Is there a way to extend my desktop's screen onto my laptop's display, as if the laptop was just another monitor in a dual-monitor configuration?
Maybe with some combination of VNC and Synergy?
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I believe with the Nvidia-xserver-settings you can accomplish that provided you have an Nvidia card. You select twinview mode and designate the external monitor as primary and the laptop screen as secondary. That should do the trick.
If you have other graphic cards I am not sure how to do that.