Actual Desktops, not Virtual Ones

I spent a small chunk of today setting up my new secondary work machine - my plan is to run Virtual PC on it, and use it as my main test box.

I have an LCD monitor that does VGA and DVI inputs. I can switch between them at the push of a button. Unfortunately, the mouse and keyboard don't follow the screen.

The keyboard is PS2. The mouse is USB, strung off an extension cable and unpowered hub. So far, so good. The KVM I have doesn't do USB. Not so good. It also doesn't do DVI, and bluntly, after using DVI for a while, there is no way I am going back to analog signals.

What I wanted to be able to do was to mouse from my regular desktop, either hit a key (KVM style) or mouse to the edge of the desktop, then have the screen change to the next PC, and be able to use the same mouse, keyboard and monitor. I'm aware of KVMs that exist purport to do this "for a small fraction of the cost of a second keyboard, mouse and monitor" but I'm more interested in the zero dollar options.

After looking at most of what was available on the web, I'm back to RDP. At the moment, I've configured a shortcut hot key to quickly open a window to the target machine, but I've got my heart set on "mouseability" now too. No-keyboard-touch switching between views.

So after work, I spent another reasonable chunk of my evening trying to "whip something up" using VS2003 and the MSRDPClient object. It's kinda-sort-of-not-really-more-or-less working, but so far it's a little too clunky to actually be able to use. For anything. Ever.

But it's fun to try.


Comments (4)

  1. Matt says:

    So let me get this straight… Your running Virtual PC’s or Terminal services ?

    And if termainl services what are you remote controlling ? Virtual PC’s ?

    I only ask as I’m currently using VMWare to achieve a similar thing, testing/sandbox. I find VMWare to be fast and reliable. However its always good to consider the options.

    Oh and I agree about the DVI thing. DVI is great for LCD screens.

  2. Mario says:

    Have you tried Synergy ( Works fine for me, even across different operating systems.

  3. Samw says:

    Did you spot x2vnc in your research? It isn’t really a match for what your trying to do but it may give you some functionality ideas.

    I have a linux machine as my main desktop and a windows machine with a monitor connected, but no keyboard or mouse. By using x2vnc I can move my mouse seemlessly from one desktop to the other, and the keyboard goes with it. For some reason people are always freaked out when they see it

    One neat trick – if you do this in software you can copy/paste between machines, try that with a KVM 🙂

  4. TristanK says:

    Thanks for the tips!

    The plan is that I run VPCs on the second box, and control the VPCs from the box’s console, not RDPing into the little VPCs directly. VPC seems reasonably responsive through RDP when the additions are installed.

    For now, I just have the one monitor, so any solution needs to include simulated screen switching (eg, it has to have some type of remote desktop component).

    I checked out Synergy and X2Vnc, but the second monitor requirement is the killer.

    Though thinking about it again, I could just mouse over, and manually switch the monitor to the other input, but keep the mouse and keystrokes, I guess… Yeah, that might work. Thanks for pushing me back into strange new directions!

    If it’s all still too much trouble to hit the little "switch input" button on the monitor (it takes longer than actually connecting an RDP session, believe it or not!), I’ll persevere with my perverse little TS application!

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