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A very cool alternative to kvm

Posted : Sunday, 23 September 2012 19:18:00

I have a three monitor setup up at home which has docking station for my laptop attached to one of the monitors, I work on client sites a lot so do work a lot on my laptop but when I’m at home I frequently want the screen real estate for my laptop afforded by an external screen. In order to cut down on wires and hassles I bought a KVM (Keyboard Video Mouse) switch which I use to control both my desktop and laptop. I have Ultramon installed on my desktop so don’t use the Video aspect of the KVM switch instead I have set up a shortcut to toggle between two or three monitors. If I want to use my laptop, I place it in the docking station, toggle the desktop to two screens then can use my single mouse and keyboard to use either my two-screen desktop or one screen-laptop with a single keystroke.  Well, that was how it used to work…

Sometime ago the mouse stopped working when i was using my laptop, this was a minor irritation but I lived with it as I haven’t been WFH much lately so it wasn’t causing me too much grief. This weekend however I was trying to sort out an alternative to my Windows HomeServer nightmare (blog posts to follow) and decided to tackle this problem. After A LOT of cable bashing, plugging in one keyboard-mouse desk set into the KVM, unplugging that trying separate keyboards and mouse etc. I discovered the problem was with the KVM itself. I was searching around for another online when I remembered something a friend I used to work with told me about a while ago whereby rather than use a KVM, a single computer could be used to receive keyboard and mouse input and, in the event that the mouse pointer left a screen edge, the input could be directed to another computer on the same network. At the time I didn’t really get my head around the concept so didn’t think much of it. I spent a bit of time Googling around and found this site - http://synergy-foss.org/. Seriously you have to love open-source, there are some very cool bits and bobs floating around and this is my current favourite – kudos to the guys at Synergy. I downloaded the software to my laptop and desktop – set my desktop up as the server and after about 30 seconds of configuration I have a single-keyboard-mouse / multiple-computer solution that works beautifully. I move my mouse off the right hand edge of my desktop and its instantly controlling my laptop – very very cool indeed – that only downside is that I have to have both machines running if I only want to use my laptop with the keyboard and mouse desk set but given that it is always on if I’m using my laptop while its docked then that really isn’t a problem. If you’re looking for something like this (or happened across post this while looking for KVM related material) then try it out – I think its brilliant and way better than KVM.

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