Cheap KVMs


As I have previously had older and larger computers at home, I have been able to get by with a KVM which handles VGA and PS/2.

Right, I just lost half the audience. OK, a KVM is a box which takes as input the Keyboard (K), Video (V) and Mouse (M) connectors from each computer you have and sends as output the K, V and M signals from the currently selected computer to your Keyboard, Video and mouse. This allows you to have only one Keyboard, Monitor and mouse on your desk and control many computers via a KVM box.

These boxes come in two types: cheap amateur crap and serious professional kit. The cheap amateur crap generally have very poor video quality, mechanical switching and are not chainable.

Chainable? Whassat?

The serious professional kit has reasonable to good video, electronic switching and is controllable from keycodes on your one keyboard. They're also chainable, which means that each 8-way KVM can control eight other KVMs. This is what you need in a server room with racks of servers all controlled from one keyboard, monitor and mouse.

Unfortunately, these things tend to be designed for very specific tasks, the usual one being to control a server room full of racks of servers. Not, for example, a situation where someone wants to connect, say, a Linux box, a Windows box and a Mac Mini to a dual DVI monitor setup with a USB keyboard. A single DVI switcher from ATEN cost about as much as a Mac Mini. The dual model, well, it would be cheaper to buy another set of monitors.

So what am I to do?

I was looking at the various KVMs in the usual places today (Sham Shui Po Golden Arcade, Wanchai Computer Centre, etc) when I thought of something. What I really needed was just to share the USB over the various boxes. The Windows and Mac boxes don't really need more than one monitor each as the Mac can't drive more than one and I mainly use the Windows box for games which are always less hassle on a single monitor anyway. As each monitor has two inputs, that means that I can have Windows on Monitor 1, OSX on Monitor 2 and Linux on a dual screen Xinerama solution. As the monitors have built in USB hubs, all I need is a USB switcher. They're normally for switching computers to USB printers, but they work the other way around too. And they're very cheap. I got one for $49. Hong Kong dollars. About US$6 or US$7.

So, now I have three computers plugging into the USB switcher, and my nice new Apple keyboard and generic USB mouse plug into the hubs on the monitors. Far less cabling, and I've been able to remove the huge KVM switcher from the rack as well, so I now have a place to put my nice shiny new Mac Mini.

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This page contains a single entry by dave published on April 16, 2005 8:29 PM.

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