Is there a way to convince Windows that there's always an external monitor connected?
I run Windows Vista Home Premium on a Dell Inspiron 1545 laptop which, in it's usual home, has a 22" external monitor connected. Since I frequently switch from one task to another, each of which often involves multiple windows, it's not uncommon to have at least 40-50 windows open, carefully arranged to make the best use of screen real estate.
In order to take advantage of the laptop's portability, I have to unplug the monitor, prompting Windows to shove all my carefully-placed windows back onto the main screen and, in most cases, resize them as well. This makes for a good bit of tedious work putting everything back when I return to my normal work space.
If I can make Windows think the monitor is always there, everything will stay where I put it. If I really need access to a window on the other monitor, I can always Alt-tab to the hidden window and move it onto the laptop's panel.
Some sort of pass-through hardware device that stays plugged into the external monitor port (VGA) all the time and fiddles with the signals to trick the video hardware when the monitor isn't connected to it could work, but would be less desirable for various reasons (potential for getting caught on things, getting unplugged accidentally from the no-thumb-screw-having VGA port on the laptop, causing damage to the hardware if not done just right, etc.).
Better would be a way to trick the monitor or video card driver into always telling Windows that the monitor is there. Alternatively, perhaps some sort of filter could be setup in front of the real driver. The monitor driver for both the internal panel and the external monitor appears to be the standard "Generic PnP Monitor" driver (monitor.sys). The display adapter is a Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD running driver version 220.127.116.117.