach my limits. Back when laptops finally made the jump from XGA to SXGA+ (1400x1080) I was ecstatic, and I rushed out to buy an IBM A20p the minute it was available. When they made another jump to UXGA, I immediately dumped my A20p and rushed out and bought a A21p (manufacture refurbished this time, my wife was still shaking her head about the previous $3,600 purchase). I don't exactly remember what my excuse was for the A22p, except that 22 comes after 21. In any case, having 2MP in my backpack, ready to go at a moment's notice was pretty cool, but as I tried to read 6pt text on a 160dpi display while the airplane was shaking my seat and the computer up and down; I realized the falacy of pursuing higher and higher screen resolutions without also gaining additional physical space to use them.

While there were a multitude of 20" LCD displays offering UXGA resolution on the desktop, and a few even offering UWXGA (1920x1200), I wasn't that excited about purchasing a new setup that offered the same (or worse) resolution as my old display. Friends suggested getting a setup with two displays, but we had used something like that back in the old days at Mr. Film, and having dialog boxes popping right up in the "middle" of the two screens was really annoying or on those machines were a video display was stuck between the two screens, just about unusable. Imagine trying to read a sentence where half of the line is off to your left, and the other is off to your right. No thank you.

So it had to be a single display, fairly large, and hires. Pretty much the only thing fitting the bill was the Apple CInema 30, and thanks to a note on Mac Deal Watch I discovered they were selling them refurbished. That got the price down from $3,200 to only $2,500 which I couldn't really afford, but I decided to get it anyways. (They've gotten even cheaper recently, he price this week is only $2,100--the bums.)

As I was setting things up, I also threw in a small 19" CRT on the side (handy when trying to get the right settings for the LCD panel). Just to be funky, the CRT sat on its side in portrait mode where it fit a bit better, and also provided some useful space for extra lists and such. It was working out so well having a second display, that I decided to keep the side screen permanently, and replaced the CRT with a low cost LCD panel (also turned sideways), so I ended up with 3760x1600 spread across about four feet of real estate. Pretty sweet I thought to myself. At least until I browsed by the Make: blog today.

[hiperwall] If one Apple cinema 30 is good, then fifty must be better, right?

Those crazy scientists at UC Irvine got the government to buy them 50 Apple cinema 30 displays and 50 computers to drive them.

"The Highly Interactive Parallelized Display Wall project (HIPerWall) will provide unprecedented high-capacity visualization capabilities to experimental and theoretical researchers. Visualizing these multi-dimensional, time-varying dataset is both a challenge to computational/storage infrastructure as well as current display technologies. With HIPerWall, researchers will be able to see both the broad view of the data and details concurrently, enabling collaboration and shared viewing of complex results. A visualization cluster of high-performance commodity computers will transfer and manipulate data displayed on HIPerWall's 50 display tiles that will operate at a combined resolution of 200+ mega pixels."

"Scientists at UC Irvine have completed the world’s highest-resolution grid-based display for visualizing and manipulating massive data sets. The Highly Interactive Parallelized Display Wall (HIPerWall) is a room-sized display that measures nearly 23 x 9 feet."

I wonder if they can watch movies on it.

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