Saturday, February 27, 2016

An Ideal Setup Can Help with Research

Here is a not-so-popular addage: "Good administration is no guarantee for success, but bad administration can certainly stiffle it" (a Max Lee quotable). This is true of business, profane or holy, and it is true for academics who are plugging forward on their research projects. I have longed to find the perfect computer screen setup for writing. I finally saved enough dough to put it together this past week. Here is a photo of it: 
My Research Computer Setup: Left Screen: MS Word Doc of a chapter I'm working on
Right Screen: Top is Plato's Theaetetus from the HathiTrust Digital Library and
Bottom has the Greek morphology engine on the Perseus Project website

I used two 22-inch Dell flat screen's (refurbished price $140 each) and rotated them to portrait mode, set the display to extended screen so that the two monitors act as a single screen together, got a used docking station ($20) for my North Park issued Dell Latitude E5440 laptop (free as long as I keep teaching at the seminary), found an old keyboard, and voilà! The perfect setup. 
    Because the screens are rotated to portrait mode, on the left one, I can get a full page view of whatever part of the monograph I'm working on (more like 1 1/2 pages) at 150% zoom. I don't have to squint anymore at my 14 in. (X 10 in.) display on my dinky laptop which only allows me to see less than 1/2 a page at a given moment. To my right, I can keep the top window open on whatever electronic document I'm working in (i.e., the photo above has Plato's Theaetetus on screen, courtesy of the HathiTrust Digital Library) and on the bottom right window, I can keep a web browser open (i.e., the photo has the Greek morphology engine on the Perseus Project website). Of course, the most important item on the desk for any researcher, an absolute must, is a cup of java to keep the blood pumping.
   I just thought I would share this setup since the scholarly world sometimes seems so solitary and we academics, professors and students alike, need to help each other out with whatever productivity hints we can share. 
   FYI, I received the idea for the above setup from a post by James Warren, Reader at Cambridge University, whose kenodoxia blog I follow. In his post, James (with whom I enjoyed a very helpful conversation one day in 2010 when I stole away from my post-doctoral studies at Durham University to visit Cambridge) showed a two-screen setup as he was compiling the indices for his now published book The Pleasures of Reason (2014). When I saw his post, it gave me the inspiration for the above desktop arrangement. But I had to save for a few months before I could buy what I needed. Cheers!

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