Dual head mac with KVM?
November 7, 2009 10:07 AM   Subscribe

So, finally after many years away from the world of Macs I'm about to take the plunge and buy one.

The issue is that I want to use my current 2 monitors, PC USB keyboard and Microsoft (yes, ok, I hear you) USB mouse and a KVM switch

I have a dual head PC, driving 2 DVI monitors from one Nvidia GeForce 8400 GS, using a VGA to DVI adapter to drive 2 Xerox 19" monitors. This works fine.

I'd like to add a Mac Mini to this setup and have a KVM to switch between the two so I keep the desk area relatively clear.

So the plan so far is:
  • Buy a Mac Mini, which comes with a mini-DVI to DVI adapter
  • Buy the additional mini-DisplayPort to DVI adapter
  • Hook those 2 DVI outputs and my current PC DVI and VGA-acting-as-DVI outputs into a KVM (currently looking at the Aten CS1642 caution 900+K PDF)
  • Enjoy the best of both worlds!
So, the questions:
  • Does the mini-DVI and mini-DisplayPort idea work? That should drive 2 x DVI monitors correctly from the mac-Mini shouldn't it?
  • Can anyone suggest another KVM? The 1642 is rather expensive!
  • Any issues you can see?
Thanks for your time!
posted by hardcode to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I did something like this at work a few years back. I hated using KVM switches, though this was in the early days of usb kvm.

I finally settled on using VNC instead. One box ran headless, my preferred environment was not, the remote box just ran vnc server. These days I would likely use Fusion instead of even doing that unless I had a really specific need.

The Microsoft keyboards, at least at the time, required a ps2-to-usb adapter that in practice was not particularly forgiving or even usb compliant [they also fail when plugged into usb hubs for that reason].

Realistically, having two completely independent environments separated by input and output is not "the best of both worlds." It is, instead, a pain in the ass.
posted by rr at 10:13 AM on November 7, 2009

Does the mini-DVI and mini-DisplayPort idea work? That should drive 2 x DVI monitors correctly from the mac-Mini shouldn't it?

On this question, yes, that will work depending on the resolution of the displays.. I'm not sure f you really want dp->dvi, though, as it sounds like you need to drop VGA in the way..
posted by rr at 10:15 AM on November 7, 2009

Response by poster: The monitors run at 1280x1024, so I think the Mini should drive them. I'm just trying to avoid an expensive mess if it doesn't work, hence the question.

The entire point of this is to try and eventually move completely away from MS products at home.

It seems that VNC can now support dual monitor setups, so I suppose that's a possibility, I'd just have to figure out how to get the mac to think it had 2 monitors...
posted by hardcode at 10:37 AM on November 7, 2009

I understand what you are trying to do, but this approach is the most painful approach possible. The new Mac environment is going to feel clunky and alien at first. The longer you mix them the worse your experience will be.

Getting rid of MS products is tough -- even on the Mac most people in professional environments end up using Office (I often wonder if MS is deleriously happy about Open Office since it is the strongest anti-open-source argument that most practically minded people will encounter).
posted by rr at 11:58 AM on November 7, 2009

KVMs basically suck. You'll need to get an all digital version to get decent results and you need to make sure it can handle the resolutions you plan to use. You can also expect any fancy keyboard and mouse features to not work. There is also the whole issue of audio in/out which you may want switched too. Not many KVMs do that.

KVMs are a godsend for managing a rack full of servers but not at all fun for a desktop machine.
posted by chairface at 2:07 PM on November 8, 2009

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