In my quest to clean up my desk top at home, I’ve done several things. I started using both my work laptop and home PC at the same time. All things that need a VPN connection (work email, intranet web browsing, SSH to various internal hosts, etc.) are done via the laptop while everything else (IM, web browsing, personal email, music) are done via the home PC. I recently wrote about synergy which allows me to use a single keyboard and mouse to control the two PC’s, and while I’ve had some issues with that and had to go with a hardware KVMP to supplement the software KM synergy, it has worked fairly well.
The KVMP I got is the IOGEAR GCS1734:
It’s alot fancier than some on the market but what drew me to it was the fact that it allows you to share USB peripherals (thus the “P”). Once I switched from SSH tunnels on my work laptop to VPN, I lost the ability to do anything on my local home network, including printing via a shared printer, without quiting the VPN. But with the USB printer plugged into the KVMP, I can switch it over to my work laptop and print. I also think I will do this with an external drive at some point.
I’m actually using the KVMP as a KMP — no video switching. I’m using two screens for the two computers. This is a four port unit though I’m only using two now, but I like the upgrade option if I ever add a home linux server or even a mac mini. 🙂 The unit comes with four cables that include audio, video (vga), and the USB connection, so you can also share audio between multiple PC’s to one set of speakers, though I’m not doing that now.
Overall the unit is pretty nice, but I was using a 5 or 6 year old keyboard and mouse that came with an old Aptiva. So I thought I’d upgrade and I thought wireless may work well in order to continue the clean up. I first tried a wireless Microsoft comfort keyboard/mouse combo, and was fairly happy with it. It did have a lot of extraneous keys that I’d never use, but I really liked the slight curvature of the keyboard. Not quite as radical as a fully ergonomic keyboard, but just a nice curve to keep the wrists at good angles.
Alas, the microsoft keyboard did not work at all with the h/w KVMP. After some research it turns out that almost no wireless keyboard/mouse combos work with any KVM’s — or at least they are not supported. So if it does work, you are kind of lucky.
IOGEAR told me that they have a wireless keyboard/mouse combo, the GKM521R, that would work with their KVMP. I picked it up for about $10 after rebates from Amazon! Overall it does work fairly well, but you do lose the keyboard control of volume, being able to open up web, mail, or the calculater from a single button, etc.
What is nice about using the IOGEAR keyboard with their KVMP is that the hot keys do work. So I can hit “scrl-lock, scrl-lock, #, enter” to switch to the PC on port #. Or if you just want to swtich the key board and mouse, and not the USB peripherals, hit “scrl-lock, scrl-lock, #, k, enter.”
At first I was not crazy about the tactile feedback of the IOGEAR compared to the microsoft unit or my very old keyboard, but it has grown on me. However, the backspace key is too small — a normal sized key instead of a double key, and that has been hard for me to get used to. In addition, the Enter key is quite large, and I often hit it when I’m trying to use the pipe “|” key. Another thing that drives me crazy is the mouse uses rechargable batteries, and I have not yet gotten used to charging it, so it often dies on me.
I may switch to an MSFT comfort curve wired keyboard at some point, though I’m told some of the keys like volume control, open calculater, etc., won’t work as the KVMP is an emualted one, not a non-emulated one. Sigh. A couple of wires aren’t going to kill me.