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Author Topic: Two computers - one set of secreens etc. Ideas?  (Read 4271 times)
Carol Haynes
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« on: May 10, 2010, 07:13:55 AM »

I have two desktop computers and would like to set up a single array of 3 monitors/keyboard/mouse (possibly other external peripherals) that can be shared at the flick of a switch.

Anyone any idea how to achieve this?

I suppose what I am looking for is a box (if possible cheap) which I can can connect to two different computers' graphics cards (preferably 4 input from each) and have multiple VGA/DVI outputs (4 preferably) and a set of USB throughput connectors - probably about 6-8 or so (not a hub which can cause problems) plus ideally traditional PC AT-style keyboard and mouse connectors.

Ideally I need something available in the UK or at least Europe to avoid stupid import fees.
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lanux128
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« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2010, 07:51:11 AM »

you had something like this in mind? scancode uses this and is a happy camper.
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2010, 01:13:58 PM »

No I want the opposite??? That seems to make a PC multiuser.

I need 2 or 3 PCs with only one user using the same monitors and keyboard/mouse etc. flicking between systems with a switch of button board.

I suppose what I want is similar to a terminal accessing a number of servers in a rack - only I haven't got racked systems. I have standard PCs and a laptop and ideally it would be nice to have a central point to access all of them. This way I can eg. set up a server on one PC and only need a monitor/keyboard/mouse connection when I actually want to manage the server but at other times use the same peripherals on my desktop PC etc.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2010, 01:16:34 PM by Carol Haynes » Logged

Stoic Joker
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« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2010, 01:56:53 PM »

Why not use Remote Desktop? I use it daily to manage several servers scattered all over town.
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40hz
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« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2010, 02:13:11 PM »

Why not use Remote Desktop? I use it daily to manage several servers scattered all over town.

Me too. But it's more viable using it to administrate a server than it is to work alternately on two or more 'desktop' machines.

IMHO a hardware KVM solution is still the best bet. Especially if you're running heavy graphics or media apps. I'd hate to try and edit video or do music composition over an Ethernet link.

I use Synergy mainly when I want to do administrative tasks on my home network. And I'll use Remote Desktop when I'm logging onto client Windows servers. But for doing actual tasks on the three main machines I regularly use, I've found nothing works better than a KVM box.

Just my two...  Cool

« Last Edit: May 10, 2010, 02:22:39 PM by 40hz » Logged

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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2010, 02:27:25 PM »

Looking at KVM switches they seem near what I am looking for.

However, every one I have looked at only has a single monitor. Does anybody know of any with dual display capabilities or do I have to buy a KVM for each display.

Also I have noticed that all the KVMs I have seen seem to use VGA connectors - are there any true DVI versions?

And ideally I would like both PS2 and USB keyboard/mouse connectors to be available - most KVMs seen to only have either/or.
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Gwen7
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« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2010, 02:50:52 PM »

do a google search on multimonitor KVM.

they're available. we have them where i work  but they're also expensive. be sure to check for what connections you need.  most are for VGA monitor connectons and cards. but dual-DVI setups are also available.

if you can afford something like that can i be your friend?  smiley 
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Stoic Joker
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« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2010, 03:40:18 PM »

Why not use Remote Desktop? I use it daily to manage several servers scattered all over town.

Me too. But it's more viable using it to administrate a server than it is to work alternately on two or more 'desktop' machines.

IMHO a hardware KVM solution is still the best bet. Especially if you're running heavy graphics or media apps. I'd hate to try and edit video or do music composition over an Ethernet link.

Video I'll give you ('cause the frame rate just ain't there) But I quite frequently work with MSVS on UI design via RDP across town with no ill effects. Run across a LAN (depending on connection configuration) it's real hard to tell you're not on LM. It really depends on what Carol is doing, and with which OS (for dual monitor and peripheral support) - KVM has always struck me as being pricy & a bit antiquated.
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2010, 04:12:55 PM »

Thanks Gwen -  I see what you mean. Though I did find a dual head DVI/USB2 KVM for £179 (inc. taxes and delivery) which didn't seem excessive. I suppose if I wanted to spend that much I am more tempted to buy another 22" monitor Wink

Actually Remote Desktop (or similar) may not be impossible. I am thinking of building a Windows 2008 server box with a spare PC and so RD would probably work quite well for that - and have the advantage of being free.

When using desktop equipment (rather than specially designed rack systems) how do you get around the lack of keyboard and monitor when you boot it up or restart it? Most BIOSes I have seen don't like starting up without a keyboard and how does RD take over keyboard functions when there is no keyboard to take over?
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Gwen7
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« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2010, 05:36:58 PM »

hi.

good quality KVM boxes have microprocessors and provide full and full-time hardware emulation so it's not an issue with those. it's also why they cost more.

remote desktop is all you'll need for use with a server. don't waste money on a KVM just for that. you can always plug a keyboard in if you ever need to get into the mainboard or RAID bios for anything. and that shouldn't happen too often. you can also set things up so windows server tries to do a soft shutdown if you hit the front panel power switch so you don't really need a keyboard to reboot it either. as long as your server isn't something like 10 years old you should be fine.  

most system boards also aren't fussy about having a keyboard attached anymore. or not from my experience anyway. you may need to fiddle with BIOS settings depending on what you have. but with all the headless home servers being made from old PCs that's a good thing.  

sorry I'm rambling. i'm at work and alternating between you and a webserver update while eating a truly horrid vendy sandwich for dinner.
 smiley
 
« Last Edit: May 10, 2010, 05:41:21 PM by Gwen7 » Logged
Carol Haynes
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« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2010, 05:27:02 AM »

Thanks for the info. Appreciated. I'll give it a go Wink
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« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2010, 05:43:08 AM »

most system boards also aren't fussy about having a keyboard attached anymore. or not from my experience anyway. you may need to fiddle with BIOS settings depending on what you have. but with all the headless home servers being made from old PCs that's a good thing.

I can confirm this, I haven't seen a BIOS yet that didn't have some variation on "Stop on Errors: All But Keyboard" Which is what Carol should look for.

Good tip on the power button also - Our accountant has trouble with the 50/50 between System Power & the Eject Tape button.
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2010, 05:47:08 AM »

Yes I always set up the power buttons on desktops and laptops to do a proper shutdown. It's quicker than fiddling with a mouse anyway.

Of course if it hangs during shutdown you are stuffed  embarassed
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« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2010, 06:34:46 AM »

Even in that configuration, if you hold the power button for 5+ seconds it should still dump the box (if need be).
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #14 on: May 11, 2010, 06:45:14 AM »

Yes I know - but I don't like 'killing' a box that is hanging if I don't have to.
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« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2010, 04:08:03 AM »

Use a KVM switch + Synergy.
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #16 on: June 11, 2010, 07:06:09 AM »

I have a spare keyboard and I have just discovered that my monitor has DVI and VGA inputs that can be manually selected via a button so if I connect my server box via a VGA cable I should be able to flick from my main computer to server with a quick press of the button. I am going to need to check if this works though!
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40hz
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« Reply #17 on: June 11, 2010, 12:33:19 PM »

Just tried it with an old high-end CRT I own which has dual inputs and an A/B select switch.

Works like a charm on that. Screen goes nuts for a second as it auto-adjusts to the different screen resolutions. You hear the flyback transformer 'sing' a bit, but it locks on a second later and that's that.  Hope it goes as well for you.

Funny how I've had that monitor all this time and never thought to use the A/B feature. Grin  
« Last Edit: June 11, 2010, 12:36:56 PM by 40hz » Logged

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