Thursday, December 17, 2009

Have Synergy and live to tell about it!

I think I got a bad case of DIY-make it better now syndrone. Here at my digital abode in downtown Linuxville, where the orange barrels are as abundant as cracks in the sidewalks, I have made another milestone. Building upon the engineering wonders of others is not my forte, but packaging and repackaging, aaaahh! Most times the technology is there, just not in the places where I would put them.

The Linuxville desk has two ATX style computers, one LCD and two CRTs, two keyboards and two mice and don't forget the router, DSL and printer. It's a digital fortress, am I getting overdosed in eddy currents? I needed to at least get rid of one keyboard and one mouse so that I can end some confusion. I swapped the two CRTs so that the big one is usable. The smaller CRT is a spare. I dedicated one computer to documents where I can store all my training stuff, tutorials and whatnot. My other computer is my main workhorse. They are on the same network, but how to use them together from one keyboard and mouse is expensive with a hardware KVM. Well, comparably anyway, after I installed a program called Synergy. KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) consist of a junction box. On one side you plug in all your PCs, the other, a keyboard, a monitor and a mouse. You could just share the keyboard and mouse and let each PC have its own monitor. You can select which PC is viewed and controlled with a key-click.

It is not hard to setup Synergy, though not as cool as running two monitors on one computer, but you do have more computing resources at you disposal with two or more PCs.

First I installed Synergy on each computer. Then I write a text file describing what each computer is called and name it synergy.conf and put it in my home directory. This configuration file says which PC is the server and which are the clients. Then I use the dreaded terminal window to issue a start the Synergy server command. This is done on the PC that will be the server. Then on each client machine, using the terminal window I issue the start Synergy client command. You can automate it all if you have the savvy. The web site is helpful and the Ubuntu site also has setup notes.

What is the results? I can shelve the mouse and keyboard for one computer. The mouse and keyboard on my main computer controls whichever computer has the cursor on its screen. I can now do other things on my desktop because I can see the wood surface.

Synergy also works with MS Windows so I can add my laptop if I wanted. This would be great because the touch pad is awkward, I don't have a USB mouse and of course my laptop has no PS/2 ports. And no, the Wacom graphics tablet plugged into my main PC doesn't work well on the other screen. I think maybe if it were in mouse mode it might work. I will have to get back with you on that.

I so much enjoy the uncluttered freedom and access.

Ubuntu Synergy setup

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