*tl;Dr>* I got one of those nifty laptop risers that puts your laptop up closer to eye level, and it has pretty much improved all of my interactions with computers a thousand fold and it's made it possible for me to effectively use two screens. This post explores this.
One of my coworkers had a laptop stand she wasn't using and I asked to borrow it for an afternoon, and my neck stopped hurting. I never thought my neck hurt before, but apparently it does.
But there's more: for years now I've kept an extra monitor around (and had one at work) but the truth is that I have never really felt like I've been able to get the most out of an external monitor.
Somehow, putting my laptop 4 inches in the air was the little change that made everything better. The laptop is generally on the left of the external monitor, and I have task lists, notes buffers, the chat window, and my status logging window on the laptop, and then three windows on the external (emacs buffer, terminal, emacs buffer) on the right. My primary focus centers between the monitors, but probably edges slightly toward the external, most of the time.
Also, I discovered that I--apparently--have a slight processing/attention defect whereby I find it painful and difficult to focus on things that are happening on the right side of the screen for any amount of time. Which is weird because my right eye has always been noticeably stronger. I'll ponder this more later.
My virtual desktops for email and web browsing are a bit less rigid, but the same basic idea. Somehow it seems to work. I've done a little bit of work recently to get the layouts right, to minimize the impact of the window management of most context switching (scripting various transitions, saving layouts, etc.) In all things are going great.
It strikes me that I've not posted here even a little about my setup in a while. The truth is that it's not terribly surprising and I've not changed very much recently. I'm back to one laptop, and as anxious as having one laptop makes me sometimes (I fear the lack of redundancy,) not having to keep it synced makes life easier. I've put some time into doing a little bit of polish on all of little bits of configuration/code that I have that makes my computing world go around, but mostly it's pretty good.
It's nice, and I'd write more about it, but I want to get back to getting things done around here. Exporting and exploring some of this stuff in greater depth is definitely on my list, so hang in there, and if there's something you particularly want to see, be in touch.