Podcasting What Geeks Really Want To Hear

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

So, one night this week in a (minor) flurry of activity, I decided to do something with the 17″ LCD that I’ve had laying around my apartment for 2 years. I got it free with a Dell workstation, but I’ve had my dual 20″ displays that I prefer for a long time now, so the 17″ screen just sat in my living room.

Quick background here, I usually have 4 machines running all the time: two Windows boxes (one for gaming and media) and the other for archival/storage and also for burning Lightscribe disks. Then I’ve got my primary workstation, a Solaris 10 for x86 box. Lastly, I’ve got my Mac Mini. The Windows & Solaris boxes all have a dual-head card in them, but of course, the Mini does not. All four machines are hooked into a four port dual-head KVM switch and life was good.

With one exception … the Mac Mini. Not that it hugely bothered me that the Mini only has a single-head connection. I had been thinking about getting a Matrox DualHead2Go box, but I’ve been having problems with the Mini running at 1600×1200, so I didn’t think it would play nice at all with 3200×1200. Anyways, I looked at that 17″ LCD display on the floor the other night, a few things clicked.

I remembered seeing an episode of Hak.5 (Season 2, Episode #1) where they talked about Synergy, which lets you share a keyboard & mouse across multiple machines. It didn’t interest me much at the time, because that’s what I use my KVM switch for (and on occasion, the second display with VNC to one of the other boxes). Anyways, I’ve set up Synergy servers on my two Windows boxes and my Solaris box. I’m also running three clients on my Mac Mini each one pointing to one of my other machines. Configuration of the server is fairly simple. Windows has a GUI that helps somewhat, but its very straightforward. Basically, you just need to say “machine A is to the left of machine B” and “machine B is to the right of machine A”. You need both rules to be able to transition to and then from the other machine. Luckily, the clients all seem to get along fine running on the same box yet pointing to different machines. I’m thinking it greatly helps that I’m always using just one of my other machines at a time.


In this image, my Mac Mini is on the left, and one of my Windows boxes is the middle & right displays. Yes, you can see a dock in my Windows machine, because I run Flyakite OSX on my Windows machines, to make it look and feel like a Mac. I’m running Wireshark in middle display and Firefox (with the Geek Muse blog) on the right. My MacBook is sitting way off the left (you can see a corner of it) with its RadTech keyboard cloth sitting on it.

I can now switch between either of my Windows boxes and/or my Solaris box, and I’ll always have my Mac to the left. Just a quick movement of the wrist, regardless of which machine I’m on. Also, I now have an open spot on my KVM switch, which means I need to go and do some shopping.

The only problem I have right now is with keyboard mapping. I typically set my Caps Lock key as another Control key, which in the end means I’ve got no Option key on my Mac. I just have to do a little creative remapping on the other machines and I’ll get it to work. Synergy allows for some of this, but not exactly what I need.

posted by Nem W Schlecht at 11:58 in General    

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