A Little Bit of Synergy

When I got back to work after the holiday today, there was a late Christmas present waiting – a new development PC! The machine in question is a Dell Optiplex sporting a Core 2 Duo processor, somewhat more powerful than the Latitude laptop I’ve been using up to now.

An therein lies the problem. Since the new machine is a desktop, I’m still going to need the laptop for the occasions I need something mobile. Whilst you can get Core 2 Duo laptops, in a desktop chassis you can build a much more powerful machine, for example the hard drive in the new machine is way beyond what is available in the small drives that are used in laptops. As a result, the laptop is staying around in regular use, alongside the new machine. So how to integrate the two systems?

At this point I remembered a recommendation from Howard for a tool that he used to allow him to share one keyboard and mouse between the multiple machines on his desk – Synergy – essentially a keyboard and mouse switch box in software. More than that, it’s multi-platform, so allows you to share a keyboard and mouse between PC, Mac and Linux systems, and as a bonus has clipboard sharing too.

It’s pretty simple to set up too, just install the software onto the PC’s, designate one PC as the master, and all the others as clients, specify the screens for each, and define the relationship between each. One slight hiccup is that you have to define the relationships in both directions – which does allow you to do quite complex relationships – but for a basic setup is a bit annoying. However it works like a charm. I now have one keyboard and mouse, and when the pointer moves off the left hand side of the laptop screen it appears on the right hand side of the new PC. Even better it understands about the second screen I have attached to the laptop, and copes with that too.

If like me and Howard you’re living with multiple computers on your desk, it is a great little tool for reducing the clutter.

2 thoughts on “A Little Bit of Synergy”

  1. Would this be a virtual KVM instance? Similar to a server room KVM…thats what it sounds like. I actually have a similar tool across a Sun Solaris 10 and Unix / Ubuntu installation across multiple machines.
    Interesting.

    Could you kindly trade links? I’ll like to link to your blog and vice versa…..

    Thanks,

    Alani

  2. Yes, that is pretty well what it is – except each machine is on a separate monitor, so it’s not actually sharing the video, only the keyboard and mouse.

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